Friday, March 29, 2019


Sick is something I seldom do. But today I'm sick. Fever. No appetite. Cough. Chest mucous. Mental fog. Want to sleep. 

So what happens on the farm when the farmer's sick? I still tend the livestock.....but that's it. If it doesn't have 2 eyes, it doesn't get attention. Thus this is the time when I resort to using commercial feed. Out come the bags and scoop. Everybody gets fed and they treat it as though it's a grand birthday party. The love it. It's something different and it brightens their day. 

I hope to feel better quickly, but my gut feeling is that I'm going to be down for 1 or 2 more days at least. I'm quacking myself, treating the symptoms. But still, I suspect this isn't going away overnight. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Matt is my next door neighbor. We sort of help each other, as Matt puts it, farmers helping farmers. I've just spent a few hours tilling up his gardens, removing dozens of rocks we somehow missed before. I had planned on tilling in compost and manure, but I missed my opportunity. Matt beat me to the gardens and seeded several rows of green beans. As I mentioned before, he's super eager to get growing things again. So I'm faced with a change of plans. Instead of tilling the soil nutrients in, I'll use them as mulch once the beans sprout. It won't be quite as good, but it is a darn good second option. 

In Matt's eagerness to grow veggies, I discovered that he removed several pineapple plants and dug the soil to expand his bean gardens. If I had caught him in time, I would have explained that the area he chose to expand his bean planting seeds had a few factors he should have taken into consideration...,
...the area is within the adjacent trees' root zone. This will interfere with most crops, although pineapples appear to be compatible with the trees (they just take longer to produce as compared to open sunny garden beds).
...the spot is partial shade. While pineapples can tolerate the partial shade, the beans won't be as happy. 
...the pineapples were starting to flower. Looking down into the crowns, I could see the starts of baby pineapples. After waiting two years, it's a loss of a crop. Sigh. 

It was Matt's choice. He obviously wants beans more than pineapples. I just think it's going to be tough to get the beans to be real productive in that spot. So we shall see how he does and what happens. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Pig Udders

Ok, I've learned something new about pigs. Well at least something new about Lava and her piglets. I can't say for sure that this applies to all pigs. These two piglets have a strong preference for which teat they nurse from. And as you can see, Lava has ended up with only two that are producing milk.

The few times that I've managed to see the piglets nursing, they each always suckle from the same teat. The male has the most hindmost one, the female has the most forward one.

I've raised plenty of puppies and never noticed individual pups claiming specific teats. Oh, there's competition for the better ones, but they jostle around swapping teats as the milk runs out and everybody gets a chance at the milk bar. But these two piglets seem to have laid claimed to a specific teat and don't exchange. I wonder if that's normally the case with pigs.

By the way, I've checked Lava's breasts and they appear normal. No heat, no unusual hardness, and the milk itself looks fine. So her breasts are not infected. She just only has two that are producing milk right now (the others did have milk prior to her delivering), and right after I took those photos she laid down and nursed the babies just fine. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Hawaii Motor Vehicle Kiosk

This has totally nothing to do about homesteading, but I just wanted to let other Hawaiian car owners know.

Just by dumb bad luck, I ended up using the new DVM kiosk in Safeway to renew my truck registration today. Wow, it was a breeze! Done in 2 minutes! Only cost me $3 more (service fee). Well worth the $3. 

I needed to run up to Kona for other errands and figured on swinging by motor vehicles to renew the truck registration. I hate wasting time at that office, but I had procrastinated too long to get the job done via the Internet. So I bite the bullet and figured on waiting in line. But surprise........the office was closed! Prince Kuhio Day. Drats. Now I was gloomingly looking at having to drive to Hilo on Monday with an expired registration. Oh well, sigh. It was my own fault. 

After mulling the situation over, I recalled that John had mentioned over coffee at the coffee truck in town that he had tried the new DVM kiosk in Safeway. He praised it to no end. So on my way home I went into search mode. Found the kiosk. 

I followed the easy instructions on the touch screen and within 2 minutes I had my new registration in hand, along with the sticker for the license plate. Wow! 

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pasture Update


I'm starting to see greenery coming up from the first sowings. The next sowing is just getting greenish. And the third section is poking up green here and there. No sign of green from the fourth section sowed, but it's too soon for that. But it feels great seeing green starting to cover over the dirt. 

