Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Pig in a Pond

Stopped into the house for a glass of cold water, only to hear happy piggy sounds coming from the front yard. Huh? I opened the door to this.......

Dang pig!!!!!!! There are many, many reasons I shouldn't have a friendly pig running loose on my farm, and this is one of them. But ya know, I can't help but smile and laugh. She is smart enough to know where to find a good spot to cool off on a hot day........and smart enough to have gotten out of every pen I've made so far. Other than resorting to concrete or metal pipes, I'm not sure how I'm going to convince this pig to stay in an enclosure. I hate putting her into a small pen, but it very well might come to that. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Stacking Functions? Yeah, the Su Ba way!

"F" asked to see examples of stacking functions on my farm. So, how do I take interesting photos of this? A pipinola vine growing up a tree trunk? A sheep pooping on the grass? Rain dripping off the barn roof and into a holding tank? Not very interesting, eh? But as I was hanging out my wash this morning suddenly I was hit with a thought.....bingo! I've got it.

A handy though unconventional wash line.
Our solar panel rack also functions as my wash line. It might look silly, but it works. The rack keeps most of the rain off the clothes. 

Quite truthfully, I didn't really plan it this way. It just came about out of necessity and procrastination. I keep meaning to build a solar dryer for the clothes, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. It just isn't high in my priority list now that I'm using the solar panel rack. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Stacking Functions

Chatting the other day with "W" over a cup of coffee, "W", being still young and impressionable, was all enthused about permaculture. He wanted to share his new found knowledge, and he didn't know anyone other than me that would know what he was talking about. So there we sat, talking farming, environment, and ecology instead of the usual political moaning, government bashing, and local gossip. 

The one epiphany that awed him was the concept of stacking functions. This is a basic concept in permaculture design where elements serve more than one function. Being a young person, this seemed like something really new to him. With me, being old, it wasn't all that astounding. It's like killing two birds with one stone, a saying that has existed long before I was born.

Examples of stacking functions on my own homestead (although I'm not a permaculture farm, though I use ideas from all sorts of farming methods.....
... Cholesterol spinach grows in my Secret Garden. From time to time it gets straggly, so I prune it, giving it a new lease on life. The young leaves and tips I save and set aside for eating. The slightly older leaves and stems go into the livestock cook pot. The woodier stems go to the nursery for potting, thus creating new plants to expand the gardens. So my labor has stacking functions -- I am cleaning up the garden, improving the vitality of a crop, harvesting food for us, harvesting feed for the animals, and propagating a crop. 
... Plants can have multiple functions, such as my food forest trees. Some of my vining crops have homemade trellises, but others climb trees. Those trees are food bearing themselves, plus they serve as trellises for the vine crop. So the trees provide food, shade for a second crop to grow, and support for the vines. Of course trees also increase humidity, capture CO2, improve soil, provide mulch or compost material (fallen leaves), and eventually wood for firewood, wood crafts, and hugelkultur pits. 
... My chicken operation is set up as stacking functions -- the provide meat, eggs, and manure. They churn up compost (which I add to their pen), enriching it in the process, and removing any insects/slugs/mice. They process grass clippings that I give them into a nutrient garden resource. Their food is primarily garden waste recycled through them to become manure, and ultimately garden fertilizer. So they help rid the farm of excess waste and convert it to a valuable product. Plus their pen has a tarp roof from which I can collect rainwater. On top of that serious stuff, I find them to be a source of amusement....cheap entertainment. 

Most things on a homestead style farm have multiple functions. 
... A perimeter fence keeps livestock and pets in, but just as importantly keeps other animals and people out. The fence may also provide trellis support for crops such as peas or beans. Some fences can function as windbreaks or visual screens blocking out unwanted views. 
... A pond provides a pleasing venue for picnics in addition to  mosquito control, a place to raise fish or grow aquaponic lettuce, a source of compost or livestock feed materials (via pond plants), a source of water for irrigation or fire fighting, a beneficial wildlife setting. 

