Photos from August 28 (& 27)

It’s 12:30pm Monday, August 28, a beautiful day, but evolving. Most of this month, we’ve been getting a little bit of rain each day, sometimes nothing measurable, a lot of 1/16-1/4-inch days, and not even half an inch in any one August day. This is low for August. But it’s enough to keep the plants satisfied, and not so much that weeds completely take over.

When we look at the land, towards the ocean, we see a lot of yellow now. It looks like the coffee tree leaves are yellowing. But it’s actually a lot of coffee berries in the yellow stage, going from green to red. There’s a lot of fruit. Yay!

The pigs have been around nightly. They’re very busy rototilling. Before, it was just below the house. Lately it has been by the road, just above the house. They’re not ripping many plantings out, but a few. They’ve rototilled so well that there’s lots of loose, rich soil, so we just reposition/replant the toppled plants and add the soil we often have difficulty getting to.

On an ornamental, impractical note: orchids. Each of the Hawaiian islands has a nickname, and the Big Island is known as the “Orchid Isle.” Many years ago in California, I used to feed the orchids I had with the pink or the blue food, according to the growing or flowering season, and I’d rarely get blossoms. I consulted Bea who said I was probably giving them too much attention. She said to ignore them. And maybe they just needed more bright, indirect light. From that point on, I stopped feeding altogether and experimented with getting them more appropriate light. And it worked! Lesson learned: fuss less. Get the plants that can thrive, or at least live, with my care.

Here in Hawai’i I had my orchids where I really did ignore them and many blossomed. But I moved them to the courtyard about two years ago when we had a long dry spell. I can better notice them if they’re in our courtyard. I’m so happy that many, and many different varieties, have been blossoming. There were a few sad casualties of special orchid plants given to me by the kupuna man who often displays his spectacular blossoming plants at the Daifukuji altar.

Yesterday the Daifukuji Orchid Club had their first sale since pre-COVID. Doors opened at 8am. I was planning to be there at least 15 minutes early but didn’t manage it. When we arrived, parking was already pretty full. At 8:04 we got in line, and estimated there were 40-50 ahead of us. It made me so happy to visit a small club’s show and sale. You can get varieties you can’t easily find, and you get good value.

We picked up a box and collected various plants we wanted to buy. I didn’t expect really inexpensive (most were $5/piece) handmade pottery, too (plates to set a pot on, pots, etc.). We just quickly filled our box, taking pictures of the image/info on the plants we bought (many didn’t have blossoms), paid, and put them in the car. Then we went back to see the showcased orchids. Here are a few photos from the event to get a visual taste.

The club has nice t-shirts, too. I love the orchid drawing on the back so much, years ago I bought one for Bea. And then a few years later, I had forgotten about it, and bought her another one. Ha ha!!

Lastly, some updates and a few photos of some non-coffee plants. Between the two of us, we have at least one plant from each of the many Master Gardener seed germination trials we did back in February. Even one of my ho’awa seeds is still surviving. We were told the ho’awa seeds would take approximately nine months to germinate. We each planted 18. Hubby’s came up a few months before mine, and he got and still has five. I got two after six months, and now one disappeared (I think something ate it). We harvested two little pineapples grown in pots in our courtyard (pigs dig them out of the ground outside). They were tiny but delicious. The purple sweet potato (started from one store-bought potato that got ignored in the pantry and sprouted) had been doing very well. It has been a great ground cover in two spots in the courtyard. We had occasionally eaten the greens from the plant tips. And it kept away another pesty ground cover weed that tended to take over. Like I’ve mentioned before, I think of it all as a learning process.

2:15pm … now there are gray skies and light rain.

Coffee and climate change

Recently there has been a lot of media coverage about excessive heat in the US West and Southwest and also in Europe. That interrupted all the coverage about unhealthy air quality from the hundreds of Canadian wildfires, stories of which are returning now. And there were monsoon rains and lethal flooding in India. I feel we’re living in the doom and gloom from fictional and science fiction movies.

So, to that theme, today I’ll be sharing various links I’ve saved up relating to coffee and climate change.

From Daily Coffee News in April, “How Coffee is Both a Hero and a Villain in the Climate Change Story.” It discusses the different land uses of agroforestry vs. monoculture plantations.

In April 2021 there was a little flurry of coverage about a different coffee species, stenophylla, that has greater heat tolerance (on the order of 10 degrees) than Arabica and has better flavor than Robusta. This article was in Reuters, and this one was in the Daily Coffee news. When I tried to find more info on stenophylla in 2023, I found this post from Sucafina Specialty, who backed a pilot project in Sierra Leone.

Finally, here’s a feature about an organic coffee farm here in Kona and what they’re doing for sustainability, “Kona Rainforest Coffee Case Study.” They’re using Blue Planet Energy systems for their commercial power, for storing their solar energy. It was interesting for us since we have a Blue Planet battery for our residential solar system.

Stay cool and may you breathe healthy, fresh air.

Let the picking begin!

