Gary’s Blog: Another day on the farm

February 17, 2015

From Gary:

About noon local time.

Had a pretty good morning, We started carving the last of terrace number two from the top, and got the terrace finished. Now have two entirely across the garden area, with a total of seven I think, so five more to do, all of which are started on the east end already.

We got a couple buckets of small rocks out of this morning’s length of terrace, which I packed up the steps and applied to the walk. I think by the time we are done with the garden, we will have the short drive way graveled over base rock….

When we were finished with the terrace, Tami got to move a pile of trash down it, away from a couple Avocado trees, and burn the trash, which we dug out of the dirt doing that terrace. The east end of the garden is below the old house site, and the unenlightened locals are often fond of throwing their trash over the bank. Especially concentrated where ever the out-door sink was for doing laundry, one finds a treasure trove of Archeological evidence of past owner’s culture in textiles and junk food wrappers… The clothing is generally polyesters, as cotton would have composted long ago… It’s a dichotomy of learning about clothing, that cotton makes good compost material, but polyesters last the longest.. and in the tropics, say in a survival situation, I would want things made out of Dacron, While in a subsistence culture, I would prefer growing cotton… I had Tami stock up on Dacron cloth a bit when she was still in Traverse City, and had first world sewing store access… And I notice one of the neighbors has cotton as an ornamental, and it also grows wild here as a full sized tree in the same family.

We have several more trash piles to burn as we extend the terraces. And we have collected about ¾’s of a bucket full of broken glass. We will find more trash and glass when we go back and work up the sloped areas between the carved areas. And also more rocks. I suspect it will take about two years of intensive gardening on the spot to get the entire garden area cleaned, and allow time to round the corners and give us the angle of incidence on the slopes, and for us to get clovers for cover, and to begin the process of replacing the lost organic material from chemical agriculture.

Tami has been doing really well learning the terrace carving, She whimpered a lot at first having to use a woman’s sized pick hoe, but I notice she grabs it sometimes now when she needs to dig for other reasons, as if it has become a trusty favorite digging tool.

She has also improved her aim throwing rocks into the bucket from a distance, and has started creating nice looking sections of terrace all by her self. I wanted her to learn it as a survival skill, so that she will be able to teach it to others when that time comes.

I also turned the compost pile this morning to aerate it, and to relocate so I could do a section of stone work for a retainer for the walk. The compost is starting to darken, but still a couple more weeks of turning and watering it before its done. It was an experiment, using the shredder and seeing how compost works at this altitude.. I know on the coast here in the tropics you can’t get compost to heat up much, I think because at higher ambient temperatures it rots faster and off-gasses more…

I’m thinking about using this pile for our Indian corn, if the seeds sprout, I want to give them the best chance possible for health and propagation. We will also start making more compost when we get the terraces done, And I will need to figure out how to process banana wastes with the shredder, as we will have plenty of that.

Banana stalks are too big for the shredder’s throat, so I will have to develop a splitting technique, and also maybe let them age a bit, until the sap sets up, as it’s a lot like rubber cement, and is permanent on clothing, so I am paranoid of having the machine plug up with some Disney movie wad of Flubber if I don’t do the experimental homework first…

The banana stalks are like corrugated cardboard soaked in green rubber cement, also with a lot of fiber running through them. It usually takes a stalk on the ground about a year to rot.

I often use the banana leaves for cooking bread, as a non stick layer between dough and pan, like muffin papers, it works really well, no sticking at all, the bread still browns nicely, but doesn’t scorch as easily, and you don’t need grease or oil on the pan…

This morning Tami made corn cakes, fried, which are a staple of subsistence. I was showing her how to use hot water in the dough so they would stick together without wheat flour which we forgot to buy. I have experimented for years with going simple for subsistence foods, and have cooked corn about every way imaginable, including making Hominy using both wood ashes and ground lime stone. Tami has been grinding the dry corn in her blender using solar power via the inverter, this is way nicer than cranking a handle on a grain mill. We are also using corn meal as a dog food base, something I learned about as a kid reading Jack London, that the Gold miners fed their dogs corn meal mush with fish in it.. Both dogs seem to like it, I add some kelp powder, and a can of sardine scrapings that are price controlled by the government here to make sure poor people can afford decent protein. One step above cat food, but an important step.

