Fresh Eggs (Almost!)

I moved into my house in February, 2006. So far, this blog has been about those early months of owning my acre of lava. My intent was to write about everything here in chronological order, but alas, my mind doesn’t always work that way.

I feel a strong need to tell you about my “girls,” my six hens. I’m not sure what happened to all the fresh local eggs, but it seems that most (if not all) of the egg farms on our island have shut down. I refuse to buy eggs that have been shipped for who-knows-how-long all the way from who-knows-where on the mainland.

So I set out on a quest for chickens. I knew there must be chickens somewhere because I hear roosters all over the place. (That’s another story!) The first day of my search, I asked the local feed store if they knew who was selling chickens. Right there on the bulletin board was a note from someone right here in my community who was taking orders for baby chicks.

I’d already done a bit of reading and looking around to see what I might want. So I made an order for six chicks to be delivered sometime in April. I opted to let the young man raise them for the first month. I didn’t want to invest in a brooder, or worry about losing them quite yet. Maybe I’ll try that next time I get chickens.

In my past life as a mother of four and a local community 4-H leader, I’ve helped to raise everything – pigs, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and cats – but never chickens. This would be a totally new experience for me.

I started checking books out of the library and looking on the internet for ideas on chicken coops. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but knew I needed to have something ready for them when they arrived.

My two daughters (Debbie and Inga) and my wonderful son-in-law (Harry) came to visit in March during spring break. Harry, is a general contractor in California, so I asked his advice.

And “would you please build a chicken coop for me?”

I think he knew what was coming, because he flew from California with his tool belt and his own power saw! He quickly set up shop.

He was as confused about what I wanted as I was, but anything to please a mother-in-law, right? He took an old metal futon couch frame that I’d left sitting behind my shed and converted it into a beautiful coop.

I showed the finished coop to a friend (his wife raised chickens). He took one look and said, “It will never be this clean again.” He was right!

When I got the call, I was ecstatic, but as nervous as when I was having babies. He brought the “girls” over at one month of age – three Rhode Island Reds (who will lay brown eggs for me) and three Araucana (who will lay blue or blue-green eggs). The Araucana girl in the top photo is a color called Wheaten.

Here they are on April 13, 2008. Just below the log perch, is the Wheaten Araucana. At the bottom right is a Rhode Island Red and there are two mottled black/tan/gold Araucana. I haven’t been able to figure out the exact name for that coloration.

Here they are, six weeks later – and they are growing like weeds! One of the Reds is in front and an Araucana behind her. Not sure why they find that bare piece of wood so fascinating!

By early June, I knew they needed to get out and scratch around. So I enlisted the help of a friend to build a “chicken run.” We opened up a square at one end of the coop, added a removable door, and built a run for them to use. They get down through the door and a little ladder-type arrangement. Here you can see the beginning of the framework.


CAUGHT!

It was finally finished and the “girls” got their first taste of relative freedom.

You can see the entire run better in this next picture. Sometimes I toss a bit of corn scratch in through the top and let them search for it.
They are now four months old – big and plump! I expect them to start laying in about another six weeks or so. Stay tuned!

E Komo Mai – Welcome!

Kaimana, my wonderful friend, loves the outdoors. He’s gotten out by accident only a few times, but he always found his way back home. His paws were always scraped raw when he returned, not being accustomed to the harshness of the lava. Now he mostly sits to watch the world go by and fantasize about a life of freedom.

When I first moved in, the lonely monstera you can see through the screen was gracing my entryway, compliments of the previous owner. I added a turtle pot at the bottom of the steps. Now Mr. Turtle lives over on the other side. I’m not sure what’s growing in it here. A friend gave me a few cuttings of a ground cover that didn’t make it. He is empty as I write this, waiting for divine inspiration.

The monstera was eventually shifted down to the ground and I began searching for a way to add my own touch to the entry. On this next photo, you can see where I put the monstera.

