Picking, pigs, prey, packaging and power

The army was out for two days of coffee picking. I believe they picked more in one day than we accumulated for the entire 2021-2022 season. It’s not extraordinary; it was more in line with the two seasons prior to the particularly bad one.

My friend sent me a photo of her day’s harvest the same day. I’d hire her in a heartbeat, but she’s not for hire. All beautiful, red cherry, nothing orange, yellow or green. They have fifty Caturra variety trees that they planted several years ago. Where they are they get less rain than we do, so they sometimes have to water their trees.

Ours are many decades old, classic Kona Typica variety as opposed to young Caturra. We have about 2000 trees. A few years ago we decided to do an exact count shortly after a block has been stumped. We’ve counted two of three blocks so far. It’s easier to get around and to see the individual trees. We’ll have our most accurate count after we stump next year’s block. The number will still fluctuate a bit. Not all trees survive stumping or pig shoving.

My friend is curious to have their coffee analyzed by Pacific Coffee Research, whom they live near, as a learning experience. We had a Q Grader Cupping Analysis done by them back in 2020, just a month before COVID shutdowns. I’m just remembering we originally wanted to do it again in a future season, but then there was COVID, rust, extremely low yield. Maybe we should do it again for this season’s coffee, though.

Thinking of pigs in coffee land … over a week ago, one afternoon for over an hour we heard occasional, strange, loud pig noises from the corner of our neighbor’s property. It sounded nothing like “oink oink.” Makin’ bacon? Just rooting around?

Other farm happenings … our cat was on a lizard killing spree for a couple of days. We’d find gecko tails and see her darting about on high alert. One day I saw her attacking an outdoor rug that ended up all scrunched up, then saw a lizard go flying up in the air. This time it was a green anole, not the usual brightly colored gold dust day gecko, the gecko most of us associate with Hawai’i. None of these are native, and they’re considered invasive species. The gecko video below the two photos fascinates me and was taken a few years ago. My friend labeled it, “Fix yourself.”

I’ll end with something amusing, nothing to do with coffee or happenings on the farm: Japanese products. One time my friend gave me a bag of goodies from Japan for us humans and for the cat. I thought this one was a lychee jelly cup dessert, the kind that little kids were occasionally choking on. Hubby thought it was a lychee mochi.

Thank goodness for the Google Translate app! I have no idea what Ponthur is, but “chicken fillet seafood flavor” does not suggest a sweet treat for a human! The label didn’t meet my expectations for a cat treat at all. There was no image of an animal/cat or of chicken or fish. And it was served on a crystal dish. I’m glad I didn’t pop it into my mouth. The cat did love it.

When I complained about crazy-making itchiness and rash from no-see-ums in the ocean (things you don’t necessarily see that sting or just give you rash later), my friend gave me this to try. It looked like roll-on anti-perspirant. It brought to the forefront how we have expectations with certain packaging. But not all cultures package the way the US does or use the same color associations.

Decades ago when I was in China I found Chinese energy bars with the English name “Omnipotence bar” written on the packaging (not a Google Translate translation). I, of course, had to try them. They were actually pretty tasty. I suspect the name was inspired by Power Bar. Omnipotence is much preferable to just power.

Speaking of omnipotence and power … Madame Pele has already turned off the lava! From the USGS daily update, “The Kīlauea summit eruption that began on September 10th stopped September 16th, and is unlikely to restart.” Not even a week. I really appreciated the return of blue sky and the horizon. You don’t know what you take for granted until it’s gone.

Labor Day weekend, plus some

I am not quite managing a post/week at the moment, and there will still be some irregularities. If you read these posts regularly or occasionally (beyond looking at or stumbling across just one), please comment below, send me a private comment, or somehow let me know what kinds of topics you’re interested in. I don’t write “just” to “pander to” the audience, but I can modify what I write about. This post has nothing to do with coffee, but does relate to Hawai’i, Hawaiian culture, a plant, and contemporary cultural and natural seasonal occurrences. I can write more from my own experience when I can expand beyond coffee. Not a lot changes on most of the pages on this website, so the blog allows me to prove to the powers that be (i.e., Google) that the website is alive and current.

