Rainy day weekends

We had a lot to do in the garden this weekend.  I wanted to get started on my herb/medicinal garden, but the weather had other plans for us.  I did get all the laundry, vacuuming, mopping, and other household chores done.  I even managed to wash a few windows … just a few, I HATE doing windows.  I also spent the day replacing almost 3 years of blog pictures that suddenly went missing.  I’m not sure why or how, but most of my pictures simply disappeared and in its place was a small white box with a question mark.  So for those of you new to my blog or those who are looking through old posts, I’m getting there.  It’s been extremely time consuming, but I’m 3/4 of the way done.

So what’s happening around the farm.  EGGS, lots of eggs.

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The chickens have been quite busy.  During a reprieve in the rain, I collected almost 3 dozen eggs today (I was shy one egg).  We just started to get some blue ones again.  I’m not sure if this is from one of the new chickens or one of the old chickens coming off her winter break.   They’re long and skinny.  Our polish chickens who weren’t supposed to be good layers are GREAT layers.  They started laying during the coldest part of our Hawai’i winter when most of the chickens were taking a break.

We also have a lot of black raspberries right now.  They’re so sweet and fat.

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Our nectarine tree has about a dozen fruit on it.  Nectarines don’t typically grow at our elevation or climate.  It needs something cooler.  But we bought a low chill variety, and we had some pretty cold nights during this winter, so I think that’s why we are seeing this many fruit.  Granted 12 fruit on one tree isn’t a lot, but it’s the most we’ve ever had.

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We also had one, yep one, plum.  I touched it and it fell off the tree.  It was super small, but I still split it with my husband.  It was actually pretty good.

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Our white mountain apple has a lot of flowers on it.  We’ll get a nice yield this year.

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Our jaboticaba is flowering as well.  I ate the one berry on the tree (see left top of picture); for some reason there was no seed in it.

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And finally, our little Bailey is growing quickly.  She now weight 19.7 pounds.  The vet thinks she’ll be around 60 pounds.  It’s a little bigger than we thought she’d get.  She’s a little sweetheart around us, but she knows how to hold her ground if she gets picked on by the other dogs.  One of her ears has gone up, like a heeler dog usually does, but the other ear … well not so much.  She’s looking a little lopsided, but still adorable.

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Pineapple, coffee, missile warning, medicinals herbs … missile warning???!

What a crazy weekend this turned out to be.  For those not from here, the national news minimally covered the missile scare in Hawaii.  So to quickly summarize, on Saturday at 8:07 a.m. we (we being people in Hawaii who have cells phones) received a warning text to our phones stating that there was an incoming missile, take shelter, this was not a test. The warnings subsequently came on the radio and on the television.  Hawaii has been preparing for such an event for months.  We get updates at work, and there is information in our newspapers regarding how we should prepare in the event this occurs.  Our sirens have been changed to include a new sound to indicate a missile strike. We’ve also been informed it would take 12 -15 minutes for a missile to strike us once launched.  To be clear it is a nuclear missile from North Korea that we are preparing for.  When that message came blaring across our phones, there was no reason to doubt it.  29 minutes later I got a text saying that there was no missile, it was a false alarm.  Talk about scary?! I really cannot verbalize adequately those 29 minutes, but it was bad. I had a lot of things planned for this past weekend, but the rest of Saturday was spent decompressing, and accessing my life.  Seriously, it was a life contemplating experience. I’m still a little shaken, and the family members I was able to reach during that period were left shaken as well.

IMG_0776.JPGHomework!

So Saturday afternoon after I felt a little better, I decided it was time to get to work on my medicinal herb garden. My daughter and I had recently visited the used book store in Kona and I bought some books on the topic.  I also have a few books on Hawaii medicinal herbs.  I went on-line to Baker Creek Seeds, a really good source of organic products, and purchased a number of seeds to start this garden. I took my hubby out, and showed him the spot I wanted to utilize for this purpose.  He’s all in.  I’m going to need some help with fencing, but hopefully I can do most of the planting myself.

