Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sheep Terminology

When sheep people gather around to chat, there are certain terms they use to talk about sheep. Here's common ones....


Ovine -- scientific term pertaining to sheep.
Flock -- name for a group of sheep.
Ewe -- a female sheep.
Ram -- an intact adult male. Also called a tup in some regions. 
Lamb -- a young sheep, from newborn up to about one year of age. 
Bummer lamb -- an orphan or rejected lamb.
Wether -- castrated male sheep.
Gimmer -- a female breeding sheep over one year old who has not yet had her first lamb. She is no longer considered a lamb but hasn't become a full blown ewe. 
Hogget -- a year old sheep that has not yet been shorn or is between 12-18 months of. Often used to description an older lamb intended for slaughter rather than breeding. 
Shearling -- a young sheep prior to its first shearing.
Bellwether -- the lead sheep who is traditionally belled (wears a bell around its neck).
Estrus or heat -- the part of the female reproductive cycle when the ewe is receptive to the ram.
Tupping -- the act of a ram breeding a ewe. 
Lambing -- the birthing of a lamb. 
Woolie -- a wool producing sheep.
Haired or hair sheep -- short coated sheep that doesn't not produce usable wool. 
Banding -- the placing of a tight rubber band around the base of the scrotum for the purpose of  castration, or around the tail for the purpose of docking.
Docking -- removal of part of the tail.
Browse (vs graze) -- the eating of woody brush including leaves and twigs.
Graze -- the eating of low growth plants including grasses and forbs.
Forbs -- broadleaf herbaceous plants.
Cud -- ingested food that a sheep regurgitates in order to chew again.
Bloat -- the over accumulation of gas in the rumen (part of the stomach).
Bottle jaw -- edema under the lower jaw associated with parasite infestation.
Scrapie -- a fatal brain disease of sheep.
Mutton -- meat from a sheep either over 1 year of age or 2 years of age, depending upon which country you're talking about.
Lamb -- meat from a sheep under 1 year of age or 2 years of age, depending upon which country you're talking about.

Monday, April 29, 2019

New Kid

Last week Chipper gave birth to a large, robust little boy. Surprisingly he was all white. I was expecting some color, but alas not a colored hair on him.

Chipper did fine. And Little Adam is strong and active. Adam named him Little Adam, though I haven't a clue why. This little kid is destined for barbecue in 5 months, so perhaps this is Adam's way of laying claim to his upcoming meals. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Pig Terminology

While I'm not a big livestock farmer, I do need to be aware of basic terminology so that I can correctly communicate with other livestock owners."A" asked me to explain some of the basic terms used. So here it goes...,,,,


Porcine -- scientific term pertaining to pigs
Swine -- pigs 
Herd -- the name for a group of pigs
Hog -- an older pig usually usually from about 100 lbs and up. 
Barrow -- castrated male pig
Boar -- not castrated male pig
Stag or stag hog -- a male that was castrated after he was used for breeding. Sometimes also an older boar that is castrated as a mature adult even if he hadn't been bred. 
Gilt -- young female that has not yet birthed piglets or come to birthing age. 
Sow -- female who has had piglets. Also refers to an adult female even if she has never been bred. 
Piglet -- a young pig with an age ranging from birth to normal weaning age
Shoat -- a young weaned piglet. Some people call them a weanling or weaner. 
Feeder Pig -- a pig being specifically fed for slaughter 
Butcher pig or butcher hog -- a pig ready for slaughter.
Lard pig -- a breed known to produce a high percentage of fat on the carcass. 
Heat or estrus -- the reproductive cycle of the female during which time she is receptive to a boar for breeding.
Farrow -- to give birth to piglets.
Farrow to finish -- where you raise the pig yourself from birth to slaughter. 
Finishing feed -- feed used to feed a pig that last month or so before slaughter.
Taint -- an offensive smell associated with boars which gives an unpleasant odor and flavor to the meat.
Hog ring -- a metal clip or ring placed through a pig's snout to keep it from rooting.
Wallow -- a depression or structure that holds water for the pigs to lie in. This is a means for them to cool down when overheated. Did you know that pigs cannot sweat effectively to cool down? Thus they use a wallow for cooling off. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Redundancy of the Farm

Without giving it much thought or purposeful preparation, I've build a fair system of redundancy into this homestead. Redundancy is good when one wishes to be fairly self reliant, especially when most of the shopping and services are almost a 2 hour drive away. If one system dies, there are back ups that can be pressed into service, giving you time to fix the problem. 

