Thursday, February 28, 2019

Pigs - Thursday Update

Rain off and on all day hindered my work today. Not that I didn't work in the rain. I did! But when the plants are wet, they are slippery (and so is the ground) and more difficult to pull out. Thus I work slower. I now have three sides of the pasture completely clear, and the fourth partially cleared. 

Shelly is still in the pasture, but I haven't seen nor heard from Lava. Shelly showed up within two minutes of my arrival, so the buggers are aware of my presence. I could hear him running through the ferns, grunting as he got closer. He actually seemed happy to see me. I found out later that his joy of seeing he was strictly for the pleasure of driving me nuts. He still had a little food leftover from last night, so he wasn't all that interested in breakfast. 

Getting right to work pulling ferns, I had brought along a pair of work gloves, pruning shears, garden knife, and loppers. Setting them aside, I started making my way down the fence. You guessed it.......Shelly sneaked over and stole the work gloves. He let out a drawn out shill squeal which got my attention. Once I made eye contact with him, he made a couple of hops and butt-twists then took off, gloves in mouth. Bugger! Blasted bugger! I never saw those gloves again. They're somewhere lost out in those ferns, never to be found again I'm sure. 

Ok. I picked up all the tools and put them on the other side of the fence. No more pig stealing shenanigans today. 

I had also brought along a roll of electric fence rope, the lightweight stuff. It's easy to work with and effective as a hotwire. Since I no longer had gloves, I figured I'd set up the electric fence on the fenceline that I had cleared. That way I'd get something accomplished before I had to trudge back to the house for more gloves. The roll I was working with was only a partial roll, so I wasn't sure how much ground I would be able to over with it. I had a number of fiberglass poles and about 50 plastic poles. So I set to work getting a dozen poles in, then ran the electric fence wire, then installed more poles, then more wire. I gradually worked my way down the short side of the pasture, then started down the long side. I wasn't down the long side more than 10 feet before Shelly showed up again. He kept ambushing my legs, biting at my shoes. Dang pig! I finally had enough by now. I was wet from the rain and getting chilly. I was in no mood to play games, so I yelled and waved my arms, chasing Shelly. 

Shelly got his revenge. He found something else to do that didn't involve me directly. He began messing with the electric fence wire. By the time I noticed it, Shelly had chewed the wire in about 2 dozen places. I guess he was just curious and looking for fun, but he sure was destructive. He ruined about 150' of wire. Sheesh! By now I was fed up with the morning. I was thoroughly soaked from the rain, getting cold, and was losing badly to a pig. 

Having errands to do around lunchtime, I didn't get back to the pig problem until mid afternoon. Shelly came a'runnin' when he heard me arrive. I only got about 2 hours work pulling ferns before the rain drove me to call it quits. Shelly kept me company the whole time, occasionally ambushing me but generally just watching from a distance. I'm pretty disappointed in my progress today.  But Shelly seemed pleased. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Working on Securing The Pasture

I've been clearing the fenceline around pasture #3 and I'm almost 3/4 done. The rain surely isn't helping my efforts. Luckily most of today was dry enough to work. I've been tackling the three sides that are the least densely packed with ferns. The fourth side is fairly solid and less likely that the pigs would penetrate it when there's easier areas. Well, at least that's what I'm hoping for. 

I know for certain the Shelly is still in that pasture. The little scoundrel followed me around all the time that I was working. Grunting from a distance, and occasionally sneaking up behind me to snuffle my shoes and generally startle me. I'm guessing that he won't be leaving Lava, so hopefully she is in that pasture too. Shelly is quite capable of leaving this area if he wanted to......thus another good sign that Lava is around since he's sticking around. 

I've been putting out food in various locations. I've seen Shelly visiting all 3 buckets, but I haven't had a glimpse of Lava today. Perhaps tomorrow I'll spot her as I run the hotwire and clear more ferns. 

