Sunday, December 14, 2008

End of the year, far from my goal for the year...

My lack of keeping up with this blog is pretty representative of how busy I/we have been this year, with Eri (my wife) going to work as a special education teacher while working on her master's degree in special education, as well as trying to keep up with that whole parenting thing (three boys are a lot of work), the kendo, and of course, the job...

Anyway, I have not been as productive as I wish. My goal for this year was to finish the year off being in a steady state of producing all of our own veggies and most of our own fruits. Well, not by a long shot.

Most of the fish are still alive, though I get the odd "floater" now and then in the primary tank. I lost a bunch of fish when SOMEONE (I can name some probable names here) unplugged the air pump to the secondary tank. I definitely need to add more plants to the system, for the benefits of both the plants and the fish, but that's not happening very fast.

The raised beds have been pretty unproductive, through no fault of their own. I haven't been keeping up with planting at all. Here and there I get stuff in the ground, but a lot of the space is just maintained, not really used.

I have been doing ok with vines lately. I added a page to the site about how the viney plants have been going.

And that's about it....


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A long week/weekend

Not to say that it was long in terms of more time available, just long in terms of the amount of work.

Last week I got some cassava starts from some great folks down in Kapoho. They kindly hooked me up with more than enough starts to establish a cassava patch. I haven't put them anyplace permanent yet, I need to do some work, put together a patch for them, so I cut them into appropriate lengths (about a foot long), and put them in dirt to motivate some rooting.

Ann, one of the people I got cassava from, told me that the cassava will grow well in poor quality soil, so that's a bonus, because I have some of that ;o)

Saturday I got some tilapia of various sizes from Darryl, and populated the pond. I don't think they're dead yet... ;o) This week I'm hoping to get together a biofilter, and maybe next weekend kludge together some hydroponic beds using the fish water as fuel.

Since then I've been cleaning up the mess, and dealing with the dirt I excavated when digging the pond. I also filtered through my compost pile. So right now I have a garbage can full of dirt with a lot of clay in it, and an equivalent garbage can filled with compost. Now I just need to build a bin to put it all in.

Also, since our tax refund looks pretty good, Eri says I can get more dirt, so I'm looking at getting a 20 ton shipment of cinder-soil delivered. My neighbors are probably gonna hate me while that pile is sitting in the front yard, but hopefully they'll get over it.

One last thing, my yellow crookneck squash plants seem to be doing great, no pickle worm or squash vine borers yet. Some of the squash seem really close to the point where we could eat them. Crossing my fingers...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Going into April, 2008

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. I'm not really much of a joker, sorry.

I'm down to four chickens, but all four are laying eggs pretty regularly. So now I've got a lot of eggs. That worked out well for Easter, but day-to-day, we don't need that many eggs for regular consumption. I've been trying to be creative though. I pickled some eggs last week, I think they came out pretty well. For, you know, pickled eggs...

If you follow the blog (I'll assume you don't... (who would ;o)), you'll notice that four chickens is one less than last time I posted. Yeah, the mean hens killed one of their own. I came home from work one day, and one of the hens was just barely alive. Looked like they'd pretty much torn her apart. I don't know why, maybe just frustration of not being allowed out of the coop (typically I let them out to range whenever I'm home, but they get really uptight when they're stuck in the coop while I'm at work).

I have managed to adopt a rooster. We have a lot of feral chickens around, and one particular rooster lives in my neighbor's avocado tree. Now that I let the hens out during the day, and throw some scratch down, he's over every day, all day. Crowing outside my window at 6:10AM every morning. EVERY MORNING. AT 6:10AM. How nice for me.

I built a trellised bin, after being inspired by my friend Darryl's bin. Basically I copied his design pretty much completely. I call it the "Watanabe Device." Anyway, I figure it's good for growing anything that vines. Of course then I went and planted it half full of a non-vining type of squash, go figure.

I also finally dug out, assembled, and filled my fish pond. That was a lot of work. I now have a 4ft by 8ft by 24 inch deep pond, in which I plan to raise tilapia. Hopefully this will be a big step forward in getting my feet wet with aquaponics. I'm getting some tilapia from Darryl hopefully sometime in the next week or so.

Since I don't fill the pond to the top, it ends up being about 20 inches deep, and should be a little over 400 gallons. If I understand the barrelponics guys, particularly Paul Range, I should be able to get a pretty sustainable output of fish from that, maybe 3 to 4 pounds a week, plus a considerable amount of food from the whatever plants I grow from the effluent. I just cross my fingers. Darryl has had a lot of ups and downs with his system.

