Delicious yet invasive plants; luxury yacht; coffee & sleep

We are back on island. We brought some dried local fruit and some frozen lychee to Mom. But we ate a lot of fresh tropical fruit at Mom’s, grown by Mom. She’s a lifetime member of the California Rare Fruit Growers. I found this excerpt in their Our Roots page: “CRFG considers rare fruits to include the unusual and unappreciated, fruits difficult to grow by reason of climate along with extraordinary and superior forms of conventional, temperate zone fruits.”

Her strawberry guava trees, one red and one yellow, had a lot of ripe fruit. They were about 1 inch big. They are so delicious and perishable, so it might not be easy to find in stores in case you’re wanting to try them. I kept wavering whether I liked the red or the yellow better. I know they’d grow well here in Kona. They’d grow too well, and that’s the problem. They’re one of the worst trees to grow here. That’s why I had to enjoy them in California. This is the entry for strawberry guava on plantpono.

If you live in Hawai’i and don’t know about the plantpono website, bookmark it. I always check it before accepting any plant. There have been various fruits, flowers, plants good for tea that I’ve not bought nor accepted as gifts because they’re invasive.

On another note, this super luxury yacht has been anchored below us, gone maybe a few days, for almost two weeks. It’s strange to see what sort of looks like a lighted Christmas tree out the window at night. You do a double take, because our night ocean view is mostly dark, with just a few known property lights between us and the ocean. With our binoculars we can see it has a helicopter pad on it. Someone on NextDoor shared this link about the $100M yacht Anawa. Hubby and I were hypothesizing why they’ve anchored there. It’s not like we often (ever?) see parked yachts there. We guess that if they do go on shore by smaller watercraft, maybe they use Keauhou Bay, which isn’t too far north. There’s a lot of undeveloped land between us and the ocean, so they shouldn’t have shoreline hotel guests or condo owners using their telescopes and binoculars like paparazzi. They live different lives.

I’ll end with sharing a few coffee-related articles:

I recently browsed this article about, “A study involving hundreds [of] men working in financial trading suggests an interdependency between drinking alcohol and caffeinated coffee can develop in order to self-regulate sleep.”  This other article talks about coffee or a nap making up for sleep deprivation.

And one more article to share, about music and coffee making brains work better. Make sure and drink a cuppa if you decide to read the full study link they provide at the end.

Bea’s Backyard in the Fall of 2023

It’s Thanksgiving week. I’m sure you’ve thought that gratitude doesn’t have to be tied to turkey, November, or solicitations to donate to too many worthy causes. I personally struggle with allowing myself to get, or at least feel, too busy, often in the November to January timeframe. This year many things, many one-time events, all seemed to fall around the same time. My friends often hear me complain that I get busy in bursts.

I took time out for a one-day silent retreat, and I was very present for that dedicated time. Interestingly, almost as soon as I returned home, I got mentally caught up in all I had to do, things pushed around by blocking off the time for the retreat, and I felt grouchy. I noticed and felt something in the direction of personal failure, but I reasoned with myself that it was yet another lesson. Next time I need to plan in advance for some gentle transition time.

It reminds me of when I regularly meditated at a center that had trees in the parking lot. They were each protected by sturdy, encircling protective metal cages. There were signs at every nearby parking spot to be mindful of the trees. I had been going for many months. One day after several hours of meditation starting at 5:30am, I pulled out of the parking lot and heard a surprising, jarring, loud thunk and scrape. I had hit a metal tree cage and left a scrape and dent in the car door. Whenever I’d later see that damage, it was a visual reminder to strive to be ever mindful, and it takes constant effort.

We are off island to celebrate Thanksgiving with Bea and bro. We spent about 2.5 hours at LAX (Los Angeles airport) last night, a Sunday, waiting to get to Mom’s. An accident happened after bro was on I-105 coming to get us. They completely closed a section of freeway, and traffic was crawling inch by inch. When my brother finally got near the airport, he was stuck in a tunnel for 20 minutes. He was afraid it was going to be like when he & Bea returned to LAX and had to wait for Bea’s neighbor to reach them. It had taken over two hours from that same under-runway tunnel to where they were waiting curbside. We strategized on the fly, resulting in Hubby and I walking, wheeling luggage, about 15-20 minutes, to get off the airport property and on to a neighboring street where we finally got into the car. Welcome to LA!

