It takes only a few to ruin it for all

At my weekly volunteer gig at the Amy Greenwell Garden nursery, lately I’ve been noticing eggs in random places. And the fridge is full of collected eggs. There has always been chicken drama around the nursery, which is amusing. It’s frequent and funny enough, that this short rooster video got shared amongst us.

The latest real drama at the garden is theft of valuable cultural botanical heritage. I’m going to intentionally be vague here, just because I don’t know who might stumble on this post. There is a plant of which there are several varieties. The garden has many of those varieties, and it isn’t known where else some of those varieties might be found. Period. The plant is significant enough that there is someone who harvested some, with permission, to be able to make something for the King of one of the Pacific Islands who will be in Hawai’i state in a few weeks. Hawai’i state is hosting the Festival of Pacific Art and Culture for the first time in June, in Honolulu.

Someone came to the Greenwell Garden at night and stole some plants, and some tools were left behind. We assume they got startled and made a run for it. I was there the day after, and we immediately went out and made cuttings for cultural preservation. Then, two weeks later, thieves struck again. This is not “just” agricultural theft. It’s culturally significant, valuable, valued, treasured. It hurts. I believe the garden used to just have low stone walls around the garden, and it was about 2015 when a wire fence went up, and locked gates at the road entrances. I had assumed it was to keep pigs out. Now more security and maybe cameras are called for. It saddens everyone that it’s come to this.

By the way the Amy Greenwell Garden website was recently updated. I don’t think it’s completed yet. But the Visit link has some very well done plant descriptions, really highlighting the ethnobotanical significance, and available in audio from various garden kūpuna.

What does a label or image evoke?

This Mother’s Day dawn at about 6am was quite beautiful. The sun rises “behind” us which is great for rainbows if there’s rain on the ocean. In the photo on the right you can see the shadow of Hualālai. The double rainbow ends at the shadow.

We are almost there regarding the coffee labeling bill! It only needs to be approved by Governor Green. I have mixed feelings. Fifty-one percent (51%) is much better than 10% of required Kona coffee to be called a Kona coffee blend. But I feel like we’ll never get to 100% now. You don’t buy Champagne-blend sparkling wine with 51% Champagne; you buy Champagne.

A few weeks ago a mainland roaster sent an email asking if we had green arabica coffee beans for sale, and then asked about Kona Peaberry. Something about the inquiry got my spam hackles up. I looked up what they sell, and I looked up what they wrote about Kona peaberry. It was mostly an OK write-up, very detailed. They were sold out, at the price of $149.99/pound.

Does anyone see anything wrong with their image? Out of principle, I don’t think I could sell beans to this roaster. I didn’t answer. But when they inquired a second time, I gave a polite “no” response, and couldn’t resist politely pointing out the problem with the image. It’s a different island. Do you recognize which island is shown?

On the subject of labeling and marketing, I’m happy that there is also a bill for macadamia nut processors to disclose where the macadamia nuts originate. There is a particular brand of mac nuts with its distinguishable brand color and look. They are sold everywhere here! The size of the nuts shrunk over the years. I investigated, and the majority of the nuts are no longer from Hawai’i. People come here and buy them as gifts for people on the mainland, and those nuts aren’t really even from here.

Changing subjects … completely unrelated to coffee, we enjoyed one of the best shows on Friday. It was the annual show of Kealakehe High School’s Polynesian Club. The club spent nine months working on the production. What a treat for the audience. This year featured Hawai’i, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa. It was super exciting and high energy. I danced with Nonosina’s Polynesian Dance Studio in Southern California when I was about 5 years old, so I’m a little familiar with the music and dance styles. Friday’s show felt new, exciting, and much more authentic. If you are local or in the area in May of next year, try to score a ticket. They were $5 this year, and there was a show on two nights.

The photos below are mostly from the Samoan dances. From Wikipedia, “It is a universal practice for modern Samoans to “lafo” — throw money onto the floor or into the air above the dancer —or place money on the dancer in acknowledgment of her skill and status.” The keiki were scrambling to gather up the money after a dance, and put it with the rest of the money to, I assume, give to the club. It was fun to see the aunties dancing in the sidelines, and then they were mostly the ones placing money on the dancers. The dancers in the traditional costumes on the side had a lot of oil on them, and the dollar bills would stick right to them. The video of the couple are of the Tahitian king and queen for the night.