I put together a little triangular raised bed for some Thai okra and some hyacinth bean (dolichos lablab). I used some bamboo I harvested with Darryl and his family at a friend of Darryl's house. I think bamboo is an awesome resource for gardening here in Hawai'i. It seems to stand up to the weather really well, grows like crazy, and is fairly easy to work with.

You can see the hyacinth bean (moonshadow hyacinth bean, seeds from Baker Creek, grows pretty well. Also on the right you can see some "wild tomato" I'm trying to grow, aka litchi tomato (also from Baker Creek).

I picked the hyacinth bean, aka dolichos lablab, partly because they were attractive, but largely because they were on a list of tropical subsistence crops I found on ECHO's website (, the list is here).

I've also planted two bins recently, and installed anti-cat devices. In the left one I planted popcorn. Maybe not the greatest subsistence crop, but I just figured it would be fun to try. Plus it stores well.

The back half of the bin pictured to the right is planted with jicama, the seeds I got from Darryl. The front half I split up into 12 squares, trying to emulate the Bartholomew's square foot gardening. I planted a square of yardlong beans, a square of Thai basil, and a square of cowpeas. Then the three adjacent squares next to that I planted with broccoli rabe. The three adjacent squares next to that I planted with gobo (burdock root, Takinogawa type) using three different planting densities, just to see what works best. In the last three squares, at the end, I planted fennel (Florence), daikon, and parsnips. Here's a pic:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pictures on Flickr!

I signed up on Flickr, I kind of liked it a bit better than picasa. Anyway, here's a link to the overal pic section:

And here's a link to some garden photos I took in Shizuoka City, Japan (Mariko area, 4 chome):

Catching up.... NAH! No way can I catch up now...

So I a just starting over with the New Year ;o)

Status of a few things:

* Chickens! Of the original 27 birds, I have five left, three of which are laying eggs. Unfortunately they are still too crowded, so a second coop is in progress and is actually my big goal to complete for this weekend. Of the original 27 birds I gave a bunch away, ate a few, and, unfortunately, one of them died of misadventure, which I regret.

* Peanuts! Did not work out very well. I had maybe 6 square feet planted with peanuts, but they didn't produce very much, I don't know why. Maybe the soil was too hard, and I needed something sandier? Hard to tell.

* Right now I have one bin that is still "working," growing at about 80% capacity. I haven't replanted since I harvested the peanuts and the tomatillo. Another bin has some bird eye peppers, some sweet potato, and some lemon grass, but is about 60% empty. Another bin is about half full with ginger (Japanese kine), thai ginger (galanga?), and tumeric. And another bin is completely "empty." Last weekend I cleared out the luffa and beans from that fourth bin, then collected about three wheel barrels full of compost and distributed it across the empty sections, as well as adding some vericompost.

* Worms! Still going strong, BUT the clear plastic bins from Walmart have degraded (they're about three years old), so I need to come up with a longer term option. Still thinking.

* Taro! Starting to wither down a bit, maybe getting ready to be harvested?

* Fish! All of my tilapia died, and now I'm just growing guppies :o( But the taro growing in the fish bin is growing really well, I had one corm that was about 5 pounds. I need to finish (start?) the pond in the back of the house.

PLANS! This weekend, along with finishing the second coop, I have a bunch of stuff I need to get planted. Long beans. Broccoli. Tomatoes. More luffas? I finally found out how to cook them ;o) I have a bunch of stuff ordered from Baker Creek ( which I am looking forward to.

Yep, gotta love the garden.


Monday, September 24, 2007

So far behind, it hurts...

Well, falling way behind in the blog world. Not sure anybody actually ever reads this, so probably it doesn't matter much, but I lose track if I don't write down what's going on.

The Three Sisters Garden. Ought to be called the "Three Sisters Failure." We had a dry period, and my corn was severely stunted (I didn't know that a lack of water would cause stunting, the corn did and does look really healthy, just super-short). And then I planted the squash and the pole beans at the same time. Apparently that's a mistake, it's supposed to be corn, then squash, then beans.

So what I have is a really huge, beautifully green, super-mess that is growing out of control.

Since it's been raining like crazy, the corn has crown another foot or so in the last couple of weeks, but I still don't think I'm actually going to see much in the way of corn at all. And I'm having some serious doubts about the squash. OTOH, I could end up with a LOT of green beans. Which of the three, are the ones I like the least, go figure.

I harvested compost at the end of last month, got enough to fill a 50 gallon rubbish bin, and then harvested again today, got about half as much. So composting is starting to work out for me. I think it's the addition of the chicken manure that's finally kicking in.

