Fixing at the Farm: jacking the delivery car and replacing muffler clamps

Keeping the farm up and running often means keeping the delivery cars up and running as well.  It has been a rough month of wear and tear on both me and the cars.  Lots of go go go with all of the pumpkin outreach.  So something was bound to fail, and two things did.  First, my rear drum on the hub worked it’s way loose, creating an annoying squeak squeak squeak sound that could have led to an expensive replacement if it continued long enough to destroy the splines on the axle.  That is all repaired now, so the next thing was the muffler clamp rusted out completely. In doing so, the muffler pipe came out and created an exciting, though annoying to others, muffler sound.

So first, let’s jack the car.  What to know:   Safety!!!! Don’t even start without a floor jack, two jack stands and safety goggles.  DSC_0121 Know the rating of the equipment and of the vehicle you are jacking.  This floor jack is rated to 4000lbs, and the stands to two tons.  The car weighs less than two tons…that is the key.  Vehicle must weigh less than the numbers on your jack equipment.  Don’t know the weight of your vehicle?  Look up the year and model online, or in the manual, or in my case, inside of the door.   For this simple muffler repair, three tires are on the ground, with a wooden block on front and back of one of the wheels that is touching the ground. Next, after jacking off the solid frame, the jack stands are placed at two other nearby locations on the car as a back up.  This will seem way over the top for many, as the car is barely “up” off the ground, but it is better safe than sorry.  Next, safety goggles on…and off the top of your head.  Then once the car is jacked and secured, hit the old rusted muffler clamp with a mallet a few times to loosen, then apply penetrating liquid of your choice.  Let it sit a bit, then take two wrenches that are the same size, one top, one bottom and “break” the rusted hold of the bolt. The top wrench will hold the top of the bolt in place, while the bottom wrench will be put on the bottom of the bolt and you will push the wrench clockwise, while the upper wrench is pushed in a counter clockwise position.  This is breaking free the bolt so that they can be removed from the muffler pipe.  Mine came apart in a pile of rusted bits.  Without the safety glasses, this could have gotten in my eyes.  Make sure you have the new clamp of the right size first.

A small repair, but it keeps the car on the road, and deliveries right on schedule…without waking the neighborhood!  Here is a mini video to go through some of the above.  Good luck, and never go under a car without multiple safety points jacked and secured!

This video doesn’t exist

as always, my video cuts out (LOL) but you get the idea.

the pieces for my VW A closer look at the replacement clamp.  Note the two circular parts that need to be put around the smaller pipe prior to clamping the lot together.  The top of the clamp is at left.  It is considered the top, only because that makes it easier to screw on the nuts from the bottom.  Here is how it would look like as you are piecing it together…

the finished result and this is with the two circular pieces, and the two part clamp cinched down over where one pipe was inserted into the other.  You could use three hands, but by assembling one side of the clamp prior to pushing the pipes together, it makes it much easier.  Then two wrenches again, one holding the bolt from spinning at top, then the other wrench tightens the bottom nut.  I went back and forth and tightened each one so to tighten evenly.  Then the real test…start the engine and listen for what the muffler sounds like… then joy ride to follow!  Yes you can do this one….Good luck aspiring gear heads!

Proud to Represent Hawaii

Hawaii often gets left out of many agricultural events.  People often ask me why.  It is simple: fruit flies.  They have made our exporting of produce difficult for the last 100 years.  With that being said, they have also made it the most challenging place to grow many otherwise common vegetables.  Marketing has showcased pineapple and sugar, two plantation crops that are uneffected by these pests. But we are not so proud to note that every year, new agricultural pests erode what small food production we have in the Hawaiian islands. When asked why I didn’t bring squash to the expo, other growers just shake their heads.  Those who have been around a while usually say, “oh fruit fly? Lucky you are growing anything at all.”  They are right.

It is for that exact reason that I began researching, and later breeding squash for Hawaii, and other areas with tropical fruit flies, and the newer introduction, Pickle Worm.  When California gets an invasion of fruit flies, they sound the alarms.  When Hawaii gets a new pest, it barely makes the news.  Another one, is not what any of us need.  But they continue to come in every year.  That is one of the many downsides of importing over 90% of your food.  It leaves the door open for pests from around the world to enter the islands.  Don’t believe me, try talking to someone from Australia.  We have many of the same issues.  I had more than one person ask for my squash at the National Heirloom Expo last year, I had to direct them to the images on my booth,  often the response was, “couldn’t you smuggle one in?”  I know they meant well, wanting me to represent my breeding and farming efforts with the real thing, but the very last thing I want to do is destroy California agriculture so that I can have something to show.  I explained the magnitude of what one selfish act could do.

