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.

Stumped coffee trees.

Three year olds meet the ax again

Last week the trees that were stumped in 2018 were stumped for their second time. We have three blocks; every year one block will be stumped in Jan/Feb. That means only 2/3 of the land is productive every year. And one third gets to concentrate on growing without producing fruit (or potential beetle homes). Every time we think it looks pretty devastating, yet it does also tidy up the land, especially once the cuttings are chipped and used to mulch around the trees.

Here’s a little photo update on the other trees recently planted.

Bea's California coffee

Want to be a Californian coffee farmer?

I’ve written a few posts about the recent movement to grow coffee in California. Brief aside, this is a good opportunity to metaphorically teach you to fish. At the bottom of all the website pages, there’s a Search text box. You could put in “California” to find search hits within our website to find those old articles.

Here for your amusement are a few more recent stories on the topic:

Coffee in San Diego North County

And, for a lifestyle farm just under 10 acres in size in Montecito, you’ll need just under $15M. What do you think the probability is your farm business would ever be profitable?

Since we’re on the topic of terroir, here’s a succinct reminder from Luxury Travel Magazine, “What’s the Fuss About Kona Coffee From the Big Island?

And, a follow-up on the topic of my fear of planting trees, the avocado we planted in November, grew six inches in the past six weeks. We recently picked up a few different plants just because we saw them while at Ace Hardware and recognized they were on our list of desired plants that we keep a lookout for. I’m happy to report that we have our new plant little-fire-ant quarantine process down, which gives us peace of mind, and the plants were all ant free.

Hubby just planted a Yamagata avocado near the Kahalu’u one. I thought he planted it too close. It was 13 feet away, but the recommendation is to plant them 25-35 feet apart. It is just so hard to imagine the potential of these now young 3-4 foot tall trees. He insists he’s going to aggressively prune them, but I convinced him to move it now. It’s so much easier in the long run. They’re now 21 feet apart.

closeup Kona coffee blossoms

Winter on the Farm. January 2021

Winter on the farm. It’s a cool 63 degrees most mornings around 6am. Afternoons might reach 80 if the sun is out. Today (Monday, Jan. 25) at 4pm it’s lightly raining and only 70 degrees. The hubby is watching the World Cup cross-country skiing competition streamed from a Norwegian TV channel. Who woulda thunk he’d be living so far in distance and lifestyle from Norway. During daylight saving time, there’s a 12 hour time difference between Hawaii and Norway (11 hours in winter). That’s pretty much the worse jet lag conditions you can experience. Today, instead of being surrounded by snow, he has Kona snow.

It’s not unusual for mornings to be overcast, or there might be dark clouds over the ocean. The shoreline is about 1.75 miles away “as the crow flies.” If we’re looking at the ocean, the sun rises from behind us, lighting up the dark, grey ocean. It provides favorable whale watching conditions. You can see whale spouts with your naked eye, and then you might see a dark spot disturb the water, the whale breaking the surface. That’s an indication to get out the binoculars.

After a month where it rained only two times, two weeks apart, we’ve had a run of seven straight days with rain every late afternoon. After a few dry days, today is an odd day, where it started raining about 5am and has continued off and on and no blue sky seen all day. The flower buds have been opening, and it’ll be about seven months until we see ripe fruit. It’s a light/medium amount of blossoms. It’s not yet the days of glorious, fragrant Kona snow on almost every tree everywhere at all the farms. That’ll be a future round of blossoms.

We haven’t seen or heard them, but the pua’a, the wild pigs, the bane of many coffee farmers, are rooting around, rototilling the area. We see evidence of their destruction. The best solution seems to be really good fencing. We’ll probably never do that though.

On another note, we’re nurturing some coffee keiki (kids), volunteer seedlings, also called pulapulas (pulled from the ground). That’s how Grandpa would add new trees. Pulapulas would often come up near rock walls, where seeds and water would tend to accumulate.

However, for at least two decades root-knot nematodes have been a serious problem in Kona Typica trees, seriously impacting tree health, viability, and fruit yield. In 2002 the university estimated that 85% of Kona Typica trees were impacted by nematodes. And pulapulas might be one way nematodes are spread. Nowadays, farmers prefer to plant young grafted coffee trees using nematode-resistant root stock. Still, we’re considering experimenting with planting some of our own pulapulas to see what happens. It’s not like we’re moving plant material from one farm to another, but it will likely be from one area of the farm to another. We’re nursing the keiki for now, and we have time to read/learn more about what the risks are.

Volunteer coffee seedlings (pulapula) in pots

Are You Suffering a Dry January?

What’s Dry January? Committing to no booze for a month after a perhaps-too-indulgent holiday season.

The dry season for our coffee, usually November through March, was slow in arriving.  Even the second week of December, it was raining lightly every late afternoon.  Then it became occasional drizzles.  Then we had a thunderstorm on the day after Christmas.  Two more dry weeks followed. The leaves on the coffee were drooping down.  When you dry farm, you’re dependent on natural rain.  We needed rain!  So many afternoons the skies would darken and you could feel the weight in the air becoming heavier, but it just wouldn’t rain. The upside is the weeds also suffered and slowed down, I got fewer mosquito bites, and the nightly coqui frog chorus was significantly quieter.

We finally got some decent rain for a couple of hours this past Saturday, exactly two weeks from the last soaking. This one wasn’t a soaker and didn’t last too long. It’s something, though.

The trees that were pruned almost a year ago look pretty good. The trees need another round of grooming, like men touching up their beards. We need to remove the little growth other than the main verticals we want to keep. The vog since winter solstice is lighter; you can see the line between ocean and sky, and the sky is blue, but not deep, clear blue.

On another note, continuing on a theme of a previous post, we bought another small fruit tree (rollinia deliciosa) to plant, this time from a plant nursery. We quarantined it on gravel, with a ring of diatomaceous powder surrounding the pot, and did the little fire ant test. This time it seems there might be LFA. Oh no!! Hubby has been fretting for days, constantly researching on the internet, going on shopping scavenger hunts for various products, trying different things and retesting, then agonizing that he’s exacerbating the situation. He heard stories from other customers at Lowe’s garden department about how problematic LFA are and how one person’s cat is going blind because of them.

He did another popsicle stick test and froze the ants. This morning we brought it into the nearby CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii) office, just a little over a mile away. When we walked in, the first word out of the nice lady’s mouth was, “Ants?” We’re nervously waiting for the results and advice from the local expert and hoping whatever ants we do have will die or at least not spread off the rollinia. And please don’t be LFA! This stress is one of the reasons why hubby won’t even consider a Dry January.