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Coffee beans

Two years ago, we discovered we had the coffee borer beetle on our property.  It was disappointing to say the least.  We have three different areas where we grow our coffee, and one area was way more affected than the other two areas, although all the areas certainly had it.  We debated on the best course of action.  There is an organic fungus you can use to spread over the plants that helps reduce the numbers.  When kept in check, it can really help the amount of viable beans a farm can produce.  One has to also be very vigilant about taking care of and disposing of exposed beans.  By the time we realized our problem, a lot of beans were affected.  We decided after much consideration, to chop all the trees down and start from scratch.  We have about 50 trees, and while a lot for us, it is small when compared to most farms.  The life cycle of a female beetle can be up to 190, so figuring if we got rid of all the trees, and waited a year, we should be good for restarting.  All of the trees with the exception of two, grew back large and green and healthy.  We have lots of beans on them, and will manage the beetle from the very start, which should greatly help our actual coffee bean yield.  We have also started a new area in the pasture.  Those trees won’t be ready for a few more years, but we would like to have more trees, which will end up being quite the hobby in our retirement.  (Retirement is still quite a few years away just in case you’re wondering.). So this year, we hope to have a nice yield of coffee.  I’m excited.  Our coffee is really tasty, and while I may be slightly biased, we’ve heard from others it is quite good as well.

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The coffee borer beetle is in Hamakua.  It’s not going anywhere, so we are going to be more vigilant about managing it than ever before.  It’s a bit of a bummer, to say the least, but we really enjoy the coffee we grow, and it is a fact of life at this point.

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Summer is almost here

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It feels like it’s already here it’s been quite hot lately.  Our lignum vitae tree, also called the Tree of Life, is covered in periwinkle flowers and bees.  It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this many bees.  I’m hoping they’ll migrate over to the lilikoi flowers.

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We’ve seen a few different types of bees on the flowers.  I was able to get some nice shots of two different kinds.  The second one is really small compared to the regular honeybee.

It’s nice to see all the bees, the tree is earning its name, the tree of life.

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In other farm happenings, our last set of duck eggs hatched.  Our white call duck was sitting on two eggs.  Every day we’d check to see if they had progressed, and during our last check found one ducking that had hatched and one egg in the water.  The mama was uninterested in her baby.  At this age and size, if the mama doesn’t take care and keep her baby warm and cared for it won’t make it.  The egg in the water wasn’t viable unfortunately.  We took the other baby duck who was now a loner, and put it in our incubator and kept it in the house.  It started to imprint on my husband and just quacked non stop until he would come by.  We ended up putting a small stuffed animal in the incubator with it to keep it company.  We checked the local farm store to see if they had any baby chicks with the intention of getting one to keep it company, but they had none.  We then called our neighbor, and she had a recent hatch of baby chicks, and she graciously gave us two.  At first we weren’t sure if they would like each other, but it didn’t take too long until we could see they would okay together.

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The chicks are just the perfect size, and as you can see they’re buddies.

Our dragon fruits are starting to flower.  We have two different varieties, one that’s white inside and one that’s dark purple/pink inside.  They taste pretty much the same, although I find the white a little sweeter, and my husband finds the purple one a little sweeter.  Right now the purple ones are starting to flower, although we see a few white flowers coming up too.  The flowers are pretty spectacular.

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You can tell the purple dragon fruit because the leaves surrounding the flower have a purple tinge on the ends like most of the buds above.  The flowers at the top have no purple on the edge so the insides will be white and the one in the middle has some purple.  Last season we didn’t have too many fruit although we did have a lot of flowers.  Hopefully most of the flowers will pollinate and we’ll get a nice batch of dragon fruit this time around.  Dragon fruit is one the fruits we sell.

Today we had a chance to get out on the boat for a bit.  The water was so calm it was like a lake.  We didn’t catch anything trolling, but my husband jumped in and speared some kole we’ll fry up for dinner.  We ended the day with a jump in the pool when we got home.  It was a pretty good weekend.

 

 

Home Again

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It’s been a few weeks since my last entry.  We went to Boulder to see my daughter graduate with her Master’s Degree.  We spent about a week and half  there.  The weather was beautiful and warm for most of the trip, but the last two days we got a snow storm.  The snow was beautiful, aesthetically speaking, however practically speaking it was COLD, and we lost power for a bit.  Overall the trip was wonderful.  I’m happy to be home, back to our little homestead.  It’s clear summer is right around the corner, it is has been hot.