You can also see the small Angel’s Trumpet trees growing from cuttings I put in. This name is shared with the closely related genus Datura. The Brugmansia genus is perennial and woody, the Datura species is herbaceous. Also, the Brugmansia has pendulous blooms while the Datura has more erect blooms. http://www.abads.net/ I’ve been calling what I have “Datura,” but seems I’m incorrect in that. Can anyone straighten me out? There are many beautiful trees of the Angel’s Trumpet here on the Big Island.

I was given cuttings of ti plants (Cordyline Terminalis), or ki in Hawai`ian. Ti or ki is grown in profusion around any Hawai`ian home to provide good luck and protection. http://www.hiloweb.com/webman/ti.html It has bushed out and grown even taller since I took this shot. I was amazed at how quickly they grew from simple eighteen-inch pieces of stalk. I put them into water with a rooting compound and within a very short time, I was able to put them into the ground.

I was given a large full basket of a variety of orchids, so I stuck that in the corner where the monstera had been on the front stoop. They are difficult to see here. Isn’t that a nice path going around the house?

This has definitely been a “work in progress.” As you can see, there was a lot of work to be done to make the entry more inviting.

The dark green lattice work I’ve started putting in around the lower portion of the house is a great improvement, don’t you think?

Little by little this acre of lava is being transformed, but I’m an impatient woman.

Comfortable Beds for Veggies

Some plants seem to do well by moving the lava rocks, dumping in soil, and putting in a rooted cutting. For regular garden vegetables, however, this method doesn’t work.

The only way to have veggies is to build raised beds. There are many advantages to raised beds, and especially when you are dealing with a yard of lava. With the help of a friend, I built several small beds.

Local friends have a piggery nearby, and they have been helping me out with their dump truck full of cured “pig dirt.” Their real soil, added to the natural by-product of pigs, mixed in with my compost material, creates rich soil. I wish I could cover my whole acre with it! It doesn’t look as big in the picture as it really is (next picture). I’d already used a lot of it before I took this shot.

Gradually, I shoveled buckets of it into the beds with visions of fresh veggies floating through my brain. I’d been hungry for beets, so that was the first thing I planted. They looked so pretty growing in their rows.

The first picture above shows my first harvest of little beets (the other produce there is not from my garden). I cooked up the greens first, because they don’t last very long once they’re picked. I’ve eaten all the beets now, so it’s time to plant more.

I also picked a mess of collards and mustards from the small beds. For just one person, the small beds are ample.

This past week, the same friend helped me build a larger bed out by the shed. We bought 4X4 lumber on sale at Lowe’s and created this 8’X4′ bed. I put cedar mulch in the bottom to keep the soil from dropping down into the lava too quickly, and now I’ve started to shovel in more “pig dirt.” As soon as it’s full of soil, I’ll plant more veggies.

I’ll build a few more of these larger beds. As you can see, it will take a lot of buckets before I fill this bed! This represents only three buckets of “pig dirt.”

I can hardly wait to show you pictures of the new veggies that will be growing here. So far, the wild local mouflin sheep haven’t decided to eat my produce before I do.

What in the world is lilikoi?

If you read this blog and you are not a resident of Hawai`i, that’s probably what you’ve been wondering. Lilikoi is the Hawai`ian name for Passion Fruit. It has a very distinctive flavor and not everyone likes it the first time they taste it. I think it’s definitely an acquired taste, although it was love at first bite for me.

You can cut it in half, and spoon out the insides with a spoon and eat it, seeds and all. Sometimes I cut up a whole bag of them, scoop out the flesh into a colander and let them drain into a bowl overnight. The juice that results is perfect for making salad dressings, ice cream, jams, or anything else you can think of.

A friend gave me an already established purple lilikoi vine along with some of the yellow lilikoi fruits. I planted the purple vine, ate a few of the yellow ones, and kept the seeds from the rest to plant. The picture above shows the seedlings. I gave some to a friend in Kailua-Kona (where they have a little real soil) and hers are growing like crazy!

I put these seedlings out, poured soil in around them, but some still are not much larger than they are in the picture above. Some of the others are about 8″ tall. It will be a long time before I get enough lilikoi juice to make ice cream.

