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Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 394
Location: Western Kenya
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Now that I can post again... some updates.  Geez its been so long I don't know where to begin...

One of my last permies posts was a plea for help in time and energy management.  I wasn't doing very well keeping up with the workload.  It did not escape my husbands notice, and led to some big ugly arguments, and the involuntary reduction of my garden area. 

But after the initial anger and offence, I decided a smaller area was quite okay, as I was better able to manage it and manage it well.  So currently I manage the toilet bowl (a ravine that probably covers 1/2 an acre), the upper banana forest (Maybe 1/16th of an acre) and the yard (maybe 1/8th of an acre).  And  the husband leased out about an acre, and has his projects in the remaining.  Of course one of the leasees is planting maize with chemical fertilizers, but that is beyond my control at this point.

Anyway, I'm okay with this arrangement, and I think I'll keep it this way, and refuse to take on any more space, even if its offered back to me.  I sat down, replanned everything so that I still get everything I want, albeit squeezed in smaller space.  In fact since I am doing so much better in managing the smaller area, I don't think the actual quantity of production will be adversely affected.

I have been working at it faithfully.  I terraced the hillside going down into the ravine, creating additional growing space, which will be mostly for perennial vegetables and cassavas.  I have a 3 sisters plot, a couple rows of sweet potatoes, a plot of peanuts, a plot of bambura ground nuts, and my standard veggie garden.  Scattered inside all the plots are bananas, taro, sugarcane, Napier grass, pineapples, papayas, pigeon pea, and tropical fruit trees... I'm probably forgetting some stuff.

I have also added some to our animal production since my last report. 4 new ducklings were hatched, and 5 chicks (which will be four soon, as one is dying).  I sold and/or ate most of the young roosters from the previous hatch.  (9 chicks hatched, only 1 hen and 8 roosters!). I used the profits to buy 2 new hens - and add some much needed fresh genetics to my little flock.  (One if them is the naked-neck variety.).

I had one lonely old rabbit who has lived alone for a couple years because the rabbit hutch at our old house was in terrible condition.  I finally designed and started building a new hutch at our new house for a new rabbit project.  It will have five large cages: one for the breeding buck, one for does, one maternity ward, one for weanlings, and one for sale/eating stock.  I have finished two cages (doing one a month) and have added my poor lonely male two lovely wives.  The first if which has already given us 5 beautiful kits.  I LOVE baby rabbits second only to baby ducks.

I have also rented a shop which has on-grid electricity power with the plan of running my incubator again.  I hope to raise Poultry for sale as well as rebuild my own flocks.

Well, that's a good overview of what's growing on here.  Are we making progress or going backward?  I hope we are making progress!
 
Dave de Basque
pollinator
Posts: 132
Location: Basque Country, Spain-42N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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Hi Maureen, I always love hearing what you're up to!

I think you are progressing, a lot! Doing more with less is what the future is all about, isn't it?

Terracing the hillside going down into the toilet bowl sounds like quite an undertaking, and a very good idea! Any chance you can post a photo? Are your terraces perfectly level (or as much as you can make them)? Or do they tilt back into the hillside or down into the ravine, or to one side or the other to run the water a bit? Are you pretty confident the terracing will survive the rainy season?

You seem to have gotten back into the animal business very quickly after previous reverses, good on you! How far away is this shop you're renting? You always describe your property as being so far from everything!

Anyway, glad to have you back!

 
Christoph Day
Posts: 7
Location: Talakag/Bukidnon/Mindanao/Philippines
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Maureen Atsali wrote:The challenges...
-All of the soil issues I have touched on before.  It has improved, but it is still pretty pathetic.  I dump all the mulch and compost on it I can, but the tropical conditions eat through it faster than I produce it.  As for the erosion factor, I haven't done much about that yet, except to try and keep the soil covered in mulch, planted, or otherwise undisturbed.  More erosion control is on the to do list this year.
- By far my biggest losses come from my nearby neighbors - on two fronts.  Their domestic animals which escape or free range onto my property.  Cows, pigs and chickens.  And its not just accidental... I have found their cows TIED in my garden. Secondly thieves of the two legged variety.  They will steal anything.  Sugarcane, greens, fruits, fish from the pond, the dog's chains. The man next door tries to sneak in and cut my Napier grass for his cows.  This last fall my husband caught 4 of that man's kids digging up sweet potatoes and hiding them in the coat of the littlest one.  A few weeks ago someone dug up two young papaya trees that were about 4 feet tall and took the whole trees.  This is a cultural problem here...people pull each other down.  This mentality of "if I can't succeed, neither should you."  Aside from that, especially during the dry season, people are experiencing hunger. 

