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! Su Ba's Photos of Her Homestead Farm

 
pollinator
Posts: 1432
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I really enjoy seeing Joseph Lofthouse's photos, so I figure I'd try posting some of my own homestead for people to enjoy.

Yesterday I harvested two pallet grow boxes of La Ratte potatoes. One box yielded about 7 lbs of tubers, the other close to 8 lbs.
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The photos one month before harvest time.
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8 lbs of tubers, from large to small. We eat them any size.
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This is the typical size of the larger tubers.
 
pollinator
Posts: 216
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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Gorgeous, Su! What did you fill your pallet grow boxes with? I've burned down a thread or two of how to grow great potatoes lately, and would love to know your approach.

My climate is not yours by a longshot, but we do share the possibility of excessive moisture, it seems.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I made homemade compost. All sorts of stuff goes into making it. The ratio depends strictly upon what I have available. I just aim for 50% green/wet and 50% brown/dry in order to get a hot pile.

Compost items are chopped into small pieces. A lawnmower is my go-to shredder.
...weeds and other vegetation
...light brush & tree twigs
...grass clippings
...tree leaves
...manures (I don't have to chop these up)
...non-edible kitchen waste
...non-edible garden waste
...occasionally dead animals (no chopping up with these either)
...coffee grounds, coffee pulp waste, citrus waste
I also add small amounts of various soil amendments....
...coral sand
...lava sand
...biochar and charcoal leftover from a wood fire
...wood ashes
...urine
...ocean water
...burned bones
...hot compost from another pile in order to introduce microbes

I make compost in one cubic yard pallet boxes. When the compost has gone through its first heat up and is cooling off, I'll move it to an empty pallet grow box (if needed) or use it to top off a box or garden needing compost. In a garden setting, I can plant immediately. But when filling an empty box, the compost will reheat, thus do I have to wait several weeks for it to cool off before planting. While waiting for it to cool, I will keep the box covered with cardboard so the rain doesn't leech out nutrients.

So........my potatoes were grown in 100% new homemade compost this time. I have prepared these two boxes for the next crop by adding several inches of fresh compost and a 5 gallon bucket of sheep manure.....rototilled in. I checked the pH and it needed no adjustment. The seed potatoes were placed atop the refreshed compost and covered with mulch. 16 seed potatoes per pallet box. If I were not pushing for maximum production per box, I would only plant 9 seed potatoes per box, but I find that La Ratte does pretty good even when crowded.

If I grow a third crop in one of these boxes, I will add a 6 inch deep layer of fresh compost and rototilled it in before planting. Depending upon the crop, I may or may not add a five gallon bucket of sheep manure. Sometimes, if the gardens need fill, I simply empty the pallet box out and start over after 2-3 crops.
 
gardener
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Location: West Tennessee
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I love it! Su, thank you for the detailed information and your step by step process. I enjoy reading how other people do things as everyone seems to do things a little differently, and it always gives me ideas to try here at my place!
 
master steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I love the little things that sneak into the backgrounds of photos.... That looks like a grove of bananas to me. Oh my!
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Joseph....bingo! You're right. They are bananas growing atop my first hugelkultur pit. (Back then I had never heard of hugelkultur, so I referred to the project as a bio trash pit. The core fill was half rotted tree trunks packed with vegetation and dirty cinders. Around that went smaller saplings & tree branches, and more chopped vegetation. I recall that it took 3 years to completely fill.)  I planted my first banana tree there 12 or so years ago. I've never had to water them, even during the bad drought year that we had a few years back. Only 13 1/2 inches of rain that year from two rain storms and numerous dribbles here and there. That hugelpit was a big one, large enough to swallow 1 & 1/2 full sized pick up trucks and still have plenty of room to spare on the sides and top. That monster sized hole was created when the driveway was first put in 16 years ago. It was scooped out for fill in order to get a driveway across the defunct river bed.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 1432
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Dog Vomit Fungus

Over the years I've used a lot of woody material as compost, fill, and mulch. In those areas, and when there is adequate moisture (like now since it is raining a little every night), it's not uncommon to come upon a patch of bright yellow fungus. The first time I saw it I was surprised and curious. Once I found out it was a natural fungus, I've encouraged it to take up residence on my farm. It helps decompose woody material. I'll find it primarily on the soil surface, but at times it will creep up the side of a rock or fence post.

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Found this patch in the grass growing through the mulch.
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This patch is growing up the side of a rock.
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This small patch is growing atop mulch made from chopped up fern stems.
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A close up view on a rock.
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A close view on a rock.
 
