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Su Ba’s Community Farm Project - Adding Permaculture

 
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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It’s been awhile since my last post. Not because this project has faded away….no. It’s because it has grown bigger and bigger. I’ve been putting more time into it, and loving it. But it also exhausts me by the end of the day. I’m no spring chicken, so evenings often find me passing out in my lounge chair.

The State of Hawaii is placing greater emphasis upon sustainable agriculture and self-sufficient food supplies. Recently multiple grants have been offered to private individuals for growing food. The problem is that many of the recipients have no or little experience. So they seek help, many times to me and OKK. This takes away precious time from the real production of food on our farm. I surely don’t resent teaching people……I  have been doing it for years. But I am of the opinion that the State money is getting wasted by targeting private individuals with no experience. My own idea is to have OKK offer a small farm school where people could come sow seeds, learn to tend them, take them home to their gardens where they had learned to prepare the area, and then grow the veggies to maturity, learn to harvest, learn to cook or prepare meals. Money spent this way would be productive. But alas, the grants exclude non-profits. So it simply isn’t happening. Sigh.

Anyway….back to our current project.

We now have 2 greenhouses. The first greenhouse is in full production. We are getting around 30 pounds of rinsed greens a week from the raised beds. This translates into $150. I plan to tweak the method and look forward to 40 pounds weekly. Then after that, I could increase production via container hydroponics by hanging containers from the greenhouse struts. But that’s a future endeavor. We make extra income by growing some tree seedlings under the benches, on the gravel. This brings in another $20 to $40 a week, because we sell the seedlings cheaply. The main garden generates a lot more income, though we currently donate about half the food produced to our local food hub. If we weren’t giving away the food or selling it dirt cheap at the farmers market, this little operation could provide a decent living for somebody. But for now, we just aim to have it pay for its own expenses so that we can make good food available to our community.

The second greenhouse is not well set up yet, though it is producing about 10 pounds of greens weekly, growing in containers (mostly old coolers). It is being used to start seeds, grow on transplant starts. Tomorrow we will be setting up 6 six foot by 12 foot greenhouse benches that have been donated by a defunct orchid business. These will be turned into growing beds by covering the bench with Weedblock, then building sides using plywood and 2 by 4 lumber. . Outdoors we will also set up 2 or 4 of these tables to convert to mini-greenhouses for the seeds and starts.

Here’s a few photos of the first greenhouse. The beds are livestock troughs with soil mix being 5 to 6 inches deep. Fertilizer is delivered via irrigation using a hozon. We make our own fertilizer using fresh grass clippings,  aged manure and urine, and compost. It is filtered to accommodate the hozon. The high nitrogen fertilizer gets the greens growing robustly.

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Volunteers in the foreground. The blue bucket on the ground holds the liquid fertilizer. And harbors the hozon.
Volunteers in the foreground. The blue bucket on the ground holds the liquid fertilizer. And harbors the hozon.
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Assorted greens ready for the next harvest tomorrow.
Assorted greens ready for the next harvest tomorrow.
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More greens. Greens are harvested weekly, via individual leaves.
More greens. Greens are harvested weekly, via individual leaves.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Leafy Greens

The greenhouses have been assigned to me, and I enjoy producing greens. They do so much better in a protected house than outdoors here in Hawaii. The tropical sun is strong, the wind can be damaging, the pests are aggressive. A closed screenhouse or greenhouse gives excellent protection. I still see a few pests getting in, but not many). On top of that, we have slugs…armies of slugs and snails. Due to the rat-lung parasite, it is best to grow leafy greens in an environment protected from slugs and snails. Thus the use of the off-the-ground containers. This avoids us having to use toxic slug bait.

In the photos you can see that the greens vary. I’m growing over 2 dozen different types, all together. Since we sell most of the greens as a mix, it is far easier to grow them as a mix when it comes to harvesting. Most of the greens are a wide assortment of Asian greens, but you can see among the plants chard, colorful beet greens, amaranth, spinach, cabbage, kale, arugula, and colorful lettuces. Our buyers, and our food hub, use these greens as a raw salad or cooked in stir-fries and soups.

Time-wise, these greens are fast. We sow seeds one week and can often transplant the sprouts into growing trays the following week. The seedlings then take 2 to 3 weeks before I replant them into a container bed. The nice thing about having them being in seedling cells is that if I don’t have a growing bed ready for them, they can sit in the cells for a couple weeks until I am ready for them. Once they are in the growing bed, I can often harvest one leaf here and there after only one week. By week two, they are in production. I will see good production for 8 weeks before things slow down. I usually get 12 weeks of harvesting from each container bed. After 12 weeks many of the plants have faded away or are not producing much. So it’s time to revitalize the bed.

To revitalize the bed, I remove the old plants that are left. They go into a compost bin. I then check the soil pH and add pulverized lime if needed. A little light sprinkling of lime is almost always called for. Then using a small hand shovel, I mix up the soil, loosening it to aerate the entire soil contents. Loosening the soil and making it fluffy is an important trick to making the greens grow aggressively and abundantly. They respond well to aerated soil where our natural fertilizer can go to work with the soil microbes. A few shovelfuls of screened compost is added to top up the bed. Now it is ready for the next batch of seedlings.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Benches for the Second Greenhouse

As I mentioned, a locale defunct orchid farm donated a few of their greenhouse benches to our project. The benches are 6 foot by 12 foot, a bit large for our use, but we shall adapt. Not having a flat bed truck or trailer readily available, we managed to transport them one at a time to the farm via a pick up truck with a bed rack. We would hoist one atop the rack and securely lash it down with ropes. A 10 mile trip to the greenhouse….repeat the trip 5 more times. Then one at a time, lash 8 more atop the truck for a 3 mile trip to my own farm in order to store the extras. Took us all day.

Yesterday 3 of us spent half a day setting up the 6 benches up at the greenhouse. While I spent my time moving plants out of the way, installing weedblock on the ground and being the general go-for person, David and Bob manhandled each bench into place, built legs onto them, then flipped them over and into place. We are all in our 70s, so I don’t think we did bad for a bunch of oldsters!

The plan at the moment is to use one bench for seed starting, another for growing young seedlings. The third bench will be for growing baby Bok choy in 3 inch pots. Fourth bench —- we don’t know yet. Bench 5 and 6 will get plywood sides for making them into 6’ by 12pm growing beds for zucchini squash in one, and sweet peppers in the other.

We also plan to try growing cucumbers in this greenhouse. They will be in containers, such as large pots and old coolers, placed along the outer walls with trellises to grow up. And leftover spaces will host large pots or tubs for more food plants, possibly peppers and herbs.

This is going to be fun !!  I’m looking forward to many hours of enjoyment working here.

Permie ideas used —-  
…using weedblock instead of using poison for slug control and herbicide for weeds. While the weedblock itself is not truely permaculture, it will surely outlast my lifetime while not causing annual harm. It thus will prevent a heck of a lot of toxic ick from going into the environment and eventually seeping into our water supply, and thus ending up on the reef around our island. Yes, eventually this weedblock will end up in the dump, but over the next  20 year (or more) period, I feel that it is a better choice. On top of that, this weedblock was snatched from the waste stream. It was already being discarded and headed for the dump. By using it, no new weedblock has been added to our trash stream. As you know, I am a big advocate of intercepting items heading for the dump and using them instead of buying new. So,….with care, this weedblock will last long after I am dead.
… growing insect susceptible vegetables in a screened greenhouse. In Hawaii, some pests are so aggressive and successful that one cannot grow certain vegetables without either repetitively dousing them in toxic pesticides or using barriers to keep out the pests. Using the barrier tactic is a better choice for me. These greenhouses I’m using are screened. One also has poly across the top.  Ok, not totally permaculture but at least the materiel is heavy duty commercial grade and will last for years. Using such greenhouses prevents the use of a lot of herbicides and pesticides one would otherwise need for outdoor production of these vegetables. Every week I am producing pounds of beautiful greens without the use of any commercial fertilizer nor chemical pesticides. The greens look gorgeous and taste incredible.
… using techniques to re-use the potting soil indefinitely. I will discuss this further in another post. As already mentioned, I use homemade fertilizer from items mostly found on this farm.
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Greenhouse section cleared out and ready for the first benches. I haven’t yet covered the gravel floor with weedblock, but I did cut out all the weeds.
Greenhouse section cleared out and ready for the first benches. I haven’t yet covered the gravel floor with weedblock, but I did cut out all the weeds.
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The first bench in place. I already moved some seedlings onto it.
The first bench in place. I already moved some seedlings onto it.
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[Thumbnail for 6FAFF046-2436-4E25-835F-395D88A00708.jpeg]
5 benches in place. Weedblock in place for these.
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Last bench in place, putting the finishing touches on the last leg. The benches came without kegs, so we had to add them.
Last bench in place, putting the finishing touches on the last leg. The benches came without kegs, so we had to add them.
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Then benches had no legs, do we laid the. Upside down, built legs, then flipped them upright again.
Then benches had no legs, do we laid the. Upside down, built legs, then flipped them upright again.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Cucumbers Started Again

A couple of weeks ago I jumped the gun and sowed some cucumber seeds into large pots. See, I’m not as methodical and sensible as some people think I am! Before I even had the space set up for them, I got them growing. Anyway, they are here and are growing. If you recall, I have successfully grown a bush type cucumber in the greenhouse before. That variety had no resistance to powdery mildew, so the plants died after producing one or two cucumbers. I’m ready to try again with different varieties.

