The Big Island, as seen from the eyes of seven year old keiki

Time for a little-human interest (vs. little human-interest) story that loosely relates to the farm. We recently had a family of five from California stay with us for almost two weeks. I wanted to understand from the three seven-year-old kids’ perspectives what they enjoyed about Hawaii. After about a week, I asked them what the Top 5 things were that they had most enjoyed. At that point the common things were: picking macadamia nuts from our farm, Keiki Pond, and Magic Sands beach.

I started to interview them separately so that each kid would think for his/herself and not just copy the others. It was amusing to see how the list evolved. As soon as they went to Volcano, that made the list and something dropped off; also, items started to get combined. At first two kids listed Volcano separately from the [Thurston] lava tube. Later those two items became one item: Volcano + Lava Tube.

By the time the family left, we had a Top 6 list.

They started to generalize so they could fit more things. For example, instead of listing Keiki Pond as separate from Magic Sands, all three kids (I think one coached the other two beforehand) listed “ALL beaches.” I asked each one what aspect(s) they enjoyed about “ALL beaches.” Swimming, building things, building an underwater volcano, the fish. For the underwater volcano, the kids with their newly formed beach buddies, scared up loose rocks, including large, awkward ones that could be (but weren’t) dropped on tender little feet, and lugged and plopped them into the middle of sandy Keiki Pond.

When they left, in the car on the way to the airport, they were complaining that they liked even more than six things and it was hard to limit it to five. I told them they could make a Top 20 list at home.

Out of the Top 6 at the end of their trip, there were four items common to all three’s lists:

  • All beaches (Kamakahonu, ‘Ai’opio, Keiki Pond, Manini, Magic Sands, Kuki’o, Ka’elehuluhulu)
  • Volcano + lava tube
  • Pick fruit from farm (bananas, lychee, macadamia nuts, & a little coffee)
  • Spending time with a different local family, with kids

Two kids put our cat on their lists. And one put “collecting water” on his.

I was happy that farm work made and stayed on their lists. There were several times they’d just go to the mac trees and collect and husk nuts. Towards the end of their trip, they cracked all that they had picked. I’m sure it was satisfying to bring back a jar of their labor. They also brought back frozen lychee (yes, you can, just make sure it’s rock-hard frozen when it goes through the agricultural check).

Coming from parched California, they also enjoyed opportunities for a few hour-ish episodes of rainwater play. Stomping around in puddles, squeegee-ing water off our outdoor table and chairs, coming up with creative ways to get the water from the rain chains, collecting water and quantifying the amount. They wanted to take all the water home to drought-stricken California.

Prior to their visit I had asked my cousins for their ideas on what they thought young keiki might like to do. Our neighbor cousin paused in thought and answered, “Weeding!” There’s never ending weeding to be done, that’s for sure. Turns out he was right! It was hard to get the boy to stop weeding and on to their next activity. I wish we would’ve turned them on to weeding on their first day. He even preferred it to the 30 minutes of TV time they were allowed each day. They worked hard and fast. I understand why our grandparents had six kids … child labor. But you do have to feed, clothe, house and entertain the little bundles of joy.

Emerging.

Hubby and I recently finished watching an Icelandic science fiction series, Katla. The Netflix description is, “The catastrophic eruption of subglacial volcano Katla turns a nearby community’s world upside down as mysteries begin to emerge from the ice.” Remember how the real-life 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland (with its small population of 315,000+) wreaked havoc in international, especially European, air travel? The TV series reminds me of Hawaii, Pele, ancient folklore and how “folklore” seems more relevant and not-so-ancient when living in a place with ever-changing, powerful, dramatic Nature. The Katla series opens with a striking visual of a being emerging.

Disruption. Making do, coping, because there’s no alternative. Emerging. Reminds me of this pandemic. Increasingly we’re seeing signs that we as a larger society are emerging out of our isolation from each other, approaching the normalcy of pre-pandemic life. Today I read a news report that the Maui mayor is asking airlines to help bring fewer tourists. This info surprised me:

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said 215,148 visitors came to the island [Maui] in May compared to just 1,054 during the same month last year, when tourism all but shut down amid COVID-19 fears and Hawaii’s requirement that travelers quarantine upon arrival. That’s not far off May 2019, when 251,665 visitors arrived.

