Are you back to entertaining? We’ve retracted.

It’s the fall season, the busy coffee picking season, the weeks before we finish processing some of this season’s harvest. It had been fun to celebrate by having a little coffee tasting, brunch gathering. Had been, pre-COVID.

In the late spring going into summer, there was a feeling of optimism as activities opened up, tourists returned, and people felt more comfortable going about and also traveling. Then came Delta and the general optimism made a U-turn. It seemed so sudden that we heard about impending ICU bed shortages, oxygen supply concerns (there are additional transport issues and process delays that the mainland states don’t have), and knowing that our COVID infections, hospitalizations, and death rates were all higher than ever before.

Back in August Governor Ige asked for a travel pause (both of tourists and of residents going to the mainland), and apparently a number of people have taken heed of his request. Plus, September is a slower, quieter time travel-wise anyway.

We only have 24 ICU beds on this island for a population of about 200,000. Our state has one of the nation’s lowest ICU bed per capita ratio (I think it’s second worst), but our rural island’s is lower than the state’s ratio. We have been requiring overflow ICU beds for a few weeks now (around 5-8 overflow). Not all of those are for COVID patients, but usually well over half are. And I’ve frequently been seeing that over half of those people were on ventilators.

From the beginning of this 9/8/21 West Hawaii Today article …

With little fanfare, Gov. David Ige on Sept. 1 signed an executive order that releases Hawaii’s health care workers and facilities from civil liability during the COVID-19 crisis.

West Hawaii Today, “Order provides staff, facilities protection from civil liability amid COVID crisis”

I’ve gone through shock, fear, anxiety, and anger, and by now it feels somewhat normalized, like our new state of affairs probably through October. So, no entertaining at this household. We’ve returned to a cautious, reserved way of living. It’s similar to this time last year, but it IS more open. Travel is possible. School is in session, in-person. Restaurants and businesses, that have survived, are still open. There aren’t general household item shortages.

When I started this post, I knew I wanted to share an article about scaling up manual brewing methods. But I know that we’re not scaling up right now, and all the above tumbled out. I leave you with a few articles about manual brewing methods.

A brief history of manual brewing methods

Drip (e.g., pour over) vs. immersion (e.g., French press) brewing

And, the article that motivated this post, the one I needed years ago, “A guide to brewing larger volumes of coffee at home.” We have been doing individual pour overs for years, but that doesn’t scale. And we weren’t as satisfied with the batch machine brewer we used to use. We wanted better quality. Using the Chemex, for a volume larger than an individual cup needed tweaks.

On the subject of coffee brewing, UH (Uncle Harold) opines, “IMHO, coffee tastes most flavorful and aromatic when freshly roasted ground coffee is mixed with boiled water. This kind of crude procedure is cumbersome when modern convenient devices are available.

Kona coffee has a unique character.  It has been produced by total love and dedication from early preparation, harvesting, and to roasting. Processes such as weed control, tree nourishment, and selective picking of ripe berries impact final quality. Marketing gimmicks do not produce good coffee.  This is UH’s basic premise.”

Enjoy your cuppa. Hopefully, you can home brew a few quality cuppas for your friends, too.

Coffee processing styles; cleaning your home brewing equipment

Our trees are showing more red again, having reddened in the three weeks since the last big picking. This week the crew will be out here again.

This article describes some of the other coffee processing styles and terminology that apply to actions done after picking. According to the terminology used in the article, our coffee is triple washed since we float the cherry prior to pulping and also soak (short ferment) after pulping.

That’s a bit detailed for your average person who just enjoys a good cuppa. I’ll leave you with another link that’s more practical, cleaning your home brewing equipment. It talks about some of the urban myths about cleaning your brewing stuff.

When I was in college and always used a moka pot, I had a friend from Italy who insisted I not clean it. He said I’d destroy the mushrooms that develop in it and give the coffee its flavor. I think mushrooms must have been a translation artifact.

Side note paragraph: I have noticed just in the past year, Kona coffee with mushrooms. One example is this 100% Kona coffee from Malama Mushrooms. I’ve never tried it. There’s a good article about Hawaii and mushrooms in Hana Hou, the in-flight magazine from Hawaiian Airlines. I stumbled on that after watching the fascinating Fantastic Fungi documentary on Netflix. With all this rain, I was thinking maybe we have to also (intentionally) grow mushrooms.

Anyway, this same friend, fluent in both Italian and French, told me he saw a log in his backyard in New Jersey. When I was unimpressed and asked more questions, we eventually determined he thought a log was a loir (French word), from the English expression “sleep like a log” and the French expression “dormir comme un loir.” However, a log is not a loir. I guess a loir is a dormouse. I don’t even know what a dormouse is. But apparently there might have been one in a New Jersey backyard. Here in Hawaii we have mongooses. And our cat recently excitedly chased and cornered one. It’s her first mongoose encounter, to our knowledge.

[9/14 addendum: Several of you have asked the outcome. I didn’t let the cat continue the hunt. I tried to show the mongoose the door out of the courtyard, but instead it ran into a nearby 3-sided area (worse!) and it panicked and even jumped and ran sideways on the wall. I just left it to its own devices to escape/leave at its leisure, and no one has seen it again.]