Because the donated greenhouse benches are not an efficient fit for this greenhouse, there is wasted space around them. Think of this space as the "margins” that permaculture talks about. So I plan to grow cucumbers along the outer margins of the greenhouse. Since I cannot grow right into the ground, I will try growing them in pots or containers of some sort. Being a frugal minded person, I am first going to see if they will produce while growing in pots of various sizes. If the pots do not work, I can always build a long growing bed for them out of plywood or duraboard.

So the few pots that are already started are now in place along one wall. I stretched a string that I had, along the length of the greenhouse in order to start trellising the vines up the wall. Using strips of old denim, I started tying the vines to the string. I find that denim works good for tying, and I have access to free denim down at the local thrift store.

Now for the permaculture aspects ——
… my potting soil is recycled promix mixed with good garden soil and homemade compost. I’m getting a free 1/2-pickup load of used promix each month from a person growing baby greens. It’s clean—no pesticides or fertilizer added. The promix improves our local volcanic ash soil, providing organic material and drainage much like my homemade compost does.
… the fertilizer for the cucumbers will be my homemade brews.
… by using a barrier to exclude pests (that is, the greenhouse screening), no herbicides or pesticides will be used.
… the trellis string is natural material. The denim ties are from old jeans that have long since had much of their industrial chemicals washed away.

The pots are plastic. They cost me nothing, so the frugal side of me uses them since I intercepted them from the waste stream. Surely I could go manufacture pots out of large coconuts, but why? I would be using more petrochemicals by driving my truck to places to harvest such coconuts, and using electricity to cut these coconuts to the proper shape. Naw. Snatching those plastic pots from the trash stream uses less of the world’s finite resources than trying to use coconut pots. Or I could use pottery pots, but those would have to be imported—-more petrochemicals being used to make and ship them. Or make metal pots from old aluminum beer cans. Again, I’d have to use a heat source to melt the aluminum. A simple open wood fire wouldn’t work. So in the end, the salvaged plastic pots are kinder on the environment.

Back to the cucumbers ——
A couple of the plants are already producing their first flowers. They are males, as is expected. I am using parthenocarpic varieties this time, rather than attempting hand pollination. Hand pollination surely isn’t difficult, but I don’t always have the time each day to do it. In addition, I am using varieties noted for resistance to powdery mildew. No, they are not open pollinated heirlooms. While I had great success using those in New Jersey, they simply don’t work for Hawaii. I know — I already tried. Both pickleworm and powdery mildew are wicked here. A gardener can get away with growing regular cucumbers their first year, but then the bugs and diseases find you. Your second year will be a major flop. Been there, done that. And while I don’t expect my new cucumber experiment to be a resounding success, I do anticipate getting more than one cucumber from each plant.

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Potted cucumbers along the wall.
Potted cucumbers along the wall.
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A close up of the denim ties
A close up of the denim ties
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Zucchini Experiment

One of the crops which is difficult to grow outdoors in Hawaii is squash. If pickleworm doesn’t get it, then powdery mildew does. After trying a few different methods out in the main garden, we decided to try growing this inside the greenhouse, the screened sides and roof of the greenhouse will effectively keep out the pickleworm moth. Then we only had powdery mildew to battle. I opted to first try varieties with some resistant.

This strategy for growing zucchini eliminates the need for chemical pesticides and fungicides. But it relies upon a hybrid variety rather than an open pollinated one. So….one point for permaculture and one point for not.  Another point for permaculture is that I will be using homemade fertilizer and soil amendments. And to address powdery mildew, I will be spraying the foliage twice a week, or more, with a compost tea which has active microbes. Controlling powder mildew is an ongoing experiment for me, trying to figure out methods that work in various situations and with different crops.

An issue when growing zucchini squash inside a greenhouse is pollination. A screened greenhouse effectively blocks the insects needed for pollination in most cases. A solution would be to hand pollinate, but because of my time schedule, this would only be hit and miss for me.  On the other hand,  I learned that there exists some degree of parthenocarpic tendencies in some zucchini varieties. Golden Glory seems to have the trait the strongest. Plus it exhibits some resistance to powdery mildew, a real plus.

Using half barrels as growing containers (acquired from the trash stream), I sowed 2 Golden Glory zucchinis. I can’t recall the date I sowed the seeds, but they popped up quickly and the plants grew strongly. By 7 days ago, the plants were ready to produce flowers. I was mildly surprised to see that although the first two flowers were males, the females quickly followed. One week later I checked and saw that the plants are indeed setting fruit without pollination. Wow! Delightful!

These two plants are test plants. Eventually I will set up a better container system for the zucchini.
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Two zucchini plants growing in half barrels.
Two zucchini plants growing in half barrels.
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First flowers forming, one week ago.
First flowers forming, one week ago.
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One day after the flower closed. I did not hand pollinate.
Photo today. I did not hand pollinate, but a young squash is developing.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Dwarf Bok Choy Experimemt

One project where we plan to use the pots given to us by the defunct orchid nursery is the growing of dwarf bok choy. We plan to also try mini romaine lettuce using this method. The pots are 3 inch square pots and have trays designed to hold them with about 1/4 inch of separation between the pots. Apparently this is a good set up for growing young orchids.

My thinking is……
…By growing the plants this way, we figure the plant shape will be more upright rather than flat and spreading out.
…We could pick and choose which plants to harvest, thus leaving the smaller plants behind to grow another week or two.
…We could offer to sell a few plants in their pots to interested buyers, of course at a higher price to compensate for the loss of the pot and soil.
…And it’s simply another fun way to grow veggies.

I plan to use promix as the potting soil because dwarf bok choys are very susceptible to rootknot nematode. Around here, rootknot nematode is just about everywhere in the soil, even improved garden soils. Once the bok choys are harvested,  both the pot and the potting soil can be recycled.

I was browsing Johnny’s seed catalog and saw that they offer several types of mini romaines. I’ll be ordering some to give them a try. I don’t know if a 3 inch pot will be too confining for mini romaine, but we shall soon find out.

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First planting of dwarf bok choys in 3 inch pots.
First planting of dwarf bok choys in 3 inch pots.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Farmers Market in the Rain

Today was market day and I had our usual harvest to sell. But it was pouring rain!  Not fun.  Not drizzling, but pouring!

Before the market, Wayne took about half the harvest to a little local food store and successfully sold it. Of course, we don’t get much cash for such a sale, but at least the food does not go to waste. This whole project is about growing good quality, clean food for our community, not making the most money we can. So selling wholesale is acceptable, though it’s not our number one priority.

At the market I ended up with what the store did not want —- radishes, daikon, limes, lemons, pumpkins, edible gourds, eggplant, snow peas, green beans, basil, parsley, Chinese celery, and mixed leafy greens. What few buyers arrived, braving the steady rain, they found extremely low prices. I priced everything about 75% off and threw in extra free stuff with every sale. Within 4 hours I was practically sold out. I was thoroughly soaked even though I had a canopy tent for protection.

This was the most miserable market I’ve had to date. But if one is dealing with a perishable product, then one has to accept the bad weather market days from time to time….or else throw the truckload of veggies into the compost bin—-which I refuse to do.

 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Piglets on the Farm

We just added 2 domestic piglets to our farming project. So our farm now has about 30 head of cattle (all donated from various ranchers or private owners, and for various reasons) plus 2 pigs. We are surely turning into a farm project rather than just a market garden project. The piglets were donated by a local person who raises domestic pigs.

The cattle are 100% grass fed on this farm. We don’t finish them with grain. Just grass.

We aim to have these piglets be vegetarians….mostly. They need iron and good protein, so a strictly non-corn, non-soy diet won’t be enough. Therefore they will also get the broken eggs (to be cooked), sour milk, out of date meat (to be cooked) from the local stores. If they had run of a good quality pasture with good grass, then they would be fine. Young grasses, plus earthworms, grubs, beetles, lizards, grasshoppers, centipedes, mice, and geckos provide plenty of protein in pasture situations. But these piglets will not be pastured. We are not in a position to pasture them plus have to keep in mind that there are feral pigs here. I will be bringing fresh grass clippings to them every day, primarily for bedding reasons. Hopefully they will consume some of it.

