Monday, 1 June 2020

ORGANIC FARMING- USE STANDING WATER TO 'BREED' DRAGONFLIES

WAS- A Drinks fridge at The Sands at Nomad Beach Bar
NOW- Fish breeding, Dragonfly and Frog breeding.
(Noisy 'Guttural Toads' can't get into this)

As we have mentioned before in this Blog Dragonflies are one of the useful insects to have on your farm (or around your house). They are predatory, they catch flying bugs out of the air using technologically advanced flight and huge compound eyes. They are said to have one of the highest known hunting success rates of any species.

Reeds and Lilies are nursery areas
 for Frogs, Toads, Spiders and Dragonflies 
Previous photo zoomed in on this
 recently metamorphasised Dragonfly
     
Some Insects that dragonflies help to control:

Flies
Mosquitos
Midges
Butterflies
Moths
Grasshoppers
..and surely many more region dependent.


Not bad for an un-paid agile, aerial, Askari. 
(AKA-Security guard)


Dragonflies need standing water for them to lay their eggs and for the larvae to live for the first cycle of its life.. eating tadpoles and aquatic insects. Then once it is ready for the second cycle of life it climbs out of the water onto reeds or lilies where it metamorphasises or 'moults' into a Dragonfly.


Color the Life Cycle: Dragonfly | Worksheet | Education.com
Image Source- education.com





All you need to do is make a pond, or fill a broken water tank, or an old fridge (see below example off the Sand's Farm) with water, put in some aquatic plants to clean it, a few fish and tadpoles to eat the algae and Mosquito larvae, and there you have a Dragonfly 'AND' Frog/Toad breeding program.
(The Anti-pest army)

It's useful to harvest fast growing aquatic plants before they cover the water surface. Lilies, like these above are rich in Ammonia and Nitrates. 

About ten kilograms (wet) is removed every two weeks or so to be added to our compost making.

(double or quadruple the use of a plant or space)

Saturday, 30 May 2020

ORGANIC FARMING- USE OF SPACE, COMPOST PILES AS NURSERIES

Over the last two months the good rain has meant that we have been able to get a good success out of growing greens on the Sand's Organic farm. The fresh water makes a huge difference for us and the community around us as, as it was noted in our irrigation water tests, it is 'not fit for agricultural purposes'.. but we try anyway with some successes, miracles and failures. 

It is now, at the end of the rains as the sun-hours increase and the ground is wet that farms starts pushing almost visible growth.

With fresh rain water growing greens is far easier. Spot the 'Caterpillar' damage..  proof of no pesticides.
The subsistence farms around us all planted out their fields three to four weeks ago, now the maize is three feet high and healthy, interestingly protected from many pests by the technique of slashing back of the brush to make space from the farm from 'bush' (The same areas are cut back before the rains each season). The cut bushes and branches (mostly Lantana species... a natural pest deterrent!) is then used to build rough 'boma-like' fences to keep the goats and sheep out but also naturally acting as a pest barrier for grasshoppers and the likes. We will be taking and using this technique in the seasons to come. Here's to local, tried and tested methods of farming in this environment.

Abundance
For those of you that are farming or living towards sustainability in life we have a couple more tips here for anyone who would like to try.

COMPOST NURSARIES

Since the onset of the rain we took the covers off our many compost piles to allow the rain water to get in and help feed the micro-organisms in the decomposition process. (Compost should be watered to keep it damp). It goes without saying that watering compost with our well water affects some of the more sensitive species of good bacteria, grubs and insects.
Passion and Papaya seedling by the hundred.
With the covers off we added a loads of 'waste' Papaya skins and seeds, passions skins and seeds from the daily fruit harvests off the farm. 

This is all given away, used by the hotel, or tuned into fruit puree's...and then retuned to the farm (cycle economy).. where the compost piles have become the most healthy fruit tree nurseries one can imagine.. all by natural systems with little energy expended. We also planted pumpkin and water melons around the compost piles. These have also gone wild.
Spot the compost nursaries
From natural nurseries like this, one can select seedlings of Papaya, Passion Fruit, and any other 'waste' seed that germinate (Mango, Avocado, Custard Apple) to plant out during the rains.. Think, avenues of Papaya's, fences covered in Passions. Which takes us to the next little tip.

PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLE OF 'STACKING AND PACKING'- The optimum use of space.

Using the compost piles as nurseries also falls under this point.... the same 'space' used for 

1. Building compost.
2. Dealing with / UTILISING organic waste.
3. Producing seedlings for future seasons harvests.

An important aspect about 'space' is that many of us can miss 'farming in 3D' or as the Guru's of permaculture call it 'vertical stacking and packing'.... using the space to its best 'most sustainably abundant' use. (It's not just about planting in the ground or in pots on the ground) 


Examples of this is USING boundary walls, fences, trees, gates, house eves, rooftops, balconies and the likes to grow produce using these vertical spaces either supported from the ground up, or suspended grow spaces hanging. Using space that was previously unproductive and under-utilised.

Above is an example of this from a photo taken this morning at the Sand's farm:

1. The Compost piles were located in the space along the chicken run fence to attract lots of bugs and grubs to the proximity of the chickens to increase their natural free range diet. (2 uses)

2. Water Melons were planted on the edge of the compost piles so as to get some productivity out of the space while we wait for the compost process. (3 uses)

3. Passion fruits were planted between the compost piles to grow up the vertical space on the chicken fence. Turning an unproductive space into a productive one. (4 uses)

4. The Passion Fruit and Water Mellon creeper 'growth ends' that get too low down on the fence (reachable by the chickens) or grow through the fence add to the chicken's natural vegetable intake. 

5 USES.. and we can just ignore the Papaya tree which is going to produce for years from that same space!)

Less Eggs being collected recently as we are letting hens lay.
A useful tip. --- don't cut down all the trees on your farm. Plan which ones are useful and/or productive, where do you need light, which ones hold water in their root systems, which ones release nitrogen into the soil, which ones deter pests. We have kept many unproductive (no edible yield) trees on the Sand's farm... we use them (functionaly) as 'trellises' for growing Passion Fruits. 

(We used a natural vertical space that was unproductive, planted a seedling at the base of the tree and.. boom. We have lots of Passion Fruit vines currently producing close to two kilo's a day off trellises that cost nothing to make and they are alive so will not rot or need replacing.



The Jaccuzis are proving to be the best success. 


In this one above there is Tomato, spinaches, soft lettuces, Rucolas and Dhania. The worms added to the soil are doing their bit to add nutrients and it's away from some pests due to its height and overhanging edges.


The Neem tree in the background was removed to allow light to the third phase of the farm. The timber and firewood will be used.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

LIFE DURING THE CORONA LOCKDOWN - HOW BEING SUSTAINABLE CAN HELP



Over these past two months of Covid 19 caused lockdown there has been a huge impact on everyone from individuals to large hotels, restaurants, companies and governments. There is no money coming in but people still need to eat. The lucky ones have savings or they live a more sustainable life in which the IMPACTS OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND LOCKDOWN ARE SOFTENED.

Cases as of the 17th of May 2020- Source NRP.org

The reason for this post is that we feel it is important to share some of our experiences of this time so that others may take what they need from it, or nothing at all.

As you may know three years ago The Sands at Nomad started it's own organic farm only ten minutes from the hotel grounds. This farm has for years produced fruit and vegetables for the Sands Restaurant. In the past, it was very hard to be able to produce enough for the demand of Diani's busiest restaurant but now, times have changed and the real benefit of the path towards sustainability becomes clearer.



Since the forced closure of the hotel and restaurant as the county entered 'lockdown' the rains arrived and the farm has been upping its productivity. Suddenly, almost overnight we were producing ENOUGH of many items for the staff members who remained on site and with excess of some harvest to be able to give away to friends and neighbours or to sell to help cover the farms running costs.
Lockdown or not, growing never stops growing.. useful.
ASK YOURSELF
How can we try to lower the impact of this on us when we have no income coming in? 
Your answer could be, Sustainable thinking, living and doing.

