Su Ba

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since Apr 18, 2013
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Retired from veterinary medicine. My second career is creating a homestead, aiming to be self reliant.
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Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Recent posts by Su Ba

No-till experiment :

I started this little no-till project a couple on months ago. I’ve never had success with no-till before, but perhaps it was due to the soil type. So I was willing to try again.

Step 1 - pick the site. I didn’t have much choice in what site to use, but there were some considerations to take in. First, I wanted it to be easily accessible to myself. And it had to have water for irrigation.  I know myself, so if the site wasn’t in my face every day, I’d most likely put off working at it regularly. And I needed water. So I opted for a place on the ranch where OKK has its garden, but not at the garden site itself. Right outside the greenhouses were grassy areas not being used, so that is where I decided to place the no-till garden.
Step 2 - get rid of the grass. Not using a herbicide, I opted to cover the ground with weed block for a couple of months.  Pulling the weed block off, I saw some grass still struggling to survive, but much of it was gone. Keeping in mind that only the vegetative top growth had disappeared, I needed to stay aware that since the roots might still be alive, some of the grasses might resprout. So getting a mulch atop the soil was a priority in order to stop the regrowth.
Step 3 - mulching. Out came the lawnmower that has a bag, and importantly for me, has the self propel feature. I could have harvested grass clippings a variety of ways, but I had the lawnmower and besides, the exercise would do me good. So evey day I could (at least 3 days a week),  I mowed the "lawn" around the greenhouses to collect 5 trash a full of clippings.
Step 4- seeding and planting prior to initial mulch application. The first thing I did after removing the weed block covering was to scrape out a shallow trench and drop bean seeds into place. I then transplanted several tomato seedlings. Everything got watered in well with a weak fertilizer = compost tea.  For this initial planting I prepared the soil using a small mattock. The soil was rather hard and needed loosening. The mattock work went quickly, since it was a small area, plus the soil had stayed moist due the weed block.
Step 5- apply mulch. I put down a 6 inch thick layer of fluffy mulch. Over the course of the week, it settled down to about 1 inch thick.
Step 6- 2 weeks later reapply mulch. I walked the area, checking the plants, tying up the tomato plants as needed, pulled the few grasses that were sprouting.  Then I reapplied more mulch.  

1 hour ago
Well, we are still at it. We have been gradually increasing our production and the number of different veggies. This means that at the farmers market, we are up to 7 display tables plus put the extra under the tables in boxes until there is room for them. Plus we are selling a variety of plants — veggie starts, sugar cane, assorted trees, which we place on the ground. OKK’s philosophy is that we will raise money for the community one dollar at a time, if we need to.

We still aren’t good at our planting schedule, but we are working on that. Often we simply run out of time to get things planted. But we are using the full 3 areas now. Every row grows something or other. We are expanding the papayas out along the garden border. And we are now growing pipinola (aka chayote) and edible gourds on the perimeter fence. The entire garden is covered with heavy duty weed mat. Weeds have proven to be our number enemy that we simply cannot keep up with without herbicides unless we use weed block. We can only dream that in the future more residents will be willing to put a few hours each week into work this garden in exchange for a grocery bag of food. But for now, that hasn’t happened. Plenty of people say that they are interested, but the haven’t showed up yet. But we can understand that. Life and habits get in the way.

We have added new varieties, new for us. Many different colors and types of snap "green beans". Winged beans. Green onions. Garlic chives. Green shell beans. Cowpeas. Pigeon peas. Some different soybean varieties. Two new sweet potato varieties. A yellow tomatillo. More herbs. Next month we will be making room for a better Chinese long bean, and some sorghum.

I also started an experiment in no-till. Just a small area, but it’s a start. Plus another permie theme being added will be using a mulch instead of weed block. I’ll get some photos and show you about it in a couple of days.
1 day ago
Sounds like it’s not an impossible task for permie people, especially the older folks.

I buy most of my clothes at our local small town thrift store, where most clothing items are $1, $2 if they are fancier, $3 if they still have the original price tags on them. I like supporting this shop because the money goes to support our little town’s  "soup kitchen".  The only clothes (excluding shoes) not bought there are purchased from our local craft vendors at the town farmers market. There is a vendor there that paints designs on baseball caps, and we have a number of them since both hubby and I wear hats all the time because of the tropical sun. And another vendor block prints t-shirts, of which we have many. They are our "dress up" clothes——you can get away with that here in Hawaii. We buy these items in order to help support our community neighbors.

Shoes are purchased new. But——we have stockpiled about a dozen pairs each, so we have plenty. When Crocs was having cash flow problems before they were sold to the current owner, we took advantage of some incredibly great prices. I bought our favorite Crocs for anywhere from $18 to $25 a pair.

