Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Store Bought vs Homegrown

Most of my friends buy their food from stores and farmers markets. Much of my food comes from my farm, or my locality via trading and foraging. So.....
                    .....which is better? 

Whoa, I'm not the original author of that question. I'm not judging for the world, nor telling other people what they should do. It's just that I was confronted this morning at the farmers market by someone who thought that I'm pushing this idea of growing food a bit too hard. She was defending buying store bought foods, and asked me specifically which is better, homegrown vs store bought. As I said, I'm not here to judge for other people. But let's explore .........

Which is better? When it comes to hubby and I, of course I believe homegrown and local is better. It's what I'm doing. Let's list some reasons......

... Freshness. 
... Flavor. 
... Being able to harvest at gourmet timing, such as baby squash, baby carrots, edible flowers, etc. 
... Producing foods that I can't buy in a store. (When's the last time that Aunt Molly's ground cherries were in the supermarket?) 
... Supporting local growers. 
... Less chemicals and contamination (but I have to know my suppliers. Not every grower is trustworthy.) 

Store bought has its benefits...,,
... Out of season availability. 
... Selection of foods not available locally. 
... Commercially made "instant food". 
... Getting food to the masses, especially in urban situations. 
... Generally cheaper in the long run for the majority of people. 

Store bought has a lot of downsides that I prefer to avoid --- sugars, salt, chemicals, contaminants. 

Homegrown brings other benefits --- a connection to nature, a feeling of self reliance, the knowledge that I wouldn't miss a meal even if times got rough. 

So you decide. Which is better? 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Pig Rototillers?

I recently was reading an article on how to ring a pig. Applying hog rings to the snout of a pig is to prevent rooting behavior. By the way, I don't ring my pigs. I've read articles on the internet of how short nosed breeds of pigs don't have a rooting behavior, but I don't think that's accurate. All pigs root up the ground to some degree or another. Some people say the certain breeds don't root, while others say just the opposite of the very same breed of pig. Personally my experience says it depends upon the individual pig. Some definitely like to root more so than others.

All my pigs so far have been mixed feral types. Some have more domestic pig in them than others, but they all have been at least 50% feral. Some of them were avid rooters, others had little interest in rooting other than scuffing the surface. 

My current pigs, Lava and Shelly, aren't big rooters. Yes they root a bit, but their hearts aren't into it. They snuffle here and there, but generally grass grows just about everywhere in their enclosure. They have one spot that they like to churn up rocks, but that's it. 

I often see recommendations on various farming/gardening forums to use pigs to "plow" the garden. I don't see that as great advice for a few of reasons. First, not all pigs are avid rooters. So you can't just order "2 piglets please that will be good rooters". Second, they are selective rooters. They surely aren't going to go down your rows and politely plow up your garden beds. (You will notice in the photo that my pigs haven't rooted most of their enclosure. The grass is doing just fine!) Third, some pigs just snuffle the surface, while others like digging down to China. So instead of plowing, they are more apt to make lunar landscape craters with deep foxholes here and there. You will end up with more of a headache than when you started. Top that off with the fact that pig activity tends to leave behind compacted soil, I personally don't see the benefit of using pigs to prepare a garden site. 

Bottom line........if you want your garden tilled, I wouldn't rely upon a pig to get the job done. Use a rototiller, plow, or shovel instead. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Piglet Visitors

Look who's come to visit! 

3 little eight week old piglets. One black boy (on the left), one black girl ( standing on the right), and one dark chocolate girl (laying down on the right). For right now they are in my quarantine pen......

This pen is made from plastic pallets, except for the door. Those plastic pallets are quite heavy and would be impossible as a door. The plastic makes things easy to hose clean and sanitize between uses. 

The pen is five pallets long, so it gives the piglets some space to move around. They have blankets and sheets to lay on in the far end of the pen, which has a rainproof roof & tarp. They also have food and water bowls, and toys to play with. Yes, toys. Piglets love to play if given the opportunity. 

Usually the first few days in the new pen the piglets are shy. But these little guys are quite bold and confident. It didn't take long for them to rearrange their bedroom, check out the toys, and eat a meal. Tomorrow  I plan to treat them for lice and deworm them. Then they will be ready for their new homes. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Food Forests

"S" just questioned me about food forests. Guess she has been reading permaculture websites recently. While I do incorporate many aspects of permaculture into this homestead farm, I'm not a permaculture farm. At least, not yet. Maybe some day.  I keep edging closer and closer. 

