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.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It lives!

Ok, I was wrong about the one banana plant dying. After taking a closer look today, and moving aside the copious amount of bean plants, I found that a pup or something like it was growing out right next to the plant that was looking bad. So I definitely can't write that one off, at least yet.

I'm a little bit nervous though, I bought some synthetic fertilizer today, a banana specific blend, like 10-5-40 or something crazy like that. I put a small amount of it around each banana. I'm pretty paranoid about synthetic fertilizers ever since I killed off a whole crop of soybeans a few years ago. It was my first experience with non-organic fertilizers, and I applied it pretty much the same way I applied the organic fertilizer. BIG mistake, everything was dead the next day, nitrogen burn. Who'd a thunk it.

Hopefully I haven't just killed off my banana plants. If they look fine, I'll probably apply a little bit every week, I figure that's better than one big blast a month.

As a side note, I gotta figure out something else to do with the compost, it just takes too long. Right now I have three piles, one of them pretty processed but still needing at least a month before its ready, another that's going to need at least two months, and a fresh one I made today from mowing the lawn and cleaning out some sunflowers. And I have more lawn to mow, so what am I gonna do? And a ton of material from chopping down the back lot. Hmmmm.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Peanut Project

At the end of June I planted some peanut seeds that were sprouting (sprouted them using raw peanut seeds in a ziploc with a wet paper towel). They look like they're going pretty good, though it's a very small patch, maybe 14 inches long, 8 inches wide, just a little sample really. I peeled some more of the peanut pods and stuck them in another ziploc with another wet papertowel.

I think peanuts are a pretty cool plant, lots of fat and protein. I think they'd be a pretty valuable food for someone who was trying to grow all of their own food. Eventually I'm going to try inter-cropping peanuts and corn.

Oh yeah, bananas

Of the four original banana plants that Alan gave me, three seem to be doing really well, but one looks like it's not going to make it. It's the third largest one (the bigger two and the smallest all seem fine), and it really didn't look any better or worse than the others when I got it, so I don't know what might be wrong. I'm thinking about using a banana specific fertilizer there, though I'm worried that'll kill or damage the beans I inter cropped. We shall see.

Moving pretty slow...

This week was just really busy at work, didn't do much. The second batch of seeds we (Eri and I) planted are doing really well. This is the first time I've used straight peat as a starting medium, and I'm impressed.

I'd also started some stuff (tomatillo, broccoli, rapini (broccoli rabe)) in a ziploc, they all germinated, and I tried transferring them over to a container with peat in it. If it works out I'll provide details, if not, I guess it's not worth knowin'.

This weekend we've been experiencing "tropical depression Cosme," which I suppose is better than meeting "tropical storm Cosme" or "hurricane Cosme," but still leaves the yard pretty wet, and it's raining a lot. So I haven't done much (yeah, rain is a weak excuse, really I'm just lazy...).

Potato experiment revised!

The sweet potato bin seems to be doing fine, I'm thinking to harvest some leaves and try one of those recipes I found.

The potato bin though, has not really done much of anything, so we rebooted that sucker. I dug up the little red potatoes, and pretty much they were the same as when I'd buried them. I'm guessing they were too young for growing new plants, though that is just a guess, wish I had a 'tater expert around to question. Anyway, I tossed the little red potatoes and replanted with a few full size yellow potatoes, and we'll see what happens. Fingers are crossed. If a guy or gal could get significant results from growing the potatoes vertically in a bin it would really be a great way to grow a lot of calories in a very small space.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Status: got rid of some chickens, planted some more stuff

I gave away eight more chickens to my friend Doug. So now I'm down to ten. Which still seems a lot, but not as bad as 18. Or the original 26. I still need to make one more chicken coop, plus a "mini-coop" for the kids bird, the type of which I have no idea.

Doug gave me some turmeric root to plant, it's very similar to ginger. I planted that in some peat. I also planted a bunch more stuff last night. I need to get on the ball with the gardening, I should/could be growing a lot more of our food. I've been pretty tired lately though.

I mowed a back section of the yard today and started a new compost pile with the clippings. I also mowed under the chicken coop, which sucked up a bunch of chicken manure, which ought to pretty much get that new compost pile burning fast. I'll turn it tomorrow and see.

