Give ’em the axe, the axe, the axe …

Kind of a brutal University of California Berkeley cheer. I won’t go into the history of that cheer or the axe. The cheer is what came to mind when I thought of the latest activities in the coffee land. We didn’t use an axe, but a chainsaw.

The north mauka (towards the mountain) part of our property has rough terrain. It’s steep, hilly, and the big lava rocks are a bit loose. Pigs scrambling over there have made it worse. I think there used to be terraced areas, held in place by rocks, but I can’t find any old photos to corroborate that. There are a few big holes from where formerly large trees had been. For one, there used to be a huge, mature kukui tree. It’s easy to lose your footing or to stumble. I’ve tugged on weeds/weed trees, from poor positions, and fallen before. So far, so good, but I feel like I’ve been tempting fate. You need to be ever careful, and that’s hard. Many of you have probably suffered 6-8 weeks of recovery time for a sprained/twisted ankle, from an incident that takes just seconds, e.g., one careless step down into the garden or the garage.

We have a fair amount of coffee trees in that area, though. I think a good portion of them came up as volunteers over the years. I’ve always disliked this area more than others, because it’s densely planted, weeds thrive, it’s often shady, and there are lots of mosquitoes. The dead tree holes don’t help. I’ve liked it when this area has been stumped, which it was a year ago.

But a year later the trees have leaves, and the area has been growing into its usual state. Since there are so many trees, the verticals grow tall to compete for sun. And with so many trees, moisture gets trapped, and now that the Big Island lives with coffee leaf rust, the spores easily spread. I weeded in the area and my hat was full of rust spores afterward. Ugh.

We decided to thin them out. It’ll be better for the general health of the remaining trees and the farm. We’ll be able to weed easier, the trees will get more sun, when we do spray for rust or beetle, the spray will actually reach where it needs to, and the trees will be easier to care for and pick.

I think we’ve removed about 40 trees! Removing was done by cutting the tree as close to ground as possible. With the terrain, they couldn’t really be pulled out by tying something and using some kind of vehicle/machine. They might start to grow branches, i.e., responding similarly to how they do from stumping, but we’ll just have to keep trying to kill the tree.

The area looks fine, and you might not even realize we thinned. It was a good time to do it when we stumped this year’s block of trees. After dragging around branches from stumping and removing trees, after bringing in the professional chipper, we sprayed the farm for rust. Next … fertilizing.

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