Su Ba

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

Yes!  I grow turmeric. Lots of it. I grow it in my shady or semi-shady spots where most things don’t produce well. If I tally up all my growing beds, I would say that I have 300 square feet devoted to turmeric. And every year I expand the space because I can sell it all. Right now I’m working the soil of my old kitchen garden in order to plant turmeric there. That spot is about 12’ by 10’.

I have not harvested yet. The plants have mostly died back, so I’ll be harvesting my first batch in the next couple days, getting it ready for my Wednesday farmers market.

This is such an easy crop for me. It loves my farm. I get enough rain here, and I’ve enhanced the soil to the point that turmeric grows especially well. While I have various nooks in the food forest area, I also grow it in odd places… under the stairs leading down my hill, behind the shed that houses my solar equipment, along the shade side of my house water catchment tank, those sort of out of the way, unused spaces.
6 days ago
EVERY day I ask, to the silent air around around me, what is wrong with people? !!!  

1… our homestead now hosts 56 throwaway cats, most found as starving castoffs that took us days or weeks to coax into a trap because they were too afraid while they tried to be invisible along the side of the road, hiding from the world and their deep fears. By the way, they are now all stable, neutered, fat, and secure. Our farm has the empathy to take these poor critters. The farm also hosts foster dogs, some of which become permanent residents.

2… every week, and I truly mean every week, I get calls about dogs or puppies that are running scared in the lava fields. Why in the world do people dump their dogs in the lava fields where there is no hope of water, food, or shelter? It is sickening. Some of these frightened creatures we can rescue. Others run deeper into the lava where they will eventually die a horrible death from thirst.

3. … why don’t people spay/neuter their dogs? Come on people, you are the cause of animal over population. I am aware that you don’t believe this, but let’s face facts, if your dog or cat is not neutered, you are 100% the problem. Even if your animal luckily doesn’t reproduce, you are setting the example for others who are less responsible, telling them that it’s ok to risk producing more unwanted puppies and kittens. (This is one situation where I will use "you" instead of ‘we" or "I". Contrary to Paul’s ban on the use of "you should", in this situation of irresponsible animal propagation, "you should’ is the way to go to try to get people to acknowledge the harm that they are doing.)

4… why do people think that it’s ok to produce litters in today’s overpopulated scenario? Oh they say, "I find homes for all the kittens and puppies, so it’s ok". No it’s not, unless you had everyone of those babies neutered before they went to their new homes. I highly applaud those who do that…..I boo/hiss those who don’t. Yeah, I can be a mean witch about that.

As part of my community volunteer efforts, I volunteer at our local spay/neuter clinics. Plus I help round up strays. So I’m a first line worker in the over population mess. Last weekend we neutered 52 dogs! The clinic before we did close to 60 puppies. And the last cat clinic we did 90. All for FREE, FREE. This year the organization has done over 2000 spay/neuters. And you know something…. the puppies and kittens still keep coming because there are people out there that won’t get their pets neutered. What’s wrong with people?

The shelters and rescues on Big Island, Hawaii are all over full, way beyond capacity. Yet the litters keep coming and there us no where for the babies to go. They end up being used for dog fighting bait, dumped in remote pastures where they end up being shot by ranchers, dumped in the lava fields, dumped at night everywhere else. Yes, I keep asking, what’s wrong with people.

I applaud every person who adopts one of these throwaway critters. It wasn’t their fault that they got born. And like you and I, they deserve a chance at a decent life.

Pant, sigh, deep breathe —— I step down off my soapbox. The insanity I deal with gets to be very frustrating. It seems to just get worse and worse. What’s wrong with people?
2 weeks ago
Consider your roofing material, if you are thinking of  using the water for household use.
1 month ago
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.
1 month ago
Anne, I’m with you! My whole homesteading adventure has been one experiment after another. Until I came upon, I didn’t know that my experiments had names……. non-circulating hydroponics, hugelculture (in actuality, my hugels are more hugelpits than mounds) , planting in the margins, food forest, etc. Apparently I’ve been toying around with permaculture for a long time before I knew it had a name. I still experiment to this day. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. I find myself constantly tweeking my methods.

Experiment it is learning. It’s fun. It keeps me thinking.
1 month ago
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!
1 month ago
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!
1 month ago
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.

2 months ago
Our farm is fully fenced and gated (locked), but we still had to run double strands of barbed wire atop the field fencing in order to keep people from climbing over the fence. And that effort didn’t completely work either. The next step was to have signs made stating "Loose livestock and dogs can be dangerous. Farms are dangerous. Keep out." We posted them along the street plus on places where people had jumped the fencing in the past. We installed trail cams at the two gates just so we could identify any trespassers opening the gates. But since the signage went up, much of the problem has gone away.
2 months ago
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.

2 months ago