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.
Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Recent posts by Su Ba

Generally, I agree with Galen. Installing solar doesn't mean that you'll be saving lots of money. I live in Hawaii where the cost of grid electricity is mind boggling expensive, and even so, the cost of installing most solar installations (including tax incentives) doesn't equate to cash savings for years and years. There needs to be other reasons for installing solar other than quick cash savings.

Our homestead is completely off-grid. People mistakenly think we have free electricity. We installed a small system that cost $20,000 in hardware. (We install and maintain it ourselves.) Every six years or so we need to replace the battery bank ($800 to $1000). We need to buy and maintain a back up generator that gets replaced when we replace the battery bank. (Just because the gas engine runs doesn't mean that it's putting out the electrical rating we need. These things wear out.) That's around $800 to $1000 buy the new generator. I'm not sure what the gasoline, oil, and maintenance parts come to, nor the distilled water for the batteries. Our solar panels are 20 years old this year, so heaven knows how much longer it will be before we be thinking of replacements. Luckily our inverter, charge controller, and the rest of the equipment has never failed, but they could, thus requiring  expensive replacements.

No, solar surely isn't free. It costs to install it and maintain it. And for newbees it's even more expensive because they make mistakes while learning. For example, we killed our first battery bank in 3 years simply because we didn't know what we were doing.

The reason we went off grid was strictly economics. The electric company wanted almost $30,000 to run power to our house. Going was DIY solar was an immediate savings for us. But for folks already on the grid, changing to solar may not be a savings for years, if ever. And if they go with a grid tied system with no battery back up, then they aren't any better off......except that they may feel better about "going green" (whatever they think that is).

Grid power gives the homeowner flexibility and reliability. Plus the ability to budget monthly expenses fairly accurately. Off grid means that you need to think about how much power you are using and when you might need to use more than normal. For example, I know that I need to run the generator when I use high energy consuming equipment, or want to do the laundry on a cloudy day. I know that my system can't maintain a heated spa, so I'd be crazy to buy one as a Christmas present for hubby. I need to be mindful about the running of my power, because I can't even consider  running the water pump, washer, freezer, frig, microwave, and hair dryer all at the same time. Being on the grid, a homeowner wouldn't even have to think about that. Plus budgeting isn't easy. Cash layouts will come in big chunks, not little bits each month.

People going from grid to off grid (usually grid tied) need to look carefully. Saying that you save money is usually ignoring the upfront purchase cost, or end-of-lease expenses. Others reasons, like Galen's, might be a good reason going solar. One of our friends installed a grid tied system because he wanted his wife to be able to afford to stay in their home after he died. He is significantly older than she is. He has the money now to spend on going solar and knows that she will have a low monthly income after he passes. So installing solar gives him peace of mind.
1 day ago
I can only reply based upon my own experience. While living in New Jersey and Hawaii, I was friends to many farmers and learned about their land situations.

In New Jersey, some farmers worked land that they did not live on. Most owned that land. They would live in one parcel, and just farm the others. Some rented land from or leased the land from a private owner. I was not aware of any restrictions that prevented people from living upon the land that they farmed. Housing could be upon any of the land parcels. So it wasn't uncommon to see a house built on the corner of a farm.

Hawaii is a little different. First of all, some land is fee simple, meaning that the owner actually owns it. A lot of land here is leasehold, meaning that a large entity owns the land and the homeowner or farmer has a lease for using it for a specified number of years. Most leases are 30+ years, though some are far shorter. Most big farms and ranches use leasehold land. Small farms might be either lease or fee simple. Parker Ranch is an exception in that much of their land is owned outright. Many of the big operations use multiple land parcels sitting side by side. So it looks like they have a farm consisting of hundreds, or thousands, of acres as obit big unit. In reality they may have numerous individual parcels .....the problem being that the leases on each parcel could vary and the restrictions on each parcel could be different. Makes for some interesting business manipulations!