Our aim is to utilize much of the reject veggies from the garden, plus some of the spent plants. Pigs will eat pea vines, bean plants, sweet potato plants, corn plants, etc. And of course the veggies themselves. Along with the banana tree trunks and the sugar cane, there will be plenty of food here for them.

Oh….I hear you…..won’t this cut into the amount of compost we are making? Not at all. There will be far more garden waste than the piglets can consume. Plus there are acres and acres of grass that needs to be mowed around here. Plenty of grass clippings for compost piles.

Thinking about permaculture………
… The garden waste is cycled through piglets and compost bins, turning it into useful end products (meat and compost).
… The piglets get raised without commercial feed, thus bypassing that aspect, and thus not supporting big ag and all their non-permie methods.
… bedding will be local grass clippings, as opposed to imported straw or pine shavings.
… The piglets’ used bedding and bodily wastes get recycled into useful soil amendments.
… and although not permaculture per se, the piglets will lead a stress free life with pleasurable human interaction. Unlimited interesting and tasty food. They won’t be subjected to overcrowding, aggression,  or food competition. They will have toys to play with. They won’t get stressed by being shipped to a slaughterhouse. They won’t be roughly handled. Their death will be humane, becoming unconscious instantly. Yes, they will eventually die in order to provide food for our community.

Their pen is not made along permaculture lines. The farm owner does not want us bringing in logs to make a permaculture type pig pen. So we opted to check the local waste stream for building materials. We opted for pallets - heavy duty plastic ones. We rejected the wood ones because of the feral pigs. Feral pigs can bust right through them when they want to. So in order not to lose our piglets, we built the pen with the plastic pallets. Easy to build with, easy to keep clean, strong enough to survive feral pigs and Hawaiian Kona storms. The pallets will last my lifetime, and it will be simple to deconstruct & remove when needed. A piece of cattle panel covers the ground. The piece came from the old orchid nursery. Cost? A box of galvanized screws. Four recycled 2 by 4s for bracing the sides. A small tarp to rainproof the sleeping area. Everything else was free.

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A bit shy when they arrived.
A bit shy when they arrived.
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Dry grasses for bedding covering the ground. They are eating a cooked mix of rice, chopped veggies, eggs, and milk.
Dry grasses for bedding covering the ground. They are eating a cooked mix of rice, chopped veggies, eggs, and milk.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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Pig Trough

I needed a sturdy trough to feed these piggies. The aluminum roasting pan wouldn’t last more than a couple days. Of course, one could just go out spend the bucks for a commercial trough, but……that costs money…..that supports more unnecessary use of resources …. and it encourages big commercial business. In addition, please understand that I live in a poverty area, and that I am teaching people how to grow food without spending much hard cash. Keeping this in mind, I once again looked to our local trash stream.

I keep a bone yard on my farm where I store useful items either given to me or snatched before they landed in the dump. So from this storage I picked out a salvaged aluminum double sink to turn into a piglet trough.

The sink needed a few modifications for successful use. The two drainage holes needed to be plugged. I use Hawaiian cement. Normally I have the time to let the cement set, but today I didn’t. So to prevent the piglets from eating the cement, I temporarily covered it with tape, which I will remove tomorrow.

Next, the sink needs to be installed so that piglets don’t overturn it and toss it around the pen. So I drive a piece of old metal pipe down into the ground through one of the holes. Experience has taught me that I need to lash the pipe to the pen wall. I can usually use old electric fencing tape. Occasionally I will have a pig chew through that, so then I get more aggressive by securing the pipe with chain.

The piglets instantly took to the new feeding trough.
.
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Piggies eating from their sink trough
Piggies eating from their sink trough
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Just showing the pipe and tape securing the sink.
Just showing the pipe and tape securing the sink.
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Ta-e patch covering the moist cement. If the piggies don’t remove it by tomorrow, I will.
Tape patch covering the moist cement. If the piggies don’t remove it by tomorrow, I will.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
forest garden rabbit tiny house books solar woodworking
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Rehab a Greenhouse Planter for the Next Crop

I’ve talked about this before, but I wanted to add photos and be more specific.

Between each crop, I rehab the growing bed. After 3 months, the plants have had it. Many have died by that time, others have shrunk down to shadows of their former selves. Harvesting all the major leaves once a week takes its toll of the plants.

The first thing I do is check the soil. I look for the presence of earthworms and other soil denizens. Living critters are a good sign, I check the soil pH and note if it needs attention. As I remove old plants, I will check the amount of rootknot nematode. I will note which varieties are affected severely and which are not. Rootknot nematode exists just about everywhere in Ka’u, but we can deal with it much of the time. I find that using good quality homemade compost works wonders.

Next, I will remove three 5 gallon buckets of soil. This is done do that I have room to mix the soil without it spilling onto the greenhouse floor,  Then I will add pulverized lime if needed. In today’s situation, the pH was close to where I wanted it. This is the 4th time I’ve rehabbed this bed, adding lime each time. But I keep in mind that lime is slow acting, so there most likely is enough lime already in the soil, so I just give the bed a light dusting this time around. Next I top the soil with 1 inch depth of sifted good quality compost. Now I go down the length of the bed churning the soil. I want to get it all mixed up again and thoroughly aerated. Yes, this is tilling and works really well for this kind of greens production.  Finally I will return the 3 bucketfuls of soil that I initially removed, mixing the soil a bit.

Finally I will replant the bed with an assortment of various greens. Give it a watering to dampen the bed without soaking it.

Comparing to commercial greens production, my system in incorporating permaculture aspects along with frugality. The soil is constantly re-used, and rehabbed by adding homemade organic style compost, homemade pulverized lime, and as needed, good garden soil which has been under improvement for the past 20 years on my own farm. All components used, such as greenhouse trays, tray liners, pots, hand tools, including the livestock troughs, have been either donated to this project or snatched from trash streams before the items landed in the dump. The only component (other than seeds) purchased was the initial bags of promix, some of which we haven’t even opened yet. The seeds are our biggest expense that still needs to be addressed. We use no commercial fertilizer nor pesticides. Weeds are simply cut off at soil level with a scissors as I harvest weekly. No herbicides.

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A bed of greens in its prime.
A bed of greens in its prime.
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What it looks like when the plants are spent.
What it looks like when the plants are spent.
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I remove some soil in order to give me space to work.
I remove some soil in order to give me space to work.
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This bed is rehabbed and ready to replant.
This bed is rehabbed and ready to replant.
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Replanting time.
Replanting time.
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Rootknot nematode damage noted on this Asian green.
Rootknot nematode damage noted on this Asian green.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Fish Giveaway


Though not a farm endeavor, the fish giveaways are a part of OKK’s food project. Whenever there is time and the weather is right, Wayne heads out to catch fish. The other day he returned with 2 ahi (yellowfin tuna), 6 ono, and 21 red fish. OKK maintains a list of local kupuna (elderly) that are in need of fresh foods. So I’m one of the people who offer to help Wayne clean  the fish and hand it out.  

Wayne gets no compensation for his effort, except for the knowledge and good feeling that he is giving back to his community. But then, this is what OKK is all about.  And this is what our farm project is all about — helping our community, sharing, supporting one another.

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Red fish.
Red fish.
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Ono fish.
Ono fish.
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Cutting up the fish into individual pieces.
Cutting up the fish into individual pieces.
 
Su Ba
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Local Sustainability / Food Independence

Our state and county government is all up on their soapboxes about promoting food independence. And they throw around the word sustainability and permaculture while they are talking about Hawaii growing more of its own food. Face it, Hawaii imports a significant chunk of its food, some of which we could grow locally. Farmers already produce food, but due to State and county regulations & taxes, it is expensive to do so. Land is highly expensive. Water for irrigation is expensive. There is little incentive for farmers to expand nor for new farmers to start up.

I’ve been to some meetings about this issue, and officials …………..
…skip over the farmers’ requests for financial relief when doing business.
…skip over the request to lower the rent on state and county owned agricultural lands.
…skip over the need to drastically reduce the high cost of agricultural water.
…skip over the hassle and cost of collecting "sales tax" for the state. Yes, food is taxed in Hawaii!
…skip over the need to change the regulations for bringing in overseas workers.
…skip over the need for on-farm housing for ag workers.
…skip over the need of having centralized ag auction houses for the sale of farm products.
…skip over the need for sensible regulations for selling from the farm, selling farm produce direct to customers be it farmers markets or restaurants.
…skip over the impeding regulations for requiring expensive permitted commercial kitchens for processing veggies and fish into sellable sized packaging (it’s illegal to cut a large cauliflower or cabbage into two and sell each half if the cutting is not done in a certified commercial kitchen).
…skip over the expense and difficulty of abiding by the USDA farm bill.

