Monday, July 6, 2020

Adam's Bananas

Adam wanted to show off his banana harvest. Today he harvested this bunch of Williams bananas. Not the best eating banana (they are a commercial type), but they sure do produce large clumps! While Adam plans to eat some of these, most will end up being fed to the livestock.

Adam has been watching this particular clump of bananas for weeks and weeks. He's gotten pretty good at judging when to harvest them. He waits for the individual bananas to plump out. Then he watches for signs that the birds or rats are interested. They can tell better than us that the fruits are nearing ripeness. In a matter of days, many of these individual bananas will begin turning yellow. 

We have numerous clumps of Williams bananas on the farm. Since they produce very large bunches, they are worth growing for livestock feed, if nothing else. We usually don't eat them ourselves. But we have used them for trading and selling. I guess not everyone is as fussy about bananas like we are. Adam admits that he's become a banana snob too. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

July 4th

Life is different this year. The 4th is nothing like last year. And unlike parts of the mainland where they are heading to the beaches and large family gatherings like nothing is out of the ordinary (with many getting exposed to coronavirus), here in Ka'u the community is tending to be far more mindful. No big town parade. No BBQ set ups around town. No giant community celebration in the central park. No 2 day rodeo. No ball games.

People arriving for the event. 

But all's not dull here. Our community hosted a small safe event for the Fourth of alternative to everyone heading to the beach. Using the farmers market grounds, OKK hosted a free event with music, free hotdogs & shave ice & watermelon. Yes, all free. A drive through was set up for those who wished to do grab & go, and dozens of folks did just that......playing it safe while getting goodies for themselves and the children. Others opted to use the grounds, taking advantage of the widely spaced tents, picnic tables, or bringing their own chairs for maximum spacing. Tent space and picnic tables were restricted to ohanas -- no social mingling among groups. Masks, hand sanitizing, and social distancing outside of ohana groups was enforced.  .....Sounds un-fun? Naw. It wasn't. People seemed to enjoy themselves. Listening to music. Watching hula. Kids playing games. Everyone munching on holiday food. And laughing at the parade.

Hunnay dancing hula for us to enjoy. 

Parade? Uh? Yes, you betcha! There was a decorated lawnmower parade on the grounds! What a hoot! Come on, what's the 4th without a parade? Naalehu kept up the annual tradition ....with a twist. The line of lawnmowers works its way around the grounds, keeping their distance. Folks clapped, took pictures, laughed and smiled a lot. Hey, Naalehu got their parade! 

Lawnmower parade 

The event was small, low key, but safe. The 200-250 who attended had a chance to be part of our town celebration, and the 50 or so who opted for grab & go also go to feel that they participated. The 4th of July is alive and well in my small town ----- just very different this year,

Just having some silly holiday fun. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Great Papaya

Just recently I was introduced to a papaya that is the tastiest, sweetest one I've tasted. I thought I've had some good ones in the past, but this one is better. I haven't the foggiest idea what the name of this variety is, but the man I got them from said he was told it was from Thailand. He grew his own trees from seed he had saved from the fruit. So I'm trying the same. I know that papayas will cross with others around them, but since his trees are fairly isolated, I'm hoping the seeds grow pretty much true to type. 

This papaya is large and elongated. Red inside like a strawberry papaya, but far more sweet and flavorful. The tree starts producing early and low along the trunk. This makes picking far easier in the beginning. 

I have several hundred seeds that I've saved from the fruits I've eaten. Two weeks ago I sowed my first batch in some moist peat moss, kept them warm, and just now some of the seeds are starting to germinate. It takes that long for papaya seed to sprout. I just potted up my first 150 germinated seeds. Exciting, isn't it!!! 

I'm not sure if this variety will be successful in producing good papayas on my farm. My place is rather high in elevation and cool at night. But we shall see. The vast majority of my seedlings will end up at a farm a few miles down the road, at a lower and warmer elevation. It should be successful down there. Any if those farmers are successful in getting tasty sweet papayas from these trees, it will give them a year around income boost. Right now their farm income is rather seasonal and sporadic. 

I'm starting the sprouted seeds in cans......mostly old Spam cans, but also some cat food cans. Papayas are shallow rooted, with roots that spread laterally more so than vertically. So they will do ok starting out in these cans. I will be gently using a fork to extract them from their cans when it comes time to transplant them.

future papaya trees

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Using Mulch in my Greenhouses

On Facebook I see a lot of photos of people's greenhouse. Here in Hawaii, they are often actually high tunnels as opposed to the greenhouses one finds on the mainland. But regardless of what you call them, folks here use them to grow food. Sometimes plants are grown right in the ground, but more often than not, they are growing in some sort of raised bed or container because of our lava rock ground. What I've noticed is that no one seems to use mulch in their greenhouses. I'm not sure why.

I mulch the soil in my greenhouses, for the same reason I use mulch in my outdoor gardens. 
... Weed suppression
... Soil moisture retention
... Add to the soil fertility 

Due to the sun and heat, the soil inside the greenhouse dries out quickly. It's common for me to water a greenhouse every other day if it is not mulched. By mulching, I can reduce the need to water to about every 5th day. When it's not windy and sunny, the greenhouse can go a full week between waterings. 

I prefer to use fresh grass clippings for mulch, especially for the greenhouses. It's easy to use and easy to control the thickness of the mulch. 

Mulched basil and young tomato plants in a greenhouse. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

A Couple of Pictures

Here's a couple of photos of things I was talking about yesterday.