One more day's work and the easy escape routes will be blocked. Then I'll work to get the fourth side secured. Wish me luck the Lava stays in that pasture for at least another day or two. By Friday afternoon the hotwire should be around the entire pasture enclosure. The hotwire with the field fence behind it should effectively hold the pigs in. I would have thought that the field fence and barbed wire combination alone would have worked, if I hadn't witnessed the hole they tore right through the field fence. Amazingly strong and destructive when they want to be! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Lava Looks Ready

Yesterday Lava rooted around in the deep sawdust I put into the shelter I made for her. And she wasn't interested in dinner. So things are progressing. Looks like she's ready to have her piglets. 

Then it rained all night. I wasn't worried because the shelter will stay dry. I was pleased with myself that I used a new, heavy duty tarp for the roof. It's bound to keep Lava and her babies nice n dry. 

WHAMO! Came down this morning to check on Lava and bring her her favorite breakfast......and they're gone! Neither Lava nor Shelly were in the pen. I found one spot behind the new shelter where one of them, most likely Lava, tore a hole in the fencing. Yup, right through the fencing. I can only imagine that she was in labor and had an urgent need to get away. Animals often remove themselves to a remote spot to give birth, but I thought Lava was pretty content where she was. Looks like I was wrong. She's mostly feral rather than domestic, so I'm not totally surprised that she did something like this. 

........skip to the end.........

After an all morning search I spied both Lava (very briefly from a distance) and Shelly in the back of the property. They were in the very back of pasture #3. This pasture is totally unimproved, meaning that it is extremely thick with a dense growth of ferns. Not even the sheep and donkey bother to venture into this pasture enclosure. Finding two hiding pigs would be close to impossible without scaring the daylights out of them doing it. 

Im thinking that Lava has delivered her litter. If that's so, perhaps she will stay put for at least a few days. This may give me a chance to line the fence with a hotwire in order to permanently confine them. Of course this means clearing the fenceline a bit first. The fencing there will confine sheep and a donkey, but it's not set up to keep pigs in or out. 

Looks like I have a job for the next couple days! 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Piglets Soon?

Lava looks to be getting near the end of her pregnancy. Since I've never seen this before, I can't say for certain that piglets are soon to arrive. But she's developed quite the set of udders. 

She hasn't been nesting yet. But do pigs makes nests? Based upon the behavior of the feral sow in the back of my property, I assume that Lava will want a shelter to give birth in. So I cobbled pallets together to make a rain shelter for her. I first measured the feral sows lava tube shelter in the back of the farm, then made Lava's about 6 inches wider. Not that Lava is bigger.....its just that the pallets fit together better that way. Lava has been checking the new shelter out, but so far doesn't hang around it. She still prefers her spot under the trees. 

With all this wet I packed some dry grass in her new shelter. Lava checked that out too but still hasn't decided to lay down there. Later today after the rain slows down I plan to spread a bag of sawdust in there to help keep the dampness down. We shall see what Lava thinks of that. 

I truly have no idea if she is about to give birth or is still a few weeks away. Having never seen this before, I only gave a general idea of what's happening. It will surely be a learning experience for both of us. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Too Wet Once Again

There's so much I want to get done, but it's been tough. Things have been too wet again. Lots of rain and little sunshine between the rain to dry up the wet. Oh well. Such is life. 

I've been getting a bit of work done. Got the 20 foot long section of rock wall completed. And in my efforts to clean up the goat pasture I discovered another pile of not-giant-sized rocks which I promptly moved up to the driveway for wall building. So another 10 foot section got created along the opposite side of the driveway. One of these days this long driveway will actually be lined with rock wall. I think it's beautiful. I hope that a future owner thinks is too and doesn't bulldoze it away. One never knows,

Got some planting done, some of it in the rain.......
400' square feet of cholesterol spinach 
11 pipinolas
12 pineapples
32 chaya cuttings planted
4 bananas trees

I hadn't planned on expanding my chaya production, but the last windstorm blew down one of the large plants, so I chopped it up into cuttings. So since it was available, I went ahead and planted them. I'm not a big eater of chaya, but I can always cook it up in the livestock slop-n-glop pot. Both the chickens and pigs gobble it down that way. 

