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.

Bringing Hawai’i aloha to the mainland

The solar eclipse today, partial over here, was supposed to begin around 6:32am, peak at 7:12, and end at 7:55am. I had forgotten about it, and I slept longer than usual and missed it. This post’s cover photo was what it looked like about 6:30am a week ago. However, to see, or not see, the sun, one would have to be able to view straight east. We view westwards. Good thing I just slept in.

The 61st Merrie Monarch Festival came and went in a week. The Super Bowl of Hula. It was big news here that the festival was #1 in USA Today‘s Best Cultural Festival 2024. With my experience from last year, I had little taster plans for how to tackle it this year, but the plans got derailed. I tried to watch some of the streaming coverage, but the darn thing runs too late for my body clock, 6pm-midnight. And I am an in-person person. I’m not sure I could attend three nights in a row of competition though; I think it’d be too intense for me.

Changing subjects … this weekend my cousin’s friend came over to take a truck bed full of Song of India cuttings. The photo below shows the tree/bush after being pruned. It’s still huge. This beast started years ago as a little $5 cutting in a pot from a local nursery. The cuttings that were removed Saturday were to be washed, trimmed, etc., and getting flown to Oregon for Pacific University’s Hawai’i Club lūʻau. I found this recent article about the university’s Country Store.

This all brings back memories of my university days in Northern California. I danced in our club’s lūʻau all four years. The day/days before, we’d have dress rehearsals, we’d make lei and other floral adornments, and then we’d decorate with impressive amounts of fresh flowers and foliage donated and sent from the islands. The spacious Pauley Ballroom would be transformed into its own little island on the Berkeley campus. We had so much fresh material sent to us — ti leaves, bougainvillea bracts, anthuriums, ginger, monstera leaves, etc. I have such warm memories from that time, and the feeling of an escape from the usual. I had never lived in Hawai’i, but it had always had a strong emotional draw for me. It must emanate from me, because my whole life many of my friends will remember me as having grown up in Hawai’i. “But you were born there, right?” I’d always have to remind them it was my mom (and her parents, too) who was born and raised in Hawai’i, not me.

Hawai’i Club was a club, and you know how people are when they come together. Human. Little prejudices about others based on what island they came from. Whether you had gone to private school (Punahou. Now, maybe you’ve heard of it?) or public (McKinley). Whether you were even from (the state of) Hawai’i, had some family connection to Hawai’i, just a fan, or a friend of someone in the club. Pidgin, no pidgin. The way others viewed you would be influenced by such things, apart from how you actually presented yourself. But for the lūʻau, we all came together to put on a dinner show for the general public. There’s nothing like working together on something. Delicious Hawaiian food, music, dancing, and floral decor.

I’ll leave you with a photo from near the Song of India tree/bush. We are optimists! Over the months, we’ve gradually been planting some of our pineapple outside the protected walls of our courtyard. The pigs have uprooted one or two once or twice, but the humans are still winning. After a while, a few more pineapples have been planted. There are *eight* outside now. One has even been out long enough to grow a little pineapple. Our other pots with pineapples have remained inside the courtyard. The fruit of this one in the ground has outgrown the potted ones’ fruits, as to be expected. The stunted, red plumeria survivor, in its third or fourth location, is still in its pig protection cage. And apparently, it’s still a pig attractant, as seen from this photo taken from another perspective.

This is funny. I was just finishing up these last sentences, and our neighbor called to ask if I saw the pigs running on our land. Four big, dark ones right by the macadamia trees. Arrrggghh!! At least they weren’t mauka by the pineapples. (One and a half hours later he called to report 12-15(!) pigs running by our lychee. We have a pig village again.)

Starting Off another new year

Happy New Year 2024! Do you have ways you always honor the new year? This year, despite the news for months that officials were going to crack down on illegal fireworks, we seemed to have more nearby neighbors with illegal fireworks than ever. For days prior, New Year’s Eve, and today, New Year’s, there have been scary booms all around us. Our cat keeps hustling away in slinking form, tail down, into her various bomb shelters (somewhere in closets).

As with all my remembered years, except maybe one or two, my first meal of the year on January 1 morning is mochi soup, ozoni. I served it to our two guests this morning, their first time trying mochi soup. Our good mutual friend tried it decades ago. At that time he said the mochi are like glue balls, and he felt like he was choking. Not a ringing endorsement.