Kitchen garden at the house----

One of the gardens right outside my front door. Yup, no lawn! 

Actually, the gardens totally circumvent the house. Sweet potatoes and comfrey in the more shady spots. Pineapples in both sun and shade. Various herbs and onion greens in the full sun. Also beans, peas, chard, bok choy and other Asian greens. Turmeric in the shade. Taro in full sun and semi-shade. Pipinolas climbing the trees.

And here's the hugel style pit I just filled in. It still needs to be topped with compost before planting. Getting a good photo is impossible with just a cellphone, so I took several to give you a better idea.


The green grass clipping are fresh cut today. The other clippings are a couple days old. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

General Update

First of all, I had assumed (wrongly) that my life's activities would be getting back to normal along about now. But alas, not the case. I've been busy off the farm helping out seniors that are still avoiding social interacting due to coronavirus. There are trips to the pharmacy to pick up medications, runs to the dump to haul off their trash, shopping trips and visits to the food giveaways to keep meals in their kitchens. I've also made a few visits to check out health problems with their pets, and set up pig traps to eliminate the feral pigs that have  moved onto their places. Then a good friend of mine badly sprained her ankle the other day, so I've now added another daily stop to my schedule. Don't think that I'm complaining. I'm not. I'm just explaining why I haven't had much time for farming and blogging recently. Add to this the farmers market, and my schedule is full. 

I'm managed to get a little farming squeezed into each day. I've gotten another small hugel style pit almost filled in. It's one alongside the driveway, created by the new rock wall being built. About 20' long and 2' deep at the rock wall, sloping up 8' wide to join the hill. It took a lot of vegetation, cardboard, and manures to fill it in. It was like making a gigantic compost pile in the hole, starting out with compacted layers of wood (branches, tree truck pieces, and discarded heat-treated pallet wood), then layer after layer of organic material. I have a seemingly endless supply of organic material for such pits. It's just a case of time and effort to collect it. Anyway, it's filled in and now only needs to be topped with a layer of finished compost and mulch. Once done, I plan to plant pineapples there. I have a couple dozen pineapple tops just begging for a place to be planted. 

Up at the house I've kept the kitchen gardens going. I make a lot of soups out of those gardens. Peas. Beans. Onions and green onions. Beets. Potatoes. Chinese greens. Other greens. Herbs. By growing them near the house, it's easy to harvest what I need to finish off the soup or stir fries I'm working on. 

A month ago I plant little seedlings in the greenhouses. Tomatoes. Basil. Cilantro. For the past two weeks I've been able to harvest the herbs as I need them. The tomato plants have tiny baby tomatoes already! But it will be a while before I'll be harvesting ripe tomatoes. 

Almost each day I manage to get something seeded or planted. Not much, but I'm focusing upon getting at least something planted each day. This past week I've gotten 42 papaya seedling started. Also potted up a couple dozen taro keikis. Sowed some green onion seeds, and planted a few ounces of bean seeds. Started some more pipinolas. A friend just gave me 3  baby trees, so it's a priority job to get them planted in the next couple of days. 

So you see, I've been keeping busy. Just not farming as much as I had been. And not working much on the house or the cat sanctuary pens. But I did make a bunch of picnic tables for our local restaurant. I feel really good about that! The past 2 Saturdays we've been eating breakfast there, using one of those tables. It's set up in a side garden, so it's secluded, private, and alone. A rather safe place to eat out. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Farmers Market Update

Leigh asked about the farmers market. 

It's up and running again, but in "safe mode", as hubby calls it. Here's some of the changes......

..... Vendor tents are now spaced 30' apart. This gives very spacious aisleways so that people don't bunch up. 
..... I can fit 25 vendors into the space that I had been able to fit 44 before, along with the music and demonstration areas, which have been completely eliminated. And there is no coffee truck taking up the space either. The coffee truck is pau. The owner has decided to shut the business down.
..... There is no longer free access into the market area from the parking lots. Everyone must enter and exit via one controlled entry point. 
..... There is a hand sanitation station at the entry. Everyone must sanitize their hands every time they enter and re-enter (even the vendors). The market provides the sanitizer. You're wearing gloves? They must get sanitized too. 
..... Masks and hand sanitation are required for entry, even if you're a vendor. Don't want to wear a mask? No problem -- you just won't be allowed in. I've already had to turn people away. And it didn't bother me one iota. I've been called a nazi, Hitler, gestopo, and the most popular - a bitch. No worries, you still can't come in. Not my problem. 
..... Social distancing is required and enforced. 
..... There is a grounds security person who enforces market rules. Violate them and you will be corrected. Ignore the security person and you're evicted. Call him a piece of shit and you're banned from the market. Vendors are not immune from being banned. And I'm not shy about calling in the police if needed. 
..... Market hours are 8 to noon. That's a bit shorter than before in order to discourage lunch people from sitting at the market to eat their meals. The prepared food is intended to be for carry out. 
..... The number of days has been expanded from once a week to 3 days. The market now operates on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This is for two reasons. 1- all the vendors could not be accommodated on one day, and 2- my goal is to have no more than 50 customers on the grounds at anyone particular time. To achieve this I needed to spread things out. 
..... Up until this past week, the only things allowed to be offered for sale were food related and covid-19 support items.  Nothing else. Just this week our county mayor stated that certain other sales were now allowable, which includes jewelry & repairs, books, and apparel. So after working with the county civil defense, the market got approval to expand its offerings as long as we strictly adhered to the rules. And we have and shall continue to do that. Yeah, just call me "the bitch", but I get the last laugh because our market will be open. And we are probably the safest retail place in our district. 