The officials don’t seem to be aware, or perhaps wish to ignore, the fact that most of the foods sold in Hawaii are not fresh veggies, fruits, and meat. Walk into any grocery store and watch what people buy. It surely isn’t fresh farm produce! Fresh farm produce is expensive here, so people primarily buy cheaper processed and imported foods, just what our officials don’t want people to rely upon.

Ok, my rant is done. But this issue is the very reason that OKK is growing food for the people of Ka’u and selling or providing it at cheap prices or even free. We are showing that fresh farm production can be done. But without volunteer labor, free land and irrigation water, it could not be done. But ya know———the officials won’t look at us, nor help us financially. We were blocked from applying for grant money to help produce more food. It was an eye opener for some of the OKK members. I’m old, so I’m more cynical. It didn’t surprise me at all. ………. Ok, I agree that I’m still ranting a bit. I’ll take some deep breathes and calm down.

I’m proud to see our group producing so much food and getting it to Ka’u residents. We are walking the walk, not just talking the talk!
 
Su Ba
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Market Day


A beautiful morning for a farmers market!  Today I had decent selection, though not all the different things that we have been growing. Some of the crops simply aren’t ready yet.

Today’s offering:
Salad tomatoes
Mixed leafy greens
Malabar spinach
Green beans
Yellow wax beans
Snow peas
Red beets
Carrots
Genovese basil
Thai basil
Cilantro
Parsley
Chinese celery leaves
Spearmint (dried and fresh)
Chocolate mint (dried and fresh)
Moringa leaves, dried and powdered
Mamaki leaves, fresh
Red globe radishes
Chinese daikon
Korean daikon
Japanese eggplant
Italian eggplant
Edible gourds
Taro
Pumpkins
Butternut squash
Zucchini squash
Cucumbers
Lemons
Limes
Papayas

Outside of the eggplant and the radishes, there wasn’t an over abundance of anything. As a result, I was pretty much sold out by noon. Just some radishes and eggplants left over.

The green beans are a vining type. Thick flat pods, but not as broad as a romano. I don’t know the name of this variety, but it was abundantly grown here in the 40s, early 50s, to feed the local military groups. A local man had saved the seed and grown some each year since then. He gifted seed to our project, and we are very happy to grow it and offer it to our Ka’u residents. Ah-ha, an interesting bit of local food history. So tonight I got to eat a bean variety that was popular here before I was even born!
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Our market table this morning.
Our market table this morning.
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These little landrace tomatoes are sweet, tasty, and quite popular.
These little landrace tomatoes are sweet, tasty, and quite popular.
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The historic green beans.
The historic green beans.
 
Su Ba
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Our Marketing Approach


To sell food at a farmers market here, there are a number of State and county rules that we need to follow. Quite frankly, vendors seldom follow all the rules because some don’t seem to make much sense, except to benefit the officials who ultimately have domination over the public. Based upon this, one sees quite a bit of flexibility and variations at our farmers markets.

In our own endeavor, we adhere to most of the rules, or at least, make the effort to. And we use methods to step aside of some of the cumbersome ones. One case in point……we let buyers know that the veggies are field direct. They have not been taken through a processing shed to be sanitized, sorted, processed, exposed to other crops, exposed to crops from other farms, etc. The veggies get picked "as is", go directly into their transport bags or boxes. From there, those that need rinsing to remove dirt and spiders get a rinse, still in their transport boxes. They then go on display on the market tables. No processing. Buyers are informed that they need to wash the veggies themselves. This method saves us a lot of volunteer’s time. And greatly reduces the need for special equipment and county approved water/sewer systems.

We sell veggies unprocessed. That means the tops are still on the carrots, beets, and  radishes. Some buyers actually want the tops. For those that don’t, they can remove them and dump them into a bucket that we provide at the booth so that the greens can go to feed the piglets.

We don’t have refrigeration. Most veggies are picked the evening before the market, hosed down, and allowed to cool in the night air. Most sensitive ones are stowed into large coolers, covered in a towel, and then covered in chipped ice to cool them rapidly.

To avoid needing the use of a certified commercial kitchen, we avoid growing certain vegetables to jumbo size. Cabbages and cauliflowers are harvested before jumbo size. Thus we avoid requests to cut heads in half. Cutting in half requires the certified kitchen. We also grow landrace pumpkin varieties that do not grow to jumbo sizes. Edible gourds get harvested while still small, except via special order for the large sushi size (sold whole).

To date we haven’t had any issues with this strategy. We may have lost a few sales here and there because of dirt on the carrots or whatever, but since I sell out every day, I guess it’s not all that much of an issue. And we have had buyers expressly thank us for not processing the veggies in bleach water or other sanitizing solutions just to make them pretty for sale.

I guess the trick is to let buyers know that the veggies are field direct, unprocessed, not washed.

Another strategy is reasonable pricing.  We keep up to date on what veggies are selling for at Costco and the various local supermarkets. We price accordingly. We either match or, in some cases, are somewhat lower. We are lower when we are overstocked. Right now we have an abundance of eggplants and radishes. Thus they get sold for cheaper than what is in the stores. But popular veggies, like snow peas, get priced at supermarket price, which right now is $8 a pound. They sell out within an hour.

Another strategy is avoiding competing with adjacent vendors. If I happen to arrive at the market with a ripe stalk of bananas, I will offer it to my next door vendor at a wholesale price,  because she sells fruits. But if I have a green stalk of bananas and she doesn’t want it, then I will sell it for ourselves since she seldom sells green bananas. Other veggie and food vendors will often show up as I unload my truck, purchasing the entire box of some kind of veggie. I don’t object, because OKK’s goal is to supply local food to local residents. And by the vendor buying my entire supply, then we don’t compete. Of course this means that sometimes a customer doesn’t get their little bag of veggies for dirt cheap, having to buy the veggie from some other vendor at a slightly higher price. But I cannot focus upon those few dollars because I have far more produce than I can fit upon my tables, and have to get it to the people in one way or another. Heck…..if a customer wants to buy the entire box of veggies, I am just as willing to give them a wholesale price as I do the other resale vendors. So I don’t feel bad if the customer doesn’t want to buy in bulk. It is the customer’s choice.

Another strategy is selfish. I want to be able to be done at noon. The market is officially open until 2 pm. But if a vendor sells out before 2, they may pack up and leave. So as noon rolls around, I pack up whatever is going to be donated  to our local food Hub into The Hub transport boxes and set them under the tables. Then at noon, when the entertainment shuts down, I offer whatever I have left upon the tables to the adjacent vendors for free. It often isn’t much…..a pound of beans, some radishes, some limes and lemons, perhaps a bit of mixed greens. With my display trays now empty, I can pack up. I’m out of their by 12:30, packing the truck and heading to the Hub for delivery.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Getting Really for Market Day


Once again, it’s market time. I haven’t given it much thought, but the day before market is rather busy. I wonder how many wanna-bee marketers consider prep day.

To make my life easier, I have a box in which I keep all the small stuff that I will need. When I return from a market, I replenish any items used so that the box is ready for the next time. It eliminates that mad dash grabbing, and forgetting, items to take to market. This box contains a marking pen, a scissors, some card stock paper, and clothes pins — all for making signs for the produce display trays. The weighing scale. A receipt pad and pen. Rags for clean ups. A canister of Clorox wipes(makes the health inspector happy). A large, visible bottle of hand sanitizer (customers expect to see it on the table). Rolls of plastic bags to hold purchased veggies (veggies are often wet, so paper bags simply don’t work. But I do encourage people to bring their own cloth bags or a basket. About 10% do.) 2 gallons of water, used to sprinkle on veggies to help keep them fresh. And my cash bag. I keep assorted bills in there for making change….ones, fives, tens.

In another box I store the aluminum display trays. They get washed after each market and stowed into the box.

I have a location on the porch where I store these two boxes, plus the chairs I take for sitting. The two cooler chests are also stored there, having been washed after each market. Plus 4 sturdy trays that I use to carry the limes and lemons to the market. By keeping everything in one location, it has saved me from forgetting something. Yup, in the past I have forgotten the chairs. Another time I forgot the scale! That made for an interesting guessing game.

Because I need to arise an hour before my normal wake up time, I pack and lay out things the night before. I have been known to walk around in the early dark in a bit of a stupor, not too coherent. So I pack the truck the night before, plus I layout my clothes. Don’t want to forget my special market shirt and baseball cap!

The produce gets picked the day before the market, except for some last minute stuff. In the main outdoor garden, 4 to 6 OKK members spend the morning picking and rinsing the veggies and papayas. I work at the greenhouses by myself picking the leafy greens. Once the two coolers are full, I head to the orchard to pick whatever is ready. Today it was lemons and limes plus a few oranges. Harvesting and packing the produce takes me about 5 hours.

