Our tree kids at two, and a few new babies

This post is probably most interesting to Bea. It’s time to report on the tree babies. A friend told me the adage: Sleep, Creep, Leap. It definitely resonated. I’m surprised I never heard it before. In the first year you plant a tree, it seems to sleep. The second year, its growth creeps. In the third year, it leaps. That might be a little accelerated here in Hawai’i, and it depends on the tree, but it’s an adage that helps with patience.

This year I bought a copy of the Ancient Hawaiian Moon Calendar Related to Fishing and Farming. If we’re going to plant, if we can, we might as well try to time it with when the Ancients would say it’d be a propitious time. The two vertical halves are divided by Wet Season and Dry Season. I tried to find out how to tweak the calendar’s applicability to the Kona Coffee Belt, where we have different rain patterns (our wet season is the rest of the state’s dry season, and vice versa), but couldn’t find anything. So we’re just going strictly by the calendar date, keeping in mind that the column headers, correlating with wet/dry, might not apply. If/when the opportunity arises, I’ll ask an appropriate person who might be able to answer my questions. Maybe someone at the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden.

Hawaiian Moon Calendar

Below is a photo gallery of some of the trees we planted two years ago. To see each photo individually and read the captions, click on a photo and use the arrows to go through the gallery. There’s also one photo of the coffee trees planted last year that were challenged by pig attacks and two months of hardly any rain.

If any of you are really into the tree progress (maybe only me, Hubby, Bea, and UH) and want to look back, I had reported on these dates: June 14, 2021; November 29, 2021; and August 8, 2022.

Below are some of the babies we removed from our courtyard pig sanctuary and put into the ground out in the farm (on an auspicious day to the Ancients). The roots were starting to go below their pots, so it was time. I’m curious how the Ceylon cinnamon will do; one of the two seedlings I bought died a few months ago. I read up on how to harvest the bark and coppicing. It’ll be a few years before we reach that point.

We were lucky that we received almost three inches of rain on Thanksgiving evening (we got five inches on Thanksgiving 2020!), a few days after planting. Our visitors from California were excited about the rain. I was amused that the 12 year old boy was excited to check the rain gauge after a couple hours (1.5 inches in about two hours) and the next morning (2.75 inches).

When it rains hard, it’s fun (trust me!) to be able to quantify it. Someone asked on Nextdoor after Thanksgiving, “Curious if anyone knows of a website that updates our local, current rainfall.” The first response was a guy who said he gave up since rainfall differs 1/4 mile north or south. That’s the way I am about weather predictions. It’s so local, I rarely check the prediction. I just take a good look around and conclude that it might rain, and guess when that might happen. Or it might not. In any case, I responded with where one of our two official local rain gauges is, stated my caveats, and suggested the person get an inexpensive rain gauge. Ha ha!

Earlier this month, we had a second, little harvest of calamondin. This time the fruit was ripe. We had to do our first harvest in mid-June because the number of fruit broke the branch. You can see the difference in color (the size were a little larger now, but similar, though the photos are misleading because I filled the frame in both). We wanted to make marmalade again and taste the difference, but in the end we decided to experiment with making preserves, thinking it’d be simpler (it wasn’t).

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’re probably wondering about the pigs, right?! They gave us a longer reprieve over the summer, but the new Three Musketeers have been regularly, but not daily, visiting for over two months. They haven’t been as frustratingly destructive as pigs in the past. Yes, we’ve had more peace with the pigs. I think only one rock has been thrown since we resolved to make peace with them back in March. The young trees and plants we care about are caged in, and all of those have survived. We’ve even removed the cages from a few.

I had this post all ready to go, and now there’s bigger news … stay tuned.

What other fruit’s processed seeds do you eat?

Today’s post is a mish mash of miscellaneous topics. I save up articles and topics I find interesting, sometimes it’s from one of you. I look for opportunities to link them together. Every once in a while, they just don’t connect, yet I want to share and I’d like to push these off my list. In my mind, there’s usually some kind of connection to coffee, or they’re other things that live on, or can also grow in, a coffee farm.

Read on if you want to know a bit more about our one mango fruit, raw cacao, painting with coffee, coffee leaf extract possibly preventing COVID-19 infection, and … peecycling.

