Tuesday, December 31, 2019

End of Year Harvest Totals

First of all, let it be known I didn't count everything. This is my first year of successfully keeping records throughout the year, and I wasn't 100% successful in writing it all down. Some things I didn't bother to record, such as sprigs of mint, herbs, leaves of spices. If I just grabbed a little to throw into a pot of soup, it never got recorded. So please don't get to obsessive when reviewing this list. I surely wasn't when I created it! 

... Allspice - leaves harvested as needed
... Avocado - 11
... Bananas -  25 large bunches, 6 medium bunches, 3 small bunches
... Basil- harvested as needed
... Beans (snap)- at least 10 pounds but much never got weighed
... Beets- 121
... Bok choy- 20
... Carrots - 132
... Chard- 12 plants. I harvested individual Ieaves. 
... Chaya - harvested for livestock feed. 
    Perhaps a total of 6 five gallon bucketfuls of leaves and tips. 
... Chocolate mint- harvested as needed for teas 
... Cholesterol spinach - harvested some for ourselves but mostly as livestock feed. 
    Perhaps 5 five gallon bucketfuls. 
... Clove - leaves harvested as needed. 
... Coffee - 30 pounds dried green bean in parchment (still plenty for picking on the trees) 
... Comfrey - harvested for livestock feed. Perhaps 4 five gallon bucketfuls. 
... Cucumbers - 84
... Dill - harvested as needed.
... Eggs - 43 since December 14th. This is the start of the new laying season. 
... Eggplant- 17
... Gourd- 5
... Grapefruit - 12
... Green onions - a fistful each week. So about 50 fistfuls. 
... Ground cherry- 2 quarts
... Guavas - for livestock feed : 12 five gallon bucketfuls 
... Jicama - 5
... Lemons- 137
... Lilikoi- 326
... Lima beans - 23 3/4 cups shelled limas
... Limes - 211
... Macnuts - 38 3/4 gallons
... Mamaki - harvested as needed. 
    I use 1 quart of fresh Ieaves per week, sometimes more. 
... Okinawan spinach - harvested for livestock feed. 
    Perhaps 19 five gallon bucketfuls. 
... Onions- 42
... Oranges - 22
... Oregano - harvested as needed
... Papaya- 61
... Peppermint- harvested for tea
... Pineapples - 74
... Pipinolas - 722 (almost all used for animal feed)
... Pipinola leaves - harvested for livestock feed.
    Perhaps 6 five gallon bucketfuls. 
... Pomelo - 2
... Potatoes - 170 1/2 pounds
... Pumpkins- 20
... Rosemary - harvested as needed 
... Sugar cane - harvested as needed. Perhaps 15 to 20 canes. 
... Sweet peppers - 17 large, 82 slim, 316 mini
... Sweet potato - 54 pounds plus vine tips and leaves used as greens.
... Tangerine - 102
... Taro - mostly used for livestock feed. Occasionally used for us.
... Tomatoes - 145 pounds
... Tree tomatoes - 46
... Yacon - 36 pounds
... Zucchini - 67

Since I spent the year using up the overstocked frozen, dried, and pickled veggies, I didn't grow as much stuff in the gardens. So you won't see listed my usual crops of peas, shell beans, corn, various greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, daikon, and such. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

End of Year Planting Records

Every year I add things to the farm, so this past year was no exception. But I focused on perennial edible plants rather than resource plants this time around. And I didn't grow nearly as many annual veggies because I had overstocked the freezer from the previous year and wanted to eat the surplus down. 

So this is what I got planted : 

Banana trees - 4
Basil- 12 plants
Beans for seed production - 10 foot row
Beans for eating (snap) - 10 pallet boxes (36 plants per box) 
Beets- 40' row
Bok choy- 24 plants
Brazilian cherry tree - 1
Broccoli- 72 plants
Carrots - 3 old coolerfuls (I use old coolers for certain crops)
Chard- 12 plants
Chaya - 32 cuttings
Chocolate mint- 4 six inch clumps
Cholesterol spinach - 400 square feet
Cucumbers - 18 plants
Dill - 8 plants
Eggplant - 3 plants
Finger Lime tree - 1
Gourd - 3 plants
Green onions - 520 plants 
Ground cherry - 12 plants
Liliko i- 2 vines
Lima beans - 40' row plus 5 individual seeds
Onions - 50 plants
Papaya - 20 seedlings
Peas, snap - 8 foot row plus one pallet box 
Peppermint - 2 six inch clumps
Pineapples - 239 starts
Pipinolas - 21 
Potatoes - 448 plants
Pumpkins - 8 plants 
Summer squash - 8 plants
Sweet peppers - 24 plants
Taro - 97 plants
Tomatoes - 40 plants 
Turmeric - 55 foot row
Winged beans - 15 plants (the goat ate these before they were 1' high!) 

