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.