So what’s growing right now …

lots of tomatoes (I’m super excited about this!), white mountain apples, Anna apples (we only have about a 10 on all the trees combined), figs, asparagus, blackberries, pumpkins, papayas, lychee (mostly from my in-law’s yard!) and … vanilla!  Our vanilla plant flowered!  I’m not sure how old it is, but we never thought we’d see flowers.  The bug that pollinated vanilla orchids is no longer around, so vanilla has to be hand pollinated.  The flower opens for one day only, so you have to catch it at just the right time.  I’ve hand pollinated about 6 flowers so far.  Let me rephrase that, I’ve attempted to hand pollinate 6 flowers.  I’m not sure if any took, you have to be super gentle.  So here’s the issue, our orchid plant is growing up two royal palm trees we have, and the flowers are really high up.  AND, I’m scared of heights.  Between David and I, I watched the youtube videos of how to pollinate the flower, so the job at this point is mine.  I think I’m doing it right, but it’s a really fragile job, and you can lose the pollen so easily.  We’ll see what happens.  If we get any vanilla beans, I’ll be excited.

Here’s a recent harvest from a quick morning trip to the garden.

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You can see some of the orchid flowers just above the end of the ladder.  That’s a 20 foot ladder although it’s not all the way up.  We didn’t plan for the orchid to grow that way, it just did.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s pretty amazing.

Spring cleaning

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Recent conversations with my sister and my best friend in Texas, I realize I too need to do spring cleaning.  I started this weekend, and got the bathrooms done, and mopped most of the floors and yes, the baseboards too.  I need to do the windows.  This is the chore I least like, because one, I think our home has more windows than actual walls, and two because of the weather and all our little critters who scratch at the doors and windows to be let in or let out, they just don’t stay clean that long.  It seems such a wasted effort for so little value.  But I will get to that too.

So the garden – things are blooming and growing everywhere.  Our clove tree is really taking off.  I pulled a bunch off this morning and put in our dry rack.  It’s been hot and dry here, so they will dry out within a few days.

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We have a lot of avocado trees and have a number of different varieties.  Many of the trees are just loaded.  We will have a bumper crop this year.  There are so many on the tree, some of them reminded of me of wind chimes hanging from the trees.

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We have lots of papayas.  We have a number of varieties of those too.  We have this one variety that is really big and long.  We planted those to may green papaya salad.  One papaya will make a large bowl of salad big enough to feed and entire family of 4.  We have  strawberry papayas which are really sweet.  We have this one papaya tree that is so low to the ground that the papayas actually touch the ground.IMG_0746

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I caught a picture of Angel today.  She literally stood there and posed.  As soon as I snapped the picture, she walked away.  We call her angel because of her white wings.  See the white spot on her side, well she has one on the other side of her body too, so it looks like she has wings.

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She’s a hair sheep.  Hair sheet have hair instead of wool.  She actually gets wooly looking, but the hair molts and comes off.  The sheep will sometimes rub against the fence to help the process.  She has completely molted, so she’s looking really pretty.  The sheep who haven’t completely molted, don’t look as pretty.  Angel’s hair will get longer and form a thick coat, and then she’ll molt again.  My sister is always asking me to send her the hair, but it just blows away.  It’s not like it falls up in big chunks; although sometimes there are larger pieces.  The only hair we usually see is the stuff that is stuck to the fences, but it’s not that much; way too little to spin into yarn.

On a sad note, we lost all our new baby ducklings to a mongoose.  I almost didn’t write about it, because it was just so sad.  But this is farm life, and while we have a beautiful piece of property, sometimes things happen. We are reinforcing all the remaining duck mama houses to help prevent this from happening again.  We also have a number of traps set up.  Another mama had 5 ducks, and they’re all doing well.  We have two more ducks sitting on eggs now.  We always lose a few ducks during the season, either because of mongoose or some other animal, but we’ve never lost that many so quickly.

And finally, I finished making the jaboticaba liqueur I started about a month ago.  It made a little over 3 bottles.  It’s got an almost wine-like quality to it.  I haven’t quite decided if I like it yet.  I think with a little club soda and lime, I can make it a nice refreshing drink for the summer.