IMG_0775.JPGThis is the spot (the before)

It’s right next to the piece of property my husband is preparing for more pineapple.  I’ll start the seeds in containers first.  I’m going to carefully document what I’m growing and what they are utilized for.  I haven’t quite decided how to organize the garden.  I’ll probably have a native section of just Hawaiian medicinals, but I’m thinking about organizing them in sections according to health, i.e., skin issues, stomach issues, etc.  We’ll see; I need to do a little research and get some inspiration in order to make this a really special spot.  I also need to research the Hawaii medicinals better, and find a resource for those plants.  I’m very excited about this area.

In addition to the medicinals, we’re starting a whole new section dedicated to just white pineapple.

IMG_0773.jpgThe new pineapple patch

If you’ve never had white pineapple, you’re missing a special treat.  You know how sometimes when you eat pineapple, it kind of burns your tongue a bit. The reason is does this is because it contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down protein.  I know this sounds bad, but it actually dissolves protein, so it’s literally eating at your tongue.  Your tongue produces new cells so quickly, that feeling goes away very fast once you stop eating the pineapple. White pineapple doesn’t do this.  I tried to find out why, and couldn’t locate any information.  But my guess is that it contains less bromelain.  Also known as sugar loaf, these pineapples are just the sweetest. It’s the only kind of pineapple we grow on our property.  In addition to just eating them fresh or putting them in smoothies, we also dry them and make a liqueur with the fruit.  My husband prepared the land today, and soon we’ll be planting the slips.  It takes about 1 1/2 years for us to get pineapples off the slips. Slips come out of the bottom of the pineapple after it’s done growing. Some people grow pineapple straight from the tops.  There is debate about what makes a better pineapple.  The tops take longer to grow, about 2 years.  We’ve found that tops produce smaller inferior tasting pineapples.  Others will argue the opposite.  But on our property, the best pineapple come from the slips. We have a few patches of pineapples already and get a nice yield, but we love them so much we wanted more.  It’s also one of the crops we sell.

Today, I picked the last of this yield of coffee. We do have some new flowers and beans on some of the trees, so we’re not completely done. It’ll be awhile before those are ready to pick, so for about a month or so, we have a reprieve from picking coffee!!! Yeah!!

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Otis swimming with ducks

It’s been a warm few days, so we’ve enjoyed the pool. We have no idea why, but recently the ducks have been coming up to swim. UGH!! They’ve got 5 ponds they can swim in down in the garden, and they come up to use ours??? Otis was NO help at all. On one level we’re glad he’s not chasing/killing ducks, but swimming with them? Otis, help us out buddy.

Holidays are over, guests are gone, and our daughter is back in school on the mainland. Things are quieter, but still busy, just a different kind of busy. Farm busy.

Kabocha Squash

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Kabocha squash, which also known as Kabocha pumpkin or Japanese pumpkin, is a common squash seen here in Hawaii.  It’s also confused a lot with kombucha which is a totally different thing.

Kabocha is shaped like a pumpkin and has the consistency and taste of butternut squash, although it’s a bit sweeter. It is super easy to grow which makes it ideal for the Hawaii gardener. You just need a little space so it can spread.

IMG_1227.JPGOur kabocha patch under a mango tree
Although technically considered a fall/winter squash, we grow it year round. This squash is very resistant to bugs, and is a high producer. One of the best things about this kind of squash is its versatility.  I’ve put it in stews and curries, made pumpkin soup (which everyone loves, not to brag), and roasted it. When we have a lot of them, we either give them away or cut them up and freeze them. They hold really well in the freezer and make great soup afterwards.