The other manager (she runs the Monday and Friday market days) set up a Facebook page for the market. She's been posting videos of the market day, doing a quick walk through. It's for you to enjoy and see what our little endeavor looks like. Plus it helps the county officials keep an eye on us. And importantly, it helps us monitor violations and correct them. Yeah, I've spotted some violations via the video.....people think they're safe doing it behind my back. Ha, caught ya!!!  

Check us out on Facebook.    O Kau' Kakou Market 
(To our Hawaiian friends, yes its misspelled. The okina is in the wrong location. "J" made a mistake and we haven't gotten around to trying to change it.) 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Gifted Fish

My fish. 
Here's a beauty. It's a ehu, aka ruby snapper. I was gifted this fish by a wonderful fisherman who is currently giving all his catch away to senior citizens in our community. It's part of the community effort to support others in our community ohana during these difficult times.  

This is one thing I really love about living where we do. We have a nice community. Of course we have our bad eggs here too, but all in all the people help one another when there is need. Several fishermen are going out to bring back a catch that they give away to the elderly. Several hunters are bringing in pigs, goats, and turkeys which are also being given away to families in need. I know of several gardeners giving away their veggies and fruits. A number of landowners are allowing people come pick the fruits off their trees. This is all part of the aloha spirit that thrives here, if you let it and encourage it. 

Getting back to the fish......... I've never tried eating this fish before, so it's a new experience for me. Cleaning and filleting it was a breeze, outside of the fact that I stabbed my finger on one of the fin spines. I bet that's gonna be sore in a couple of days. Anyway... It was suggested to coat the fish in mayonnaise and bake it. I'll try a small piece like that just to give it a try. And even though I gave half the fish to a senior that I know,  I have plenty of fish to try other preparation methods too. I'm looking forward to tasting my first piece of Hawaiian ehu. .

Friday, May 15, 2020

An Update

All's well on this end. Been checking on the stay-at-home people, dropping off groceries and prescriptions to them. Been helping out people in need of various assistance, like getting their trash to the dump, that sort of thing. (Driving a pickup truck makes me a valuable person!) I've mowed a few extra lawns this week. My main off-the-farm focus has been on getting the local farmers market reopened. Believe me, it's been an interesting challenge involving lots of phone calls. Somewhere in there I've managed to get a bit of farm work done too. 

This week I actually got stuff planted. Wow. I made some progress. 
.....104 green onion seedlings planted into corners here and there
.....50 taro keikis into pots for resale
.....12 sq ft of peas, variety: Oregon Trail
.....14 sq ft of yellow snap beans, variety: Carson
.....36 plugs of Genovese basil planted into a greenhouse
.....10 tomato plants into a greenhouse 

I also dug up a dozen banana keikis to give to a friend. Digging around here isn't easy! I got distracted and ended up digging up a pile of rocks to add to my driveway rock wall project. 

Now if only I can get to those cilantro and beet seedlings and get them into the garden. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Catching Up with the Pineapples

Now that I'm on a roll with the pineapple scene, I have a strong desire to get more of my pineapple tops into the ground. Last week as an incentive to pull weeds, I had laid down rather ugly looking layers of cardboard in my hugelpits....thus resulting in an urge to cover it up, therefore = weed pulling to gather mulch material. So along somewhat this same line of reasoning, to help kickstart myself with planting my accumulated pineapple tops, I took one of the rattier looking panfuls of tops and set them beside my entry steps, right where I'd have to look at them a dozen times a day. Finally that did the trick. Today I got 21 tops planted. Yahoo! 

The pineapple tops have been sitting in water for several weeks just waiting to get into the ground. So they are a little sad looking. But a sharp pair of scissors removes all the brown lead tips making them look a whole lot better. I remove the lower leaves, revealing the stem/stalk. This just makes it easier for the roots to form and expand out. 

Of the 21 tops I got planted today, I think 19 should make it. 2 looked in worse shape than the others. My own fault for letting them sit around too long. I still have another group to plant and hope to get to them tomorrow, if it doesn't rain too bad. Not that I can't work in the rain, but it's not as enjoyable for sure. 

Why am I planting so many pineapple tops? First, because I have them. Second, because I'm now on a mission to grow pineapples. While they are quite sellable, I also want to supply a local jam maker with fresh pineapples. He has come up with a recipe for pina colada jam that is to die for. His only problem is that he doesn't have very many pineapple plants himself. So I intend to supply him with plenty of them in exchange for jam. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Finding Pineapple Plants

Pineapples can really get lost in the grasses and weeds. I'm not sure why, but everything likes to grow around pineapples.....just like things like to grow around very spiny cacti. Those evil little gods in life seem to take joy in watching me try to weed around a cactus! If you don't already know, the very nature of pineapple plants makes it difficult to weed around them. So my choice has been to use a generous amount of mulch to keep weeds down. Commercially, they use herbicides and plastic film, but those are not part of my farm program. So a hoe or hand sickle, plus mulch, works for me with pineapples. I just can't let the weeds over grow. Yes, I've done that too many times when I first started. And here again I find that I've neglected a patch far too long. So I have to find the pineapple plants.  

