Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving Day Meal

This year is much like past years around here. Half the folks bearing smirky grins ask me if I'm shooting a feral turkey for dinner. The other half, cringing at that thought, invite us to a variety of get-togethers, I suppose in hopes of sparing that neighborhood turkey. I just have to chuckle at the reputation I have. 

So what's for dinner? The buffet up at the Kilaeua Military Camp. All you can eat turkey dinner with all the fixins. Yum. 

Most folks see this holiday only as a day off from their jobs and the opportunity to pig out. I probably am the oddball because I really do contemplate how fortunate I am and am thankful. As a kid I was forced to say grace before digging into Thanksgiving dinner. Of course as a child, you didn't really mean anything that was said. You just wanted grace to be over so that you could go fill your plate. But now as a senior adult, I pause a minute to feel a wave of sincere thankfulness wash over me. There is so much to be thankful for that it's dizzying. Oh life has its problems for sure, but by and large, I'm happy to be alive and have what I do. 

So on this thought, I would like to extend wishes to everyone for a peaceful day. And thank you for listening. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Third Lamb

3 lambs so far. Sigh.....another boy. Of the three new lambs, at least one will be a keeper. I would like to retire 3-4 of the old ewes, so I was hoping for more girls. But lambing season isn't over yet, so we see what happens.

A big boy. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

First Two New Lambs

It was pouring rain last night. There were two rain shelters for the sheep, so I was worried about the pregnant ewes. Besides, the first delivery shouldn't be until next week some time. Wrong! Wrong on the timing, but I didn't need to worry any.

Checking on the sheep this morning, I saw two new babies. Wow! I smiled and glowed all over as though I was the proud parent myself!-------well, not really. I would have hated being pregnant and them being stuck with a kid. But that's just me. Checking things out, I saw that both lambs were born out in the the rain. But both did well, both having good mothers. 

Both lambs were robust, nursing, and doing just fine. The white one was normal size, and a little girl. The black one was a super jumbo, and a boy. You'd swear he was a few days older because he is really huge. I had thought that this ewe was carrying twins, but it turned out to be just one large singlet. I like singlets, so that's fine. But how I wish he had been born a female. I don't need anymore rams. So he is destined to become either somebody's pet, or a freezer denizen.

Got this photo just as he was falling over. You can see that all his weight is on his right legs. Oops, over he went. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

An Addendum to my Planting Post

Before everyone starts asking, let me explain something about my last post, the one where I've listed what I've planted to date this year. Yes, I've planted stuff this year but it surely doesn't look like I've planted our entire food needs (unless of course we are eating a dozen bananas each every day!) There are reasons for this. 

... Perennials. We have an already established food base. The perennials and "almost perennials" continue to provide food even though they don't need constant replanting. Things like: 
          Pumpkins, jicama, chaya, pineapples, pipinolas, sweet potatoes, Okinawan spinach, cholesterol spinach, green onions, various herbs, bananas, citrus trees, guavas, pineapples, mamaki, coffee, macadamia nuts, avocado. 
          Should I count chickens, sheep, and goats as "meat perennials"? Hahaha. Well established on this farm, they provide an abundance of eggs, milk, and meat without me having to constantly bring more animals to the farm. 

... Stored foods. Not having had a good handle on exactly how much food I felt comfortable having stored, I over did it by a longshot. So this year we are eating up our excess. Between the freezer and our dehydrator, we managed to accumulate an abundance of all sorts of foods, including meats, veggies, and fruits. I not only learned that I had too much stored food, but it also takes quite a while for us to eat down the freezer....and that I really don't need that many dried peas, beans, and other dehydrated veggies for making soups. 

... Trade-barter-gifting-foraging system. I have a nice system established. Every week I engage in trading or gifting. Plus I still actively forage. And every month I'm always involved with some sort of bartering. So I become the recipient of all sorts of foods......honey, kombucha, breads and other baked goods, fruits and veggies, fish, meats, jams, soups, lettuce, coffee, etc. So even though I'm not replanting such a wide assortment of foods, I am receiving them one way or the other. 

