Monthly Archives: February 2013

February Update

Today we are busily transplanting baby plants in the ground and rejoicing over all the blessings God has poured upon us as we pursue sharing the two handed Gospel.  I was thinking it was time for an update and a preview of things to come here at the Farm.

Our millet crop is just sprouting and it appears the majority of it did not germinate.  I was worried about our inability to keep the soil damp depsite watering 1-2 times a day.  Our soil still is in need of more organic material to hold water.  A Canadian farmer just came over to visit an hour ago and gave me some tips to help the next crop germinate.  We will add a thin layer of mulch or grass on top or a white sheet right after seeding so the ground will stay damp.  The sheet would also replace my bird netting.  The birds are plentiful- especially today.  I so enjoy hearing them sing and seeing thier beauty.  I just wish they ate the bugs and not the seeds!  Our amaranth shows no sign of germinating so far. The sorghum did fairly well for only having 52 seeds to sow.

The chickens are growing well and are 5 weeks away from laying.  We have been allowing them free time outside the coop and they enjoy exploring around.  A strange phenomenon has occured- we somehow gained 2 chickens.  I have counted them over and over and can assuredly say there are 2 imposters!  How this happened I don’t know.  I cannot tell who they are- all the chickens are the same size and color except our white rooster.  They love to eat  nasturtium and kale and are learning to like the azola we have been growing in the fish ponds.  Currently they go through a 50 pound bag of feed in 10 days average.  We are working to decrease the amount of feed we have to buy and get as self suffient as possible.

The first hugelbed is now being propigated with plants, our goal is to dedicate the whole mound to perennial medicinal herbs.  We are almost finished cleaning out the back area slotted to be a permaculutre forest and a hugelbed is being built there presently.  The pumpkin plants are growing like crazy- most of the plants appear real happy this time of year.  This week we will be transplanting about 100 plants and have another wave coming next month.  The different varieties of peppers did produce but the plants were not vigorous.  This is what all the gardeners in the area warned us of.  Our best plants in the garden are kombocha pumpkins, basil (especially Thai basil), kale, eggplant, lemongrass, rosemary, thyme, sage, nastrutiums and parsley, aloe, calendula, chives, sweet potatoes, orgegano and papaya.  Green beans have produced really well but are severly attacked by bugs.  We have kept them in better control with weekly spraying of a soap/oil spray but have not kept it up consistenly enough recently.   The new gutter system on the pergola is doing well with spinach and bok choy and numerous herbs and flowers.

 

Kitty has aquired many names as of late- He started with Boo, then we formally named him Pumpkin, then some thought Farmer was cute and now some new students jokingly call him Kevin just to add to the confusion!  In the end it doesn’t really matter as cats don’t answer when called anyways:)  He is noted to still have worms despite the DE.  It may have killed the tapeworms but roundworms are still found.  From what I have read this is a common problem with kittens- along with hookworm.  I have some emails out trying to find a vet who can work with us.  We were  hoping to go all natural in order to be gentle on his system and save money on vet bills, but it has not worked completely and he needs to be healthy.  Now that he has become an integral part of the team I may have to shell out some green backs on him!!

We continue to have more and more visitors and children who like to hang out on the farm with us.  Some of the children even harvest basil, feed chickens and mulch the coop!  Many of these missionary kids have suffered the loss of pets when they moved and it brings them joy to pet a kitten, watch the baby lambs and hold chickens.

New demonstration centers to come!!  DTS work duty students have been busy building gutter gardens and wicking beds.  A Fire and Fragrance DTS family has planted 6 African sack gardens- stay tuned for posts with details and pictures.  We are also discussing bees- we really need to increase our pollinators and it would be a valuable skill to teach to other communities.  Don has reset our black soldier fly box and we hope to be harvesting them again soon.  The ATV is growing duckweed and azola to harvest for  fish and chicken feed and we hope to make that a staple in thier diets.

Well, the flowers  need watering and the kitty wants attention- best get back to work.

Henrietta the Brave

Happy 3 month old pumpkin plants[gallery]

Growing Gutter Garden

poorly germinating millet plot

Integrated Enga-Mound & Hugelkulture

In the South Pacific and throughout the many tropical regions rain is a valuable and somewhat unpredictable resource.  We must conserve water. We must also build our soil as the degradation of the soil occurs more rapidly than elsewhere in the world and we are building upon rock.Integrating these two methods, along with KNF soil-building, will allow us the ability to increase our yield while decreasing our water demands.