Pineapple plants -- lost

This past week 5 pineapple beds got recovered. The one pictured here was by far the worst. In the process I found a small ripe pineapple. What a nice reward! Fried pineapple with dinner tonight! I still have a few more pineapple beds to weed, and who knows, perhaps I'll find another one ready for eating. I can only hope. 

Pineapple plants -- found

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Naked Gardening Day

Hey, anybody notice this was the first Saturday in May? Hurrah, it's worldwide naked gardening day!

This morning started out beautiful for it. Sunny. Warm. But it all went downhill. Over cast. Cool. Occasional drizzle. So instead of trying to get some sun where the sun doesn't normally shine, I opted to spend some time in the flower garden trying my hand at drawing. Too chilly to do it naked. But this is what I was playing around with........
I'm not much of an artist, but I can draw a decent mango or pineapple. And besides, it's fun. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Mana Piko

Today I finally got to a project that I've been promising myself I'd get to......planting taro keikis. It's way overdue. I've been growing several varieties of taro for a couple of years, gradually building up the population. At last it's time to prepare the keikis for sale.

With all my varieties, I started out with one plant of each variety. Each year I would increase my inventory. Weeeell, it didn't always work out. Sometimes the mother plant would die for one reason or another.  And when the pig got loose a while back, she tore up the taro patches. So that was a major set back too. I lost a couple of varieties back then. But what survived is now doing well and ready for potting up. 

First variety I'm tackling : Mana Piko. Being a mana type, I sometimes see double crowns growing atop the corm. It's really strange to see. No other group does this but the manas. 

It looks like I have around 70 keikis. This afternoon I got 50 trimmed up and potted. Now it's a case of tending them and letting them grow.
These will live in a mini greenhouse until ready fior sale. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Avocado Season

We're coming to the end of this time's avocado season. For weeks now we've been feasting on avos to the point that were really tired of them. But I know from prior seasons that it won't be long before we will be longing for them again, so in preparation, I'm freezing some mashed avocado.

The simplest way I've discovered so far is to simply mash the avos into a pulp, spoon it into a small freezable containers, then squeeze a little lime or lemon juice on top. The citrus is to prevent the avo from turning brown. 

Not the prettiest jars around, but they work fine enough for this purpose. 

By using small containers, I can defrost the amount we will eat when I prepare guacamole for a dinner. I don't have enough freezer space to store enough to last until next harvest, but at least we will be able to enjoy many more servings of guac & chips. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown - An Update

This first month is almost over. But we have another full month to survive. Lockdown has been extended through all of May. 

How is this little homestead farm going to survive? Basically with not too much problem. We have plenty of food, though certain items no longer grace our table. But between what I grow and what is at the local farmers market, plus fish that a good friend brings me, we are eating just fine. We've been making lots of meals out of the freezer, so by the end of May I should actually be able to clean my freezer and start over again! Defrosting that freezer is way I overdue, so something good is coming out of this extended lockdown. 

So food is taken care of, what about supplies? Again, mostly not a problem. I stocked up on most things, actually overstocked. But I'm seeing a few things running low. Mostly it's cat food. Buying cat supplies was hubby's duty, and he only laid in a month's worth. He was far more an optimist than I was, which is very strange. You see, he's a pessimist and I'm the optimist in this partnership. Anyway, it means that I'm going to have to breakdown and buy several bags of cat food before the end of May. Two other things I hadn't foreseen being all that important -- bleach and alcohol. I still have a gallon of bleach left. Plus I'm now using swimming pool chlorine tables for the catchment water in order to save the bleach for other sanitation issues. And alcohol--- luckily I had several bottles stockpiled. I still have 1 left which I hope lasts until alcohol returns to the stores. If not, then I'll be distilling my own.  (ps-- I found bleach at the Ace Hardware today. I had to go in a buy a can of spray paint for the Wednesday market and was greeted with a shelf full of bleach jugs. With joy, I added a gallon to our supplies. I feel confident I have enough to make it comfortably to June.)

We're not in isolation here. We need to leave the farm daily in order to feed the feral cats in town, plus to check on some housebound seniors. I'm often bringing food to those seniors, making trips to the pharmacy and banks for them, taking their trash to the trash transfer station. While out and about, I pick up gasoline for my farm equipment and milk for us. I take care to pick a time when there are few if any customers. 

The other day "M" asked me about getting garden seeds. Apparently there has been a mad rush on seeds lately. Gardeners either can't get them or they are in short supply. This little farm is just fine. I got my main seed order in before the epidemic hit. Plus I already grow my own seed for certain crops. And being a farm, I was able to order seeds for "M" with no problem. 

The one thing I've had my mainland friends complaining about is lack of out-of-the-house entertainment. Honestly, it's not that a big of a deal for us. I tend to stay at home working on the farm during normal times. And our nightlife means being asleep by 8. Oh, we're missing a few things, like meeting friends weekly for coffee or a meal. That is something we really miss, but it's tolerable. Also I'm not driving to South Point every week anymore in order to beachcomb and relax. Nor spending an hour at Honuapo shoreline like I'm used to each week. Yes, I miss that. But it's not horrific deprivation. And since we never spend time at the bar, go bowling, play golf, watch movies, go partying ----well --- maybe we're just dull people. We don't miss that sort of stuff. 