A benefit of having a goodly stockpile of food is that I haven't needed to spend so much time in the gardens tending my growing crops. Instead I've been able to devote more time to creating more gardens and planting crops for the future. I've had time to experiment with my various projects, such as the greenhouses and woodworking. Having food abundance frees up my time for other things......besides freeing up my money for other things to spend it a prime rib dinner out at the local restaurant on Saturday night....yum. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

What I've Planted To Date

I last reported on July 6th. Since then I've added: 

Pineapples - 221
Green beans (assorted colors)- 10 pallet boxes (36 plants per box) 
Peas, snap- 8 foot row
Taro- 67
Peppermint- 2 six inch clumps
Chocolate mint- 4 six inch clumps
Tree, Finger lime- 1
Tree, Brazil plum- 1
Turmeric- 55 ft row
Potatoes- 6 pallet boxes (averaging 20 plants per box= 120 plants) 
Tomatoes - 8
Gourd- 1
Pipinola- 2
Pumpkins- 4
Sweet peppers- 24
Eggplant- 3
Lilikoi- 1

Plus I recently started seeds, which are now baby seedlings in the mini greenhouses. Soon these will get planted out into various garden beds. The numbers I've listed are the projected number of seedlings I plan to plant out. Any unplanted seedlings will be used to sell or trade. 
Broccoli- 24
Onions- 50
Basil- 12
Dill- 8
Bok choy- 24
Ground cherry- 12
Tomatoes- 12
Papaya- 20
Beets- 40
Chard- 12

So year to date planting totals.......

Banana trees - 4
Basil- 12
Beans for seed production - 10 foot row
Beans for eating - 10 pallet boxes (36 plants per box) 
Beets- 40
Bok choy- 24
Broccoli- 24
Chard- 12
Chaya - 32 cuttings
Chocolate mint- 4 six inch clumps
Cholesterol spinach - 400 square feet
Cucumbers - 18 plants
Dill- 8
Eggplant- 3
Gourd- 1
Ground cherry- 12
Lilikoi- 1
Lima beans - 40' row plus 5 individual seeds
Onions- 50
Papaya- 20
Peas, snap - 8 foot row
Peppermint- 2 six inch clumps
Pineapples - 239
Pipinolas - 21
Potatoes - 448 plants
Pumpkins- 4
Summer squash - 8 plants
Sweet peppers- 24
Taro - 97 plants
Tomatoes - 40 plants 
Tree, finger lime - 1
Tree, Brazil plum- 1
Turmeric- 55 foot row
Winged beans - 15 plants

And I'm not done yet for this year! Yikes! Looking at the number of pineapples I've put in, I'm either going to make some money selling pineapples or else my chickens and sheep are going to be very happy. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Garden Walkways

"G" just asked me for the best way to make his garden walkways. He was thinking of using cardboard, or possibly old carpet. He also thought about using a permanent wooden boardwalk or stepping stone path. I really couldn't tell him "the best" walkway to make, but I did mention a few of my own experiences. Since "G" lives not too far from me, my experiences might help him decide what to do. 