Recently there have been various occasions which have caused me to reflect back a lot to around 2011-2012 and even further back, way back, to high school. Even ten years ago, I had no idea future-me would be living in Hawai’i caring for the family coffee farm. I’ve always had a connection to Hawai’i, but the majority of my life has been spent in California. And a lot of my life has been spent swimming. When you’re 17, a “lot of your life” can still be measured in single digits. It hit me that now a “lot of my life” can be measured in decades. Gulp.

Because a partner in crime motivated me, on short notice I went to Honolulu to swim the Waikiki Roughwater Swim on Labor Day, an iconic open water race. It’s the reason behind the swim distance, 2.4 miles, of the Ironman triathlon. I’ve only done it once before, over 10 years ago. It brought up numerous memories. I hadn’t even remembered until I looked through old photos, that I took a picture of the results back then. I was tickled to see my now-friend’s name right behind mine. We were strangers then, living in different states, not Hawai’i. We now both live here, and in every race we both did last year, I came in right behind her. These kinds of occurrences delight me. Is that an example of synchronicity?

I left for that race in the middle of the famous Queen Lili’uokalani Canoe Race, the world’s largest canoe outrigger race, another Labor Day Weekend iconic event, happening here. The main event is the 18-mile long-distance race between Kailua and Honaunau. I took a few snapshots from a scenic outlook. That was the women’s race, racing southwards. Later in the afternoon, the men race the canoes back, northwards. I’m sharing a view of that as seen from the farm. I think it’s fun that people just see what’s happening in the ocean. In my photo from the farm, you mostly see the support motorized boats, but with binoculars, you could see a lot of canoes. [Reminder: you can click on a photo to enlarge it, and then use the arrows to look at the other photos].

Yesterday I finally swam a tough, local, small event that I’ve had on my radar for 13 years or more. It was supposed to happen a month ago, but a 16-foot tiger shark and other shark sightings delayed it. It wasn’t until less than two days prior that the postponed event was declared a GO. The event director shared the ancestral knowledge she was considering:

pua ka wiliwili, nanahu ka manō

“the wiliwili blooms, sharks bite”

This ancient saying draws a correlation between the blossoming of the wiliwili, usually in October/November, and the pupping season of tiger sharks. Shark parents might be behaving more aggressively during this time. Supposedly the wiliwili bloomed earlier this year (July/August?). I do know that I’m hearing about more tiger shark sightings than I’ve heard of before, and several West Hawai’i beaches have occasionally been closed due to shark sightings or activity. I haven’t learned of any recent human-shark interactions, which is a good thing.

Maybe it was the sharks or the date change, but there were considerably fewer participants this year than last (I did it in a 2-person relay last year). Last year there were 13 relays and 14 solo swimmers. This year four relays and eight solo swimmers. The crowded picture was just a few minutes before swim start in 2022. The emptier photo is from yesterday, a half an hour before the start, but it was still 30 minutes after check-in time.

My escort, posing in the photo, is an amazing former Ultraman athlete, with a supportive, easy-going, fun, sunny personality. Ultraman athletes would do this swim in the opposite direction, and immediately afterward ride bikes from Keauhou to Volcanoes National Park, a mere 90 miles and almost 8000 feet of climbing. I was thinking of this towards the end of my swim, fighting off calf cramps. And then they have two more days of fun and games.

My escort paddled in a 2-person kayak. At first, I thought a 1-person kayak would be fine; I could paddle and she could swim if I ended up not being able to finish. But then we thought there might be occasion where we’d both need to be out of the water. We flip-flopped on whether to bring one or two paddles, but in the end we were optimistic enough to just bring one. I was glad by event start there were 12 swim units (relays and soloists); much better than three! There is so much power, comfort, and reassurance in company!

The biggest news is last: Kīlauea is erupting again! It started at 3:15pm yesterday (9/10/23). USGS stated that preliminary sulfur dioxide emission rates were 100,000 tonnes/day. It had been last measured at 70 tonnes/day on 9/8, and other earlier dates. This photo was taken at 1:36pm on 9/11/23. Bye bye, Horizon. I’m glad I didn’t have to do a long swim with air like that.