So what is a food forest? It's a type of gardening that uses a young forest model to grow a diversity of edible crops. Most plants are perennials. Food production is layered, going from ground covers to canopy trees, and everything in between. Much of the food forest is not tilled, thus relying upon mulches and nutrient teas for soil additives. But that's not strictly the case, depending upon the crops used. Things like root crops require soil cultivation to plant and harvest them. But generally the area mimics a forest habitat. Come to think about it, I guess you could say that digging those roots crops mimics a forest pig rooting around for a meal. Ah-ha, just like nature after all. 

Why have a food forest? It's less time consuming that intensive gardening. But the diversity of food is more limited. Land that I may not have the time to tend can be made to be food productive via a food forest. A food forest need not destroy the native trees already growing there. The soil biome need not be destroyed. Wildlife can still utilize the area. Land perhaps not suitable for conventional gardening can be used for a food forest, perhaps someplace too steep or too rocky.  

Some food forest characteristics..... Predominately perennials. A mix of trees, shrubs, low growing plants, ground covers, root crops, climbing vines. Use of multi layers : subsurface, ground level, mid level, high canopy. Utilizes both sun and shade oriented plants. Provides other resources, such as firewood (from tree pruning) and mulch material (from pruning, spent plants, natural leaf drop). 

On my own homestead farm, I don't have just one area dedicated as a food forest. My food forests tend to meander through the 20 acres, and they morph from one type of food production to another. Over by the barn the forest area was originally eucalyptus trees. It now hosts in addition -- lemon trees, bananas, pipnolas, papaya, and chaya. I'm still adding plants and plan to put in sweet potatoes, cholesterol spinach, ginger, ti, and some herbs. 

     Along the dry river bed and up the driveway, ohia and feral guavas were the original trees. I kept the ohias and thinned out the guavas. I added a cinnamon tree, an allspice, a clove, moringa, coffee, and several citrus trees. Also growing there are pipinola, turmeric, sweet potato vines, bananas, and a variety of herbs. 

     The pastures are in the process of being converted from dense, inedible ferns under ohia and wild guava. The ground cover consists of various pasture oriented plants, both grasses and forbs (in the places where the ferns have been removed). I've already added avocado trees. There's a whole lot of work still needed back there, 

     The Secret Garden has the most diversity so far. Originally mostly ohia trees and ferns, I've added quite an assortment of food bearing plants. Pipinolas, sweet potatoes, okinawan spinach, cholesterol spinach, a sapote tree, a white guava, mulberry trees, several citrus, coffee, and many different kinds of bananas, lots of taro, lots of ti, a cacao tree, turmeric, lilikoi, pineapples, plus a few herbs. It's still a work in progress. 

    Just so "S" and others understand, I didn't set out to create permaculture food forests. I set out to grow food, period. I recently discovered that it's now in vogue to have a food forest. How nice. I'm not one for fads, trends, what's in vogue. I do what I'm interested in and figure out how to make it work. And by the way, my macadamia nut trees aren't a part of any particular system. They simply line the driveway. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday Diary

I guess my favorite day of the week is Wednesday, simply because it's my town's market day...and everything goes from there. Here's how my day typically goes, not exactly heart stopping excitement, but it doesn't take much for this country girl to enjoy market day. 

Up early as usual. Morning chores are abbreviated on market day. I check on all the critters and distribute feed. The rest can wait until I get back. Even the breakfast dishes. Hum, especially those dirty dishes. 

Back at the house, I like to do some finishing touches on whatever produce I'm taking to market. Today it's freshly dug turmeric. Most the prep was done last night, but this morning I still need to weigh it out into individual baggies. Feeling totally optimistic (heck, the sun is shining so beautifully this morning), I pack up an extra dozen baggies. 

I invite Noodles to come along. He's ecstatic. Tail thumping, big grin, jumping with joy. Boy, you would think I never let him ride in the truck. Maybe the sun has him in a good mood too. So he hops into the passenger seat and off we go.  

There's a full contingent of vendors today. Even a couple overflow folks on the roadside, hoping the cops will be in a good mood and pass them by. First stop is the veggie vendor at on the Shaka Restaurant grounds. He likes my turmeric and has been selling out every week so far. I return to the truck with more than enough red cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce. Both sides are happy with the trade. Back at the truck Noodles is disappointed. I guess he was hoping there'd be dog cookies in that trade. 

Next stop, the main market. This time when I return to the truck there are goodies for Noodles, plus homemade sourdough bread, a big bag of oranges, several tomatoes, a dozen eggs, 3 banana lumpia, an entire bunch of green bananas, fresh young ginger, and a gigantic frozen tilapia fish. No Noodles, you can't have the fish. Looks like I made a good decision packing the extra turmeric. It's a hot item this morning. Some days are better than others, and today all the turmeric was successfully traded. 