I've been reviewing John Jeavons book "How to grow more..." and Dave Duhon's book "One Circle." Both indicate that you can grow a single person's food in a pretty small amount of space, assuming that person was a eating a vegan diet. Not my thing, but I like the idea for other reasons, such as it uses a minimal amount of space, and a minimal amount of effort.

Both break things down into something like this:
30% of your space should be used to grow special root crops, such as parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, others. These are "area efficient" crops that produce a maximum amount of calories per unit area.
10% of your space should be used for vegetable crops, crops intended to provide maximum nutrients.
60% of your space should be used to grow high carbon crops, crops that, in addition to food, create organic matter for composting and hence soil building. They're really, REALLY in to soil building.

So part of what I've been doing is playing with potatoes, sweet potatoes, and now parsnips in an effort to move towards backyard sustainability. The thing is, it kind of conflicts with one of the gardenings goals, to save money. Ideally you'd use the garden to grow expensive stuff, like all your fruits and vegetables. Wasting valuable space on potatoes and sweet potatoes, which are pretty cheap by comparison to veggies and fruits, doesn't make a lot of sense. Unless you're trying to grow your own food.

I'm losing my point in there somewhere, but part of my goal is to figure out a way to grow as much of the families caloric load in addition to as much of the families vegetables and fruits as possible. Plus soil building seems to be a pretty good thing.

As a result of this dual goal thing, I'm looking at other crops to try, such as amaranth. Amaranth seems to have a lot of potential, though I don't really have an understanding of the space required to provide a significant portion of one's diet. I'm still studying it, so hope to report something later.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Closing the circle

Whenever I start thinking about "The Circle" I start hearing Elton John singing "The Circle of Life."

I think we hit a new level of recycling. Between the chickens, the worm bins, the compost pile, we're pretty much recycling all of our food stuff, yard clippings, etc. All excess food matter is now getting used for something, and eventually ending back up in the garden to grow more food. It's kind of a good feeling.

It's not a complete circle, but it's as complete as it's going to get living here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Clearing the "back 40" and updates to website.

I've spent a few days now clobbering down brush, weeds, guaivi (sp?), rose apple seedlings, dead wood, dead ferns, and trash from the back third of my lot. I'm going to try and wipe out pretty much everything back there, set it up for some hydroponics, grow some bananas, maybe some bamboo, a few other projects. It's too much space to just let go to waste, I think it's about 40 feet deep and 70 feet wide. It could be a little deeper, I should measure. I'm planning to get my whole yard fenced this Summer (better hurry, Summer is fading...).

I added a list of "things to come" to the index page. Basically I'd like to add some info regarding composting, vermicomposting, some info on hydroponics/aquaponics/worm-water hydroponics, some stuff about raising chickens. I'm thinking about asking around to different people and groups for other information that might be useful for gardening over on the Hilo side.

The garbage can potato experiment continues...

The half garbage can bottomless container holding the sweet potato plants seems to be going fine. The vines have grown and filled in the blank spaces and are now starting to grow out the sides of the container. Maybe in another week or so I'll collect some leaves and try a sweet potato leaf recipe. Or I could try using some of the sweet potato stuff I froze a while back, I'm sure that would make my wife happy too.

The other half of the garbage can, the one in which I planted the "seed potatoes" has not really done anything yet. I'd like to figure out a good type of potato that would grow well and quickly here on the Hilo side.

Chickens are mean!

Well, maybe not mean. Really it's all my fault. The chickens are pecking each other and tearing feathers out of each other. If I understand correctly, I'm lacking one or more of: space, feed, grit, grass, something.

Probably space is a big factor. The chicken coop is not big enough, and I haven't had a chance yet to build the second one. I'm thinking about letting them free range a bit during the day. My yard isn't set up for full on free ranging.

One of the birds, the "mystery exotic chick," the only one I allowed the kids to name (and they named it "Star Thomas" ....) took a real beating over the weekend and had a bloody spot, a definite wound. I've separated her (hopefully) from the others, and am planning to keep her separate. For the rest, as a short term solution I went with the recommendation of using Vick's Vapo Rub as a cure for pecking. We'll see.

Right now I have 18 birds, I need to get rid of eight more, and build the second coop. And work on some way of free ranging the birds safely, at least a couple times a week.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Thoughts on aquaponics, and the whole backyard ag thing in general.

Talking to my friend Darryl today about how well his aquaponic system is working. It's a pretty tough bet as to whether the systems provide an economical way to get fish and vegetables. Darryl is having second thoughts about it. He says he still considers himself to be in the "experimental" stage, so he's not bailing, but so far he hasn't been able to make the system economical.

