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.

One of these things is not like the other

Can you find the puppy in the picture?

Bailey

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.

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.

 

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.

 

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The Miracle Berry

So I managed to get most of my “to do’s” done before Christmas.  The tree didn’t get up until the 23rd, but hey it was before Christmas so it counts!  We picked a bunch of coffee, scooped lilikoi, picked mulberries, and even made jam.  I have family in town which is always nice.  What I most love about company, whatever time of year, is that it forces us to get out of the farm routine (or other household chores), and get out and explore the island or just go to the beach for the day.  We also love sharing our little farm, and showing everyone what we grow and produce.  This brings me to my next blog topic … the miracle berry.

Most of the things we grow on our farm are for  our consumption or for selling.  We do have some flowers which I love to pick and display.  And then we have the miracle berry.  What is exactly is this little fruit??

It’s a red berry that grows on a small shrub. When the flesh part of the fruit is sucked on (we don’t really eat it, we just break the berry up in our mouth and kind of suck on it for a few minutes and then spit it out), a molecule in the berry binds to your tongue’s taste buds which causes sour foods to taste sweet.  You can suck on a lemon and it tastes super sweet.  The molecule is called glycoprotein and it contains miraculin, a carbohydrate chain within the molecule, hence the name “miracle” berry.  It’s pretty amazing,  and it never ceases to thrill those who try it.  The effect lasts about 30 minutes or so.  Anything sweet is intensified.  I once had spaghetti for dinner soon after I tried a miracle berry, and it ruined it.  The sauce was so sweet, I couldn’t eat it.

I often wonder about this plant, and why nature created something like that.  I think it was tried as a sugar substitute, but for some reason it didn’t quite work.  Maybe back in the day when people sailed the world and scurvy was an issue, it made lemons and limes more palatable. The shelf life of a miracle berry is only a few days after it’s picked, so I don’t know that they would’ve brought it on a ship.  What I do know is that it is a neat little addition to our farm that we enjoy sharing it with guests, and they in turn enjoy trying it.

 

Why you should be growing longevity spinach in your garden

We grow five different kinds of spinach on our property – a Brazilian spinach, also called Sisoo (it grows almost like a ground cover and has really curly leaves),  two different varieties of Okinawan spinach – one that has purple leaves, and one that has light green leaves that is often referred to as longevity spinach, Malabar spinach (it’s almost succulent like in its appearance) and Tongan Spinach (its leaves are large, the size of your head!).

  Longevity spinach purple Okinawan spinach Sisoo spinachTongan spinachMalibar spinach

Spinach has a lot of benefits no matter which one you decide to grow.  They all have different tastes and textures, so before you decide to plant a whole bunch of one kind, it’s best to try samples and see which one you prefer.  It’s also important to do a little research to see what types of spinach can grow in your area and climate.  We’re fortunate because most of the tropical spinaches can be grown year round with little problem.

Of all the spinach we grow, I personally like the longevity spinach the best.  Its scientific name is gynura procumbens.  It is  also called “cholesterol spinach.” As the name implies, it’s really good for you.  It’s been called a “super food” – a term we’re hearing a lot lately.  But this actually may be just that.  A native to southeast Asia, it is claimed to help treat a number of different ailments – high cholesterol (bet you could’ve figured that one out yourself), high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatism, insect bites or other wounds, menstrual issues, seizures, and cancer.  It’s even been known to remove age spots!!

You can eat this raw or cooked.  It can be put in smoothies, soups, salads, and even steeped for tea.  Be creative.  I put it in my veggie lasagna and with eggs in a frittata.  We use it in stir fry a lot and my husband likes it in his siamin.  I will say I do prefer it cooked as opposed to raw, but that’s just a personal preference.  

You may be one of those people who feel like they have a black thumb when it comes to gardening, but this is one of the hardiest plants we grow.  It also seems to be fairly pest resistant which is always a problem in our Hawaii climate.  Some people even grow it indoors in kitchen window boxes.  It’s known to do better in semi shade, however, ours is in pretty much full sun and it’s growing really well. 