The bottom line is that we are doing ok. As long as we don't catch coronavirus, we will come out of the lockdown just fine. But it will mean we will have one helluva big shopping trip to restock the pantry in order to get ready for hurricane season....and the fickle volcano that we live on. Gotta be prepared. This lockdown was an excellent test to see how well prepared we were. And I think we have done fairly well. It just was difficult to foresee the need for so much alcohol and bleach. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Using Fresh Manure

There's different opinions out there about using fresh manure in the garden. So I'd like to explore this topic a tad. I can only speak from my own experiences, so I may say things completely opposite of what you've read in some book. I think that the reason behind the differing advice is that there are too many variables to take them all into account with one chunk of gardening instructions. 

Fresh manures vary....
1... Animal species. Certain animal manures have a reputation of being "cold" and thus can be applied without composting or aging. Included in this group would be rabbit, sheep, and goat manure. Other manures are called "hot" and generally get composted or aged prior to using. On my own farm this would include donkey and chicken manure. And then there are omnivore (other than poultry) and carnivore manures, the most recognizable on the farm wood be pig. These last two types are the most controversial, not because they are hot vs cold, but because they carry a stigma. Our culture shies away from such manures. 
     I have often applied rabbit and sheep manure without composting or aging. I'll harvest the manure and use it as is, often immediately. I've never had a problem. But be aware that my animals are primarily grassfed and are not fed excess salt. That very well might have a bearing. 
     I often compost or age donkey and chicken manure. Not so much on purpose because it is "hot", but often because I have more than I need at the particular moment. The donkey manure is large lumps, so by throwing it in with the compost, it softens and breaks the lumps down. Then it's easier to use. The chicken manure is mixed in with the pen litter, which is chopped up grass and weeds. So it's already decomposing right inside the chicken pen. When I scoop up a bucket of pen litter to use, there actually isn't much really fresh chicken manure in it. It's mostly aged to some degree and decomposing already. 
    I prefer to use omnivore and carnivore manure either hot composted or else restricting it to just flower beds. Reason? Intestinal parasites. Hot composting destroys parasite eggs, if the composting is done correctly. But I find it easier to just use these type manures in the flowerbeds where they won't accidently contaminate food. I used to dig these manures into the orchard areas, and since my land doesn't flood, it was a safe enough method. But with a wwoofer now living on my land who tends to pick up and eat fruits that have fallen to the ground, I no longer feel that it is safe manuring the fruit trees that way. 
    I have not seen a problem with any of my manure applications. But then again, I don't use large volumes of it at any one time. I have had better results using frequent small feelings. So again, this is another viable that needs to be taken into consideration. 

2... What the animal is being fed. All my own livestock is grassfed. They get very little grain and no salt supplements. That's contrary to what you'll read in the books. But the system works here in Hawaii. If I were raising horses, I would be using mineral/salt supplements. But I'm not. My donkey isn't a young one needing to grow, nor is she being used for breeding or draft work. As for my sheep - if I were aiming for fast meat gains on the lambs, I would consider grain/salt supplements. Or if I were pressing my ewes to breed as often as possible. But I'm doing neither. My livestock get a tad of salt as a treat now and then. But not a daily onslaught. That's much like how hubby and I are doing it ourselves. We don't consume large amounts of daily salt either. I haven't had a saltshaker in my house for the past 15 years. We get our salt treats from our weekly restaurant outings. 
     When an animal consumes a lot of salt, the excess needs to be excreted. Manure is one outlet. I wonder if the high salt content of the manure is what contributes to the "burning" of the plants since I don't normally see plant burning from my manures, but other people report it from the manures that they use. Could the high salt content be part of the problem? I don't know, but it's something to be explored. 

3... How it is used. Digging or tilling manure into the soil gives different results that applying it on top like a mulch. And using it as a weak liquid fertilizer also gives different results. Applying in large quantity would cause differences as compared to lesser amounts. 

4... The type of soil. When I first started working with my soil, I found that plants really hyper responded to manures, especially fresh manures. They grew robustly. Then the response seem to  change, with the added manure resulting in too much nitrogen. The plants did poorer. But after a couple of years, I again saw a change in the trends. The plants did well with manures, even the  fresh stuff. Could the answer be the soil life, the increased and established soil microbes? I started out with crappy soil. It took a couple of years before the soil started to look and act robustly alive and "healthy". Now my soil is full of life of all kinds.

5... Soil moisture. Soil that dried out seemed to have problems with manures, especially fresh ones. But if I was diligent in keeping the soil moist, never letting more than the top inch or two get really dry, I saw less problems when applying manures. When I switched to keeping mulch atop the soil at all times, I stopped seeing issues with using fresh manures, at least with the way I was using them. Again, I am suspecting this has to do with robust soil life. 

6... Soil temperature. Higher or lower soil temperatures tend to effect not only soil life, but the various chemical reactions going on in the soil. It can effect the availability of nutrients. Here in Hawaii my soil temperature doesn't fluctuate wildly, which again may be part of the reason I don't see many problems with manure applications. 

So you see, there are lots of variables. There are most likely more variables that could be taken into account. I'm no soil scientist, so I just observe and learn as I go. I experiment and watch. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Weekly Mini Fertilization

Mini fertilization. This is a method I've come to prefer over periodic macro fertilization (applying fertilizer when the growing bed is prepared just prior to planting), or even micro fertilization which implies that small amounts of nutrients are delivered with each watering. My method of mini fertilization is this........