Back home I still had a full day ahead. The rest of the morning was spent wielding a sawsall, cutting up wood pallets. I aim to add a couple new chicken enclosures. They're almost completed but I need more planks to finish the task. I also got the electric sheep fencing moved, opening up some new pasture space for the girls. (Only took less than 15 minutes. Gee, I love this fencing!)  And moved 3 loads of rock up to the driveway rock wall construction area. David was around today and caught up on most of the weedwacking around the place. 

After lunch I went back and finished up the daily routine chores, even threw a load of laundry into the washer. This still left me with time to haul piles of pulled up ferns from the back pastures up to the driveway hugelpits that I'm working on. Clearing out the ferns is the pasture improvement project. Using the ferns as fill is part of the hugelpits project. One hand washes the other........or zero waste, whichever way you want to look at it. Worked till 5, then called it a day and took a nice hot shower. I still really appreciate hot showers. The memory of cold ones hasn't totally faded away yet. Then managed to hang out the wash before collapsing into the easy chair. Those dang dirty breakfast dishes will have to wait until after dinner. 

Hubby came home early (government shutdown is interfering with his work. In fact, he might not even get paid this month, but we'll see how that goes.) Dinner do sandwiches sound? ........ Fresh homemade sourdough bread, tomatoes, lettuce, egg salad, and pipinola pickles. Sounds just fine to me. 

After dinner (yes, I washed the dishes), catch up on the internet then watch the kittens play.....better than tv!! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Dark Side of Homesteading

"T" liked my homesteading mistakes post, then he asked me if there was a unseen side to homesteading. "What? Do you mean a dark side? Those dirty little secrets no one tells you about?" Yes, there is. Going back to the earth is trendy now. Success stories sell magazines, for-profit blogs, money making YouTube channels. If they talked about the horrible things that happen, then they wouldn't have an audience for long nor make money. 

So what are some of the dirty little secrets? It may be good to be aware before plunging into any level of homesteading. You aught to go in with open eyes. Be aware that everything isn't roses and lollipops.  

... If you have livestock, they will eventually die. Sometimes it's ugly, sometimes expensive, sometimes a surprise, sometimes drawn out agony. Sometimes you find them peacefully looking like they're asleep. Other times there is blood everywhere. 

...Crop failures. There goes your food supply. Oops. It seems that everything out there is trying to kill your crop: bugs, diseases, the weather, the neighbor's cows. I once had Bucky, my wether, and his friend, E-Ram the sheep, eat my entire main garden. All-l-l-l gone! 

....Nobody wants your products. Making crafts is one of the first go-to ideas people have for making income. But there's a narrow market for such items and the competition can be huge. Selling your extra veggies is another grand idea. But there's not a guaranteed market, especially if you have a farmers market in the area. Or if they aren't pretty and priced right, you'll be taking them all back home with you. 

...Things go wrong.  The generator you depend upon stops running. You run out of firewood. Frost hits the very morning your seedlings germinate. You check your pond and find all the fish floating belly up. The milk cow gets mastitis. 

...Bad weather. The land floods. Or, there's no rain. Early frost. Cold spring. 30 cloudy days in arow. Strong winds blow everything down. 

...Doing things by hand takes a lot more time. Hand digging a drainage trench can take days, while using a backhoe can take an hour or two. Everything done by hand takes a lot longer to get finished. But sometimes by hand is the only way you can afford getting the job done. 

...Every homestead different, but each has something that eventually becomes an issue. Hauling water? (That can lose its appeal.) Long driveway to maintain? (Wait until the first real snowstorm.) Living off grid? (It takes discipline to live within energy boundaries. And you'll kill your first battery bank while learning.) 

...It's hard work. There's lots of physical work. It's not a part time job. Once the entire infrastructure is in place, then the work eases up, until you get bored and start taking on new projects. Yup, the work never ends. 

...Not glamorous as depicted in the glossy magazines, glitzy blogs, polished videos. That beautiful photo of the well groomed family of dad, mom, and two young kids holding bags of fresh picked ears of sweet corn is staged. Hate to break that to you. But if they had REALLY just been out picking that corn, their hair would be torn askew by wrestling 6' high corn stalks, their hands would be red from twisting and yanking all those ears off, their clothiers would be a mess with spider webs and dirt, and they wouldn't be lined up smiling like a line of Hollywood actors.