Stacking functions Is so normal for me that I don't even give it much thought. Everything on this farm seems to have more than one purpose. But to be truly stacking functions in the permaculture sense, it has to be in the design. Stacking functions afterall is a design principle. 

Some stacking functions I knowingly incorporated.....
...sheep. They mow the grasses and weeds, provide manure, provide lambs for sale, give us meat and milk. 
...our  little barn. It was built with the ideas in mind to be a secure storage building for equipment, house a workshop, give me a place to work on rainy days, an emergency shelter for bummer lambs, collect rainwater for the ag catchment tank, and serve as a sleeping spot for unexpected overnight guests. 

The thing I see about the permaculture principle of stacking functions is that it increases efficiency. One gets more done during a time period. Or gets more return out of a space or project. Or in the example of the sheep, eliminates the need for added elements, such as a lawnmower or the time needed for mowing or weedwacking. In permaculture, stacking functions is part of the design that goes into creating the system. It's not an after thought or a lucky bonus. As I was learning while creating my homestead, I naturally started incorporating multiple purposes. Without being aware of it, I was creating my own idea of stacking functions. I've gotten so bad that I can't bring myself to take a trip to town without stopping at the dump, checking out the dump thrift store for new goodies, picking up a gallon or two of fresh drinking water, doing my in-town errand, swinging by the post office to check for mail, perhaps stopping for a cup of coffee and a bit of conversation. doing a tad of foraging in the right season, and stopping someplace to enjoy the view before heading home. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sneaky Donkey

Donkey pulled a fast one on me. But with some McGyver-like thinking, I avoided disaster and saved the day. 

For the past many months, Donkey (now known as Don Quixote) has been in the front pastures up by the road. Multiple times a day people go in & out through the gate. Donkey watches, never makes a move. Just watches. Up until now. As usual, I climbed out of the truck, opened gate, went back into the truck to pull through. Donkey no longer waited. As slick as an ell, she slipped through the gate past me and headed down the road. Yikes!!!!!!!

Without a second's delay, my mind whirled into high gear.........what sort of food or treat to I have on me to entice her with? Do I have a leash or rope? Will Donkey be friendly or go bezerk-o returning to her feral ways now that she is loose? I quickly determined I hadn't a blessed thing edible in the truck, but one of the cat feeding stations was beside the gate, which was close by. So I grabbed a jar of dry cat food and headed to intercept my wayward beast. Luckily the green grass along the roadside caught her interest. She'd grab a mouthful, then take a few more steps. Stop for another bite, then walk on a few more feet. The grass was slowing her progress down. So calmly but briskly walking on the opposite of the road, I was able to get ahead of her within 30 feet of her wayward journey. I shook the cat food jar, catching her interest. She almost took the bait, but decided to walk on and eat more grass. So I walked ahead again, offering the handful of cat food to her. She allowed me to come up within 3 feet of her before she said, "Nope, not yet." Off she trotted to my neighbor's driveway entrance. Luckily a tall weed caught her attention. I let her grab a big mouthful before again approaching and offering cat food. Now her curiosity was piqued. She checked out the offering, found it to be acceptable, and began munching. Carefully without being obvious, I sidled alongside and rested my arm around her neck. Gotcha! 

Ok, what next? I needed to lead her back. At this point Donkey had totally lost interest in the cat food. She knew she had been had. But her training about halters and leading kept her from pulling away from me. Good donkey! She had learned her lessons well. Now, if only I could lead her in some fashion. But I had nothing.  No rope. No string. No wire. Only the clothing I was wearing and a jar of cat food. Getting her to follow the cat food wasn't working, and believe me, I tried! So I had a very big dilemma on my hands and not a soul in shouting distance to call for help. Plus of course, my cellphone was sitting in the dashboard of my truck. Bad luck. Big sigh. 

