The Annual June Stump Report

And for the annual June blog theme … the year’s stump progress. When we started renovating the coffee land at the beginning of 2018, the plan was to divide the three acres into three blocks. We’d stump one block each year in January/February. It’d help us clean up the coffee farm and also control Coffee Borer Beetle. The year’s stumped block wouldn’t contribute any coffee to that season’s harvest. Every year by June, the stumps have grown into lollipops and then been thinned to the strongest 4-5 verticals that will be the producers for the next two years. I find it amazing. Now, the third year, the whole farm has been brought back into control.

My friend Will has been practicing his photography skills with his new phone out in our coffee land. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos, Will.

A Cup of Coffee Memories

The coffee harvesting season mandated that the summer vacation for Kona schools coincided with the “coffee picking season,” to the chagrin of all the students whose parents were farmers. All family members were depended upon to harvest the crop. August, September, and October were the endless coffee picking days of summer. So, we became very astute at finding excuses to steal away a few hours to have fun. But our parents were even more astute to not fall for the daily ploy to escape the work. However, there was one guarantee that never failed to grant our great escape — it rained often during the coffee season! Looking back to those young-kid-days brings back such pleasant memories of family members working together to advance the family economics and fellowship that strengthened the ties that have bonded each family for generations.

“Uncle Ray”

This is an old postcard from United Airlines. The postcard description on the back says, “School vacations coincide with harvests so the youngsters can help to pick coffee beans.”

Jeep Days of Summer

At the end of WWII there was a huge surplus of the all-purpose military vehicle
named the “Jeep” that replaced the pack animal, the “Kona Nightingale” donkey, that carried the 100 pound bags of coffee cherries. Cherries were picked each day and hauled to the pulping machine next to the hoshidana drying platform that every farmer had.

But the Jeep was used for a better purpose on those days when there was a break in coffee picking – the Jeep was our transportation to the beach. With luck on
our side, we survived the Jeep that had no seat belts, no doors, no power brakes,
no power steering, no roof, no ABS, no GPS, and no rational adult behind the wheel.
Those were the fun Jeep days of summer between coffee picking days.

“Uncle Ray”

Bea really liked this story.

I have a few of my own memories of the jeep, different than Uncle Ray’s. Grandpa would take me in his jeep to go pick poha berries (cape gooseberry, not the same as gooseberry; or physalis peruviana) so Grandma could make jam. I don’t remember a door or seat belt in that jeep.

Another memory is when my California-born-and-raised dad drove us in Grandpa’s jeep. When we took the steep road down from the mauka road to the Belt Road, he had trouble getting it into gear as he downshifted. We were picking up speed in neutral, and I could sense the danger with Dad fumbling and scrambling. He did have experience with military jeeps during his army service, so muscle memory came through in the end.

I know we must have photos of Grandpa’s jeep, but I just couldn’t find any yet. So for the moment I had to find a royalty-free image, not even in Hawaii. When searching for an image, I stumbled upon an apparently long-running myth about $50 for a WWII military jeep in a crate.

Uncle Ray Talks Story

[This is Sharlene writing the majority of this; Uncle Ray’s voice comes at the end of this post.]

I grew up on the mainland. I loved going to Hawaii and spending time with the ‘ohana. I’d keep my Hawaiian aloha going when back home in California. As a kid I adored the yellow book, Pidgin to da Max, and I loved listening to cassette tapes of Frank de Lima’s comedy sketches. I danced hula on & off, as a kid and adult. I have quite a few friends with Hawaiian roots and connections.

I share this because I’m not local or kama’aina (born and raised in Hawaii), but I’m familiar with what’s local. I notice and experience things differently than true locals. I will sometimes write and explain things that would be obvious or maybe uninteresting to locals, and sometimes I may even get things a little wrong (if so, please let me know).

In Hawaii, the culture is to call your peers “braddah” and “sistah” and your parents’ peers “uncle” and “aunty.” So, when you and your dad order poke at Umeke’s, da braddah behind the counter might ask your dad, “Uncle, you like brown or white rice wid dat?”

One time I was in the sitting area at Daleco waiting for a new car battery to be installed. I kept hearing, “Aunty! You like eat Cheetos?” “Aunty, you like?” I finally looked up. Oh, they were talking to ME! The three guys behind the counter were having a snack, and good manners dictated they also offer me some. And now the time has come … I’m in the aunty generation.

My friends’ young daughter once told me, “Aunty, no offense, but my mom and dad said your grey hair makes you look old. But no offense.” I think I caught her by surprise with my response, “So why are you telling me then?” I am old. Older than her and many others; younger than others. A meditation mantra I like comes to mind, one I find particularly helpful in acknowledging and accepting our human condition:

I am of the nature to age.
I am of the nature to get sick.
I am of the nature to die.

All this has been a meandering wind-up for the rest of this post and a few upcoming posts. “Uncle Ray” is a Hawaiian uncle, not my blood uncle like Uncle Harold (UH), but a family friend and a peer of Bea’s. During the stay-at-home order (recently loosened to safer-at-home), three of my mom’s generation have been sheltering altogether on their parents’ former coffee farm. I asked them if they had stories to share from the old coffee farm days. Uncle Ray rose to the challenge, giving me several stories.

More Than Just a Coffee Farm
The “coffee land,” as we called the farm, grew more than just coffee. Coffee was the
economic platform on which the family stood. But coffee was only the floor of the
house – the values of a family working together for the good of all created the walls
and roof that sheltered and nurtured the occupants of the house. There were
branches to be pruned, young shoots to be yanked off the tree trunk to prevent
over-growth of branches, fertilizer to be applied, weeds to be dealt with, coffee
berries to be harvested, and the berries to be processed and dried. It was a carefully orchestrated effort with everyone in the family playing a part. The coffee land brewed and fostered robust values of work, ethics, accomplishment, cooperation, appreciation, and enjoyment that created an Arabica brew that was uniquely Kona Coffee.

“Uncle Ray”

Alternative Milks

Do you drink coffee with milk? Cow milk or an alternative milk?

I didn’t start drinking coffee until college. I could drink three cups in the evening and still fall asleep over my books. But when I woke up from the evening nap … zing!! I was wired. I could get some concentrated studying in. I always drank my coffee with half & half, or at least milk, and milk tasted so meager in comparison. I only used sugar very early on and taught my tastebuds to go without; milk actually has a sweetening effect.

It wasn’t until learning more about coffee and trying to pay more attention to the actual coffee’s taste that I gave up adding milk. I still sometimes add half & half if I get a cup of, e.g., Starbucks coffee. I’m not recommending you learn to drink coffee without milk. When we do coffee tastings, we do ask that you try and really taste a sip without milk, but then drink it however you enjoy and usually drink it.

I’ve discovered that oat milk with cold coffee and ice can really hit the spot. I just think of cold coffee as a different beverage than hot coffee. I’m not a morning cold coffee drinker though. So, for me, a cold coffee or a coffee cocktail would be an afternoon or later treat.

I’ve found these articles interesting for covering alternative milks. I often try alternative milks, usually for cereal more than coffee, just out of curiosity and for variety. One article is about oat milk — the recent trendy darling of the alternative milks. I think oat milk has a nice neutral flavor and texture, but nutrition-wise, I miss the protein that’s in cow and soy milk. The other two older articles are geared towards baristas, but with sheltering, many of us are now home baristas, right?