Three weeks ago I had a hippy style wwoofer stop by, a young man who heard about my blog and farm. He came to "enlighten" me about using a faster and easier way to seed my pastures.............seed balls. This young man was very enthusiastic and idealistic, eager to share his knowledge and show me the better path. I was amused, seeing a bit of my younger self in him. So I let him "educate" me, and since he was in dire need of some paying work, I hired him to make a bunch of seeds balls using the oats and grass seed I was using. 

To tell you the truth, I had already read about seeds balls, came to my own conclusions about the pros and cons, and decided that they would only be useful in certain situations. My farm wasn't one of those. But this young man needed to learn this for himself. 

For only $20, I got about 200-300 seed balls made and thrown about a section of pasture I hadn't seeded yet. I asked this fella to return 2 weeks later to see the results of his efforts. Not surprisingly, he never returned, which is a shame. Perhaps he will still show up sometime. It would be good to see what came from his effort. 

Anyway, the results ------
Wherever the seeds ball landed, a little spot of annual ryegrass seedlings had germinated. It was easy to see, a polka dot of baby grass. But none of the oats survived. None. Why? Pheasants. Yup. Any and all oats that were visible to a pheasant's eye got eaten by thus pheasant. Yum. All those seed balls were just laying out a oat seed buffet for the birds. But the ryegrass seed was small enough not to be of interest to the pheasants. But seed balls really isn't a good way to go even for seeding the ryegrass. The grass came up in little dots helterskelter. In some spots there was no grass for several feet, while in other spots many seeds balls had fallen in dense clumps. Overall the seed ball experiment was a failure. Not worth the time, effort, and cost of the seed. Under different circumstances seed balls might have merit. This wasn't one of them. 

I've had far better success broadcasting the seeds, then covering them lightly with a bit of coarse mulch. In this case, I've been using the lawnmower to grind up the ferns that I pulled and using this as the mulch. It works. Yes it takes more time than throwing seed balls. But unlike the seed ball method, I'm actually seeing oats & grass filling over the bare dirt. The mulch hides the oats from the birds, giving it a chance to germinate.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Photo of New Rock Wall Section

This just a picture to show the latest section of rock wall lining the driveway up to the house. The lack of sunshine is making it difficult to get a decent photo, but alas, this is what I got.

As I keep collecting rocks, I keep extending the rock walls lining the driveway. I don't want to line the entire driveway, because that would interfere with my ability to use my land easily. But I do indeed like the look I'm achieving up by the house. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Electric Pig Fence - A Hotwire

"R" asked me what is an electric fence/ hotwire. The only wire fence he knew about was the invisible dog fence. 

The invisible dog fence is actually a radio fence that activates a shock collar that the pet wears. I bet one could train a pig to an invisible fence, but I don't see the value in it. It's cheaper, simpler, and quicker to use an electric fence. 

An electric fence is a wire that transmits a mild electric current. The charger is grounded so that anything touching the wire and the soil gets a shock (no shock collar needed). The amount of that shock depends upon the charger setting and the soil moisture. (Where the soil is dry, there is an alternative way of creating the necessary ground.) The set up I use just gives a mild, intermittent zap....enough to startle but not harm. 

The pigs, like myself, don't like to be zapped. So we all tend to avoid touching the hot wire. As a result, an electric fence is a good deterrent to roaming pigs.....and careless humans. Since I installed the electric fence, the pigs have been staying in their pasture. 

The charger is the heart of the system. There are all sorts of chargers (also called energizers) available. You just need to match it to the task at hand. In my case, I opted for a charger from Premier 1, a solar powered one that can use AC current to tup up the battery if needed. 

There are several types of hotwires to choose from. I prefer the lightweight rope, but I couldn't get it when I needed it. So I bought a roll of galvanized electric fence wire. It's easy enough to work with, and will last quite a while. 

The hotwire needs to be insulated from the soil. I use plastic posts to mount the hotwire on. But there are other methods to accomplish the same goal. The wire needs to be strung at the height the particular animal will touch it. For my pigs, that's 6"-12" above the ground. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Getting Caught Up

Getting caught up seldom happens on this farm. I always have projects in progress. But these past few days I've been getting quite a bit done on some of those projects. 

Driveway rock wall --- I've been hauling rocks for days, a few at a time, multiple times a day. I've finally brought enough to build another 80 feet of rock wall. Believe me, that's a heck of a lot of rocks. But it feels really great to see that long section get completed! 

Hugelpits --- with it being a winter lull right now, I'm getting the opportunity to clean out the gardens around the house before things start growing like crazy again. All the weeds and trimmings are being layered into the hugelpit beside the driveway. You'd think the dang thing would be full by now, but the material has been decomposing over the years, thus settling down. This past year the level dropped 2 feet, giving me plenty of room to add more layers. I'm already growing a few banana trees around this pit and they are surely appreciating the constant compost. 

