Monday, November 20, 2017

Mondays on the Farm

Mornings around here start the same...7 days a week.....first thing, start the wood stove if it's chilly out, then breakfast, check the news and weather, move onto to the farm chores. I've got livestock to tend, hubby included. But once the basics are done, I can move onto something more interesting. Whoa wait a minute, this is not work. I actually enjoy watching my animals eat. Well, maybe not hubby (don't tell him that he got included in with the animals), but when I fill the animal feed troughs I normally lean back and watch them chow down. Yes, it's good farm management to make sure that everybody is eating normally, but there's a certain satisfaction in watching them eat. Guess it's that same enjoyment one gets from sitting in the park and feeding the birds. I always feel that if you don't get enjoyment out of watching your animal eat, then perchance keeping livestock isn't for you.  

On Mondays hubby is out the door early and I move onto other things while the chickens' slop & glop cooks in the outdoor stove. But on Mondays I only have an hour before I leave for my tai chi class. Yes, I'm a tai chi person. This may sound corny, but I find that tai chi makes a positive improvement in my wellbeing. Since starting this 3 1/2 years ago, I have much better balance (just ask hubby. I use to fall frequently, but thankfully no longer.) My flexibility is better. My overall physical condition is better. So I'm sticking with it even though it takes up 2 whole hours (just Mondays) away from my homestead schedule.

So this morning I opt to tackle the mundane -- laundry, clean up the kitchen, broom the floors, etc. Not my favorite activities. I'll never have "she kept a beautiful house" engraved on my tombstone! I think I gave up housekeeping for lent a decade or two ago and never took up the habit again. My poor mother was always appalled when she visited. Oh well, I always told her I believed there were more important things in life. She never agreed with me. 

Tai chi basically kills the rest of the Monday morning, but I do get back to the farm in time to set things up for the afternoon before my lunch break. The warmth and perfect sunshine today makes working a joy. There's an energy in the air that makes me eager to start work. Today was scheduled to be a major tilling & planting day. Time to sow the next crop of potatoes, beans, peas, plus start seeds in the mini greenhouses. Now this is pleasant! Getting my hands dirty and planting stuff. Also got several dozen sweet potato cuttings prepared and planted, plus more okinawan spinach started. Found space for six more pipinolas plants and some baby lilikoi vines. Finally got those two fruit trees planted. They've been patiently waiting for ground space for a couple of weeks now. Also tilled a new bed and planted 16 pineapple tops. With Adam's help, everything on the schedule got planted. And we even had time to make herb cuttings and taro starts before I broke away to do some mowing. 

Mowing is my form of exercise. One brisk hour of grass mowing using a self propelled type lawnmower leaves me sweaty and feeling like I've had a good workout. Plus there's that bonus of 7-8 trashcanfuls of clippings. What a great bonus! It's like getting paid to workout. 4 canfuls go to the sheep, one to the chickens, and the rest to the gardens. Ooooo, you noticed the "self propelled" part, eh? Think it's easy, eh? Well believe me, mowing on a slope and on non-smooth ground isn't anything like mowing a lawn. Plus stooping to empty the bag over and over again, dragging full trashcans around and slinging them into the back of the pick-up adds other exercise dynamics to the task. Yes, it's a workout that brings a thumping cardio workout along with muscle use and a sweat. 

By now you'd think my day was over, but not quite. The livestock needs rechecking, and I scan the farm for pending tasks. Any thing needing repair? I run the fence line riding the atv looking for problems. How's the weed control doing around the farm? Do any gardens need watering? Any pests showing up? Which project is due to be tackled next? Oh, I've got lots of projects going and they vie to see which one gets into the top of the list. If time allows, and today it did, I clean up manure in the pastures. I call it "harvesting fertilizer". Every drop gets used to grow food. 

By 5:30 pm I call it a day. Ah, a hot soapy shower is heaven. Donning clean clothes, I'm off the make a dinner snack for us. It's time to catch up on email, blogging, brush the pets, play with the puppy, read my magazines, pick up my lastest book that I'm reading, or maybe take in a movie. Tonight has been no different. I'm reading the latest Ladies Detective story. I find the characters charming. But before long my eyelids droop. I hit the sack between 8-9 pm. That gives me 8 to 9 hours a good sleep, just what I need nowadays to heal my muscles and recycle my brain. Cellphone gets turned off at 8 pm. But I do keep an old cellphone without a sim next to the bed, just in case there's a civil defense warning about floods, fires, tsunamis, or lava flows. One never knows when living on this island. In the past couple years, it's woke me up a few times. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Wood Rot

If one doesn't want to deal with wood rot, then don't live in the tropics! Even the so-called treated exterior wood rots here, especially if it gets wet repeatedly. It just does it a bit slower. 