It makes me revisit my goals for ag. It's more than just a hobby, though it's that too. So what am I doing and why?
  • To promote backyard sustainability, to decrease my overall load on the Earth's resources. I'm a firm believer that people, especially Westerners, Americans in particular live an ecologically expensive lifestyle that is likely to make our lives, our children's lives, and the lives of the generations of people that come after, more difficult than ever before. I believe that backyard sustainability provides a permanent solution to a lot of the problems that are coming.
  • To improve my health and lifestyle by motivating myself to eat healthier. I have heard the advice of many wise gardeners that you should focus on growing what you eat. Well, as far as I know, they haven't found a steak bush or prime rib tree yet. I need to change my eating habits, I need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Growing them forces me to do that, and opens up new food alternatives that I don't think I'd be willing to try under other circumstances.
  • To save money by growing/raising as much of my own food as I can in an economical manner. Food is freaking expensive, good quality fruits and vegetables particularly so. $4.50 per pound for green beans? $2 for a bag of three tomatoes? $2 for a small head of lettuce. The stuff is expensive, and the variety available often leaves a person wanting.
  • To teach my kids something about self-reliance. To teach myself something about self-reliance.
  • To create a "survival garden." It's a crazy world, we have terrorists, global warming, peak oil, avian flu, all sorts of stuff. It makes sense to have an ongoing supply of food in case "troubled times" should appear on the door step.
So there's the question of what fits? In terms of livestock, I think my chickens fit. A few backyard modifications, and I could "free range" the birds, making feeding, if not optional, at least not as much of a burden. Not only does each chicken represent an egg supply, but under real hardship conditions, each one represents dinner ;o) Plus, they supply a significant amount of fertilizer, which I've used to "jumpstart" a couple of slow compost piles I've had going.

To fish fit? That's a tough one. If they're expensive and tricky, then maybe not. Feeding them is expensive, running and maintaining pumps and airstones is expensive, overall start up costs are expensive. If they aren't economical and aren't sustainable, then they don't fit in.

But, like Darryl, I'm still in the experimental stage as well, though way behind him. Hopefully we can figure out some way to make backyard aquaponics economical, sustainable, and productive.

In the mean time, I may find myself following Darryl's lead, he's considering standard chemical based hydroponics. The fertilizers are cheap, and you can buy practically a "lifetime supply" pretty cheaply. The economics are there, though the sustainability may be lacking.

One thing I would really like to try is worm water hydroponics, and possibly chicken manure tea aquaponics. Both seem pretty sustainable.

Starting a new batch of seedlings

Tonight I started a new batch of seeds. I've decided to intercrop corn and different kinds of beans in two of my raised beds, then plant vegetables in the other two beds. Of course, as soon as I decided to do that, every place in town that sells seeds is out of corn, go figure.

I've ordered some more seed from Victory Seeds ( I ordered corn, arugula, beans, cilantro, and some pumpkin.

Tonight I planted parsnips, onions, parsley, kale, broccoli raab, radish, thyme, basil, scallions, leeks, a few other things. It's summer, so I need to get things going.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sweet Potato and Potato experiments

Today I bought a 32 gallon rubbermaid garbage can from Home Depot, cut it into two parts. Took the top half, set it in the yard, filled it full of a mix of compost, peat moss, and cinder-soil. Planted that with a bunch of sweet potato plants I tore out of the banana bin (the banana bin used to be the sweet potato bin, and every piece of root I missed in converting it grew into a new sweet potato plant, so I'm trying to clean those out) today.

The idea is to give it 4-6 months, track how much I get out in terms of leaves (which are edible, I have some recipes (untested) on my webpae), and see how much I get in terms of potatoes. I'd like to know how area efficient calorie wise that sweet potatoes can be grown here.

I used the bottom part of the garbage can as a container for some seed potatoes I had from some potato plants I'd grown a while back. I filled the gb container just a few inches, as the potato plant grows I'll add more material, attempting to "hill" the potato plants.

NOTE: these seed potatoes are from the plants I harvested from a long while back. I'd pulled the plants out, harvested potatoes, put them back in to see what would happen. The plants never really did well after that, so I think that's a failed experiment. I did have success doing the same thing with sweet potato plants, but obviously that doesn't extend to potatoes

Fish switch over, status

Well, I bought my own 100 gallon rubbermaid stock tank on Friday, and this morning I switched over to using it. I also separated out the guppies. It was kind of a bummer, the fish I thought actually might be baby tilapia turned out to actually be female guppies. Apparently the female guppy doesn't look much like the male. Who knew? Probably lots of people, but not me.