My husband thinks a good fence will curb that problem.  I am not so optimistic.  It might deter the animals, but I think it will just be a challenge to the people.  Either way, we can't afford to fence the entire 2.5 acres right now, and we have so many other projects on the table.  And projects are a subject for another post.

- The third challenge is ME.  I pretty much handle all the farm work alone.  My husband hates farm work, probably because he was forced to do it as a child.  He runs a tree and timber service.  I love the farm work, but find 2.5 acres an awful lot for one person to manage.  And I am slightly disabled and there is no mechanization.  I can only put in about 2 hours of hard labor a day.  Ohh and add to that that I am highly distractable.  I get side tracked, have too many things going at once, and have a hard time finishing a project.

Fourth is finances.  We survive on 400 USD a month, give or take.  Because we have no debt and no bills and life is fairly cheap here, we are able to survive. But it doesn't leave much for savings, investments, improvements, or emergencies.  We had a terrible problem last month when my 13 yo needed an emergency surgery.  Really opened my eyes for the need of some reserve, which really requires more income.

Always open to new ideas in solving these problems!



Hi Maureen,

I am on the Philippines since 2008. There I work on 4.5 ha. I have made much similar experiences and so I have also thought about solutions to problems we have in common. At least it's great, that you are already able to feed many people with what you grow on your farm. I just go through this post from the beginning:
- Erosion: I am planing to make canals along the niveau lines. For this I mow down the bushy area with a bush scythe and then find the niveau lines using a hoss niveller. The hoss niveller ismade od 2 straight stcks, 2 nails and a 5+m transparent hoss. The ends of the hoss are nailed on the upper end on a 1.5m and 1.65m long stick. The longer stick gets a mark at the hight of 15 cm. This Stick is pushed into the soil unto the mark. Then you let the other stick stand beside the first and mark both at the same hight around 50cm below the top. Then you fill the hoss with water (may be colored) up to the mark. Then you go with the second stick along the niveau line. In a distance of 2 to 3 m you look for the point with the same level than the 1st stick. This is there where the water level is at the mark when you let the stick stand on the soil. There you push another stick into the soil as marker. Then you go back to the 1st stick and push another stick as marker into the soil. Then you go with the longer stick of your niveller to the 1st mark and repeat the process. I plan to digg above the lines and bud up and compact the soil below. Then pull the mulch over the so created hill. The hill I plant with a dense line of Nappier grass and maybe Vetiver Grass which is very good for erosion controll and even naturally forming terasses. The young shoots (up to 1.5m high of Nappier grass we (My 5 year old son Pasquale and I) eat. They are sweet and juicy. The fibres which we can not cut with our teath we spit out after removing the juice and soft tissues through thorough jewing. This is a complete food and if you eat additional leaves of herbs, bushes and trees and flowers, you get the cross-yests for digesting the grass and additional clorophyll. In the nght, I can feel that my body repairs its cells after I had eaten like 10 to 20 sticks of Naper grass. And a month ago I had 3 single weeks with little interruption, where I ate much Napier grass beside fern, other greens and few fruits. There a tooth which was broken and already covered with meat, started to grow again. On the hill I want also to plant other plants like Banana and Papaya. Above the canal I want to plant cover crops to be mowed regularly to get mulch for the hils. The more the area shapes into terasses, the more you can plant higher feeding plants on the terrases. The problem with hale, we don't have. Strong rain we have also. I saw to 2 drawings about rainfall. The first showed a land bare of forest and only the high mountains are having forest. There around the high mountans are short (few minutes to few hours) strong rains. Ths is our situation and we are near high mountains. The other drawing showed a land covered with forest and there is longer equal distributed misty rain. In Malaysa (on Borneo) is a project were a big forest was planted and they got regular rain back. Even neighboring areas benefith from this project. Only during tmes of strong winds the clowds are blown away. I came also across Mucuna bracteata, a Velvet bean which can buid up 30cm of humus and organic matter in 3 years. I red you planted already amaranth which brings P into the soil. This is what the Mucuna bracteata needs. In the first year it grows slow. From then on very fast. It's not easy to get seeds. It's also still on my list. Else I also started to collect different kinds of cover crops locally. I also made the experience that seeds are hard to import and if this was possible, many didn't grow.
- I want to plant thorny bamboo around my farm. This makes a dense unpassable thicket. The shoots are eadible (at least cooked). I tried already to make seedlings from cuttings. Most are growing. First I have to secure the boundaries, which is a complicated thing because our neighbours trespassed on almost each side of the farm, there is no law, the local Government don't work and the Department for Environment and Natural Resources is affraid to go there to settle the boundaries. There is one Ombudsman for the whole Island of Mindanao. Currently I write a report when I have some spare time. We have here the same cultural problem. My brother in law said it is different in his town. If somebody is successfull with something, others try to make it even better. This seems to be few excemptions.
- Your third challenge ist also my challenge. Except that I am not disabled and my wife loves farm work but wants her own projects where she want to ignore that the soil is infertil which reflects in the results and on. Principally I don't need my own projects, if I have somebody to guide on a meaningfull way that makes sense and is sound, I am verry willing to follow. But this I don't have, so I have to deside for the projects to be done and I have to do them as well. In one or two weeks I want to go to the capital of our Province to look for Nastus Elatus (good to eate raw - another Power food) Bamboo cuttngs. There I want to post a bill at the universitiy for agriculture students who want to be my companions. I offer food, accommodation and a share of profit.
I am interested, how you keep your animals. We had pigs, but they didn't grow well, maybe because of the infertil soil. May be I can adapt some of your practices.
best regards
Christoph
 