I tried using both hands to act as a halter to guide her home, one on her poll and the other under her chin. Nope. I tried the poll and nose position. Still nope. Donkey refused to take a step. Looking over what I was wearing, I noted croc clogs ( no laces), shorts, t-shirt. The thought crossed my mind that I could take off my t-shirt and make a halter out of it and just pray that no car came by. Oh, oh, oh. I just remembered....Today I'm wearing a shirt that's on the small side, so I wore a bra. Most days I don't bother with one (one of those things you do when you're either very young or quite old), but today I wore one because of the tight shirt. Ah-ha, I'm saved!!!! Keeping one hand on Donkey, I slipped off the bra and made a makeshift halter. Donkey accepted the idea and docilely allowed herself to be lead back home. Disaster avoided! Relief! I was one very thankful and relieved person. Of course the bra is ruined, stretched beyond recovery. But it served me well, may it rest in peace. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Storm Repairs

5 tasks down, one more to go.

...picking up all the fallen tree branches and twigs
...cutting up the downed trees
...removing the double tree stump
...repairing the damaged fence and gate
...repair the large greenhouses

Fencing in the gap after the tree stump was removed. 

The new pass through gate between Matt's and our farm. 
Final task -- repair the mini greenhouses. A few of the greenhouse tops blew off. Not surprising. These were my prototype mini greenhouses done on the cheap. In fact, done the cheapest way possible. So nothing is substantial about them except for the pcv pipe. In fact, I'm surprised that they've held up so well. But this windstorm lifted the loosening hoops, pulling some of them off. I plan to make cheap repairs rather than rebuilding them. A few long screws should do the trick. Don't know if I'll get to this today, but surely it will be done by the end of the week. Why am I so sure? I want to use them. It's time for sowing seeds. Im eager to get things growing. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Tree Stump Gone

My neighbor to the rescue!

As I mentioned yesterday, we had a large upended double tree stump on the fenceline between our farm and Matt's. When the wind blew the trees down, it lifted their stumps, pulling not only the soil with it but also the fence and gate. While we had no difficulty dealing with the tree limbs and trunk, we were totally stymied by the stumps. Thus the call for help.....to a neighbor across the street. 

Today "R" arrived with is Bobcat Whatchmacallit with a bucket attachment. Believe me, it's one little nifty piece of machinery. "R" went to work on the stumps and lifted them, shook them around a bit getting most of the soil off, and hoisted them off to the woods. Matt was so impressed with how easily it got done that he asked if a medium sized ironwood tree along the fenceline could also be removed. Amaziningly, "R" used that little Bobcat to knock the tree right over then picked it up and carried it back to the woods. Then he kindly flattened out a bit of a rise on the far end of Matt's garden, a rise that had been troubling. Wow. In less than 30 minutes the job was done!!!!!!

Stumps gone. Now we just need to level the soil and till in compost, 
I am very appreciative of all that "R" did for us. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Windstorm Clean Up

It's been quite a while since we had blustery winds. With these sort of windstorms, it's not uncommon for branches to break off from trees, and whole trees to topple. Happily this storm wasn't a bad one. But we had 3 small trees tip over and two dead ones go down. All were simple to get to and remove. My neighbor, Matt, wasn't as fortunate. He had one big tree come down, but it was along our shared fence line, so it took out the fence and gate too. Bummer.

Heading over to Matt's with a chainsaw, It only took an hour to delimb the trunk and cut up the trunk, leaving 6' attached to the stump. But it will take Matt a lot longer to get rid of all that debris. He plans to find a spot in the woods to drag it to. 

Now for the stump. This one is beyond me, David, and Matt. So I called out for help. My neighbor, Rick, lives across the street and stopped by today to see if this is something he and his machinery & expertise can handle. He seemed confident that this tree wouldn't be impossible to deal with. 

Between now and Friday afternoon when Rick is due to return, Matt, Adam, and I plan to prepare. We have taro plants to salvage, banana keiki to remove, and twisted fencing and bent t-posts to eliminate. Plus the pile of cut tree limbs and trunk. I'm confident that we will be ready. I'm really interested to see how Rick manages to fix this mess. He's far more experienced than I with this sort of thing.  

Monday, May 6, 2019

Chicken Terminology

"M" pointed out that I missed chickens. So here it goes.....