Keep in mind that these are additions. They are not the total of what is growing on this farm. For example, I planted 4 banana trees, but I already had numerous clumps already growing from previous years' plantings. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

End of Year in Hindsight & Looking Forward

Looking back this year, I got a lot of things done, plus a lot of things not done. Sounds par for the course. Last January's list for 2019 included:
..."finishing the house" Ha, that didn't happen. The bathroom still doesn't have a new shower, nor are the walls completed. But I did get a new roof on the house, and completed  lots of little finishing tasks. And got a very nice deck built. I just couldn't get myself motivated on that bathroom. The bathroom functions just fine. It just looks like a half finished construction site, which it is. 
..."make pig pastures" I actually got the pig pasture system working, then decided to get out of pigs. But the work wasn't for naught, because I'm using the pastures for sheep. I like being around sheep better than pigs. I might continue having a pig off and on, but I'm not going to breed them anymore.
"upgrade pastures" still in progress. Made some improvements but have a mountain of work still to do. 
"homegrown livestock feed" I made considerable headway, but I'm still developing the system. I still need to come up with some seed/grain production. 
"expand veggie production" semi success on this one. 

So what's in mind for 2020? 
1- finish that bathroom!!!!! (Yeah, I've said that one before!) 
2- continue working on the pastures. With 2 paddocks improved, work on upgrading others. 
3- I really want to dramatically increase veggie production so that my veggies can become a regular presence at the farmers market. My main obstacle is lack of time to get it all done, so I need to work on a more efficient time schedule. Perhaps I need to upgrade my methods, getting away from some of the time consuming methods and heading for "modernizing" ......such as going to a permanent in place irrigation system rather than hand watering. I'll look at others ways to trim work time. But I really enjoy farm work, so it's sad to switch to shortcuts. 
4- The pallet growing boxes have been so successful that I want to continue building more.  I've got a good sized area of pahoehoe lava where I can't grow anything. So it's the ideal place for grow boxes. 
5- Get a hot tub set up. The deck got built, then nothing happened. I was all for getting a stock water trough to use temporarily, but hubby balked. So here we sit with nada. Gotta get a hot tub!!! 
6- Try another wwoofer type helper. The first one didn't work out the way I hoped. I was too soft, and he was too lazy. I've learned that I need to set firmer rules and adhere to them. So I'm thinking about trying again. Not right away, but maybe later in the year. 
7- Improve the driveway. This is another project that gotten a lot of talk time but little work time. The driveway needs to be resurfaced with stone. 

Those are the major projects that come to mind. Many more will crop up during the year. And there will be hundreds of little tasks to occupy my time as the weeks go by. I like working on this farm, so the thought of the coming year is something I look forward to. 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Macnuts In Bloom

Heading out the driveway today, I noticed that the macadamia nut trees are in bloom. I didn't first discover this with my eyes, but rather, with my nose. The blooms put out a nice scent. Well at least I like it. Don't ask hubby what he thinks. He'd be happy without macnut trees on the farm. But since he can't get away from them (we live next door to 5 acres of macnut trees), he not tempted to chop down ours in the middle of the night. It wouldn't eliminate the scent.

Sweet smelling flowers. 

With all the recent rain and with the ground being saturated, we should have a good blooming season this year.

If you look carefully, you can see a yellowjacket visiting the fliers. 
I know that I've written about macnuts blooming in the past, but I wanted to document when they started blooming again this season. This blog helps me keep track of things on the farm. Far better than a journal. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Take a Tree - Plant a Tree

I've made it a commitment that when I harvest or remove a tree, I plant a replacement someplace. Actually I usually plant several trees as a replacement. I'm making no exception with the 7 eucalyptus trees I had taken down. In their place I will be planting 6 citrus trees, since citrus will grow in the semi shade. In addition, I'll be planting eleven other trees around the property........trees that I've grown myself. Two grafted avocado, two jackfruit, a rooted cutting from a yellow ohia, 3 Norfolk pine, 2 palms, and a mango. The mango won't produce fruit at my location, but 30-50 years from now somebody can harvest the beautiful wood. 

I've been chatting via the Internet with a struggling small farmer in Kenya. She bemoans the fact that all the trees in her area are rapidly disappearing......being cut down for firewood. No one in her region has thought to plant replacement trees. Her region is becoming drier and drier. I also chat occasionally with a woman in Haiti who also has a similar situation......desertification due to massive tree removal. And the local residents there also do not embark upon reforestation. Nobody thinks about it. There is real danger in removing trees and not replanting. Being aware of that, I replant plenty of trees myself. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Tree Removal

A project I've been waiting to have done is taking down the dangerous eucalyptus trees near the house. When these trees get big, they often drop huge limbs. In really heavy wind, we've had the tops snap off or the whole tree come down. Since we plan to build some animal enclosures in the target area. I needed to have the dangerous trees removed so that they didn't crush any animals. These particular trees have been dropping limbs from time to time ever since we moved here.

Animal enclosures? Yes. When hubby retires he plans to have a small private cat sanctuary. So he is planning on building four "mini-houses" initially, then go on from there. 

