Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big Healthy Vegetables, No Fertilizer

Six Pound Zucchini
Anyone still doubting Korean Natural Farming?  I saw a small zucchini last weekend but didn't harvest it.  I  had a busy week, and only got back to check this Wednesday.  OMG, just 4 days later I found this giant.  The amazing thing is this zucchini isn't pithy or seedy.  It is excellent fruit through and through.

This was grown in a greenhouse that had tomatoes in it last year. When I prepared the garden bed last year I used IMO #4 and bio-char.  Then I grew cherry tomatoes.  They grew and grew giving plenty of fruits, but eventually became so thick with tomato vines I decided to let them die.  To do this I turned off the water thinking they would wilt and perish.  No such luck.  Three months later the plants were still thriving with NO WATER.  This amazed me, and my only explanation is that the IMO's have the ability to extend the surface area of the roots so that they could get water from outside the greenhouse.

So this year I did NOT TILL.  To prep the bed I just put a thin layer of IMO#4 over the bed, a layer of chipped sugar cane, and topped that with a thin layer of grass clippings to protect the IMO's from the sun.  I planted tomatoes ( large kind) and a few zucchini plants on March 1, 2011.  It is now March 29th and the plants are cranking.  The zucchinis are harvestable (see picture) and the tomatoes have flowered and are beginning to have small fruits.  Not tilling preserves the soil structure and allows air flow deep down into the earth.  It does not disturb the micro-organisms.  This is LIVING SOIL.

My plan is to remove the zucchini plants after they show signs of getting powdery mildew, and just grow tomatoes there.  I cut off all the new shoots on my tomato plants except the terminal ends.  The plants will get very long, perhaps thirty feet or so in length doing this method.  I'll just direct them around the greenhouse like a merry-go-round.  In theory each plant should produce 2 pounds (4 fruits) every ten days.  If they perform anything like the zucchini, I should have plenty.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hot Shower, Energy Independence

Sometimes I smile to myself while enjoying a hot shower knowing the water and energy is from mother nature, not the city/government.  Nothing feels as good as hot water rinsing away the dirt, making me feel totally refreshed.  Better still, we are off the grid.

Water Tank and Energy Shed with photovoltaic panels on top
Hydro generator producing 12 KW per day

30 foot waterfall on Hanawai River, 3 inch pipe borrowing a bit of water
Last night it rained several inches.  This caused the Hanawai River to rise several feet, which in turn sometimes creates problems for my hydro-electric system.  Leaves get carried into the river and these can sometimes block the screen covering the water intake.  This volume of water also means the water has lots of air bubbles.  This can create air pockets in the pipe and collect in high areas which break the syphon flow.  So I took the steep hike down to our river to do the maintenance (nothing is ever really free).

Battery Bank & Spare Hydro Generator
We generate electricity from a small 48 volt alternator.  I have a 3 inch pipe running the length of our property next to the river which has approximately 75 feet of vertical difference between the intake at the top and the generator at the bottom.  This creates about 35 psi of pressure to turn the turbine generating approximately 12 kilowatts of power per day.  This is approximately equivalent to the average US households use of electricity per day.  The intake is a simple syphon.  When the water exits the alternator it is returned to the river.  No adverse environmental impact.

Inverter 48 volt DC to 110 volt AC
I have an inverter to convert 48 volt DC power into 110 volt AC power.  I also have 8 solar panels to collect power from the sun although we really don't need them with our hydro system.  We also have a small bank of batteries to store energy.  Because the hydro system generates power 24/7, battery storage needs are minimal.

Solar Hot Water Panels
Lastly we get our own water for drinking and all our needs by collecting rain water from our house roof and storing it in a 10,000 gallon tank.  With an average rainfall over 100 inches we never run out of water. I have several filters in place including an ultra-violet light.  The water is pumped into our house by a 48 volt pump (powered by the sun and river) into a pressure tank.  We also have a solar hot water system which is powered by two panels capturing the heat from the sun.  The hot water is stored in a 120 gallon hot water tank or about 3 days of hot water use.

Pressure tank & backup diesel generator

 The cost for all of this was less than the cost of complying with our CC&Rs requiring us to run the power cables for HELCO electricity underground in conduit.  I love the independence and appreciate not getting a power bill.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

World goes to Hell, Today I planted food

New Garden, 3/19/2011
Today, Saturday March 19, 2011, I spent most of the day planting food.  CNN reported cruise missiles being fired into Libya; riots/protests in Yemen, Syria and  Bahrain; tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan.  My garden is how I find peace in our world.

Ariel View

This space was covered by black plastic for two years.  Back then, when we first created this garden space I used hog wire to fence off one of the few flat areas on our property (about 1/4 acre) to protect it from wild pigs.   I had a neighbor who had an Italian tractor implement called a "spader" create 4 foot wide beds. This is the same as double digging with a shovel, but much faster thanks to the power of diesel.  But I couldn't deal with all of the garden space at one time, so I covered some with black plastic film to keep the weeds from taking over.  Today, I turned the last row into a prepared garden. I used my formula of tilling in dolomite (for calcium and magnesium) and a little fish meal (think back to the Mayflower and the Pilgrims).  Then I spread Master Cho's IMO #4 over the entire bed.  I then chipped sugar cane and spread it over the entire bed at about 1 inch depth.  My thought is that the IMO will  use the sugar cane as food and multiply.  I would have covered the whole bed with grass clippings, but it rained most of the day, so I will do this when I can.  This row is over 100 feet in length.

Seedling Grow, Grow and Grow
Basil, Lettuce, Chard....

The gardens pictured above were prepared in the same way as the new one I prepared today.  I transplanted the seedlings from my seed starter two weeks ago.  The vegetables are just cranking. Jennifer asked me today what I wanted at the Hilo's Farmers Market.  I told her we needed nothing, and moreover, don't buy anything.  

lettuce seeds

One of the keys to sustainability is being able to produce your own seeds.  This picture is a purple lettuce that I let go to seed.  It bolted then produce these puff balls.  I just pulled the puff balls off into the bowl and at the base of each are seeds.  Voila, nature reproduces itself.