Weekly, or sometimes only every other week, I make up a weak solution of fertilizer of some sort. Sometimes it's diluted urine. Other times it's sheep/donkey manure soaked in water overnight. Other times it's chicken pen litter stirred into a trashcanful of water. This rather weak solution is used to water the plants. Not much. Perhaps a cupful or less to a pineapple or taro plant. Or a light watering over a bed of peas or beets. I don't have any specific formula to give you. Sometimes I make it stronger if the plants act like they could use it, sometimes weaker if they are growing too well. And it depends upon whether or not the plants need irrigation that week. If they need to be watered, I make the fertilizer solution weaker and apply more volume. If the ground is already wet, I use a stronger solution, but less of it. 

One little side note in case you plan to try emulating me. Keep in mind that I also amend my soil with compost prior to planting. Plus I use fresh grass clippings or shredded compost as a mulch, which in turn provides the plants with nutrients. So this mini fertilization system isn't the sole source of plant nutrients. 

Yes, I know people are going to ask, "How much?" Ok, I'll try to give some guidelines for about 100 square foot of garden space.
... Urine. 1/2 gallon per trashcanful of water. 
... Manure. 2 cupfuls per trashcanful water. 
... Chicken pen litter. 1/2 gallon of manure containing litter per trashcanful of water. 

That's only a very rough guideline, because sometimes the plants don't need much fertilizer. Other times they are screaming for more. I have to read the plants to see how much they need. At times I even use much less than this amount. And now that I've said that, there are times that I double the fertilizer to make it stronger. 

I stir the fertilizer into the water. With urine, I can apply it immediately. For manure and pen litter, I stir and let it sit an hour, stir again, then apply. I use a sump pump to hose the water onto the garden area. It's slow, compared to farm irrigation, but it's a pleasant and easy way to pass time in the garden, contemplating the world---or perhaps future gardens. It's also a good time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks. I do a lot of reading and this is one of the ways that I have time to digest another book--while fertilizing the garden. I find the act of watering the garden to be a time of calm and rest. In fact, when I'm bushed from doing other farm work, I'll often go water the garden beds for some relaxation, plus sip a glass of something for rehydration at the same time. Add to this an iPod playing music and I set. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Coronavirus Has Arrived

Sad to say, but coronavirus has arrived in my little town. I can't tell you more because our health department won't release more information. People here find it very frustrating that we don't have access to more information so that we can better educated steps to protect ourselves. We're blinded. 

Since we have no particulars, I'm seeing two different reactions from the people I know. 1- taking more severe precautions. Becoming paranoid. 2- blowing the whole thing off and becoming far less cautious. The reasoning? I can't do anything and the officials don't care. So it looks like I'm going to get it too, so I'll just enjoy myself now until I get sick. 

In my opinion, group 2's reaction is why the officials should be providing more information. People are so stressed out that many are simply giving up. They are going to be the ones spreading the virus. 

So how am I doing? Outside of being depressed last night, and angry today, I'm doing fine. Really. I hope to stay angry. It's better than losing hope. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

New Plantings

For my square foot accountants, here are my recent plantings.... 

Comfrey - 21 new starts. 
Beans - 16 sq ft , variety : Royal Burgundy
              12 sq ft , variety : Calima
Peas - 10 sq ft , variety : Oregon sugar pod II 
Green onions - 20 sq ft

I have lots of various seeds just started in the mini greenhouses, but I won't list them until the seedlings are ready to transplant out into the garden. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Start of Recovery

Right now this farm is an excellent example of why NOT to neglect the weekly work schedule. After three months of doing little except harvesting, I'm faced with weedy beds and empty growing containers. It's enough to make a new gardener throw up their hands and quit. Not me. I see it as a challenge in a way.  And I know that I am capable of whipping this baby back into shape. Besides, it's the kind of work I enjoy doing. (And with this coronavirus lockdown, I surely could use the exercise!) 

The very first thing I did was create myself a goal. I spread out a layer of cardboard in one of the larger biotrash/hugelpits I'm working on filling in. Ugly exposed cardboard gave me an incentive to gather lots of weeds and trimmings to cover it up. The easiest and quickest way to get said weeds was by cleaning out the growing beds. Many trashcanfuls of weeds later, the cardboard was covered and I had several nice cleaned veggie beds. 

A new comfrey bed. Three weeks ago this was solid tall weeds. 

A little shovel and tiller work gave me space to sow seeds. And while I was at it, I decided to divide a large comfrey clump and start new comfrey areas. Looking at bare garden soil makes me want to plant something in it. It's like looking at a button on the wall and having a strong urge to push it. Yes, I admit that I've pushed buttons. And I just gotta plant something! 

Comfrey starts. 

So the beds around the house now have a couple types of beans growing, peas, green onions, and baby comfrey cuttings. It's a start. 

Onions, beans, and taro out my front door. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

April 15

Normally this date is Tax Day, but not this time around. Instead, it became Reopen The Market Day. With much trepidation, I reopened the local farmers market. The past couple days were spent prepping, trying to foresee any problems and fixing them before they happened. The coronavirus problem hasn't gone away yet. No, officials waited far too long before taking action for this to be only a short term problem. So we're stuck with this mess. But folks around here still need to eat, and importantly, they need a safer way to get their food than going into a closed in building full of lots of shoppers not wearing protection and not social distancing. Supermarkets are proving to be dangerous places to go.

The market grounds are spacious, open, airy, and normally sunny. It could accommodate 20 vendors widely spaced apart. Parking is such that people can avoid one another with little effort. So working from this base, a small market could be operated far safer than any grocery store. 