Water..... We started out with one rain catchment tank up by the house, and a second down by the main gardens. Over time we added a back up tank for the house, and a series of small water storage units for the gardens and livestock. These small units consist of ponds, troughs, water totes, multiple heavy duty trashcans. Plus we keep around a dozen glass jugs with emergency drinking water in the house. 

Electricity.... Initially we had one solar electric system. Over time we added a generator, then later, a portable one for doing jobs around the farm. Then expanded to a second small solar system to run the frig and freezer. 

Small power tools.... The ones I use a lot, I have back ups for. So on this farm you'll find two lawnmowers, two chainsaws, two tillers, two light duty weedwackers, even two ATVs. These are items used almost every day, and if one breaks it would be a real bummer. So as time allowed and I could justify the expense, I added back ups. One of the pair resides up by the house while the other is in the barn....except for the ATVs. Both reside at the house and I just alternate each day which one I use, thus keeping them both in running shape. I tend to have the same habit for hand tools, keeping one in the barn and it's mate in the truck or tool area by the house. I have to let you in on a little secret. Hubby keeps his favorite tools in a case on his side of the bedroom closet. He claims possession of the back up tools so that I don't migrate them down to the barn or inside my truck. Smart man! 

Breeding rams.... Two adult breeding sires, Ramrod and Ramsalot. And a ram lamb waiting in the wings -- Rambutan. 

Vehicles..... Two. A decent truck and a used passenger car. We've been known to have 3 at times. 

Food sources.....lots of redundancy here. Stores are available of course, but we also grow food, have developed a trading system, and can forage. 

Firewood .... I don't think we will run out of firewood on our property, but we have established ties where we can harvest wood from others properties via a work trade system. 

I know that there is much talk nowadays about cutting back, minimalizing one's material goods, decluttering, but I am more comfortable having back up items. In the case of work clothes, I have dozens of socks, shorts, and tops. One never knows when a long stretch of rain will happen and laundry won't dry, it's so nice knowing that I'm not going to run out of farm clothes. And the extra blankets I stored on the closet shelf really were a blessing this winter when the days got chilly and damp. By the way, I'm a cheap bugger and buy those things at our dump thrift store for very, very little. 

Needless to say, I'm comfortable with redundancy. I've never been one for all-in-one set ups. For instance, when the latest & greatest computer printer came out that was also a copier, fax machine, and who knows what else, hubby wanted to go out and buy it to replace all our multiple office machines. My response was, if it dies then we can't fax, print, copy, etc. We're up the creek without a paddle. Yes, he bought it, but I never ditched my old fax machine, copier, or printer. They just moved over to my side of the office. Hubby and I had different ways of thinking. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Potatoes Fading Away

"V" mentioned in a comment about how the purple potatoes they grew gradually gave irregular sizes and fizzled out. Actually, this is a common problem. Fading away can happen due to the build up of diseases and soil pests, or the slow decline in soil fertility and quality over time. So how does a gardener address this issue? Try to prevent it? Try to remedy it? 

... Selection of seed stock.
     Although home growers hate to do this, (and so did I when I started out) I get really picky about which tubers I select for next seasons crop. I look for the larger ones that are well formed and have no blemishes. I pick the best for seed, not eating. But they are clones of the parent, you say? They shouldn't be any variations, you say? Well, we can say that over and over again, but Mother Nature actually allows for variation. The plant reacts to its environment, so even clones, like potatoes, can vary. 
     Back to selection. I use large tubers. The small, super jumbo, irregular, blemished one get eaten. Only the best are used for seed potatoes. On top of it, I also want to select from plants that are healthy looking, robust, and heavy producers of large tubers, not a few super jumbos or tons of little ones. 

