We seem to get visitors in bursts. And visitors with kids often come in the summer because school’s out. Here, school has already started just today (August 1)! When Bea was a child, the school year accommodated children picking coffee, so school started Thanksgiving week, almost four months later! And even once school started, they picked every day after school and all day on weekends. No time left for the kids to get into trouble.
Last week we had three families from California with children of different ages come visit the farm, coincidentally on the same day.
My cousin came with his family, with the goal of picking some coffee cherry. We had our first picking just two weeks ago, so there wasn’t much cherry, but they found a short tree close to the coffee road that served. This was my cousin’s first time seeing our grandparents’ coffee land since we renovated. You can actually see it now vs. being hidden in the jungle. The link here shows before and after renovation photos.
The other two families came to the farm later that same day, a whirlwind visit since next on their agenda was a night manta swim. It’s tough to squeeze so many activities in on a short trip. Whatever length of visit to Hawai’i often seems to be too short.
Hubby and I continue to be surprised with how much people seem to enjoy two things: (1) “picking” bananas (i.e., cutting them down) and holding the bunch like a trophy, and (2) riding in the truck bed. [In fact, note to self, I think I’m going to make a banana hall of fame photo album.] Bananas might be ready to cut down at any time of year, but we do go stretches without any ready to pick. So if you visit, don’t rely on the experience.
When we offered a ride in the truck bed, the kids all leapt in, and the parents hesitated, “How far is it?” Not very. It’s just easier and cleaner to bring the bananas back up by truck than carry them. They drip sap that turns black and ruins your clothes. And if you hold them out from you to avoid the sap, the bananas feel even heavier. And it’s an uphill walk.
Papaya trees are so familiar to us, I was surprised, as I wrote last week, that a visitor asked if they were avocados. Many island visitors haven’t seen or noticed papayas growing. Even the pocket, urban garden by the parking lot in Kailua has many papaya trees. Bea told me that my dad (before he was Dad) thought they were bell peppers on his first visit here as Bea’s guest. So I asked this group what they thought the fruit were. I heard, “guavas?” “a bean?” “avoc …” — I think that was a tentative, withdrawn answer.
I’m so glad we had the opportunity to expand their farm horizons. Papayas, bananas, mac nuts, lychee, avocado, guava, and oh yeah, the coffee. From berry to drinkable coffee requires more steps and a longer timeline; it’s not immediate gratification. We have other edibles, but we didn’t have time to show them all, and it isn’t easy to herd nine cats with different interests and a firm departure time. Even if people have seen a lychee tree or an avocado tree, not everyone has seen them at the size they can reach with volcanic soil, sun, and plentiful rain. It’s one thing to see it in a photo, and it’s another to walk in under the thick umbrella of the lychee and look up into the tree. Or use the extension picker to struggle to pick just a few of the lower hanging avocados.
And it’s always fun to eat fruit fresh off the tree. With the extension picker we were able to cut/knock off a few lychee. Bea always shares how she really enjoys eating fruit right from the tree. Apparently her mail deliverer loves eating fresh guavas off Bea’s trees, too, and has been caught red-handed with a sheepish smile. At least she only picked what she consumed; she wasn’t harvesting. And at least she recognized those guavas were ripe and delicious. I think Mom has seven types of guavas and many are in the front yard; the varieties are different colors, sizes, textures and flavors. (I had to check my own blog post about her plants to remember, and that was from three years ago). I love her strawberry guavas, but they are extremely invasive here (birds scatter the seeds).
One more aside since Bea sent this to me just today. This is her Kona coffee tree, surrounded by a number of other plants, in Southern California. It has so many blossoms! I don’t know what kind of timeline it’s on or why. It certainly doesn’t get the rain we get here. We usually get blossoms like that in February-April. It must be related to the length of day, soil temperature, and the way she waters. Her old crop is on there, too, the overripe cherry, what we call raisins. We have to remove raisins as part of our farm hygiene so that no coffee berry borer beetles will lay eggs in them.
Back to my story … whenever hubby and I go down into the coffee land, we suit up. Even if we’re just taking visitors for a look-see. Long pants, long sleeves, hat, and clippers (every time you don’t have them, you regret it). It’s hot, but then I don’t have to put on sunscreen or bug repellent, except if I’m working in shady areas or around dusk. The visitors understood once the mosquitoes got a whiff of them. Beach attire leaves lots of real estate for blood meals. Mosquitoes love me, so I don’t even hang the laundry without putting on long pants and sleeves. My cousin’s daughter got inflamed little itchy bites on the palm of her hand and a big welt on her tricep, either from picking coffee or gathering/handling macadamia nuts. It might have been ants or a spider. Bugs, the reality and menace of Hawai’i. And sharks. Just kidding! That’s just your vivid imagination.