I compensated by touring the Garden of Bea this morning, marveling at a fraction of what I can notice and identify that she has growing. I’m always amazed that with all she has, she still knows what pots she has which seedlings in. She doesn’t lose track of her plant babies.

I’ll end with a little clarification about subscribing to our coffee. In the marketing email I recently sent I said, “If you’d like to subscribe at $40/pound, please let me know before January 1, 2024.  Minimal commitment is one pound every three months.” I also reminded you that for shipments over five pounds to one U.S. address, shipping is free. Thank you to the leaders and organizers amongst you who’ve organized a quarterly group subscription shipment to one address, saving you all shipping fees.

We’d prefer a subscription be (a) for a minimum of a one pound bag and (b) a shipment every three months or sooner. We have surprisingly high packaging costs, which is why our half-pound bag costs more than half a one-pound bag. If you choose a subscription that involves half-pound units, it would be $22/half-pound bag.

I want to make a subscription something that works for both of us, so if you’re looking for some other frequency, just ask. What works for you?

Enjoy your Thanksgiving week, reflecting on what you’re personally thankful for, and may you be with, or hold in your hearts, those you love.

We have coffee! And, the end of the festival…

I have wonderful news … our shop is again open! We have coffee to roast and sell. And the pickers are here today, getting the last third or fourth of our harvest, to be dry milled in 2024. In the next days we’ll have a good idea of our season’s harvest. It has been dark and drizzling before noon today, but the sun is coming out again.

Ten days of coffee festival activities are now over. There are so many things going on, we don’t go to all of them. Last year I decided to try one event new for me each year so I can get a feel for what it’s about. This year my new event was Kona’s Got Talent Showcase, which is held mauka (upland), not in Kailua. We almost didn’t go; inertia is so hard to overcome. We got over the hump by saying we’d go for at least an hour (this is often a trick I’ve used to get started on consulting projects for the day).

We saw more than these performers, but the Little Miss Kona Coffee participants (ages 7-12) were the cutest, so I snapped photos mostly of them. The winner demonstrated archery. We could use her help with our pigs. I apologize for the blurry photos.

At the Talent Showcase I learned that it was the late Fusao Sugai that insisted this event be held mauka. He and his family were honored at the event. The Sugai family is our direct neighbor.

For nearly thirty years, Sugai Kona Coffee farm owner Fusao Sugai supported the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. With his passing earlier this summer, Kona lost a Kona coffee pioneer. Fusao’s community involvement was vast and the Festival honors his commitment to the community and Kona coffee.

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival 2023 Program

Saturday was the Ho’olaule’a at the Old Airport. It was great fun again this year. Great performances going on the whole time (9am-3pm), and a constant stream of locals and visitors milling about. Like last year, I helped Reiko teach how to make ti-leaf leis. We were only two (vs. three) this year, and we were constantly busy. There are always a few who are really delighted and so appreciative of learning how to do this … they make it all worthwhile. “I’m SO happy!! I’m SO happy!! Thank you SO MUCH!” I met a couple from O’ahu who stumbled upon the festival event along with their mainland friends/visitors. They said they had bought ti leaf leis to greet them, not knowing they’d have this opportunity to make them.

We were so busy teaching, neither Reiko nor I saw the displayed leis entered in the contest, which are these beautiful, ephemeral pieces of art. There’s a silent auction for them, so they had all gone to their new owners by mid-day. The photo for this post was a lei entry from 2022.

At the end, one of Reiko’s Japanese friends came by, who has been dancing hula for many years. She very quickly demonstrated one way to make the kupe’e lei, the greenery worn around the forehead, wrists, ankles, or as a hair ornament. It seemed straightforward until I tried to do it myself. What a disaster. She said she used to perform every Monday, and she’d have to make 20 kupe’e for that performance. And when there were competitions, others in her hālau weren’t as good at making them, so they’d cajole, “Auntiiieeee, can you make my kupe’e?” In other words, she’s had lots of practice over the years. She told me of many locations where she planted ti canes, including her condo complex, stealth at night. She needed a good supply of leaves. She told me that when she first moved to Hawai’i, she was fascinated by kupe’e and wanted to make them. She couldn’t speak English, and she’d just stare at it, and a dancer gave her her kupe’e, and she took it apart and tried to reverse engineer how to make it. Well, I have her example, and she told me, “YouTube!”