... Cull out diseased or weak plants. I know that there is the urge to grow out every plant, to get as many plants as possible. But this weaker plants are often diseased in some fashion, thus passing the problem to neighboring plants and infecting the soil. I'm quick to remove problem plants. 

... Clean the seed potatoes prior to sowing. The seed potatoes go through a dormant period prior to sprouting. While in this dormancy, I remove any tuber that starts to show any problem. Plus I will give them a soak in a 10% bleach solution for ten minutes just prior to planting, letting them air dry. 

... Keep the soil alive with fresh compost and nurture the soil organisms. Soil organisms can help a lot with keeping the garden healthy, suppressing pathogens (disease causing organisms). This is not a perfect solution, but it makes a positive difference. I've often heard that you shouldn't add fresh compost to potatoes, but heck, I've grown crops successfully in pure 100% compost. 

... Change of location (aka- crop rotation). Again, not a perfect solution, but it can help. If one location shows signs of disease, then surely change to another. The problem with this is that gardeners tend to use the same tools on the entire garden area, thus spreading disease around. And many walk through their garden while the foliage is wet, again increases the chance of spreading disease. 

Diminishing harvests, weaker plants, fading away are problems common to growing potatoes. When I see this happening regardless of my efforts, I bite the bullet and purchase fresh certified seed stock. While most gardeners see fading away after about 3 years, I don't buy fresh seed stock that frequently.  So I guess my precautions help. I've only purchased certified seed stock 3 times since starting this farm.

The other part of the fading problem is soil fertility. Potatoes respond really well to fertile, evenly moist, light & fluffy soil. Yes, the big commercial farms grown potatoes in sand, clay, etc., but they use chemical fertilizers and aggressive hilling to compensate. Plus if yields fail below a certain level, farmers switch to another crop that is more profitable. On my own farm I've seen that if I fail to incorporate plenty of compost between crops, the potato harvest shrinks to less and less. They really respond favorably to fertilizer, be it commercial or homemade compost. Potatoes also seem to respond well to light soil. Light fluffy soil allows them to spread out roots better, making the plant larger and more robust...which translates into a bigger crop. I also like to keep the plants well mulched. My plants with a good mulch layer produce far better than the ones where I've skipped or scimped on mulch. 

I find that certain varieties are more durable than others. Some yield better from the get-go, whiles others don't. Some "fade away" worse and faster than others. So part of the trick is to find the varieties that like your location and garden methods. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Types of Propagation

There are many methods of propagation, but I'm only going to mention those methods either used on my own farm, or commonly used in my region. 

Seeds......... I think everyone understands what a seed is. Seeds are found inside the "fruit" produce by the plant. The fruit can be moist, such as an apple or melon, or dry like the husk of corn or wheat. We eat many seeds, included among them : corn, peas, beans, cowpeas, grains, pumpkin seed, coriander, amaranth. Other seeds are consumed along with the fruit : cucumber, tomato, pepper, eggplant, tomatillo, ground cherry, strawberries, summer squash, pipinola, gourds, guava. Of course there are times when we discard the seeds, such as with cantaloupes, watermelon, pumpkins, winter squash, and most tree fruits.  Seeds may be the most common way to start veggie plants for a garden. 

Cuttings....... This is a method actively used on my farm. I'm constantly increasing the square footage of sweet potatoes, Okinawan spinach, cholesterol spinach, chaya, all started from cuttings. I occasionally propagate kale this way, but it's not as successful as the others.  A cutting is a piece of the stem of the mother plant, often pre-rooted in water or directly planted into soil. Some plants require the use of a rooting hormone, but I don't bother with that. If it can't root on its own, then I simply don't propagate it this way.