Today I noticed some fungus "blooming" on the step outside the bedroom exterior door. A sure sign of trouble. The step was made from recycled wood, so I'm not complaining. In fact, I think this was the third project I used that particular piece of wood. But it's finally reached its end. 

But ya know, this fungus is really pretty. Tiny, but pretty. Destructive, but pretty. Hey, it's just doing what fungus is suppose to wood. 

Just wanted to show you what I watch out for around here. Any fungus growing on the wood means that I need to inspect it closely, then either treat the fungus or replace the wood. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Made a Mistake - Oops

Making mistakes is my middle name. Sometimes I actually learn something from in, read the label! I planted several short rows of a bean called Golden Gate. I assumed it was a bush bean. Wrong! I completely forgot that I had purchased this variety to plant along the fence. 

Today I noticed the bean plants sending up runners. It's not uncommon for some of the heirloom types to send up short ones, but this looked serious. Come to discover that I planted a pole type bean in the open beds that have no trellises. Sheesh. 

The runners are lighter green and lacking in leaves. So they are easy to spot. 

By the time I took a closer look, the vines have tangled themselves up pretty well, making it beyond hope to train them to a quick makeshift trellis. 

But all's not lost. The first flush of flowers will be low on the plant, giving me half of the anticipated harvest. The rest of the harvest would be from the climbing vines. I'm not going to bother trying to capture the second part of the harvest. Once I pick the first flush, I'll just yank out the plants and sow something else. Chalk it up to not paying attention. 

Drying the Coffee Beans

A pause in the action. It takes a week to initially dry the beans, but I need to wait a bit longer for them to dry enough for the next step. As soon as they are ready, I'll post what gets done next -- removing the parchment layer to get to the green beans ready for roasting. The parchment needs to be really dry and brittle. 

Stay tuned. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Processing Coffee Cherries At Home

The red berry on coffee trees is called coffee cherry. Yup, it looks like a cherry. But it's not juicy and fleshy as a eating cherry. It's rather firm to the touch with not much flesh at all. 

That beautiful red color is only skin deep. Beneath the tough skin, a thin layer of slippery flesh adheres to the bean. Separating the cherry skin from the bean is rather simple. For small amounts, one can use their fingers. I'll use my thumbnail to make a nick in the skin, then it's just a case of squeezing the beans out. Pop! Gotta be careful because they can fly beyond the bowl if I squeeze them too hard. There will be some beans that are adhered to the skin. I discard these because there us usually something wrong with them one way or the other. 

Most cherries contain two beans, but one or three isn't all that uncommon. Beans that are solo are shaped roundish and are held in high esteem. These are called peaberry. Many coffee drinkers swear that peaberry tastes different and better, but honestly I can't tell the difference. But coffee lovers will pay extra for peaberry. About 5%-10% of my crop is peaberry. 

Removing the beans from the cherry is called "pulping". I'll pulp my cherries by hand for small quantities, but if I get a full basket while harvesting, I'll switch to using a hand cranked cherry pitter. It does a faster job of it. But of course, there's that clean up time at the end that deters me from using it for tiny batches. 

(Above, the top bowl has the pulped coffee beans....that is, the red skin has been removed. Bottom bowl cintains the removed skins.) 

If I had a larger orchard of coffee, I'd need to go with something bigger. They make pulpers for just about any size operation, from handcranked models to larger machine pulpers that combine multiple processing steps. I don't foresee me ever getting past the handcranked cherry pitter. 

Once I've got the beans freed, I need to wash them well in water. I simply place them in a bowl or other container, add water, and use my hands to rub the beans well. This releases bits of cherry skin and flesh, which I flush away with repeated rinsings. Inferior beans often float, so they're easy to remove. Once cleaned, I'll look over the beans for signs of coffee borer damage. Anyone that shows dark areas are sorted out. 

(Above, these beans contain coffee borers. The dark spots indicate the damaged areas.) 

Side note: the discarded cherry skins get added to the cook pot of the chicken slop & glob. The borer damaged beans get dumped into boiling water (to kill the beetles) then disposed of by tossing them into a garden area. With the internal beetles and eggs killed, they pose no danger. I don't feed the beans to the chickens because they are like chickens can't digest them.) 

 Next step.....remove the fleshy slime on the beans. The easiest way I've found is to soak the beans overnight in water. By morning the flesh is starting to ferment. I'll now use my hands to repeatedly and vigorously rub the beans together, scraping off the loosened flesh. With lots of water flushes and rubbing, I can feel the difference. The beans start to feel rough rather than slippery. It doesn't take long to clean them, just 3-4 minutes. By then the rinse water is clear and clean. 

