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

I clip the one wing heavily, and one half the tail feathers in the same side. This seems to do better for me than clipping just one wing.  But some of the lighter birds learn that if they flap aggressively while climbing the fence, they can get over. Cured that problem by running two tight strands of fishing line offset atop the fence.
2 days ago
Sean, my sow had free run of 20 acres, so she had her favorite spots. Thus she tended to root up the soil around the same trees over and over again. Why did she choose those particular trees? She opted for those that had mulch and compost covering the ground around them. As I mentioned, I suspect she was hunting the worms. She rooted in plenty of other spots on the farm, but definitely favored wherever I had mulched the areas of my food forest/orchard. There were plenty of areas that were not being mulched and that she never touched, I assume because there was no food for her there.

If she had been rotated through pastures, never staying too long in one, I most likely wouldn’t have seen as much damage. Managed pastures also are seeded with forage, giving the pigs plenty of varied fresh grazing. This helps keep the pigs from damaging the land as badly. My 20 acres is not managed as livestock pasture.
6 days ago
Just to add my vote———— under some circumstances, they can kill trees.

I was amazed at the destruction one adult sow did to my farm. She was a pet and had run of the 20 acres, minus the 1 acre veggie garden I had at the time. Over to course of 2 years she…
… stripped the bark from a 50+ year old mango tree, killing it.
… killed several young guava saplings and a mulberry tree.
… she surface rooted here and there, especially around trees. I suppose she was harvesting the worms that inhabited the mulch. Initially I thought "how cool, she’s tilling in the mulch and compost". 5-7 years later I started seeing those trees starting to fade away. Now I have dozens of dead and dying trees.  
… she aggressively rooted on a hillside, resulting in significant erosion when we had a big storm. That hill required major repairs.

I still raise pigs, but now they are confined. They get to run free for about an hour about 4 times a week during guava season in order to eat the dropped guavas, but then I entice them back into their pens using tasty treats such as mangos, bread, cracked corn, spam slices. No more aggressive rooting.
6 days ago
Joylynn, I plan to go check out his list. But one of the mistakes I see gardeners do over and over is to grow things that they don’t eat.  It’s fine to grow a row of beans, but if no one in the family wants to eat them, then I’ve seen those beans fail to get picked, end up in the trash pile. At least in my area, those beans could be picked and donated to our local food Hub. But I’m not sure other areas have food Hubs like we do here. Our own food Hub in Naalehu makes free meals for residents and participates in food giveaways, such as the Kau Kau For Keikis program.

I suggest my students keep track of what they eat for a month, then look to see what of those foods they could grow for themselves.  Thus no two gardeners would be growing exactly the same crops taken from somebody’s list. They could add more exotic veggies, such as baby beets or snow peas, when they are ready for them.

As a side story, we have a retired agronomist here who is having an enjoyable retirement growing food on a half acre. He gives it all away to neighbors and our food Hub. So his case is different. He grows what he finds is interesting to learn about. He tries crops that are challenging, figuring out how to get beyond the difficulties. Right now he is collecting the various banana varieties we have here. And trying his hand at trellised crops.
6 days ago
Looking at the topic description……trees for sustenance…… let me consider. How many trees do we have? Well, first if all, I would hate to have to live on only the food our trees provide. It would be a horrible diet, to be sure. But let me inventory our trees.

Avocado….we have perhaps 10 producing trees right now, 99% of the avos go to feed the pigs. We eat one a week, at most, and sell a dozen at the market each week. Avocados are seasonal here.
Citrus…I think we have a dozen or so assorted citrus trees. We use perhaps a dozen pieces of citrus a week for ourselves. The rest either gets sold or fed to the livestock. Some of the trees are seasonal, some are not.
Papaya…I keep a few growing to provide food for the pigs. The fruits are poor quality when grown at my elevation, so we do not eat them. But they help make good pork. ‘
Cinnamon, allspice, clove, sweet bay, kaffer lime … one each. Gives us all that we need.
Macadamia…7 trees. We could use just 4 to meet our needs.
Guava…dozens. They grow wild. The sheep and pigs eat the fruit.
Jabotacoba … one. Provides for our needs.
Mulberry… 2. Gives us enough fruit for our desire.
Banana… not a tree technically. We maintain dozens of clumps. This gives us plenty for our own use, plus plenty to sell. Plus plenty of trunks for feeding the pigs and running the imu (underground oven).

Many food trees will not produce at our elevation and climate zone. I am glad that I do not have to rely upon trees as my primary food source. One tree that I would love to be able to grow is breadfruit, but alas it won’t produce on my farm.
1 week ago
<<< If you wanted the smallest footprint to provide your own diet perpetually, what would you plant? How many acres would it require? >>>

That all depends upon your location and the resources available to you, of course. And by the use of "you", do you mean me personally or people in general? Lots of questions come to my mind, because soil, sun, water, soil, climate, etc all play significant parts. And the skill and experience of the grower also plays a major role.

I have already demonstrated that I personally can provide for 100% of hubby and my food needs via growing our own and using our excess to trade or sell to provide us with items we could not grow ourselves. In that I am located in a location that it very good for food production, plus can grow food year around, we have a garden plus orchard area of 3 acres plus additional space for chickens, sheep, and pigs. I could surely accomplish the goal with less garden space, but some disaster could result in starvation…….in the past we have had extreme storms that wiped out the garden, a neighbor’s loose cattle eat or otherwise destroy the entire garden, and waves of insect pests and fungal disease wipe out vast sections of the garden. Rather than growing just the minimum needed, I prefer to grow in abundance. The abundance assures that I won’t go hungry should a disaster strike and that there is plenty to provide me with feed for the livestock and cash for my other expenses.

What would I grow? Everything that we like to eat, plus items that sell well and for good cash at the farmers market. Snow peas are one of my big money producers, so I grow them in abundance.
1 week ago
John, you got me laughing on #5.  I’m still chuckling!

Around here, lots of women are into yoga in an attempt to stay young. In addition to regular classes, they offer senior yogi, also called chair yoga. One sits in a chair while one flings their arms about and strike poses. These are the women who are beyond crouching dog. I seriously doubt any of them have been down on their floors in years.

While I’m not into yoga myself, I do taichi each morning for the stretching, strength building, and balance. As a senior myself, I feel that taichi is the way to go. Oh, I don’t follow any particular taichi program anymore. I just do whatever moves I feel that I want to, in whatever order it strikes my fancy that morning. I believe it makes a real difference.
1 week ago
I’ve been using non-ruminant/equine manures for crops where there is no splash problem when it rains, thus any problem with the manure doesn’t end up on the food. I don’t bother trying to compost it since we don’t have much volume of such manure. I simply use a shovel and scoop up a shovelful of dirt to make the hole, put in the manure, then cover back over with the dirt. Quick and easy. We dispose of dog, cat, and pig manure this way.

Crops we use this method on are flowers, orchard trees, pigeon peas, trellised pipinola, pole beans and peas, corn. Honestly, most of this manure gets used in the orchard. And since trees are primarily surface feeders, we don’t dig a deep hole. And the hole goes along the drip line. It’s only if we happen to get an excess that we then fertilize the flower beds. To date we haven’t had extra to use on the other crops, though they are on our list for use if perchance we get a windfall of such manures.
1 week ago
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.

1 week ago
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.
1 week ago