My poor laundry hasn't gettin dry in days. One of the downsides of using a clothesline. This might prompt me into making that solar clothes dryer that I've been meaning to do for years now. Yeah, I'm a little behind on project completion! 

The weed/fern pulling project in the first pasture is almost done. Just one more day's work to go!!!! David took on the second pasture enclosure and weed whacked all the ferns down. I'm going to seed both pastures the same way and see what the difference is. I already know that most the ferns won't grow back in the handpulled pasture, and that ferns will slowly return in the weedwacked one. But can the growing oats and corn out compete the ferns? Will the sheep eat tender young ferns? Will the ferns die away if the keep topping them with a weedwacker? Or will the fern regrow in the weedwacked section overtake all the efforts? All questions yet to be answered. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Gasoline Storage

"B" noted that I use a number of gasoline powered tools. He wondered how I handled acquiring and storing gas.

Yes, I use gasoline. It's an expense and not sustainable, but regardless, I use it....and hope to be able to continue to use it for the time that I'm working this farm. Gasoline powers my generators, the one that boosts the solar batteries as needed, and the portable one that I use for power tools about the farm. I also have atv's that are gas powered. And I still use the gas chainsaw and weedwacker, although I tend to prefer the battery ones. It all depends upon the job at hand. The gasoline ones have a lot more power. 

Buying gas isn't a problem. 8 to 10 miles either direction along the highway are gas stations. I normally go by a gas station 6 days a week during my routine travels. Thus acquiring gasoline isn't a hassle. 

Storing : I don't store large amounts of gas. I normally try to keep about 10 gallons of regular on hand and 6 gallons of e-free. That way the gas doesn't get stale. 

I have a dedicated gasoline storage box. 

This was a box we had made for another project and no longer needed it. So we added air vents in the back for ventilation and use it for gas storage.

I normally leave the top propped open a tad for ventilation, plus to let rain run off. Oh, I could make some fancy do-dad to keep it propped at the desired angle, but the piece of 2x2 does the job just fine. 

Broke the 50° Mark

It was a cold 49° in my driveway this morning. (52° in my bedroom.) 

It's thanksgiving day in my house this morning.......I'm ever so thankful for my woodburning stove, my pile of very dry ohia wood, warmth off the stove, hot water in the kitchen faucet for washing my hands, a hot cup of coffee, the cat laying on my lap, and just anything else that is warmer than 49°. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Another Day of Storm Cleanup

What is homestead farming like? At least for this day, it's cleaning up branches, taking out and chopping up damaged banana trees, and moving all that debris to compost bins and hugelpits. It's a lot of boring work. Yes, it isn't always fun and exciting.

After lunch I needed a mental break and hauled more rocks. The walls lining the driveway are gradually coming into existence, and I might add, looking pretty darn nice. Here's another 30' long section completed......

Monday, February 11, 2019

Clean Up Day

Yesterday was a cold one, but more worrisome was that it was windy. By far it wasn't a fierce windstorm like we've had in the past, but it still had a kick to it.

Today I surveyed the farm. Several small trees had been knocked over, including my main mamaki tree. But I have others, so it's no big deal. Lost a medium lime tree. Again, not a big deal. Two other medium sized trees came down, both eucalyptus. No great loss there either. Half the chaya hedge broke off at their bases, so it looks like I'll be making lots of cuttings and planting them tomorrow. No sense in wasting the cuttings. I can always use more chaya for feeding the livestock. Lots and lots of twigs strewn all over. And a few small branches hit the ground. All in all, not much tree damage. 

The bananas took the brunt of it. 17 trees toppled, and several bent in half. 