Big Joe stumbles across a free cupping session

A little while ago I got another series of texts from Big Joe in Seattle. According to Wikipedia, “Seattle is regarded as a world center for coffee roasting and coffee supply chain management.” (You know, Starbucks.)

“I stumbled across a free coffee cupping session at Caffe Vita. Every Friday at 10:00 a.m. apparently. About 20 of us got to taste 12 different coffees. We used clean spoons to put coffee into our individual cups. It’s not the same as a complete end to end cupping per person of course. Sam here is their director of coffee experience. I think a lot of roasters from Portland to Seattle have one hour a week where they offer free cupping.

I asked her about the coffees which were all in funny little bags. She had collected these at coffee industry trade events. Free samples really. But she had brought a lot of her favorite unusual ones. A lot of light roasts. Fair amount of Ethiopia and Guatemala. Pretty interesting. Fruity

A couple of the coffees tasted so much like fruit juice and not coffee, and that was pretty exciting. I didn’t really want to own those coffees though.

[Joe bro] says that Stumptown always had a good cupping, and [Joe bro] and I are going to a cupping at Coava when I’m passing through Portland next week. There are websites that list all the cuppings in Portland and Seattle, separate sites or people on Reddit or blogs.”

So that’s a good tip for those of you living in or visiting the Seattle/Portland areas, interested in cupping. Here are links to some older posts I wrote on cupping:
Intro to Cupping
Cuppin’ da Bea’s Knees
Cupping to improve your palate

One of our Master Gardener classmates tours our farm

Most of this post is going to be about plants on the farm other than coffee. If you’re only interested in coffee, here are a few recent photos.

I had some surplus seedlings of various plants that I offered to one of our Master Gardener classmates and neighbors. We’re behind in getting plants in the ground and/or up-potted. We’re always behind. So it’s good to re-home them. We offered to show our classmate and her husband the various plants we have out in the farm when she came to pick the seedlings up.

I was pleased when she immediately recognized that I had up-potted my vanilla orchid that we propagated in class last year. I had just up-potted it less than two weeks ago , and it felt like a big victory, because I had wanted to get it in the ground eight months ago. She confessed hers is still in the one gallon pot. The dilemma for me is often I want to put something in the ground, but I can’t decide where the appropriate place is, where the plant will get the soil, sun, rain conditions it wants, AND where the pigs won’t harass them. And time keeps ticking. The Master Gardener vanilla in the program’s greenhouse are in pots, so I felt like a bigger pot rather than in-ground is OK, and a pot will give me more flexibility for relocation options.

One of the things to plant I shared with my friend were sweet potatoes. The variety of sweet potatoes I took home from Amy Greenwell Garden … instead of just curing and sweetening, well, some of them ended up sprouting. Our pantry is dark, but it’s not a cool root cellar. We salvaged what we could to eat, and then made slips to plant, with more than enough to share. I originally had thoughts of distinguishing the different varieties, but in the end we just ate a medley of sweet potatoes, and some will be planted with no label whatsoever. They need to be planted, but we don’t have a pig-safe strategy. So I have that obstacle, which causes me to procrastinate.

It was fun to show and tell, including our germination and propagation experiments we started over a year ago in class — various native plants and trees. Some are thriving in the ground, some are root bound in their pots, some have been harvested and Gen-2 is in the works, some plants are properly up-potted and will hopefully soon get planted in the ground.

When we walked through the farm, it was fun to talk plants with someone who knows more than the average person about plants, is interested, still learning like us, asks questions, and shares her knowledge. Her family used to grow coffee, too.

The photos below show some of the non-coffee plants on our land as they currently are. There’s a huge avocado tree on our border with the ‘ulu co-op. The leaves aren’t all that plentiful because of avocado lace bug. Those avocados are about 5-7″ long, though they might appear smaller because they’re so high up. Look at them all! Our Julie dwarf mango, standing about 6-feet tall, is full of blossoms. The fruit was pretty sizable and delicious last year. And a dwarf mango tree is a good thing here. We have two rollinia fruit, even though we didn’t hand-pollinate. When our friend asked if we hand pollinated, it nudged me to consider it. We have so many rollinia flowers now. From what I read, the best time of day is early evening, i.e., mosquito time, and likely rainy time. Hmmm, maybe, maybe not. Bea and Dad hand pollinated their cherimoya (same family as rollinia). Our Kahalu’u avocado has had baby fruit before, but they dropped off. This year we have about 50, and they’ve reached the size of very large olives. I hope we’ll end up with some edible fruit to at least try this year.