Christoph Day
Posts: 7
Location: Talakag/Bukidnon/Mindanao/Philippines
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I was reading further in your posts and give some thoughts together:
You said, you made a salad from the weeds. That is very good, because weeds have 10 to 80 and more times the nutrients than their cultivated relatives have. In addition I red in “Die Kulturpflanzen der Tropen und Subtropen” that people in those regions should eat more green leaves to escape protein deficiency. At the moment I eat mostly cooked food and I observed that If I have around 60% non-starch vegetables, I can stand the time between meals easy, while if I eat maize or rice with very little dried fish (very salty). I am mostly hungry before the next meal even I had eaten twice as much rice or maize than if I have vegetables.
Head-Letuce seeds are sold in tropical countries, because they can grow in the highlands at 1500m and above.
The same with Lentils. We planted Lentils on around 700m above sea level and they did not flower even after one year.
Sweet Pepper: it germinates very irregularly. This also the Bingenheimer Saatgut AG stated. When I was sewing Sweet Pepper this year in a seedbox with 1” diameter rolls of banana leaves filled with compost, Seedlings germinated over a period of 3 month. The fastest were those we had forgotten for a few weeks in a bowl. The bowl was exposed to rain and so the seeds were soaked in water for weeks.
Unsupportive spouses: as you might have also noticed already – I also have this. And I just let her now doing what she wants, anyway she don’t make much changes on the farm. I engage myself with others and since she noticed that I did this, she even became a little bit nicer. Lately a Moslem bought some trees (fast growing Legium- and shade tree) from me. He saw my ram pump and invited me to come over to his uncle and to his father in law to plan and realize water supply systems with ram pump. When I arrived at the father in laws place, I learned that he is also practicing organic farming. They directly started digging for a reservoir. Sadly later the son of the owner of the place, which had allowed the operation, stopped us. Now they must look for another spring. What I want to say with this is: It’s much more enjoyable to be with conscious people with a progressive drive.
When you were talking about carrying the water I thought this could be something for you. Small Ram Pumps can work with as little as 3l/min of Water. After I was with the people which started digging for the reservoir, I finished and published my report about my own Ram Pump Project. I Still had some questions and the owner of the forum answered them and now I have a bunch of tasks which shall insure, that my Ram Pump will run smooth as soon as I have accomplished my tasks. He encurraged me also to make additional a small Ram Pump for drinking water. While doing this, I could also help you with planning your own Ram Pump. This small Ram Pump could cost you around $100.- + piping and may be a storage tank and some labour for digging canals for the pipes and reservoir and may be a little foundation or core (for safety with lid) for the Ram Pump.
I would be interested in the seed source from china which you found. That’s also interesting for my location.
Do I understand it correct, that your house is made of mud? Did you use a foundation? If Yes what material did you use and how thick? Did you make a wall out of natural stones one to two feet above ground and started with the cob then or did you start with cob direct on the ground? I saw a sketches and pictures of houses in Ghana where they start with the cob direct above ground, but it looks like arid climate there. The climate on your place is more similar to ours. That’s why I ask. What is the make of your floor? I live in a house with lots of wood borer and I want to build houses of mud in the future.
Pleasant thoughts and best regards
Christoph
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 394
Location: Western Kenya
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Hi Dave,
Thanks for your comments, sorry I am late to respond!  I don't think I have any pics of the terraces on this phone... But I'll take a look when I finish typing.  They are not perfectly level.  On the ends of each terrace are bananas, which are planted in holes... My attempt was to angle each terrace to direct water flow into the banana holes, which would then overflow to the next lower terrace.  Aside from that they tip slightly away from the hillside, but have a "lip" of stones along the edge in an attempt to prevent water from sheeting over the edge.  They held up great through the first rainy season, and are midway through the second.  The upper terraces didn't have any soil - it was already eroded away, so I was digging directly into the subsoil. I have added compost and mulch and it has mostly stayed in place.  Some of it ended up in the bananas, but that just made happy bananas!  Now the question is... What will happen during the drought?