UH-CTAHR Extension had a booth right next to ours. Our Master Gardener classes were held at their extension office in Kainaliu. [By the way, if you’re local and reading this, you can apply for the 2024 Master Gardener class.] What was most interesting to me this time was the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles (CRB), and the huge larvae, they had to show. Ewww. The newest scourge to reach this island, just a month ago: “On October 11th, a Waikoloa Village resident found five large CRB grubs, or larvae, in a decaying palm tree stump on the property.” They significantly damage coconut palms, destroying their look, and can kill the tree. It is always something.

The last event was yesterday, the Kona Coffee Recipe Contest with tastings, and the Big Island Showcase and Kona Coffee Expo. More performances, gratitude expressed, and the recipe and the coffee cupping contest winners were announced. Following are just a few visuals. I didn’t take a photo of the big ballroom with all the tables and all the recipe and coffee contest samples. I was too busy getting my samples.

The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is underway!

As of Friday, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is on! We were there as spectators at the first four events: (1) Made in Hawai’i Artisan Market, (2) Lantern Parade, (3) Multicultural Showcase, and (4) the Holualoa Coffee and Art Stroll. For many (most?) of the events, you only need the $5 festival button to get in. We already had ours and forgot to bring them to the first three events, all in Kailua. At a token cost of $5, you just buy them again.

Don’t dawdle over dinner too long or you’ll miss the Lantern Parade! Daifukuji’s youth taiko group was by far the most exciting group. Nothing like the drums stirring up energy and reverberating through your body. [FYI, they are holding a silent online auction to raise money for the youth to go to Japan next year.] We were watching by the end of the parade route, where each group would pause before they got officially announced.

I don’t exactly understand who gets to walk in the parade. This is the Entry Form. There was one couple that walked in it. Their announcement had almost gotten skipped, because they were just these two people (visiting tourists?) walking in the dark with their two lanterns, as opposed to a larger community group. I didn’t see the Kealakehe High School Polynesian Club this year, in the parade or the subsequent Multicultural Showcase. They are such a large club, and their presence and performances are powerful, commanding, and impressive.

I really enjoyed the Multicultural Showcase. I think it’s attended by more locals than visitors, yet it’s appealing to all. But somehow my cousins who were at the parade didn’t know about it and all missed it. It’s not a lūʻau or show put on just for tourists. I like that there can be hula groups of Merrie Monarch caliber, and they’re dancing in jeans and t-shirts. Or musicians play a song that several dancers love, and they just jump up and dance, and you can see the different choreography.

I was most excited by Kamaha’o Haumea-Thronas, a 14 year old boy. He was singing and playing ukulele on stage with two adult men accompanying him on instruments when we walked in. This is him in a photo that Reiko took. WOW!! What talent! I am an instant fan. His Hawaiian style falsetto was right on. This song, Ali’i No ‘Oe, was one of the songs he sang, and it was even better than the video from a year ago. He had fun, natural stage presence. I found this on YouTube, his performance for the 2023 Kamehameha Schools Song Contest.

The Kona Hongwanji taiko group played bon dance songs, and kūpuna (seniors), youngsters, teens, Miss Kona Coffee competitors, and people of all ethnicities and mixes jumped in and out of the dancing circle depending on the song. She-can-do-it-all, multi-talented Reiko was there, someone to follow/mimic. She can be found at many bon dances around the island during the bon dance season. [In just the few days prior I’ve seen her swimming, playing the Japanese nose flute, dancing hula bringing me to cathartic tears, and she had made Japanese food, flower arrangements, and a variety of leis.] It was fun to see Kamaha’o jump in, like any other kid in the audience might. There was the traditional coal miner’s song (my friend was going through the motions sitting down, remembering it from her childhood) and then modern dances choreographed to, e.g., Bruno Mars (who hails from Hawai’i). This is living culture!