We were having problems with the local dog food, the dogs were puking it up, I think it was a reaction to the colorants, as both dogs were doing it.

They are doing fine now, other than looking at their wrist watches before feeding time.

Corn will be one of our most important staple crops, Central America is corn growing heaven, and it’s a crop almost designed to be processed using hand tools. Most of the locals who grow subsistence corn still make a bone tool for husking the corn, like a spike with a wrist thong on it, for splitting down one side of the husk and then peeling the husks off… I made a nice one out of a deer tine, with a bit of the main antler for a handle, very nice tool, probably the ancestor of the knife. I hope to eventually be able to do videos on subsistence skills, if we can find someone who is young enough to manage a computer without going into murderous fits of rage at software engineers; who seem to invariably forget that function is first, and bells and whistles should be last, if at all.

(Modern Computer software reminds me of a city landfill, with tons of unneeded and un wanted items, that were once justification for a paycheck.)

If you can’t get it to work, it’s no bleeping good to anyone.

I suggest that all computer programmers be required to work with electrodes attached to their gonads, and all computers come with a frustration button… a little feedback in real time would do the industry and e public a lot of good…

Anyway, we will be experimenting with all kinds of staple crops, especially grains and legumes, as subsistence is not about eating salads unless your mommy was a bunny. Most Americans never think of staple crops and gardens in the same thought pattern, I think there must have be a historic separation between gardens and farming after the domestication of horses etc. and that staple crop growing was lost as a subsistence gardening skill when horses got replaced by piston engines. It seems to be a blind spot for preppers and survivalists. That what they eat the most of by weight etc. seems to be missing from their logic, and from the canned seeds they buy as survival insurance.

Carrot bread is not made of carrots alone.

I did ask my neighbor to ask around about seed potatoes, and he said another neighbor has for me. So I am looking forward to planting them as soon as the rain starts. I grew up eating a lot of potatoes and like them, they are definitely a subsistence positive crop. And I have not seen one mole hill here, and I am wondering why? They are a plague in the low lands.

On another topic, fishing, yesterday, I made up a nice hand reel, we got the reel on line, made in Cuba, and they are a favorite fishing technique that I learned here in Central America. I had fished with rods all my life, but first “fish on” with a hand reel and I was hooked! I suggest that any Fishing Fanatic readers look up hand reels on images, and try one, nothing like being able to feel a fish on with your own fingers. It’s a sensory thrill lost on the modern fishing tribe.. Which used to be the most common method of subsistence fishing, a hand line is going back to fishing fundamentals, and the little plastic hand reels are affordable, you can probably make one up with line etc. for less than ten dollars, and would be a great gift for kids etc., or adults who have never seen one, I keep one in my survival gear always, and seem to have become addicted to making them up as a hobby. Likely have over a dozen to date. Last night’s was a forest green plastic reel of 5 inch spool diameter, and I wound it first with 50 lbs test fluorescent green Berkley Trilene, for the backing, then with 25 lb test Berkley Trilene, also fluorescent green, and it made a very pretty addition to my survival backpack. Green being my favorite color, and most of what I own is either green, OD green, or camouflage…
A humorous aside, this color-nary etiquette seems to have rubbed off on Tami, she is now fond of wearing OD green, Camouflage, etc., I think because it matches her truck’s décor…

So try not to be shocked if you come to visit, she is definitely not still exactly the same as she was…. Personally I have always felt that if you are going to live in nature, you should do like the animals and blend in… God had enough sense of humor to make many of us flaming pink in color if we didn’t get enough sun. Perhaps it was a message?

G

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