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Rainy days

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I can’t count the number of times we have had a beautiful sunny week, then end up with a rainy weekend.  Don’t get me wrong, I actually love rain.  But it’s not conducive to working in the garden, especially if it’s a hard rain.  This morning, we could see that it was going to be overcast, and unsure of what the day would be, we got out there early and planted about 150 purple asparagus starts.  David did the hard work of digging the trenches; I spaced the starts out in the trenches, and covered them with the dirt.  It was perfect weather for this kind of work, and we got it done fairly quickly.  This was good because then it started to rain harder and even got a little chilly.  I didn’t get a chance to take a picture because of the rain.  The news forecast expects snow on Mauna Kea tonight!

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Yesterday, I picked some lemons and made a really simple lemon pie.  See the recipe below.  I forgot to take a picture before we dug in and started eating it, it was so pretty, that I took a picture anyway.

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Make a simple graham cracker crust and bake in the oven for 8 minutes.  I used 1 1/2 packs of the crackers and a stick of butter.  The filling is:

3 cups sweetened condensed milk, 3 egg yolks, and 2/3 cup of lemon juice (next time I’m going to use limes to make it a little tarter).  Mix that all together, pour into the baked crust and bake another 10 minutes.  Let it cool on the counter and refrigerate before eating.  You can top it with whipped cream and lemon slices, but both David and I aren’t huge fans of whipped cream, so I left that off.

It was super easy to make and set really nicely.  I definitely make it again just because it was so easy.

Mamaki Tea

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Mamaki tea is an herbal, non caffeinated tea native to Hawaii.  We have a few shrubs on our property.  The leaves can be used either dry or fresh, and have a number of health benefits when made into a tea.  It is known to work on stomach, liver,  bladder and kidney issues.  It has also been known to help lower blood pressure.  It is a mild tasting refreshing tea that can be drank hot or cold.  I typically make a big pot, refrigerate it, and drink it cold.   We typically have used fresh leaves, but we’ve dried some as well, packaged them, and have given them as gifts.

The picture above shows the berry of the tea shrub.  These berries have a waxy like consistency and can have mild laxative effect.  They’re slightly sweet, so one has to be careful not to eat too many, unless of course, you’re looking for that laxative effect.  The black specs in the berry are the mamaki seeds.  I have started a few new plants using these seeds.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how well these plants grew.

 

 

 

Perfect Weekend

What an awesome weekend.  First, Friday was a holiday, so three day weekends are especially great.  Friday was spent taking care of all the regular stuff, laundry, mopping, etc. ,  I had a few friends stop by and pick up some “groceries” from the garden on the way home.  Then Saturday and Sunday, we spent fixing things in the garden (securing the duck homes for protecting baby ducks and fixing the roof on the shed.  Then we planted a bunch of things, a kumquat tree, some watermelons, radishes, carrots, and some pretty flowers in the garden.  We enjoyed the pool all weekend.  It was hot, and water was cold, a perfect combination for a perfect weekend.

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Our ohia tree is in bloom right now.  Rapid Ohia Death is a big concern on the Big Island. It is decimating forests on our Island.  Our tree, our only ohia tree, is currently not affected.  We’re doing our best to keep it that way.

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So many things to do … so little time

Keeping up with all the things on our little patch of land can easily be a full time job, but all I seem to have time for is the weekends.  My husband works on the farm every day when he gets home from work, which is mostly feeding the animals and watering where needed.  I get home later than he does, and after a long day I don’t have the energy to do more work.

So weekends are left for normal house chores – laundry, vacuuming and mopping, and general cleaning. So in between that, I’m usually harvesting and cooking.  This weekend we had other plans on Saturday, so all of the was left to Sunday.  It’s been a super productive day.  I made two loaves of banana bread.   Cut four of the nine pumpkins (most are for freezing, but I’m making a batch of pumpkin soup), harvested cloves (they’re just starting to get ready for picking, so there wasn’t many, but I’m so excited about that!), and made some fresh lemonade with sugarcane we grow.   We really need a sugarcane press, I tried cutting and boiling pieces of cane to make a simple sugar, the conversion ratio isn’t great, I needed a lot of sugarcane.  Luckily I like tart lemonade!  There are so many pumpkins, I can’t cut anymore, so I’m going to give some away to co-workers.