Posts: 142
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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Correct me if I'm wrong but I think I uncovered an Easter egg in your blog:

The rat that ate the small gourd last week, leaving it looking like an apple core, has moved over to the next trellis. He nibbled on a number of those small round gourds then got to one of the prized large gourds. He ate a hole into the side. Bummer! Bad rat!
Ok, he's got to go. He just ate a potentially $300 gourd. Not acceptable.  


https://kaufarmer.blogspot.com/2013/08/continuing-rat-attack-on-gourds.html

Followed by:

This years top winner (at the local art show) was the gourd, a intricate piece featuring honu (turtles). Now how can you not like that? It was locally grown, hand carved, dyed via the Ni'ihau technique using Ka'u coffee.




https://kaufarmer.blogspot.com/2013/10/local-art-show.html

Now Fess-up deerie, was you the artist that provided the winning entry?
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Yup, I grow gourds. But I'm not the top gourd artist. While my creations will sell for $25 to $200, the local expert gets $300 to $600. To say the least my she is far better than I.

Growing gourds is one way to bring in some income. But I have to be growing the right varieties, mark each individual fruit with a date when they started, set them up on stands when they get bigger so that they don't touch the soil, put protection around them to prevent wind damage, control pests. They need to be harvested at the right time. The best shaped ones can bring $10 to $20. The less perfect ones $5. So you can see that if I carve and dye them, I can bring in far more money. But of course there is a lot of time and risk involved with carving gourd art.

My income on this homestead is based upon diversity. So gourds are just one small part.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Pallet Grow Boxes

Below is a photo of 11 growing boxes planted with potatoes. The ground has a thin layer of soil, often only 1 inch deep. The grass essentially grows as a carpet. During drought the grass goes dormant or even dies, because there is virtually no soil to hold any moisture. So the only crop I can grow in this area is grass.

By using boxes, I can grow a variety of crops. The boxes are filled with homemade compost, sometimes layered with garden soil, depending upon the crop.

These boxes cost me very little to make. The pallets and black trash bags are free. The pallet pieces are simply screwed together....nothing fancy or complicated.

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Su Ba
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Portable Electro-net Fencing

After seeing a local ranch using portable electro-net fencing for their goat herd, I decided to try a bit of it myself. I was pretty impressed with the ranch's success. Upon their recommendation, I purchased 500' of Premier 1 fence and one of their solar energizers. I haven't regretted the purchase.

While I already have fenced in pastures that I rotate the sheep flock through (I maintain around 20 sheep and a donkey), there are plenty of places that are not fenced for various reasons. Up until I started using this electro fencing, I had to do quite a bit of mowing or weedwacking to keep things under control. Here in the tropics, greenery grows aggressively. But I can now use the sheep to eat the greenery down in places like....
...between the greenhouses
...along side the driveway
...around the barn
...over the access road to various spots of the farm
...around the house (I have to fence off the gardens where I don't want them to munch)

This fencing, being so easily portable, gives me access to grass on neighbor's property. The flock is often invited to munch down the adjacent neighbor's' land.

There are pros and cons to this fencing, but all in all I see it as a major plus on my homestead farm.
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The flock is cleaning up a strip between a pasture paddock and the driveway.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Pumpkins

Pumpkins are a really tough crop to grow here in Hawaii. Almost every pumpkin variety I've tried from the seed catalogs failed either because of the climate, fungal diseases, susceptibility to squash borer, or susceptibility to pickleworm. By far the best success has been with my own landrace pumpkin. I started out using seeds from pumpkins I bought at my local farmers market. They were no special variety, but rather rough looking little things from somebody's backyard. I saved the seeds and planted them. Every so often I'd buy another one of those local pumpkins from someone else, and plant those seeds too. I made no attempt to select for any trait other than survivability and eat-ability. (Yeah, I made up that word.) I just let the pumpkins pollinate each other and harvest whatever was produced.

Over the years I've ended up with a rather small pumpkin that does well enough on its own on this farm. I don't have to spray it, nor cover the stems to try to avoid stem borers. I don't have to spritz the flowers and fruits with Dipel (a brand of bt) each day to control the pickleworm. Yes, I still lose some pumpkins to insects, and some to mice & rats, but I actually harvest a good number too.

I tend to harvest them when the rinds are starting to change color. The light green areas change to cream. The reason I harvest then is to beat the rats & mice to the pumpkins. As soon as they start to become mature, those little rascals will hollow out a pumpkin in 1 or 2 nights. I then let the rather greenish pumpkin slowly mature ever the next several weeks, sometimes a couple months. Once they are fully orange, they are right at the stage where we like to eat them. Of course I save the seeds for replanting.
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The flesh is dark orange. And usually not real seedy.
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A small pumpkin coming in different shapes and sizes.
 
pollinator
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Looks very similar to a Seminole pumpkin, a semi-wild squash native to southern Florida and which is very tolerant of borers and other squash pests.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Log Sitting Benches

Years ago, maybe 10-12 years, we made a number of log benches here & there around the farm. The various wind storms had brought down some trees, which we cut and used for various projects. But we saved the big trunks with the thought of having them milled into slabs. But alas, the person we knew with the portable sawmill moved away, so we ended up with these logs. Rather than trying to struggle getting them to a mill, we decided to make log benches. Yes, they could have been made into firewood, but we didn't need it.