Homesteading has its rewards. Of course. Otherwise real people wouldn't be doing it. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Homesteading Mistakes

A few readers have remarked that I make homesteading sound easy, and that I don't make mistakes. Oh brother, that's far from the truth. I've always said that farming isn't easy. It's work. And I make lots of mistakes, but maybe not the most common ones. 

Over the years I've talked with many a wannabe small farmer or homesteader. I'm often asked for advice. So here's a list of some of the things I mention in order to avoid having to deal with common mistakes people make.....

... Wrong location. Choose your location wisely. Consider the weather, climate, government restrictions and taxes, the area's future planning, your neighbors and neighborhood, availability of shopping and health care. There are a lot of things to consider, and each person has there own priorities. But I've heard of people buying without regard to land restrictions and are frustrated that they can't have a flock of chickens, or don't they have water rights, or they find out an interstate highway is planned to run adjacent to their land, or oil wells are planned the the land across the street, or their land isn't accessible by vehicle during the rainy season. 
... No cash or a job to bankroll your start. Too many newbies can't survive the first year because of lack on funds. It takes a while to learn how to produce your own food, and survive using less resources. If starting ftom scratch, it takes a while to build something to live in. It takes money to buy the tools and supplies you need. 
... Not everyone in the family be on board with the idea. Not everybody needs to be an active participant, but they can't be against it. 
... The First Year Syndrome : trying too many things at once. Most people fall victim to this. They try to get everything done at once. 
... Constantly looking for the perfect or best way to do things before acting. Some people get paralyzed trying to decide what is the best way. They want to do it right the first time. As a result, they never get started. It's called analysis paralysis. Other people go ahead a do something, but then re-do it over and over again, looking for the ideal ultimate way. Every year they tear down what they did the year before and rebuild it, or sell last year's "the ultimate goat breed" and buy a different one. 
... Over estimating your ability. With the advent of easy access to information via the Internet, newbees tend to over estimate their knowledge and skill to farm, have livestock, build a house, maintain farm equipment, grow a garden, etc. They figure that they saw it on YouTube or read someone's blog and that they can do the same thing successfully right away. They don't realize that experience has a lot to do with success. It takes hands on work and time to be successful at just about any and all aspects of homesteading and farming. Believe me, if you've never gardened before, plowing up two acres and buying a couple hundred dollars of seeds is a big mistake. 
...Growing too big too fast. Expanding sounds like a good idea. But if the foundation isn't there to support the growth, you get over extended in a hurry. What too often follows? A big crash. 
... Not knowing about the livestock before you buy. I've seen people buy a type of livestock that appealed to them without learning anything about them first. Emus. Alpacas. Potbellied pigs. Scottish Highland Cattle. Buffalo. This even includes the more common goats, sheep, rabbits, etc. And I've watched too many of those animals die, or worse yet, the new owners getting badly hurt by them. 
... Not having infrastructure in place before buying livestock. This is far too common a mistake. A person visits a livestock auction (by the way, that's a terrible place for a newbee to buy an animal). They come home with 6 diary goats and tie them out on ropes because they don't have any fencing in place yet. Nor do they have the equipment or skill to milk them. Nor the feed on hand to go feed them correctly. Nor a water trough. Nor a shelter. Believe me, I've seen this happen! For real! My advice is to have everything in place before the first animal arrives. 
...Not having livestock evaluated before purchasing. When buying animals, one needs to be able to evaluate their health, temperament, confirmation, and suitability for the reason they are being acquired. If you can't do it yourself, then get help from someone that can. I've seen people buy scouring calves, not knowing what was going on. Other times it's been piglets loaded with lice, sheep too aged to be of much use, goats too anemic to survive, hens past egg laying age. As a teenager I got stung buying what I thought was a gelded pony, only to find out later that it was a cryptorchid stallion. Yikes! 
...Trying to home slaughter and not knowing how to do it. Gee, I've gotten nightmares over this common mistake. I've heard grewsome tales. 
...Raising animals for food only to find out that you can't bring yourself to kill them, or eat them. Wow is this common! Once you've looked into an animal's eyes, given it a name, tenderly cared for it, it gets difficult or impossible for some people to keep in mind that this is food. It gets killed, cut up into pieces, and served for dinner. And it gets worse when the kids can't bring themselves to eat Bossy, Elsie, Little Red, Thumper, etc. I've seen these type homesteaders drowning in livestock that they can't bring themselves to eat, kill, sell, or give away. 
...The family is glued to supermarket food. I've seen families where they don't eat what the grow, and I'm not referring to animals. To them, real food comes from a store, and most is prepackaged commercially prepared meals. 
...Not understanding that farming goes on regardless of the weather. Rain. Freezing cold. Broiling summer days. Storms. Mud season. Snow. There are jobs that need taking care of regardless of the weather, especially when there's livestock. No livestock? You're not off the hook. Got tomato seedlings out in the coldframe and there's a snowstorm scheduled for tonight? Well you gotta go out in the cold and dark to cover that coldframe with straw and tarps, or piles of wet blankets. 