Runners/Stolons...... Outside of my pasture grasses, the only thing in the gardens where I routinely use runners to make new plants is mint and strawberries. Mint may send out short runners just beneath the soil surface, or root along the stems that lay along the ground. Strawberries send out runners with the plantlets formed along the runner at the nodes.  By the way, gardeners commonly call them strawberry runners since they run along the soil surface. Botanists call them stolons. Some taro varieties also will produce stolons that can be used for propagation. 

Suckers ........are shoots that the plant produces, usually along the stem but sometimes from the stem at soil level or below. I use suckers to grow more pineapples and sugar cane. Although cane is commonly grown from cuttings, I like using developing stem buds (locals call these suckers) because they do better for me. I'm not sure if bananas keikis are termed suckers, but I looks to me that they are. 

Root division...... This is another way to propagate sugar cane. Just take a sharp shovel and slice a chunk of the root out. Comfrey is propagated from root pieces. 

Layering...... I don't use air layering, but I often use simple soil layering. To get more baby plants for stick oregano, I will pull down a stem to the soil surface so that part of it about 6"-12" from a stem tip comes in contact with the soil. Plop a rock atop it, then go back after a couple of months and harvest the new baby plant. I've also rooted mulberry and guava this way. 

Crowns.... Pineapples and taro are routinely propagated this way. To get a pineapple crown, simply grab the spiky green top and twist it around until it pops off the fruit. To get a taro crown, slice it off the top of the corm, taking about 1" of corm with it. 

Slips..... This is a term used to describe the plantlets that pineapples produce from the peduncle (region at the base of the pineapple fruit). I routinely use them to start new plants. 

Plantlets.... I suppose that pineapple slips could be termed plantlets. At one time I had a type of walking onion that produced plantlets atop a central stem. A plantlets is a small developing plant produced right on the mother plant. When it drops to the ground, it roots and becomes independent of he mother plant. Taro produces plantlets off its corm that can be separated from the mother plant and planted. 

Corms..... A corn is a swollen stem area at the base of the plant. The corm acts as the plant's storage unit. Taro has a corm.  I have used the central corm instead of just the crown (huli) when I'm trying to produce as many new plants as possible, especially with a variety new to me. You can plant the corm on its side, or cut it into longitudinal quarters and planting them sideways. New shoots will emerge from dormant buds in the corm. 

Bulbs.... Bulbs are underground plant storage units which represents the entire plant. An onion is a bulb. Examine an onion closely and you can identify a basal plate with root buds, basal nodes for bulblets, a central core that will produce the plant and flower, layers that represent leaves. Pretty nifty. 

Rhizomes..... A rhizome is a continuous underground thickened stem (or along the soil surface, as is the case for some gingers) that produces roots and aerial shoots at the nodes. In grow ginger and  turmeric, which are rhizomes. 

Tubers.... A tuber is an underground storage unit along an underground stem or modified root. The first one to come to mind is the potato. It's a classic. A potato forms at the end of the underground stem. It grows new plantlets from specific points on the tuber, points called eyes. The sweet potato is also a tuber, but termed a tuberous root, as it develops along a modified root. 

Grafting..... With grafting you take a stem or bud from one plant and match it up with the stem/root system of another in such a fashion that the piece is adopted by the root system. Thus you are taking the top of one plant and grafting it to the bottom of another. I've grafted avocados because it's fairly easy. I've not tried others, but I do have grafted citrus, peach, mango, and macnut trees. Why graft? It assures tha variety you desire since these trees grown from seed would not be true to the parent type. Grafting also results in the grafted tree bearing fruit earlier than one grown from seed. Fruit trees are often grafted in root stock that results in a dwarf tree, popular among home gardeners and old folk like me. 

Monday, April 22, 2019


Hybrid  seed is different from open pollinated. Hybrids have two different parents. The difference may be different varieties within the same family, like crossing one variety corn with another. Or it could be between two similar family types. Examples : Tyfon is a cross between Chinese cabbage and stubble turnips. Kalettes are from crossing  kale and Brussels sprouts. 