Poultry- term describing domestic fowl.
Flock - name for a group of chickens.
Hen -- an adult female that has reached egg laying age.
Pullet -- a female chicken that hasn't yet started laying eggs.
Rooster - a male chicken that has attained breeding age.
Cock - a rooster.
Cockerel - a male chicken under breeding age.
Capon- a castrated male chicken. 
Chick - a baby chicken.
Hatchlings - young newly hatched chicks.
Banti -- a bantam; a small breed of chicken.
Sex link- a situation where the male and female chicks can be sexually identified at birth based upon their coloration.
Straight run- term to designate that hatchlings are not sexed (identified as male vs female).
Broody - the hen's behavior to lay on and thus incubate a clutch of eggs.
Clutch -- the group of eggs or chicks from one hen.
Broiler - a chicken destined for slaughter between 7-12 weeks of age.
Comb - the fleshy growth atop a chickens head, usually red in color.
Crop - part of the digestive system looked at the base of the neck, which stores ingested food.
Vent - the opening on a chickens butt through which passes bodily discharges and eggs. 
Molt - a time period when the bird loses feathers and regrows replacements. 
Roost - a place up off the ground where chickens tend to rest or sleep.
Grit - small pebbles or gravel eaten by chickens to grind their food in their gizzard.
Spur - sharp horny spike on the legs. More pronounced and common on roosters. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Aikane Farm Tour

As part of the Ka'u Coffee festival, there was another farm tour. This time it was Aikane farm & ranch. I've never been to this farm although I've passed it dozens of times, so of course I signed up for it.

Aikane hosts both beef cattle and coffee. Not the biggest cattle ranch or coffee farm around, it is a very pretty place. And it probably has the friendliest beef cows I've seen on this island. Plus it grows a unique coffee. 

Let's explore that coffee. People around here refer to it as "Old Hawaiian". This particular coffee was brought Hawaii from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil back in the 1800s. Some of the descendent trees were planted in Ka'u. So it's not one of the common varieties the other coffee growers work with. If it has a varietal name, no one here knows it. It was simply planted as "coffee". Plain and simple.

The original planting by J.C. Searle are a few miles down the road from the present day Aikane Farm & Ranch. The family (his great granddaughter) retrieved coffee trees from the original farm and replanted them. And over the years the family has expanded the coffee plantings and now have a nice estate coffee farm going.

Looking down on one of the Aikane coffee orchards. 
Aikane offers farm tours, so if you happen to be visiting Big Island it might be worth your while to visit them. Just check out their website and give them a call before arriving.

Back to my day........ It was most enjoyable. The day was like an all day party. Live music. Hula. Horses and calves to pet. A hayride through one of the cow pastures where we mobbed by friendly cattle begging for handouts.

Heading out on the hayride. Yup, our seats are hay bales, which the cattle tried to eat right out from under us when the haycubes ran out. 
Armed with buckets of haycubes, we all delighted in feeding the eager giant beasts as Merle called out each cow by name. I was totally surprised to see a bull among them, a bull so gentle that he patiently begged for his haycubes alongside his girls.

A dozen cows begged for haycubes and we gladly fed them. 

Ranch hands out on a brief demo of ranch life by rounding up a small herd, bringing them down to a corral, separating out 4 calves to work on. These calves were due for ear tagging, vaccination, castration, and branding. For just about everyone in the watching crowd, this was a first. Very few people nowadays know what goes in when raising livestock, so this demo was both shocking and informative for most.

The herd being collected for the demo. 

A local band, the best I've heard to date, entertained the crowd from 10 to 4. And Sammy Fo provided lovely hula.
The lovely and famous Sammy Fo. 

After the morning activities, Merle & Phil hosted a fantastic BBQ for everyone. There was far more on the tables than the large crowd could consume, and it was really tasty. BBQ ribs, pork belly, teri-sliced beef, chicken something, and more. Plenty of Portuguese rice, plain rice, mashed sweet potatoes, green mixed salad, Hawaiian style mac salad, and about 15 more dishes I was far too full to sample. And the table still went on, displaying multiple desserts that yours truly had no room for, since by then I was stuffed to my gills. Lots of choices of beverage, with famous Aikane coffee included.
Buffet table. 