The morning of the market I need to do a little harvesting of the fragile stuff—- mamaki leaves, spearmint, chocolate mint. Although I do also dehydrate these, I have customers who request them fresh. Speaking of dehydrated, I keep a note taped to one of the coolers to remind myself to grab the jars of dried moringa, mamaki, mints, and sweet bay out of the freezer, and pop them into one of the coolers. The coolers contain crushed ice, so everything stays cool. The coolers also hold the leafy greens plus any cucumbers and zucchini I was lucky to harvest from our new greenhouse plants.

On my way back from the farm, I check the gas gauge on the truck. One morning I was close to running out and it was high anxiety heading to the market! So I’ll pick up some gas if I’m running low.

I can fit into my truck the two coolers, two boxes, 4 chairs, 4 crates of fruits. This week I will also have two crates of young chickens for selling. The rest of the produce arrives in Wayne’s truck. On my way to the market I swing by the farm to check on the piglets, and replenish their food and water if needed. By the time I arrive at the market, it’s usually 7:15. OKK volunteers already have the tent and tables up and in place for me. This is a bit of luxury having this done for me because it takes a bit of effort hauling those items out of the storage container, carting them to my designated booth spot, and assembling them. Saves me 15 minutes and a lot of effort.

This particular market opens at 8 a.m.  The early bird customers start dribbling in at 7:30.
 
Su Ba
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Piglet Update


The piglets arrived on April 20th in a medium dog crate. As of today, there is no way they could fit into that cage and shut the door. These guys are growing incredibly fast. I’m use to raising feral piglets, who grow slowly and don’t get as large as domestic pigs. So I am rather amazed to see the rapid growth on these two.

The black and white one is the bully. He pushes the other one away from the best food. Luckily there is always plenty of food present, so the little guy never goes hungry. I have to make a point of making sure the red one gets the goodies. And because the black and white one is such a food monger, he is growing the fastest. He’s a real hog! Eats like a pig!

They are learning to eat a variety of foods. Some they relish more than others. Fruits and meats are high on their list. So are corn, rice, and bread. Fresh greens are always welcomed. They had 5 gallons of freezer burnt spaghetti with sauce the other day. Though not deemed as delicious as fruit and meat, it got chowed down fairly rapidly. Lower on the list is eggplant, cooked or raw. They like it better raw. And radishes and daikon are way, way down on the list. But they will eat if cooked and jazzed up with salad dressing or salsa. Pumpkin leaves are at the bottom of their list. Cooked or raw, they get eaten last. Funny thing though, my two feral pigs at my farm love them cooked and will fish them out of the swill to eat first.

Several people are now contributing their kitchen waste to the feed-the-piglets effort. So these two guys are seeing quite a buffet. Never a boring diet!
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Piglets today eating fresh greens
Piglets today eating fresh greens
 
Su Ba
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Market Today


Today’s market was our most successful to date, and we didn’t even get everything to market that was ready. But we did have an abundance of veggies and enthusiastic buyers. It is really heartwarming to see such a good response to our volunteers’ efforts. Little by little, each week sees more residents discovering us. It helps that we have good quality chemical-free produce and a wide selection of it. I try to put a bit of extra into the customer’s bag when I have an abundance. Today’s abundance was eggplant, green beans, limes, and salad tomatoes. So many buyers were offered complimentary eggplant or green beans. Most were happy to accept them.

The offerings today included the excess amounts of eggplants, tomatoes, green beans ( 3 varieties), and limes. Plus lemons, papaya, bananas, taro, radishes, daikon, edible gourds, pumpkins, snow peas, beets, leafy greens, cucumbers, Malabar spinach, basil, moringa (both dried and fresh), kaffer lime leaves, sweet bay leaves, sunflowers. New today were sweet globe onions and a fruit called jaboticaba (often called tree grapes here). We also brought 4 dozen fresh eggs from my neighbor across the street, and 2 live hens. We failed to get some things harvested in time: carrots, cilantro, lettuce, the mints, oregano, mamaki. And forgot to bring the plants : assorted veggie starts, rooted sweet potato cuttings, Norfolk Island pine seedlings, coffee seedlings, comfrey roots. In spite of not getting everything to market, we did real good. It felt wonderful.

Our leftover veggies went to various places. We sold some to a small local store. The leftover leafy greens went to a new local start up lunch business. One of the market vendors got the limes. We gave away some of the excess tomatoes and green beans to other market vendors. After the market, I dropped off tomatoes to our local food Hub. And finally the little bit still leftover went to feed the pigs we are raising.
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Jaboticoba, an interesting tropical fruit that is quite popular here.
Jaboticoba, an interesting tropical fruit that is quite popular here.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Veggie Washing Station


We finally built a washing station at the garden. Up until now we had to box up the veggies and transport them someplace to hose them down. By having a washing station right at the garden, we can eliminate that awkward extra task. So now the pickers can bring their box or crate to the station, where someone else can give the veggies a good rinsing to remove pests and dirt. Once rinsed, they can go directly into the truck bed for transport.

We transport the veggies usually in open plastic crates. This prevents them from heating up. Once wet from being rinsed, they actually cool down in the night air. The more sensitive veggies go into large coolers, get covered with a towel, then covered with crushed ice. A bag of ice costs us $3. Since nobody has freezer space to make the amount of ice we need, we simply buy a bag and accept it as a "cost of doing business".

The washing station is simply built. The table itself costs nothing but our labor and a few screws. We used salvaged plastic pallets, some old previously used 2 by 4 lumber, 2 free aluminum sinks, a sheet of old plywood, some discarded bread trays, and a weird tray found at the dump. We opted to buy a new "safe" hose because it would be soft and flexible, cutting it into two hoses. And we purchased two new hose nozzles since we had no used ones sitting around.

The water came down from the main irrigation pipe. Installing a "t" into that pipe was our main problem and expense. But once done, we were able to install a faucet. We then ran pcv pipe from that faucet down to the washing station.

Our expenses were the 25 foot hose and 2 nozzles, the pcv piping and connectors, and the "t" & faucet. We plan to add a water pressure valve, but at the moment we don’t have one.

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The wash station ready for use.
The wash station ready for use.
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View from above
View from above
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Hose
Hose
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Plywood splash guard. The water drains directly onto the ground below. They guard directs the water away from your feet.
Plywood splash guard. The water drains directly onto the ground below. They guard directs the water away from your feet.
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An angled view of the splash guard
An angled view of the splash guard
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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It’s been awhile since we chatted, I know. I’m so into growing food for my community, that between this and my own farm, I have very little empty time on my hands for blogging.

My own farming time has gradually become less and less, but I still produce a wide range of goods, but on a smaller scale. This is when I am finding that I turn to my food forest more for harvests…. bananas, pineapples, guavas, lilikoi, pipinola (chayote), chaya, various herbs and spices, mamaki, cholesterol spinach, sweet potato greens, landrace pumpkin, avocado, papaya, taro are on the harvest list at the moment. My pest protected greenhouses are producing a bit of basil, zucchini, slicing tomatoes, and peppers. The rest of the veggies that we eat are coming from the OKK farm garden.

Wayne, Christine, I, and a handful of volunteers have been expanding the variety of foods growing there. We have added (or expanded) several varieties of eggplant, peanuts, soybean, 3 new taro varieties, edible gourds, winged beans, different types of bush beans,  Malabar spinach, pigeon peas. We added an old heirloom pole bean that was extremely popular in the area during World War II. We just planted horseradish and Vietnamese cilantro. And while our small salad tomatoes have proven to be extremely popular and successful, we are trying another larger variety to see how that goes. In the greenhouses we are again trying sweet peppers and will be adding some hot varieties too due to popular requests.

Non-food —— we are growing sunflowers and zinnias for cut flowers. Their sales help keep the cash flowing so we can continue with this project. Yes, it takes cash.  We also sell plant starts at the farmers market, again to help the cash flow.

After two years into this project, we all agree that thick choking weeds are our main problem. Yes we have pests and diseases to deal with, but the thick population of weeds are our main crop killers. They can quickly choke out our veggies. Weeds in the tropics can be brutal. We simply do not have enough man hours to keep this massive garden hoed or tilled to keep the weeds down. Nor do we have the machinery necessary to harvest enough mulch material to effectively mulch the garden. While acres of lush guinea grass are available to us for chopping, we don’t have a silage chopper to harvest it. This grass is too thick and tall for a standard riding lawn mower. My dream is to import a silage chopper with a blower for effective harvesting of truckloads of mulch………..dream on. So the only solution to date that is working for us is to use heavy duty weed block. We thus use homemade liquid fertilizers much of the time. Depending upon the crop, we can pull back the weed block cloth and till in compost before tacking the cloth back into place. This option is not ideal for good soil practices, but it seems to be working for us. But if anyone wants to donate a silage chopper, I’ll rip out the weedblock in a flash!

