Su Ba

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since Apr 18, 2013
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books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
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

I've not read that book, but I've spent hours upon hours discussing breeding among dog breeders. The bottom line is that everybody seems to have their own strong opinion, irregardless if it is backed up by science or on-hand experience. Some breeders have crazy ideas that have very little to do with reality. I've talked with people who were very set against purebreds, but frankly, I couldn't see where their arguments held water. They simply couldn't defend their viewpoint when the discussion got beyond the first 2 minutes. As you can see, I'm not against the concept of purebreds. By the way, neither is nature, if you've noticed.

Consistency is most easily achieved by using purebreds. That's part of the definition of purebred, the ability to reproduce traits with consistency. Thus if you have a pig breed noted for giving consistent quality carcasses, then you can expect to see a high percentage of good carcasses in the litters you produce when breeding purebreds. If you keep the best individuals for your breeding stock, then you should be able to maintain that trait.

Carcass quality can often be achieved by crossing two known breeds, where it was previously learned that doing such a mating gave good carcass quality. Say for example, for years the farmer down the road has been mating Berkshire boars to Yorkshire sows and getting piglets that result in the ideal carcass for your needs. If you do the same thing, assuming that you choose good quality boars and sows, you'd also get the consistently good carcasses that you desired.

Once you start mating crossbreed animals, things can get a little fuzzy. A purebred bred to a crossbred will give somewhat predictable results, but there will be some variability that you can't control. You will see a higher percentage of off-types in the litters. But perhaps you are gaining the benefit of something else, such as increased litter size, that offsets the disadvantages. But once you start mating crossbreed to crossbreed, consistency goes out the door. While the farmer may see a tendency for a large herd, as a whole, to be ok when breeding crossbreed to crossbreed, on the individual level there is going to be wild variations. Thus a small farmer is not going to reap a benefit when breeding only a few litters of those cross-to-cross animals.
3 days ago
As Janes said, homesteading can mean different things for different people. Plus location makes a big difference. I homestead on 20 acres and have come up workable solutions. But if I tried to homestead 10 miles down the road, I'd have to come up with dramatically different methods.

Ray, if you ask specific questions, I'm sure people will respond. If you don't know where to start, you could try browsing my own blog in order to give you some ideas. 
4 days ago
Ron, you're right......chickens love eating styrofoam! Years ago I had been given numerous small styrofoam coolers and I thought I would make them into easy to clean nestboxes. the next day after installing them in the chicken coop I came out to discover that they had eaten huge holes in them! In some they had eaten the entire floor! Quickly I removed the remaining pieces and never allowed styrofoam near them again.

Another thing my hens will eat is paper, though not as avidly as styrofoam. One time I put handfuls of shredded paper in their nestboxes, thinking it would help keep things clean and dry. The next day most of the shredded paper had disappeared and the chickens pooped paper mache for the next day. On a same note, I often dump a trash bag of restaurant waste into the middle of their pen and often there are bits of trash. Yes, I have to pick up the trash the next morning, but I notice that eat all the paper napkins.
6 days ago
In my own experience of growing potatoes in the tropics, I find that they do not like fresh manure. My best results have been when I dug in aged compost. I lightly mulched the top of the soil until the sprouts grew about 6 inches tall, then I added more mulch. This helped keep the soil moist and cool. When I didn't use mulch, the potatoes were smaller and fewer. Potatoes seem to be heavy feeders, because mine always do better when I've dug in plenty of compost. Less compost = less potatoes.

I've had success growing potatoes in a container on my farm where the temperatures are cooler than at my seed farm. The seed farm location is much warmer and drier, and the potatoes there do not do well. I'm not sure if it is the heat it the drier conditions that causes them to grow poorly.

Some varieties do better in the tropics than others. So try several different ones to find the better ones for your location.
1 week ago
"What would be a reasonable amount of land to start with if I only grew the veggies, berries and fruit? "......... That depends. Where in the world is that land located? What sort of climate? How is the soil fertility? What are the available resources? Where one person could produce an abundance of food on one acre, another person somewhere else could need 20 acres or more to do the same. Where one person may have great soil, great "in place" fertility, plenty of warmth and rain, another person may have none of that. So, it all depends.

