Coffee, pineapple, missile warning, medicinal 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.

Homework!

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.

This 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.

The 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!!

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

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.

 

Coffee picking

IMG_0478.JPG

IMG_0479.JPG

We’re in the heat of coffee production.  Yesterday my husband and I picked approximately 30 gallons of cherry in 5 hours.  We were super grateful it was overcast, otherwise it would’ve been painful.  A few months ago I wrote about starting the season, and how I was “excited” about picking and it being a meditation practice in its own way. Yeah, well that feeling is OVER.  Even back then I knew that “excited feeling” would pass.  We currently have about 50 trees and have started a new field with 75 more.  While they won’t be ready for a few years, in the midst of our picking, my husband and I questioned our reasoning (and our sanity) behind planting more coffee.  We do plan on doing this in our retirement, but we’re not retiring in the next two years.  We just keep telling ourselves, “it’s a season, it’s not all year round, we can do this”.  Yes, it’s awesome to have your own coffee, but it is a lot of work.  Yesterday we also packaged some of our roasted coffee, the first of our coffee this season.  This is also the first of our coffee in two years.

IMG_0473.JPG

In the 30 gallons of coffee beans, I only saw 4 beans that had a sign of coffee borer beetle.  4 beans!!  We are so happy.  We will continue to organically manage the pest the best we can, and hope we are able to sustain our efforts in combatting this bug.

So that 30 pounds of cherry we picked yesterday … well that was only one of our fields, we have another field to do today.  To be completely honest, I’m not looking forward to it.  But this weekend looks to be the peak of our season.  We picked a lot of coffee on the trees, so we won’t be picking as much in the coming weeks.  Although we did spot some new flowers growing on a few of the trees …

I will admit all this hard work has had its benefits, because for the first in a while, we enjoyed a cup of our very own “Kalopa Makai Farms Estate Coffee” yesterday.  There’s nothing better than that.