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:

It’s a new year. Keep on keepin’ on.

Greetings in 2023! I hope your year is off to a good start. This post’s photo is a humorous take on Japanese kagami mochi for the new year. For a proper kagami mochi, there should be two round mochi, a larger one supporting a smaller one, and on top of them, a citrus with one leaf. The mochi represents the going year and the coming year. The citrus, daidai, means generations. Everything about this photo is wrong: one dented, hard mochi, a huge citrus, with more than one leaf.

This citrus is one of the two navel oranges Bea had on her tree this year, and she kindly insisted we eat the only two oranges. Her oddly low orange yield reminded me of our coffee yield. Anyway, it was special, so I wanted to commemorate its existence. At the time we only had one store-bought mochi left after our New Year’s ozoni mochi soup. The mochi that was lovingly, thoughtfully handmade by friends for us, had, and must still be having, a big adventure this year, thanks to Southwest Airlines and the U.S. Postal Service. I wonder if it will meet up with a six pound coffee package that has gone missing. Why is it always the larger packages that get shipped to the wrong place or get lost, and not a half pound order?

A few non-coffee-drinking friends had asked about the Mauna Loa eruption back in December, so I shared the link to the two posts I made about it. They were surprised to see that I’ve maintained blogging for many years. You do something regularly, and after a while, it all adds up. Thus the title, “keep on keepin’ on.”

My recent posts were not so much, or at all, about coffee, more about “this Hawaiian life.” I guess my topics are about our coffee, weather and problems that affect our coffee, other things we grow or encounter on our farm, coffee in general, Kona, Big Island volcanoes, modern and older Hawaiian culture and history having to do with the Kona Coffee Belt, and namesake Bea (Mom).

We went to see Bea in Southern California this holiday. We flew Hawaiian Airlines and kept our seatbelt firmly fastened so we wouldn’t dent the ceiling if we encountered severe turbulence. It rained more frequently than usual, i.e., it rained, period. Ha ha. The Rose Parade in Pasadena (less than 40 miles away from Bea) is always on New Year’s Day, but not if it’s on a Sunday. That worked out well this year, since it rained on New Year’s Day but was beautiful the Monday after. I just googled about rain and the Rose Parade, and this was the answer: “In the 1st 60 years(about) it rained 9 times. In the next 60 years (about) it rained once.”

Bea still had fruit on her Buddha’s hand tree. I’ve posted on Instagram, but here they are in the blog, too. I just ordered a little entry tree from California-based Four Winds Growers. They’re allowed to ship to Hawai’i. We’re already successfully growing a seedless kumquat and a yuzu from them. I want to grow my own shaka and octopus! It’s worth it for the heavenly fragrance of the fruit. I’m content just leaving it in the house to smell it. The zest will add specialness to any recipe calling for citrus zest. A cranberry recipe is better with zest from a Buddha’s hand instead of orange or lemon. I mention cranberries because Bea’s fruit always seems to be ripe around Thanksgiving.

On another note, we gave my mom a more interesting tea than we realized. We bought it since it was made of Hawaiian ingredients. We knew māmaki and lemongrass, and we completely ignored the second listed ingredient, butterfly pea. We hadn’t paid close attention to the description, and neither did she. “For when you need a little extra magic in your life, a captivating, color-changing tea.”

The first time we drank it, it was like we all expected. It was māmaki (supposed to be good for you), and tasted better because of the other ingredients. It was the second night we had some that we all noticed, “Hey, it’s green!” It hadn’t seemed to be that weird green color the first night. Then we studied the packaging. If you add citrus, it’s supposed to change color. Apparently butterfly pea is known to mixologists (hello, Big Joe!) for its vivid color and ability to change color.

There you have it. Maybe you’ve learned something new, like we have.