I'm sure there's plenty more common mistakes that beginners make, but these are what came to mind ..........because either I made them myself or watched others who did. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Premeir 1 Electric Fencing

"D" asked me how could I confine the sheep to just the garden area? Wouldn't they go anywhere they liked? 

I accomplished that feat by using a portable electric fence. I'm using Premier 1 fencing designed for sheep. I splurged this past Christmas and bought the farm a present. I purchased 5 rolls of mesh fencing plus a charger to use with it. 

I've seen this fencing being used at Kapapala Ranch, so it wasn't totally foreign to me. But I had never actually used it myself. So this was a new adventure. 

The fencing arrived on schedule, neatly packaged, complete with everything needed. I followed the instructions for opening the rolls up and setting the fencing in place. It turned out to be easier than I anticipated. I really had myself braced for a difficult time, but it didn't happen. Rolling up, moving, and re-setting the fencing has proven to be fairly easy too as long as I paid attention to what I was doing. Paying attention is the main point. I had memories of untangling strings of Christmas lights as a child, but the tangles never occurred with this fencing...thank heaven. 

The fencing I choose has fiberglass posts every 6 feet. That proved to be a good choice. The 12 foot spacing would not have worked so well for how I intend to use it. I'm moving the fencing frequently and the 12 spacing would have been very difficult to handle alone by myself. 

I took the time to train the sheep to the fence. Having had experience training dogs to the Invisible Fence, I was aware how important it was to correctly introduce the animal to the new fencing. So the first 3 days were short sessions where I kept an eye on the sheep. I didn't have the electric charger attached, therefore the sheep could investigate the fencing, learn how to get their heads out from the holes, and slowly untangle themselves if they happened to put a foot through the fence. I didn't pressure them so that they wouldn't panic. Plus since sheep don't like to move in reverse, they needed to learn how to do that automatically on their own if they got a body part in the fence. On day 4 I left them corralled for the day. All went well. It's now been 2 weeks and they are comfortable with the fencing. Nobody gets tangled in it anymore (only one apparently learning disabled ewe kept getting caught up in it.) They understand it now. And guess what......I haven't hooked up the charger yet. Of course, they haven't run out of grazing either, so they don't see a need to bust out. But they are not challenging the fencing so far. I do plan to introduce them to the charger next week in order to train them to respect the fence, but I am impressed how they are taking to it so far. 

Noooowwwwww, the goats are another story!!!!

What can I say...goats are baaaaaad! It didn't take them long to investigate this new contraption. They tried chewing it, climbing over it, pulling it with their horns, pulling the fiberglass posts up, sticking their heads and legs through it. They also managed to get tangled up in it. Mean mommy (me) let them get tangled ultra good, stuck there laying on their sides well bound up in the fencing. I walked around them, talking to them but ignoring their struggles. After 10 minutes I began to untangle them....after binding their legs with duct tape so that they wouldn't cause more harm while I freed them. Freeing them was almost as tedious as unraveling those strings of Christmas lights! Once free of fencing and duct tape, I let them loose. Being smart goats, they are now leaving the fencing alone. Good thing! ....... It's also a good thing that the charger wasn't hooked up. They have learned their lesson the easy way. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Getting the Main Garden Going Again

Been busy all this week getting the main garden area reclaimed. The grass was about 18" to 24" tall in most places, a real overgrown mess. First thing I did was turn the sheep loose and corral them in the garden area. After a week they had eaten the top half foot of tender grass, leaving the tougher lower stems. I could have left them grazing, but it would have taken a good month for them to eat it down to lawn depth. So off went the sheep and in came to 'instruments of destruction". 

After one morning of running the weedwacker and raking up the worst of the grass, it occurred to me to take a photo. So I plopped down an old kitty litter bucket to show you how tall the grass was after the sheep and before the weedwacker attack. It took three mornings to get the whole area down to mow-able height, about 4"-6" and the majority of the lose grass harvested. I used that grass to feed to the donkey, sheep, and goats. 

