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.

Valentine, I’m bananas about you!

Hey, hubby! Hello! It’s Valentine’s Day! Despite pervasive marketing everywhere since the last major holiday (New Year’s Day?), hubby’s conscious mind misses all the signals. It was 3:45pm when he realized it was Valentine’s Day. Every year it’s something similar to today’s expression, “It’s Valentine’s? I thought Valentine’s was on a weekend.” I’ve explained to him every year that Valentine’s is February 14, no matter what day of the week it is. Every year it’s the same. His conscious mind plays an impressive defensive game. Maybe my post title should be, “You drive me bananas.”

What’s amusing is that we’re featured on PATH’s (People for Active Transportation Hawai’i) blog today, one of two couples who volunteer there. The little heart framed photos look so Valentine cutesy.

Since I wasn’t busy smelling my flowers or eating chocolate bonbons, I was dehydrating bananas. I’m willing to bet you were not doing the same.

Our visiting friend harvested a big bunch over a week ago. It was the perfect time, given that the whole cluster completely ripened all at once. That’s rare. We had cut off several hands and gave them away on Saturday, but we saved the rest to cut yesterday to give away. When I went down to get them, over half of them had dropped off from their hanging area, tearing their skins. And the ones that were still hanging were all torn. That’s never happened to us before. So I had a box of single bananas with slightly torn peels.

Everybody always says to make banana bread, but banana bread doesn’t use enough bananas. I made one bread (using 6 bananas) and dehydrated the rest. I cut each banana into 2-3 vertical slices.

On the coffee front, I’m expecting a little flowering next week from a few consecutive days of rain we received. Weeds are back, but not yet in full force. I’m curious if we’ll get as much rain this year as we did last year. If the volcano continues erupting, I doubt it. Since the big flowering event in mid-December, there hasn’t been any flowering other than an occasional few. The lowest block of trees should be stumped next week.

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers!

Love your neighbor, yet pull not down your hedge

(Quote by George Herbert). Removing huge weed trees is absolutely fine, though. Today it’s just a short post with a few photos at our south border we share with the ‘ulu coop. That border used to be very shady and overgrown. Now many of the weed trees, mostly autograph trees and African tulips, have been removed. That’s a good thing. One African tulip fell during the blizzard warning in December.

It’s awkward to suddenly see our neighbor’s yard, especially since it’s a commercial operation. But they’ll plant things and so will we, so eventually we’ll have more privacy. It’s good to be rid of large sources of weed tree seeds.

Today, I’ll leave you with a nice overview of Hawaiian coffee from the Perfect Daily Grind.