An example of some sustainable practice from the Sands:

With no guests around the hotel it has been possible to do some maintenance work, but this costs money and materials... so, with a controlled alien vegetation removal program of some of the Neem trees (which can be sustainably harvested by the way ;)) income can be generated and/or materials for future use can be produced. Imagine the cost of good hardwood timber in Kenya today, now imagine the value of ten tons of it. This could go quite far in covering costs... Oh yes AND we now have enough sustainably sourced firewood to run the pizza oven for months!.. saving hundreds of thousands of shillings. ;-)



The Neems are harvested generating much needed income to cover expenses and losses, the space where the Neem was is planted with a number of indigenous seedlings which will claim back from the invasive Neem so increasing the natural environment.

NATURAL  ENVIRONMENTS are very much 'SUSTAINABLE SYSTEMS'

A child who is allowed to play on the ground, to explore, get dirty and live naturally will come into contact with far more bugs, parasites and even viruses and another child living in a sanitized flat in a city. This will mean that the 'wild' child will have a more healthy immune system as it has had to develop this over the years. The 'sanitised' child however may not have come into contact with much to cause it's immune system to have a good repertoire of experience with various illnesses and infections. In this case the 'wild child' is more sustainable (longer lasting) than the 'sanitised child'.

Bats and Bugs | Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

It is now known that 'the virus' Corona 19, originated in Bats, whether it was lab created to do further damage to humanity is besides the point.

There are up to 15 know strains of Corona viruses in Africa already.. the chances are that those of us who live here, and are more in direct contact with the 'natural systems' around us will have come into contact with these already over the years.. and that, quite possibly gives us an advantage over the 'sanitised side of society'.

Those living closer to the natural systems have greater chance to develop immunity as, the natural systems are full of diversity, through this diversity we are encountering diversity and it is in diversity that there is stability. A world with one super species which removes all the rest will end with the super species demise due to it not having an ‘experienced’ immune system to deal with sudden new   Viruses in a capable manner. Because it removed the ‘natural’ way to be ‘immunized’ to its environment.

In closing it may be best to summarise what might have ended in silence for some.

How are you living? How much fresh fruit and vegetables are you having to BUY. Is there a way that you can begin to grow some of your own food to take away the DEPENDENCE you have on others to supply you.

One of the daily harvest from this past week
How much waste are you producing? Are you utilising all of it that you can? Are you storing what might be useful for future use. How can this waste help you spend less time and money later? Are you dependant on a waste collection service to come pick up all the 'non biodegrade' waste (packaging) you are producing or do you burn it into fumes to the detriment of our future?

Are you reliant on buying drinking water because the ground water is too saline? What would happen IF drinking water supply was to stop? Are you harvesting and storing rainwater?

THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS MY FRIEND- sustainable thinking.

Warning- graphic content.
An example from yesterday- A mongoose has killed one of our brood hens a week before the eggs were to hatch. The Mongoose is my enemy? No! The mongoose and I share common enemies like rats, mice and some snakes. If I learn to live WITH the mongoose by making my chickens safe from them my environment will be more sustainable. The Mongoose (Variety) can then help me removing the rats, mice and snakes which may become problems in the future without the Mongooses help.

 Don't blame bats for giving us Corona, blame humanity for becoming too sanitised and removed from the natural (sustainable) systems to have the ability to deal with it.




Friday, 10 April 2020

ORGANIC FARMING- PESTS - Millipedes, Friend and Foe

If you are following this blog then you will already know about the compost making process that we use on the Sands at Nomad's farm. Recently however we have identified quite a serious problem that we were actually encouraging due to our compost making technique.

Young Millipedes in a compost pile
We LOVE Millipedes (Aka Chongololo or Mombasa Train) on the farm as they have proven to be one of the fastest decomposers, if one opens any of our compost piles or even has a look into our final compost product one would notice there are quite a few Millipedes of different types and sizes.. all doing their thing, eating rotting organic matter and pooping out nutrient rich compost.


