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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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.

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

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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.

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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.

Busy, busy, busy

This week was crazy busy at work, the weekend couldn’t come soon enough.  I think this is the first weekend in 3 weeks we don’t have to be anywhere.  That means one thing, we have a lot of catching up to do on the farm.

David got out on the boat Monday for a solo fishing trip.  He launched out of Laupahoehoe.  It doesn’t have the best ramp, so conditions have to be pretty perfect to go out, and it was.  I helped him launch, but he got in all on his own.

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He caught hapu’upu’u (Hawaiian sea bass), opakapaka (pink snapper), and kawakawa (mackerel tuna). He dried the kawakawa, and then we had Chinese style hapu’upu’u and opakapaka.  This is my absolute favorite way to have fish.

You steam the fish in ti leaves with ginger and garlic, my husband adds onions too.  Then when it’s cooked, you pour hot steaming peanut oil over it, add a little shoyu, and it’s done.  Actually it’s perfect.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.  It’s a really good way to cook white fish.  I’ve never done a tuna that way, and am not so sure how that would work.

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David finished the dry house this week.  That’s where he dried the fish and we have some coffee in there now drying as well.  Well almost finished, he needs to add some more screening on the left hand side.  He did a great job.  It’s going to serve us well.

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We had our morning coffee on the porch and then got to picking coffee early before it got too hot.  We picked out about five gallons in a little over an hour.  I processed the coffee, and am super happy to report that we had very little beans damaged by the borer beetle. We’re doing a really good job of staying on top of treatments.  It’s only 11:00 a.m. and it’s already super hot, so I took a quick break to jump in the pool, so some laundry, and blog.  This afternoon, we’ll be picking bananas and pretty much the last of the dragon fruit for drying.  We have a little fish left from Monday so we’ll be having fish for dinner … Chinese stye of course.

Home is my happy place

I’ve been on Oahu for a week on business and the weekend before we were there visiting family.  It’s nice to be home.  I got up early and exercised.  This is actually quite a big deal for me because I fell of the exercise wagon awhile back, and couldn’t even see the dust of the wagon anymore – that’s how long it’s been.  I started back up on Oahu because our training started later than I normally go to work and since my commute was an elevator ride instead of a 40 mile drive, I had plenty of time to go to the gym, no excuses.  Except for the first two days of having difficulty walking because my legs were so sore, I was happy to start this routine again.

So now back at the homestead.  I took a nice stroll through the farm with my camera to check things out and just enjoy the morning air.  So some happenings:

Tangerines:

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This may not seem that exciting, but to me it is.  All along my drive to work and through Hilo town I see houses with mature tangerine trees that are just LOADED.  They have so many tangerines they don’t know what to do with them.  But alas ours at home have none or very few every year.  We have two trees.  Well this is the year, we’re going to get tangerines!  Lots of tangerines.  I’m so excited to finally have them.  Not sure what it can be attributed to, but we are definitely seeing more bees than we have in awhile so I’m sure that’s part of it.

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I stumbled across this gorgeous little bird’s nest in our soursop tree.  It was high up, so it was hard to get the shot in focus, and although I didn’t capture the whole thing, I liked the way this photo came out.  This bird did a lot of work on her little home.

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I fed the ducks, geese, geese and chickens.  For the most part the birds all get along.  I love the variety.

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I picked some black raspberries for breakfast.  We’ve got a bunch right now.  I can always get my husband to pick these with the promise of fresh scones.  This is a thorny little plant, but the berries are worth a poke now and then.

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Our red bananas finally have a bunch.  I’ve never had them before, but I believe they’re more of a cooking banana.  More on those once they’re ripe.

We have a pumpkin vine starting again, which will be nice for the holidays.  We have lots of guava, so I’ll probably be making some more jelly soon.  The new coffee plants my husband planted in our new coffee field are growing so well.  The dragon fruit season is winding down.  We still have quite a few, but not a ton for selling.  The starfruit is loaded as is the breadfruit.  I ended up bringing about 60 breadfruit into my office to give away.  I didn’t realize there were so many breadfruit lovers.  It is a versatile fruit.  In addition to the tangerines, our other citrus are doing well, and we should have a number of different types of oranges this year.