Climbing a tree. 

The tree guy we hired had to find a day when it wasn't real windy nor raining. That wasn't easy, but finally one came along that wasn't too threatening. So four people showed up early, armed with numerous chainsaws, climbing gear, ropes, and safety equipment. By 4 pm seven large trees were down and cut up in pieces. 

He's way high up there! 

The trunks were left in long sections, with hopes of cutting them up into slabs of some kind. David plans to buy an Alaskan sawmill. He needs to learn how to use it without ruining some nice wood, so I offered these eucalyptus trunks. He can practice and learn on them. And who knows, perhaps some will become noce tables and shelves. 

One of the 5 really big trees is down. 

Regretfully this location makes it impossible to bring in heavy equipment. I'd have to bring in a couple dump truck loads of fill in order to make it accessible to a chipper, sawmill, or even a backhoe. But since we're not in a hurry and David doesn't mind, we plan to try working with the tree trunks where they are. 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Chicken catcher

I had a need for a chicken catcher the other day. No, not a dog, though Spotz is a fine chicken catcher/killer (he has to live in a pen because of that bad habit). No, I mean a stick.

Around here I've never seen a chicken catcher for sale in the feed/farm stores. I don't know why, because we have plenty of chickens on this island. But then, I've never asked the sales people, so perhaps they store them in a box someplace out of sight. Regardless, I ended up having to fashion one myself. 

I'm rounding up my renegade loose chickens. It's time for the girls to be penned again. When I let the hens out to forage, there's always a couple that don't return to the pen at night, though they usually go back in the next day it two.  Eventually they make a habit out of it and never go back. So every December, I round up the rebels and throw them back in the pen. For the months of January and February, the hens don't run loose. That's so they habituate on laying their eggs in the nest boxes. After everybody is laying again and is use to the rules, they are once again allowed out to forage for bugs, lizards, mice, worms, etc. 

So I've been enticing the wayward girls into a catch box. The box needed to be bigger than what is comfortable for me to just reach in a grab them. Thus the need for the chicken catcher. I can use it to snag them by the leg.

My quick fashioned catcher. It's only 2 foot long, but just the size I need. 

A chicken catcher is simply a piece of sturdy wire that has been bent into a shape that can snag a foot.  The handle is normally 3 to 4 foot long, but my homemade one is shorter because the birds are already caught in a trap box. Snagging a chicken takes a bit of patience, practice, and skill. The hens quickly learn that they need to avoid the wire, but they are not slick enough to totally understand how to do that effectively. So after a dozen tries, I've usually successfully snagged the chicken.

This shape works fine for easy to catch birds.
 It needs a little modification for the more difficult chickens. 

Snagged a hen!  

Friday, December 20, 2019

Vinegar Herbicide Update

So it's been 10 days since I sprayed the 30% vinegar. Initially I got a good response. Everything turned brown. But I was curious about the long term effects. I've got my answer......

Two classification of my weeds really died back, almost 100%-- certain tender type grasses and all non-grass weeds (excepting honohono, which I will discuss later). To date, these haven't shown signs of growing back. But the mature, aggressive tropical grasses are now sending out new leaves and new shots (kikuyu grass, St. Augustine grass, hilo grass, and bermuda grass). I didn't spray any molasses or california grasses, so I have nothing to report.  I'm not surprised by this. Some tropical grasses are ultra tough. Also of note, all the mosses on the concrete walkway are totally dead. 

No grass regrowth and the tender young honohono grass is dead.
Only the weeds that I failed to spray show any green color.

A couple of people have voiced concern about the vinegar changing the soil pH. I was curious about that too. First keep in mind that I didn't saturate the soil with vinegar. I simply wet the leaf surface. I didn't even spray enough that the vinegar was dripping off the leaves. So today I tested the soil. To date there has been no change in the soil pH. In a way I wasn't surprised. You see, I live downwind from a volcano that has been spewing SO2 for decades, which results in acidic rain. The two of those years most recently, my rain pH has been fluctuating between 4 and 6. Even with this, my soil pH hasn't changed much, most likely due to the constant decomposition of organic material in the soil and the availability of calcium carbonate (via bone and coral sand added to the compost). All those soil microbes and compost help moderate the soil pH.

This area completely browned out, but it's starting
to show some green. 

New grass leaves....a variety that I don't know the name of.
Lots of brown dead leaves in this photo. 

The before photo, where the St Augustine grass
was burned brown by the vinegar. 

The St Augustine grass is growing new shoots. 

The mature tropical grasses survived the initial spraying of 30% vinegar. But I bet that timely repeated spraying would cause the plant to run out of energy and die back. Timeliness is probably the key. In my own situation, I have another weapon.....mulch. After spraying the vinegar, I will be applying a layer of fresh mulch. That will help prevent the grasses from growing back. And any that put up shoots through the mulch will get resprayed and remulched. I think I've hit upon a way to control most of my weeds in the gardens. Now my next experiment will be on that dratted bermuda grass! I have a gut feeling that bermuda grass isn't going to be that easy to vanquish. We shall see. 