Another of my other early attempts at trying to grow something at 2300′ elevation in lava was this banana. I’m not quite sure it will make it. But you can see a few leaves trying to push through.

My greatest success has been with the plumeria or frangipani, as it is called in some areas. The smell is delicious and visitors to the island love the scent from their welcoming leis. I have white, pink and yellow right now, and I’m looking for some of the deep reds. They are the simplest to grow. I just move enough rocks to put in some soil, stick in the cuttings, and they take off. This picture shows one of my early plants, flowering in the first season. http://sd1new.net/GardenPages/plumeria.htm

I was given several protea plants. The picture below shows them before I put them in the ground. Unfortunately, the sulfur dioxide got to them and they probably aren’t going to make it.

In each pot of protea was a very tiny bit of green growth. The nurseryman who sold them to my friend said that I could plant them. They were from jacaranda seeds that had fallen into the soil around the protea. I carefully put them into little pots and you can see the results here. Again, I gave some away, and I have two in my yard that seem to be growing nicely. It’s hard to imagine these tiny seedlings becoming one of the huge beautiful jacaranda trees. http://www.floridata.com/ref/J/jaca_acu.cfm


I won’t bore you this time with more of my early attempts at getting things to grow. I plan on doing mostly raised beds for veggies, and a lot of container gardening. (See Janice Crowl’s Container Gardening in Hawaii in the Amazon link on the right.)

Aloha!
Lucy

But will it grow in lava?


Janice Crowl did such a beautiful job of covering the 6th Annual Seed Exchange at the Amy B.H. Greenwell Gardens that I won’t try to top it! http://hawaiigardening.blogspot.com/2008/06/seeding-hawaiis-future.html

I did bring home seeds that will probably go into big containers, rather than into my lava yard! Please do read her post on this wonderful event. She covers it professionally and with good close-ups of some of the seeds and plants available.

I do want to comment on it, however, and show a few of the pictures I took while there. The Theme of “Ignite the Fire Within” was illustrated by two fire bowls.

The gathered fruit offerings brought by the community of gardeners.

So many of us lost plants to the sulfur dioxide. A friend brought blooms from her two protea that survived, saying that it was Pele’s way of weeding out and that the survivors were to be blessed.

Signs from a couple tables with seeds and plants for the taking

Care for a refreshing drink of coconut water?

Next year I plan to wear boots and carry a bigger bag for seeds and plants.

Aloha,

Lucy

In beginning

I admit it! I get jealous when I read my usual gardening magazines and see people digging in rich loam, trying to decide the best landscape design to showcase their home.

I re-locate rocks!

My years of gardening in California and Arizona are proving to be useless here in Hawai`i. One would think it is similar, and that may be true for some parts of Hawai`i. It’s certainly not the case for those of us living on the south end of the Big Island of Hawai`i, and in this particular area.

I came to Hawai`i almost twelve years ago, but lived in an area where there was more decomposed lava, i.e., I had soil. When I bought this land and house two years ago, the only things blooming were ohia trees, which are one of the first things to grow after a lava flow, and wild yellow poppies that were spreading all over the area. (See photo above)

There is a beautiful legend about ohia trees and the lehua blossom that blooms on them.
http://www.americanfolklore.net/folktales/ha2.html

On the surface, it looks like you could rake aside the rocks and find the soil underneath. But when you move a rock, all you find is more rock. Under the ohia trees there is a bit of tree litter starting to decompose, but mostly it’s a matter of finding soil somewhere else

The process involves moving aside enough rocks to get a nice hole (without the rocks rolling back down into the hole), then pouring in a bucket or bag of soil for your plant. Of course, every time it rains or you water, the soil filters down into the cracks between the lava rocks, so of course, you need to pour in more fresh soil.

Still, I’m very happy to be here, so I won’t bore you with what led to the purchase of this acre. This blog will guide you through the ongoing process of converting lava into a more friendly growing place.