We had been enjoying some particularly nice sunsets and sunrises in the past days, too. I imagine we’ll be back to eruption-caused, uniformly murky, yellow-grey skies, with a bright orange-ish orb perhaps shining through. Life in Hawai’i always demands your attention that it’s ever-changing. Notice! Appreciate!

Time swiftly passes by

It has been an unusual week, and so horribly tragic for Lāhainā, Maui. Our hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. So many hurricanes get downgraded to tropical storms, or the tropical cyclone cycle never even gets to the point of a hurricane. Monday I heard the warnings on the radio about surf, wind, and wildfire risk. You note them in your mind, but it never crossed my thoughts that the next days would actually go the way they went.

Thank you to so many of you who thought of us specifically, and those who live on Maui, and Hawai’i. For us in Kona, we did smell smoke at times, especially on Tuesday, and we did see haze on the horizon, again, especially Tuesday, and off and on through Thursday.

Maui had numerous serious brushfires, and we had brushfires in the South and North Kohala districts (the north part of our island) and also in the Ka’u district (south). There were some roads and highways closed and evacuations on our island, but we in Kona were not affected. The photo to the left was taken Sunday, August 13, in the late afternoon, as we drove by. It shows brush fire damage just north of the Mauna Kea Beach Resort. I believe there were approximately 500 acres burned in that area last week.

I had written about brush fires back in 2021, on July 19 and August 9, I wrote: “I had recently written about fires in areas experiencing drought here on the island, while we’re having some record rainfall. At the time I wrote about one in early July, and there had been one in early June. Then July 30 another one started, which is the largest fire ever on the Big Island, covering the Hāmākua and South Kohala Districts, that scorched over 40,000 acres. It ended up burning for over a week, and evacuations were ordered July 31 and August 1, including Waikoloa Village, because of dangerous winds. In the end, I believe property/home damage was fairly minimal, especially given the amount burned. It didn’t impact us much here. We could smell smoke on a few days, and at least one day looked like the old voggy days of past and created an unusual sunset. But in general, the winds weren’t carrying the smoke this way.”

We have a good friend who lives on Maui, and I’m assuming his property is fine. I’m assuming if it were not the case, I’d get wind of it through our friend network. He was off island during all of this, so I know his physical self wasn’t affected. I know he has probably been bombarded by questions about whether he, his house, his friends are OK, so I’m not going to add to it. This is a friend who many years ago created a laminated card for his girlfriend when she was hobbling around with a cast around her foot. So many people asked her the same questions. She could just show the card, which contained all the answers.

I had thought of that recently when someone who regularly returns to our area for several months of the year was at a group function. As each person saw her, they’d ask exactly the same questions, the same ones I asked. Ha ha! I told her the story about the laminated card, but we both agreed that the main thing is for us human beings to engage with each other, not just to know the answers. So thank you to those who reached out to us as Hawai’i made world news. I often learned, or am learning, a bit about your current lives in the exchange, too.

We have guests from the other side of the world (who are also being asked from half way around the globe how they are with all these fires). Twelve hour time difference from whence they came. This is Hubby’s lifelong friend from first grade. The last time this friend and his girlfriend at the time were in the U.S. together, she celebrated her 30th birthday. In the Norwegian tradition, we gave her a big pepper mill since she was 30 and not married. She did later ask him to marry her, on a February 29 (in 2000), when, according to a centuries-old Norwegian custom, women can propose to men. Well, they now have two adult daughters and they are on this big, lifetime, family holiday. With adult children, who knows when family holidays will happen again?

Before they came, there was talk about the couple finally getting married. They had researched possibilities and knew what was required in both countries. While they’ve been here, there was still talk, potential dates/places, nothing concrete. It was getting to just days before the day they had in mind. A lot of teasing and funny stories. The engagement had been so long, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it still wouldn’t happen for any flimsy reason. Finally, we heard there was actually a date, time, and place chosen, a deposit made. We had one days’ notice.

It was basically where my lifelong friend got married over 20 years ago, their anniversary just two days prior. The Norwegian couple had their ceremony where I wrote my “best man” speech. Hubby didn’t want to give a speech back then, but he surprisingly, night-of, did. So the couple got two speeches.