I just checked... No good pictures. I have one pointed in that general direction but the three sisters and cassavas are too overgrown to see the hillside behind them.  I'll take new pics... After I weed them!
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 394
Location: Western Kenya
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Hi Christoph, thanks for your comments!  it's great to hear from someone who has a similar climate and (unfortunately) so many of the same challenges.

I had no idea Napier grass was edible for humans!  I learn something new everyday on this forum.  I have always grown it as animal fodder.  We have sugarcane to chew, but now I'll have to try the Napier grass.  But what do you do about the nasty little itchy hairs?

I found the Chinese seeds through aliexpress.com. A lot of funky stuff there, but most of the seeds I ordered did well... Better than the seeds I bought from certified Kenyan seed companies.  And they were cheap, with free shipping.  So if they failed, I was out less than a dollar.  It was a good gamble.

I made my terraces with a primitive A frame level.  Just a cheap spirit bubble level on a frame.  A lot of eyeballing and guess work.  I can't say my terraces slope x degrees away from the hill... But it seems to have worked.

Interesting about your teeth... I have really bad teeth and have had to have most of my back molars pulled.  I wish I'd had the tools and information that might have saved them sooner. 

A lot of stuff in your posts...for the sake of time I'll pm you about some of your other points.  Great info though, I hope to hear more from you!
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 394
Location: Western Kenya
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I am having a sleepless night, so I have time for a quick update.

  I have been crazy busy.  My employee quit again... Its become an embarrassment, as no one seems to stay more than 6 months, even though we pay about 150% of the area average and are pretty undemanding.  I went about 2 months with no help.  Just hired someone last week.

I have been starting to harvest the second season stuff.  The beans in my 3 sisters did crazy good.  The maize... Not great, but not horrible.  The squash... They are still going.  They always seem to start slow...then when I am about to give up and rip out the vines, they suddenly go wild.  So I am waiting and hoping they will take off.  But the beans were fantastic.  I grow a lovely purplish semi vining type.  I don't know their real name, so I named them Amethyst beans.  They are NOT popular with the locals. I think because they want a bush bean that won't tangle in their maize.  Two problems with my 3 sisters this season:  1) the dogs are trained to chase hawks.  They chased the hawks through my 3 sisters... Got all tangled up in the beans, and pulled over a bunch of maize... Several times.  2) I was late to harvest the beans.  Some germinated right in the pods. Some pods opened and dropped their beans.  Some got mold and mildew.  I guesstimate I lost a quarter of my harvest because I was late.  But still managed to get more beans than ever before.

The weeds won out...I can't even find the bambura groundnuts in my wetland garden.  I started trying to dig them out... But it was too hard.  Luckily I have another planting in my upper bananas that has done well and out paced the weeds.

Some experiments that succeeded this season:  an unknown mildly hot pepper seed I got from China.  Labeled simply "giant chili pepper".  Has done fantastic.  Delicious peppers, not too hot, as long as my hand.  Still flowering and setting fruits.  Carrots.  Its against my rules to grow carrots because they won't go to seed in my climate... But I wanted some carrots.  And they did well, even in my heavy clay.  Can't keep my kid's out of them.  Tomatoes.  I have bombed at tomatoes almost every season.  I think there might be blight in the soil.  But I spread plants everywhere, in every garden, including my flower beds.  I have green fruits.  I think I will get some tomatoes.  Bunching onions.  The cow ate my bulb onions out of the nursery bed (I didn't even know cows like onions!) But the green bunching onions are doing awesome.  Tree collards.  Happy in my terraces.  Eggplants.  First time ever in my life to grow egg plant.  No fruits yet, but the plants look good.