I've opened the market to food related items and sanitation/protection items. Period. Nothing else allowed. Today we had 11 vendors show up selling a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, juices, jams, honey, popcorn, and prepared food. In addition there were some food plants, handmade soap, and masks for sale.

Sign at the entrance. 

Market rules included wide spacing of tents, social distancing, sanitizing of hands and gloves, and facial covering for everybody-- no exceptions. All the vendors, their helpers, and 177 customers complied. But I ended up having to refuse admittance to 5 people who would not wear a mask or bandana. They expected me to argue with them, but frankly I didn't have the desire nor time. I simply stated that they couldn't enter and went about my business. They got the message and left. Little did they know that I prepared to have them arrested if they had not left. Yes, I had done my homework and was prepared. 

I have been asked if this was a wise thing to do, opening the market. It's a tough question to answer. It will only be in hindsight that I will be judged to be wise or foolish. But I took serious steps to ensure the safety of vendors and customers alike. The market looked to be far safer than any grocery store I've been in during the past month.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Back in the Saddle Again

Ok, I need to force myself back in the habit of blogging. First it was the farmers market that kept me away, simply because I was devoting all my free time to creating it. Then along came coronavirus and boom! more market. But my free time got gobbled up trying to set up schedules for checking in on many of the now housebound seniors, bringing them supplies, picking up their medical prescriptions, hauling their trash to the dump, etc. Right about now I've settled into a routine and once again find that I can have time for myself. Whoopee! 

This past week I'm back to farming. Whipping this place back into shape going to be a long uphill battle. Weeds moved in and thrived. Crops got picked but neglected. Perennials could use some cleaning up. Everything is crying for mulch. Hee, hee, hee, hee --- I'm in my glory......the plants need me! 

While I'm gleefully back to farming, I haven't picked up the habit again of blogging about it. Evening comes and for some reason my interest turns to other things -- creating a new soup, playing puzzle games. I even dragged out the sewing machine and mended clothes. Egads, next thing you know I'll start housecleaning! This coronavirus lockdown has caused me to go insane. That must be the answer because housecleaning and I aren't known to be bosom buddies. (By the way, I scrubbed the kitchen floor last night.)

So this is my first post back in the saddle. I'll start taking photos of the farm tomorrow and give everyone an update. 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

OKK Open Air Market

In the past 3 weeks, all my spare time has been devoted to a community service project. You see, I somehow got into the position of being made the market manager for our town's new "farmers market". By the way, since not all the vendors offer farm products, I'm calling this an open air market instead of farmers market, but it's basically the same thing.

The Ace Hardware, who previously allowed the market to set up on their grounds, withdrew the offer. Ace contacted the area's community service non-profit group, O'Ka'u Kakou (OKK for short), who decided to take the market. So the past several weeks has been a mad scramble to assign a manager, design the market, prepare the grounds, do the paperwork, make signs, etc. This turned out to be a lot of time and work. 

The end result made it all worth it. Opening day saw 28 vendors set up, more than the original market. The town's coffee truck was there. A local group provided music. Everyone told me that it felt like a festival and they loved it. 

There were a few glitches that were fixed as the day went on, and the first day revealed a few design flaws. Nothing serious. Just needs a bit of tweaking. 

Wanna try a cup of Ka'u coffee? 

The second day is rapidly approaching. 8 more vendors want to join the fun. I'm looking forward to day 2, and simply hope that it doesn't rain. If you're in the area, you really should stop by. You can enjoy browsing the booths...talking with craftsmen, farmers, artists...sampling the baked goods and lunch fare...getting a drink at the coffee truck. The market will be adding picnic tables, so please take a seat under the shade trees and enjoy the music. Maybe we can convince some more of our talented residents to come out and provide entertainment. Any interested jugglers, mimes, hula dancers, street actors, and others out there?

Numerous flavors of island honey. Free taste testing! 

One of our vegetables ladies. 

Jams made from local Ka'u fruits. 

Fresh baked breads, a local favorite. 

Local grown mushrooms. What a treat! 

What could be better than fresh squeezed orange juice from our own local oranges! 

Fresh Mexican food.

One of the local musicians. They were great! 

Monday, February 3, 2020

No More Tall Banana Trees For Me

I decided to eliminate my really tall banana trees. First of all, they are difficult to tend. As the trunk grows taller, removing dead leaves and killing any banana roller caterpillars becomes impossible. Plus harvesting the bananas becomes dangerous for me. The trunks weight a lot, and I'm not always successful in cutting them down gently. One of these days I can see myself getting hurt while trying to harvest a banana bunch.

The problem that tipped my decision was that the coqui frogs were getting into them. With trees that tall, it was impossible for me to spray the frogs. So these tall bananas have to go. 

With chainsaw in hand, I buzzed the trees down. Cutting the trunks into manageable pieces, I carted off the trunks and leaves to the compost bins. I filled 11 bins!!! Needless to say, I didn't do this all in one day. Nope. It took several days of hard work. 

Digging out the mats would be quite an effort. Rather than doing that, I plan to simply harvest the regrowth for the compost bins. Whenever a banana tree gets too tall, I'll cut it up for biomass. If the whole mat eventually dies, well so be it.

This clump is beside the chicken pen. I also cut down the clump on the far side of the pen too. 

Banana patch along the driveway is regrowing.  