Hawaii Island has lots of open land in farms and ranches. One of the reasons it is so open and beautiful here is that there are restrictions. The land cannot have a residence in it. Thus many farmers and ranchers do not, cannot, live on their land. At times this is causing a lot of problems and issues for the farmers and ranchers. But that's another story. So if you come to my island and see farmers & ranchers living in town, it's because they are not allowed to build a house on the land they work. They may lease it, or may very well own it, but may not reside upon it. But if it is a small farm, then the farmer often lives on that land (or maintains a house on it that he rents out for income).......... There is an exception to this generalization in my own area. Most of the Ka'u coffee farms are on leasehold land  that has residential restrictions. The farms are small (5 to 10 acres). But a drive-by person gets the impression that it's one quite large coffee farm because of the lack of houses.
1 day ago
Dairy farmers generally don't retail market their own milk. They sell to a milk coop or consolidator (some "dairies" actually buy milk from other local dairies, for example, Stewart's Dairy). The entity buying the milk has its own requirements as to the least amount they will pick up. Yes, there are small coops who have in the past picked up or accepted milk from one cow, as long as it passes all the other requirements. This doesn't mean that there is one in your particular area. You may wish to make some phone calls to find out.

As for the breeds, I've never heard of one restricting the breeds. Milk buying depending upon the quality of the milk, taking into factors such as protein and butterfat content. Some small dairies will have several different breeds in order to try to produce their preferred protein, butterfat, and poundage goals.
1 day ago
Forcing people to share large tracts of land is just as bad as forcing people to live close together in villages while leaving the land open. Just my opinion. Personally, I like elbow room.

I attended a public meeting a couple of years ago where our county was considering consolidating a large sprawling subdivision of 1 acre lots near me, forcing people to move together, making a loosely made village. The vacated land would resort to county ownership and stay permanently non-residential use. The public was up in arms! The meeting hall was packed with angry residents, with half the attendees not fitting into the building, but spilling out into the parking lot. The county officials called all the local police in to maintain the peace ( an angry but non-violent peace). I was surprised not by the crowd, but by the number of police. I didn't know that we had so many in my rural community.

People live where they can afford to live and where they are comfortable to live. I would prefer to live on 100 acres but I can't afford it. So I live on 20. I have in the past lived in close housing areas and row homes. I hate the close quarters and it caused lots of unhappy stress. I am far happier with lots of land. My brother is the opposite. Sprawling land around him makes him apprehensive. He's happier in his close condo housing area. To each their own.

While it may appear that there is a shortage of land, I interpret it as a shortage of cheap land in desirable areas that are close to all the preferred infrastructure. The land is there, though no necessarily affordable to most people. Desirable land is priced accordingly (expensive), while undesirable land is too (cheap). Requiring co-habitation of large land parcels won't make it any more affordable. The United States has lots of vacant or open land, available for private ownership or leasehold. Other countries have far less, such as the United Kingdom. I have no experience in other countries. But I suspect that land is there if you can afford it. It may not be exactly what you want in your dreams, but it is there.

I, for one, would not want to be forced by regulation to a limited amount of land.

Besides, who's to say just how much land a person needs? If you're an herb grower, should you be limited to 5 acres? If you're a vegetable grower, should the limit be 20? If you have a goat dairy, are you allowed more land? If you are raising grass fed beef, then could you have 200 acres or more? And on the opposite, if you raise nothing, should you be confined to an apartment or condo? Sticky questions.

I'd also be interested in how to block previously viewed pictures. Not having easy access to highspeed internet, loading pictures can be quite time consuming. As a result, I seldom view long threads containing lots of interesting pictures. And I seldom have the opportunity to view new pictures being added to a long thread simply because I'd have to reload all the previous already viewed pictures before I could see the new ones. I know that most people have high speed internet, but that's not the case for us rural homesteader types....the very people interested in permaculture. Perhaps there's a way to load just thumbnails, then click on the thumbnail to open the fill picture? Just a thought.

