Tag Archives: fermented

The Fermented Farm: Beer Traps

People ask me what school of farming I use.  There are a lot of groups to choose from:  organic, no-till, Hawaiian natural farming, Korean natural farming, biodynamic, intensive, permaculture…the list goes on and on.  I use elements of all of those, and I have adapted them to the particular situation I have, and my situation is one of ever changing conditions.  If there is any one thread that continues through all aspects of my farming, it is microbes.  Today, I am going to share one of the ways fermentation is part of my farming practice.  Beer!  Yes simple as it may seem, the humble dregs of beer kegs, and other cast away remains of beer gets used in my farming as beer traps.

A beer trap is my way of capturing the insects, slugs, and snails that would otherwise damage newly planted seeds, and seedlings.  It is a highly effective way of trapping them before you plant your seeds or seedlings, as well as during your growing season. I trap before I plant.  People often think that in the dry upcountry, we don’t have slugs and snails, but we do.  When you add a little moisture to the plot, every single slug or snail will be drawn to that parcel.  By simply taking reclaimed cups, saucers, trays, plastic tubs, and the like, and putting an inch or more of beer in the bottom, you will have a very effective way of removing the pests from your field.  My strategy is to place traps near new plots of seedlings, depending on the time of year, I will catch a wide variety of the bugs that would lessen my productivity.

DSC_0693

Above are two small traps that will be put out today.  With this small amount of beer, you will be surprised what shows up in there.  I can add some water to top off the traps.  Each day the beer trap will have a riper aroma, making it even more tempting as bait.  To increase your success, you can burry the traps so that they are nearly flush with your soil, you can make them larger, deeper, out of different materials, but the basic idea remains the same.  Trap before you plant and you will see results.

 

Farm Fermentations: squash, beet and seaweed

I began fermenting back in July as a means of finding even more uses for the vegetables that I grow.  In the past six months, I have continued to explore ways that fermentation can be good for me, my farm, other farmers, and the entire community.  It continues to be a journey of discovering new things with each new ferment.

This past week I decided to continue to work with other farmers and their abundance.  It turns out that my quarts of fermented produce have become a wonderful item to barter with. Squash is the core of all I do, so squash is also the core foundation of my fermentation.  I have experimented with two varieties of winter squash, one variety of summer squash from my fellow farmer Lark, and pipinola.  Pipinola is what I consider a cousin of squash.  We have a unique name for it here in Hawaii, but it is more commonly known as chayote.

I have previously sung the wonders of pipinola on my webpage, but I would like to add that it is a good source of vitamin C.  Raw chayote it crunchy, and crisp, which are two great things for fermentation.  It is also quite neutral in flavor and color, making it my fill in for cabbage.  It also releases water quite easily when salt is added.

DSC_0745

I began my pipinola growing with green skinned heavily wrinkled fruits.  I found a variation that I liked which was a smoother, softer skinned fruit.  I selected these traits and gradually replanted the fruits that displayed this smooth skin.  Like any variation there are upsides and downsides.  The smoother, softer skin, makes the skin easily used in the kitchen instead of the tougher skinned ones.  The downside, is that they are much more susceptible to damage through bruising and nicks.  Pipinola/chayote is grown by replanting the fruits, and the one large seed within will germinate with a dynamic vine.

One you have your fermentation base vegetables, it is great to explore how new combinations can change it all up.  So this week, I investigated how other farm goods can be brought into the mix.  I have always loved root vegetables which are not easy to grow where I am farming.  Beets have come into season again here in Hawaii, so it was time to revisit the Bonk family and get my hands on some beets. Marlene was happy to take a quart of pumpkin/carrot/pipinola kraut, while I was excited to fill my bag with beets.

With each new vegetable, I create a series of ferments that are linked by that one new flavor.  If we were talking fashion design, my ferments would be a collection, so I will refer to them as such.  In the beet collection, I decided to marry the sweet with the heat of ghost peppers in another, as featured above, I threw it all in.

Each of us will like different combinations of vegetables, and as is the case with fermentation, you may like some fermented vegetables, that you do not like unfermented.  Fermentation transforms, melds, marries flavors into a complex profile.  So with the new addition of beets, we can look at how they shape the ferment in terms of nutrition, flavor, and color.    There is also the need to consider what is the limit of how much beet we can handle?  When is it enough? Experiment so to know the limitations of your ferments.  I love seaweed, known here as limu, but there is a point where enough is enough.  To much limu can make the ferment very salty, and very intense in minerals. It can pack a punch and “kinda levels” those not used to it.  I feel like beet could go the same route, in being an overpowering vegetable, where you need to understand how to use it as an accent, in a combination of flavors, and as a main flavor. As is the story of fermentation, time will tell. Longer fermentation time may make it mellow…or not.

DSC_0659.JPG

Above, locally sourced Ogo seaweed is busy making my ferments both intense and complex.

Repurposing found objects is also a great way to begin in fermenting.  I chose to repurpose a 4 qt crock pot crock and found a lid that would work with it.  Most of my ferments are done in one quart jars, but I decided to try a larger quantity of the “kitchen sink” ferment.  Quart jars were used for smaller volume experiments.

I’ll be keeping you posted on how the new farm ferment collection turns out, but until then, think in terms of abundance in your garden, your cellar, your farmers market, and region.  Abundance is a luxury as long as you do not allow it to overwhelm you.  Too much of a good thing can be stressful, and putting up a bushel of vegetables on your own, is quite a task.  I can honestly tell you that it does get easier to work your way through a volume of produce.  I think starting with what would roughly fit in a grocery bag is a good place to start.  So give it a try…and good luck!

For the Love of Hops

The Beer Garden is the nickname of my small farm parcel.  On April 1, 2013 (April Fools Day) I began to soil build.  When you know that you are growing a hungry crop, you know that you need to build your nutrients in as part of the plan.  So from day 1, spent hops from the award winning Big Island Brewhaus were used to amend the soil.  I am doing no-till, so the hops are dug into the growing piles.  Much like a 1/4 acre compost heap, it takes some attention and care to see that the soil stays healthy and that your microbes and worms can thrive.  People laugh when I say that it is a huge effort to “turn” a 1/4 acre.  Remember that each time I turn the farm, my zero-waste principles are at play.  Sure, it is easier to rip up plastic ground cloth, roll it into a ball, and drop it into our landfills, then they over till, and spray. That is one strategy, where you may save time there, but in the big picture, you are not saving anything. I do the opposite of that.  Each foot will either have a plant growing there, or will be used as a re-rooting place where vines will be buried under the homemade soil and get another hit of nutrients.

Yes, the other method can be done in a day, but your soil is on borrowed time, while mine is surging forward.  My labor of hauling and lifting create a nice, rich soil that holds water.  In a drought…that is worth gold.  So think before we discard.  Make connections with these local businesses who would like to help their farmers.  Yes “their” farmers.  Farmers belong to the community in the best possible way.

Here is a video where I explain a bit more about amending with fermented fish and brewery waste

I always do the warning about hops and dogs…they are poisonous to dogs, so watch your pet.  Many dogs have zero interest, but be cautious.

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

So think about how you can make super soil.  This farm is small, but my soil is mighty.  Be a steward, and you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest, reduced pests, and you will be a hero to the kindergartners…and who doesn’t want that?