Now for honohono. The spray quickly killed the leaves. And the tender non-rooted tips also died. But some, not all, of the mature rooted stems survived. I plan to spray any new growth that I see. And I'm guessing that the honohono grass will be defeated! Again, we shall see.

No regrowth where it was sprayed. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Vinegar Herbicide

I'm experimenting with vinegar lately. A friend (thanks "J") recently told me that 30% vinegar is now available on Amazon, and they are shipping to Hawaii! Last time I checked, shipping to Hawaii was not available. So I ordered a couple gallons in order to check it out. Would it be effective against our tropical weeds and grasses?

I have many questions pertaining to using vinegar as a herbicide. 
... What strength gives good results against my weeds? 
... Is it effective on a cloudy day, or does full sun give best results? 
... What happens if it rains an hour, two hours, or 3 hours after it is sprayed? 
... How heavily must it be sprayed? 
... Will it noticeably change the soil? 
... How close to a good plant can it be sprayed? 
... If the rain washes the vinegar into the soil, will it damage the good plants? 
... Do I need to add liquid soap as a sticker? 

 There's a few things that I was already aware of. 30% vinegar is strong enough to burn sensitive parts of my body. So care must be taken to avoid splashing it into eyes, mouth, etc. In the past I've worked with pickling vinegar (10%) and it burned the skin around my finger nails, so with this stronger stuff I plan to wear gloves. My tender spots apparently don't like vinegar. 

Moss covered concrete walkway. 

After photo.

It's been raining daily, so I waited for a day where there was a low chance of rain. I finally got one, yahoo!!!! Using a spritzing hand sprayer, I sprayed a few test areas. I sprayed to just wet the plants, but didn't over wet to the point that the vinegar ran into the soil. 

Assorted weeds and grasses

After photo. 

Within hours the sensitive plants started to either bleach out or wilt. Even the honohono grass wilted! By the next day I could easily see where I had sprayed and where I hadn't. By the third day, most of the weeds looked dead or dying, including the grasses. 

Stone steps. Weeds growing in the crevasses. 

After photo.

I'm impressed. So I answered my first question......30% gives good results. I also answer the "how heavily to spray" question....just wet the leaves. I sprayed weeds right up to good plants, protecting the good plant from the direct spray with a piece of cardboard. So far, I haven't seen any herbicide damage signs in the good plants. 

On the third day it rained. So now I'll watch to see what happens when the rain washes the vinegar into the soil. We shall see if the soil pH changes or if the good plants start showing damage. 

I didn't use soap. At 30% strength it doesn't seem to need it. But I'm going to try watering the vinegar down to 15% and see what happens. I may use soap in that solution. 

I plan to try using it on a cloudy day to see if that makes a difference. And if it happens to rain on the day I spray, I'll keep records and see what effect that rain had. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Homemade Screendoor

Boy, I wish I had been able to take up woodworking when I was young. Girls weren't allowed to take wood shop in school while I was growing up. And as a young adult, I didn't have time to take those classes. Now that I'm retired, I'd take woodworking classes if we had a vocational school in my area. It's something I enjoy doing, even if I'm not good at it. But alas, no vocational school. In such a poor rural area, a vocational school is desperately needed. The kids here graduate high school totally ill equiped. But the higher-up officials don't seem to think that's a problem.......oh, let the kids sponge off the government....or sell drugs for a living. Oh, oh, oh---- before I get lost in a rant, I'll get back to woodworking. 

I've been dabbling in making wood things-- towel racks, door handles, and even a small table. This past week I've examined the results of David making a screendoor. It didn't look all that overwhelmingly difficult. The hard part was setting up a jig to make sure the door was square. And the second hardest thing looked to be the routering. The first just takes patience and precision. The second demands practice. 

I'm considering buying an Alaskan sawmill. I watched a fellow up the road from me use one to cut slabs for making table tops and shelves. He had modified the rig by using overhead rails to guide the mill so that he could make better cuts. It took patience and precision to get a good cut, but it sure was do-able. 

Happily I live in an all wood house. Handmade wooden towel racks don't look out of place. I think I'll keep dabbling in little woodworking projects. Who knows what I'll come up with. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Homestead Update

It's been a miserable week. Cold. Wet. Gloomy. The downside of creating soil on this place is that it's now muddy! When it was mostly lava rock and grass, puddles seldom were a problem.

I haven't been able to mow lately. When it's been dry enough to mow, I've had other more pressing tasks. And when I finally get home, guess what..,..it's raining. So I've only managed to get a little bit of mowing in, just enough to feed the hens some fresh grass. The girls have had to make do with other greenery, such as sweet potato and comfrey. As a result my growing areas and the chicken pen are begging for grass clippings. For now they will have to make do with bamboo leaf litter instead. 