With the grass now mowable, I mowed at the highest setting (#6), collecting the clippings. Those clippings went to mulch the orchard and banana trees. I then mowed at the next lower setting, #5. Again I collected the clippings, using them to mulch taro patches. Each morning I mowed even lower.....setting #4,#3,#2. Lots of clippings for mulching everything, even the multitude of pineapple plants. 

Now I'm down to the last mowing. Monday, if the weather is dry, I'll scalp the area using the mower's lowest setting -- #1. Then I'll pray for a few sunny, windy days. Because what I plan to do next is to run the rototiller lightly over the surface, cutting off the vegetation at the soil surface. The sun and wind should dry it out and kill it. I'm planning on running the tiller over the surface for 4-5 days in a row, not going deeply, but just scuffing the surface. If 5 days isn't enough, then I'll do 7....or whatever it takes. This method won't kill the burmuda grass, but it should be death for just about everything else except the few clumps of guinea grass, which I will hand chop out. 

If all goes as planned, I should be able to start tilling in the compost in one week from now. I have about 12 cubic yards of compost ready to go. That's not enough but it will start a good number garden beds going. Rather than trying to get all the beds going at once, I'll do one at a time. I'm eager to get something planted as soon as possible. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Emergency Food

"T" asked me today via email about what sorts of foods I have stockpiled for winter use and emergencies. It seems that he lives where they just had a deep snowstorm and weren't prepared with back up foods in the house. So thoughts of a well stocked pantry are high on his list.

Winter use: In Hawaii, that's not a concern. I am able to garden year around. That's one of the reasons I opted to move to Hawaii. So rather than talk about storing find for winter, I mention storing excess seasonal foods. 

While I can grow many things year around, there are some crops that are strictly seasonal, while others tend to produce better some times of the year and poorly the rest of the time. Just like in most areas of the mainland, cool season crops do better during the winter months here, things like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower. So yes, there are foods I tend to store, but not in excess. We are more apt to simply eat seasonally. 

Some crops are strictly seasonal. They're mostly fruits. Seasonal foods that I preserve: 
... Pineapples. I save this by either drying or freezing.
... Lilikoi. I juice them, then freeze the juice. 
... Avocado. I'll mash a few and mix the mash with lime juice, then store in the freezer. Once thawed, it's good for making guacamole, which hubby enjoys. I'll also use it as an addition to soups or as a "gravy" in stir fries. 
... Mango. I scoop the flesh into nuggets then freeze it. 
... Turmeric. Dehydrate then freeze for long term storage. I could just freeze it, but it works better for my uses to dehydrate it first. 
... Citrus except lime. I'll juice the fruits and save a few containers of each kind of juice. Limes produce year around, so no need to store extra. 
... Jaboticaba. I'll make this into a syrup and freeze it. 
... Coffee. I'll process the beans to the parchment stage then store them in my barn until roasting time. 

Excess also can be preserved but I don't fill my freezer with too much excess. 
... Bananas. I'll freeze a few dozen to carry me over until the next bunch is ready. Bananas seems to one of those crops where you either have none, or so many that you give them away. 
... Assorted veggies. I'll normally pop a few broccoli heads, cut up cauliflower, carrots, and peas into the freezer. Not much. Just enough to add easy variety to our meals. 
... Bulb onions. I have green onions year around, but I also grow plenty of bulb onions because we use a lot of them. Bulb onions all mature in the summer, so I end up with a seasonal excess. I usually just coarsely chop them up and pop them into the freezer for adding to soups later on. 

Of these excesses, I prefer to use most of them for trading or selling. 

Let's talk about emergency foods for a moment. I do keep a bit of food stored for an emergency. Emergencies I can think of would include a major hurricane, volcanic eruption, or a shipping disruption (strike, war, port damage, etc). Regardless of the emergency, we'd need food. We do have plenty of food growing about the farm, but it wouldn't take long to become insanely bored eating bananas, pipinolas, sweet potato greens, and eggs for every meal. So I keep an assortment of things growing around the farm, and I keep an assortment of veggies and fruits in the freezer. Not a freezer full, but enough for a couple weeks. I also have dry beans, lentils, rice, and peas stored in sealed mason jars for soup making. And a few pounds of spaghetti and jars of homemade spaghetti sauce stored as well, just for quick & easy meals.  We have livestock living right on the farm, so if push came to shove, they could be added to the dinner plate. Unlike people living in urban areas, we live amid a trove of food. It's one of the benefits of having one's own homestead farm. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Hawaiian Ti

Seems like I'm perpetually looking for edible shade tolerant plants. By accident I discovered that ti meets that requirement. 