This year was my first year attending the Aikane tour, but I surely won't be my last. I'll certainly be back for another visit.
Merle, our wonderful hostess and Aikane owner. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

World Naked Gardening Day

Hey, ya thought I would forget, eh? Heck, I don't need much of an excuse to get naked. And gardening naked is like getting two birds with one stone. Naked & gardening. Bingo! 

So somewhere up by the house, so not to offend the eyes of some neighbor or tourist, I will be participating in the worldwide celebration. <<<<<<<😜 very, very big grin 😆>>>>>>>>

Ooo, those white feet never see the sun! 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Ka'u Valley Farm Tour

Went on a great farm tour yesterday -- Ka'u Valley Farm. Right in my own neck of the woods, how convenient. The tour was part of our local coffee festival. Normally the farm isn't open for tours. But seeing that the tour was in this year's roster of events, I signed up for it. Good decision on my part, I must say. 

Ka'u Valley Farm was originally part of the Hutchinson Sugar plantation system. But the sugar business died out here many years ago (in the 1990s), and since then the land has been used as cattle pasture. 3-4 years ago a new owner bought the whole thing (several thousand acres) and is now creating a diversified farm. So far the plan looks to be a good one for this area. 

Driving all over the place in an open farm utility vehicle was fun all by itself. Up hills, down gullys, through mud, over rocky dirt farm tracks, through pastures, past cows......wow, fun! The scenery was grand....vast open grassy pastures, ohia forest, coastline view, the ocean stretching all the way along the background. At the top of the farm one could see all the way from Volcanoes National Park and sunrise point to your left, down 85 miles of coast to South Point, then off in the distance to the sunset point to your right. What a panama. You felt you were on top of the world. Amazingly beautiful. 

Then there's the farm stuff. At the top where the farm has native forest, sits a large collection of  beehives to harvest nectar from the tract of yellow ohia trees. This is probably the only honey in the world that is predominantly yellow lehua honey. 

One of two bee colonies on the farm. 
Coming down in elevation, the land is being farmed with sweet potatoes for now. For now meaning that after two years the sweets will be moved to other areas and coffee and tea planted in its place. About 100 acres at a time will be in sweet potatoes. 

Sweet potato field. What a beautiful place to be hoeing sweets! 
Irrigation for the farm is not needed for some of the crops, but there is water available via the old sugar plantation tunnel system. 3 tunnels have been located and restored. All are located on the farm, private land, which makes them immensely valuable. Private water around here is worth gold! The farm is building a 4 million gallon capacity reservoir to store the water, making it available for the crops lower down the land. Crops will include coffee, tea, a variety of fruit and food trees, and vegetables. 

A view looking down on the nursery and some coffee & tea fields. 
After running all over the farm, we had a pleasant lunch break in open air pavilions with expansive views, while this year's Ka'u Coffee Queen entertained us with ukulele and singing. It was a nice touch. Another nice touch was the we got to plant our own coffee tree. Made us feel like we a part of this farming adventure. 

My own namesake, a coffee tree. 
Everyone planting their trees. 
Next stop -- greenhouses. This is where they grow the young coffee and tea trees, plus an assortment of ornamentals for landscaping the farm. The aim is to not just make the farm functional, but also pleasing to the eye. One greenhouse is used for a hydroponic lettuce.

Hydroponic lettuce set up. 
The farm has already been selling lettuce and other assorted produce for months now. The nursery area is also the site for assorted produce production. I saw bananas, eggplant, papaya, lettuce, radish, peanut, sweet potato, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, and cauliflower. We also got a demonstration of grafting procedures using hibiscus plants. The farm plans to conduct future grafting classes, and I intend to come back for them. 

Grafting demo

Future plans call for a visitor center, hoping to open by the end of the year. And of course expansion of fields of coffee, tea, and fruit trees. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Goat Terminology

Around me there are not so many goat breeders. But there are lots of goats. You drive around and spy many a goat tied out in people's yards. Some of these goats are doing lawnmower duty. They are a combination pet and weed eater. But many others you see only are there until the next holiday. They're invited to the next family or party as a central guest......cooked in the imu, smoked, or cooked on the grill. Goat is a popular and normal table food here. 