I was scheduled to replant the pallet boxes this week, now that I've harvested the bean seed out of them. But that's on hold because of the excess wet. And the farm schedule says that I should have planted peas, pole beans, and bok choi this week. Nope...none. Foul weather is something that has to be either accepted or dealt with. For now, I'm just accepting it and waiting it out. 

Earlier today I checked in the pipinolas that I planted at the new bamboo trellis. Both pipinolas took and are growing multiple stems. I'm actually surprised that they made it. In the past I've had pipinola rot due to excess moisture. These two pipinolas are both white ones. Whenever I get around to building another trellis, I'll plant that with smooth green ones. The green and the white ones taste the same to me, but the white ones look nicer in mock apple pie. The green ones look nicer in veggie stir fries. 

The first plant. 
Another downside of all the gloom is that the solar system is complaining. I've needed to run the washer and dryer, so without sun I have had to run the generator. I'm glad we installed a generator to charge the battery bank when needed. This past week it was needed! I actually have the generator charging the batteries and the washer (or dryer) running off the other side of the generator at the same time.....two birds with one stone theory. It works for us. 

The second plant. The white thing on the right is the starter pipinola. 
With weeks like this one, it's apparent why we don't have solar hot water. We really don't have consistent enough sun the have solar hot water, thus we have propane hot water on demand. I've heard several people here say that they have had to turn on the electric hot water back up because the solar wasn't making hot water. Yes, deciding to use a propane hot water heater turned out to be a good decision for this location. 

Since I'll be occupied with a spay clinic all day tomorrow, I bet the sun will come out. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Lamb #4

Today my oldest ewe had her lamb with absolutely no problem. It was the easiest birth I've witnessed to date. I'm glad the old girl had an easy time. And being an experienced mom, she skillfully cleaned up her baby and got it to nurse quite quickly.

The lamb is a cute one....white with brown on its legs. The only bummer is that it's a boy. Blag. Another boy.

The score so far is 1 girl, 3 boys. Not what I was hoping for.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving Day Meal

This year is much like past years around here. Half the folks bearing smirky grins ask me if I'm shooting a feral turkey for dinner. The other half, cringing at that thought, invite us to a variety of get-togethers, I suppose in hopes of sparing that neighborhood turkey. I just have to chuckle at the reputation I have. 

So what's for dinner? The buffet up at the Kilaeua Military Camp. All you can eat turkey dinner with all the fixins. Yum. 

Most folks see this holiday only as a day off from their jobs and the opportunity to pig out. I probably am the oddball because I really do contemplate how fortunate I am and am thankful. As a kid I was forced to say grace before digging into Thanksgiving dinner. Of course as a child, you didn't really mean anything that was said. You just wanted grace to be over so that you could go fill your plate. But now as a senior adult, I pause a minute to feel a wave of sincere thankfulness wash over me. There is so much to be thankful for that it's dizzying. Oh life has its problems for sure, but by and large, I'm happy to be alive and have what I do. 

So on this thought, I would like to extend wishes to everyone for a peaceful day. And thank you for listening. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Third Lamb

3 lambs so far. Sigh.....another boy. Of the three new lambs, at least one will be a keeper. I would like to retire 3-4 of the old ewes, so I was hoping for more girls. But lambing season isn't over yet, so we see what happens.

A big boy. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

First Two New Lambs

It was pouring rain last night. There were two rain shelters for the sheep, so I was worried about the pregnant ewes. Besides, the first delivery shouldn't be until next week some time. Wrong! Wrong on the timing, but I didn't need to worry any.

Checking on the sheep this morning, I saw two new babies. Wow! I smiled and glowed all over as though I was the proud parent myself!-------well, not really. I would have hated being pregnant and them being stuck with a kid. But that's just me. Checking things out, I saw that both lambs were born out in the open....in the rain. But both did well, both having good mothers. 

Both lambs were robust, nursing, and doing just fine. The white one was normal size, and a little girl. The black one was a super jumbo, and a boy. You'd swear he was a few days older because he is really huge. I had thought that this ewe was carrying twins, but it turned out to be just one large singlet. I like singlets, so that's fine. But how I wish he had been born a female. I don't need anymore rams. So he is destined to become either somebody's pet, or a freezer denizen.

Got this photo just as he was falling over. You can see that all his weight is on his right legs. Oops, over he went. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

An Addendum to my Planting Post

Before everyone starts asking, let me explain something about my last post, the one where I've listed what I've planted to date this year. Yes, I've planted stuff this year but it surely doesn't look like I've planted our entire food needs (unless of course we are eating a dozen bananas each every day!) There are reasons for this. 

... Perennials. We have an already established food base. The perennials and "almost perennials" continue to provide food even though they don't need constant replanting. Things like: 
          Pumpkins, jicama, chaya, pineapples, pipinolas, sweet potatoes, Okinawan spinach, cholesterol spinach, green onions, various herbs, bananas, citrus trees, guavas, pineapples, mamaki, coffee, macadamia nuts, avocado. 
          Should I count chickens, sheep, and goats as "meat perennials"? Hahaha. Well established on this farm, they provide an abundance of eggs, milk, and meat without me having to constantly bring more animals to the farm. 