UH and Bea’s favorite fruit, or one of the favorite, is mango. I wrote about the Old Man and his mango and that we recently planted our newest mango variety, Rapoza. We almost lost track of that one picked fruit, but we tried it just in time before it was probably going to rot. It was small, but delicious. Smooth flesh, not stringy, nice orange color, a classic mango flavor, and a small seed. Pretty good for a potted mango tree. It’s a keeper. When we removed it from the pot in order to plant it, we were surprised that the roots weren’t all that deep or extensive. We had been more concerned that the roots would grow out the bottom, and the tree would be unhappy when we unpotted it. The tree is still faring well in the land, i.e., surviving pigs.

One ingredient I’ve liked to bake-experiment with is cacao nibs, the crumbled bits from the cacao bean. Each cacao pod has probably 30-50 cacao beans (seeds). Recall that coffee is made from the seeds of the fruit. The cacao beans/seeds are fermented, dried, and roasted. Once the thin outer shell is removed, the nibs are revealed.

We’re always on the lookout for other crops we can commercially grow. Cacao, like coffee, can be processed and stored. It’s not like perishable avocados, where you better have a market for them before they ripen. We still haven’t even planted a single cacao tree to learn from though. I see whole, pretty orange cacao pods for sale at the farmers market, and I often wonder what buyers are doing with the entire pod. In any case, this is an interesting article about raw cacao and how that term is a bit misleading. “What most people call raw cacao is not unprocessed, but is unroasted.”

My friend shared this newspaper article last month about an artist who paints with vodka-soaked coffee. If you happen to have the ability to read the San Jose Mercury News, read “Dublin artist paints with coffee and vodka.” Otherwise, I found this article on greeleytribune.net which unfortunately has a lot of ads woven in between, but the payoff is the artist’s coffee-vodka paint recipe at the end.

A research study was published in July in The International Journal of Biological Sciences about coffee leaf extract possibly helping to prevent Covid-19 infection. Someone else blogged about her summary of the published article. Further research is required to assess the validity of the study.

Today’s oddest topic … peecycling. Peeing in the yard/farm? It might not be socially acceptable, but that might change with this news. If you have access to The New York Times, “Meet the Peecyclers. Their Idea to Help Farmers Is No. 1.” Ha ha. Turns out “human urine has the very nutrients that crops need.” The article adds a lot of color to the topic, but it basically covers the work of the nonprofit, Rich Earth Institute.

Current coffee cherry. Picking will happen soon …

Shirlene fruit

Recognize the bounty that surrounds you

We seem to get visitors in bursts. And visitors with kids often come in the summer because school’s out. Here, school has already started just today (August 1)! When Bea was a child, the school year accommodated children picking coffee, so school started Thanksgiving week, almost four months later! And even once school started, they picked every day after school and all day on weekends. No time left for the kids to get into trouble.

Last week we had three families from California with children of different ages come visit the farm, coincidentally on the same day.

My cousin came with his family, with the goal of picking some coffee cherry. We had our first picking just two weeks ago, so there wasn’t much cherry, but they found a short tree close to the coffee road that served. This was my cousin’s first time seeing our grandparents’ coffee land since we renovated. You can actually see it now vs. being hidden in the jungle. The link here shows before and after renovation photos.

The other two families came to the farm later that same day, a whirlwind visit since next on their agenda was a night manta swim. It’s tough to squeeze so many activities in on a short trip. Whatever length of visit to Hawai’i often seems to be too short.

Hubby and I continue to be surprised with how much people seem to enjoy two things: (1) “picking” bananas (i.e., cutting them down) and holding the bunch like a trophy, and (2) riding in the truck bed. [In fact, note to self, I think I’m going to make a banana hall of fame photo album.] Bananas might be ready to cut down at any time of year, but we do go stretches without any ready to pick. So if you visit, don’t rely on the experience.

When we offered a ride in the truck bed, the kids all leapt in, and the parents hesitated, “How far is it?” Not very. It’s just easier and cleaner to bring the bananas back up by truck than carry them. They drip sap that turns black and ruins your clothes. And if you hold them out from you to avoid the sap, the bananas feel even heavier. And it’s an uphill walk.

Papaya trees are so familiar to us, I was surprised, as I wrote last week, that a visitor asked if they were avocados. Many island visitors haven’t seen or noticed papayas growing. Even the pocket, urban garden by the parking lot in Kailua has many papaya trees. Bea told me that my dad (before he was Dad) thought they were bell peppers on his first visit here as Bea’s guest. So I asked this group what they thought the fruit were. I heard, “guavas?” “a bean?” “avoc …” — I think that was a tentative, withdrawn answer.