Back to nowadays, the officiant ended up being a few minutes late. In the end, that was a good thing. We were watching two or three pods of dolphins in the water. The further pod had a few above-water spinners leaping out of the water. The closer pod was swimming around in tight formation. While we were waiting, we heard a woman screaming, and we thought we heard “Help! Help! Help me!” There weren’t many people around, but all who could hear her ran to this screaming lady. She was flailing about in the water and appeared to have been there alone, with an inflatable ring, the kind kids use in a pool, with mask and snorkel on. A few guys helped her out, and the drama gradually ended. We gathered that she had seen a shark, panicked, couldn’t breathe, and was having difficulties getting out of the water since it was a rocky shoreline. I don’t know why she was in the water there alone, where there’s a long stretch of undeveloped shoreline, few people around, and it was dusk (shark feeding time).

The officiant arrived, and she must have come around the time of the screaming because she asked what was going on. The service was beautiful and meaningful. I had to take the pictures since I was the least involved of the family of four and the two of us. I apparently had inadvertently moved the focus spot from the center of the camera viewfinder to the bottom (Hubby said, “to their toes”). Hubby says I still got some decent photos. I don’t like being behind the camera in general, because it takes away from my perception of what’s actually happening. But even from behind the camera, I still felt the specialness of the moment.

I’ll close with a Reminder that’s recited at the end of our newly started weekly Sunset Meditation at the local temple:

Let me respectfully remind you —
Life and death are of supreme importance
Time swiftly passes by, and opportunity is lost
Each of us should strive to awaken …
… Awaken
Take heed. Do not squander your life.

Coffee and headaches, stomach, and aging

It is a beautiful, blue sky, clear horizon, almost cloudless day this Monday, August 7. You might think that’s how Hawai’i always is. Believe it or not, that’s strange. Hubby and I were remarking how clear the day looks and how unusual it seems. We normally have clouds that develop on our Hualālai volcano slope from morning or late morning, and definitely by afternoon. If we look towards the ocean, it’s often blue-ish, and if we turn around and look up-slope, it’s grey, cloudy, and if it isn’t already raining, rain seems imminent. Not today. This post’s photo is looking up-slope at 3:30pm. Blue sky! Maybe we can actually eat dinner in the courtyard without a roof over our head and see stars.

I had mentioned in another post that we had at least some rain almost every day in July, except for four clear-sky, yet humid, days around Tropical Storm Calvin. Hurricane Dora is forecasted to remain well south of the islands. I wonder if it’s somewhat nearby presence is why we have such beautiful weather today. It’s a great day for those of us with solar panels.

I don’t always drink coffee. And, like most of you, we haven’t been drinking our coffee for months, since we only had enough for our subscribers until just today. Today we roasted the last of our 2021-2022 season green coffee. We’ve been trying a variety of other coffees in the meantime, but mostly drinking other Kona or Ka’u coffee. I’ve been drinking coffee just regularly enough that I sometimes feel mentally sluggish without. I was surprised how reinvigorated I felt after a tough workout, when it was followed by food and coffee.

Right now, I feel dopey. I abstained from coffee today, and no extra tea either. And I have a little headache developing. Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s plain old dehydration, especially since it’s such a nice day, but hotter, or lack of sufficient caffeine. Caffeine headaches were the topic in Homegrounds just recently.

Here’s another article I had saved up, “Does coffee taste different as you get older?” For me, it doesn’t necessarily taste differently. I have to qualify that. I have learned how to brew a better cup of coffee now than decades ago. I think I process coffee differently than when I was younger. Just like I process alcoholic beverages differently. And I sleep poorer. The longer we live, we have more anecdotal proof that everything changes.

This topic is reminding me of a book I read a few years ago, Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives, by Daniel Levitin. Refreshingly, he gave an optimistic slant to aging and helped me see some other perspectives. I took quite a few notes and even jotted down specific actions I would do. I actually had forgotten that I had written down actions to take, but when I reread them just now, I AM actually doing those things. I guess I internalized the take-aways for me.

One more article to share. Coffee may be good for you, but like with so many things, more isn’t always better. “Can too much coffee cause stomach problems?”

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: