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

Rain catchment.....if it's legal where you are, I'd surely go for it. It's a big step toward self sustainability. I do rain catchment and have come to appreciate it. I can store 24,000 gallons, which isn't enough on a dry year for my particular homestead, but it surely helps. On wet years, I have plenty in reserve. I like the independence. I like being able to irrigate without using electricity or gasoline, by making a gravity feed system.
11 hours ago
I'm a big one for experimenting, then learning from my failures. So my number piece of advice is......try it. Personally I think you'll make it just fine. My number two is....start small then expand. Doing this, I've learned a lot along the way.

I wish I could grow the fruits you mentioned, but since I couldn't, I gave tropical fruits a try. After 15 years, we now have an abundance of fruits. But it took time. The only thing I'd change when it comes to my orchard is to plant my slow maturing crops sooner. I should have planted the nut and fruit trees on my first year so that I didn't have to wait so far into the program for them to mature. That's something to think about.

Same applies to livestock. If it takes two to three years for a calf to get to the point of giving milk, then I would buy the calf before I'd worry about building say, a rabbitry or fish pond. Those could be built while the calf is growing up. .......... just the way things would work better for me to attain my independent goal.

You mentioned a property with more land. I'd be very tempted to go with more acreage. Why? It is more room that could absorb my mistakes better. The smaller the farm, the less room for error or natural disasters. The extra land gives more flexibility to expand not only into hay making, but a decent woodlot, grain growing, or adding a farm hand or two who gets the use of an acre in exchange for a certain amount of labor. My own farm is 20 acres, which is really enough for my location. But I often wish I had purchased the 40 acres down the road instead.
11 hours ago
Great chart. Once I saw it, it triggered a memory. Yes, I would use that sort of chart for figuring out what my settings should be.
14 hours ago
In my younger days I knew how to use one of those cameras, but the knowledge has long since been lost from my head. Besides, hubby was far better at it than I since he was a real camera buff when we got married. Anyway, I won't be of much help to you. Hubby says that there's people still using those old cameras, basically hobbyists. There's probably discussions on the web someplace where those people gather.

Fast film was labeled 400. There was even faster films but I never used it. i can't remember why I stayed with 400 speed, but I got the best photos with it. 200 speed was average fast. Lots of  people used 200 and I'd use that if I couldn't find 400. But there was also 100 that was extremely common. 

When I was learning to take photos I used a light meter. After a while you could get pretty good judging your light setting by looking at the shadow from your hand on the ground. Pro photographers would use meters because they needed to get the photo right. I was a sloppy picture taker, so the quality wasn't important to me.  Back in those days the film and developing was fairly cheap, so even though it it cost money, I wasn't too concerned if I flubbed some shots. Besides, the developing companies were competitive, so some would let you hand back your bad photos without having to pay for the developing process.

Hubby says he thinks film is still available and that Fuji is the only one still making it. You might have to mail order it. He also says that there are labs still developing film, but he doesn't know who they are. Most serious photographers use to develop their own in homemade darkrooms. We never got into it that deeply. We used the companies.
15 hours ago
The swelling corn kernal (or rice is often mentioned) is an old wives tale that just wont die. Lorne, I've hear intelligent, well educated people repeat it. Not that they are being stupid, its just not in their experience. It's just a case of parroting info outside their field of expertise.

Whole seeds don't swell up inside of an animal, be it a bird or something else, not even if swallowed whole. It may seem logical that it would happen, but it doesn't. An animal's insides simply aren't that warm and watery. During my years in veterinary medicine I have had scores of panicked owners fly into the clinic demanding immediate treatment, often asking for stomach pumping, because their dog ate birdseed, raw rice, raw sesame seeds, etc. It was very difficult convincing them that their pet would be fine. Most pet owners calmed down, but some left still in a panic. I'm sure they drove to the next vet hospital, had their pet admitted to be "treated" until the offending seeds passed in a stool movement...... whole and not swollen, although they weren't aware of that. I couldn't be so dishonest, but I've heard the stories being told at the veterinary meetings of cases just like this == easy money, happy owner, healthy dog, everything is fine except for the deceit.