A couple were made by the pastures for convenient resting spots while working with the livestock. Another by the chicken pen so that I sit and watch the hens going about their business. I find them quite enjoyable to watch. One is by the main garden. And 2 more along the street -- for walkers to use. from time to time I've spied people using them, and it makes me smile. Glad I thought to do that. And a few more in the orchard, food forest area, and banana groves. The one by the house gets used all the time by our farm cats, who use it as a sunbathing platform.

Some of these benches were made from eucalyptus, others from ohia trees. And one from a Norfolk pine. Only the pine has deteriorated. The others are still firm and serviceable. Looking at them you might not guess that they have been sitting there for ten or more years. These benches cost us nothing to make, money wise. We used a chainsaw and a hammer & hatchet, plus our time and labor of course. I like them because they are simple & woodsy looking. They fit into the image of this homestead farm.

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About 6 feet in length.
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It sits along the road for walkers to take a rest.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Greenhouse Veggies

Here on my homestead in Hawaii, certain vegetables are difficult to grow. Squash and cucumbers, if unprotected, are destroyed by a pest called pickleworm moth. Most tomatoes get badly stung by fruit fries, thus are rotting and maggot infested by the time they ripen. Sweet peppers can also have the same problem. I've tried a number of methods to combat these pests and finally resorted to using a screened in greenhouse.

I have one greenhouse devoted to cucumbers and squash. Since their pest is a night time moth, I can leave the ends of the greenhouse open during the day for good air flow. Another greenhouse is devoted to tomatoes and sweet peppers, and has screened ends to block the fruit fly. The third greenhouse grows hot weather crops, like lima beans. So the one end is open for convenience and the other closed so as to build up heat. Currently this house only has an opening where a door would be, but it gets pretty hot inside. So I plan to remove some of the greenhouse covering on the end and replace it with screen.

The cucumber and squash varieties are parthenocarpic or have strong parthenocarpic tendencies, so they self fertilize.
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My basic greenhouse construction.
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Young lima bean plants. They will be climbing the ropes that are hanging down along the greenhouse wall.
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Zucchini squash. Behind them are young cucumber plants,
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The squash started blooming exactly 30 days from the time I sowed the seeds.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Pole Bean

I'm trying a new variety for me :" Succotash". I got the seed from Baker Creek. I know basically nothing about this variety, so it's a fun experiment. It's a pole bean, so I provided from rope for it to climb up. I'm growing it inside one of my greenhouses in order to provide extra warmth for it so that it hopefully produces seed. To date I haven't been very successful harvesting limas in my outside gardens.

Why rope or string for pole beans rather than mesh? Beans are twiners. They don't produce tendrils. The vine simply twines around anything it touches. By using rope or string, I will have plenty of room to harvest the beans. Working with a mesh is difficult. In my greenhouse I would only have easy access to one side of a mesh.
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First bloom was 31 days after sowing the seed. Photos is a bit bleary but you can see how the vine wraps itself around the rope support.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Dog Vomit Fungus - revisited

I've often had gardeners ask me why in the world such a bright yellow surface fungus is called dog vomit fungus. To them it looks nothing like what some poor dog would upchuck. While a dog could bring up frothy yellow bile tainted slime, it surely isn't as vibrant a yellow as fresh dog vomit fungus. Aaaaaah.....but let it sit a day or two and the fungus matures and produces spores, it changes in appearance.

I just happened to come upon this mature patch of dog vomit fungus, so now I have the opportunity to see something that looks more like what your dog barfed...........
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Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Looks like my greenhouse experiment with the zucchini is working. At least, so far. I currently have 3 varieties growing : Desert, Golden Glory, and Black Beauty. Desert was the first to produce, with Black Beauty giving me baby zukes about 6 days later. Golden Glory is a week behind the others.

The plants were started from seed June 6th. All three varieties are now producing as of today. I'm picking baby gourmet sized zucchinis for our own table, not to sell. But I do have one friend who as requested any of our excess, so I'll be sharing some with her.

So far the only pest I've seen is a little bit of leaf borer. But after the initial outbreak I haven't seen anymore. I'm keeping an eye out for powdery mildew, which has been a problem on the farm in the past. So far, so good. We shall see what happens as time goes by.

These plants have produced more squash and have lasted longer than zucchini plants have in my past attempts of growing it here in Hawaii. Growing it in my open garden beds has always be problematic, basically a total failure. In New Jersey, zucchini was a beginner's crop, always successful and prolific. Here in Hawaii it's considered a master gardener's crop, so difficult to grow.

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Lush, robust plants are doing well in the greenhouse situation.
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This is the size I harvest. Baby style 4" to 5".
 
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