Hybrid seed is common. It is not necessarily GMO. In fact, most hybrids are not GMO. But saving hybrid seed might be disappointing. The seed will not breed true. What you get from a hybrid is a crap shoot. And this is important to know about hybrids if you like to save seed. Sometimes you might get something that is just fine. In fact, some gardeners have started with a hybrid and grew it repeatedly, stabilizing the seed into a new variety that is open pollinated. But more often than not, the plants from seed saved from a hybrid are disappointing. Or worse yet, the hybrid has sterile pollen, making seed production impossible unless you bring in outside pollen from another variety. 

The only hybrid seed I intentionally saved was from a grape tomato and a small pumpkin. . After a few years I stabilized a grape tomato that does good on my farm. So I ended up creating my own landrace open pollinated grape tomato (actually tomatoes are self pollinators). The pumpkin I don't bother to control, so I get a lot of variation every generation that I grow it. The only trait I select for happens naturally --- the ability to produce pumpkins in the presence of pickle worm moths that visit my farm. 

Hybrids usually have the advantage of desirable traits. They might have sturdier plants, shorter vines, earlier harvest, better disease resistance, or produce more food. They usually are more uniform than their open pollinated cousins. Thus for example, all the broccoli heads are about the same size, shape, and are ready the same week or two. Hybrids often have better disease resistance, and in Hawaii that can make the difference between harvesting a crop or getting zero. 

Do I grow hybrids? Yes. I grow a hybrid broccoli called Green Magic because it will produce on my farm even when the weather isn't right. There are several hybrid cucumbers that do better for me. There was a hybrid cauliflower I adored but it's no longer around, called Violet Queen. I wish I knew what it's parents were. I'll grow some of the hybrid carrots, since I don't save my own carrot seed. And some specialty sweet peppers and tomatoes, because they produce better. And some hybrid tomatoes because I like to experiment. I have no objections to growing hybrids. I just don't try to save seed from them. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Vegetative Propagation

There are vegetables that I grow via vegetative propagation. With vegetative propagation, one does not use seeds. Instead, one uses a piece from the mother plant. 

Potatoes are the foremost item grown this way. Growing potatoes from seed is generally a crap shoot. But when you use a tuber, the resulting plant is like the mother plant. I grow a number of potato varieties. My favorites are La Ratte, Purple Majesty, Red Thumb, Elba, Dark Red Norland, Carola, and a pink fingerling from Peru that I don't know the name of. There are others, but this year this is what is going into the garden. 

Other veggies propagated vegetatively include....
... Chaya
... Sweet Potato
... Taro
... Okinawan Spinach 
... Cholesterol Spinach 
... Turmeric
... Ginger
... Yacon

I've also done vegetative propagation on leeks, onions, chives, Holy Basil, rosemary, stick oregano, kale, collards, a cauliflower called Violet Queen, and tomatoes. Of these, I still do tomatoes and stick oregano. 

Pineapples, strawberries, sugar cane, and bananas are also reproduced by this method, 

I could try others but I haven't experimented beyond these yet. Just give me time! 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Self Pollination

Self pollinated is exactly as it states. The plant pollinates its flowers by using the pollen produced inside that flower. Certain veggies are noted to be self pollinators. 

The self pollinators that I grow here in the farm include ...
... Tomatoes
... Spinach
... Lettuce
... Peas
... Beans
... Peppers
... Eggplant

Self pollinators make it easy to produce seed for saving. But care still needs to be taken because some self pollinators are also capable of cross pollination. Self pollinators can be grown in a screened greenhouse, because they pollinate themselves. No need to use a small paintbrush to hand pollinate the flowers. 

Friday, April 19, 2019


What the heck is Parthenocarpic? It's where fruit is produced without pollination. Yes, that exists and it isn't due to GMO. Parthenocarpy becomes a desirable trait if you grow certain veggies in a greenhouse that blocks out insects. Veggies that self pollinate can be easily grown in a greenhouse, but there are others that need cross pollination. Cucumbers and squash come to mind, because I like to grow them and it's difficult to grow them out in the field due to the pickleworm moth. Unless I'm willing and prepared to hand pollinate these when growing in an insect-free greenhouse (hint - I'm not), I need to look into a parthenocarpic variety. 