Both the Enga Mounds of Papua New Guinea and Hugelkulture concepts, utilize the long term breakdown of organic material at the base. They are long term methods and, if built correctly, will continue to grow richer as the years go on, as well as being long-term soil solutions. However, by integrating KNF along with these two methods we can grow in the short-term while building for the long-term.

These beds also utilize the method of mounding. This allows for the growing of plants such as taro which traditionally are almost impossible to get out of the ground due to large taproots.

mound built last quarter now being populated with transplants. This will be dedicated to medicinal herbs

mound currently being built in upcoming permaculture forest area. First layer of mulch applied last week

They will be harvested with less effort as the soil around them is not as compacted thus allowing local farmers better access to the crops they often depend on for income and self-sufficiency.

Kona, Hawaii is the dry side of the island. We want to not only develop better methods for growing staple crops such as sweet potatoes and taro, but we must also develop better water conservation methods, expedite the soil building process and slow the rate of soil deterioration.  Our soil must grow richer without becoming degraded.

 

Raising Chickens

Our current flock of laying hens hatched November 14th, 2012. They are a cross between White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds.  We raise chickens in order to learn and then create teaching material that will encourage families in developing communities to cultivate backyard flocks that will provide them with inexpensive protein and supplemental income.  This has been a delightful experience and we are learning much more then expected!  I have been greatly helped by a couple of books and backyardchickens.com in gathering information- especially the interesting topic of how to create feed for our chickens.  Before this adventure I had no idea that black soldier flies existed and now we are collecting them and other types of maggots.  Now there is a great dinner topic for your next party:)  We are also growing scads of pumpkins, aquaponics is growing azola and we seeded 3 different grain plots all as an effort to feed as self suffiently as possible.  Due to the nature of our property and the abundance of mongoose the chickens are unable to free range, but they do have a large outside area to explore during the day.  We now understand the affection so many back yard farmers feel for thier chickens- they really give a lot in return for a little shelter and care.  Bug control, kitchen scrap removal, child entertainment,  soil enrichment and tilling and of course the incredable, edible egg!  Their eggs are sold within the YWAM community and the money is used to finance thier feed and the purchase of small farm tools.

Abigail’s pet therapy 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Composting

The soil on this new island is scarce and has poor water absorption and drainage; therefore the quick creation of compost material is invaluable as a natural soil amendment.  We hasten the natural process of decomposition by creating ideal conditions of carbon/nitrogen ratio, oxygenation and moisture.  In these ideal conditions a bin of compost reaches the finished product of “humus” in 8-12 weeks.

compost bin hard at work

Humus serves to stabilize the pH of the soil and is full of accessible nutrients for the plants and trees at the Natural Farm and throughout campus.

 

Composting Toilet

Natural Farm dry composting toilet

When you visit our farm you will notice a cute little bamboo shack which houses a simple, life saving method of  human waste disposal.  Our dry composting toilet does not use water to take the waste somewhere else; instead it allows natural processes (aerobic bacteria and fungi) to produce useful compost.  The main job of this toilet is to safely contain human waste and create conditions for rapid decomposition ( including any pathogenic organisms) into a soil like substance that in turn can be used as organic fertilizer for trees, shrubs and flowers.  This fertilizer is not advised for use on vegetable gardens.  There are two chambers provided; while one is in use the other is sealed off and composting for approximately 6 months.  This technology allows communities to be protected by safe sanitation and provided with organic fertilizer while conserving the precious resource of water.

Amaranth

Last week I planted 200 amaranth seeds supplied by the USDA.  Well, I assume there were 200 in that tiny pinch of seeds!  This particular seed originated in Mexico, but besides the Americas amaranth is also grown in India, Nepal, China and East Africa.  Amaranth was at its height of production in the 1400s feeding the Aztec empire. Africans prefer to eat amaranth greens, but the grain is also tasty and high in protein.  It is similar to sorghum in growing conditions and toleration of drought .  We covered the planting area in sheep manure and mixed in mulch because amaranth does not like clay soil (what we have here) and prefers a bit of nitrogen.  The birds were very interested in what I was doing with those seeds, so I immediately put up bird tape along the 3 -20 foot rows.  Today when I came to water a flock of birds flew away from the plot, so I covered it in bird netting also.  They obviously adapted to the fluttering, red bird tape.  Bummer.  Hopefully there are some seeds left to grow!  We plan to save the seed for future plantings- but first I have to make some savory amaranth crackers:)

3 rows of amaranth seed, 20 feet long, parallel to the papaya trees.