By a bit of experience, what do you mean? My own wwoofer feels he has a bit of experience, but honestly, he'd starve if he tried to independently grow all his own food. He only has experience of growing in a good location where everything is already developed. He hasn't seen mass diseases, crop destruction due to insects, nor severe drought yet. Nor has he had to start up his own farm.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but on the contrary, I'm trying to encourage you to be realistic so that you may succeed. That said.....having no land and no money will make things more challenging. In my area, no land isn't a major obstacle as long as you have transportation. I've helped a few young people get introduced to landowners who are willing to allow others to temporarily use their land. One family has been very, very successful farming small plots here and there. After a few years they have already saved enough money to have a down payment on their own 20 acres. Another couple are also farming multiple little pieces of land and are doing quite well.

The lack on money will be more challenging. It means that you may be spending a lot more time working than if you had some cash to buy things like a truckload of manure or compost, water for irrigation, piping or hoses, etc. Having to make do without a pick up truck, without small equipment, will take time away from actually working your crops. Lack of money also means that buying enough seeds may be difficult. And buying fruit trees may need budgeting.

Starting out with nothing can be done, but it takes a willingness to work long and hard,  be resourceful, and live a simplistic lifestyle. Many a person in my area started out living in a tent or garden shed for one or several years while struggling to get started. They often started out with a small bit of land, made improvements, sold it and bought something better. I know several small farmers who bought & sold several pieces of land before finally getting their current farms. Those that were determined and disciplined generally succeeded.

If this is something you really want to do, I would suggest that you read and learn as much as possible. Then start out small, gradually getting bigger as you gain experience. It an be an exciting and grand experience!
1 week ago
I'm growing macadamia trees on my homestead in Hawaii. Yes, they will grow from seed quite easily, but like citrus and avocado, you won't know what you've got until the tree matures. As a result most people plant grafted trees so that know that they are putting their effort into growing a tree that will produce the type of nuts they are looking for. I've seen plenty of macnut trees grown from seed that mature out to be good producers, but I've seen an equal number or more that either produce very small nuts or not very many. My own trees are a known grafted variety that I got free as rejects from a local orchard. They were funny shaped and the orchard man wasn't interested in fussing with them. I've trained them into nice trees.

They grow moderately slowly. It will take years before they offer any significant shade or get tall. I planted mine about 10 years ago and they are perhaps 10 foot high now.

Once established they handle dry conditions ok. But in order to produce a decent crop, they need moisture during flowering time. The orchards here that are in dry locations will run drip irrigation during the flowering season. I have a friend living in a dry location and has a dozen trees. She directs her grey water to the trees during flowering time, thus getting an abundant crop each year.

Hope this info helps.
1 week ago
Medically, the problem comes down to lack of fat. Rabbit meat (and some other wild meats harvested at the end of winter when the animal is in poor condition or on the verge of starvation) has extremely little fat. There's none laced in the muscling of rabbits, like that found in many other animals.

The problem with rabbit comes when a person tries to survive predominately on just rabbit. The human body needs fats. When we are not eating meats containing fats, we get it from other foods. Thus vegans don't run into trouble not eating meat fat because there is plenty in vegetables and nuts. But for people that opt to eat just rabbit and nothing else, or are forced to because that's the only thing around that is edible, then they can quickly get into trouble with a deadly situation. The rabbit it isn't toxic, it simply lacks fat.

Cultures that survived upon high meat diets, consumed plenty of fat along with the meat.

1 week ago
Instead of a giant list of things, how about a list of giant things.......

More things we've made ourselves instead of buying them....
1- our farm. We started out with 20 acres of once upon a time, many decades before, a place that had been used to graze cattle. Prior to that had been used by an adjacent ranch to work with their ranch horses. It had been abandoned, allowed to regrow into a young woods for years and years to the point that all the buildings and fencing had rotted away and totally disappeared. Instead of buying a farm, we made our own.......buildings, pastures, gardens, rock walls, fences, the whole shebang.
2- our house. We bought the materials, but we did the building.
3- our food. 98% of our food comes from our own effort, one way or the other.
2 weeks ago
Welcome , Dereck!!