So if you’re looking to expand your dietary repertoire a bit, eat healthy, and add something to your own home garden, this is the plant to do just that.

Rain, rain go away … just long enough for us to pick coffee

Do you ever feel like you have too much to do, and no time to do it.  I know that happens to everyone all the time, but I’m in the midst of it, and am feeling overwhelmed.  Mostly, I’m feeling this way because of things out of my control.

 Rainy day … again

We’ve had weeks of rain.  Rain is critical to a farm, and given a choice between too much rain or too little, we’d choose too much.  That being said, we need a little reprieve.  We have a ton of coffee to pick, and can’t get outside long enough to pick it.  We’ve decided today, rain or not, we’re gearing up and picking what needs to be picked.  Yesterday, we got to about 14 trees.  We have 60 or so, so we still have a lot to do.  From the 14 trees yesterday, I’d say we picked about 20 gallons.  The trees are loaded, and we’re literally harvesting all the beans on some branches.  Our dry racks are full of coffee as well.

It’s not just the coffee, we have lot other things on the farm that need attention. Asparagus needs picking; I’m hoping it hasn’t gone to fern yet.  We have a lot of lilikoi on the ground that need picking up.  Guavas are falling off the tree (I just see guava jelly rotting on the ground).  Allspice needs to be picked and dried … the list could go on and on and on …

We need to build another sheep/donkey house on the property to keep the animals nice and dry during these rains.  We do have areas for them, but they’re all being used or inaccessible at this time.

The grotto, which I spend three weekends cleaning out, needs to be weeded. I need to add more orchids and flowers, and some cute outdoor decorations I have.

My son is moving out, so we’re going to be converting his room back to our workout room/storage area and converting the current workout room back to our guest bedroom.  It needs to be thoroughly cleaned and painted.

I haven’t finished Christmas shopping; I have NO decorations up at all.  I need to mail the majority of the gifts to the mainland, so I must have them wrapped and packaged soon.

I’m going on a business trip for 5 days.  I’m back on Friday night – just in time for the weekend! AND, I’d like to get this all done before family starts arriving in a little over 2 weeks.

I know I know, some are thinking, it’s not going to happen.  But it will happen.  It has to happen.  So why I am sitting here blogging, I clearly I have a ton of things to do, and am running out of time.  Because this is my life, this is what happens when you commit to living (or trying to live) a sustainable life on a small farm.  There are always things that need to be done, and things out of your control always make it harder to get those things done.   Because both my husband and I have full-time jobs, all these things have to get done after work and on the weekends.

So yes, the next few weeks will be very busy.  This is okay because I’m taking time off during the holidays to enjoy the fruits of our labor this year and spend time with my family.   I love having our little homestead, and while it’s hard at times, I wouldn’t change a thing (okay maybe a few tiny things).

Finally, during these heavy rains, we had an ‘io, a Hawaiian Hawk, take cover in our Royal Poinciana tree.  He stayed there the better part of the day.  I was a little apprehensive to get close to him, but my husband assured me he had no intention of attacking me, so I was able to get this nice shot.  He was beautiful.   There is a family that lives nearby, and we often see them flying above the house.  This is the first time, we’ve had one visit.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  We’ve been celebrating on Friday for the last few years instead of the typical Thursday.  Living on an island, especially an outer island like we do, means that family may not be close by.  This is no exception for us.  While we’re fortunate our son still lives on Island, the rest of our family is on Oahu or the mainland.  So for the last few years, we’ve invited those like us, those whose families are far away, and celebrate the holiday together.  We’ve slowly created our own tradition which is something special.