The fact that the seeds don't get digested or changed can be a benefit. I've fed them to a group of dogs in order to determine who was the one pooping on the living room floor at night. One dog gets a spoonful of dogfood that had sesame seeds mixed in, the next dog had birdseed mixed in, the next had raw rice, and so on and so on. A look at the offending poop pile instantly tells you which dog left the pile in the middle of the carpet. Gotcha!!
1 day ago
Here's some thoughts from my experience and perspective.

Self sufficiency is doable, but it depends upon your definition. It's been argued that self sufficiency is being able to meet all your own basic needs without outside help. BUT what if I sell my excess vegetables for cash, then use that money to buy a tractor and gasoline? Is using a tractor being self sufficient? Or using that money to hire someone to install livestock fencing? Some argue that it's not. each their own ideas. In my own mind I've decided that using the money my farm earns and spending it on the things I need is indeed my being self sufficient. Based upon this definition, I'd say the self sufficiency is very doable.

Could I be self sufficient on 12.5 acres in Texas? Perhaps, but I have no experience in Texas, so I can't be certain. But I have learned that I can be almost self sufficient on 20 acres in Hawaii where I can grow food year around, access additional food via hunting/foraging/trading, and have much reduced energy needs.

Let's look at food. As long as you have access to water, fresh organic green material to make compost (your source of fertilizer), and knowledge of how to grow it, your 12.5 acres should be able to produce all your own food. But I surely wouldn't turn my back on hunting, foraging, and trading. No one piece of property can provide all the dietary variety we have come to expect for our good health. Nor would I strictly adhere to the 100% goal, because life gets really boring and frustrating without the spices, salt, coffee, chocolate, and non-acclimated foods one enjoys. For example, I can't grow most nuts and stone fruits where I live, so I do buy things like walnuts and peaches with my farm income. Remember, that's still being self sufficient as far as I'm concerned when I sell my pumpkins and beans to buy peaches......or when I trade peas and cabbages for cow's milk. One thing I don't grow is much in the way of grains. So I trade for homemade breads.

Speaking of milk, do you need several gallons of milk a day? Cows can give a lot of milk, so unless you know that you can sell your excess or feed it to a pig (even a pig would be hardpressed to consume the milk from two cows a day), having two dairy cows may not be your best solution. Even with my 20 acres and not having to feed cows during dead winter, cows don't make sense for me. Thus I trade for the cow's milk that I want. And I keep 2 dwarf goat does (and a buck who resides on a back pasture away from the does) for fresh milk. It's a lot less daily work, less pasture needed. And keep in mind that a bull is needed somewhere along the line for your cow to produce milk. Why feed a bull when you only need him for a day or two each year? It's too expensive to maintain a bull year around for one or two cows, and it's also very dangerous. Bulls can be problematic. Besides, as pointed out, cows require a lot of feed, so unless your 12.5 acres is currently lush pasture, you've got a problem to start with. And getting them through the winter will require purchased feed. Skimp on the feed and you'll lose your milk supply.

Chickens - always a good small homestead animal. Your breed choices are fine. 6 hens and one rooster is usually enough unless you're using them to process compost and supply fertilizer. I maintain 50-60 chickens for eggs (they are good for trading), our meat, and to provide fertilizer, and process our garden and donated waste foods. That's most likely far too many chickens for most people, but it works fine for my situation.

Rabbits - another good easy homestead animal. Good for meat, selling some babies as pets, providing fertilizer. If you learn to tan your own pelts, then the pelts are a plus.

Ducks - If you like eating duck, then they are fine. Muscovys don't need a pond and are far less messy and quieter. They give a decent amount of eggs and a decent meat return.