1- cardboard or newspaper. Yes, thick layers do keep the weeds down. But those layers can get real slick and slippery with all the rain we've been getting. Plus there's the problem with wind. Unless held down with dirt or rocks, the paper will eventually blow around. I've tried both, but now won't use either. After taking a couple bad falls on slippery paper, I won't dare let the stuff in my walkways. Not worth getting a broken wrist or hip, or worse. 
2- carpet. I've vetoed carpet for a couple of reasons. First of all, the chemicals. Repeated rains will leach the various chemicals out and into the soil, where the plants could take them up. No one has done research about this, so heaven alone knows what might get into the food you pick. Most carpeting has anti-fire chemicals which have been found to be very persistent in the environment, including in our own bodies. Nasty stuff. Plus they often contain anti-stain chemicals, anti-fade chemicals, glues, and who knows what else. 
     Second, the carpeting degrades in the tropical sun. Before long you will end up with a mass of shredded carpet strings with grass growing up through it. Try to pick them up will be a nightmare. They'll be well imbedded in the soil and intertwined in plant roots. Been there, done that, never will do it again. 
3- thick grass clippings or tree leaves.  Just like the wet cardboard, this stuff can get real slick. Because most people don't want to have to reapply a mulch every week, they will pile the stuff on thick. Big mistake. It gets to be real dangerous walking on it. It's the thickness that is the problem. 
4- I've seen cement blocks used successfully for garden paths, though they wouldn't work well for my own gardening methods. I use a cultivating tiller which kicks the soil about. Thus the cement blocks would get soil all over them every time I worked the garden beds. I suppose I could just resign myself to having the broom it off each time, but I hate wasting the time. The same problem would occur when I use mulch. The wind would tend to blown it onto the cement blocks. Though this method wouldn't please me, it might work perfectly fine for other gardeners. If using hand tools instead of a tiller, if using heavy woodchip mulch instead of fluffy grass, the cement blocks might be perfect. A plus would be that no weeds would grow in the walkways. You'd have a non-slippery, solid surface to walk on. The downside would be the expense, plus the work to install it. 
5- a permanent boardwalk. The same can be said for a wooden pathway as for the cement blocks. Eventually the wood would rot, but if you were willing to live with that, then it would be fine....and pretty. I don't know how slippery it might get over time in a wet environment. I've never tried it. As with the cement blocks, it would be expensive and require labor to install. 
6- wood chips. I've seen wood chips used in garden pathways and it seemed quite nice. Looked good. They would need to be applied thickly to stop most weeds, though some would still grow through. And though they would last a lot longer than grass clippings, they would need to be replenished occasionally. The downsides are #1- slugs would hide underneath them, and #2- most people would have to go out and purchase them. 
7- cinder or gravel. Both can be had in Hawaii. Both can be used successfully. Like wood chips, they would need to be refreshed regularly because you'd eventually walk them into the soil. And like wood chips, most people would have to purchase them. In my own gardens they wouldn't work because they would quickly be covered in soil or mulch. But I could see them doing ok in other situations. 
8- weed cloth. I'm really anti weed cloth, especially the lightweight stuff you can buy in Home Depot, Walmart, etc. Weeds, especially grass, grow right up through it. It gets "glued" to the ground, making it a nightmare to remove. If one is considering using weedblock cloth, I'd suggest going with the heavyweight professional grade stuff. You'd have to figure out a method to hold it down, such as using metal pins. 

In my own gardens I use grass clippings. I apply lightly and frequently. That way I don't end up with a wet slippery mass. They may not be as pretty as some other things, but for me they're readily available. A side benefit is that they will gradually decompose, supplying nutrients to the nearby plants.  

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Why Make Compost Piles?

I'm often asked all sorts of questions about composting. How? When? Why? And lots of littler details. "Why" is a very important question and I'd like to talk a little about it. 

When I ask people, "Why should you make compost?" I get all sorts of answers. 
... To utilize green waste. 
... To keep organic waste out of the dump. 
... To get rid of my garbage.
... To be good for the environment. 
... To make fertilizer for my garden. 

These are all good answers. But I'd like to back up one more step and ask, "Why make compost piles instead of simply digging in organic material into my soil?" Yes. Think about it. I have thought about it in depth. Just what is the reason to make a pile? Is it just a waste of time? Is there something simpler? 

So what do I do? I compost and don't compost. How's that for an answer? Here's what I do when not making a compost pile: 
1- I often dig organic material right into the garden soil. I'll make a trench along a garden row, fill it with garbage and trash fruits, then cover it over with soil. (note: don't do this too close to the plants' roots because this material might heat up, thus killing the garden plants.) 
2- I'll often spread a layer of chopped greenery and garbage atop the soil then lightly till it in, incorporating it into the top few inches, or at least getting dirt mixed in with it. 
3- I'll dig a hole and bury a small dead animal, or some slaughter waste, or perhaps a pot of kitchen garbage. Then cover it over with soil. 
4- I'll till in the old mulch from the last crop harvested. 
5- I'll top dress the soil with garbage then cover it over with a layer of grass clippings. 
In my location I can get away with doing this. I don't have to worry about the garbage or material sitting around for weeks, slowly rotting and smelling bad, for in the tropics this organic waste decomposes rapidly. I also don't have to worry about drawing in bears and other unwanted wildlife. 