A popular item has become the moringa. The farm has two moringa trees. Each week we can harvest a brown shopping bag full of leaves….and we sell every bit. People are starting to discover it. We are just now planning on starting 4-5  more trees.

Pigs……. the two piglets are now past piglet stage. I’m guessing they are 100 to 130 pounds now. We are thinking about selling them to help with our cash situation. If we don’t sell them, we will most likely slaughter them for the town’s Christmas/New Year holiday festival. OKK often stages free shave ice and food during a festival. BBQ pork over rice sounds good. Those two pigs could feed a lot of people. That’s really cool, knowing that their main feed was garden waste.

Cows….. we have harvested several of our cows already. The meat is donated to our local Food Hub which serves free meals a couple days a week to our community residents. We aren’t raising cattle—it takes too long. So we solicit donated cattle. We willingly take the trouble makers, the cattle too damaged in some way to be effectively sold,  the ones too old to sell commercially. We do not take sick cattle, but that steer with a broken leg or unresponsive hoof rot is just fine with us. We occasionally get the opportunity to round up a stray loose cow that the owner doesn’t want to bother with. We have access to plenty of acres of pasture to hold cattle until we need one, though of course one with a broken keg or hoof rot wouldn’t be added to a pasture.

Chickens…. Feral chickens are a problem in Hawaii in many places. Country folk don’t see them as a problem, but mainlanders moving here highly object to them. So we offer to trap and remove them. These are dressed out and the meat donated to our Food Hub for meals. This system is better for us than having to build a chicken coop and feeding the birds. We have talked about raising some egg layers, using compost and restaurant waste to feed them, but none of us have the time to build anything at the moment. Maybe it’s an idea for the future.

The OKK community food project has been a success so far. It’s working. We would like to expand more. We would like to change our methods to be more permaculture oriented. But it will take time and more manhours. One step at a time.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Tomorrow is our market day. Our pickers, including myself, harvested quite an assortment.

Spearmint
Chocolate mint
Stick oregano
Genoese basil
Thai basil
Chinese celery
Cilantro
Sweet Bay leaves
Kaffer Lime leaves
Mamaki
Papaya
Dragon fruit (from the garden of one of the OKK members)
Tangelos
Limes
Lemons (Meyers and Ponderosa)
Fresh beans (a yellow, a green, a yellow & purple stripped variety)
Yard long beans
Winged beans (our first harvest)
Dry Lima beans (this is the first time we are offering them)
Beets
Salad tomatoes
Okra
Daikon
Radishes
Carrots
Soybean
Taro
Pumpkin
Edible gourd
Greens —
  Mustards
  Boy choys
  Chinese cabbage
  Lettuce
  Moringa
  Amaranth
Leeks
Onion greens
Eggplants
Sweet peppers
Pipinola (aka: chayote)

We are between harvests on some of the crops, so they will be missing from our tables. Things like sweet corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, snow peas, bananas, pineapples, Greek oregano, sage, cucumbers, tomatillos, coconuts. And some seasonal crops won’t be ready for awhile, such as turmeric and yacon.

Yes, we have been expanding what we are growing. Today we were really happy to be adding horseradish. A local gardener came and planted several horseradish plants in the garden to start our bed. We were also gifted a Vietnamese cilantro plant. Another nice addition. And call us crazy, but we planted some watermelon. This will be a challenging crop for us. In the greenhouse I started two new varieties of amaranth(a burgundy and a white), since it is a good seller for us.

There are still plenty of veggies that we plan to add to the garden. But they will have to wait a bit longer. We have our hands full just trying to keep up with what we already have.

I also plan to take along 3 trays of starter plants. One tray will be flowers (marigold, cosmos, and zinnia). The other two trays will be a wide assortment of veggies.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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New Crop

A local gourd artist asked if she could grow some gourds on our farm. She intended to harvest what she needed and give us the rest to sell. Sounded good to us , so we gave her permission. Unfortunately she transplanted her dozen seedlings during the week that we had a big windstorm. All but one seedling was destroyed. A discouraged artist never returned to the farm.

Last week I checked on this last surviving seedling and found that it was thriving. It sits in a corner of the garden I seldom go to, so I was surprised to see a robust plant loaded with more than a dozen baby gourds. I texted the artist who was as surprised as I. She came down to check it out and was enthralled to find so many healthy looking gourds. After caring for this plant, she dated all the gourds. And now she plans to visit weekly to tend her crop. As a side note, it’s a good thing I visited this plant because one of the harvest team thought it was some sort of weird pumpkin and planned to pick several. Yikes!

I’m tickled with delight to see her project be a success……at least so far. Those baby gourds need several months before they are ready for harvesting.

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A nice looking gourd plant.
A nice looking gourd plant.
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Two baby gourds. They will grow to be the size a jumbo basketball.
Two baby gourds. They will grow to be the size a jumbo basketball.
 
Su Ba
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Weedblock cloth

In the above photo of the gourd plant, you can see that we have resorted to using commercial grade weedblock. And if you look beyond the area of weedblock, you will see that the garden area is covered in thick weed growth. Those tropical weeds are why we have resorted to using weedblock cloth. We simply can’t keep up. There is only so much we can physically and financially do.

Weedblock is not a good solution. BUT it works as a temporary solution, giving us time to come up with a better solution. We are making baby steps strides in doing better.

We have had a number of "hippy" volunteers quit because we use some less that perfect methods. We don’t fit their image of their ideal world. As a result, they leave and never learn the basic knowledge of how to grow food. Several of these young people still live in our community, and sad to say, none have accomplished anything in the way of growing their own food. They continue to live off the corporate food system, thus supporting the very methods they abhor. How ironic. How sad.

I do not apologize for using weedblock. That would be like a child apologizing for using training wheels while learning to ride a bicycle. As this food project matures, the weedblock will be retired. But in the meantime, we will be feeding hundreds of our community residents.
 
gardener
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Location: South of Capricorn
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I am so grateful for your sharing this stuff, Su Ba, as we are in a similar environment (kinda) and plan to do something similar-ish when we retire, and I'm always carefully taking notes here.

A question: I noticed in the background of the photo of the gourd that your papayas are all forked. Here that happens if there is a frost, usually, or maybe some kind of other injury. You don't get frosts there, right? Do you top them to make them fork out? Or to stop them from just getting enormous? I think I remember you mentioning strong winds, so maybe they don't get enormous, here if we don't have a frost that knocks them down (like this winter was mild) they can get ridiculously tall.
 
master pollinator
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Su Ba, I only came across this thread today.

What a fine endeavour. Well done!

And the experiences and learned lessons you have posted are a fine archive for others who might want to try something like this.

I tip my hat to you!
 
Su Ba
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Tereza…..
The spot that we have this garden is openly exposed to the wind coming right off the ocean. There is no windbreak. Not a tree, bush, house, now even tall grass. This wind is something we have to factor in as we plant. And since windbreaks take a number of years to grow, we just have to suck it up for now when we get wind damage. The forking you are seeing is due to wind damage. We had a significant wind blowing a while back, which damaged the growing tips on some of the trees. A few trees were completely snapped off 2 foot above the ground. Others were damaged and grew a second primary crown.

You’re really observant to notice that! Most people don’t even give it a thought.

Douglas…
Thank you for the complement. I’ve long since given up trying to chalk up kudos for myself. My reward is in seeing others learning to be more self reliant.
 
Su Ba
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Keeping Volunteers Happy

We are using two greenhouses now, one of which has a poly film roof which keeps out the rain, the other of which has a screen mesh covering. Due to frequent light showers, we tend to set up our work station in the dry greenhouse. But the sun can be brutal, so we set up a pop up tent over the work station. This is where the volunteers sow seeds into pots for germination, and transplant infant seedlings into growing cells or pots. This arrangement makes working, and chatting, more comfortable and enjoyable.

I don’t bother to take down the tent between work days. Due to our strong tropical sun, we don’t lose much plant growth due to short term shading.

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Adding some comfort to greenhouse work.
Adding some comfort to greenhouse work.
 
Tereza Okava
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Su Ba wrote: A few trees were completely snapped off 2 foot above the ground


That is some serious, serious wind!!!
Thanks a bunch for the explanation. They look great now, and not sure if your experience is the same there but here generally the plants will produce just as well, forked or no.
 
Su Ba
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New Crops  …….  And Pictures of Winged Beans

We are constantly expanding our garden by adding new ‘niche’ crops. This week we just planted 6 horseradish plants that were donated to us. It will be awhile before anything gets harvested, but it’s neat that we’ve added this plant variety. Heck, I personally don’t like horseradish, but I know that others do.