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Cloves on the dry rack.  The tree is loaded, so this is just the start.  My hands smelled like cloves after I picked these.

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The coffee trees are flowering.  When they’re all flowering it looks like it’s snowed.  This is the first year we’ve got coffee since we chopped all the trees down in an effort to control the coffee borer beetle.  We’re looking forward to drinking our own coffee again

The MOST exciting thing on the farm is new babies!  Our call ducks are laying and brooding. Today we got our first ducklings.  They’re just perfect!!  One of our chickens, however, kicked one of the momma ducks off her nest of eggs, so it appears she will be raising these ducklings.  We have heard of this happening before, the only thing that we have to watch for is when the ducklings start swimming in the pond.  Apparently this really freaks momma chickens out because obviously chicks aren’t swimmers, and I guess they don’t realize these aren’t chicks.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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The momma is sitting on the rest of the babies, we think there are three maybe four more.  It was hard to get the shot, so it’s a little blurry.

 

I also froze some bananas for our Yonana machine.  I’m not trying to market this thing, but I swear it’s one of the best inventions ever (next to the cordless vacuum cleaner!!).  You take a frozen banana and put it through the Yonana and it tastes like ice cream.  I swear it tastes just like banana ice cream.  You can add other frozen fruits to it if you want, but banana makes it creamy.  I’ve made it for a number of occasions, and people cannot believe all it has is bananas, they’re sure I’ve added cream or yogurt, or something to give it the ice creamy texture.  But it’s just the Yonana machine.  The banana has to be frozen or it’s just mushy banana.  It’s super healthy since there’s nothing added.  It’s going to be a hot dry summer this year, and I know now, we’ll be getting a lot of use out of this thing.  I got my at Amazon, but I’ve seen them at Target and Costco.  They have their own website too.  I swear, Yonana owes me a commission on the number of machines I’ve helped sell!

I love being home and getting these done.  I even had a nice dip in pool, it was HOT today.  Now I’m going to try to convince the hubby to end the day with a nice drink around the fire pit.

 

Yacon

We started growing bacon a few years back.  Native of South America, yacon has been around for thousands of years and has some really great health benefits.  It tastes a bit like jicama, but sweeter and to be honest better.

Yacon is related to the sunflower.  It has a small yellow sunflower looking flower (no seeds.  When ready, you dig up the root of the plant. Yacon oxides really quickly once you peal off the skins.  A little lemon squeeze on top helps slow that down.  It can keep for up to 8 months.  It’s better if you have a cold cellar, which we of course don’t have in Hawaii.  But we keep it in the shade and it’s usually eaten or given away way before the 8 months anyway.  It can be eaten raw or cooked in a stir fry.  You can be make a syrup out of it, although this I haven’t tried.  You can also make a tea.  It tastes a little like a water chestnut when stir fried.  It’s super easy to grow here in Hawaii, and it’s so good for you.  I would recommend it to anyone growing a little garden here.

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Jaboticaba

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We have two jaboticaba trees on our property.  One has never flourished.  The other, however, when in season bears a ton of fruit.  Okay maybe not an actual ton, but a lot.  The jaboticaba grows on the trunk of the tree.  It’s odd looking.  It almost looks like some sort of wart or growth on the tree.  I actually know people who won’t eat it because of this very reason.  It is a shame for them, however, because the fruit is delicious.  It looks a lot like a dark purple grape, but the skin is much thicker.  When eating, you can eat the skin, but most people don’t as it’s a little tough and slightly bitter.  Rather you simply pop the whole thing in your mouth,  pop it open with your teeth and suck the pulp and seeds out.  Then you spit the skin and seeds out.  It doesn’t sound too attractive but it is really good.  People make jelly, wine and liqueurs out of it.  The wine process is a bit time consuming and to be honest I’m always nervous about the fermenting process, so I haven’t tried that yet.  We picked two large baskets full of the berries.  I made some jelly and am in the process of making the liqueur.  This jar will sit for a few months before I strain it and add a simple sugar syrup to taste.

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Jaboticaba can fruit year round if taken care of well.  This is our second batch this year.  Once ripe, they don’t stay fresh long.  So it’s important to pick quickly, else they’ll simply fall on the ground and rot.  Jaboticaba is native to Brazil.  It has high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and anti-aging properties (who doesn’t want that??).  It is also a good source of Vitamin C, B1, calcium and phosphorous.