On the other hand, I also make compost piles. So why bother? Composting via a pile is for 2 reasons. 
1- to use excess organic material that I don't need immediately in the garden. I often find myself with a glut of green waste. Rather than turn it away, I'll make a compost pile. I will use the compost eventually, but not during a particular week or month. So I see it as a means of storing green waste for future use.
2- to grow soil microbes. Many soil microbes grow abundantly in a hot or warm compost pile. Since I want to increase the soil life in my gardens, this is a way to get vast amounts of soil microbes in a hurry. 

Another thought......plants can benefit from compost faster than from non-composted greenery tilled into the soil. Why? Compost has already partially decomposed. Uncomposted material needs to go through initial rotting processes. Depending upon the material, this may actually rob nutrients initially from the soil rather than providing them for your garden plants. With composted material, I don't see this problem. Plus composted material has a host of soil microbes ready to go to work in my garden soil. 

Since I tend to do what works. I don't stick with just one method. Trenching in the fresh material often works just fine. Composting excess material to be used later also works. 

Hot compost piles also have other benefits. They reduce the number of viable weed seeds. They help reduce the number of pathogens associated with manures. They are a quick, low odor way to process dead animals. 

One of the many things I like about being in the tropics is that I can make compost year around. Plus I can dig organic material into the soil year around and it decomposes without drawing those pesky bears, opossums, raccoons, skunks, etc. Of course we have feral pigs here, but a proper fence (or a good farm dog) keeps them out. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Bamboo Trellis & Lilikoi

I bought a purple lilikoi vine the other day and want to add it to the main garden area. Lilikoi (aka- passionfruit) grows as a climbing vine, so it needs support of some sort. I have yellow lilikoi growing up a dead tree. But I'm out of dead trees that could be used for another trellis, so I'm making one instead. I thought that entering into the main garden area through a lilikoi tunnel could be cool. So that's where I built the trellis. 

Trellis at the mauka entrance of the main garden. 

Trellises can be built out of all sorts of materials, and in all sorts of ways. For this project, I chose bamboo. I have a bunch readily available. It's easy to work with so I'm told, and it's rot resistant. The bamboo clump I targeted has stems ranging from 1" to 3' in diameter. Just the right size. Picking out the 3+ year old pieces, a chainsaw quickly cuts them down. I didn't trim off all the side branches flush with the trunk because they will add support for the lilikoi vine as it grows. 

Trellis at the makai entrance to the main garden. 

Not knowing exactly what I'm doing, this being my first bamboo project, I had David help put the pieces together. And besides, this bamboo proved to be heavy. We assembled the uprights atop the soil, using t-posts driven into the ground for stability. Rather than screwing it all together right away, we wired it. This way we could make changes as we went along. Once I'm happy with the results, I'll 
go back and screw things in place. 

Both fat and thin bamboo was used. 

While the lilikoi vine is young, it will share the trellis with other temporary crops. Perhaps beans, or maybe peas.

Simple wire temporarily holding things in place. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Sheep Mamas

I'll be getting ready for new lambs soon. Several of the mature ewes are pregnant, and a couple look big enough to be holding twins. Personally I prefer singlets, but as long as it's twins and not triplets, it should be ok. Soon I'll have to decide if I'll be bottle feeding some babies. I prefer bottle fed ewes when they grow up. But it's a pain in the butt to bottle feed a lamb for 2 months or more. I'll have to give it some thought, but there's not much time. They should be lambing by the beginning of December.


One big baby?

Big, big, big. Hopefully just twins. 

Small baby bump. 

Stacy, my old ewe. Looks to be pregnant with one. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Feeding the Farm Dogs

"T" asked me about feeding my dogs. Since we provide the bulk of our own food, what do we do about our dogs? Good question! 

Knowing what goes into making commercial pet food, I've been rather cautious what I feed my own dogs. Over the years I've used a variety of commercial dog foods and have had the opportunity to see firsthand how they effect my dogs. And because I used to show dogs, I eventually became a real dog food snob. Then once I learned what was in the meat by-product meal that many dog foods are based on, I became even more particular about which kibble I bought, eventually weaning way back on the use of commercial feed. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against anyone feeding their dog commercial dogfood of any sort. Most dogs will do fine enough on just about anything and everything. But working dogs and show dogs have higher requirements, thus doing better with some foods rather than others. And nowadays that I've moved to being more self sufficient, I've moved toward home produced and local food items. 