BUT, as we have found out recently, we have been literally 'breeding' Millipedes due to our compost making, which is fine... until they end up in the growing beds with the little seedlings.
We noticed this problem when we planted some spinach in one of the old broken Jacuzzis. Just before planting we added some compost to the soil, then we planted, watered with rain water and waited. Within a couple of days the spinach seeds had germinated in neat little lines, so satisfying.. the next day 95% of them were GONE!

What happened! Well, the Millipedes did their job and made the compost, many of the little ones were still in the ready compost when it was added to the Jacuzzi, They were trapped inside as they cannot climb the inside walls.. they had no decomposing matter to eat.. so they ate our spinach seedlings and then buried themselves into the soil during the day.


Having identified the pest (who we knowingly created perfect conditions for) we tilled Jacuzzi and removed over 20 Millepedes who were hiding in the soil. 

Loosing the Spinach seedlings was sad but problems like this go hand in hand with organic (pesticide free) farming.

There is however bonuses we take from this- Now that we have recognised that we have been breeding Millepedes which can be detrimental to a farm we are making sure that there are no Millepedes in the final stage compost before it is put in the grow beds.

Consideration? Maybe?
The extra extra bonus? Think 'Circular Economy', a Sustainability jargon word. The Millipedes (and other pests), collected from the compost, put into a bucket and then taken to.. drum-roll.. the Chickens! This adds to their free range diet if they agree to eat it. Chickens can be picky peckers.

Final stage compost is now inside an old Jacuzzi to keep the MPD's out.
NB- for those of you that have thatch roofs like many of us on the Kenyan coast.. be very aware of putting your compost pile too close to the house. If you breed Millipedes and they are able to climb into your roof the 10 year lifespan Makuti (coconut thatch) may be gone and need replacing in 5 years. Keep them far away. ;0)

Monday, 6 April 2020

REPURPOSING- The multiple uses of things

We have touched on this subject a number of times in the past years so this post will just be adding some other ideas to the concept of being able to repurpose things rather than make them 'waste' and a problem for the environments, both natural and social.

Recently the Sands at Nomad's farm has been very lucky to have inherited a huge, stainless steel, double door fridge from the restaurant. We could have sold it for scrap as stainless steel is valuable but that would have meant loosing out on the opportunity items like this give us.

Fridge in life one, fish tank in life two.
We have positioned the fridge on its back, (the compressor was removed safely!) doors removed, right next to the Wormary. We filled it with water, blocked a couple of leaks, added some aquatic plants let it sit for a few days and then added some of the Mozambican red Tilapia fish from the farm pond. The plan? Well more of an experiment, to see if its possible to grow the Tilapia to edible size in a 'waste' fridge using worms and bread to feed them. (Zero cost) Sure this is 'take 1' so the plan is sure to grow and develop.. like any fluid, natural, dynamic working system does.

Inhabitants
The second repurpose for show and tell is the Ghost Net* collected off the Diani Reef by staff at The Crab dive centre. This ghost net has been suspended between a Cashewnut tree and a palm tree, it is hanging on an old windsurfer mast to give it strength and it is fast becoming a trellis (climbing frame) for our next generation of Cherry Tomatoes.



*Below is what the Olive Ridley Project (Sea Turtle Conservation) have to say about Ghost Nets. Source  www.oliveridley.org

'Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea. Every year they are responsible for trapping and killing millions of marine animals including sharks, rays, bony fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, crustaceans, and birds. Ghost nets cause further damage by entangling live coral, smothering reefs and introducing parasites and invasive species into reef environments'.

Monday, 30 March 2020

UPCYCLING PLASTIC BOTTLES- PET

We have already made a couple of posts on this subject but here we are just going to add a couple more ways that we have found to re-use PET plastic bottles. It's short and sweet.