I make nursery beds wherever my husband burns charcoal.  After he is done there is always a lot of charcoal dust and bits left, the weed seeds have been burned out...I go in and dump the pee bucket there and throw on some raw compost... I call it lazy mans biochar.  I reuse the same spots until they get too weedy.  So I was cleaning the nursery bed for my last planting when I came across something that looked like a gooseberry or a small yellow ground cherry.  Just found the berries on the ground, couldn't find or identify the mother plant.  Tasted  them.  Yum!  A little sweet, a little citrus-y.  My 3 year old also ate them and loved them.  Forgot about them, went on to plant the bed with black nightshade, tomatoes, onions, and egg plants.  Now I've never grown egg plants. Turns out as seedlings, they look a lot like black nightshade...and a lot like a third identical plant that popped up...except the third plant had a hairy stem.  I didn't know if eggplants are supposed to be hairy.  Tomatoes are hairy, and they are related... And I was too lazy to google it.  So I transplanted them all - laughing at myself because I knew one of the three did not belong, and I was planting a weed.  Well, by happy good fortune the hairy weed has turned out to be the mysterious gooseberry like fruit.  Do they have gooseberries in Africa?  I know, I know, that's what the internet is for.  I'll try to get a pic of it tomorrow to post.  Hopefully its not toxic.  But my daughter and I had no I'll effects the day we ate the berries off the ground.

Still trying to catch up... Weeding. Planting out more taro whenever I find new baby plants and suckers.  Trying to tame down the wetland so that its ready to plant for the dry season.  Putting in more sweet potatoes... Trying to time it so there will be an almost continual harvest throughout the year.  Storm blew over sine cassavas, so I need to chop up those stems and replant.  Kids have already started stealing the peanuts, even though they are not mature...oh what I wouldn't give for a little of the high voltage electric fence we used on our horse farm in Vermont...  And my chick brooding project is going very well...my flock has gone from 7 to 44...with another 20 or so eggs pipping as I type.

By the way Dave...my shop is 3 miles from my home... And we have no car.  So I am walking six miles every day to go turn eggs and feed and water the chicks.  Time to fix my bicycle I think.
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 394
Location: Western Kenya
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My thread is boring. It needs a pic.  This was taken back in sept...that tangled crazy mess in the maize are the beans which did so well.  Behind that I think you see cassavas.  Somewhere behind the cassavas are those terraces!  I promise to take some new photos in the coming week!
IMG_20170922_115600.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20170922_115600.jpg]
 
Christoph Day
Posts: 7
Location: Talakag/Bukidnon/Mindanao/Philippines
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Hi Maureen,

Middle October I visited my former landlord in Cagayan de Oro. He told me, that he and the kids around him ate the young shoots of Napier grass when he was small because it was so sweet. He became a tall guy.
Yes, there are these tiny hairs. I can not confirm, that they are itchy. After removing them from the skin there is no irritation anymore. I don't mind the hairs. Maybe J figured out how to hold it without getting much of then stuck in the skin. Maybe I make a slight turning movement with my hand so that the hairs break and don't enter into the skin anymore. There are different varieties of Napier grass. There are with many, little and no hairs. On my farm, I think I have a variety with moderate hairiness. On the place of my wife, the Napier has many hairs but I don't treat them differently. In traditional Celtic medicine, they used branches with thorns and needles to spread and by this weaken the energy of illnesses. So by handling the Napier grass, you get a free reflex-zone treatment on your palms. I can not remember when I had to pull out the hairs of Napier grass from my skin anymore and I remember, years ago, I did pull out hairs of Napier grass from my skin.

Thank you for the tip with aliexpress and sharing your experiences with it. I think I will also try to order there.

I would be interested, to see your chick brooding project. I am planning on making Paddock shift with goats and chickens. Maybe I can get some impulse of how to start.

best regards

Christoph
 
Maureen Njeri
Posts: 8
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Hi Maureen

I love your project thread and I thank you for keeping us updated. I wish you more and more success.

Would the fruit you're talking about be a cape gooseberry or a tomatillo? I am not good at plant identification but we have a similar looking fruit here in Kiambu, referred to as nathi.

On your problems with neighbours and employees, have you considered that it could be witchcraft? I used to live in an urban area and with my faith, discounted such stories but having lived in a rural set up recently and seen what I've seen, I would be remiss to not inform you of the sad possibility.😔
 
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