For now I have to wait until I get to a town that has high speed internet that I can access without it costing me an arm and a leg.
Keeping dogs out of my sheep pasture has been difficult for me too. I have 48" high field fence with a strand of barbed wire top and bottom. Dogs under 30 lbs can come right through this fence, regretfully. I wasn't aware of that when I put the fencing in, and quite frankly, I wouldn't have been able to afford 2"x4" fencing for the pasture perimeter. I've got almost 3 miles of perimeter fence. I soon learned that my fencing would keep out pet style dogs but not experienced hunting dog. Over the years I lost many sheep to lost, abandoned hunting dogs. I resorted to putting a hotwire top and bottom on the outside of the fence. It seemed to work fine until some neighbor (or friend of a neighbor) stole the solar operated charger. I replaced the charger twice, putting it in different locations, and both were eventually stolen. So I resorted to a donkey.

Not all donkeys are good flock guardians. My neighbor has one that abysmally bad at the task. But my own donkey is a champ. While she isn't really protecting the sheep, she has killed two hunting dogs to date, and I've lost zero sheep. She patrols the fenceline if she senses a dog in the area. Yup, a through and through dog hater. I've watched her threatening my neighbor's dog, who was intimidated and wisely choose not to enter the pasture to be one victim #3.

My own donkey has been tolerant of the lambs, up to a point. She threatens them, making mean faces & snapping her teeth & kicking the air nowhere near the lamb, but doesn't do anything else. I've seen the lambs go between her legs and force their faces into the feed trough literally right under the donkey's nose. While the donkey doesn't concede an inch, she doesn't overtly attack the lambs either. I've had three lamb crops since acquiring the donkey, and so far so good. Oh yes, the donkey doesn't take any garbage from the rams either, but she will kick a ram that is being obnoxious. Thus my rams defer to the donkey. She hasn't tried to kill a ram, but I don't think I'd ever try introducing a new adult ram into the flock for fear that the new ram would become victim #3.

Personally I prefer this particular donkey to a LGD. Though she will bray at feeding time, she is otherwise quiet. (Travis is right on, braying is very loud.) Thus no consistent barking in the middle of the night at perceived danger due to passing feral pigs, wild goats, and mouflon. Persistent barking for over 15 minutes can cause legal problems for me. Plus no fear of legal action due to dog bites when stupid visitors try to "pet the pretty doggy". Yes, I've seen people try to make friends with a dog who obviously isn't interested. Yes, those two people both got bitten. Stupid people. Luckily I wasn't the dog owner, so I wasn't the one who lost sleep over it. My donkey doesn't like strangers and keeps a good distance from people. Having been a feral donkey, she isn't trusting. Nor does she look to humans for treats.

I think a barrier fence with a hotwire top and bottom would probably work in your situation. But hotwires standing alone may not. If the dog has no experience with a hotwire, it will simply run right through it. It won't know in advance that the wire produces a searing shock.
5 days ago
Yes. Sweet potatoes propagate just fine from vine cuttings. In fact, vine cuttings is how all sweet potatoes are usually propagated here in Hawaii.

Slip propagate is used when healthy vines are not available. Since vines are frost sensitive, slips are used for most of the mainland US. I've used slips when I've been given a unique tuber to try, but otherwise I use vine cuttings.
Ok, you've already convinced yourself that your goal is can't grow your own food, can't afford to buy organic clean food, and can't source clean food locally, you just can't provide clean food for your family. You've given yourself an F grade before even trying. You have failed before even starting. Ok, take a deep breathe and throw all that out the window. Next......slowly, gently take you're first baby step to attaining your goal. Yes, baby steps work. I know because I've been there, done that.

If moving isn't an option at this moment, there is still plenty you can do to start on your journey. Step one is to change your expectations. Don't expect to instantly change over to 100% all natural food this year. Set yourself a more realistic goal....a baby step. A small baby step to start.

