We recieved 3-4 inches of rain on Tuesday according to my rain gauage. That is amazing for our little desert area. The timing was perfect, as we had just planted the African expression area of the farm with millet, sorghum and sunflowers. We had also just sown sudan grass and popcorn in the chicken yard area (put temporary fencing around it). It is always amazing to see the overnight growth and happiness of the plants after a good rain. The baby pumpkin plants doubled in 24 hours! I have heard that rain water is quite different from ground water and I can see the difference in the response of our garden. While the rain was pouring 7 little piglets were birthed and the next day another litter showed up. I have heard of raining cats and dogs- but piglets?!
I have spent hours researching calcium supplements for chickens and am still a bit confused. From what I have found, the form of calcium in eggshells, calcium carbonate, is not digestible to humans. What I cannot find is if chickens are somehow able to break it down and get free calcium. Everyone feeds their chickens eggshells or oyster shells as a calcium supplement. Apparently in the wild chickens do not lay everyday.
Some sources say our domesticated chickens are laying 10 times the amount of eggs they would in the wild. That is a lot of calcium in the form of eggshells they have to come up with. If they run low the eggshells become weak. Most people give their chickens layer feed with calcium in it, but free ranging chickens can come up with calcium from the bugs and plants they eat. In my research, the calcium in egg shells is freed up for absorption only with an ion exchange.
Pumpkin kitty was having a rough day. For some unknown reason he was following me around meowing and meowing. I fed him, freshened his water and gave him lots of strokes- but he continued to pester me. Finally I just had to ignore him and get back to work. My next task was to crank up the ice cream maker for our sweaty, tired work duty students. After a few moments I realized Pumkin was no longer following me around crying. We found him contentedly lying next to the obnoxiously noisy ice cream maker. That was what all that fussing was about! He just needed an ice cream fix. I completely understand:)
All our pepper plants are infested with what appears to be the infamous “pepper maggot” This is so disappointing considering how gorgeous and gigantic the plants have grown in just 3 months. They fruit prolifically. We noted the infestation when the first round of fruit started dropping with discoloration. Twice we have picked all the peppers (that is many hundreds with 20 huge plants) and all the blooms and sprayed our homemade chili/garlic/soap spray on a mostly daily basis. So far the plague continues. Yesterday we pulled all but 4 plants, and of those plants we pulled all the peppers and blooms. We will try one more round of natural treatement. This time it will be daily neem oil spray and homemade fly traps. It appears that our future will not be including nightshades for a while. This is extra bummer considering eggplant is also one of our happiest constituents. In cold climates these sort of pests die off annually- but in beautiful, balmy Hawaii there is no end to the bugs. Guess you can’t have it all!!
I have a dream. In this dream there is a pond in our chicken yard where an abundance of duckweed and azolla grows. There are also a few baby ducklings swimming around and all the birds are happily snacking on pond plants and bugs. Daniel is determined to bring this dream to fruition. He spent two days diligently digging when he came upon a huge rock. Daniel has a dilemma. Heave a pick ax until he is 80 years old or choose a new spot. Problem is, our whole island is lava so a new spot will end with the same problem. Thankfully our base is blessed with Bob, a jack-of-all-trades with a heart of gold. Given some time and a few generous portions of homemade ice cream, Bob may be able to dig up a jackhammer or some nifty attachment to his dozer and make a quick job of this lava removal. So our dream is back on track and Daniel can build those biceps by digging holes for trees instead of ponds. We will keep you posted on the duckweed/pond adventure. For more information about duckweed and azolla
We recently upgraded from the fancy, store bought, multi level worm hotel to a homemade rubbermaid contraption. I wanted a more sustainable, do it yourself model. Most of the plans for boxes don’t address the need for multiple layers. Without layers, the worm farmer is forced to remove all the worms by hand before using the castings. This new set up has 2 rubbermaids (any container that blocks light will work) that are interchangeable. So when the top one is full, you place it on the bottom, put new bedding and food in top box and all the worms will find their way to the food source, leaving you with a lower box of worm free castings. This set up also collects the “worm juice”- a valuable plant tea/feed.
We followed the plans from this website
A few bullet points to outline what is currently happening at the farm
our wonderful crew of work duty students are beginning to leave on outreach- Friday is our last day together. We are initiating the new grill for a potluck BBQ. We will miss these wonderful young people- they worked hard and loved being on the farm.
We were blessed with the presence of an Idaho potato farmer. He stumbled upon the farm while exploring and immediatly engaged. 6 days after meeting him there were seed potatoes from his home to plant. Kelli tried several varieties in all of the 6 African keyhole garden beds, but the sow bugs ate them all up. We have 3 plants from over 100 seeds. This had been our experience in the past- but it was worth a try while blessed with the presence of a REAL farmer:) He also planted millet, corn and amaranth. The amaranth did not sprout, the corn was getting eaten up by bugs but last week the pigs finished off all the rest! Time to start over
We have alternated from using all Neem oil bug control to also using our homemade chili oil with garlic and soap. . the recipe is
1 cup chili oil– we soaked Hawaiian chilis from the garden in vegetable oil for 2 weeks and strained
1 TBPS soap
2 TBSP garlic
add one tsp of this concentrate to one cup water. So far the thrips have stayed away, but the Japanese beetles are still munching away at night. The sunflower leaves look like lace- but we planted the sunflowers for the purpose of taking the brunt of insect munching and they are doing thier job!