New crop #2….. jicama. A few months ago we started a few jicama plants. Those plants now have harvestable seeds. So we sowed a 100 foot long row of jicama today. This is a long term crop, so we won’t see anything being harvested for awhile. Word of warning to any novice trying  jicama. Don’t eat the beans even though they look edible. They will make you sick.

New crop #3….. mamaki. We have been harvesting the leaves from the trees on my own farm, but interest in this crop is growing. Rather than relying upon my few trees, we are adding them to the farm project. This week we are planting 6 trees.

New crop #4….. papaya preferred for papaya salad. We recently planted 4 of these papaya trees. It will be a few months before they begin producing, and I am eager to see how they do on this farm. These papaya fruits are huge, but they are used in their green unripe state rather than ripe. The ripe ones do not have a good flavor. But they are the preferred type for green papaya salad.

New crop #5…. winged beans. We trialed 10 plants just to see if they would grow for us. So far, it looks to be a success. We have recently started harvesting and are getting 20 winged beans a week for selling. We have been getting $1 for 5 winged beans. Since this is a success, we will be sowing a 50 foot row and see how that goes.

New crop #6….. not really a new crop for us, since we have been harvesting the leaves for sale for awhile. I’m talking about moringa. But we are seeing an interest in the immature seed pods. Thus we need more trees to meet this demand. We are getting ready to add 6 more trees.

New crop #7….. leeks. This is our first harvest of leeks. We learned that we made some mistakes in growing this crop, but we shall make adjustments on the next planting. Regardless of our errors, the crop is proving successful.

New crop #8 …. Purslane. Yep, this is a weed. Yep, we have a few customers interested in buying greenhouse grown purslane that has been protected from slugs, so we now have some growing in the greenhouse raised beds and sell about a gallon of tip cuttings each week.

We have tried several other new crops, but some are beyond our expertise for the moment. But as time goes on, we will keep trying. Some new crops don’t work out because nobody is interested in buying them, such as Egyptian spinach. Others we have found not adaptive to our environment.

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Our first few plants of winged beans trained to the perimeter fence.
Our first few plants of winged beans trained to the perimeter fence. Note to dead grass, killed with 47% vinegar. But the roots will resprout, but killing the tops gives us more time to dig out the roots.
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Pretty blue flowers result in baby winged beans.
Pretty blue flowers result in baby winged beans.
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Winged beans harvestable size.
Winged beans harvestable size.
 
Tereza Okava
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Su, in a single post you've captured half a dozen of my favorites! Wish I were closer to your market!

I grew winged beans for the first time last year and they were a huge hit (especially among my Okinawan Japanese-heritage friends who came to dinner). I found they were tasty, flexible in cooking, and also resistant to the pests that got my string beans (immediately) and yard-long/noodle beans (a bit later). Plus the flowers are gorgeous and attracted all the pollinators.

My papayas here don't really get nice and ripe (bird attack, weather disasters, not really hot enough to get sweet), mostly we eat them green, my Japanese mother in law always wants one or six when we go visit, she braises/stews them with garlic and miso like a vegetable, maybe the way i could cook a choko/chayote. Meanwhile my Brazilian auntie will grate up a green papaya and make a candy that looks like pickle relish but is toothsome and has cloves and cinnamon. I can never have enough green papaya here at home for everyone!

I would love moringa drumsticks, I have one tree I harvest for greens but it is either stunted or just grumpy about it, because I've never seen flowers.
And jicama is one of those I'd love to grow but always figured I'd have to (mumble) smuggle tubers in from abroad because it doesn't exist here. Hasn't happened yet because (mumble) luggage space has been occupied with other seeds and colored sweet potatoes. Nice to know seed is an option.
 
Su Ba
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This Little Pig Went to Market


A few months ago I introduced the new piglets. Our intent was to utilize the edible garden waste as pig feed, thus turning it into pork. Yes, we could have turned the waste into compost, but turning it into pork help feeds a lot more people faster, and with high quality protein.

So today we had a person wishing to buy the bigger of the two pigs. He has a big party coming up this weekend and thus needed a pig to feed the crowd. He had heard about our pig project and came to check it put.

Our biggest pig was the black and white. I tape measured him and determined it weighed about 180 to 190 pounds, maybe a tad more. So the buyer offered us $200. We were happy with the price. We figure that we had $60 invested in this pig, so our financial return was impressive. The profit will go to building another pig pen set-up.

So today we said goodbye. Personally I am glad to be rid of this pig. He had a miserable personality and constantly fought the other pig off the food. It turns out that the red pig was also glad to see the black and white one go. Once he was by himself, I fed the red pig a special treat of overly ripe breadfruit, mangos, and avocados. He made happy pig noises the whole time he was eating. At last, a meal he didn’t have to fight over!
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It’s difficult to show a good picture of this fella.
It’s difficult to show a good picture of this fella.
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He looks friendly, but be careful…he bites!
He looks friendly, but be careful…he bites!
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Final photo.
Final photo.
 
Su Ba
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An Interesting Effect of the Weedblock Cloth


This week we are planting more papaya seedlings. We plan to more than double the number of total trees eventually. Rather than plant them all at the same time, we planted about 1/3 initially, am now planting another 1/3, then will plant the last 1/3 in 6 months or there about. By spacing out the ages of the papaya trees, we hope to have continual harvests. As trees age and need removal, there will be others ready to take their place in the production line.

Right now we are planting the seedlings in the gaps in the rows. There are spots where a few of the initial trees had died, or were damaged in windstorms. Plus we are planting new rows in the space between existing rows. This we hope will give the seedlings a little protection from the wind until they get established.

You may note in the photos there is a bit of a difference in the vitality of the trees planted in the weedblock, versus the trees planted in rows with grass overlay. The grass is a tropical grass called guinea grass. We mow it every two weeks, leaving the grass clippings as mulch. All the trees are irrigated for the same amount of time and on the same schedule. All receive homemade liquid fertilizer once a month.

The trees having weedblock look much better, greener, fuller with foliage, and produce bigger and more papayas. Those having the grass growing with them are smaller, produce less fruit which is smaller, and generally look a bit stunted. My guess, and its only a guess since I haven’t done any soil moisture measurements, is that the sun and wind are drying out the soil quickly irregardless of the grass mulch, plus the fact that the grass is robbing soil moisture away from the papaya trees.

We plan to apply weedblock to the rest of the papaya orchard since the trees with weedblock are doing significantly better. I believe that if we could remove all the grass and apply a thick mulch layer, the trees would do just as well without weedblock, but at this time we cannot do that. The amount of mulch needed is beyond what we can produce right now. Perchance some day we will get our hands in a silage chopper and be able to produce truckloads of mulch in a single day. That would be a dream come true!
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Planting seedlings between the rows.
Planting seedlings between the rows.
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We will plant a row near to the pumpkin vines.
We will plant a row near to the pumpkin vines.
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Grass with no weedblock. The trees are doing poorly compared to those with weedblock.
Grass with no weedblock. The trees are doing poorly compared to those with weedblock.
 
pollinator
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Su Ba, You are such an inspiration! I'm very interested in your journey, so many good ideas, thoughtful solutions, well reasoned and selfless.
"May the road rise to meet you..."
 
Su Ba
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Kyle, the whole driving force behind it is "just do something, anything, then improve from there". We have been working in this project for two years now. And we haven’t even gotten all the space planted as planned yet! We have what we call "temporary crops" and "transition crops", things we are planting simply to get roots into the soil. We just make a point of choosing plant varieties that we could sell down the road. Mostly it is edible, sometimes it’s just flowers.

Wayne (president of OKK) is the genius behind this idea. He hopes we achieve our ultimate plan before he dies. We may or may not achieve that because this project will take a couple more years to climax. But in the meantime, we are producing more and more local food. When we started out we were not giving away free food and we grossed around $200 at the farmers market. Presently we are giving half the food we produce away , plus are making $500 t0 $600 weekly at the market. That’s a staggering improvement. And what blows my mind away is that the potential is the potential to double production without a whole lot more input.

OKK (O Ka’u Kakou), the civic service group doing this project, is simply responding to the community’s need for food…fresh produce. Our community is helping itself. Many of those who don’t volunteer on OKK projects simply donate a dollar or two each week toward it. Many times a veggie sale comes to $14 and the buyer says "keep the change". I always thank them and acknowledge that they are now part of this wonderful project. There is a sense of community with OKK projects.


I will keep trying to post information about this food project. And while we are not able to be strictly permaculture, we intentionally incorporate permie aspects. A side benefit is that people in our community are starting to awaken to the concepts of sustainability. They are asking questions about what methods we are using to grow the food. Thus Wayne, Christine, and I are seeing that growing via sustainable agriculture is the way our community wants to go now.
 