So, I no longer know if I have a male-female pair among the tilapia I now have. They could be a real dead end, which is a bummer.

The guppies are in my old fish tank. I tossed in an extra airstone (attached to pump), so they should be fine.

I had some taro growing kind of like weeds in the raised bed where I used to keep a lot of my taro, so I washed a few off and stuck them in the guppy tank. So now I have some taro keikis growing in the guppy tank, and a five full size hulis growing in the tilapia tank. I'll add some picture tomorrow.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Status: not much been going on.

I've had some sort of flu thing going on for the last ten days, so not much going on, however, some quick status...

Chickens: Coop is about 90% done. I need to make some mods to the roof and paint it with something to keep the rain from rotting away. In the meantime, I've got it tented with a tarp, and am keeping 13 chicks in it. The brooder was getting way too small, the birds way to big. They seem to be getting along much better. I was having a serious pecking problem, which doesn't seem as bad anymore.

Fish: well, we had an "incident" on Monday (as I write this it is just barely still Thursday). "Somehow" the air stone got pulled out of the tub. It looks like the neighbor kids got a little too touchy feely. Anyway, Tuesday morning I noticed the problem, but by then 3 of the big tilapia were dead. I changed out half the water, got the air stone back on line, and now everything seems fine. I've seen at least a dozen tilapia fingerlings, so long term it's not too bad of a setback.

The new taro bed is looking good, as is the mini-taro bed I put in the front.

I harvested some fennel last week. I think it was past time, it was fairly tough and stringy. I don't thing I'm a real fan of the fennel.

The bananas are doing fine, and I transplanted in about 30 bean plants for "intercropping."

I started some peanut plants last week, which I planted today. I bought some raw peanuts from the store, took out the beans, put them in a ziploc bag with a wet paper towel, and within about five days they were sprouting. I finally put them in some dirt today.

Being sick sucks, it's cramping my style. I've got tons to do, but no gas to turn on to get it done.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Beans, plus status on the fish, chickens, bananas...

In my last seed order I'd figured to try dry beans again. I'd like to grow beans and make chili, I think it'd be cool. So I ordered some, calypso. I planted about a dozen, and each plant produced two, maybe three beans. Yep, that's it. Not very exciting.

Well, last weekend I planted about 50 of the home grown beans, and every single one sprouted. So yesterday I took the seedlings and transplanted them interspersed with the taro in the new taro bed. My figuring is that the beans are about a 3 month crop, and will fix nitrogen in the soil. Taro is a seven to eleven month crop, and can use that nitrogen. Because of the way the taro hulis are planted, with the corm at the bottom (at about 8 inches down), and the beans planted pretty much at the top, I figure it'll be a while before the two start interfering with each other. By then maybe I'll have harvested. At least, that's the plan...

Fish are still doing well. I have at least one 1.5" long tilapia in there, plus a lot of fry, though I'm not sure if the fry are guppies or tilapia. Since I started putting the taro hulis in tank with them the water has stayed amazingly clear.

Chickens are big and getting bigger. In three weeks they've eaten about 25 pounds of chick feed. It's pretty amazing. They're much bigger, and uglier. I think they've been pecking each other too. I've almost got the first of two chicken coops done.

Did I mention that the chickens provide a LOT of manure?

The bananas are still alive. One of the banana plants lost it's leaves, but now has grown new, bigger ones. I think I need to feed them. Unfortunately the remnants of my sweet potatoes seem to be doing just great, which I don't want them to do. I don't want to have to dig out sweet potatoes between the roots of the banana plants.

I've been getting tomatoes from the cherry tomato plants, and a few from the heirloom plant. Nothing to go crazy over, but it's nice, as tomatoes are incredibly expensive here.

The taro beds I set up, both the scenic one in the front yard and the "working" bed in the back, seem to be doing well.

I've got this idea for sweet potatoes. I'm thinking to find some sort of big, maybe 3ft diameter, 3ft tall tubing, in cross sections, put it down, fill it with dirt, newspaper, shredded cardboard, and plant the sweet potatoes in that. They seem to really like that kind of thing. I've just got to find the containers. We'll see.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chicken coup, taro wetland style

Forgot to mention a couple of other things last weekend.