Next step....dry the wet beans. I sun dry the beans over a period of a week. Leaving them spread out on a tray on the truck's dashboard works just fine. I just have to remember to park the truck at the right angle to capture the sun. Most of my neighbors simply spread them out on a screen or fine mesh in a sunny, airy location. But they have to protect them from the rain, which this year is a problem. It becomes a race to get them dry before they begin molding. Because I don't have too much coffee, the truck method works fine. 

Once dried for a week, I can then store the beans is a mason jar to await roasting. But I could also simply store them in a burlap bag in a dry, airy location. Problem is, I don't have one in my farm. It's been too wet this year. In the past I have used a clean five gallon bucket with a tight lid. That worked ok with larger quanties of beans. 

Commercial operations test the moisture content of their beans. They want them dry enough not to mold, but retain a tad of moisture in order to roast properly. Back when I use to deal with hundreds of pounds of coffee beans, I did that too. But now I'm working with only a small amount of coffee, so I just give it my best guess based upon my prior experience with processing coffee. Home brew doesn't have to be so precise. And I still can fairly well tell the moisture content by listening to the sound the beans make when dropping into a metal bowl. 

How much coffee do I get from my trees? Last year I got just under 60 lbs of ready to roast green beans, enough for home consumption and a little to give away as gifts. This year I'll get be getting more since some of the younger trees are producing more cherries. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Coffee Harvest Time

This year's crop is coming in about one week earlier than last year. Yes, having this blog has allowed me to keep track of such things. I'm not good at keeping a garden notebook, so this blog is coming in handy. 

Some of the trees have a heavy crop, considering that they are full-shade grown. Others are a bit lighter, but still as abundant as last year. 

Looks like I'll be picking coffee cherry for the next few weeks. The biggest picking looks like it will be now. With a smaller picking in 10 days. And a final, smaller picking 7-10 days later. After that it will be just cleaning up the stragglers. But if time permits, I prefer to pick every 3-5 days because processing smaller batches of coffee cherries us easier. 

I promised some readers that I would show you how I process my coffee from start to finish. So picking the ripe red coffee cherries is step #1. 

Stay tuned, same channel, I'll show you the next step. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Day on the Homestead

I'm going to occasionally try a new format....diary/prose style. Just for the change. Just for the fun, I'll describe a day on the farm. 
After a week of daily rain, this morning promised a drier day. But sunrise has fooled me before, so I didn't hold my breath. Good thing, because of course, it rained. 0.15 inches of rain. Sigh...another wet day in the tropics. 

Morning chores were the usual....feed cats, feed dogs, feed chickens, feed donkey, feed sheep,feed goats, feed hubby. With the immediate complaining voices silenced, water bowls, buckets, and troughs got replenished, too hubby's coffee cup. Next round through -- clean up feeding buckets, bowls, and our own dishes. This is a typical morning around here, come rain or shine. Somehow in the midst of all this I find time to have my own breakfast and check the news headlines. I have this compulsive need to check the daily news each morning, though I've trained myself to seldom go beyond the headlines. World news nowadays drives me insane, so I limit my exposure. 

(Two of the farm dogs doing their morning greeting -- Sweetie Pie and Willie.) 

Primary morning chores accomplished, what next? Every day is different, thank heaven. If it ever became drudgery, I'd give it up. 

Because of the ongoing rains, I'm way behind schedule. But today was Sunday, yes a day of "rest". So not much gets accomplished on the farm. If it wasn't for the rain, I'd have mown fresh grass for the sheep and chickens, and harvested the manure from the pastures and chicken pen. But since it was, I handed out hay cubes to the sheep and donkey, and promised to gather manure tomorrow. 

Sunday's means a mid-morning trip to KaLae Coffee to discuss that past week's news with friends. As a group, we always dive headfirst into the political news, dissecting every headline politician's foibles in minute detail. Why anyone would want to get into national politics is beyond me. But before long we move on to local gossip and events, family updates, the beauty of last week's sunsets, the upcoming visits of family, the current garden status. Mean while, the dogs (Loki, Noodles, Shy, and Sissronimo) catch up with their own news, gently play, and solicite petting and treats from passing strangers. It's the same format every Subday. Today was a bit better than the past few the shop had tuna fish sandwiches for sale. Time for an early lunch? You bet! 

The rest of the day until dinner lacked any meaningful accomplishments, unless reading could be considered that. Gosh, this turned out to be one of our laziest days ever. Not your typical day on a farm. But days like these help sore muscles and achy knees to heal a I like to tell myself. By mid afternoon hubby grew restless and opted to dine out with friends. Thus the end of a rather non-productive farm day.