Ti is a tropical plant. Until I moved here, I only saw it in floral shops. And didn't have the foggiest idea what it really was. Now I have ti growing on my farm, much of it in my shady locations. 

Above, a ti plant with berries. 

Above, a close up look at ti berries. Each contains several seeds. 

What eats ti? My sheep adore it. The donkey and goats also eat it, but the sheep think it's manna from heaven. I have it growing in a couple places where the sheep are allowed to graze for short periods of time. That way they don't eat the tops completely off. Although the sheep eat all the leaves, the plant recovers. 

A nice thing about ti, besides it being apparently tasty, is that it is easy to propagate. There are a number of ways to propagate seed, air layering, stem cuttings. Stem cuttings root fastest if the younger stem sections are used, but the older woodier stems will also put out roots. 

Stem cuttings can be pre-rooted in water prior to planting in soil. I've done this in the past with both tip cuttings and woody stem cuttings. I'll put them into a vase or jar with water and change the water frequently, at least twice a week. This helps prevent rotting. Once the roots start to form, in a couple weeks, I'll then plant the cutting outdoors. 

Above, ti cuttings 

My go-to method nowadays is to Just cut off the top of the stalk, deleaf it, and stick it into the ground. Then if kept moist by watering every few days, it readily roots. I could chop the stalk into smaller pieces are root each one, but I find that takes longer to grow. The smaller the piece, the slower it grows into an edible plant. So I use a piece of stalk 12"-15" long, stick it into the ground. Within one grazing cycle it two, I'll have a plant that can sacrifice a few leaves to the sheep. 

Above, ti cuttings trimmed and ready for planting. 

Ti comes in a variety of colors and styles, but they are edible to the sheep. So I can have a bit of fun planting colorful arrangements of ti plants. The green plants grow the fastest, but the other colors are more attractive to look at. So I'm growing both. 

I'm constantly begging cuttings or scavenging trimmings from friends and strangers. This coming year I plan to grow a lot more ti in my shady spots

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Diary - After the Holidays

Ok, it's back to work. Vacation days are over. Boy, do I have a lot of catching up to do! There's no way I'm going to get everything fine in just a couple of days. 

This morning started out with harvesting more turmeric and cleaning it up for market. I pack it into ziplock bags, 6-8 ounces to the bag. A bag sells for $3. I could get more if I wanted to get stuck with unsold bags, but at this price, I can sell the whole batch. I only sell the best looking roots....fat, unblemished. The rejects I keep for myself or for gifting. Since I'm just going to grind mine up and dry it, it doesn't matter if the roots are small, misshapened, lighter in color. Anyway, I got my bags down to market just about 8 o'clock. I've really got to try to get down there a bit earlier in order to catch the early shoppers. Did some trading this morning, bringing home broccoli, oranges, and fresh fish. 

After getting the standard farm chores out of the way, I jumped into the unenviable task of doing laundry. 12 days of doing zero wash = piles of dirty clothes. Good thing we have lots of clothing, or we'd be running around naked by now! Got 5 loads washed and hung out. Ran out of wash line space for today. 

Next, between other small jobs, transferred the laundry water to the hugelpit beds. I try to utilize the wash water to hydrate the hugelpits that are being built. A lot of material goes into creating one hugelpit. All that material needs to be moistened so that it begins to decompose and the hugelpit can function as it should. Even though I get plenty of rain, more water is needed during the filling process than rain alone can provide. Thus it's a perfect place to use that laundry greywater. Today I pumped and transferred 6 large trashcanfuls of water, to which I added manure tea and fermented urine as nutrient sources. 

Lunch break. Time to peruse the farmers market for myself, have lunch with hubby, then off to pick up cardboard from the local businesses. As I load the cardboard into the truck, I sort out the part that I can use in the hugelpits from the pieces that will go into the recycle bins at the dump. I avoid using cardboard with plastic on it or colored inks. 

Back on the farm, it's time to replenish the livestock feed fermenting buckets. With trusty sawsall in hand, 5 banana trees give up their lives to feed the pigs for the coming couple weeks. Hack, hack, hack. 5 trees into small pieces, into the buckets, fill with water, seal the tops shut, set aside to ferment some. 

While in town today, an acquaintance gave me a bunch of ti cuttings. Retrieving them from the truck, I trim the up for planting. I'm glad to add more ti plants for sheep feed. 

Dragging out the lawnmower, I have time to clean up the area around my driveway gate and up along part of the driveway. Two trashcanfuls of clippings go to the sheep. One goes to the chickens. The fourth goes as mulch around the new banana trees. 

Wish I had had more hours in the day. So much to do, so little time. 