For some reason all our basil- thai and greek and drawf, are all looking yellowish and upheathly. There is spittle bug on the bigger plants, but sources we read say that spittle bug does not usually harm a plant. We are spraying with the chili oil
The pepper plants are looking fantastic- some are like bushes. Last month we had to destroy the entire pepper crop due to a maggot that was inside the peppers making them rot right as they hit maturity. We now have a whole new crop so far so good. We spray with chili oil 2-3 times a week. The leaf hoppers seem to have declined in population, but can’t say there is a big difference between the chili oil and neem oil.
Lady bugs are thriving! White moths (cabbage moths) are being hunted and fed to chickens. They are plentiful. One day Herta killed 18! They are difficult to catch as you have to ballet through the garden beds to catch them. Herta and Beno are Canadian farmer Mission Builders and served our farm for 2 months. Their care and expertise has made the place shine. We are missing them already:(
Kale continues to thrive, along with lemon grass and sugar cane. We have a whole bund planted with sugar cane from cuttings. The new okra plants once again have become giants. THe eggplant is not producing as before. See “soil science” blog entry for recent soil analysis
The little silkie hen started brooding yesterday! We have 3 silkies, one hen and two roosters. She just started laying a few weeks ago. She is very dedicated to her one little egg. I wish she had more- but we kept collecting eggs not realizing she would brood so soon.
We started digging an area for a pond/water tank in the chicken yard. Daniel is determined to get through the lava with a pickax and pure power, but I am thinking a jackhammer may be in our future. The chickens love eating duckweed and we would like to raise a few ducks, so if the pond can become a reality we could experiment a bit. That will be a continued project for next quarter
14 lambs from 7 mothers were recently born. Such sweet little faces.
A leadership track staff, Stacey, has worked hard on making informational posters to place around the farm. We are currently putting them in place. This has been a long awaited improvement
We upgraded the worms to a new, homemade worm box with more room to multiply.
The “Back 40” is looking really slick! THis week the students have put 3 truck loads of mulch on the large hugelbed.
Compost bins are beginning to finish up. We sifted the first bin and put the finished compost in the chicken yard for the chickens to clean the bugs out. 2 big batches of potting soil have been made from it so far. We have been waiting for the compost to finish so we can continue building the hugelbeds in the back.
In the last 14 months we have sent 3 batches of soil samples to the University of Hawaii for simple analysis. We would like to have more indepth analysis of micro nutrients and microrganisms in the near future to see how our Korean Natural Farming method of adding IMOs (indigenous mircorganisms) has effected the soil. We are awaiting funds for such an endeavor. In the meantime here are the basics.
The raw soil in this part of the island is mostly allophane clay- so it repels water and does not drain well. It is in great need of organic material but rich in nutrients. We have conditioned it by adding compost and IMOs, and the beds are maintained with regular doses of fishwater from the aquaponics system and mulch on top. Due to the infestation of sowbugs (aka potato bugs or rolly pollies) we took the mulch away for one year. The bugs continued to be troublesome so we returned the mulch in order to save water and continue to add much needed organic material.
To our surprise, the pH was 7.3 the expected pH was 6.15 we don’t know the reason for this discrepency
P- 236 high
K- 341 sufficient
Ca- 10,273 very high
Mg- 950 high
as you can see- we have a soil rich in nutrients.
this bund was layered with raw dirt, then sheep manure, compost and finally mulch. It was about 5 months old at the time of testing and looked so beautiful!
pH- 5.6. All our other soil is higher- so I believe what happened here is the mulch started composting and acidifying the soil. From this we learned to make sure the composting process is finished before using the bed.
P- 267 high
K- 3237 very high (don’t know why so unusually high. does the composting process effect K?)
Ca- 7230 high
Mg- 1596 high
African Keyhole Garden Area
this area has been in use for 18 months. It was first planted as a backyard African garden and since then has grown African grains such as millet, sudan grass, sorghum and corn. Most recently was an unsucc
essful attempt at potatoes.
pH- 7 high
P- 133 high
K- 1717 high
Ca- 10624 very high I am curious as to why this is so high
Mg- 1905 high
Oldest bed – about 2.5 yr old
this bed has had IMOs and compost along with mulch and regular fishwater the last year.
P- 143- high
K- 1107 high
Ca- 8505 high
Mg – 1774 high
the main difference between the newest and oldest beds appears to be balance. On the analysis chart the oldest bed has very even nutrient levels. We will continue to add organic material and IMOs.
We have a small herd of wild pigs (try to keep the number around 20) who serve as our garbage disposals. According to the research done, they save our campus about $10,000 a year for the disposal of food scraps. The herd size is managed by donating to local families in need. Our campus is not allowed to eat the pigs due to requirements to have a USDA butcher- we don’t have one on this side of the island. If a natural disaster were to occur we could then use them, so they are also a “food on the hoof” foodbank. For the most part the piggies are happy to live a contained life in exchange for free food delivery. But sometimes they get bored. Breaking out of thier comfortable confinement and roaming around in the dark, they bust up fences and uproot rocks and destroy plants galore. Naughty little pigs. Last week they managed to escape two nights in a row. We are almost finished fixing the damage done, but will need to replant several spaces. This extra required work has built up a
strong craving for bacon:)