“To boldly go where no [90 year old] man has gone before”

Do you know what show that quote is from? Star Trek. And who said that? Capt. James T. Kirk. Real life actor William Shatner, now 90 years old(!), was gifted an approximately ten-minute trip into outer space aboard a Blue Origin rocket just recently. He said he was “overwhelmed” and seemed to be genuinely, profoundly affected, saying, “I hope I never recover from this.” If you haven’t already heard him speak about it or the media coverage, you can search for that and find a lot about it.

Though a 90 year old man had not gone to outer space before, coffee had already made the trip over fifty years ago. “One Giant Slurp for Mankind: 50 Years of Coffee in Space.” That milestone was reached in July 2019.

I doubt Shatner had a flight attendant offer him coffee in his ten minute trip. I always found it amusing when, in earlier years, the flight attendants would rush to offer drinks and snacks and clean up for the shortest of (airplane) flights. As if you can’t possibly survive 40 minutes in the air without needing to eat and drink.

In more recent science news, Finnish Scientists Successfully Transform Plant Cells into Coffee-Like Drink. That could be useful when we Earthlings eventually live on some space station and need our coffee. The Finnish scientists “transformed arabica coffee cells into something resembling a coffee drink.” Ha ha!! What do you imagine it tasted like? How much did it resemble coffee? They think that in as soon as four years, they could commercially mass produce this. Luckily, “specialty coffees with distinctive cup character affected by terroir, post-harvest processing and roasting are likely to remain at the hands of farmers.”

That’s not the only thing going on in Finland. Some Vietnamese immigrants started a Helsinki-based eco-startup, Rens, in 2019 that created a waterproof coffee sneaker out of 21 cups of coffee waste and six bottles of recycled plastic. Now Rens wants to crowdfund a climate neutral sneaker named NOMAD.

How’s that for various coffee-related trivia?

Fiftieth Kona Coffee Cultural Festival

“For the first time in fifty years, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is celebrating Kona’s famous roast in a whole new way. This year, the Festival brings the community together with in-person events that have their own charm but also in keeping with the times, a brand new online experience.” — from the paper booklet for this year’s festival.

We picked up the booklet, a hardback coffee cookbook, collectible button and several pairs of lauhala slippers at the iconic Kimura Lauhala Shop in Holualoa. Lauhala slippers were a staple at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for anyone to put on when they were inside the house. Indoor slippahs. They’re great to wear around the house; they keep your feet cool and clean. A friend who grew up on the East Coast always laughed when we said slippers in a beach context. To him, they’re the furry, frumpy house slippers you wear for warmth and comfort. I guess that’d be pantoffeln in German or tøfler in Norwegian.

Last year, 2020, should have been the big 50th celebration for the festival. This button is a 2020 collectible for the festival that didn’t happen. The festival got postponed to this year. We know how last year and this year have gone and why. I like the positive spin as to the reason for offering blended events: “In keeping with the times.” I am a fan of in-person events, as I’ve shared here several times. But I can still recognize that virtual and online events have their advantages, too, and can reach a different audience or the usual audience in a different way.

Maybe you can’t make it to Kona, but maybe you can still participate in some events that appeal to you. My favorite events are the coffee tasting and stroll in Holualoa village and the Ho’olaule’a, a Hawaiian celebration or festival, where there’s dancing, food, leis, and a large gathering of people. Those can’t really be virtual. I’ve attended a few Zoom celebrations and I find them so awkward. They’re especially so if the attendees don’t necessarily know each other. I appreciate people’s attempts to work with the medium and do what they can. Milling around, making small talk and perhaps engaging more with a few individuals is really difficult (impossible?) to replicate virtually. I find it so awkward and socially painful.

Another change to the festival is that it doesn’t last so long. It’s only November 4-7. It used to be ten days long, which I felt was too spread out.

A coffee competition is part of the festival. Someday I’d like to enter our coffee. This isn’t the year. There’s a virtual class on cupping, what the professionals do to rate different coffees as objectively as possible. This article offers a nice overview or coffee cupping guide. (Beware, it has a lot of embedded ads).