Since deciding to eliminate the tall varieties, I've been making an effort to propagate the dwarf ones. So rather than cutting away unwanted keikis, I've been digging them up and starting new banana patches instead. With the coqui frog invasion, I've shifted to short banana varieties. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Hawaiian Landrace Limas

Just harvested my first beans from the Hawaiian landrace lima bean vines. As you may recall, I planted 11 beans in one of the greenhouses. That was way back on July 7th. Some seeds didn't germinate because they were old, so I ended up with 6 robust plants.

Those 6 plants took ever the entire 10' by 20' greenhouse. You talk about being an aggressive vine! I could have been more attentive and trained the vines better, but after harvesting the other limas on the left hand side of the greenhouse, I took the lazy approach and let the Hawaiian limas on the righthand side just cross over the ceiling and take over the lefthand side as well. 

So it took 6 1/2 months before the first pods dried down for harvest. Wow, that's a heck of a long time.

The pods I harvested contained 2 to 3 beans. 

In addition, this variety to big on growing leaves and vine, but very skimpy on producing pods. There's not many pods on these monster sized plants, at least not what one would expect as compared to other lima varieties. 

But the variety is unique. The lima beans are very interesting to look at. Large. Not all that plump. Longer than wide. Beautifully marked with black and white. It's the color and markings that I find intriguing. 

So pretty! 

If I were growing this to be a staple crop, I'd need to grow acres of them because of the poor yield. Other limas are far more productive. But I still like this variety. I think that I'll continue to grow it. It will be a novelty crop, rather than a staple. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Equipment Shed

Life has been busy lately. One of my emergency projects was fixing the equipment shed.

First a little background. Fifteen years ago we cobbled together a simple open shed for temporary use. We needed a place to stash stuff out of the weather. We had cut down a bunch of ohia trees in order to open up an area for the solar panels, so we had all those poles and opted to use them for the roughly built shelter. We figured on using this shed for 2, perhaps 3 years at most, therefore we used the poles green (freshly cut) and didn't bother to debark them. Nor did we set them on a foundation of any sort. They sat right on the ground. 

Then life happened, and we never did anything about making a proper open shed. We continued to use this one. It's absolutely amazing that it lasted 15 years! 

In the last storm which dumped 7 inches of rain and blew some serious windy gusts, several of the upright support poles gave up the ghost and snapped. They were so dry rotted that I'm puzzled that they hadn't broken earlier. Not just little sections here and there, but the entire lower half of all the poles were dry rotted right through. Sitting right in the ground had allowed both moisture and fungus to creep up the poles. 

I took a before photo of the damage in order to show you, but I accidently deleted it. But things looked bad. Just imagine 5 of the poles in the front were snapped off at various heights, plus one in the back corner. The roof never fully collapsed but it sure was a wavy, wonky mess. When I came out one morning and saw the damage, my immediate task was to get the dogs out from under the collapsing roof. They have a 10' x 30' kennel pen there. Next was to remove the equipment that I could. 

Hubby was all for pulling out the remaining poles and bringing the whole mess down. David took a look, checked all the horizontal poles and found them to be sound. He suggested replacing all the upright poles with 4"x4"s, thus saving the structure. I gave him the go ahead to try. 

First task was to brace things so that it didn't totally collapse. Next was to acquire a bunch of 4"x4"s. Then by using two hydraulic jacks, David coaxed the roof up one spot at a time, replacing the upright poles, this time making sure that they rested atop concrete.

Using just two of these jacks, David was able to jack up and support the roof while replacing each upright pole. 

Amazing. He made it look easy and simple. 

So after a day and a half, we now have a repaired open shed which should have many years of life left in it.

With the broken poles replaced, the roof is back in position. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

How Wet Is It?

I met "F" in town at the coffee truck today and she asked if I was getting lots of rain where I am. Rain? Gosh, do I have rain? You betcha!! It's been raining a awful lot for the past five years. And recently it's been wet almost every day. This past couple months have been the worst so far.

Here's a photo to show how wet it's been recently. This pipinola is still on the vine......and it's sprouting! Not only is it sprouting, but it's growing roots too. And this is not the only one doing it. I'd estimate that 50% of the mature pipinolas are sprouting right on the vine. Yup, things are wet here.
Green sprouts and roots while still on the vine. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Guess what just came out of the woods.

I had no idea that a hen has been sitting on a clutch of eggs. Looks like she has 6 chicks. 

Sometimes around here I get surprised. 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Cat condo #2 - second work day

Rain moved in before much got accomplished. But there's a bit added to the condo, enough to make me satisfied. Little steps are fine with me.

So, the plywood got put up on the walls. The first two pieces of fencing got nailed in place. Then a steady stream of water fell from the sky, resulting in a mad dash for cover. So I....not some cat....became the first to occupy the first cat condo. I can vouch for the roof being watertight. 

The rain never stopped, though it lessened considerably. But progress on the cat pen halted for the day. It's not that I don't work in the rain....I do!!!....but the hammer tends to slip off the nail and fence staple heads when it's wet. So I opted to go harvest the excess plants from the ponds and gather other material for composting, thus filling another compost bin before calling it quits. Time to move indoors where it's drier. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Cat Condo #2

With the first condo almost done, the second is being roughed out. It's basically the same, but a tad different. The roof will be a bit different. The door on the other side. And I plan to paint it differently. Hubby simply didn't want them all looking exactly identical.

Noodles is checking out the new construction. 

Most of the materials for making this condo are new. But I have found a couple used 2x4s and a 4x4 to incorporate into the building. Of course the roof metal is reused.