2018 / 2019

In that hubby and I survived 2018 and are still basically functional, I'd say that we had a decent year. We've survived ok, even surviving an incoming ballistic missile alert. Yes, we discovered what we would do if we learned we only had 12 minutes to live --- we'd finish enjoying our hot breakfast before it got cold. For real. That's exactly what we did. No cursing. Not screaming. No running around. Simply enjoy our last good meal before disaster struck and made life very, very different. 

But how did the homestead farm do? 

... Number 1 miss -- we didn't get the house completed. The bathroom still isn't finished. We got sidetracked by finishing up trim work, adding a hot tub deck, doing maintenance work, and a multitude of small projects. So we still need to tackle that bathroom tiling, create the new shower, remove the old shower and install storage shelves. Then next, tile the rest of the little porches that are at the various entranceways to the house. The final task will be putting on a new roof, which hopefully will last the rest of the time that we are living on this farm. But we're going to need dry weather to do that. 
... Some new livestock arrived this year, others left by various means. Lambs, kids, and chicks were born. Piglets were brought in. At the end of 2018 we have 22 sheep, 4 goats, 1 donkey, 2 pigs, about 60 chickens, numerous farm cats & dogs. Too many sheep. That will need to be addressed in 2019. 
... We learned how to cope with an erupting volcano as it affected the farm. Acid rain. SO2 vog. Ash fall. Impaired sunlight. 
... We got hit by a new pest, the sweet potato whitefly. And we saw early blight visit our cherry tomatoes and potatoes. 
... The frequent rains and constant wet kept us from growing much in the way of food other than perennials. Harvested some onions, beans, peas, and tomatoes. In place of growing veggies, I spent my time focusing upon expanding the growing spaces, adding cross fencing to the pastures, improving the pastures, expanding my plantings of perennials, making compost, filling in hugelpits.
... Got a lot more rock wall built along the driveway. 
... Explored and expanded my options for livestock feed, focusing on feed that the farm produces for itself.
... Planted a lot of perennials -- bananas, pineapples, taro, chaya, cholesterol spinach, sweet potatoes
... Planted a lot of turmeric and harvested it. Had plenty of extra for trading, selling, and gifting.
... The previous year, Noodles arrived, but 2018 saw him growing up. He has proved to be a winner! Now I wonder, could he be trained to help handle the sheep? He's a retriever by instinct, so could he be conditioned to "retrieve" sheep? Should be an interesting future project. 
... My addition of a wwoofer hasn't proven to be as beneficial as I thought it might become. But then, that wasn't my original intention. Not that I'm unhappy with Adam living on the farm. Not at all. It's just that it would be nicer if he had better self-preservation instincts. And nicer if he was actually interested in farming. Adam is what and who he is. And for now I accept that. 

Now that the weather pattern is suppose to change, I'm eagerly looking forward to the 2019 growing season. I feel like spring has just arrived and I want to be out there tilling and planting. I have a feeling that the coming year will be very productive, foodwise. 

What am I hoping to tackle this coming year? 
... Finishing the house, for sure. 
... Whipping the annual gardens back into production. 
... Getting the greenhouses back into action. 
... Getting more of the pastures improved so that I won't have to buy haycubes ever again. Well, at least not until the next year-long drought comes around. 
... Adding more banana trees. They are becoming an important livestock feed staple. 
... Propagating sugar cane to expand my production, again for livestock feed primarily. 
... Building a couple of chicken pens so that I can move my chickens into new digs, freeing up the old pen so that it can be rebuilt. 
... Creating a one acre paddock for the pigs, complete with shelter, feeders, a wallow. 
... Continue improving the back pastures. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Rain Data for the Year

Here's the rain data I collected for the farm this year. And I'm posting some of the previous years' data for comparison purposes. 

Total rain accumulation:
2018 -- 64.35"
2017 -- 40.20"
2016 -- 52.96" 

Number of days where there was over an inch of rain :
2018 -- 11 days
2017 --  6 days
2016 -- 8 days 

The greatest amount of rain in a 24 hour period (I measure from 7 am to 7 am) :
2018 -- 3.87"
2017 -- 2.10" 
2016 -- 3.81" 

Number of days with no rain:
2018 -- 72
2017 -- 134
2016 -- 124

The longest number of days in a row of no rain :
2018 -- 10 days
2017 -- 10 days 
2016 -- 16 days

Overall, 2018 proved to be a wet year. Only 72 days recorded zero rainfall, and many of those days were overcast, thus no productive sun. The ground never dried out the entire year, though in December we saw the surface dry out one week in December.