But after having so many inquiries, I just thought my way through the situation.  Though I could not bring squash into California, or anywhere else in the US, I could get seed through. I wanted to collect more research data, as I entered year 4 of my farm’s independent research for squash in Hawaii.  It was brought to my attention, that maybe I should include it in the Baker Creek squash trials.  I will be telling that story at a later time, but for now, I just wanted to share the very good news that the Hawaiian Black Kabocha not only survived, but it produced in a very different environment, and surrounded by all new pests, and squash virus.  Why does this matter?  It matters in many more reasons other than having a squash in the line up at the expo.  It is another potential solution for islands and areas suffering from both fruit fly and drought.  It can be a solution for the food production efforts of other places.  The labors of one can help many.  After the expo I received an angered email that noted how self-centered my actions were.  Now, it was time for me to shake my head, knowing in my heart, he couldn’t be further from the truth. So Hawaii, this was for you.  Mahalo nui loa for the dozens of top ranked chefs who taught me the nuances of flavor, so that I could be a better informed squash breeder.  Because it is simple, if I am going to be breeding for pest resistance, I may as well breed for excellence in flavor and texture as well.  Hit that ball out of the park for all of us.

So here she is sitting pretty in the line up.  Only a Hawaii grower knows how much that means to get her there.


Farm Clean up: the no-till way

In the frantic days before I leave for California, I needed to put some serious order into the farm. I will be going to help harvest the Baker Creek pumpkin seed trails,  and just a couple weeks later, I will be giving my speech at the National Heirloom Expo.  The excitement is building, because one of my very own farm pumpkins is a part of the trials.  I’ve worked hard so to stabilize the variety.  I am hoping that when I get there, it will be shining in the sun, and offering resistance to the drought there.  But for now, I need to focus on getting my own crop in order.  Pumpkin growers frequently count the days when you need to hit your harvest right on schedule for October, and we in tropical and subtropical places need to look 120 days out, and sometimes more.

Hawaii’s high season also creeping closer, where the demand doubles. So,  it is simply now or never.  This year is a big soil building year, as well as planting all new pumpkin vines.  It has been a long summer with quite unexpected weather patterns.  We had Winter-like weather for weeks, including flooding, and now it is like Summer again.  Adaptability is the name of the game.

The soil strategy is working.  I have brought in several tons of hops, mixed them with wood chips from the farm, then piled them on top on salvaged cardboard.  The trick is to turn the piles, carefully, letting them air out in all this heavy rain.  For those of you just tuning in.  In the farmlots, we got several days of flooding after 17 years of drought.  Quite a change, but not entirely a surprise.  Why?  The drought/flood cycle goes together, like it or not.  You cannot change the weather, but you can change your soil’s ability to adapt to changing weather.  Adding soil structure through organic mulch materials, and valuable nutrients both help.  This improvement to soil health also encourages the earthworm, and microbes…and on we go.

People are often overly concerned about how no-till looks, but really, it doesn’t matter how it looks, what matters is how is responds to the needs of your plants.  We need to get over our thinking that everything needs to be in tidy rows, with nice big parched earthen walkways between.  We are in a drought, and there is a lot more drought coming our way.  By planting very close in super homemade soil, the healthy plants adapt and even help one another.  I seed select only from varieties that are naturally resistant to powdery mildew (a huge problem in Hawaii) and then I can just let the vines sprawl, without worrying about close planted plants and powdery mildew.  What people usually do not see, but you can in these images, is the under story of the mulch.  Ever wonder why I have giant green squash leaves the size of platters?  It is because I have created a natural fertilizer system on which they grow.  When water hits a vine, it encourages it to re-root where the vine touches the soil, or in this case, where the vine touches the nutrient mulch.  I can encourage growth by burying the vine, (like giant pumpkin growers do) and encouraging more roots to form and uptake more nutrients.  This system is why I get so many tons out of a tiny parcel.  A squash plant often produces 2-3 pumpkins, mine may produce 10 times that, because I feed and prune and feed some more.  They are spoiled with love.