Pasture improvements --- the grass seed and oats I sowed the past 2 weeks is sprouting. Although it's just baby grass, it's giving a nice greeness to the pastures. I've also been seeding some various forbs that I know the sheep will eat, plus transplanting cuttings of kukui grass and guinea grass.  It will be many weeks before the sheep will be allowed to graze for a couple hours here and there, but after a few months they will be able to enjoy these pastures as part of their pasture rotation. This has been a big, big project and I'm glad to see some visual reward. 

Food gardens --- my neighbor, Matt, has been champing at the bit to get the gardens going again. I finally gave him the go ahead to start seeds. He turned all his garden areas by his house and I followed up by tilling the clods apart and removing any newly dug up rocks. He promptly got beans planted. Way to go, Matt! 

Main food garden --- this is the main project for this week. I've just started. The sheep have already eaten the grass down. And I followed them by using he lawnmower to scalp it closer. Now I'm tilling to bust up the grasses, turn in a layer of compost and manure. I'll do one 3'x20' area at a time and let Matt plant his seedlings and seeds into it. I'll post some photos at the end of the week. 

Manure clean up --- here's one job that most people don't do. But the manure is a major fertilizer source in this farm, so I collect it. I spent a few hours each day picking up donkey and sheep manure, putting it into a compost bin. I'll let it sit there for a couple weeks, heating up and decomposing a bit. It will be growing billions and billions of soil microbes, critters that really improve my soil. 

With these projects getting caught up on, I'll need to add a few more to the task list........
...plant turmeric starts
...collect banana keiki and plant them into new beds
...start sugar cane starts
...start sweet potato cuttings 

Yup, work is never done on this farm. There's always something waiting around the corner that needs to be worked on. That's ok with me. I'm still enjoying learning to farm this place. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Rains and Cool Temps = Moss

Walking about the farm this morning I couldn't help but notice that's there a lot more new moss growing around. I already had lichen growing all over the boulders while the volcano was erupting. And spaghnum moss under the trees and in wet areas. But now I'm seeing lots of new tiny mosses in new spots.

 I think it's really nifty, though a commercial farmer might think otherwise. I love things growing everywhere. It's beautiful in their own way. 

We've still been getting frequent rains. As a result, the ground is staying moist. In some ways, that's good --- my cuttings are rooting successfully, the grass seed and oats are sprouting in the pastures, the macnut trees are in full bloom, the more mature pineapple plants are starting to push flower stalks. But there are a few downers --- lots of moss growing in the grass, fungal disease problems in the taro, damping off problems with many seedlings. And a friend down on South Point Road complains that her grass won't stop growing, thus she needs to get it mowed frequently. Actually that's a bit of a plus for me because I do quite a bit of the mowing, bringing home the abundant grass clippings. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019


"F" just happened to email me about earthquake risk. He wanted to know how often earthquakes occur in the Ka'u area and were they damaging. Well, just the other night, since you happen to ask, we experienced an earthquake. Yup. Good timing, "F". 

This earthquake was posted as a 5.5 and located 12 km SSE of Volcano. That means that it was quite a distance from me. But even so, it woke us up about 1 am with the house shaking, roof complaining, doors rattling. Only lasted 5 -10 seconds, but once we were awake.....that's it for sleeping for awhile. No damage around the house that we could see. This wasn't a quake to be concerned about. Not even a glass sitting beside the kitchen sink had moved. 

Many years ago we had a quake that cracked one of our house foundation slabs. I guess some of the gravel supporting the long narrow concrete slab settled, thus cracking the slab. Those long narrow foundations are required by the building code for pier & post foundations. We didn't see damage on the traditional piers, but the long slab was a different story. 

Since we bought land here in the early 2000's, there hasn't been a major earthquake in Ka'u. But it will be coming. Eventually Mauna Loa will again erupt, bringing earthquakes. Historically Ka'u gets a big one when the volcano erupts on our side of the rift system. Perhaps it will happen in my lifetime, perhaps not. I'll just have to take it as it comes and be prepared. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Vibrant Sunrise

Making coffee in the kitchen, I noticed that the light coming in through the windows was making everything weirdly colored. It almost had that look of pending hail that I saw while back in New Jersey. Can't be hail here, so what's going on?

I stepped outdoors to find the sky blazing with color. Wow!