Today is just touching base and putting things away from two weeks of travel.  Tomorrow, coffee bean picking … maybe some black raspberries scones first!

 

 

Garden recap

We spent last weekend in Honolulu with family.  The minute we got home, my husband was in the garden- feeding animals, checking on plants, watering, etc.  He didn’t even take his luggage out of the car.  It’s been a very warm summer which just zaps any energy and I find it hard to do anything in the garden without wanting to take a nap 5 minutes in.  This weekend, was similar.  I had a business trip that I left for Sunday afternoon, so Saturday I spent picking coffee and doing household chores.  As you know, we’ve made the decision to do all our all coffee producing.  We’ve purchased all the major equipment, and my husband has been working on one final project – a room to dry coffee.  We currently have a large three tier dry box where we dry our coffee beans.  It works quite well, but in inclement weather there are some issues.  Recently we visited some friends who have a “dry room”.  That room was HOT.  It would dry coffee a lot quicker than our current system.  So we decided to build our own – well my husband decided to build his own.  I was called in to hold two beams in place, but the rest of the work is his.  He’s poured the cement and framed it.  It will be on a much smaller basis than our friends, but it will serve us well.  I’m curious to see what will be done when I get back.

 

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I went right back to work after last weekend was over, but my husband had the week off and went fishing with our son.  I came  home Tuesday to the feast above.  Three kinds of seared fish and two sashimi with fresh avocado.  It was kawakawa, ono (my favorite, it’s the white one), and rainbow runner.

But now I’m in Honolulu for the week.  Here’s the view:

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It’s actually a way better view than it appears, however, I’m scared of heights and was afraid I’d drop my phone over the edge if I got too close!  You can actually see the sand and people in the water, but again, I was too scared to take that picture.

 

Dragon Fruit & Coffee

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What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday we had a few people come over to visit and  pick some fruit in the farm.  While there were certainly dragonfruit available for them to pick, it did NOT look like this yesterday.  We’re in the process of picking and will be selling to one of the CSA’s we work with in Hilo.

The dragon fruit on the lower limbs gets eaten by the chickens.  As you can see from the picture, some of them are just the right height for them.  Needless to say they love it too.

We also picked some coffee today.  Not a lot, but more than last week.  It never fails in the beginning of the season, I’m super into the picking process.  It’s exciting, I know that we’ll have a lot of our own coffee, and it’s a walking or rather “picking” meditation in a way.  I really get into it.  Sadly, I now this feeling will change.  Picking coffee for a half hour is different than picking coffee all morning.  My husband and I will pick about a 5 gallon bucket each time we pick during season.  Today we picked about a quarter bucket together.  We also roasted 4 pounds of coffee in our new roaster today.  The beans aren’t from our farm, it’s what we’ve been using to help season the roaster.  I LOVE the machine.  I know it’s just a roaster, but this is going to serve us quite well.

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The finished product.  It’s been a busy weekend on the farm.

Chickens

We recently bought four new chickens.  They’re not quite full grown, but should be laying in the near future.  Two of the chickens are Polish.  I’ve never heard of Polish chickens before and even though they apparently aren’t the best layers I insisted on getting them because 1) I’m part Polish!! and 2) they’re a little different looking than the normal chicken.  They have have what looks like hair on top their heads.  IMG_1023.JPG

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Above are pictures of the all the chickens we got.  The all black one is Polish, and the black and red one at the top is a Polish one as well.  We’re keeping them separated from the rest of the flock for a few weeks so they can get a little bigger and get used to the place.

We’ve got a lot of fruit ripening right now – dragon fruit, pineapples, mangoes, starfruit (we’re loaded!), bananas, berries, and lemons.  We’ll be selling some of the dragon fruit and starfruit shortly.  I’m going to try making limoncello again with our lemons.  We have the perfect lemons for this, Meyer lemons, but last time I made it, I think there was too much pith in the rind still and it just did’t taste that good.  So this time I’ll take it slower, and see how it comes out.  I’ll keep you posted as to my efforts on that one. IMG_1017.JPG

Fruit salad from the farm.