So.... I grow both summer squash and cucumbers in my screened greenhouses. I use parthenocarpic varieties, of course. The cucumbers are specially bred to be parthenocarpic. The seed is expensive, but heck, just how many cucumber plants does one need? So I buy the seed. By the way, these cucumbers are seedless. No pollination = no seed. 

I also grow some summer squash in the greenhouses. No way can I get squash out in my field. The moths find them all. But I the greenhouses I can grow several types. Although they are not listed as parthenocarpic in the seeds catalogs, several summer squashes will produce a fair amount of fruit regardless, without pollination. One of my favorites was Floridor, a hybrid. It consistently did good for me. By alas, the seed is getting very difficult to find, so I'm guessing it won't be available much longer. 

Parthenocarpic is different from self pollinated, because no pollen is involved. And the resulting fruits are seedless. So if they're seedless how is seed produced? That's because these veggies are hybrids. I don't know how it is done, but the seeds are produced and result in a parthenocarpic variety. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Open Pollinated Veggies

Yesterday I talked about heirlooms. So what do I mean when I say I have open pollinated varieties too? 

Open pollinated means that the seed is produced by parents of the same type. Thus they breed true to their type. Such as one parent is Black Valentine bean and the other parent is too. Thus all the resulting seeds will grow out as Black Valentine beans. This breeding is by natural means, such as via wind, insects, birds, or by humans. Thus a gardener can create and save their own open pollinated seeds. 

All heirlooms are open pollinated. But they have the added merit of being older varieties often maintained by families or small seed preservation companies. There are plenty of more modern varieties that are also open pollinatated, but they don't have the long history of an heirloom. These more modern varieties came about by either careful selection (choosing for a certain set of traits, or by taking a sport and breeding it), or by crossing two varieties and standardizing the new cross over several generations, thus stabilizing it into a new independent variety. 

I grow lots of open pollinated veggies, simply because I like to save my own seeds. I especially focus on the ones with expensive seeds, like beans, peas, and corn. Their seeds are large and heavy, adding to the expense of shipping them here to Hawaii. I produce almost all my own bean, pea, and cowpea seed. The only time I buy more is if I'm trying out a new variety. I don't grow all that much corn at the moment, but I do save my Golden Bantam corn seed. This year I plan to also save a few other varieties, but corn is tricky. It's wind pollinated, thus will readily crossbreed. Special care must be take to produce open pollinated non-crossed seed for the next year. 

Other open pollinated veggies I save seeds from include cilantro, dill, basil, broccoli, bok choy and other Asian greens, daikon, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers. I find that saving seeds from these veggies is easy. 

What are some of my favorite OP (open pollinated) varieties? Off the top of my head, I come up with.....
... Bean -- Maxibel, Purple Teepee, Red Swan, Rocdor, and others
... Corn -- Golden Bantam
... Peas -- Sugar Sprint, Oregon Giant, Green Arrow, Sugar Daddy
... Asian Greens -- Tatsoi, Blues, Dwarf Bok Choy
... Lettuce -- Green Ice, all the romaines
... Onion -- Texas Super Sweet
... Pepper -- California Wonder, Cubanelle, Banana
... Tomato -- Roma 
... Daikon -- Minowase 
... Basil -- Genovese
... Dill -- Bouquet, Fernleaf
... Cilantro -- Slo-bolt, Santo
... Cabbage -- Caraflex

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


I'm going through my seeds, getting ready to start sowing. I'm seeing I have quite a varied selection -- heirlooms, more modern open pollinated ones, hybrids. No GMOs. 

Why do I include heirloom vegetables in my gardens? Basically it comes down to flavor. Many of the newer varieties often grow better, are sturdier, more disease and pest resistant. Some are even more tender than heirlooms. Others are faster growing, thus harvestable sooner. But it's all about taste. 

But don't jump to the conclusion that all heirlooms taste better. That's not always the case. But many do. So I often grow those. 

