State of the Farm in Early April

We’re gradually experiencing fewer dry days as we transition to the rainy season. The dry season didn’t seem all that dry, though I do recall two 2-week periods without rain. By my count, we had 18, 15, and 12 dry days in January, February, and March, respectively. We have truly micro climates here. The farm a mile away can be different than ours.

In early March Hawaii (state) made even international news with the heavy rains, disastrous flooding, and landslides. Friends were reaching out, hoping we were OK. I remember one particular time a friend texted, and I was just hanging clothes out on the drying line. Parts of the other islands were the ones impacted, worthy of the governor issuing an emergency declaration. Kona’s dry season is when the other islands and the other side of Hawaii island have their rainy season. Our island does still have snow on its two highest volcanos, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, from the winter storms.

I’ve noticed that Bea (Mom) notes sunrise and sunset times by hand on her paper calendar. I’ve told her a few times that she can find that information online. But I’m becoming my mom. I’m not noting sunrise & sunset, but I am making imprecise rain notes. I can’t quantify the amount in inches. I just cannot find an online site that accurately reflects the situation on our farm.

I wonder if the fuzzier difference between the dry and rainy season has led to fuzzier blossom rounds. The blossoms usually come a few weeks after a good soaking rain. But lately we haven’t had a dry spell followed by a soaker because we haven’t had many consecutive dry days. Earlier I could detect some blossom peaks, and you only realize the peak after you’ve passed it. Now it’s hard for me to designate a particular day as the peak of a particular blossom round. I’ve noted blossom start, then a few days later designated a peak of light blossoms. But then a week later, there are another few days of blossoms and another peak of light blossoms. In any case, it is the time of year when you see blossoms on some coffee trees anywhere you go around the general Kona coffee area.

The trees that were stumped in February (foreground) are showing new growth. The trees at the top of the frame are the ones that were stumped last year.

The trees that were stumped in 2020 are producing nicely.

Because I have accumulated so many various links to share, I have to try and get them out there in case it catches you at a receptive time. I’ll close with a link to an article a friend recently sent. It’s about the author’s quest to home brew the best tasting cup. I’ve used all five methods at various times. Right now, I remain a pour over fan. FYI, there is a Search box at the bottom of this website/blog if you recall I wrote about something before and you want to get back to it (e.g., Aeropress). I use this search button a fair amount. Keep your Beas Knees buzzing.

Zombie coffee and coffee as social glue

Zombies … bleary eyed, they stumble out of their bedrooms into the kitchen and want/need to make coffee. Brains barely engaged. Friends sometimes share a photo or anecdote of something silly they’ve done when they’ve made coffee in the morning. E.g., whole, instead of ground, beans inside the pour-over dripper. Some days we need the coffee in order to safely, successfully make a cup of coffee.

This burr grinder is pretty simple. We’ve already set the coarseness, so we’ll assume we don’t have to adjust that. I’ve marked up the photo to show the steps:


(1) Put whole beans in the hopper.
(2) Turn the knob to grind a certain number of cups (essentially run the grinder for a certain time).
(3) Remove the ground coffee from the bottom compartment.

It is amazing how many adventures this little grinder has had. It has a see-through plastic lid on the hopper. Before we put the sticker on the lid, at least three of us have accidentally poured the whole beans onto the lid, scattering beans all over the counter and floor. And at least two of us have done it more than once.

One of us accidentally poured water into the hopper instead of the electric kettle.

And after teaching one guest how to use the grinder and make a pour-over, the next day I was in the kitchen with the guest, doing my own thing. I heard the guest say, “That’s weird. Some of the coffee came through.” But the guest managed to continue on to make the cup of coffee. The next day, I heard the guest say something like, “Hmmm. The grinder didn’t work.” That’s when I and the guest realized that the guest was putting the whole beans where the ground beans should end up. Heh heh.

Those are zombie-needs-coffee stories, attesting to coffee being required for mental alertness. Another function of coffee is to serve as social glue. For this, it needn’t really be coffee. It could be tea. Like Indian-style chai at the yoga shala. Maybe it’s a cigarette break at work for those who smoke. It’s the small thing/reason/excuse that people briefly pause around, and engage and chat with each other. And why not make it a two-fer — wake up AND socialize.