Su Ba
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On an different discussion thread, someone asked if there was anyone having success using homemade fertilizers, especially without poo. So here’s some proof that it can be done.

Every week we bring our veggies and fruits to the farmers market. While in some cases we use a bit of animal manures, much of our homemade fertilizer is plant, urine,  or fish based. We seem to be getting good results!

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Avocados, moringa pods, eggplant, a pumpkin, sweet corn, bananas in abundance.
All sorts of Asian greens, wax beans, basil, herbs, dandelion, moringa leaves, soybeans.
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Avocados, pumpkin, moringa pods, eggplant, sweet corn, and bananas galore!
Avocados, pumpkin, moringa pods, eggplant, sweet corn, and bananas galore!
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Onion greens, more bananas, tomatoes, okra, Chinese cabbage, winged beans, herbs, pumpkin, edible gourds, eggplants, papayas.
Onion greens, more bananas, tomatoes, okra, Chinese cabbage, winged beans, herbs, pumpkin, edible gourds, eggplants, papayas.
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Lemons, limes, tangerines, tangelos, oranges, grapefruits.
Lemons, limes, tangerines, tangelos, oranges, grapefruits.
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Fresh coconuts.
Fresh coconuts.
 
Su Ba
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Every week we bring different things to the market. It all depends upon the season and what the volunteers planted. We are not yet good at keeping to a planting schedule, so some crops come and go. This week we were a bit short on the assortment and had….
….avocados, bananas, lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, jabotacoba, tree tomatoes, an assortment of Asian greens, onion greens, Genoese basil, Thai basil, chocolate mint, thyme, sage, dragon tongue beans (a wax bean), snow peas, eggplants, okra, tomatoes, edible gourds, dried moringa leaves, Malabar spinach, coconuts, and pumpkins. We also had tomato plants, bromeliads, and some large gourds suitable for our local gourd artists.

Greenhouse progress update :
The growing beds are still cranking out a decent amount of fresh Asian greens. We also now have the sage, thyme, Thai basil, and mint indoors to protect against slugs. The green onions that were planted to thwart the ants & aphids are ready to be moved out. A section of the greenhouse is now being used to produce papaya seedlings for the main garden. We hope to add another 200 trees this spring, replacing some of the trees that have died or are doing poorly, plus expand the papaya orchard size.

Garden update:
December saw us planting in the main garden pipinola (chayote), pumpkin, green beans, winged beans, okra, eggplant, sweet corn, long beans, tomatoes, onion seedlings, leek seedlings, and soybean. We didn’t quite get to the snow peas, beets, and peanuts that we had on the list. So they will have to wait until next week.
  We also got more weed mat down. The grass had taken over the sweet potato area, so we used a small excavator to rip out the clumps of guinea grass. Now that the area is covered we are ready to plant pumpkins, bunching sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and edible gourds.

Pig update:
We successfully sold our two 2023 pigs. We have added 3 three month olds piglets and 8 two month olds. Yes, we built many more pig pens to house them in. Now that people have heard that we are raising vegetarian pigs, people are asking for them. So we have developed a great way to turn our garden waste into edible meat for our community.

While we have been having great success, we also have plenty of opportunity for improvements…..
…I would like to see more compost bins so that is easier for the volunteers to access it when they are preparing a growing bed.
… we could use a better system for making the fish fertilizer.
…more trellises would be great
…low tunnels would help a lot
…we need garden signage. Using volunteers who may only work 2 hours a week, with no signs, things get confusing.
… and of course, we need a planting schedule that we can adhere to.
… we could use more crops. I’d like to see these added: pigeon peas, shelling peas, hot peppers, rosemary, ground cherries, and more.
 
pollinator
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Location: Clackamas Oregon, USA zone 8b
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Thank you so much for posting your blog entries here on permies.  I joined a month ago and I decided to read some of your posts here and its great!  Y'all are doing wonderful work and its fun to read about the projects you're doing for your community.  Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I’m often asked about our excess veggies at the end of the day at the farmers market. Of course people are looking for free food, and I can appreciate that. I live in a generally poor community. I usually apologize to them that we never have unused veggies, and I send them off with a shopping bag full of assorted veggies for free. Anyone who swallows their pride to seek food should be helped. I can easily separate the needy from the greedy. I live in a small enough community. The greedy don’t get a bag.

So where do all the veggies go? For free :
1- Our local soup kitchen.
2- Families in need.
3- Seniors and veterans in need.
4- A local school teacher who is teaching localvore sustainable food cooking.

Not free, but at a very reasonable cost (most prices are cheaper than Costco prices) :
1- Local farmers market.

The rejects and waste:
1- Our pigs.

Zero waste. Absolutely nothing goes to the dump. If the pigs won’t eat it, the stuff gets composted.
 
Su Ba
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Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Competition at the farmers market?

People sometimes ask why OKK appears to be competing with other local growers at our farmers market. Wouldn’t such competition hurt other vendors and thus be against OKK’s basic principles?

Presently there are 7 veggie/fruit vendors at the market. And perhaps 20 other vendors who put a few its and bits on their table, though they mainly sell other things. The 7 main vendors all target a different customer, and they each have their following.
#1 sells common and exotic bananas from his farm , purple sweet potatoes, banana trees, and often some speciality fruits from his farm (lychee, rambutan, etc)
#2 sells from his farm, apple bananas, starfruit, avocados, breadfruit, citrus, and macnuts. His apple bananas are different from what #1 sells.
#3 also grows his own. Bananas, bitter melon, papayas, Romano pole beans, moringa pods. He additionally sells baked good.
#4 offers fruits she has grown or gathered locally. She always has an interesting assortment. Looking for something weird and tropical, she’s the one to visit.
#5 this vendor asked my advice on what to try selling. So she produces micro greens and does a brisk business.
#6 this vendor also asked about what to try. She produces baby leaf greens and unique tomatoes.
#7 has a mix of local and non-local produce. Some weeks it’s all non-local.
Oh, I forgot us! We make #8

So where does OKK sit? Our produce is always 100% local Ka’u produced. All is non-chemically sprayed and non-commercial fertilizer.  So right there we have set ourselves up differently. Also, our produce is directly from the field. Not processed or washed in chemical wash. We will hose 90% of the mud off the root crops, but that’s as far as we go. So we are targeting buyers willing to buy direct from the farm with minimal processing. Importantly, we also aggressively attack the slug issue here. Rat-lung can be a serious problem, so most buyers want produce that they intend to eat raw grown in slug protected areas. Thus we grow certain veggies in greenhouses in raised beds with aggressive slug protection around the greenhouse and greenhouse floor. We also use lots of sluggo to protect the main garden, and use slug traps to monitor slug populations. We seldom find a slug and immediately go after them. Slugs are rampant in my area, but almost non-existent in our garden and greenhouses.

We also take on the challenge of growing different crops not normally found in the markets in our area. Thus we often offer soybean, peanuts, winged beans, okra, white sweet potatoes, orange sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, sweet corn, large red slicing tomatoes, sage, thyme, assorted mints, oregano, edible gourds, taro, moringa, tree tomatoes, dandelion, Malabar spinach, New Zealand spinach, cholesterol spinach, Okinawan spinach, pipinola (chayote), mamaki. We also have colorful fresh beans when we get the planting right — pretty dragon tongue with its purple strips on yellow, yellows, purples, reddish pinks.
 
Su Ba
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Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Keeping The System Going

With permaculture, as I see it, part of the idea is to keep a working system going. So we are applying that basic concept to our pig raising efforts. Since we successfully sold 2 pigs into the local food system here, plus we are still producing scads of garden waste to utilize in some fashion, our next step was to get more piglets.

Last week I picked up 8 piglets. One has already left, going as a Christmas present. (Don’t worry. The recipient wanted a piglet to raise, so it wasn’t one of those  bad Christmas surprises.)  All except the black ones are also already spoken for and will be leaving to their new homes shortly. They are destined to become farm pets. Yes, here in Hawaii it is not uncommon for pigs to be farm pets. This will leave us 3 piglets to raise for now.

All the piglets started out being in the same pen, but the 2 smallest ones had different ideas. They squeezed themselves into the adjacent pen. Since there is no reason why those two can’t opt to live separately, we simply let them be. In another week they will be too big to squeeze through the fence gaps. They haven’t tried to escape the pen, so I guess all will be ok.
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New batch of piglets.
New batch of piglets.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 2094
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
1031
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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.
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We are still setting out the veggies in aluminum trays. Not ideal, but it works.
We are still setting out the veggies in aluminum trays. Not ideal, but it works.
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No room on the tables for plants, so they sit on the ground. Eventually we will try to do another table for them.
No room on the tables for plants, so they sit on the ground. Eventually we will try to do another table for them.
 
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