Guava guava jelly

We have a few guava trees on our property.  The most prolific one is right next to one of our ponds and many of the guavas end up in the pond.  Unfortunate for us, but the ducks eat them so not as unfortunate for them.

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So I spent the morning making guava jelly (while humming the Ka’au Crater Boys guava jelly song the whole time).  Not sure if my nephew Mika reads this blog, but yes, I’ll be sending some his way.  Guavas have a lot of pectin, so making jelly is super easy.  I simply cut the guavas in quarters and boiled with a little water for about 45 minutes.  Then I strained all the seeds out.  Once I had the juice, I measured it.  You’re supposed to use equal part sugar to equal parts juice, so I had 8 cups juice, which technically means I should’ve used 8 cups sugar.  I used a little less sugar just to try and be “healthier”.  But as anyone knows who makes jelly, if you don’t use sugar it’s not going to jell.  I also added about 1 cup of lime juice. It’s a little more lime juice than most recipes call for, but guava jelly is super sweet, so it adds a tiny bit of tart.  I then boiled everything together again, first a rolling boil to dissolve the sugar, then a steady boil (I set my stove to 6 out of 10 in heat) for about half an hour.   It’s super important to stir throughout, especially if the sugar hasn’t dissolved; one it can actually burn, and two it can boil over your pot.  Sticky jelly all of your stove it not fun, and unfortunately I keep learning that lesson over and over again.  DO NOT leave a pot of jelly unmanned on your stove for more than 2 seconds.  Don’t do it, I tell you, it’s a mess.  I digress, after it’s cooked and you test for readiness (I use the cold spoon test – dip a cold spoon into your mixture, let it sit, is it starting to get tacky – yes, it’s ready, no cook a little longer), pour into jars, boil jars, then Pau – Guava jelly.  Well not quite, done, they have to cool and set, but that just requires waiting.

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Finished product

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It came out a dark red color, I think because I used an organic raw sugar instead.  It’s usually a little more pink colored.  It tastes pretty good if I say so myself.

I also picked up lilikoi today; I say picked up, because you’re literally picking them off of the ground.  If you try and pick a lilikoi on the vine, it’s not going to be ready, be patient, let them drop – they’re sweeter that way.  Lilikoi jelly is my husband’s FAVORITE!  Last year, we had a horrible year, and only had a handful of lilikoi.  Usually we have a loads.  This is year is better than last, not like our normal yield, but I should have enough eventually to make some jelly.  I also make a mean lilikoi liqueur.  I hope I have enough lilikoi this year to make some of that as well.  We have a number of varieties of lilikoi on the property.  The purple one is new and isn’t fruiting yet, but our orange and yellow varieties are fruiting.

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You can see the difference in the two in the picture above.  I find the yellow one slightly more tart and the orange a little sweeter, but they’re both delicious.

We have a lot of fruit right now.  My son took the picture below.  Not only did he take the picture, he harvested all the fruit.  I saw it on his Instagram account, and wished I had the picture for my blog.  Little did I know he actually took some pictures of the yield with my camera.  What a nice surprise.  (Bananas, pineapples, mangoes, starfruit, dragonfruit, papaya, pumpkin, and breadfruit, oh my!)

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He took a bunch of pictures.  I love this one, because Otis is licking his lips.  He loves bananas!  I made some pumpkins soup out of the pumpkins, we dried the pineapple, my son gave some of the breadfruit away (we have SOOOO many if anyone wants), and we’re slowly eating or giving other stuff away.

I feel extremely grateful for this little piece of heaven.  But most of all I’m extremely grateful for my husband.  The property was beautiful when we got it, but all the trees, and ponds, and fruit and vegetables, that was my husband’s work.  He is the hardest worker I know.  When he comes home from work, he’s in the garden.  Every weekend, he is in the garden.  While I know for a fact, it is a lot of hard work for him, the farm is his church – it’s his place to connect and be grounded.  He loves it, and I love that he loves it. I’m grateful everyday for him.