Grace and Pumpkin
Not related to amaranth- just a free smile:)

Millet- not just for the birds

Yesterday I hand broadcasted 2 ounces of German millet seeds onto our 6 African beds.  As you can see from the pictures, I had a very cute but not so helpful partner who kept me laughing all morning.  Pumpkin chased every rock I threw out and pounced on every stroke of the rake.  I now understand why most farmers have dogs:)

We decided to plant millet on all 6 beds while the sorghum and amaranth plots were growing, as we plan to cultivate both those grains in the future but didn’t have enough seed yet.  We needed a cover crop that would add biomass to the soil, as our soil is mostly clay and thus a poor retainer of water.  Cover crops serve as green manure, meaning the young plants are tilled into the soil while green in order to provide nutrients to the next crop. Legumes are a popular cover crop due to thier nitrogen fixing ability, but we already have several nitrogen fixing trees in the area and didn’t want to overdo a good thing.   The biomass produced by cover crops is quite impressive and they also attract preditory beneficial insects, so the next crop experiences a drastic decrease in the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

Millet is a warm season grass and loves heat.  It germinates and grows quickly, thus decreasing it’s need for water even more.  It serves well as a demonstration crop because it grows in difficult enviroments and can tolerate drought conditions.  Although similar to corn in nutritional value, millet contains a greater concentration of protein and fiber.  This grain has been grown in East Asia for 10,000 years and is also popular in parts of Africa.   Most millet in the US is grown for fodder and bird seed, but our family has come to love the mellow flavor and fun texture of this gluten free grain.  We planted German golden millet, a heritage seed that is traced back to the late 1800s.  The plan for this crop is to harvest seed for future planting and chicken feed, so it won’t be used exactly as a green manure.  The stalks will provide much needed organic material even though they will have matured to seed.  I am excited to have fresh millet porridge and millet pilaf- sure hope there is something left for the birds!

planting millet with a not so helpful helper

broadcasting millet seed

planting millet in African expression garden

Vermiculture

our hard working worms

I get so many strange looks when I mention in conversation that I have worms.  People just don’t  understand how exciting this is!!:)  We started a new colony of California Red worms Sept 2012 and they multiplied and allowed us to start a new box Jan 2013.   They are specifically for composting and do not burrow in the soil like earthworms do.  Garbage eating worms turn kitchen scraps into valuable “Vermincompost” otherwise known as worm castings or manure.  We feed them fruit and vegetable scraps 1-2 times a week and harvest their compost every 3-6 months.   You can buy vermicompost at a garden store for a pretty penny- but why miss out on all the fun of  having worms?

 

African Natural Farming

keyhole bed in African expression converted to a swale watering system. Water is poured into the hole (swale) and wicked into surrounding soil

African mountain bed with pipe irrigation. Pipes are 50% submerged- the half inserted in soil have holes drilled throughout for water drainage. Popular pipe irrigation has pipes laid horizontally under the soil- this is a creative experiement by Amy and Derek.

The south west quarter of our farm is currently dedicated to the expression of African Natural Farming.  It is laid out as a basic dirt farm in any rural country might be, but specifically Africa.   This expression demonstrates the amount of food which can be grown in a small intensive method, utilizing both water conservation techniques and composting in place.  In rural countries, extravagant methods and fertilizers will not be readily available, so very basic methods of companion planting, perennial polyculture, intensive planting and water conservation must be taught in order to make the most out of the daily resources locally available.  A variety of vegetables were grown in this area last year.  Feb 2013 we are planting heirloom millet as a cover crop, the purpose being to feed the chickens and enrich the soil with organic matter for future plantings. We are also experiementing with 2 different watering methods for low moisture climates.  Three mounds have been prepared with swales- holes in the middle covered with a thick layer of mulch, and three are using pipe irrigation- scrap pvc pipe with holes drilled for water dispersment and placed 3 feed deep in a random pattern.

Korean Natural Farming

Basil likes KNF methods!

Korean Natural Farming (KNF)

Korean Natural Farming was developed by Han Kyu Cho of South Korea in the 1970’s. Here at the University of the Nations, we are utilizing a modified version of Korean Natural Farming. Our basic implementation of the Korean expression is in the soil preparation process.  This process expedites the growth of good bacteria, indigenous micro organisms (IMO’s), through a varied process and allows for the uptake of nutrients more readily and quickly. We also utilize various inputs we have made here at the farm such as fermented plant juice (FPJ),  Oriental herbal nutrients (OHN),  water soluable calcium (WSC), brown rice vinegar, ocean water, lactic acid bacteria (LAB), fish amino acids (FAA) and   fermented fruit juice (FFJ) as foliar fertilizers for the plants.