First, started on the first chicken coup. It's going to be a pretty big one, ought to completely house at least four birds. I figure I'm about 40% finished. I'd post a picture, but it's still pretty ugly.

Also, I took a few of the bigger taro hulis and put them in the fish tank. The next day the water was clearer than I've ever seen it. It's been a few days now, so I'm interested in checking it out tomorrow to see if it's still clear.

One other thing, I noticed there are definitely tilapia fingerlings swimming in around there. So looks like propagation is still a reasonable expectation. Now if Home Depot would just get their pond liner in...

Busy day

Harvested the rest of the taro, cut hulis, made faux lau lau. Also, with the help of my crew, changed out 2/3 of the water in the stock tank, used the water to feed the bananas. Here's a picture of the gang and the fish:

Later that night, Eri and I used the taro corms to make taro chips

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Chicks, potatoes, ginger, baby taro experiment

The chicks have definitely graduated on to (or possibly beyond) the toddler stage. I am still amazed at how much they eat (and the amount of byproduct produced from that activity...). The feed conversion ratio (FCR is a ratio of how many pounds of feed to produce a pound of animal) for chickens is about 2. If I kept all the birds I have now, then to raise all these birds to 1 pound each would end up using 46 pounds of feed. Which would cost about $20. The thing is, I'm into the bird thing for the eggs, and I don't need two dozen eggs a day. We're working on giving most of the chicks away, and hopefully will end up with 8 hens.

I went to Japan about six weeks ago. The morning that I left I was running around crazy trying to take care of stuff, and came across five potatoes sitting in a food basket. Figuring they'd be a problem, I took them outside and buried them, just to see what would happen. When I got home they had grown into two foot tall potato plants, go figure. I'd never intended to start growing potatoes there, it was just an experiment, and last night I decided to dig them up and see what there was to see.

In the five minutes it took me to do the deed, I collected about 2.5 pounds of baby red potatoes. Sweet! That five minutes included digging a deeper hole and re-planting the potato plant. Potatoes, if I understood correctly, will grow potatoes along the stem if the stem is covered with dirt. So maybe more will grow.

I don't know how long the sweet plants will last. IIRC, I may have read that you grow the potato plant until it dies, then dig up the potatoes. The problem is, that's most likely mainland information that won't apply here. It's like the information for growing sweet potatoes. The info is usually oriented to the mainland, where you plant the slips, then wait for the plant to die. Well, the plant dies because Fall/Winter weather is too cold, and it's a tropical/semi-tropical plant. Here the vines will live for some time period that I have not even tested for. If you wait for the plant to die, you'll be waiting a really, REALLY long time.

Then there's the time I planted kale, and ended up eating kale off those plants for two years.

I transplanted some Thai ginger (kalanga?) into pots last night. I'd tried growing them in a tire on the edge of "the jungle," but they just weren't doing very well. Too many other things over there trying to take over, maybe not enough water and care. Anyway, I put them in potting soil, we'll see how that works. My friend Doug had planted some in big container ( I got the impression it was maybe a 10 gallon container), and after six months or so there was something like 40 pounds of ginger root in the pot. Nice.

Also, my Japanese ginger is sprouting. That's growing in the cinder-soil+ that I have in my raised beds.

When I was harvesting taro last week I ended up with about 20 of these little taro nodules that had been attached to the corm, and basically were sprouting into their own little plants. As an experiment I planted those in pots last night, just to see if they'll grow. Taro is a very nice looking plant, so I'd like to have some more growing in the front yard, get a little privacy going on.

Monday, June 4, 2007

New taro patch

Yesterday I threw together some cinder blocks (locally I've heard it called "hollow tile") to make a small raised bed, added in some soil, and planted the taro huli I collected a few days ago. I think it ought to work ok. I planted it on a different side of the house, the South side, so it'll get a little more light. I've got my fingers crossed.

Also started putting together the new fish pond, to be built out of cinder blocks and a pond liner. It ought to be about 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, maybe 3 feet deep. Assuming my math is right, that'll give me 96 cubic feet. With about 7.5 gallons per cubic feet, I should end up with a pond that's 720 gallons.