I spent much of the day cleaning up. I didn't get the bananas nor the chaya taken care of. That will be for tomorrow. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Cold Day

People hoping to try homesteading to one degree or another often ask me how many days a week I work at it. That's tough to say, because every week is different. Take today got instance. Other than feeding the livestock and moving the sheep into a safer pasture, zero farm work got done. Zero. That's because it was an unsafe day to work outdoors. Windy much of the day with gusts that kept leaves and small branches flying out of the trees. As of last count at 3 pm, I had a dozen banana trees bent over in half, or completely knocked to the ground, plus two medium sized eucalyptus trees down. I haven't walked the property yet, so I really don't know the damage thus far. But certainly, it isn't a safe day to be out and about. 

Usually I work 5 days a week when I can. But I also do volunteer work and farm visits, which often means I actually work 4 days a week. I work on the farm because I like to. It's not a drudge job to me. 

So the answer to how many days a week do I work on the farm? many as I can. 

Tomorrow, if this storm passes, will be a clean up day. Not much else will get accomplished. Looks like I'll be harvesting a lot of firewood and livestock feed (the downed bananas).

Thinking of firewood, boy am I glad I have dry wood stockpiled. Brrrrrr. Chilly today. The high was only 64°. That's the coldest high temperature since I started recording weather statistics back in 2004. With the blustery wind and dampness, it made for an uncomfortable house. So I started the! I never dreamed that I'd be glad to have a woodstove in Hawaii. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Death of a Farm Dog

Yesterday Leaping Lizard Barks-a-Lot, aka Lizzie, aka Lizardbreath, left her life of being a farm dog. At 14 years of age, it wasn't that she died young. No, she had a full life.....the life of a farm dog. Contrary to what animal rights people would like us to believe, Lizzie had a life that she loved. True, she was never inside a house a day of her life. Never slept in a human bed. But she had the freedom and adventures no house dog has the opportunity to enjoy. She roamed, explored, and intimately knew about 30 acres on a farm. She seriously kept a watchful eye on the place. In her way she defended it against rats, mongooses, feral cats, feral pigs. She announced the presence of every human or vehicle that entered the premises. In her own mind, she kept the neighbor's cows and horses from entering her farm. She kept an ever watchful eye on the fence line between the properties. She took her job seriously. 

Lizzie was a fine dog. Smart. Observant. Quick to learn. Devoted to her owner. Bonded to her farm. She was no particular breed of dog, but that didn't matter. 

Every time I saw Lizzie she was happy. I'm sure she had her down days, but they weren't often. She always seemed not only content to be a farm dog, but self satisfied with her lot. 

Lizzie wasn't one of my own farm dogs. No. She belonged to a friend. My friend had a very great dog, a very great farm dog. 

Sunday, February 3, 2019


I haven't been posting anything lately because basically I haven't been doing anything new. The homestead project is gradually transitioning from the developmental stage to the functional stage. Projects have been getting completed. All my field fencing is in. All the pastures fenced. All the needed compost bins built and in use. Most of the hugelpits created and planted.....though I can always find more pits to fill on this 20 acres. Most of the gardens created. The driveway finished. The barn built. The house almost done. Etc...etc...etc. Much has slipped from creation to maintenance. That's just fine, but it makes for a dull blog. 

Since my last post, I've been busy with the same old/ same old. I planted 12 more pipinola, 17 pineapples, and two banana trees. I put in 250 more onion plants and have leeks coming soon that I can add to the gardens. I've been emptying and refilling compost bins. And adding material to the margin gardens along the driveway, having completed another 17 foot long section (that's where the pineapples are going). 

This weekend I got the second quarantine pen completed for new piglets, lambs, or whatever. Nothing is living there at the moment, but it's nice to have it ready just in case it's needed. 

Then there's the routine maintenance that always needs doing...... greasing the numerous locks and hinges around the farm, repairing rusted spots along the fences, repairing the driveway gates, treating the rust on the catchment tanks, cleaning water pumps, completing the fix on the utility cart wheel (I had used wire to make a temporary fix. Now I got the correct washers and cotter pins.) 

While I really enjoy creating and experimenting, I'm not the least bit disappointment that much of that is completed. It's about time that I have the opportunity to make this homestead into a functioning farm. Some people might see that as boring, it as work, but I see it as satisfying and fulfilling.