Changing gears, getting ready to wind this post up, I’ll throw in a few images from the farm. Our very first rollinia. We’ll have to look up or ask around about when to harvest it.

And a photo in the spirit of keeping it real. Not all is perfect. This autograph tree has taken over a dead coffee stump. You might think, “That’s a nice tree.” It’s not. We are always battling autograph trees. At least they are much smaller on our property now, since we continually whack away at them. It’s like whack-a-mole — they’re always sprouting and re-sprouting up somewhere.

I’ll leave you with a fun-with-cousins photo from Saturday’s sunset, taken at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. Do you see what we’re spelling? [It’s NOT ALMA, you smart aleck!]

Coffee (rain, flowers, fruit); late season mangoes; dragon fruit

Happy Halloween! To the theme, and following on my earlier pig story, here’s a good one: sneaky swine strolls into drug store in search of Halloween treats.

We just had a little bit of coffee flowering a few days ago. Flowers only last a few days. I didn’t take the picture when a few nice branches popped for me, and today I had a hard time finding some, especially mid-day (the flowers are easier to see in morning light).

I can trace back why we had flowers, to the day. August through October we’ve had a reasonable number of days of rain, but usually a small amount, under half an inch, and often barely measurable. The dry season started early, probably due to El Niño. And then October 19 we received almost an inch, when we hadn’t received that much in a day since August 1. About a week after a good rain after a dry period, we get flowers.

My friend was feeling mildly overwhelmed. She’s barely able to keep up with picking the coffee cherry, and then it’s already flowering again, reminding you they’re coming back. At least it’ll be about seven months later.

Normally we’d get flowers, maybe in December, likely January, but the big flowering usually happens February and March. It’s 210-220 days later that we’ll get cherry. So October 19 means we’ll have a small amount of cherry in May. It’ll probably just be a little bit of fruit. Since coffee berry borer (CBB) beetle lays eggs in the berry, for that small amount, it’d be best if we just do a sanitation pick. Pick the fruit and dispose of it. Remove potential beetle nursery homes.

Three weeks after the last picking, we need to pick again. This harvest can be traced back to the big flowering we had around April 7, the flowering that happened 210-220 days ago.

This less than usual amount of rain, and sometimes dry periods, have stressed the trees. We’re starting to see a little bit of coffee leaf rust again. I’m hoping we’ll have rain in November. In 2021 when we had very little rain in both October and November AND the new coffee leaf rust, the trees suffered badly, resulting in our low yield in the 2021-2022 season. That’s why we had nothing to offer by March this year.

On another note, a friend and I visited Susie and Terry Weaver’s farm to pick up some fruit. My friend had been there once, but hadn’t been doing the driving, and she wasn’t super confident she’d remember exactly where to go. We were prepared for it to be a bit of an adventure, a truck being useful to get down the long bumpy farm road to their packing plant. If you have a subscription to West Hawaii Today, you can read an old article from 2017 about the Weavers’ farm.

They still had some mangoes, which is the end of the usual fruiting period. But they had some last year in December, too. We seem to increasingly have outliers from normal. Someday I will have to take UH over to look at their beautifully pruned mango trees. Their mangoes are just the best!! And their dragonfruit, too. They sell their fruit wholesale to ChoiceMART in Captain Cook and Nestor at the farmers market across from Hale Halawai. We were going to buy some off-grade mangoes and pick up some dried fruit that they occasionally sell to friends. There were several boxes of dragon fruit headed to Ola Brew. I know they have an IPA and a hard cider that use dragon fruit. They spoke highly of Ola Brew being a great supporter, wholesale customer of local farmers.

I’ll end my writing with a divergence, because I find it interesting. Kona Brewing Company isn’t the company you might imagine it to be. You probably suspected when you could find cases of bottled Kona Brewing beers at Costcos on the mainland. There was a class-action false labeling lawsuit in 2017 about whether its beer was actually brewed in Hawai’i or not. If you’re interested, research Kona Brewing Company. I thought I found an article that was going to compare Kona Brewing to Ola Brew, but I found an interesting article from February 2023 about two Kona Brewing companies instead. Once again, I started with coffee and veered quite a ways away …