... Stored foods. Not having had a good handle on exactly how much food I felt comfortable having stored, I over did it by a longshot. So this year we are eating up our excess. Between the freezer and our dehydrator, we managed to accumulate an abundance of all sorts of foods, including meats, veggies, and fruits. I not only learned that I had too much stored food, but it also takes quite a while for us to eat down the freezer....and that I really don't need that many dried peas, beans, and other dehydrated veggies for making soups. 

... Trade-barter-gifting-foraging system. I have a nice system established. Every week I engage in trading or gifting. Plus I still actively forage. And every month I'm always involved with some sort of bartering. So I become the recipient of all sorts of foods......honey, kombucha, breads and other baked goods, fruits and veggies, fish, meats, jams, soups, lettuce, coffee, etc. So even though I'm not replanting such a wide assortment of foods, I am receiving them one way or the other. 

A benefit of having a goodly stockpile of food is that I haven't needed to spend so much time in the gardens tending my growing crops. Instead I've been able to devote more time to creating more gardens and planting crops for the future. I've had time to experiment with my various projects, such as the greenhouses and woodworking. Having food abundance frees up my time for other things......besides freeing up my money for other things to spend it on......like a prime rib dinner out at the local restaurant on Saturday night....yum. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

What I've Planted To Date

I last reported on July 6th. Since then I've added: 

Pineapples - 221
Green beans (assorted colors)- 10 pallet boxes (36 plants per box) 
Peas, snap- 8 foot row
Taro- 67
Peppermint- 2 six inch clumps
Chocolate mint- 4 six inch clumps
Tree, Finger lime- 1
Tree, Brazil plum- 1
Turmeric- 55 ft row
Potatoes- 6 pallet boxes (averaging 20 plants per box= 120 plants) 
Tomatoes - 8
Gourd- 1
Pipinola- 2
Pumpkins- 4
Sweet peppers- 24
Eggplant- 3
Lilikoi- 1

Plus I recently started seeds, which are now baby seedlings in the mini greenhouses. Soon these will get planted out into various garden beds. The numbers I've listed are the projected number of seedlings I plan to plant out. Any unplanted seedlings will be used to sell or trade. 
Broccoli- 24
Onions- 50
Basil- 12
Dill- 8
Bok choy- 24
Ground cherry- 12
Tomatoes- 12
Papaya- 20
Beets- 40
Chard- 12

So year to date planting totals.......

Banana trees - 4
Basil- 12
Beans for seed production - 10 foot row
Beans for eating - 10 pallet boxes (36 plants per box) 
Beets- 40
Bok choy- 24
Broccoli- 24
Chard- 12
Chaya - 32 cuttings
Chocolate mint- 4 six inch clumps
Cholesterol spinach - 400 square feet
Cucumbers - 18 plants
Dill- 8
Eggplant- 3
Gourd- 1
Ground cherry- 12
Lilikoi- 1
Lima beans - 40' row plus 5 individual seeds
Onions- 50
Papaya- 20
Peas, snap - 8 foot row
Peppermint- 2 six inch clumps
Pineapples - 239
Pipinolas - 21
Potatoes - 448 plants
Pumpkins- 4
Summer squash - 8 plants
Sweet peppers- 24
Taro - 97 plants
Tomatoes - 40 plants 
Tree, finger lime - 1
Tree, Brazil plum- 1
Turmeric- 55 foot row
Winged beans - 15 plants

And I'm not done yet for this year! Yikes! Looking at the number of pineapples I've put in, I'm either going to make some money selling pineapples or else my chickens and sheep are going to be very happy. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Garden Walkways

"G" just asked me for the best way to make his garden walkways. He was thinking of using cardboard, or possibly old carpet. He also thought about using a permanent wooden boardwalk or stepping stone path. I really couldn't tell him "the best" walkway to make, but I did mention a few of my own experiences. Since "G" lives not too far from me, my experiences might help him decide what to do. 

