Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cho Inputs part II

Drake and I made three inputs today.  IMO #1,  Lactic Acid Bacteria, and Fermented Plant Juice.

Rice baskets to prepare for IMO #1
IMO #1 is the corner stone of Natural Farming.  The first step is to collect the leaves from your local area.  These aerobic microoganisms like 70% shade, not too wet.  Drake and I went into the forrest on the side of our house and in a bamboo forrest near us and searched through leaf piles looking for those with visible signs of white mold.  We cooked dry and fluffy white rice, waited for it to cool, then placed them into a lahala baskets leaving one-third air space and put the lahala lids on.  Lastly we placed those baskets onto our dirt floor shaded greenhouse surrounded by the leave we collected and covered with a straw mat and old bed sheet.  We are hoping to find white cottony mold in the air space of each container in about 4 days.

Drake placing mold leaves to surround rice baskets

Next we made Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB).  Because these are anaerobic microorganisms they are used to create balance when making compost and are powerful tillers making soil soft and fluffy.  The first step is to collect the water from rinsing rice and let it sit for several days with a paper breathable top to culture microorganisms.  Then pour milk (I used powdered milk) filling container to 2/3 full over the rice rinse water.  The ratio is nine parts milk to one part rise rinse water.  In five days or so the solids will float to the top of the container and these may be discarded or feed to animals.  The clear liquid at the bottom is the LAB.  Mix this liquid with equal parts (50/50) of brown sugar to preserve and stabilize the LAB for long periods.

Rice rinse water, powdered milk and the Ball jar  to make LAB

Lastly we made fermented plant juice (FPJ) using comfrey leaves from our garden.  I conclude this post by citing a few attributes of this amazing plant from wikipedia.  FPJ uses sugar to extract the essential and vital properties of the plant through osmotic pressure.  These properties can be transferred to other plants in your garden by spraying typically at a ratio of 1 to 500.

Drake with Comfrey leaves and brown sugar for FPJ

Simply gather the plant leaves, knead brown sugar (50% each) into the leaves, and pack into a container, again leaving 1/3 airspace on top of jar and put a breathable paper cover on.  In 5 days or so the liquid will separate, poor that off and you have FPJ.

Brown Sugar and Comfrey Leaves
Pack into jar 2/3 full

Comfrey is a particularly valuable source of fertility to the organic gardener. It is very deep rooted and acts as a dynamic accumulator, mining a host of nutrients from the soil. These are then made available through its fast growing leaves (up to 4-5 pounds per plant per cut) which, lacking fibre, quickly break down to a thick black liquid. There is also no risk of nitrogen robbery when comfrey is dug into the soil as the C:N ratio of the leaves is lower than that of well-rotted compost. Comfrey is an excellent source of potassium, an essential plant nutrient needed for flowerseed and fruit production. Its leaves contain 2-3 times more potassium than farmyard manure, mined from deep in the subsoil, tapping into reserves that would not normally be available to plants.

One of the country names for comfrey was ‘knitbone’, a reminder of its traditional use in healing bone fractures. Modern science confirms that comfrey can influence the course of bone ailments.[
The herb contains allantoin, a cell proliferant that speeds up the natural replacement of body cells. Comfrey was used in an attempt to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from bronchial problems, broken bones, sprains, arthritis, gastric and varicose ulcers, severe burns, acne and other skin conditions. It was reputed to have bone and teeth building properties in children, and have value in treating "many female disorders".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Making inputs Cho Style

Arriving home after the Natural Farming Seminar, well, I was just fired up. I had to make some inputs.

IMO #1, compare, which one are we striving to recreate?
During the seminar we learned the proper way to make them, what a perfectly made input should be. When I first learned several years ago, I didn't have the experience to know a good one from a bad one. Some of my teachers were newly trained and didn't understand many of the nuances themselves. The seminar was hands on. We broke into groups and each group made all of the inputs together. Then during the last days of the seminar all the groups got together to compare their creations. The range in quality between the samples was large regardless of which input we were making. For example, IMO #1, the core of the Cho method where mold is cultured on white rice, ranged from a perfect cottony substance filling the container to no mold at all on the rice, resembling that found on a newly purchased plate lunch.

