Category Archives: Uncategorized

Time to Shine: Being Ready for Farm Photoshoots

It can be a challenge to make everything come together on the farm, especially when we add in media publishing deadlines. Like squash farmers, publishers think far ahead, as in 4-6 months out for their articles.  That means that they are often working on a harvest issue while the farmer is planting.  It is an exciting challenge to meet. There is a buzz of activity that throws us farmers out of our daily routine. Photography and styling replace weeding and shoveling. I find myself getting stuck thinking that the farm needs to be in full vining glory to be interesting, but I am wrong in doing so.  The no-till soil building is the foundation of not just the health of the plants, and the environment, but also key to my water management strategy. The field at rest is a sign of health too.  Young plants are a part of the continuum, as are compost and the flowers before the fruit.  Every stage has it’s worth, though its beauty more subtle.

I think many of us use traditional methods that are intriguing to the media.  We need to remember that the tools of our everyday: the jars of seeds, the old rusted wheelbarrow are all a part of the character that our farm has.  Be creative when you get those inquiries from the media.  Your farm and garden is much more interesting than you may think, even in off-season. So say yes, when someone offers you and your farm a moment in the spotlight.  It is a wonderful thing that farmers are now getting the opportunity to be acknowledged for all that they do.

The image says it all.  The additions have changed the soil dramatically.
The image says it all. The additions have changed the soil dramatically.

Squash Leaf Identification

I love my Winter Squash, and each time I plant, I find beauty in their shapes and sizes, but as I get more seasoned as a grower, the nuances in the leaves also calls out to me.DSC_0398

Fig Leafed Gourd (above)

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I am getting pretty good at being able to know a squash not just by it’s fruit, but also by it’s leaf.  When selecting blooms for hand pollination seed purity, there may not be a fruit there on the vine to help you identify it.  So if you plant a small intense plot like I do, it can get confusing.  Learning how to identify the vines by the leaf patterns, colors, shapes and sizes will help you in so many ways.  As you plant in future plantings, you can plant several different looking squash plants in very close proximity and still know who is who.

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin plant in the Sun
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin plant in the Sun

Preparing to travel to Baker Creek Headquarters for the Spring Planting Festival

I am a bit nervous as I prepare to leave the farm for 7 days so to be an active participant of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Spring Planting Festival.  http://www.rareseeds.com/spring-planting-festival/ It will be taking place at their Missouri headquarters on Sunday and Monday, May 3rd and 4th. Forgive the fact that I say Sat and Sunday in my video…It is Sunday and Monday, and I am a bit giddy about the whole thing.  I will be giving two talks now, one on Sunday and one on Monday.  I am most grateful and excited to be going.DSC_0420

So now, aside from saying the wrong days in the video, the rest is good information, that I hope you will enjoy.  How do you get ready to go especially when it is prime time to be farming here in Hawaii?  Take some small, but strategic steps toward starting seedlings, so that they are ready to go upon your return.  I use reclaimed basalt blocks that are cut down and soaked in water.  Each will hold one squash seedling, and they will make it so that minimal disturbance to the root system will take place at transplanting.  Squash generally do not like to be transplanted…so this is a real happy success to share.  I have increased both productivity, and my germination speed by this method.  So sit back and enjoy, and maybe I will see you on Sunday or Monday there at the Spring Planting Festival!

Save money by changing out your own delivery vehicle tires

After getting the bait and switch treatment at our local tire shop, I decided to get even in two ways:  teach everyone how to do much of their tire replacement themselves, and not give that shady tire shop even the smallest job ever again.  After getting an outrageous quote of $1500 to replace 4 VW tires with very cheap but normal tires, I decided to to all but the tire mount/balancing myself.  I was hoping they might at least order the tires for me at a good price, but nope they overcharged from the start.

They even double billed for the labor performed for the one (I tested their ethics with one tire) tire to be mounted and balanced.  Machines do the mounting and balancing in all tire shops, labor means lifting tire onto machine and off of machine. It takes only a couple of minutes, the machines do everything.  So imagine my surprise when they added $20 in extra labor charges on top of the $20 quote.  I called them on it, and they claimed that that is their policy.

My policy is to never help their business ever again.  Be grateful for the customers you have, or they will teach the world how to change out all of their own tires.  In the first video, forgive me for having sloppy camera work, the other video I made was much better, but too large for the upload.  I had a few minutes to get this post out, so bear with me.

Why am I teaching you how to change tires on a farm website?  Because these cars are my delivery vehicles, and by doing it myself, The job will cost me under $300 tires included.  Every small farm needs an edge, this is one that you may thank me for later.  Get comfortable with your car, understand the workings, use safety equipment, and off you go.

Chili Pepper Pruning and Rooting Cuttings pt 2

Updating on my first attempts at pruning two year old Ghost Peppers, Aji Limon, and Thai Dragon chilis as well as rooting the cuttings. It has been a week, let’s see where we are at

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Here are two short videos that document what I have learned about chili propagation in the past week

Key Points:  “Y” shaped pepper plants do not produce as well as those who have undergone severe pruning in year one and two

regrowth happens pretty quickly if timed to coincide with Spring growth cycles

Be brave! It is proven to work.  Watch my attempts and other videos from chili experts before pruning

Spoil them rotten with care both before and after pruning

Give them fish emulsion fertilizer before and after to encourage powerful plants

document your attempts, as in before and after shots, so that when you are neck deep in chilis, you can laugh about your fear of pruning.

Small Steps to Save Water on the Farm

Drought comes and goes, so what better way to get your farm or garden ready, then by taking some small steps now.  You will already have a water saving style in play if and when you have a dry season, year, or series of years.  Being a zero-waste farm is a great way to think of ways to give things a second chance, be it containers, or water, the main reuse featured here. Thinking in terms of water reuse will become natural when you think of water every time you turn on the hose.

Here is a quick and efficient way to make fruit fly traps.  For those of you in areas like Hawaii, fruit fly trap making is a critical part of most farms.  It is a great way to reuse plastic cups and bottles as well as reuse soapy water from the drain of the hand wash sink.  I use Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar Soaps at the farm and at home.  Each bar goes a long way and there is a scent for everyone.  Peppermint is a really great one for scrubbing up after stinky jobs like composting fish.  The pure soap make for a great soap water base that is used in the bottom of your fruit fly trap.

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Simply catch the soap water as it comes out of the modified drain pipe, then pour into your homemade fly traps, and insert the appropriate fly bait.  Soapy water is used to keep the flies from climbing back out of the trap. The middle and last images are house/bottle fly traps used to control fly numbers near the compost/fish emulsion station.  All are made using items that were free and needed a new use.

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Hot dry weather means flies of all kinds are in peak numbers at the farm. The flies drown quickly in the soapy water, and are then composted. Your fly numbers will be kept in check.

Rinse water is used to rinse many buckets in a “bucket to bucket” reuse before it is reused to make a diluted fertilizer as in my video above, or water seedlings and for rooting cuttings. Plain non-soapy rinse water can also be poured into shallow trays for the birds, bees, toads, and lizards that patrol the farm and help in so many ways.

I challenge you to fill a few buckets as if you are in preparation for the water to be turned off, then see in one day how many ways you can use those few gallons.  You may be surprised how far it will go.  We will all thank you for it.