1- cardboard or newspaper. Yes, thick layers do keep the weeds down. But those layers can get real slick and slippery with all the rain we've been getting. Plus there's the problem with wind. Unless held down with dirt or rocks, the paper will eventually blow around. I've tried both, but now won't use either. After taking a couple bad falls on slippery paper, I won't dare let the stuff in my walkways. Not worth getting a broken wrist or hip, or worse. 
2- carpet. I've vetoed carpet for a couple of reasons. First of all, the chemicals. Repeated rains will leach the various chemicals out and into the soil, where the plants could take them up. No one has done research about this, so heaven alone knows what might get into the food you pick. Most carpeting has anti-fire chemicals which have been found to be very persistent in the environment, including in our own bodies. Nasty stuff. Plus they often contain anti-stain chemicals, anti-fade chemicals, glues, and who knows what else. 
     Second, the carpeting degrades in the tropical sun. Before long you will end up with a mass of shredded carpet strings with grass growing up through it. Try to pick them up will be a nightmare. They'll be well imbedded in the soil and intertwined in plant roots. Been there, done that, never will do it again. 
3- thick grass clippings or tree leaves.  Just like the wet cardboard, this stuff can get real slick. Because most people don't want to have to reapply a mulch every week, they will pile the stuff on thick. Big mistake. It gets to be real dangerous walking on it. It's the thickness that is the problem. 
4- I've seen cement blocks used successfully for garden paths, though they wouldn't work well for my own gardening methods. I use a cultivating tiller which kicks the soil about. Thus the cement blocks would get soil all over them every time I worked the garden beds. I suppose I could just resign myself to having the broom it off each time, but I hate wasting the time. The same problem would occur when I use mulch. The wind would tend to blown it onto the cement blocks. Though this method wouldn't please me, it might work perfectly fine for other gardeners. If using hand tools instead of a tiller, if using heavy woodchip mulch instead of fluffy grass, the cement blocks might be perfect. A plus would be that no weeds would grow in the walkways. You'd have a non-slippery, solid surface to walk on. The downside would be the expense, plus the work to install it. 
5- a permanent boardwalk. The same can be said for a wooden pathway as for the cement blocks. Eventually the wood would rot, but if you were willing to live with that, then it would be fine....and pretty. I don't know how slippery it might get over time in a wet environment. I've never tried it. As with the cement blocks, it would be expensive and require labor to install. 
6- wood chips. I've seen wood chips used in garden pathways and it seemed quite nice. Looked good. They would need to be applied thickly to stop most weeds, though some would still grow through. And though they would last a lot longer than grass clippings, they would need to be replenished occasionally. The downsides are #1- slugs would hide underneath them, and #2- most people would have to go out and purchase them. 
7- cinder or gravel. Both can be had in Hawaii. Both can be used successfully. Like wood chips, they would need to be refreshed regularly because you'd eventually walk them into the soil. And like wood chips, most people would have to purchase them. In my own gardens they wouldn't work because they would quickly be covered in soil or mulch. But I could see them doing ok in other situations. 
8- weed cloth. I'm really anti weed cloth, especially the lightweight stuff you can buy in Home Depot, Walmart, etc. Weeds, especially grass, grow right up through it. It gets "glued" to the ground, making it a nightmare to remove. If one is considering using weedblock cloth, I'd suggest going with the heavyweight professional grade stuff. You'd have to figure out a method to hold it down, such as using metal pins. 

In my own gardens I use grass clippings. I apply lightly and frequently. That way I don't end up with a wet slippery mass. They may not be as pretty as some other things, but for me they're readily available. A side benefit is that they will gradually decompose, supplying nutrients to the nearby plants.  

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Why Make Compost Piles?

I'm often asked all sorts of questions about composting. How? When? Why? And lots of littler details. "Why" is a very important question and I'd like to talk a little about it. 

When I ask people, "Why should you make compost?" I get all sorts of answers. 
... To utilize green waste. 
... To keep organic waste out of the dump. 
... To get rid of my garbage.
... To be good for the environment. 
... To make fertilizer for my garden. 

These are all good answers. But I'd like to back up one more step and ask, "Why make compost piles instead of simply digging in organic material into my soil?" Yes. Think about it. I have thought about it in depth. Just what is the reason to make a pile? Is it just a waste of time? Is there something simpler? 

So what do I do? I compost and don't compost. How's that for an answer? Here's what I do when not making a compost pile: 
1- I often dig organic material right into the garden soil. I'll make a trench along a garden row, fill it with garbage and trash fruits, then cover it over with soil. (note: don't do this too close to the plants' roots because this material might heat up, thus killing the garden plants.) 
2- I'll often spread a layer of chopped greenery and garbage atop the soil then lightly till it in, incorporating it into the top few inches, or at least getting dirt mixed in with it. 
3- I'll dig a hole and bury a small dead animal, or some slaughter waste, or perhaps a pot of kitchen garbage. Then cover it over with soil. 
4- I'll till in the old mulch from the last crop harvested. 
5- I'll top dress the soil with garbage then cover it over with a layer of grass clippings. 
In my location I can get away with doing this. I don't have to worry about the garbage or material sitting around for weeks, slowly rotting and smelling bad, for in the tropics this organic waste decomposes rapidly. I also don't have to worry about drawing in bears and other unwanted wildlife. 

On the other hand, I also make compost piles. So why bother? Composting via a pile is for 2 reasons. 
1- to use excess organic material that I don't need immediately in the garden. I often find myself with a glut of green waste. Rather than turn it away, I'll make a compost pile. I will use the compost eventually, but not during a particular week or month. So I see it as a means of storing green waste for future use.
2- to grow soil microbes. Many soil microbes grow abundantly in a hot or warm compost pile. Since I want to increase the soil life in my gardens, this is a way to get vast amounts of soil microbes in a hurry. 