This year’s mochi were very special. My good friend made them for us and hand delivered them in late October! They’ve been in our freezer since then in these beautiful packages. We have been so fortunate to receive them for many years from her. But once she began mailing them, we’ve had bad luck. This October, she and her sister made ten pounds of rice, and I think we received almost all of that batch. Some of that mochi went from Northern California to Kona, back to Southern California when we visited my mom at Thanksgiving. I’ve traveled by plane with mochi a few times. The TSA employees aren’t even fazed when they see the frozen blobs and you tell them they’re mochi. They just wave you through.

The Daifukuji Taiko mini concert on Saturday was so good! It was exciting, fun, and uplifting. I knew I’d enjoy it, and I felt even more uplifted than I expected. It’s fantastic to see a whole concert of their pieces versus just a few at various community events. And there were alumni from various years back who’ve continued to hone their craft. I didn’t know Sensei Kristi Oshiro, but she was awesome to watch. And I was so impressed with the physicality, energy, and synchrony of the group. I’m a novice and not educated in the art, but I enjoy trying to glean what makes some performers stand out. Here’s a little mini video snippet. Enjoy!

Drumming out 2023

Are you reflecting back on the year? There’s certainly strong societal momentum to do so.

[Aside: We had to do an extra roasting of dark peaberry and have a few pounds available. If you’re interested, please contact me. It’s $55/pound or $30/half pound.]

I took photos of some trees today. I was expecting Kona snow almost a week ago. We had a big rain on Dec. 11, almost two inches, and I thought we’d have beautiful snow. The buds are there, but they’re slow to open, and there aren’t as many buds as I hoped for. Last season’s two producing blocks look tired. A lot of leaves are missing from the center branches. I’m glad they’ll be stumped soon and get a break. I thank them for producing so well this year.

We’re starting to see humpback whales from various spots. I really enjoy seeing them from the lānai. Most recently I saw about eight boats clustered in a certain area. I took out the binoculars and it didn’t take long to see the whales diving, breaching, fin slapping, etc. I saw at least seven in a pod on the move, heading south. I feel joy seeing them. And gratitude. Some years we see more than others. I’ll be interested in the whale count for 2024. This is the info from 2023; they count January, February, and March.

On a personal note, here’s a crazy story. I had spent an afternoon with a recently made friend who lives here. During our time together I learned she used to play taiko … serious taiko. And a couple were visiting her from the mainland whom she knew from their taiko days. They used to play with Seattle Kokon Taiko in the early 90’s, and played for different lengths of time. By the time my friend left, they used to perform a gig almost every weekend March through November, and a few more sprinkled from December through February. 

The month prior I had won an hour taiko lesson for up to eight people in an online auction fundraiser for the performing youth taiko group at Daifukuji. I had been thinking we don’t need such an experienced teacher for newbies. I didn’t really have a plan for how/when I was going to redeem my lesson. Then I thought the Seattle group would benefit the most, especially since all three hadn’t played in double-digit years, and it would let them do what initially drew them together. We had a couple visiting us from California at the time. I had a fuzzy notion of it’d be great to somehow accommodate all seven of us, but we were on opposite ends of the experience spectrum.

Well, I thought I’d at least ask what possibilities might be. Sensei Akemi Iwamoto was incredibly accommodating. So many stars aligned — many people’s schedules, the Daifukuji dojo, and the can-do-whatever-you-want attitude. By some miracle, the NEXT EVENING we had a class with us seven students and Sensei Akemi and several recruited youth to help teach.

We seven students didn’t know each other, just my friend and I knew each other, so we met up for an hour of socializing before our class. I thought they were from Seattle, but they actually grew up and lived in Sacramento. I took a wild chance and asked them if they knew the only two people I know who grew up in Sacramento. No… But wait… More questions. Turns out one was a high school classmate of my good friend’s sister! Such a small world!! And my good friend had just visited a little over a month prior.

At class, after circling together, introductions, and warm-up exercises, we all learned a number together. Sensei was warmly encouraging. We beginners taxed our brains much more than the others. The former pros got to beat drums again and were role models. The kids each took turns teaching and demonstrating, basically practicing their leadership skills. It was SO MUCH FUN!! Total flow. Totally immersed in what we were doing and drumming (mostly) altogether.

The special treat was when the three pros performed one of their standard numbers from their past. And a Daifukuji Taiko alum, who goes to the University of Washington, home for the holidays, played the background beat for them on the shimedaiko. They hadn’t played individually or altogether in almost 30 years. You could see the old moves come back and where they’d sometimes fumble a bit. But they were pros, so they always gracefully carried on. It was an awesome moment. It felt so very special because so many forces and people came together for that special time.

For those of you that are local and might see this post in time … there’s a mini concert by Daifukuji Taiko tomorrow, December 30 at noon at Daifukuji.