Closing out 2021 with the geckos, hawks, and pigs

As 2021 draws to a close, already this morning, I saw the same recurrent type of events that I notice on our farm. There was another lone gecko tail, bright green, freshly severed, in the middle of our courtyard. There’s a specific word for that: autotomy. As a defense maneuver, the gecko drops its tail and the tail wiggles around, distracting the gecko predator, i.e., our cat.

In the past week, I think half the days we’ve seen an ‘io (Hawaiian hawk) gracefully riding air currents, flying above our farm and nearby.

The pigs, after giving us a few weeks off, are back. They’ve been rutting around alongside our terraced coffee trees by our house, eroding/crumbling the low rock wall that keeps the soil and trees in place. Among other destructive goals of theirs, they’re trying to get into our Earth Machine compost bin we have for kitchen scraps. It has been in its place over a year, and the humans are still winning!

Worse and most irritating, the pigs ripped off the trunk of our young red atemoya tree that we purchased in Hilo. It was the only one we’ve found for sale, and we regularly scan available fruit trees at nurseries. It had been growing nicely for two months. Atemoya is a hybrid of the cherimoya and the sugar apple (sweet-sop). We’ve never even tried it, but a friend of Bea’s swears they’re better than cherimoya. A cherimoya can be grown from seed, but atemoya can only be grafted. I have three cherimoya seedlings out of 14 planted seeds finally growing. They aren’t leaving our courtyard until we have a pig solution.

Yes, I know even you are probably frustrated. It’s hard to hear someone regularly kvetch about something and not do something about it. We did try to line up hunters; that fell through for various reasons. We have some visitors coming who might enjoy trying to help us with our pig problem. It does seem like the number of pigs has decreased from a few months ago, and we told ourselves that we’re just going to have to learn to live with them. We have before. They come and go over the years. This year seems particularly bad, though. We suspect it had something to do with the rains that had returned when the volcano stopped. But the volcano is on again, so maybe the rain pattern will change again.

Though we were in the live-with-them phase, Hubby, upon discovery of the atemoya disaster, was ready to kill pigs with his bare hands. But, he’s a compassionate man, the next day he said he doesn’t understand why they do this, but they’re just doing their thing. My aunty told us how her father or grandfather (someone another generation or two up) had planted many macadamia trees. And one night, the pigs just ripped most of them out and down.

Our current hypothesis is that they bite, grab, or bulldoze young trunks to try to uproot the tree so they can get at the goodies in the soil at the roots or where the roots had been. Often, they aren’t successful at prying out the roots, so all you see is a ragged stump with its bark ripped and a trunk with leaves right nearby. It just appears simply mean, spiteful and pointless. But they must do it for some reason we don’t understand.

Though we know an electric fence is probably the solution, we’ve always been intimidated by the amount of work and the challenges we have with our terrain and layout. I have the ten-page document from CTAHR, a trustworthy source, about how to successfully do this. Now we’re thinking we should try just one big square, probably half an acre, and learn from the experience. Instead of doing it all, do a bit and consider it a learning opportunity. The square we have in mind already encompasses most of the young trees we particularly care about. Unfortunately, probably 1/2-2/3 of the newly planted coffee trees are outside this square.

So maybe an electric fence for pigs is in store for us in 2022. And the battle to save the trees from Coffee Leaf Rust. Some of the trees have lost most of their leaves, but they still pushed out multitudes of blossoms, and now we’re also seeing new leaf growth at the tips of the branches.

We’re coming up to that special time of every year … the end of the current year and the start of the new one. New Year’s Day was the one day Grandpa didn’t work on the farm. It was the biggest holiday of the year for the Murata family. For 2022, I wish you mo’ bettah days dan da odda kine days. And restful nights!

One thought on “Closing out 2021 with the geckos, hawks, and pigs

  1. Thanks for this post, Sharlene. As always you keep us close to your life with your stories of challenges, occasional failures and occasional triumphs. May 2022 have more of the latter than of the former.
    –Jon

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