Caprine - scientific term pertaining to goats.
Flock - a group of goats.
Buck -- intact make goat. Also sometimes called a billy. 
Doe  -- female goat. Also sometimes called a nanny. 
Kid -- baby or young goat. 
Buckling- a young male prior to sexual maturity.
Doeling- a young female prior to sexual maturity.
Wether - a castrated male goat.
Kidding- the act of birthing baby goats. (Next time you say ," I'm just kidding." think of this!)
Disbudding - the removal of the horn buds at a young age, rendering the kid hornless.
Banding -- the placing of a tight rubber band around the base of the scrotum for the purpose of  castration.
Chevon - a young goat for slaughter to be slaughtered about weaning age. Also a general term for goat meat. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Urine Revisited

"P" wrote in......."I have a question. I think I’ve seen you mention "fermented urine” perhaps twice in the time I’ve been reading your blog (and I cannot find any mention of it in your index of topics. Is it 
fermented because you simply haven’t had time to use it? Mine sometimes sits in my pee jars 
for 5 days (I have 5 pee jars) but on the 5th day I clean them all (so I have a pot to pee in), so 
some have not “fermented” as long as others. I haven’t noticed any difference in effect, no 
particular burn, so I was wondering if there is some bio/chemical benefit in aging it."

Like you, I haven't noticed any particular benefit from aging (that is, stored urine) or fermenting the urine. Nor have I seen burning, maybe because I tend to apply dilute urine (diluted to stretch out my supply). People who report plant burning......perhaps they are on high salt diets or eat mostly commercial foods? I don't salt my food, nor do I eat a lot of commercially made food. 

I use urine for fertilizer. I have a limited supply (me), but I use every drop I collect. The only urine I don't save for using is when I'm taking drugs that are excreted via the kidneys. That usually means antibiotics, since I don't live on "old people" medications. 

How to collect urine? I use a funnel to direct urine into an old milk jug. Hubby won't do that, but he is willing to pee outdoors onto whichever garden spot I designate. The dogs are directed to "go out" in various garden beds. Like hubby, they're not keen on peeing into a bucket, although I could have trained them to it if I had really wanted to. But having them pee on a garden spot ready for tilling is fine enough. I no longer collect urine from the sheep because it's simply too much hassle. I get plenty of manure that's an easier fertilizer to collect, so I skip the urine. When I had the horse, she was trained to pee into a bucket. She was most cooperative. If fact, insanely cooperative. But the donkey will have no part in this scary silliness, so I don't push it. 

How to use urine :
I can use it fresh or stored (that is, stored for days or a couple weeks). I've seen absolutely no difference between the two so far. If there is a difference, it must be subtle. Perhaps because my soil has abundant microbial life, it makes no observable difference.

I no longer ferment urine because I didn't see a difference in the gardens. I used active sauerkraut juice to inoculate the urine for fermenting, then fermented for 2 weeks before using. The only difference I noted in the fermented urine was that it ended up with a lower pH, which is something I don't need since my soil is already naturally acidic. Fermented urine may have chemical differences compare to fresh, but the results in the garden weren't different. So in keeping things simple, I no longer bother to ferment. 

Do I dilute it? Yes. Do I have a set formula? No. I use about 1/2 cup per gallon of water, thereabouts. Could I use it undiluted? Yes. I could sprinkle it on a garden bed then till it in....much like having hubby and the dogs pee on the garden soil. But I don't pour undiluted urine onto a growing plant. 

How do I use the diluted urine? I use it to water the plants, or add it to compost bins while I making compost. My garden soils have a good amount of microbial life, so I don't get any odor from using the urine. The microbes take care of that very quickly. 

Would fermented urine work better in unimproved soils? Don't know. It would make a nice experiment. 

Talking about experiments.......I read an article in Modern Farmer magazine. Here's the link 
The article brought up some interesting information. Plus it tells how to sanitize urine before use.