OK, on to coffee. The past coffee season is really over now that we have strip-picked all fruit as part of our coffee hygiene. This way borer beetles and other pests won’t have homes. Our cherry harvest, in the end was 24% of the previous season’s harvest. I’ve mentioned a figure close to that a few times, but now it’s final. I’ll be interested to see how much green coffee of estate quality we’ll end up with after dry milling. Somehow I expect it’ll be less than 24% of last year’s green coffee, i.e., I think we’ll have more smaller and inferior quality beans. Our estate coffee has to be of certain grades: Extra Fancy, Fancy, and Number 1, and Prime, and is comprised of those grades in the ratios we get when we harvest. The grades lower than Prime won’t be in our estate coffee. I suspect we’ll probably just have even less estate coffee to offer than 24% of the previous season’s amount. Sigh.

This “dry” season (October-February) has not been too dry so far. I’m not implying that’s good or bad. The rainfall chart below starts in October, which is the start of the dry season. It’s also when the Kainaliu rain gauge annually restarts its cumulative count. The cumulative rainfall of the previous entire dry season, from Oct’21-Feb’22, was 7.7 inches. We got 7.5 inches just in December 2022. I study the chart and can see no trends year to year in these past few years, which have been very dynamic with Kīlauea starting and stopping. Three sentence volcano eruption summary: From 1983 to 2018 eruptive activity was nearly continuous, then it stopped. It resumed December 2020 to May 2021, stopped, then resumed September 2021. And Mauna Loa started at the end of November 2022, after a 38 year hiatus, then stopped mid-December.

Forward and onward. We had another decent blossoming round, from the rain we received around Christmas. Someone reassured me that the season following a Mauna Loa eruption tends to be good. I don’t know about the implied cause and effect, but I’d feel better with at least a decent season after this one. There are definitely optimistic farmers out there. Aunty planted 50 new, rust-resistant seedlings. And some others are clearing acres of land and planting trees with the vision of some really high output per acre, more than we get from our three acres. You go, happy farmers!

I’ll close with a cute photo of UH in Holualoa feeding a donkey ti leaves on New Year’s Eve day. He must have been reminiscing about his old chore of caring for the family Kona nightingale.

A Kona Coffee Christmas Poem

The Kona Coffee Farmers Association published this poem today. It’s such a good one, I have to share it, too. It was written by KCFA member Joanie Wynn to her husband Steve, for Christmas 2022.


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when out on the farm
The pigs were all snorting and causing alarm,
They’d torn up the lawn and caused damage to trees,
Which was nothing compared to the coffee disease.

“A fungus among us!” cursed old farmer Steve,
“A leaf rust, a menace, it’s hard to believe!”
But that wasn’t all the poor farmer had battled,
CBB beetles had made him quite rattled.

The weeds overwhelmed him, the drought gave a fright,
Each month he slogged through, with no end in sight.
Supply chains were straining, fuel prices rising,
The fact he survived it was somewhat surprising.

The coffee still grew, though somewhat diminished.
Pickers went home, for the harvest was finished.
The cherry all pulped, laid on the deck drying,
A sense of achievement, no matter how trying.

The farmer, so weary, turned in for the night,
Dreaming of coffee not ruined by blight.
Under the covers, tucked tight in his bed,
Dark roasted coffee beans danced in his head.

No visions of Santa or tiny reindeer,
Just hope for a more robust crop without fear.
His dreams were of coffee fields loaded with cherry,
of bags full of green beans, of farmers so merry.

The next morning came with a strong cup of Kona,
Gifts were delivered; FedEx, Amazona.
The farmer would smile and put away strife,
Embracing the joys of his Big Island life.

A happy occasion, a time to rejoice,
With friends and with family, a time to give voice,
To gratitude, fellowship, season of hope,
To fortitude, strength, and the courage to cope.

More fruit was coming, new snow on the trees,
A hearty crop promising bounty and ease.
The yields would be staggering, bigger and better,
The farmer believed that, now more than ever.

Despite all his trials, he truly felt blessed.
He was cheerful and buoyant, no longer stressed.
He grinned and exclaimed as he kicked off his flip-flop
“Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good crop!”

Our poinsettia planted in 2020 in December 2022.