These days I use a good quality kibble and cooked brown rice as the basis of the feed. To that I add a soup that is made from products this farm produces one way or another. I have the option to use chicken, eggs, lamb/mutton, goat, pork, fish, turkey, and milk. I have a wide range of vegetables to pick from, often adding to the cook pot-- potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, green beans, carrots, peas, pipinolas, and a wide range of greens. Plus I take the dogs' personal tastes into account. While most of the dogs like tomatoes, Crusty won't touch them, not even soups containing them. 

How much kibble/rice I use versus soup all depends upon availability. Usually it's one cup of kibble, 1 cup cooked rice, 2 cups mixed soup. Each dog gets a different amount, depending upon their need. The dogs actually seem to enjoy the crunchies, thus I still add dry kibble. Just like us, they are texture oriented, enjoying a good chew in their meal. 

Could I eliminate store bought kibble altogether? Sure. And use something other than store bought rice? Sure. And perhaps in the future I may need to do that. But for now, this is what my dogs eat. It's not 100% farm sourced, but it's enough to satisfy me. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hammerhead Worms

Although I don't see very many, I do have hammerhead worms on this farm. This is a flatworm, or also called a planaria. They are a predatory critter that feasts upon earthworms. Yikes!!! Ok, ok, ok. Settle myself down. That's just how Mother Nature works. I just need to keep their numbers down so that they don't wipe out my healthy worm population. 

There are lots of different kinds of hammerhead worms, but I've only seen one type on my farm. It's a long, striped, somewhat gooey looking slimy thing with a blunt-ish head, not the striking hammerhead of other varieties. It's not robust like an earthworm, but instead it's rather fragile, easily broken apart into pieces. But that's not good. No, not at all. Because it's a planaria. And planaria can reproduce from those broken pieces, creating lots of new individuals. So simply chopping them up is making things worse, not better. 

To get rid of these planaria, I need to kill them. So far I've used a bit of salt to do that. Just like with slugs, I can sprinkle them with salt to destroy them. 

I don't actively go hunting these planaria, but sometimes I come upon them. It's always in a moist, dark spot, such as between two wet boards laying on the ground. Or deep inside a pile of wood debris. Or in the case of the photo, between two sheets of old roofing laying in the shade and that had been rained on, so that it was wet. 

So far I'm only finding these worms a few times a year. Their population hasn't been far, so good. 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Biomass Definition

From time to time I've been asked what biomass is. I've used the term here in my blog. I've heard it used in a variety of situations, and I find that the meaning has a bit of a spin to it, depending upon where it is being used. But basically, biomass is plant or animal material used as a base resource for some higher purpose. 

On my farm, biomass can include:
...any and all plant material (leaves, twigs, branches, roots, grass clippings, fruits, etc) 
...any and all animal material (manure, bones, feathers, fur, meat, entire carcasses, etc) 

I'm a big user of biomass. It helps create my soil, is the main component of my compost, and provides me with fertilizer to grow my food and pasture. I use vast amounts of biomass to create my hugelpits. I use it for mulch. 

The term biomass is often used when referring to energy production. It is the base component for burning to create energy (heat, steam, electricity), and for making various biofuels. While I do burn some some wood for creating biochar, heating the house, cooking livestock feed, and (soon to be) heating water, mostly the biomass I collect goes into building soil fertility, by one means or the other. 

Much of the biomass I use comes directly from this farm. I'm in a good growing location, thus the greenery is constantly growing, giving my lots of trimmings, weeds, garden waste, etc. Plus I keep livestock, giving me plenty of manure. But I also bring a lot in from off the farm. This is because I am busily creating soil so that I can farm. Therefore I have brought in truckloads of gathered biomass for making compost, plus grass clippings for using as mulch. And whenever I find myself with extra biomass that I can't immediately use in the compost bins, it goes to filling in my hugelpits where I grow bananas. 