WSCP  - charred animal bones in brown rice vinegar

Today I made water soluble calcium phosphate (WSCP), a key input for making flowers and fruit development. It is also used to counteract the effects of too much nitrogen, which commonly occurs here in Onomea with our abundant rainfall. Ever wondered why all the plants grow so fast and are so green after a rain? The majority of the Earth's atmosphere is nitrogen and some comes down with the rain water. Nitrogen makes plants grow. WSCP helps counter it's effects. To make WSCP first boil some animal bones to remove everything, leaving just the bone. Then barbecue the bones so that they are black. After barbecuing they should be drastically lighter in weight. Next, place them in a container and pour in brown rice vinager until the vessel is 2/3 full. This leaves a third of the container at the top for air space, an important rule and concept always followed in Korean Natural Farming. The bones will bubble as the vinegar dissolves the calcium and phosphate into a water soluble form.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Natural Farming Certification Seminar

Drake, Master Cho, Dr. Park

I am attending a five day  certification workshop for Cho Global Natural Farming in Kohala taught by Master Cho.  About 60 students from all islands are eagerly absorbing his wisdom.  His message of raising food in harmony with nature resonates.  It is what God intended.  You can feel it in your heart.

We are housed at the Makapala Christian Center, almost at the end of the road near Pololu Valley.  Drake and I are in the big dormitory room with a dozen bunk beds.  Very basic, but functional. Wonderful experience to spend five days and all meals with the participants.  So much sharing of information with very special and gifted people in our community.

Group making inputs during hands on workshop

We had fun making inputs in groups of ten persos.  I joined Drake's group.  We made all the inputs including IMO #1, #2, #3, and OHN, Fermented Plant Juices, Egg Yolk Oil, Fermented Plant Juices, Water Soluble Calcium and more.   There were lots of experienced folks in the group so it was amusing to see discussions break out on such subtle points as to how much water to use when making white rice for IMO #1.  One cup water for one cup rice, whoa, too much moisture might make anaerobic bacteria.  More water, less water?  Turns out these kinds of details are important, as during the last days of the conference we were able to compare the groups successes and failures by looking at our collective inputs, discovering why and how to make inputs correctly.

Hawaii's first class of certified Cho Global certified Natural Farmers

All of the attendees came away with a renewed and deeper understanding of the subtleties of how to practice natural farming.  Beyond that we are fired up and ready to transform our lives and teach others if they so choose.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Video Presentation of our Gardens

Fresh tomatoes and yellow summer squash

The link above goes YouTube and shows a presentation I made to the Hilo Natural Farming group in April posted by Drake on his Natural Farming site.  I talk about some of the techniques I use to garden.  It is a good overview.  Sometimes a video works better than print.


A beautiful, sunny, long summer weekend in my gardens.  We grow our own food grown using local inputs.  That is independence worth celebrating!

Freshly weeded greenhouse, leaving a couple of Kale plants
This weekend I prepared two greenhouses, one for zucchini and the other for tomatoes.  We are half way through the year and I want a consistent supply of my favorite veggies throughout the Fall.  First, I removed the old vegetable plants and weeds, putting them in my compost pile.  Then I mixed mature compost and bio-char and heaped that mixture over the top of the bed and then mixed that into the bed with a shovel about 18 inches in depth.  That mixture is in the cart in the picture above lower left.

IMO #4 spread 1/4 inch over bed
grass clippings tops the bed off
This bed hadn't been amended for over a year and I wanted to add bio char, the hotel for micro-organisms.  The mature compost has humus, available carbon for natures combustion with oxygen.  After raking it smooth, I spread IMO #4 over the surface about one quarter inch in depth and covered that with grass clippings to prevent weed growth, hold moisture in the soil and prevent sun from harming the IMO.  With the beds nicely prepared, I transplanted the seedlings in the evening, then watered them in.  Watch for posts in 6 to 10 weeks and be looking for mind blowing growth.  Oh.  Is this what nature intended?  Healthy food, no petro-chemicals.  Microbes doing God's work.
Bio-char pile, I add a little of this to every garden
Not to be lazy, I also prepared a 40 foot section of my lower garden using the same technique as described above and planted sweet potato with my daughter Kaitlin.  I got to plant sweet potato and taro once every month.  It's my independence savings account.