Another thought......plants can benefit from compost faster than from non-composted greenery tilled into the soil. Why? Compost has already partially decomposed. Uncomposted material needs to go through initial rotting processes. Depending upon the material, this may actually rob nutrients initially from the soil rather than providing them for your garden plants. With composted material, I don't see this problem. Plus composted material has a host of soil microbes ready to go to work in my garden soil. 

Since I tend to do what works. I don't stick with just one method. Trenching in the fresh material often works just fine. Composting excess material to be used later also works. 

Hot compost piles also have other benefits. They reduce the number of viable weed seeds. They help reduce the number of pathogens associated with manures. They are a quick, low odor way to process dead animals. 

One of the many things I like about being in the tropics is that I can make compost year around. Plus I can dig organic material into the soil year around and it decomposes without drawing those pesky bears, opossums, raccoons, skunks, etc. Of course we have feral pigs here, but a proper fence (or a good farm dog) keeps them out. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Bamboo Trellis & Lilikoi

I bought a purple lilikoi vine the other day and want to add it to the main garden area. Lilikoi (aka- passionfruit) grows as a climbing vine, so it needs support of some sort. I have yellow lilikoi growing up a dead tree. But I'm out of dead trees that could be used for another trellis, so I'm making one instead. I thought that entering into the main garden area through a lilikoi tunnel could be cool. So that's where I built the trellis. 

Trellis at the mauka entrance of the main garden. 

Trellises can be built out of all sorts of materials, and in all sorts of ways. For this project, I chose bamboo. I have a bunch readily available. It's easy to work with so I'm told, and it's rot resistant. The bamboo clump I targeted has stems ranging from 1" to 3' in diameter. Just the right size. Picking out the 3+ year old pieces, a chainsaw quickly cuts them down. I didn't trim off all the side branches flush with the trunk because they will add support for the lilikoi vine as it grows. 

Trellis at the makai entrance to the main garden. 

Not knowing exactly what I'm doing, this being my first bamboo project, I had David help put the pieces together. And besides, this bamboo proved to be heavy. We assembled the uprights atop the soil, using t-posts driven into the ground for stability. Rather than screwing it all together right away, we wired it. This way we could make changes as we went along. Once I'm happy with the results, I'll 
go back and screw things in place. 

Both fat and thin bamboo was used. 

While the lilikoi vine is young, it will share the trellis with other temporary crops. Perhaps beans, or maybe peas.

Simple wire temporarily holding things in place. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sheep Mamas

I'll be getting ready for new lambs soon. Several of the mature ewes are pregnant, and a couple look big enough to be holding twins. Personally I prefer singlets, but as long as it's twins and not triplets, it should be ok. Soon I'll have to decide if I'll be bottle feeding some babies. I prefer bottle fed ewes when they grow up. But it's a pain in the butt to bottle feed a lamb for 2 months or more. I'll have to give it some thought, but there's not much time. They should be lambing by the beginning of December.


One big baby?

Big, big, big. Hopefully just twins. 

Small baby bump. 

Stacy, my old ewe. Looks to be pregnant with one. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Feeding the Farm Dogs

"T" asked me about feeding my dogs. Since we provide the bulk of our own food, what do we do about our dogs? Good question! 

Knowing what goes into making commercial pet food, I've been rather cautious what I feed my own dogs. Over the years I've used a variety of commercial dog foods and have had the opportunity to see firsthand how they effect my dogs. And because I used to show dogs, I eventually became a real dog food snob. Then once I learned what was in the meat by-product meal that many dog foods are based on, I became even more particular about which kibble I bought, eventually weaning way back on the use of commercial feed. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against anyone feeding their dog commercial dogfood of any sort. Most dogs will do fine enough on just about anything and everything. But working dogs and show dogs have higher requirements, thus doing better with some foods rather than others. And nowadays that I've moved to being more self sufficient, I've moved toward home produced and local food items. 

These days I use a good quality kibble and cooked brown rice as the basis of the feed. To that I add a soup that is made from products this farm produces one way or another. I have the option to use chicken, eggs, lamb/mutton, goat, pork, fish, turkey, and milk. I have a wide range of vegetables to pick from, often adding to the cook pot-- potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, green beans, carrots, peas, pipinolas, and a wide range of greens. Plus I take the dogs' personal tastes into account. While most of the dogs like tomatoes, Crusty won't touch them, not even soups containing them. 

How much kibble/rice I use versus soup all depends upon availability. Usually it's one cup of kibble, 1 cup cooked rice, 2 cups mixed soup. Each dog gets a different amount, depending upon their need. The dogs actually seem to enjoy the crunchies, thus I still add dry kibble. Just like us, they are texture oriented, enjoying a good chew in their meal. 

Could I eliminate store bought kibble altogether? Sure. And use something other than store bought rice? Sure. And perhaps in the future I may need to do that. But for now, this is what my dogs eat. It's not 100% farm sourced, but it's enough to satisfy me.