Streaks of pink, orange, gold, yellow, and greenish yellow painted the clouds of the eastern and southeast sky, contrasting with the darker purplish blue sky behind. Our trees block most of the view, but the silhouette actually looked artistic.

What a grand way to start the day.   

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Piglets Up Close

I finally got to see the piglets close up. The 2 surviving babies are fat, round, active, and alert. They appear to be doing great. The little skinny runt didn't make it, as expected.

The one piglet is a boy, the other a girl. They look so fat that they appear shiny. Lava has been a good mom, and with only 2 mouths to feed, she has plenty of milk. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Fern Removal Comparison

Now that I'm no longer consumed with securing the pig pasture, I had an chance to look around. I've been gradually working on the back pastures, trying to get them more productive. That means, eliminating the dense fern growth and the plethora of brushy wild guavas. In pasture #1, Adam hand pulled out the ferns and I cut out the guavas and any other scrubby looking tree. In pasture #2 David weedwacked the ferns down, and I'm in the process of removing scrubby trees and brush. Plus in the Secret Garden area, ferns were removed both ways -- hand pulling and weedwacking. So what's my opinion?

Hand pulling was a lot more physical work and took far more time. But it had two plus gave me lots of material to grind up for mulch, compost material, and livestock bedding. And it was far better in controlling regrowth of the ferns. In fact, only a few ferns are growing back here and there and they are easy to pull out. 
Handpulled in foreground. Weedwacked beyond. 

Weedwacking was vastly quicker. Greatest advantage : less time spent. Hand pulling took weeks, weedwacking took 2 days, Downsides: no material for compost and bedding. The wacked up plant pieces lay atop the ground like a mulch, which sounds good but it has majorly interfered with trying to get oats and grasses I seeded to germinate. The seed isn't making good soil contact. The second downside : the ferns are regrowing with a vengeance. I'm now not to sure that the sprouting grasses will be able to outgrow the ferns. This leads to another downside.....weedwacking the ferns leaves behind a hard stubble. This stubble is sharp and well anchored. Pulling them out at this point is far more difficult than pulling out complete plants. Attacking the stubble with a tiller isn't possible because the ground is totally unimproved rock with dirt between. And the ground hasn't been bulldozed so it is a mass of ups, downs, boulders, and trees. 

I've decided I prefer to hand pull the ferns. I like the results better. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Pig Update

Finally I got a break. No rain during the morning. So I managed to get the electric fence put into place......but not operational. Not yet. Perhaps tomorrow. Why? Not enough sun. You see, there is a new battery in the solar charger and it needs to be fully charged before I start using it. Otherwise it dramatically shortens the life of the battery. With all the recent rain, of course there hasn't been much sun.

I got a pleasant surprise today. Lava showed herself. Yup, she's inside pasture # 3. And looking good. What's really cool is that she has 3 piglets with her. Two look chunky but one is half the size and spindly. A classic runt. I only saw them from a distance so I couldn't tell if there is something wrong with it. I'll never know if she had more babies or not. With the wet, cold weather last week, conditions weren't very good for newborn piglets to survive without shelter of some sort. I'm pleased that two look very robust and are doing great inspite of the weather.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Pigs - Friday

Don't ask. Today was a miserable day to be working outdoors. Rain almost constant all day long. And this has been the coldest day I've recorded since 2004 (when I started keeping daily records). The high today was only 63°. Plus, no sun. For someone accustomed to the high 70s and low 80s, today felt cold, wet, miserable. 

Shelly greeted me this morning for breakfast. Still no sign of Lava. But I didn't hang around for long, so perhaps she visited the feed buckets later. I set up the last of the plastic poles for the fencing, then estimated how many more I might need. Then feeling damp and chilled, I retreated to the house where I set about restarting the woodstove. Wrapping a blanket around myself, I settled into my reclining chair to warm up, feeling somewhat defeated. I concluded that today was not going to be a working day for me. I wasn't physically up to working in the rain once again.

The weather hasn't been with me this week. Plus I have other obligations, so I can't devote an entire day to installing the electric fence. Thus I will do what I can and leave the rest to fate. Hopefully the pigs will stay settled in their new found home, giving me time to secure the boundaries. But I realize that they have feral roots and the desire for space. If they return to the forest, their birth land, then so be it. I truly hope they stay put, but I will accept their decision if they opt to move on. While I know that they would be safer and have an easier life here, they don't understand that. Their chances in the forest are not good. Lots of hunting activity around here. Let's hope they stay put for a bit longer. Let's hope for dry weather this weekend.