Our first picking for this season will be starting this week or next. We didn’t have much rain in November 2022, but received almost three inches in one day the day after Thanksgiving. That caused a big flowering in the first week of December, and 210-220 days later, there’s cherry to pick. As the photo illustrates, hand picking is required to just select the red fruit, the cherries. It will still be a few months before we have coffee to roast and sell.

It has been a dreary day today from early on, lightly raining from 10am, with one drier period. The morning nature show featured two male Khalij pheasants making a lot of noise and trying to intimidate each other. Eventually one walked away, heading downhill. We figured there must be a female involved, but didn’t see one. Eventually I saw her on the coffee road, heading up, and the male was making noise, fluffing his feathers, and trotting behind her, but she was fine with keeping him some 10 feet away. I guess it’s just part of the courtship ritual. We’re really happy to see these birds on our farm. The photos are from last year, and it turns out to be around the same time of year (mid-June 2022).

Yesterday at a social event we met a young Kenyan woman who received a grant to visit several institutions relating to her field of study which has an environmental focus. She is one of 130 recipients from 70 different countries in the program. It’s her first trip to the US and she has already spent several weeks in different states, about a week at each organization. She was at the beginning of her Hawaii 10-day stay to train with Jill Wagner, who’s the founder of several non-profits, including Joseph Rock Arboretum. The program ends back in Washington DC, where the participants are to share their experiences. The young woman said her brother has recently gotten involved with Kenyan coffee farms and was currently in a barista training. She didn’t yet have the details of his work with coffee.

The above story came to mind when I was going to share this article about specialty coffee and education. I had read other articles about educating more of the coffee farmers, roasters, baristas in the developing countries so they can get more out of the specialty coffee market. But then here in the U.S., one of the headers in the article asked, “how much do consumers actually want to be educated about specialty coffee?”

To me, this blog is an opportunity to provide some education. If you’re going to pay more money for U.S.-grown coffee, how do you get the most out of that coffee? You can just store and consume your coffee however you like, of course. But maybe by learning more you can get more appreciation out of specialty coffee.

This other article I recently read was interesting to me, too:

The 2023 block of trees are stumped

In one full day’s of work, Antonio stumped the block of trees that were designated to be stumped this year. All done with a hand saw. Antonio is a very hard worker. Over the next two days, two others dragged all the branches to the edge of the coffee road down the center of our property so that the branches can easily be chipped. Chipping usually takes about an hour, with several guys feeding in the branches.

The stumping makes it clear what weeding we now have to do, including getting rid of the ever-present autograph trees. Even though our weeding efforts are not perfect, because there’s regular attention paid, the weed tree situation is manageable. There are no longer years of weed trees taking root.

I think we’ll do like last year and methodically get rid of all visible autograph trees in the stumped block, so that we have a moment in time when there aren’t any visible. And after the coffee stumps leaf out, we’ll count the trees. It’s easier to get around and count them when they’re little and not branched and leafed out, and we can see where we are in the block. We have been estimating the number of trees, and by actually counting them, we’ll feel more satisfied with the better accuracy. It will take three years to get the count, though, since we’re doing it by stumped block and we only started last year.

Below are four photos of the same area, by the road (Mamalahoa Hwy.) Note the leaves of the dwarf banana plants in the upper left of each photo. I’m glad to have this area stumped, because the trees are densely planted, and they grew very tall. There wasn’t much circulation between them, and it was a hot spot for coffee leaf rust. It was also the area I was most plagued by mosquitoes. The terrain is very uneven, too. It was a difficult area to weed when it was grown in, as is now very visible. Maybe we should rebuild and reinforce the rock wall terraces while the coffee is stumped. I’ve tried to find photos from the 1970’s and 80’s of this area, but I haven’t been successful.

And a few more photos. In the last photo we can see our other non-coffee trees more easily now.

Coffee pruning and leaf/soil sampling field day

Friday morning we attended the two-hour Coffee Pruning and Leaf/Soil Sampling Field Day at the CTAHR Kona Research Station, which is about two miles away. We are so fortunate to have this University of Hawaii Extension office so close by. The staff is very knowledgable, patient, and friendly. We are really lucky to learn from the experiments they do at the Research Station demo field.

I’ve taken the pruning class before, but the attraction this time was to look at the demo trees that were stumped in February, March, April, and May in 2022. They also had trees that were stumped in November and December 2022 and January 2023. We could see how the timing of stumping affected the growth of the tree. They will collect data, including yield, over the next years. Just from the visual appearance without the data, it seems earlier is better (February). They think that sometime between Winter Solstice and end-February is probably the best time to prune for most farms.

Attending a field workshop is great to network with the staff and others who are growing coffee. You learn so much, and when you’re walking as a group amongst the trees, questions come up and it’s interesting to hear answers and others’ experience. At the end of the workshop, as a bonus a company had donated tools for a drawing. Our names got pulled and Hubby and I got Felco collapsible hand saw and bypass shears. Extra woo hoo!