Sounds like you have a decent piece of land to start your project with. Congratulations. Mind telling us a bit more? Where is it located? What's the climate like? What's some of your goals -- self-sufficency? Market gardens? Permaculture homestead? Focus upon a particular crop family? Food forestry? Etc. Plus, how along are you in experience? Novice, intermediate, experienced?

First let me say, in my opinion there is no single "best way" to do things in permaculture. There's lots of leeway, flexibility, and possibilities. So when I'm working a new project, I often try small plots using different methods to see which works best for me in that location.

Some grasses and weeds are notoriously difficult to smother, others are easy. So a 4" mulch layer may or may not do the trick. But as weeds return, if you chop each one as they first appear, it should not be overly difficult to control and eliminate them. Many new gardeners make the mistake of waiting too long before doing something about the returning weeds. Cardboard may or may not be the answer. I've used cardboard over grass, and while initially happy with the results, I have since abandoned the method. I found the cardboard effective to a point, then it had problems associated with it-- it got slippery during wet periods making a dangerous walking situation. Yes, I fell several times. It also didn't uniformly rot away, leaving huge chunks that I ended up removing and carrying away to a hugelpit. The wind here would kick it up and make a mess.

The one thing I would say NOT to do is use landscape fabric. I've never been happy with it. Plenty of people have their own horror stories about it. Once down in place for awhile it becomes a nightmare to remove. It never rots away, but it shreds, causing hours and hours of work to remove it. And contrary to the advertising, there will be plenty of weeds growing in the top mulch plus plenty of grasses growing back right up through the weedblock cloth. I've tried even heavy duty professional landscape cloth and have had grasses grow right up through it. And those grasses that fail to make it through the fabric weave  their roots and shoots into the fabric, effectively gluing it to the soil. To remove glued down landscape cloth I've had to use my pickup truck to pull it up in pieces. Not a fun job.

Personally I've taken pasture areas and mowed them down real close to the soil. Then I run a rototiller shallowly across the top to cut the grass plants off at the soil level. The tiller is simply faster and easier than using a hand hoe to chop. I'll do this on a sunny day and have to sub dry out to uprooted grasses. The next day I'll rake off the grasses, transferring them to a compost bin. I'll cover the exposed soil with a very light mulch, just enough to protect the soil microbes.,no more than a 1/2" thick. Then I'll wait a week or two for weeds and grasses to grow back, then either chop or rototill them off. Reapply a very light mulch as needed. Then wait again for a week or two to see what sort of regrowth I have, chopping or surface tilling until the major regrow this gone. The only thing I haven't controlled this way in my farm is bermuda grass. It works for most everything else. Now with the majority of weeds and grasses controlled, I'll get on with mulching, soil amendments (after a soil testing), and gardening.

Hope these ideas help. I'm sure more folks will chime in with their own experiences. There's more than one way to start out.
2 weeks ago
Gosh, I can't think of all the things that I home make, compared to my friends who go out and buy stuff. I don't buy paper towels - I use rags from discarded clothing I get for free. I don't buy flowerpots for my seedlings- I make my own out of discarded containers I get from the dump. I made my own hydroponic system. My own greenhouses and mini greenhouses. My own garden labels. I didn't buy a house address sign (required here)- instead I made my own artsy house number sign. All my yard art is homemade. I've made many pieces of furniture out of purchased cedar and ohia harvested off my own land. I'm presently making picture frames out of wood and other materials from my land. I've made plenty of raised garden containers and mini ponds instead of buying them at Home Depot. Most gifts are handmade. Much of my art decor is handmade by me or my friends, I've been gifted items that my friends sell for in the hundreds, even thousands, so these are not cheesy looking items! Homemade doesn't mean poor quality. I've also made some clothing, but sewing doesn't thrill me, so I don't do it much.

I guess if I thought about it, I could list more. But making my own is a normal way of life now. 20 years ago I would have gone to the store for my stuff.
2 weeks ago