My winning soup recipe is easy. Ready? Cut and skin pumpkin, put in water, boil to start, then simmer till it falls apart and has a creamy texture, add salt and pepper to taste. Yep that’s it.  It’s so yummy. The natural sweetness of this squash is so tasty you really need to do little to it.
The hardest thing about kabocha is cutting it.  These are tough little squash, so get a big sharp knife.  Cut it in half, scoop out the inside, and cut appropriately.  For roasting, you can leave the skins on. I cut them in slices, put it in a bag of olive oil and garlic salt, shake it up, and roast them.  You can put them on the grill or roast them in the oven, either way it’s great.  I roast them until they’re nice and brown and you can easily push a fork through it.
I encourage people to experiment with them.  They cream really easily; you can make pie, or cut them up raw and use like carrots in cake. You can also put them in a batter and fry them for a nice tempura. I suggest smaller strips when doing this.
The kabocha is very meaty inside and one pumpkin will yield a lot. Not only is this squash delicious and versatile, but it’s also good for you.  It is high in the anti-oxidant beta carotene and Vitamin A. The skin when consumed is a good source of fiber as well.

The leaves of the kabocha are so large they hide the pumpkins well.IMG_1231.JPG

It’s a New Year!!

I am so looking forward to this New Year.  It’s not like I can’t recommit to goals previously set and start anew at any point in the year, but there is something about the first of the year that helps motivate me.  This past year, I’ve grown in my appreciation for all we do on our little homestead, and I’m inspired to do even more in the upcoming year.

A friend of mine recently repainted their home, redid their porch and railings, and planted new plants around their entrance.  Their home looks so beautiful and cozy.  So that is one of my goals, to spruce up the place a bit and fix things we’ve been neglecting for a while.  I see a lot of painting in my future.

I also want to start a section of medicinal plants and herbs in the garden.  Hawaii has some wonderful natives I can put in there.  We already have some things we’re growing that are medicinal, but I want to add a lot more and create a special area dedicated to just this.

And of course, there’s the “get in shape” and “eat right” goal I set every 2 months.  So again, I will start.  If I got a penny for every time I “started” a new workout plan, I’d be rich!

So now to what’s happening around the farm …

We have lots of animals on our little farm – a couple of donkeys, sheep, ducks, chickens, a goose, cats, dogs and fish.  Unfortunately, we have had issues in the past with our other dogs chasing/hurting chickens.  At one time, we had wild dogs killing our sheep.  You get attached to all the animals you have, so it’s sad when you lose one whatever the circumstance, but especially sad when it’s one of your own that has caused the loss.  This brings us to our newest addition – Bailey.  She’s Australian Sheppard, catahoula, and heeler (and maybe other things).   In an effort to insure she gets along with the others animals without hurting them, we’ve been feeding her down in the farm with our chickens and ducks.  She’s a sweetheart, and has been doing quite well.

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Can you find the puppy in the picture?

IMG_0619.jpgBailey

We have one particularly tame duck that literally eats out of her bowl which means the duck is eating puppy food.  It’s a work in progress, but we’re happy they get along.

Yesterday, my husband and daughter painted our new sheep shed.  We even added a little art work to the shed, just to make it a little fun.  It was the perfect day for painting, hot and dry.

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We also picked some rambutan.  Last year we got one rambutan, yep just one.  This year we got (drum roll) 6!! Rambutan are such a beautiful fruit.  They look and taste a lot like a lychee.  The name is derived from the Indonesian word “rambut” which means hair, and its name suits it well.  It looks kind of pokey, but it’s actually more soft, kind of like a soft brush. It’s native to Southeast Asia, and grows well in our tropical climate.  Our tree is still quite young, hence the low production.  Optimum production typically occurs around the age of 8 – 10 years old.  We still have a few more years until it gets that old, so I’m excited for what is to come.  Thailand is the largest producer of rambutan.  You have to let the fruit ripen on the tree, if you pick it early it will never get ripe.  You know it’s ripe when it turns the red color you see below.  It’s all green before that.  A serving size of rambutan has about 40% of your daily intake of Vitamin C and 28% of your daily intake of iron.  It also has high levels of manganese.

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I got two new orchids for my grotto, one pink and one a very pale purple.  Also for Christmas I received two really cute pieces of garden art  – one a large white wooden chicken and the other a stone garden gnome.  I have yet to pick a spot for them, but will take a picture of them when I find their perfect home.

I had family here for Christmas vacation, and was able to take a week off of work.  Tomorrow back to the grindstone and the regular routine, plus a few new goals for this year.  Here’s to a very peaceful 2018.