...Black Valentine bean. Talk about flavor! One of my favorites. 
...Yellow Pear tomato. Sassy and delicious, perfect for snacking. 
...Mammoth Melting snow pea. Fresh flavor. 
...Chiogga beet. Sweet and tender. 
...Fordhook Giant Chard. Tender. Nice flavor. Productive. 
...Golden Bantam Corn. Old time corn flavor. Not sweet like the sweet corns of today, but it really tastes like real corn.
...Amish Paste Tomato. Versatile. A very nice paste type tomato. 
...Parris Island Cos. Great romaine lettuce that doesn't get bitter here in Hawaii. 
...Dragon Tongue bean. Versatile. Good flavor. 
...Purple Majesty Potato. Excellent flavor as home fries. We like to eat them cooked then chilled. Sliced and dipped in hummus or homemade salad dressing, they're a tasty snack. 
...Chantenay Carrot. Real carrot taste. 
...Dinosaur Kale. The only kale I like. Great flavor, even raw. 

There are lots of heirlooms still out there, though sadly we've lost quite a few when corporations took over seed production. Home gardeners preserved many and they are starting to reappear in small seed catalogs as the seeds get donated to preservation. 

Every year I experiment with new varieties. I try a couple a heirlooms, seeing if they will survive and produce at my location. Many don't due to pests and disease. But the ones I like be one permanent residents on this farm. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Finally Getting Back to Work

I've officially declared myself "well & fit". So it's back to work, the kind of work I enjoy. I get no pleasure in sitting in my chair and reading or napping all day. I was often called lazy as a young person growing up, but I look back and think, how wrong was that? I was active. I did things. Perhaps (actually, no perhaps about it, it is true)  I never liked housecleaning, sewing, ironing, and cooking, but I was involved with all sorts of other things. I travelled miles on my bike, built tree forts kid-style, ran and explored the local woods, rode the unbroke ponies down at the local riding stable, haunted the local libraries, rode the bus to downtown Philly to spend the day in a museum. No, I wasn't a lazy kid, I just wasn't the happy homemaker type. I ducked out of homemaking tasks as much as I could. And now as an adult, I'm still active and doing things. 

So tomorrow I get back on schedule. I've got fences to fix, gardens to till, manure to harvest, container boxes to make. And lots of seeds to start sowing. The atv cart needs repair----perhaps it's time to think about getting a new one. I need to finally get around to repairing the driveway, so I need to order a gravel delivery. And it's the time of year to add a few more fruit trees, so I need to get holes dug, which is no easy task. Plus I've been talking about taking down those pallets that I had lined the pig pasture with, way back when the piglets were breaking out. No pigs in that pasture anymore. It's going to be used by the sheep and goats. So the pallets can go. Did you notice there's no mention of housecleaning? 

Yup, there's a lot to keep me busy. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Banana Flowering Clusters

Going around the farm looking for banana bunches ready for harvesting, it dawned on me that banana flowering clumps really vary quite a bit from variety to variety. Some are on the small side, others are huge. Some produce small clumps of bananas while others create a monster sized clump with dozens of individual fruits.

Not only is there a size difference, but the shapes can be different too.

 Short and fat. This is high up in a tall tree, so I couldn't get a good photo. But the top banana to the bottom flower tip is 18". The fat flower on the end of it is 8" long. 

Long and skinny. This flower clump is 24 inches long, but it is skinny. It is just opening so you won't see any baby bananas yet. 

Bananas are really interesting. Having lived most my life on the US east coast, banana trees are still a bit of a novelty. So when I come upon an edible variety new to me, my ears tend to perk up. I used to buy any new one I came upon, collecting a new one even when I didn't have a hole to plant it in. Rather complusive collecting, eh? But after collecting quite a number, I now limit myself to only adding the dwarf types. Those 20'-24' tall ones can be quite intimidating to harvest from. Definitely don't stand under one when you chop that truck........crash- smash! Nothing like having over a 100+ pound banana trunk fall on ya. The older I get, the more appealing those dwarfs get to be.