We didn’t do the typical turkey dinner, rather we cooked a Hawaiian version – kalua pork, corned beef luau (a mix of my husband’s Hawaiian heritage and my Irish), ulu (breadfruit)/cauliflower mash, fruit salad, Kona crab, nabeta, asparagus/green bean casserole, squash crumble, pumpkin soup, and lomi salmon.  I almost forgot we broke open the pineapple liqueur I had made.  For dessert, we had kulolo and a lime/avocado pie.  It was so delicious.  I neglected to take pictures, but have lots of snapshot in my mind and more importantly my heart, so I won’t forget.  A lot of the stuff came straight from the garden.  It feels good to be sustainable and share what we grow.

On Saturday we went to Aikane Nursery in North Kohala.  What a nice group of folks up there.  We got some unusual tropical fruits we’re excited about trying.

This is Pandan.  The leaves are used for seasoning in cooking.  When fully grown it looks very similar to a lauhala tree.

Pedalai – the fruit of this plant looks like a gigantic rambutan.  It’s bright orange with fuzzy hair on the outside.  Its white fleshy interior is supposed to be superior tasting.  We can’t wait to try this!!

We also picked up a new kind of dragon fruit, cardamon, a jelly palm (you can make jelly off of the fruit!!), a dwarf coconut, and a few other things.  We’re going to make signs so we don’t forget what everything is.  Right now, in the garden we have a plant fruiting that we have no idea what it is.  Once it looks ripe, we’ll cut it open and hopefully with a little detective work, we can figure it out.  We need to do a way better job of identifying our new plants, especially the unusual ones.

Our grotto is coming along nicely.  My son’s girlfriend, Mele, gave me a beautiful orchid to add to the garden.  It is a scented orchid too!  We got a few ornamental plants and a few more anthuriums.

We’re still in coffee picking season, but it’s been raining since we last picked on Sunday, so we haven’t had enough sun or dry time to get out there and pick since.  We definitely have to pick next week; rain or not, it needs to picked.  Right now we have all our racks filled in our dry house with coffee.  It’s been a little colder out, so it’s taking a little longer to dry.  The house is well insulated though, so we don’t have an issue of moldy beans this year.

 

When life give you lemons …

make limoncello.  It took a lot longer to do than I had planned.  Making limoncello is actually easy.  You basically peel lemons and then scrape off all the pith and put the pithless rinds in a jar with some alcohol.  I chose vodka.  I made limoncello once before with Everclear; it tasted like rubbing alcohol.  Okay, well I’ve never actually tasted rubbing alcohol, but that’s what it smelled like and my limoncello was horrible.  It was a waste.  So this time, I took my time and really made sure all the pith was off which was pretty time consuming – hence the “it took longer than I had planned” part.  For those who don’t know the pith is the white stuff on the inside of a rind, and when making limoncello that pith will ruin your liqueur.  I followed a recipe just to insure I had the right proportions and used 10 Meyer lemons.   I choose vodka because I’ve had success making liqueurs with that before.  I made jelly out of the remaining parts of the lemon.  If the limoncello doesn’t come out, at least I have the jelly.  That tasted good, it takes like lemonade in a jar.

IMG_0104.JPG

I also finished making the pineapple liqueur.  It’s okay tasting, just a hint of pineapple.  I think I may have let it sit too long, which I didn’t know was possible.  My son said he had some made by someone else, and they only let it sit overnight and their’s was delicious.  Next time I’ll try it that way.  The lilikoi, however, I know tastes better sitting.  I tried it yesterday, it was okay.  I need to add more lilikoi, but we don’t have any currently, so I’m waiting.  You can see the pineapple liqueur in the top left corner of the picture.

For the limoncello, the recipe said let it sit for 3 days, so I will do that and see what happens.  Crossing my fingers it comes out okay because we have so many lemons, and this would make a really nice Christmas gift.  I bought some really pretty bottles at Ben Franklin the other day just for this purpose.

We should have plenty of coffee this year, so I’ll be making my coffee liqueur like I do each year.  For coffee liqueurs I usually use rum instead of vodka for the alcohol.  I like making liqueurs because it’s a different way of preserving what we grow, they’re easy to make, and they’re the perfect gift to bring when invited to a holiday party.