Hang loose, mongoose.

It’s always raining! Quantify that.

It’s the weekend and it’s raining. I counted 12 dry days in August. There were only three dry days in July. The first big day of picking a few weeks ago ended a little earlier than planned because of steady, hard rain. It’s just unpleasant for the pickers, and it was close to quitting time that day anyway.

I talked story with Bob Nelson of Lehuula Farms a few weeks ago about the the amount of rain we’ve been getting and the kilowatt hours from our solar panels. Bob had a longtime career as a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game before he and his wife moved to Hawaii in 1994 to become full time coffee farmers. They’re now retired.

We’re only a mile apart and at a similar elevation, so you’d think it’d be the same, but our experiences are still slightly different. For years now Bob has been very generous with his time and expertise and has given a number of talks and workshops via the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. He likes to fix mechanical things, too. There are plenty of opportunities for that with the coffee business.

He has had one of the National Water and Climate Center’s (NWCC, under the USDA) weather stations on his property since 2005. He shared some of his experiences ensuring the weather station would be maintained. In any case, he went through a lot of the historical rain data from the neighboring weather station at the university’s CTAHR’s extension office and the station on his property (Kainaliu). The two stations are only about 1/4-mile apart and within 50 feet of elevation. He came up with the rain chart below. He talked about how data readings were historically done and some data was missing because it used to be that the stations were read on the weekends only, and sometimes a person wasn’t available to read it/them. My takeaway was that it was tedious for him to make this chart.

It’s the type of information I had been looking for somewhere on the internet. The locals have been mildly complaining about all this rain, although acknowledging it’s good for the coffee. And people would say, “I guess it’s like the old days.” But I couldn’t find the data presented in an understandable manner. Until Bob’s chart. Thanks, Bob, for creating the chart and letting me share it!

Average monthly rainfall from 1931-2021, shown pre-, during- and post-eruption.

It backs up the talk about rain patterns before and after the decades-long volcanic eruption. The Y-axis is inches of rain, and the X-axis is months. The blue line is the average of the months’ rainfall from 1931-1982, the historic data prior to the eruption. The orange line is the historic data during the eruption, 1983-2018. And the grey line is post eruption from August 2018 to July 2021.

It’ll be interesting to see how the grey line continues, and how long we’ll remain eruption-free. We thought we could have been at the start of a possibly long eruption-free period, until it erupted back in December. That eruption officially ended in May this year.

On another note, the New York Times has a relatively new series called “It’s Never Too Late” that tells the stories of people who decide to pursue their dreams on their own terms; that it’s never too late to switch gears, change your life and pursue dreams. Being a swimmer, I liked an earlier article about an older lady finally learning to swim. The latest entry was “It’s Never Too Late to Ditch the City and Run a Farm.”

Martha Prewitt performed as an opera singer for 15 years. But passions wane. She now runs the family farm in Kentucky, singing arias to cattle and corn. Sometimes bugs fly into her mouth.

Coffee and pigs — ready fo’ pick off

We had a nice, big coffee picking last week, with many pickers working over two days. We use an Estrada wet mill from Colombia to wet mill the coffee the same day it’s picked. Water and machinery free the seeds from the skins and fruit. The seeds (coffee) sit in a fermentation tank overnight, then the next morning they’re raked out to dry on a covered deck before being mechanically finish-dried later that day or the next day. The end result is parchment. The parchment is put in burlap bags and the scant moisture is allowed to even out for weeks/months before it eventually gets dry milled into green (unroasted) beans.

In case you didn’t realize, we post a variety of photos about coffee and scenes from our farm on Instagram and Facebook. The bottom of each page of our website has a little camera icon (Instagram) & F icon (Facebook) which you can select if you want to follow us. Recently I’ve been sharing photos of the pigs on our land, which we’ve finally been seeing at night and around sunset.

It has been a real parade of pigs lately. One night it was like a movie. Pig noises woke me up, so I peered out the window. I saw a bright flashlight beam (my neighbor cousin’s) wildly moving about, then I heard and saw a spotlighted pig run down the coffee road next to our bedroom. Then I saw the beam quickly move back up the hill, dart about, then repeat. I heard and saw in the flashlight beam another pig run down the road. Then another. I got up and went to our lanai with our bright flashlight and shined it on the road and in the coffee land. Pigs trying to hide throughout the land.

There was a pause in the action, and I went back to bed. When I heard more pig noises, I went out again to look. There was a gang of eight pigs defiantly holding their ground on the coffee road. Then I saw two separate spotlights (my cousins) coming down the road. I heard something land nearby — my cousins had thrown something at them. Finally, the pig gang scattered.

Hubby slept through it all and had no idea. The next day I suggested we collect a bucket of rocks to keep on our lanai so we’d have something to scare them with. We also researched hunting rules and licenses, air guns, slingshots, rock chuckers, crossbows, bows and arrows, electric fences, etc. We personally don’t want to kill them, but they are destructive and a nuisance, and they are most definitely not welcome here. And there are too many!