Not only is harvesting easier and safer from the dwarfs, but tree maintenance is far easier too. As the tree grows, leaves die back. I like to keep those dead leaves trimmed off in order to reduce disease problems and discourage insects and rats. That's really difficult to do on those tall varieties. Yes, give me just dwarfs nowadays.

Of course there are some benefits to growing tall varieties. First, it may produce a banana fruit that you really like. Plus those big boys produce a lot more biomass for turning into compost. When I was chopping and fermenting the trucks for livestock feed, they gave me lots of buckets of trunk chunks. But I'm no longer doing that--- for three reasons. It's time intensive. I have plenty of other feedstock options available. The pigs lost interest in earring it. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

More Container Gardening

Now that I'm getting over my illness, I'm eager to garden. Before getting sick I had gotten Matt's place tilled up and ready for growing. Matt planted beans, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. Now it's my turn on my own land.

The first thing I opted to do was create some grow boxes. I have some specific crops in mind to grow in them. Grow boxes......aka container gardening...... work well from growing something atop lava rock.
Taro starts planted in the first box. 
I make my boxes out of pallets. I line them with old plastic bags then fill them with compost. The bags help extend the life of the pallet wood, but more importantly they help retain moisture in the box. Containers tend to dry out quickly in the tropical wind and sun, and the plastic liner helps prevent that. As for the compost fill, I happen to make that myself. I not blessed to have several cubic yards of garden soil just laying around, so I resort to homemade compost. In making my current new boxes, I'll be emptying all my 12 compost bins. Looks like I'll be busy refilling them after this project is built! 

Boxes ready for painting, lining, and filling. 
These boxes go together quickly. I cut down the pallets in half. Nail 4 together to make a box. If the spacing between the wood slats is greater than 1 inch, then I cover it up with a piece of pallet wood. If an inch or less, I don't bother. Using a staple gun, I tack the black garbage bags to the inside of the box, generously overlapping the bags. Before adding the compost I put a couple layers of cardboard in the bottom to help prevent the tropical grasses from growing right up through the deep compost. Next, in goes the compost. The coarsest stuff goes in the bottom, the finer stuff on top. Now it's ready to plant. Oh yes, I'll be painting the outside of the boxes in order to make them visually more pleasing.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

New Pullets

In the past two days I've added 3 young hens to the laying flock. Not that the new ones are laying yet, but they should start this spring. One friend gave me 2, another friend gave me one. All 3 pullets are wild type.....just mix breed chickens that run feral around here. And though their eggs are small, the hens are very hardy, easy keepers, and make excellent moms. 

I keep chickens for their manure. So it doesn't matter that the eggs are on the small side. I look at the eggs as a bonus. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Donkey Blog

I know that a few of my readers have been interested in hearing about my donkey. Truthfully, there's not much to tell. She's here to provide flock protection and other than that, I don't use her for any other farm work. 

But if you'd like to read about working with a donkey and learn how a donkey views the world, why not try checking out this blog.........

donkey train.blogspot.com

You might find it interesting. I know that I have. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Improving Health

Being sick when you're the only farmer on the place is a bummer. But happily I don't have any pressing need to be getting something done asap. So far all the animals are being checked regularly. That's enough. I'm getting lots of sleep, giving my body an overall rest in the process. So many of my aches & pains should be gone at the end of all this. That's a plus. My main regrets are missing out on 2 spay/neuter clinics. I was too sick to attend. 

My fever disappeared today, so being the stubborn hardhead that I am, I moved compost into a new grow box and planted it with taro that I'm moving out of the main growing beds. The effort covered me in sweat and was exhausting. I retreated to the recliner for a nap. Guess I'm not well yet! But then, the coughing, sore throat, laryngitis, and clogged up ears sort of signaled my lack of good health. I did learn something today that was surprising. I've totally lost my sense of smell. Wow. Couldn't even smell an herb bouquet of rosemary, mint, and basil. So that's saying something! I hope my "smeller" gets back working again. 

Thanks everyone for the well wishes. Looks like I'm on the mend, but who knows how long it will take. I'm impatient to get back working again.