We’ve had our coffee professionally cupped for our own information, and we plan to do it again another year/season to see what has changed. This article talks about what producers can learn from having their coffee cupped.

And to throw in one more educational link, here’s an article about the evolution of the coffee tasters flavor wheel.

A little bit on a lot

In today’s post: Kilauea, COVID in Hawaii, and trash.

Kilauea started erupting again on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Where we are, you wouldn’t really know about an eruption except for vog and changes in rain patterns, which aren’t noticeable in the short run anyway.

Sulfur dioxide was at 85,000 tons at the start of the eruption on Wednesday afternoon. It was at 14,750 tons per day on Saturday, October 2. Because of wind patterns, by Friday we started seeing vog, volcanic smog. The air looks hazier, and it’s difficult to see the line where ocean meets sky.

Sunsets are odd and quick. An eery orange sun might drop below thick, grey clouds for a while, and then it gets covered by some dark grey streaks, then it disappears altogether before it gets to where the horizon should be. When there isn’t vog, we often enjoy dramatically colored sky and reflections in the water well after the sun sets. Not now. Sunsets are underwhelming.

Voggy sunset on October 2, about 20 minutes apart. Use the slider to see both photos.
Sunset on August 31

No one knows if this eruptive phase will last weeks, months, or years. The last eruption was from December 20, 2020, to May 26, after a break of two years.

On another note, since my last gloomy COVID update, cases have decreased but are still very high. For the island the 7-day case average is 50, continuing to come down from the recent peak of 145, but still almost double the previous all-time peak of 27 back in early September. In the past week or so there have been 3-5 ICU beds available again, out of the island’s 24, i.e., we haven’t required overflow ICU beds.

Still, going in the right direction. When things kept peaking, you wonder if/when it’ll turn or just how bad it will get. After swimming the other day we actually spontaneously decided to grab coffee and a pastry at Kai Eats + Drinks, a waterfront restaurant (at the former Bubba Gump location) that opened in the summer and only opened for simple breakfast October 1. You’re in on the secret. All outdoor seating. There was only one other customer group, and there were times we were the only ones. And we even asked a friend to join us when we saw him in the parking lot. A once normal social interaction, a bite to eat after an activity, felt like such a treat. I really savored it.

Hubby has recently been considering buying a small-ish (< 2-inch) wood chipper to help deal with all the various cuttings lying around on the farm. It was serendipitous when the friend who joined us for coffee mentioned that he had recently bought a powerful, second-hand 6-inch chipper and was hoping to have a little hui (group, joint ownership). He wanted to have around three others go in on it to share the usage, cost and maintenance, etc. Not many people use a chipper daily. You use it intensely, and then you don’t need it for long periods of time. I asked why he bought vs. rented. He had enough wood to mulch that he didn’t want to pay others to do it, and if he rented one, he usually waited till he had lots of big piles, and then he’d exhaust himself trying to finish it all in 8-hour day(s) during the rental period. He thought the purchase, especially with a hui, would pay for itself. So, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll be part owners of a chipper.

This type of informal information dropped at in-person, casual chats or get-togethers have really been missing with this pandemic. I haven’t taken to Zoom and have mostly withdrawn and waited for in-person meetings or activities. So I might be more out of the loop than most. I don’t know if you’ve experienced it. There have been times we’ve really kept to ourselves and then go out into the world to celebrate something. The first time we went to Magics Beach Grill in December, before widespread vaccination availability, we saw crowds of people enjoying the beach and water before and during sunset. It was like a parallel universe going on right nearby.

On yet another unrelated topic, trash. We are very close to the refuse transfer station. People from miles away bring their trash and throw it down the chute into a large metal container that gets hauled away by very large truck. Every day 6am-6pm, except for a few big holidays. No charge. You have a bed you want to dispose of? Down the chute. Occasionally they close for a training day or some reason. Almost inevitably, someone with a truck bed full of their trash thinks it’s just fine (“I’ll show them!”) to dump all their trash outside the closed gate, alongside the road.