Biomass is the "fuel" that runs this homestead farm. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Why Mulch a Temporarily Unused Garden?

"S" emailed me and asked about why I bothered to mulch the soil in the greenhouse that isn't being used at the moment. She didn't see the sense of wasting the mulch or wasting my time. 

Actually "S", that's a great question. And by the way, you'll soon see that it isn't waste at all, at least not from the point of view that I'm coming from. 

Ok. First question to consider......why do I use mulch? 
1- to control weed regrowth
2- to retain soil moisture
3- to protect the soil microbes
4- to provide nutrients to the plants
5- to retain soil so that it doesn't erode or blow away
6- to feed the worms 

If you noticed, I applied water to the greenhouse soil prior to applying mulch. That's should give you a big hint. 

The soil in the greenhouse is fairly young. I'm in the process of building it up. In order to get a good soil ecology going, I've been using generous amounts of fresh compost, supplementing that with livestock manures and urine. To create a preferred environment for soil life, I've been keeping the soil moist and shaded. This has meant watering once or twice a week plus keeping the soil surface covered with mulch. If soil drys out or bakes, I'd be losing much of the soil microbes and other soil life (worms, springtails, etc). The soil life is what decomposes the compost and manure teas, thus eventually providing plant nutrients. It's actually a complex cycle, but basically that's what's going on. 

By covering the soil with mulch, even though I'm not presently growing a crop in the greenhouse, the soil life is preserved and is busily doing its thing. It's in somewhat of a holding pattern since there are no actively growing plant roots. But by being evenly moist and protected from sun, the soil life will do fine until I plant the next crop in the next week or so. The soil life will be able to re-establish their colonies and network, thus recovering from the light tilling by the time the seedlings start to grow. 

So "S", even though I'm not growing an edible crop, I am growing a vast colony of soil life. I utilize this soil life in place of commercial fertilizers. So having a thriving soil life community is extremely important to me. Even with an edible crop, I will tend the greenhouse soil, keeping it moist, shaded, and full of food for the soil life. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Getting the Greenhouse Ready

Greenhouse #1  ---  The crop has been harvested, the crop residue and weeds removed. These went into the compost piles. So the greenhouse was empty, the soil bare. As most of you know by now, I don't like to have bare soil. So until I had time to revitalize the greenhouse, I covered the soil with a light layer of county mulch, enough to keep the soil completely covered. 

Now I'm getting the greenhouse ready for replanting. The next step was to top the beds with a 3 inch thick layer of compost and till it in. But before I tilled I checked the soil pH, which was too low. Not surprising because I'm working with fairly new soil. A dusting of wood ash plus a sprinkling of dolomite lime will help this. Then I tilled this into the top 4"-6".

After tilling, the next step was to moisten the soil. In fact, I watered it well at a rate of one gallon per square foot. This got the entire tilled layer wet, plus some of the sub layer. 

I've watered the left side (the soil looks darker). Next I'll water the other side. 

I'm not done. Next step-- mulch. Whipping out the lawnmower, I harvested 6 trashcanfuls of clippings. I used them all, well mulching this greenhouse. 

One side is mulched. I did the other one right after taking this photo. 

 Now it waits in readiness.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Bees And the Corn Dust

This morning I was using a bag of cracked corn to help catch some loose chickens, and during the process slung the partial bag atop the trap cage. A few hours later I came back to retrieve the bag, and to my surprise, there were honey bees in it. What the heck were they doing in there? I sat down to watch and observe.

Bees in the bag.

Watching bees work is fascinating. They're quite involved with whatever they're doing and appear to have no objections about being watched. In fact, I could gently brush them aside if I wanted a handful of cracked corn and they wouldn't object. I've learned from keeping bees that as long as I'm slow and deliberate, and gentle, the bees tolerate my presence quite well. 

This bee is diving head first, looking for more corn dust. 

Back to the bees..... So what was up? They were collecting corn dust. I bet there was corn pollen mixed in, which probably started this endeavor. Some scent caught their attention, and now a team was collecting the fine corn dust. I watched for over an hour, seeing one bee after another pack their legs before taking off, presumably returning to their hive with their protein prize. Each bee would initially clean the surface corn bits, then start delving deeper, churning over the bits looking to gather more dust deeper down in the pile of grain. With some individual bees, all that could be seen was their little pointed butts sticking straight up in the air. As I watched, loaded bees left, fresh bees arrived. It was constant activity.