I'm guestimating that I can grow about 1 pound of fish per 8 gallons of water. That means I ought to be able to raise about 90 pounds of fish. This is all pretty serious guestimation. I have read of aquaponic systems that could maintain 1 pound of fish per 2 gallons of water. I'm hoping that my system will work at least 25% as good as one of those systems. But I'll hedge my bets and shoot for 5o pounds of fish for the first batch. Another guestimation is that it'll take six months to grow out tilapia to that size.

We shall see....

Right now I'm waiting on pond liner from Home Depot. They were out, go figure, I have great timing. I'm looking for this heavy duty rubberized stuff that's supposed to be guaranteed for 20 years. Hopefully it'll get here soon.

Oh yeah, collected casings from the worm bins yesterday, mixed it in with the soil in the raised bed from which I took that taro. Mowed the lawn today and started another compost pile.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Taro harvest

My wife wanted me to make "a lot" of the faux lau lau (lau lau being a Hawaiian dish where you place meat and taro leaves in a ti leaf (or maybe a banana leaf, I forget...) and steam it, faux lau lau being taro leaves and meat layered in a pressure cooker or crock pot and cooked until it's no longer itchy).

Here's a close up of taro leaves. The entire plant is edible. Mostly when I make faux lau lau I use the leaf and the petiole (stem attached to leaf), because I like both, but if I'm going to share the stuff I usually just use the leaf. The entire plant is edible, but you have to cook it quite a bit to get rid of the "itch." Taro contains high amounts of oxalic acid, a type of crystal that will make your mouth and throat itch if you eat it when it's not cooked enough. Handling the plant in a way so that the inside of the plant touches your skin can make your skin itch as well.

And here is a picture of the plant after I've taken it out of the ground. I still need to pare off some corm and roots before they're actual "huli," and then I'll plant them in a different bed and start all over again. Notice that only one has an actual corm (large chunky root)? Well, recently I learned that you have to plant the huli's at least 6 inches deep so that the corm can grow. I planted all mine only a couple of inches deep. Live and learn.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bananas planted

Woke up this morning at six and went out and planted the bananas. Weekend before last I had dug up my sweet potato bin and had decided to try a different way of planting sweet potatoes (still haven't gotten that far btw). Which left the bin available for, you guessed it, bananas. So I planted three of the four bananas Alan gave me into that bin. I think they'll do pretty good there. The fourth banana plant I planted in a container, kind of keeping my options open with that one.

Going Bananas...

I forgot to mention, I gave my friend Alan four chicks, he gave me four banana trees. The smallest is about two feet tall, the tallest is about four feet tall. Right now they're sitting with their roots in a plastic bag, but I'm planning to plant them tomorrow morning. I'm pretty stoked about it. Alan's backyard is pretty much filled with banana trees, which he built up from a single tree.

I have three boys, all love bananas, so this should be a good thing for us.

Chicks arrived yesterday!

The chicks we ordered from Murray McMurray Hatchery ( arrived yesterday (May 29th). We ordered 25 Rhode Island Reds, ended up receiving 26 (I'm guessing they throw in an extra in case one of them doesn't, uh, work out, so to say) plus a "mystery chick" (which the Shin named "Star," and Ryu named "Thomas," and we are all now bound to call the bird "Star Thomas" or "Thomas Star.").

The post office called us up at 6:15 am to let us know that the chicks were in. I quickly assembled the brooder, and we went down to pick them up at about 8:15 am. They all came together in one tiny 1 ft by 1 ft box. Pretty amazing. We got them home, turned on the brooder lamp to heat the brooder up (chicks need to be kept at 90-95 F for the first week, then have the temp cooled down by 5 F every week).

With our order we'd also bought some of McMurray's "QuikChik" powder, you mix it with water and end up with "chicken gatorade," so we mixed some up, added some sugar, and hooked the water container up to the brooder. We then dipped each chicks beak in the water, then put the chick in the brooder. They were pretty excited for a while, but eventually settled down.

I ran down to Dell's, the livestock supply place here in town, and bought ten pounds of chicken starter feed and a feeder. By the time I got home they had all figured out how to drink from the water bin. Pretty much as soon as I put the food in they started eating. So no worries there.

And that was pretty much day one of the chicken thing.

Day two was pretty uneventful. Came home and fed the birds (they eat a LOT). In the evening I gave four of them away to my friend Alan. Then finally changed out the newspaper (now covered with chicken manure, it ended up in the compost pile) and replaced the water. Birds seem pretty healthy and happy. I'm glad I borrowed the brooder from Doug.