The next day at sunset, we wanted to take pictures of the rain over the ocean. We immediately saw pigs! Within 15 minutes we saw about 14 pigs, in four different groupings, traversing and lingering on our land. The next evening, we went out looking for pigs, but we caught the sunset. It’s like life, you’re searching for A, then B shows up. Look for B, you see A. Moral: keep your eyes and ears open and be prepared for anything. OINK! Or rather … loud, sharp groinking bark!

Finally! The excuse you needed to eat fewer fresh, raw veggies

There’s a disease that got a lot of media attention a few years ago. When I was researching a bit more, I was surprised to learn it is endemic in Hawaii, but has only been a reportable disease since 2007. And it has been documented as a parasitic disease of humans in Hawaiʻi and other Pacific islands since the early 1960’s. I had been under the impression it was a fairly new problem.

It involves rats, primarily Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. Those Norwegians!

In those first 10 years of reporting, 2007-2017, Hawaii health officials identified 82 cases of rat lungworm disease, two of which were fatal. In both 2020 and 2021, each year there have been two reported cases on Hawaii island. In other words, it’s a very small risk, but it captured our imaginations once the media shined its spotlight. I know people who avoided salads or couldn’t stop the mental chatter, hesitating, if they ate one. “Hope I don’t get rat lungworm.”

[Aside: I’ve read a few non-fiction books that elaborate on many scenarios which illustrate how poor we humans are at understanding true risk. I highly recommend Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow for examples. I recall the motorcyclist I saw riding with his COVID cloth mask on and no helmet.]

Rat lungworm disease, or angiostrongyliasis, is caused by Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a parasitic nematode passed by infected rats in their feces. Snails, slugs, and other intermediate hosts might eat the larvae, and humans might inadvertently eat the parasite by eating a raw or undercooked intermediate host.

In any case, all this buildup to my personal story. We started to get a lot of slugs in our courtyard garden, which includes some edibles. The University of Hawaii’s CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources) is my go-to credible resource for all things agricultural. They have a four-page document about how to manage slugs, snails, etc.

I decided to hand-harvest the slugs, which is supposed to be a surprisingly effective technique. They say not to touch them with your hands. So I was out using disposable wooden chopsticks and putting them in my salt solution to kill both the slugs and any rat lungworm larvae.

It was astounding to see how many we had! Once you get into it, you begin to see where they eat, hang out, hide, etc. And you can’t see one without adding it to your disgusting slug soup. I’d puff out an exasperated sigh and go after the one, and then, of course, I’d see others. There were a few times I was tardy to meals because I was picking slugs. One friend said I should compose a photo with this lovely dish, with a nice place setting and salt & pepper on the side. Another friend said I could dry them and sell them to certain cooks.

I hadn’t even realized they were completely munching away one of our ornamentals. I hadn’t been closely watching, but it was dying off. Perennials sometimes do that, so I thought it was just part of the cycle. After I picked tens of slugs off it, after two weeks the greenery has been returning. The slugs weren’t fond of the ornamental with the blue flowers behind the rescued plant in the foreground.

To touch on another pet topic of mine … wild pigs. I think they’ve taken up residence here and/or at my neighbor cousins’. We hear their dogs barking and we see their spotlights on at weird times of night. We hear the pigs, too. Recently we’ve been hearing them when we’re still awake, so now we’ve seen them. Big, black. And last night the cat alerted us by her rapt attention to something outside. We went out to investigate, and she promptly scampered under the bed. Scary monsters! A family of five were on the coffee road right next to our bedroom. Not fond of the bright flashlight, they scampered into the high weeds.

On the coffee front, real picking is happening right now. Real, as in a nice, sizable amount of coffee. The earlier two pickings were 100-ish and 200-ish pounds, respectively. That’s fresh fruit, mind you. We just had to get that little bit of ripe fruit off the trees. That’d end up as about 30 pounds roasted, probably less, because the quality of the first fruit isn’t as good. But now it’s that time of year when the coffee farms will all be getting busy.

Yet one last different topic … this pandemic. School’s back in session for a few weeks now, and our end-of-summer holiday, Labor Day, is coming up. It was around our mid-summer holiday, July 4, when I wrote a blog post about emerging from the pandemic. I was feeling optimistic then. Life felt like it was expanding, and now it feels like it’s contracting.

How quickly things changed. Hawaii is experiencing its worst number of COVID cases of this entire pandemic and the ICU bed availability situation is, or is becoming, critical. Mayor Roth has requested approval from Governor Ige for stricter COVID-19 restrictions. Our allowed indoor and outdoor gathering sizes have shrunk. Some activities have been shutting down again. Ironman Kona is postponed for a third time. We won’t be returning to the stricter restrictions of early 2020, but a different flavor of them. Our in-laws canceled their plans to visit us; the US still isn’t allowing Norwegians in. It’s feeling more difficult to keep on keeping on, to do our collective kuleana (loose translation, responsibility) in safely getting through this situation, physically, mentally, and economically.

One day at a time — this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.

Ida Scott Taylor