The chickens are fine, though I need to build up more coop space. They've gotten pretty big, and they eat a lot. No eggs yet, but they're just hitting 4 months old next week. So that's fine. Definitely gotta build up some more coop space soon though. And I answered a question I'd had: yep, chickens definitely eat slugs. They'll gobble down any and all bugs: I've fed them slugs, worms, and black soldier fly larvae. All of it went fast. I'd like to set up some more efficient way to feed them the worms and BSF larvae that I have growing in my worm bins. Picking the bugs out by hand and tossing them in seems tedious.

My bell pepper plants have taken a real beating, as many of the fruit were stung by some sort of fly. The worms in the fruit seriously degrade the quality. Right now the plants aren't doing anything. I need to throw some more fertilizer on them to see if I can boost them up again.

Basil's growing, onions are growing, tomatillos are growing really well, the couple of kale plants I have are doing well, the peanuts look really good.

In the other bin, well, I had a whole bunch of decorative sunflowers spring up. Wonderful. Well, at least they're pretty.

My faux earthbox is doing ok, though probably I need to fertilize it some. The mesclun I planted in it is growing, but isn't looking as happy and shiny as it ought to.

Taro is growing fine.

A couple of other experiments of note. The first is I'm growing amaranth, which is a "dual use" plant, in that the leaves can be eaten as greens, and the seeds are very similar to grain. It's high protein, and pretty complete. I've read that the type I'm growing can produce up to a pound of seeds per plant. I'd like to see if between the seeds and the bugs I can produce all my own chicken feed.

The other experiment is growing stuff upside down. I'm using used plastic milk jugs, cut the bottoms out, stick the stem of the plant through the spout, wire it up and hang it. I'm trying tomatoes and tomatillos. Fingers crossed.

Haven't gotten anywhere with building the new fish pond. Disappointing, but I just don't have time. All the materials are lined up, but... The couple of tilapia and the guppies I have left in the stock tank are doing pretty well though, and the taro growing in there seem to be doing fine.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Catching Up!

I have been just super busy for the last month, so am way behind in posting, time to catch up.

The corn has grown to about 8 inches tall. Late last week I transplanted in the crook-neck squash seedlings and the other squash seedlings, as well as one pumpkin seedling. I'd like to grow a lot of squash, but have had so many bad experiences with the squash vine borer that I'm not going to get too crazy. Today I transplanted some bean seedlings. These are my first pole beans, hoping the corn will outpace them and provide something for them to grow up.

This is my first attempt at a "Three Sisters" garden.

I've started planting seedlings in bin numero dos. I already had my green pepper and banana pepper plants in the back, and some peanuts in the front, so I've been filling in stuff between. Added about six square feet of peanuts, a square foot of leeks, a square foot of green onions, some kale, a couple other things.

I need to fill in the other two bins as well. Right now I have a pretty big cherry tomato monster in one, as well as some ginger, and in the other I have some lemon grass, tomato, and sweet potato. Still, wasting about 45 or so square feet that I need to get something planted in.

I've been reading Mel Bartholomew's book "Square Foot Gardening," which is mostly about garden management, with some assisted info on what to plant and what to plant it in. I think it fits in pretty well with John Jeavons & Co's books. Mr. Bartholomew has you break everything down into one foot squares, keeping it simple enough to manage, and he has you plant crops in a certain order and using certain amounts, so that you can pretty much always have something ready to eat. His claim is that two of his flats (each flat being 4 feet by 4 feet) can provide a single person with all their vegetable needs. I think this is a reasonable goal for me, and it just so happens I have the equivalent of 8 of his flats, which probably ought to cover me and the family.

Plus I think I might be able to extend some of it to the jungle in the back, so that'd be a nice usage of space.

I keep planning to start the upside down tomatoes. I'm planning to take a plastic milk jug, cut the bottong off, stick the bottom back on, turn the jug right side up, plant a tomato seed in the pour hole, let it sprout, then hang the thing upside down. Tomatoes can take a LOT of space, and are susceptible to a lot of garden pests, this might solve a bunch of problems. My only worry is that they'll be too difficult to water.

The chickens are doing fine. They eat a lot. They're about 9 or 10 weeks old. I should start getting eggs anywhere from 6 to 14 more weeks from now. That'l be a nice score. Eggs in the store are now about $2 per dozen, if the chickens start producing an egg a day, that'll run me about 75 cents per dozen.

Of course, with ten birds, what the hell am I going to do with ten eggs a day?

The turmeric that Doug gave me has sprouted, big stem, big leaves, though one of the stems has the top bitten off by something.

I put up some images of my first garden from three years ago. At the time everything was pretty much hydroponics and containers. My first garden.