I’m so glad we had the opportunity to expand their farm horizons. Papayas, bananas, mac nuts, lychee, avocado, guava, and oh yeah, the coffee. From berry to drinkable coffee requires more steps and a longer timeline; it’s not immediate gratification. We have other edibles, but we didn’t have time to show them all, and it isn’t easy to herd nine cats with different interests and a firm departure time. Even if people have seen a lychee tree or an avocado tree, not everyone has seen them at the size they can reach with volcanic soil, sun, and plentiful rain. It’s one thing to see it in a photo, and it’s another to walk in under the thick umbrella of the lychee and look up into the tree. Or use the extension picker to struggle to pick just a few of the lower hanging avocados.

And it’s always fun to eat fruit fresh off the tree. With the extension picker we were able to cut/knock off a few lychee. Bea always shares how she really enjoys eating fruit right from the tree. Apparently her mail deliverer loves eating fresh guavas off Bea’s trees, too, and has been caught red-handed with a sheepish smile. At least she only picked what she consumed; she wasn’t harvesting. And at least she recognized those guavas were ripe and delicious. I think Mom has seven types of guavas and many are in the front yard; the varieties are different colors, sizes, textures and flavors. (I had to check my own blog post about her plants to remember, and that was from three years ago). I love her strawberry guavas, but they are extremely invasive here (birds scatter the seeds).

Bea's Southern CA coffee tree

One more aside since Bea sent this to me just today. This is her Kona coffee tree, surrounded by a number of other plants, in Southern California. It has so many blossoms! I don’t know what kind of timeline it’s on or why. It certainly doesn’t get the rain we get here. We usually get blossoms like that in February-April. It must be related to the length of day, soil temperature, and the way she waters. Her old crop is on there, too, the overripe cherry, what we call raisins. We have to remove raisins as part of our farm hygiene so that no coffee berry borer beetles will lay eggs in them.

Back to my story … whenever hubby and I go down into the coffee land, we suit up. Even if we’re just taking visitors for a look-see. Long pants, long sleeves, hat, and clippers (every time you don’t have them, you regret it). It’s hot, but then I don’t have to put on sunscreen or bug repellent, except if I’m working in shady areas or around dusk. The visitors understood once the mosquitoes got a whiff of them. Beach attire leaves lots of real estate for blood meals. Mosquitoes love me, so I don’t even hang the laundry without putting on long pants and sleeves. My cousin’s daughter got inflamed little itchy bites on the palm of her hand and a big welt on her tricep, either from picking coffee or gathering/handling macadamia nuts. It might have been ants or a spider. Bugs, the reality and menace of Hawai’i. And sharks. Just kidding! That’s just your vivid imagination.

Now I can quantify the rain we’re finally getting

I have been using the USDA’s weather station at Kainaliu, a mile away, as an indicator for our rain situation. However, that station reported only 0.37 inch in February (in comparison to 3.7″ in February 2021), and I was fairly certain we received more than that. There were a few days we received medium to heavy rain, and Kainaliu measured no rain or 0.04″ on those days.

rain gauge

So, I bought an inexpensive new toy … a simple rain gauge, a plastic container you stick in the dirt that collects water. You note the reading, and you can then empty it for the next day’s reading. I had it in time for the recent rain we’ve finally been receiving. On the first day, I measured 0.125″, and Kainaliu received 1.1″. I believe it, because we ate dinner a little south of there, and didn’t sit by the large open area because it was raining too hard. As soon as we left and headed north just a driveway or two, the rain lightened up, until the point that we returned home to no falling rain.

The following three days, our rain levels pretty much matched up with Kainaliu’s. For me, it’s just interesting to know and quantify.

So, with little rain in February, that means no/few coffee flowers. By mid-March we usually have had four or five flowering rounds. We’ve had the one big one in December and no real additional round, just a few trees with a few blossoms every once in a while. It is going to be an outlier year, that’s for sure.

And with the pigs, it’s a cycle. It’s dry, the pigs damage a plant looking for tender roots or other moist goodies, we replant the uprooted plant, water it because it’s stressed and it’s dry, then the pigs return the next night. Hubby continues with daily pig damage control and bandaid pig-proofing. His approach is to protect the bark of the trunks and to prevent the pigs from ripping off entire branch nodes. We’re accepting some damage, just trying to prevent total destruction. He tries something out, it seems the pigs immediately give it a go, then he fine-tunes his contraptions.