The two whitish "pollen" sacks are quite visible on this bee's back legs. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Harvest To Date

I'm just talking about the greenhouse experiment. Generally I don't keep harvest records. It's simple to figure out which varieties produce well and which don't, so I don't bother to count or weigh things. I know of plenty of gardeners and farmers who do, but I'm not one of them, at least not for now. I've got better things to do with my time. If something doesn't wow me with production, then I simply switch to a different variety. My motto -- produce or you're out. I just do what works for me. 

The greenhouses are an experiment. So I kept simple records. But I soon knew by watching the plants which ones I'll grow again and which ones I won't bother with. 

Results (to date)-----

Zucchini - 64
          While we don't eat lots of zucchini, we do use some. Plus it's a good trading item, so I will grow it again. The best performer was Desert. I'll stay with that one plus try one other parthenocarpic variety for comparison. But I will only grow a few plants at a time in the future. 6 would be plenty. If I start 6 new plants once a month, I should keep a steady supply of zucchini to meet our needs. 
          The plants last about two months before looking too mature. But then they are also suffering with fungal diseases. So by staggering the plantings, I hopefully will keep plants thriving well enough before I yank them at 2 to 2 1/2 months of age. 
          The greenhouse effectively conquered the pickle worm moth. In the field I was never able to get zucchini because of this pest, plus powdery mildew and stem borer. The greenhouse solved the pest issues. 

Cucumbers - 84
          We eat some though not as much as I grow, that's for sure. But like zucchini, it's a good trade item. Saber turned out to be the most productive variety. The growing conditions weren't ideal, so I'll try all the varieties again in order to compare. 
          The greenhouse effectively kept out the pickle worm moth. Powdery mildew is an issue, but the Saber variety did best when it came to fungal disease. 

Lima Beans - 18 cups shelled beans
          Both Dixie Speckled Butterpea and Jacksons Wonder proved to be good producers in the greenhouses. I also grew a lima called Succotash but it was a rather poor producer, so I won't grow it in the future. I never could get lima beans before when growing them in my open gardens, so the greenhouses brought success. I'll definitely keep growing lima beans in the greenhouse. We love these beans in soups. We managed to consume all those beans ourselves, using none to trade or sell. 

Sweet Peppers : 
Slim fryers - 82
Miniatures - 316 
Standard Bell - 17
           Pretty and Sweet was an outstanding producer of mini peppers, and unlike other minis I've tried which were rather bland, these had flavor. The Mini Bells were not worth the garden space. The skinny frying peppers were nice only in that they were very early and productive, but we weren't so apt to eat them. The standard bells all did fine. In the future I will grow the standard bells, possibly a plant or two of Petty and Sweets, and some frying types that I haven't tried yet. 
         The greenhouse situation made it possible to grow some decent sized, flavorful sweet peppers. When grown out in the gardens in the past, the peppers were small and tended to be affected by pests. So the greenhouse was a significant improvement. 
         Standard sized bells are the only variety people are interested in for trading or selling. Something to think about when growing peppers again. 

Tomatoes- 81 lbs
          Greenhouse success -- no fruit fly damage. No aphids (was this just luck?) No stink bugs.  
          Greenhouse problem -- powdery mildew and leaf spot. 
          So although I won against the pests, diseases were a problem that I don't usually get in field grown plants. Ah, a game of give & take. 
          All in all, I'd call the greenhouse tomatoes a major success. I've been getting plenty of gorgeous tomatoes. And I've been able to grow some of the tasty ones, which normally succumbed to fruit flies. 
          I grew 3 types of plum tomatoes, all of which I like (Orange Icicle, Black Icicle, Amish Paste). I plan to try growing these out in the field gardens to see if they are resistant to the fruit fly. Some plums are fairly resistant while others aren't. I grew 2 slicer types. One I liked well enough to grow again (Black Beauty) in the greenhouse. I plan to try other slicer varieties in the future.