The pink buds and blossom are from a red mountain apple we were given as a small seedling. It went in the ground three years ago and was 18″ tall. It was about 15 feet high when it got severely pruned a few days ago. We didn’t think we had any buds, because we would have let the tree finish fruiting before pruning. The tree was growing so rapidly, we didn’t want it to get out of hand. And then after he pruned, Hubby discovered that there actually were a few buds.

In the Hawai’i way, our friend brought us something to thank us for the plants. And what a treat! Kona crab, cooked and ready to eat! Right at the very end of the season. You can only catch them in months with the letter R. I learned that her dad has the traps out only for about 30 minutes. If you leave them longer, the puffer fish will come to the larder and eat the crab, maybe just leaving a few claws as proof that there had once been crabs.

Clearing, grubbing, grading, and planting

Big things happening in our neighborhood. Sometimes a lot happens at once. Our section of the old, mauka Mamalahoa Highway, got repaved several weeks ago. It needed it. We regularly have big trash containers from the transfer station rumbling and bouncing by. Once a pothole develops, it just keeps getting bigger. I think the paving added two to three inches of height to the road, and the “shoulder” or edge of the highway has gotten steeper.

The risk of rolling a vehicle is high. There was a single vehicle accident (driven off the road and stuck down a hill) within days of the paving. I’m hoping some guardrails are going to be installed in certain areas. But things happen when they happen. They’ve filled the edges with some looser gravelly stuff to lessen the difference, but driving on this road requires careful attention. It did before, and it still does.

Now we have a nice, smooth surface, but amusingly wiggly (in places) “temporary” yellow center divider tape, and sometimes sharp road edges. I know of another road that was paved over a year ago, and they still have the temporary yellow tape. Temporary is not permanent, but it’s not defined by an absolute time.

Our neighbor had driveway work done, so heavy equipment was (still is) here. Then another neighbor commissioned the equipment operators for a job. And then another neighbor for a different, small job involving clearing out coffee trees. Work happens so quickly with a compact excavator. Two days. Huge, big, and other trees be gone! I don’t know what our cousins’ ultimate plans are, but what they’re doing reminds me of my surrender fantasy: rip out the coffee and plant grass that you mow with a rideable mower. In the photo below you can see the other grassy plot in the distance, butting into the larger trees. Those owners cleared those acres in August. There was big equipment crunching down big trees for days. I’m wondering what will go in there and when.

Yet another neighbor, across the road, up the hill, cleared acres of their land almost four years ago. There used to be a forest of weed trees (autograph trees, African tulips, schefflera, etc.), and we were used to the green jungle look above us. And then they were all cleared out. Shortly afterward grass appeared. And every few weeks, someone goes by on a very big mower for hours. We could see two houses above that we never used to see, and for a while we felt exposed. But you get used to it. Now there are some bananas planted and some other trees. All that grass in the photo below is new-ish, since they cleared out most of the big trees. It has a nice, cared-for estate appearance to it now, vs. dark, green jungle.

I guess there’s been a slow wave in the ‘hood of clearing large, invasive trees. We’re not going to let those big invasives win! Reclaim the land, allow some sun in for desirable plants. It was a little over two years ago that our other neighbor, the ‘Ulu Co-op, cleared out their big weed trees on our border. One of those brittle, weed trees had already fallen into our land during a big wind storm a few months prior. After they cleared the big guys, they put in solar panels.

Friday I watched the last state-wide Zoom class for the 2024 class of Master Gardeners. Two lectures: Weed Management and Invasive Species. I learned about the topics last year, but I figured it’d be good to see it again. It seems like we spend most of our time dealing with the undesirables than tending and enjoying the desirables. There were many interesting strategies discussed.

I learned a term new for me: grubbing, which was happening next door just this week. Hawaii’s Dept. of Transportation says: Grubbing is defined as removing and disposing of all unwanted vegetative matter from underground, such as stumps, roots, buried logs, and other debris. Debris is defined as unusable or unwanted material produced by clearing and grubbing.  Thereafter you grade (maybe do some filling, leveling or getting a specific slope), then you plant your desirable crop or plants. I’m excited to see what will happen next door!

We’re all back to thinking we need to fence to keep the pesky pigs out, though. We’ve waffled for years because it’s expensive, and it’s not so easy with the terrain, e.g., rock walls, some crumbling, weed trees on the border, and neighbors’ water lines running above ground. One person I know fenced, and it was all fine and dandy for many months, until some pigs got in and were stuck inside the property. What to do, what to do …