Lately, the pigs are enjoying destroying our red ti plants, after they had left them in peace for months. Well, these pigs are probably different than the pigs of last year. We think our three pigateers are youngsters from the seven little piglets we saw in January, and they seem to have discovered the joy of pineapple and ti plants. Most of our pineapple are now in pots in our protected courtyard, and the pigs uprooted all other pineapples that had been in the ground. We mostly see them at night or by nighttime camera recordings, but we’ve started to see them even mid-day. They are also trying very hard to get into our Earth Machine home composter we use for kitchen scraps. Humans are still winning, but the pigs are gaining ground.

A friend shared this CBS news story about other “wild herbivores in the night.” I thought it was going to be about feral pigs, but it’s something much larger …

Aren’t we looking for problem solved?

“So … ready to take out those pigs?”

“we’re not looking for great, are we? aren’t we looking for problem solved?”

My Maui friend and I have been texting about our pig problem since at least September. By now I’ve inferred that he kind of adopted our problem. A few months ago he started texting about the possibility of his to-be-visiting friend hunting our pigs. Another person nearby had shared something similar (visiting hunter friend), too, so I have just taken it all as friendly banter. As his friend’s visit was getting closer, more details would come out — dates of his visit, dates when our in-laws were visiting, guns, bow & arrow, neighbors, hunting permit, a mobile meat processing outfit here, etc. The dates that worked for them was when my in-laws were still here. So many obstacles and loose ends; I still thought it’s just amusing chatty banter.

Mind you, all of these communications over months were via text. There’d be a flurry of texts, then nothing. There was still so much missing info and details — did his friend really want to do this? who is this friend? we don’t have a bow & arrow. what happens if a pig gets killed? does his friend know how to dress a pig? what do we do if a pig gets killed in the middle of the night?

When we had texted about them possibly coming, we offered to let them use our truck and stay with us. Then he was busy with his guest and we with ours. Then Wednesday, my friend texted that he booked flights arriving the next day, Thursday, at 1pm, they were doing a manta dive at 3pm, and leaving Saturday at 8am. They can rent a car, they don’t need to stay with us, and they don’t have to hunt pigs.

We let them do all three. Hubby drove the in-laws to the airport Thursday morning, with his bike in the truck bed. He parked the truck in long term parking with the key inside, went for a training ride (has to do a race soon that he signed up for in 2020) and rode home.

The guys were incommunicado that morning, because we later learned they were kayaking and whale watching in Maui starting at dawn. They later texted when they were flying out. They found our truck, did their dive, saw many mantas, and we saw them shortly before we went to bed. They even saw a pig on the road shortly before they got to our house. They came with new arrow tips in a package, but no bow or arrows. They had found a guy on Craigslist in Maui who was going to sell them the bow and arrows, so that had set everything in motion on their side the day before. They bought arrow tips, booked flights and the dive … and the Craigslist guy ghosted them.

pig trap

The next morning, they rinsed off their diving equipment and hung it all to dry, then went to the store to get bait (corn on the cob and canned corn) for my neighbor cousins’ pig trap we weren’t yet sure we had permission to use. While they were gone, I received the OK, so when they returned, they looked at the trap for the first time and baited it.

They then drove off to Hilo to see Kaumana Caves, visit a relative in the Puna district, and see the volcano at night. Before they reached Volcano, they had found another guy selling a bow on Craigslist in the Puna district. They called him, he was there, and five minutes later they had a bow. At Volcano National Park there were signs in the parking lot that there was nothing to see, but while they were there, people were returning and saying there was lava starting up again. So they lucked out and saw red lava and a developing lava lake.

February 18, 2022

In the meantime back on the home front, three pigs were cruising on the coffee road right by our house at 9pm. After the two hour drive back to our place, our friend’s plan was to check on the trap and hunt pigs.

This is the way these guys roll!!!

Once they reached our house, they decided to take a power nap and get up to try and shoot a pig. They aren’t coffee drinkers, but they wanted sweet ice coffee for when they woke from their nap. So I made them Bea’s Knees coffee, doctored with sugar and heavy cream, and put it in the fridge. Looming over all of this is that we still had never figured out the piece about what to do if a pig was trapped or killed. Would they leave us with a dead pig right before they flew off on an 8am flight, not even 48 hours after they touched down? For the friend, this was his first time to the Big Island.

At 5am I got up and saw no evidence of any nighttime activity. The cold coffees were still in the fridge. Our camera showed three pigs cruising the coffee road at 3:30am, in the same place they were seen at 9pm. It’s about as close to our lānai as can be. Apparently our pig hunters did get up a few times in the night and texted each other whether they should get up and hunt, but each time they went back to sleep.

And then they were gone. Pesky pig problem persists. But left behind are a compound bow, arrows, new arrow tips, and great stories of adventures had.