I don’t know how many times a day the trash trucks go rumbling along our small, winding highway, tooting their big horns at blind turns. These heavy trucks beat up the road. The road has potholes and is crumbly. We would have considerably less traffic on this part of the Mamalahoa Hwy if not for this refuse station. One of the garbage trucks overturned Saturday late afternoon. We really hope that some day in our lifetimes they’ll change the entry and exit to be from the main Belt Rd. (Hwy 11) below.

One of the signs at the transfer station says “Animals are not trash.” As for our animals, the pigs … they’re still around, but don’t seem to be out in force and aren’t being super destructive (at the moment). In the morning, we inspect for damage and make small repairs if needed. We’re currently in detente.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you pigs, …

Things continue to chug along on the farm. Beans redden, get picked, then we wait for more to redden. Weed whack and try to stay ahead of unwanted growth. It’s not raining as much or as frequently, so that helps.

The pig saga continues. We aren’t the only ones with pig problems. Just standing in line at the grocery store we overheard a man talking about finally managing his pig problem, using an electric fence, of course. Turns out he was talking with my aunt’s nice ex-boyfriend from decades ago. Everyone knows everyone here.

We keep talking about our pig problem so you’ll have an understanding for the variety of problems on a Kona coffee farm. Dealing with wild pigs is frustrating, and I think it’s interesting to see the damage they do. And like all kvetching, maybe by putting the problem out there, it will elicit suggestions to solve the problem.

Most reactions are comments in the lemon/lemonade genre, pork flavor: “Time for a luau!” (got that one from a few people). “Kalua pig!” “Bacon!” “Carnitas” “Have you thought of making prosciutto?” “Just change the name to Bea’s Knees Coffee and Pulled Pork Sandwiches. That oughta scare them off.” “Special this month: Kailua [sic] pork with every order of medium roast beans.”

More tactical comments were … “You need a gun.” “You need a Volvo.” ????!!! Apparently one lady farmer in Northern California tried to (or successfully did) intentionally run into/over her pig problem. A friend on Maui, a self-described “fixer,” googled and sent a Big Island hunting website and said I needed someone like that. I had searched, too, but I hadn’t come across that site.

It turns out Justin Llanes lives up the road and he helps many people here with their pigs. When I described where we are, he knows exactly where we are and what the lay of the land means for pig hunting. My mom knew some of his ‘ohana from her childhood days. My cousins know many Llanes. I even met Justin’s uncle/godfather while both of us were getting into the water at Kahalu’u. I had chatted with him before about octopuses, but we exchanged names, coincidentally, the day after I had talked to Justin.

Anyway, I finally had developed two detailed pig plans with three different people (two related to each other). They’d hunt by bow and arrow and also take the animal(s). We had worked out the communication plan and strategy. Then, of course, NO PIGS. All was quiet on the farm. (Well, except for the coquis and crickets). Night after night. We hypothesized that maybe someone else had solved their pig problem involving the same pigs as our pig problem.

But, nope. They’re baaaaccckk. They came back two nights ago and last night.

A while ago my cousin’s husband showed up with a bucket full of ti plant cuttings from a variety of plants. Most had roots from being soaked in water for weeks. I had put each cutting in a pot with dirt and waited until they produced leaves so we could see what they all looked like. Finally we got to the stage of figuring out where we wanted to plant them. We placed them in their pots where they’d go in the ground to see how we liked them there and could envision them growing up. (Some are still in pots in places where there isn’t agreement). Waiting, patience, and procrastination were involved throughout this whole ti plant process. The majority were planted two weeks ago. Of COURSE, now that the pigs returned, even though there are three acres to wreak their havoc, they had to chomp, bulldoze, push over and/or drag a few of the small ti plants. Those same plants had been in pots for weeks/months, and they didn’t bother them.

The pig plans will have to be resurrected now.

Today I’ll leave you with a video warning hunters not to get hunted themselves, “Wild boar hunts the hunter.”

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.