In another sign of normalcy, there were some public firework shows this year. On Hawaii island there was one in Hilo and one at the old airport in Kona. This post’s photo was taken 22 minutes before the scheduled show. The evening sky was reflected in Keiki Ponds, just south side of the old airport, near the Kona Aquatic Center, former site of the mass vaccination clinics. To me it projects a feeling of peaceful, quiet solitude at day’s end. It doesn’t look like a holiday or that many people are around.

People were in various places, some on boats, some sitting along the rock wall or the rocks, at the old airport, near the pool. We all awaited the 8pm fireworks show. Or was it 8:30? Could it be 9:00? I heard someone announce his personal ultimatum, “If it doesn’t start by 9:15, I’m giving up.” Gradually people gave up. Once a few left, most did. There didn’t seem to be a way to inform everyone of what was going on. We couldn’t find anything online. A man came out from one of the big houses and offered any adults of drinking age a consolation beer.

I actually had enjoyed watching three women sitting on the arch near the blowhole at Keiki Ponds. The waves were increasingly pounding, and it was strange to see water splash behind AND in front of them (from the blowhole). It felt like a firework show of sorts. Bam!! Poof!! I wouldn’t have been in the dark where I was, and they probably wouldn’t have been where they were without the excuse of a firework show.

This morning I found a website that said the fireworks, due to technical difficulties (a problem with a cable), were rescheduled for tonight. Yes, yet another glitch in post-pandemic life (are we in that stage now?) as we emerge. I don’t know if I care enough to go another night in a row, and what if that cable still doesn’t work? I suspect inertia may win.

In other news, the Hawaii Coffee Association held its statewide cupping competition that got postponed from last year. It wasn’t in person and was done remotely. But cupping was done at the same time and deliberations were done via Zoom. The winning coffee didn’t come from Kona or this island! Read this article in West Hawaii Today to find out from where the winner hails and to learn more about how they conducted the remote competition.

What is your “third place?”

Have you heard that expression? I learned of it in the early 2000’s, and it resonated with me.

According to an article about the third place in the Perfect Daily Grind,

… an informal public gathering place that serves the community …

While home (the first place) is private and work (the second place) offers a structured social experience, third places are more relaxed public environments where people can meet and interact in a range of different ways. 

Note, community, public environment, and relaxed. A place to get together with others. No participant has to host or clean up.

There are the taverns/bars, think Cheers. And the coffeehouses.

The article brought up some interesting points to consider, especially as we emerge out of COVID-19. During COVID, home and work started to blend together, and I think most of us have been sorely missing that third place.

Here’s a Swedish term I recently learned of: fika. Norwegian hubby didn’t know it either. When I described it, he said Norwegians would probably call it kaffepause (coffee break). From this Perfect Daily Grind article, fika seems a bit more than just a coffee break, though. The Danish term hygge comes to mind, too. I found this interesting article on hygge in The New Yorker from December 2016, with interesting social commentary about Scandinavians and Americans.

Pour yourself a cup of Bea’s Knees, get yourself into a hygge state of mind, and read these articles. Then another day, chat about it with your buddies you meet at the cafe, your third place.

Two-cylinder inventions

Push it through; suck it up

Sorry, it sounds a bit obscene, but maybe it caught your attention. Today’s topics: two things that employ two cylinders, one inside the other. One pushes the inner cylinder through the outer cylinder to push the contents out. The other pulls the inner cylinder up to suction something out. I hadn’t made the connection, but one of our latest visiting friends pointed it out. Both devices were new to them. The suck-it-up device is fairly new for me. Both are pretty simple contraptions. It makes you think that maybe you should just ponder an intriguing or pesky problem, brainstorm like mad and invent something.

With the AeroPress you push the inner cylinder to press water through your coffee and out, like administering a big shot of caffeinated medicine into your coffee cup. Push that extracted coffee through. You’re left with a pressed coffee puck. I’ve written about the AeroPress before. I enjoy the trivia that the inventor also invented another simple object. Do you know or remember what it is? Hint: it’s a toy.

Our second to last previous guests brought the Bug Bite Thing. She had seen it on Shark Tank but had never tried it out. I was looking at the device in its packaging at the time she was telling me that. I was thinking Shark Tank was like the Home Shopping Network or something. It looked so simple and gimmicky. She said she bought it at REI, so that gave it more credibility in my mind. (Later, I remembered that Shark Tank is a reality business TV series).