A bike ride with one or more others is just a bike ride, or a run just a run, without the coffee to gather around afterward. If you’re the one who always rushes off to work or on to other things without lingering with your buddies, I honestly feel you are missing out. Humans, even introverts, are social beings. This pandemic has certainly brought that to our collective awareness.

For those of you who entertained when that was still possible, we discovered that throwing informal, open-house-style coffee tasting parties (nothing elaborate, just the two different roasts of our coffee) was a lot of fun. There are different expectations for a dinner versus a coffee, not even breakfast, gathering. We’d provide little tidbits like biscotti, scones; and others would, unasked, contribute coffee cake, mini-tarts, quiche, etc. And it became this fun morning party. People gathering, chatting and moving about, coming and going as their mornings allowed. We knew the party would be what it would be, depending on how many showed up, when. Intense, then it’s over, and you still have the rest of your day. You aren’t washing dishes at midnight or rolling into bed exhausted and/or drunk like you might after a dinner party.

On a more intimate note, I’m feeling deeply sad. Our covid-bubble couple are moving back to the mainland. It was already planned a year ago but was put on hold because of the pandemic. Since September we started regularly (bicycle) riding early Sunday morning, followed by coffee on the lanai. At first it was just coffee. Then we started sharing our experimental baked goods, snacks, brunch, and the after-ride would sometimes stretch longer than the ride. I find it one of life’s true joys, to be able to linger and while away unstructured time with friends.

With travel severely restricted and large gatherings discouraged, we haven’t even been spending time with the cousins, even the ones who are our neighbors on the family land. The ‘ohana gatherings were always as a gang, but each family has gone nuclear all year to do our part to avoid getting or spreading the coronavirus. So, for my husband and me, our in-person social lives consisted of this bubble of us two couples. We spent the big fall/winter holidays together. It was different for all of us, since they’d normally be with their adult children, and we’d be with our extended family.

Their leaving and the intense friendship under isolation with all the coronavirus restrictions seem to have triggered a melancholy and sadness. This is probably an accumulation of negative-tone emotions from the whole year that have been squelched by keeping busy. I think this mourning and grieving have broadsided many others at different times, related to this pandemic and weird year. Our friends’ move is an ending of a certain life period that will be indelibly emotionally imprinted on us.

In case you missed it before, I’ll close with a copy of the poem “We Are Not in the Same Boat” by an unknown author that made the social media rounds about a year ago.

WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT …

I heard that we are in the same boat. 

But it’s not like that. 

We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. 

Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be. 

Or vice versa. 

For some, quarantine is optimal: moment of reflection, of re-connection. Easy, in flip flops, with a whiskey or tea.

For others, this is a desperate crisis. 

For others it is facing loneliness. 

For some, a peace, rest time, vacation.

Yet for others, Torture: How am I going to pay my bills?

Some were concerned about a brand of chocolate for Easter (this year there were no rich chocolates).

Others were concerned about the bread for the weekend, or if the noodles would last for a few more days.

Some were in their “home office”

Others are looking through trash to survive.

Some want to go back to work because they are running out of money.

Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some need to break the quarantine to stand in line at the banks. 

Others to escape.

Others criticize the government for the lines.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, some are not sure their loved ones are going to make it, and some don’t even believe this is a big deal.

Some of us who are well now may end up experiencing it, and some believe they are infallible and will be blown away if or when this hits someone they know

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020.

Others say the worse is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat.

We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

And each one will emerge, in his own way, from that storm.

Some with a tan from their pool. Others with scars on the soul (for invisible reasons).

It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, more than looking, seeing.

See beyond the political party, beyond religion, beyond the nose on your face.

Do not underestimate the pain of others if you do not feel it.

Do not judge the good life of the other, do not condemn the bad life of the other. 

Don’t be a judge. 

Let us not judge the one who lacks, as well as the one who exceeds him.

We are on different ships looking to survive. 

Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy and responsibility.

Where does the lawsuit stand about selling fake Kona coffee?

The Kona coffee brand is a big deal. I wrote in 2019 about a group of Kona coffee farmers who filed a class action lawsuit against a number of coffee purveyors for allegedly selling fraudulent Kona coffee.  Six of the defendants have recently agreed to settle the case without admitting to the allegations.  The current proposed settlement total is over $13 million.

We Kona coffee farmers have now been contacted about proposed settlements in the class action lawsuit Corker, et al. v. Costco Wholesale Corp., et al., No. 1:19-cv-00290, United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.  If you’re interested, check out the informational website, konacoffeesettlement.com.

I wonder what this lawsuit and its resolution could mean for our industry in the long run.

Not the same issue, but related to the brand … I wrote about it a year ago, truth in labeling. To label a coffee a Kona blend, what percentage of Kona coffee do you think is required? It’s a measly 10%!! This has been in the labeling law for almost 30 years. Bills to redress this problem have repeatedly been brought up to Legislature and failed.

He ali'i ka 'aina

Some quotes from Braiding Sweetgrass

The cropped photo is from a Kamehameha schools t-shirt my cousin’s son gave me years ago. The saying is, “He ali’i ka ‘āina, he kauā ke kanaka.” The land is chief, man is its servant.

I had been reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer for several weeks. This isn’t a detailed book review, and I can’t even articulate exactly why this book resonated with me. Apparently it’s the #1 book in Ecology on Amazon. She expanded the way I think of plants and helped me realize so many relationships and interconnections between plants, humans and life that I hadn’t been aware of. I took down many quotes, about gifts, gratitude, ceremonies, our purpose — she worded things so beautifully and poetically. Here are just a few:

“This is our work, to discover what we can give.  Isn’t this the purpose of education, to learn the nature of your own gifts and how to use them for good in the world? … The circle of ecological compassion we feel is enlarged by direct experience of the living world, and shrunken by its lack.”  

“These ancients carry teachings in the way that they live.  They remind us of the enduring power that arises from mutualism, from the sharing of the gifts carried by each species.  Balanced reciprocity has enabled them to flourish under the most stressful of conditions.  Their success is measured not by consumption and growth, but by graceful longevity and simplicity, by persistence while the world changed around them.  It is changing now.”

“What if we could fashion a restoration plan that grew from understanding multiple meanings of land?  Land as sustainer.  Land as identity.  Land as grocery store and pharmacy.  Land as connection to our ancestors.  Land as moral obligation.  Land as sacred.  Land as self.”   

“… as we care for the land, it can once again care for us.  Restoring land without restoring relationship is an empty exercise.  It is relationship that will endure and relationship that will sustain the restored land.  Therefore, reconnecting people and the landscape is as essential as reestablishing proper hydrology or cleaning up contaminants.  It is medicine for the earth.”  

“Naturalist E.O. Wilson writes, ‘There can be no purpose more inspiring than to begin the age of restoration, reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us.’”

Restoring our little plot of land, the family coffee land, isn’t on the same scale as restoring a lake, a Superfund site or public lands. But I relate to the author’s sentiments at the personal level.

To remind you and us, this link shows before and after photos of our land. When we weed and pull out the undesirables, I always think of futility, of how this is only good for as long as we maintain the effort. Then I remind myself that every bit counts, we’re moving in the right direction, take each day as it comes without getting immediately defeated. And I remind myself that it’s satisfying to see the fruits of your labor. It matters more when you have skin in the game. We’re playing the game without knowing the end game, trusting the universe.

child holding cup

Introducing Keikis to coffee?

Today, just a short post. It’s been starting to rain more again, which is great for those recently stumped coffee trees. Some trees are starting to blossom again. This round of Kona snow is developing and has yet to peak.

Today I thought I’d just provide some links to some of my curated online articles.

This one might get a rise out of some of you parents, “Introducing Children to Coffee.” I don’t recall really caring about or trying coffee until I was a sophomore in college. But as an adult, I had a few colleagues that’d take their younger child to the local cafe/Starbucks on a weekend day, and the child would get a hot chocolate and/or pastry, and that’d be a weekly ritual of quality time together.

That topic feeds well into this article that summarizes all the mentions of coffee in the new American dietary guidelines, for 2020-2025. The American Cancer Society also updated its guidelines last year, and coffee plays into those.

And here’s a report about an Italian study, espresso, and death. Stay alive with espresso!