Obviously it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that ANY container, made out of ANY material can be useful as a bucket or a raised plant pot, no explanation needed, look how successful the plant nurseries are on the roadsides.



Other ways one can use PET bottles? It depends on the size. In many parts of the world the 1 litre PET bottles are being stuffed with waste/and or Sand so that they can be used as building blocks.

At the Sands we don't have waste PET but after collecting from other hotels and restaurants we have enough 5, 10 and 20 litre bottles that we can use them in other ways. Look how much our Chickens love their laying 'boxes' made out of PET bottles.



We also use these as feeders to try to minimise the waste of Layers Mash (supplements to egg laying chickens) when the chickens scratch the layers mash from more open feeders like trays.

When these bottles are cut often the top of the bottle is not used, it just becomes waste.. or a hanging grow pot for mint (see top photo)                  





Or even raised stands to protect fruit against burrowing ground dwelling pests. (Sweet Melons)

Friday, 20 March 2020

THE MARINE EDUCATION CENTRE- Environmental Education and Awareness


In late 2018 The Sands at Nomad finished renovations on an old boat house turning it into a conservation education and awareness location called the Marine Education Centre (MEC).

Located next to the Sand's recycling centre, a short five minute walk from the Hotel reception through the Corral Rag forest. The centre is open to visitors daily from 3 to 5pm


The MEC has now become the home and operating location for three different conservation, education and research organisations all focusing on bringing awareness to visitors on the plight of the oceans the planet the wildlife within.. and how this effects us and our future generations.(Towards sustainability)



The Conservation Education Society  was created as a way to educate and make aware both local and international students on issues such as marine wildlife, ecosystems and conservation. Throughout 2019, 554 students and 71 teachers visited the MEC on ‘ecotours’ which allowed them to take part in specifically designed education programs, from which, it is hoped they taken away knowledge which may help both their own and their (our) planets future. As further support initatives the conservation education society also has provided educational packages for five of the local schools in the area and also provides awareness education for international students. For more info please visit-  www.ceskenya.org


The Diani Turtle Watch was originally started in Diani in 2012 by it’s Watamu based parent organization Local Ocean Conservation. DTW was started with the aim of protecting and creating awareness as to the plight of sea turtles and as an organization seeking to find solutions to the present day problems turtles face when nesting. Around the world, sea turtles are being forced to lay their eggs in bad nesting locations due to beachside development, beach erosion, and nest security from people. For more info on this organisation please visit-  https://localocean.com


The Olive Ridley Project began working in Kenya through a partnership with The Sands at Nomad and the Marine Education Center.  This Project has begun the first turtle ID database in Kenya which had, at the end of November 2019 and from 1663 sightings, identified and databased 401 sea turtles of which 365 were Green turtles and 36 were Hawksbill turtles. The data collected from this and other projects are useful as key indicators of marine ecosystem health. The Sands at Nomad has, for another year, agreed to sponsor and support the Olive Ridley Project throughout 2020. For more info on this please visit www.theoliveridleyproject.org


·      In the coming year there are plans for the MEC to do marine awareness workshops with some of the local boat operators so giving them knowledge on how to manage visitors as well as understand reasons and best-practice on how to preserve the ocean and interact with marine life. 

BELOW ARE SOME BASIC MARINE PROTECTION RULES

It's for the environment and people's livelihoods, please care.

      Don't touch corral
Don't stand on corral
Don't buy sea shells
Don't throw trash into the Ocean.
Don't remove Starfish from the water (they die and they are VERY important for eating sea urchins)
Keep engine rev's low in shallow water.
No Jetski's over corral gardens.
Anchor in Sandy areas do not throw Anchors into corral.
Don't fish in Fish maternity and breeding areas.
Don't buy undersized sea food (sustainable procurement)


ORGANIC FARMING- USE STANDING WATER TO 'BREED' DRAGONFLIES

WAS- A Drinks fridge at The Sands at Nomad Beach Bar NOW - Fish breeding, Dragonfly and Frog breeding. (Noisy 'Guttural Toads' ...