The Bug Bite Thing is a very simple, mechanical device that is meant to create a suction on your skin where you have a bug bite. It supposedly suctions or pulls out the saliva or venom that makes the bite itchy. It’s not the whole mosquito solution, because you want the bugs not to bite you in the first place. It’s not a repellent. *I* am the best mosquito repellent for anyone near me, because I am the attractant. I take the bites for the team. So of course, the first person to need to try it out was me.

There’s no poison or medicine; it’s purely a mechanical thing. It’s one of those things you might hesitate to buy … it looks so simple and hoaxy (maybe not a word, but hubby uses that word all the time); can it possibly deliver on its claim? It’s a great thing to just borrow someone’s to see if it works for you. If you borrow it enough, maybe they give it to you. Ha ha! Thanks, S. M.

And it works for me! I don’t know if it actually pulls out the saliva/venom, and I don’t really care. What I want is relief from itching, and it does that for me. Maybe that suction provides enough stimulation to the itchy area that I get itch relief. With the mosquitoes here, if you can get beyond the first half hour of distracting itchiness, the itchiness usually goes away. This device does that for me. The other day I looked like I had about eight hickeys in various places on my body. Better a temporary hickey than a scab or scar from scratching.

Our next guests got bitten and tried it out, and I think they found it worked for them, too.

We’ve been having more mosquitoes recently. It’s not horrible, but there are more than in winter, although winter wasn’t all that dry. May was pretty rainy, only five days without rain here, and often grey. We had a sunny day yesterday, and we felt our spirits uplifted. Not that we were depressed or anything; we just felt happier. It was also our biggest day for generating solar power for the month, and it was over double for 12 of the grey days in May.

Grey days might be good days to sit around, think about things, and invent something. And the answer to the trivia question, the AeroPress inventor’s other famous invention: the Frisbee.

One year old coffee tree with fruit.

Invade, Battle, and Take Over

It’s hard to believe Memorial Day is one week away. Weren’t we just celebrating the New Year? As a nation we pause and honor and mourn those men and women who’ve given their lives while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of summer.

I’ve been surprised how many restaurants have still not opened since shutting down due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, some already have decided to close up their businesses for good. But with COVID-19 infection rates continuing to go down, and tourism picking up, it seems like more restaurants are coming out of hibernation and it appears some are trying to open starting this weekend. Life feels like it’s lightening up a bit, and it seems that the delicate, hopeful optimism in the air might be safe to trust.

On the coffee front, the fruit is green and ripening. All the flowering cycles are complete, though you can probably always find a few flowers on some trees somewhere. Right now I’d predict picking should go from late July/early August until December.

Here are just a few images from today. The first image is a healthy one year old. It was stumped in February 2020 and now has a lot of fruit. The other two photos show things we don’t want to see, but we like to “be real.” Memorial Day and military terms come to mind. Death (some trees don’t survive stump pruning). Invade, battle, and take over (what the autograph tree does).

Weed trees are a big, unfortunate reality. I found a listing on Craigslist for someone from Hilo selling small autograph tree plants in pots. What??!! Hubby and I scoffed in scorn about that and said we could have a successful business selling those.

On our border with the ‘ulu co-op, the edge of their property has large autograph trees, Shefflera trees, and African Tulip trees, which have nice orange blossoms right now. Big trees, all invasive and pervasive in Kona. Rune was trimming a few big branches that were hanging on our side and met Ely from the Co-op who came up to him. Rune’s understanding is that Ely’s responsible for growing ‘ulu seedlings of different varieties. Ely asked if we’d be OK with them cutting those big (weed) trees. (YES, PLEASE!!) It might take a few years, though. It’d be so much more appropriate to have many ‘ulu growing there.

The website invasivespeciesinitiative.com says this on their page about African Tulip: “Now a widespread and problematic species throughout Australia and the Pacific Islands, including Hawai’i, the Galapagos, Fiji, Palau, and more, it was largely intentionally introduced in the 1900s as a street and household ornamental tree.” So many problems we have here (invasive plants, mongooses, wild pigs, etc.) were introduced as a solution to some other problem or as an “improvement.” My uncle frequently bemoans the change in the Kona landscape, obfuscating beautiful views, over decades because of a variety of large invasive trees, including the African Tulip. But coffee is also non-native and was brought here, intentionally introduced, to Kona in 1828. At least it isn’t invasive.