Here is a look at the mulch before the vines cover the lot.  The system is as follows:  cardboard, hops and wood chips mixed, some coral sand, coffee grounds, and fermented fish (buried in holes here and there.) Throughout the season, I will feed again with homemade fish emulsion, and top dress with more coffee grounds.  Then too, I will add some EM-1 soil microbes fermented in grain to the field.  Most of soil making is being done below those sprawling vines.  Compost materials are the mulch.  Soil is the solution.

the farm in year 3

The Lima Bean Squash Taco with Homemade Kraut

I decided to cook up some of my heirloom Christmas lima beans and make a casserole.  With a lot of work to do in preparation for the National Heirloom Expo, I need my energy.  I had the food processor out with the shred blade on, as I was already making my pipinola (chayote) kraut.  I was also sitting on several pounds of zucchini from a farm trade that I made with our local CSA.  I decided to just keep shredding and make a taco seasoned dish that I could use throughout the week. Here is what I did:  I had cooked the Christmas lima beans on low overnight in the crockpot with water enough to cover, and 1/2 of a Sweet Onion. I was already planning on using the beans, so I thought that all I needed was some more vegetables.I shredded one half of a large Hawaiian Sweet Onion, One large Zucchini, one pipinola(chayote squash) 2 orange habanero peppers, and 5 pickled hot peppers.  I then poured the shredded veg into a bowl, and pulsed 2-3 cups of the now room temperature cooked lima beans.  I added them to the bowl, and added two packages of taco seasoning, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a cup of breadcrumbs.  I mixed it all together and pressed it into a 9×9 square pan, baking it at 350 degrees for an hour.

I’ve been making homemade kraut for several weeks now, as a means of capturing the harvests that come and go at both the farm and garden. The salty zing of the sea salt brine is welcomed after a hot day in the field.  I thought, why not?  Add it to the taco.  I am happy to learn that this one taco casserole makes two completely different dining experiences.  Fresh out of the oven, it is warm and comforting, with melted cheese and steamed rice for an evening meal, but the next day, it is bright and light as a chilled lunchtime taco with the ice cold kraut.

Since I am doing a lot of physical labor, I need a lot of food energy to get me through the day, so this homegrown, healthy taco had enough staying power to keep me going. Granted, my farmer portion was probably a bit larger than many would make.  Overall, it was a simple feast made out of farm and garden goods.  I will certainly make it again soon.

Try experimenting, I am sure carrots or pumpkin would be equally nice additions to the taco.  Just think in terms of a meat loaf minus the meat.  You can add two beaten eggs to the mix as well, or add chopped boiled eggs if you are a hungry one like me. As for the kraut, I have made a wide variety of them in my initial experimentation.  It is all based around what is in arms reach. I have a few chili peppers producing now, and I always keep fennel fronds near.  Though I am not a seaweed (limu) collector, I support those few that do here in Hawaii.  I have been using seaweed as the majority of the salt in the recipe, topping off jars with just a bit more salt for fermentation.  If you haven’t read it, you may enjoy my earlier post on my summer fermentation trials with pipinola (chayote)


Aloha from Squash and Awe

Creating a U Pick Tomato Garden for the Poultry

Tired of the poultry eyeing the tomatoes?  How about designing a garden with them in mind.  They like a diverse selection of healthy foods, just like us, so why not let them collect the low hanging fruit.  Let me explain…


These now aged shipping pallet beds were created in the chicken area, which could be a recipe for disaster, unless you think of all parties in your design.  Wild chickens are all around in Hawaii, so everyone thinks about how to keep them out, but few think in terms of working with them in the garden.  The pallet garden was the perfect place to plant a sprawling wild type cherry tomato.  Dime sized and quite acidic, they make a great cooking tomato, tossed by the handful into curries, stir fry, sauce.  They are easy to grow and resist mildews.  Prolific enough to share with the barnyard.


The pallets are 4′ tall, so that leaves that entire length of a drop for tomato, and in this case, Mexican Oregano plants also drape the sides of the pallets.  This creates a shaded, edible environment, that also gives some protection from the heavy rains that flooded the area just a few days ago.  In the photo above, Indigo  surveys the area for ripe tomatoes that are at “chicken level.”  The ones at the top, are harvested for human consumption, and the ones near the ground become a U pick for the pig and the chickens.  The bonus is that they are constantly looking for tomatoes, and in the process, they find all of the snails and slugs and get them too.

Red gets a tomato

Here Red walks the “tomato zone” to see if she missed any.  She is just coming through a long molt, so she is happy to be out of the coop and strutting her stuff with the others.


Indigo, the neighborhood rooster enjoys showing the hens the fallen tomatoes after the storm.  Everyone wins, everyone gets a share.

the pursuit of pumpkin