Not knowing your situation, I can try to offer suggestions but can't be specific. Start out with some of the easier crops to grow, perhaps peas, green beans, Chinese greens, turnip greens, chard. Don't plant a lot. Just a few of each until you become comfortable tending them successfully. Once you find you can successfully grow the easy crops, you may opt to expand the planting. Even on a tiny city plot, those 5 veggies can produce quire a bit of interesting food. They can be grown among the flowers and shrubbery. Eventually you may opt to grow just veggies instead of flowers, shrubs, and lawn grass. (As a side note: my mother grew up in a row home in downtown Philadelphia. Neighbors there grew plenty of greens, turnips, tomatoes, and potatoes which they shared among themselves. Neighbor's with shady backyards...those backyards were extremely tiny....grew greens and turnips. Those with sunny yards grew tomatoes and potatoes. Neighbor's then shared their excess among themselves. My mother said that they had plenty of things during the growing season to add to the dinner table.)

On a small plot, you can experiment growing in containers, thus utilizing unused concrete walkways, margins around a driveway, margins around the house foundation, etc. You can look into growing vertically,  by trellising pole beans or making vertical planter boxes. You can try patio style veggies in hanging baskets and window boxes. There are some really cute veggies suitable for this -- peas, tomatoes, extra dwarf bok choy, fingerling carrots, etc. I've seen examples where people made a rope trellis as a "roof" over their patio, and runner beans, pole beans, pumpkins, winter squash, or other long vine crops were grown on that trellis. I've seen trellises made up against the side of the house, with vining veggies trained to grow up them. I've seen vining crops trained up the side of a tool shed, then spread out growing atop the roof. I've seen portable container boxes lined up on a shed roof, thus growing container veggies in a space normally not used. There are many other possible ideas to use depending upon your property.

The whole idea is to start. Start small. You can build up from there. Even in tiny spaces, you could grow quite a bit of food by being innovative.
1 week ago
Joseph, I agree with you that's it's highly unlikely that the crystals bring observed are NaCl salt. But non-NaCl salt crystals are common in urine. Depending upon the person, crystal production can be high or low, dependent upon the day and diet, depend upon whether the urine is acidic vs alkaline, and depend upon the chemical, health, & genetic make up of the person involved. Plus the longer the urine sits once voided, the more the crystals will precipitate out of it. Refrigeration would also cause crystals to form.

There are numerous types of compounds that form crystals in the urine. Without examining the crystals under a microscope, I couldn't tell you which ones are there in any particular urine sample. During my career I've done thousands of urine slides and have seen numerous very interesting crystals in the samples. But I've never seen NaCl crystals. As I've said, crystals are common enough, so it's no surprise to see them. I just couldn't guess what crystals are in the urine being mentioned.

Personally, I've been using urine on my farm since 2004 and have seen no indication of salt problems. One would be more apt to see salt damage when using commercial fertilizers.....but I don't use them. I should think that if one was concerned about the amount of salt in urine, the easiest approach would be to avoid eating salty foods on a regular basis. The excessive salt in the typical Western diet isn't all that healthy. Another option would be to active enough to build up a good sweat each day. We excrete quite a bit of our salt via sweat. The second best approach would be to simply dilute the urine before using. Most gardeners in my area that are using urine dilute it -- about one cup of urine (or less) to a gallon of water, then use that to water plants that are not drought stressed. If the soil is real dry or the plants are drought stressed, then use half the urine. I'll use diluted urine directly into garden beds that have a good active microbe population. (We collect our urine in a plastic milk jug and then fill the jug with water. One pee per jug.) If I have good microbial action going on the the garden soil, I don't have any odor even when the soil is later tilled or dug. Odor would indicate that I need to get better quality "live" compost into that garden bed.
2 weeks ago
I used to call this a precocious milker. I've never seen it in goats, but I've heard about it. As Burra pointed out, it happens primarily in heavy milk production bloodlines.  It happens commonly in dogs if they "adopt" a kitten, puppy, or other animal that suckles on their nipples. Usually within a week or so, the dog is successfully nursing the adoptee. I've also heard about it in humans, but don't have any firsthand knowledge. I just recall my aunts and great aunts talking about some relative who successfully nursed an orphaned infant by letting the baby attempt to suckle frequently. It caused the woman to lactate.

Precocious millers goats don't produce as much milk as a normally lactating goat, nor for as long. No personal experience on this, but this is what I've read in the textbooks.