Could I stop buying clothes for a year, or limit to 5 items. No problem. But in Hawaii, that’s easy.

1 day ago
I feed my hens cooked veggies, including all the cast off potatoes. No problem.
1 day ago
Hubby and I are big cabbage/slaw eaters. Lettuce is difficult to grow in my area of Hawai’i without it drawing aphids to the veggie patch or getting too bitter to enjoy. So we substitute cabbage/slaw instead.

Cole slaw, of course.
Salad, sliced fine. Just add other ingredients like any other salad, along with one’s preferred salad dressing.
Stir fries.  I make all sorts of variations of stir fry.
Soups, all kinds.
Cabbage steamed or simmered with smoked, shredded pork —- a very popular dish here in Hawaii.
Steamed, then quick fried in butter with some seasonings, usually just pepper and salt
Boiled with corned beef, carrots, and potatoes. A twice a year treat.
A low country boil. We make sure to have this at least once a month when we get together for Saturday night with friends.
Spring rolls
Cabbage roll sandwiches . We wilt the whole leaves by steaming them. Then chill. Then use them to make roll up "sandwiches"
            instead of using bread.

I’m sure others will chime in with their favorite uses. Lots if way to use cabbage/skaw.
3 days ago
Grasses are my go-to mulch, simply because of easy availability. I have access to hundreds of acres of grass , though of course I only use a few. Grass clippings are easy for me to work with, and they work well with my soil and growing methods.
3 days ago
I’ve had those aphids attack and kill onions even when the plants are growing robustly. So I found that adding more fertilizer and compost didn’t solve the problem. Like you, I’ve tried water to blast them off and spraying with neem. Neither solved the problem. I tried wiping them off and that also failed , probably due to the fact that I had a large planting of onions and couldn’t wipe every aphid off. I’ve tried safer soap, garlic spray, and simple dish soap spray. Not very effective. When only sprayed once a week. But I did not try daily or every other day spraying. I now use a homemade nicotine spray which seems to control them the best. And I am mindful to plant each year’s crop in a new location. Nicotine spray, while organic, is a non-selective pesticide. One needs to be careful when using it. I wish I had a better choice, but I haven’t discovered one yet. I’m still looking.  
3 days ago
Not me. I aim to eat as diverse a diet as I can , along with very little commercial foods. I’m not looking for dietary deficiencies, but rather a robust health. I’m in my 70s, closer to 80 now. I still farm 35 hours a week.  So…….I eat as diverse a diet as I can.
1 week ago
Why I save seeds—
1- I’m frugal in some ways, so producing my own seed satisfied my desire to be frugal. It was bean seed that started it all. I use to think $4 a pound for bean seed was pure insanity, so tried producing my own. It worked, and things snowballed from there. Boy am I glad I learned to produce seeds, because the cost of buying the volume I need has skyrocketed.
2- I’m curious. I’ve tried planting some seeds produced by hybrids just to see what would result. Then I  save those seeds and see what the next generation turns out to be like. It’s fun and I have ended up with some pretty good tomatoes and pumpkins this way.
3- The seeds are there at the time I want them. How many times have I  seen "sold out", "not available", "crop failure" when I went to purchase seeds. By producing my own, the seeds are there when I’m ready to plant.
4- Landrace development. The reason I have created some landrace varieties is get around some pest and disease problems that ruin crops in my area. I now grow a landrace pumpkin (kabocha squash foundation stock) that produces in spite of the heavy pickleworm moth population in Hawaii. Plus it has some resistance to powdery mildew, a real killer around here for most squash and pumpkins. And I’m growing a landrace tomato that looks like a jumbo cherry tomato. It is resistant to the fruit fly varieties (oriental, melon, etc) here that ruin most regular tomatoes.  A real bonus is that it actually tastes good, a very tomato flavor. Tomatoes grown in Hawaii usually have very poor flavor. A secondary bonus is that it has some resistance to powdery mildew.

What I am consistently producing:
Tomatoes (actually, I propagate via tip cuttings, but still save a few seeds to keep developing the landrace)
Beans, all sorts
Peas, several varieties
Basil , Thai and Italian
Onion, for green onions
Corn , dent for livestock
Certain Asian greens
Ground cherry
Chinese celery
Pigeon pea
Winged bean
And strictly for fun, I’ll save and start the seeds from fruits such as jackfruit, cherimoya, longan, starfruit. I then either give the baby trees away or plant them out in "the wild’.

And one final reason — to be self reliant, which is a part of my overall lifestyle.
2 weeks ago
Just checking in tonight to see has been having a bit of crazy fun today, and …..blah.  Oh boy, you guys need some lightening up. So here’s something from Hawaii that may make you chuckle, or shock you, or make you mad. Maybe I’m just old and crazy, but gardening today was fun.
3 weeks ago