Sheep - good small acreage livestock. Can provide milk for cheese or cooking. They don't give much milk at a milking, but the milk freezes well. I stockpile mine until I want to make cheese. They provide meat. I find that some breeds taste far better than others. Plus we harvest our lambs very young (40 lbs) for better flavor and tenderness. But I have turned older sheep into ground mutton which is fine for casseroles, barbecue sandwiches, shepherds pie, etc.  I raise hair sheep so I don't have wool as a harvestable product. But I can sell the hide to local crafters who tan their own. Not much cash in it but it's better than turning it into compost. By the way, sheep are far easier to fence in than a cow, goat, or pig. I really like not having to track down wayward escaped livestock.

Goats - good for milk and meat. Harder to confine than sheep, so you have to invest in better restraint.

Pig - I find that a pig or two is perfect for my homestead farm. They turn a lot of my waste into edible meat. If not well managed, they will ruin your pastures. You just have to keep that in mind.

Between the 50 chickens, 4 ducks, 4 rabbits, 2 pigs, 3 goats, dozen sheep we have plenty of meat and dairy, with lots of excess to sell and trade. It get good variety right off the farm. Plus we trade for fish, beef, mouflon, and cow's milk.

Bees should work fine. I use to keep my own, but when my neighbor across the street got into bees, I gave my hives up. Let him do the work. I'll just trade for a pint of honey now and then.

Fruit and nut trees. Makes sense. Sugar maples? Will they produce in Texas? Maybe look into sweet sorghum instead.

Pond and fish? Sure. Greenhouse? Sure. Hay? You won't produce enough to feed a lot of livestock, especially if two cows are in the formula.......unless your land  is lush. A wood lot? Sure but it will take years to establish, just as will your food orchard. Root cellar? Sure unless you're on bedrock. If your house has a basement, then you can create a root cellar there. Water well? You'll have to check with your local authorities and well diggers. They could give you the necessary info.

Energy needs? That depends. A solar or wind system will initially cost a lot of money, depending upon your energy needs. And it costs money and experience/knowledge to maintain. It isn't free energy. I'm totally off grid. I'm happy with it. The system isn't completely self sufficient of course. I have to buy batteries every 6-7 years, distilled water on a regular basis, repair components as needed, and have a generator for topping up the battery bank on no-sun days. The farm doesn't earn enough to go buy a total replacement system. And since one has to go buy all the parts, people will argue, just how self sufficient is that?

From my own experiences, I find that it takes a lot of learning and doing to have a self sufficient homestead. And it takes work to maintain it. But it's a great experience!!! I love having a homestead farm!!!
2 days ago
Around where I am we have saddle makers who will repair leather items for people. We don't have any shoemakers here anymore, so the saddle makers fill that nitch.
4 days ago
Since we grow most of our own food, eating out for holidays is a treat. So we will most likely eat at our local restaurant who is planning a big buffet. In the past they have had traditional roast turkey and gravy, baked ham, sushi roll, mashed potatoes, rice, mashed purple sweet potatoes with pineapple, corn, green beans, macaroni salad, cole slaw, a mixed salad, homemade breads, olives/celery sticks/carrot sticks/sliced cucumbers, local fruits, and some sort of special gourmet homemade dessert. Our farm in the past has contributed the  purple sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, assorted herbs, and the pineapple. The local hongwangi makes the sushi roll.
4 days ago
Joseph, how are you preparing the parsley? Sautéed in an oil? Steamed? Boiled?
I get one harvest of turmeric a year. January is the primary harvesting month. I wait for the tops to brown and die back because that results in the strongest orange colored "root". Harvested early the roots are yellowish. Still ok for home use but the public doesn't want to buy it. They want a deep, brilliant orange color.

I don't know how to determine when to harvest in your region. I'm fairly a novice when it comes to this crop. I've been growing it for six years now, but I'm still learning. Luckily for me, the signal to harvest is when the plant dies.
1 week ago