Monday, December 4, 2017

Attaching Greenhouse Plastic in the Mini Greenhouse

"D" wrote to say....."Hi Su,
I am in Honomu and your mini greenhouse is EXACTLY what I need.
Would you please let me know what you used as clips to hold the plastic to the PVC?
A post on your construction method would be great too...."

I tend to keep things simple and cheap. So I use an old worn out garden hose. Using a pruning shears, I cut 3" long pieces. Then using the shears, I cut I slit the full length of the piece. 


I don't bother to drill a hole for the attachment screw. The above pieces are being reused, thus the reason you see a hole in them. 

I guess you could use just about any kind of screw, but I had these little screws with wide heads. I tend to use whatever I have on hand, get for free, or pick up cheaply at thrift stores or yard sakes, 

 
I use screws instead of nails because they are easy to punch right through the hose and pcv without pre drilling a hole, plus they grip well. 

I apply the greenhouse plastic, then slip a piece of hose over the plastic and over the pipe. Then drill the screw in. I use one of the battery operated drills because I'm working in a spot with no electricity. 



I've had a couple of episodes of quite strong winds and the plastic stays in place. I have the mini greenhouses oriented so that the prevailing wind blows through the tunnel, not against it. Thus I haven't had any problems with the greenhouses blowing over. 

As for the construction, again, I keep it simple. So simple that it drives hubby nuts. He would make them far more substantial. I simply nail two 2x4s to each corner of a pallet for each leg. The two pieces are first nailed together in an "L" configuration then nailed to the pallet. It's not real strong, but I'm not moving the pallets around, so it's stable enough. These are just quick and easy legs. 
Then I bend the 1/2" pcv pipe and screw each end to each corner, one pipe per side of the pallet. I think I used 8' or 9' pipes. But any length would do depending upon high tall you want the arch. For stability, at the top I screwed a top cross bar, connecting the two pipes at the top of the arch. I used pcv so that this brace would be smooth and not tear the plastic. Then for more stability I added four braces (two each side of the pallet table top) going from the middle of one pallet side up to the pcv pipe before I got too far along in its arch. I used guava sticks.....for a few reasons. Guava is free. The sticks are fairly smooth so as not to tear the plastic. Guava is fairly durable. It's easy to work with. So now the pcv arch is fairly stable and ready for plastic. I painted to wood because it made hubby happy. 

The cost was low. For most of the mini greenhouses I used free, reused materials, or things I had in hand. For the last few I had to buy the pcv pipe. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Bean Damage

After quite a long period of little sun, lots of rain, and cool temperatures, I went to harvest my Golden Gate yellow beans. Very unhappy to see the amount of damage in the beans themselves. The plants look fine, in fact, robust. But the beans are showing signs of slug damage plus something else. 


The curling of the pods was to be expected. This is a pole variety that I accidentally planted in the bush bean bed. So it didn't get trellised. If grown on a trellis, the pods would have been straighter. But it's the brown marks that concern me. 


And I've never seen the brown discoloration along the top "seam" of the pods before. 

So what's the problem? Wrong variety for the weather conditions? Too wet? Too cold? Not enough sun? Some sort of disease? Just not a good variety for this farm? 

I'm ending up with 80% loss. That's right. Only 20% of the beans are sellable. 

I still have about a pound of seed for sowing. I think I'll wait until late spring to plant it .......and along a trellis this time! (oops) So I'll see how this bean performs in warmer, sunnier, and hopefully drier conditions before I give up on it. By the way, I cooked up the damaged beans for the chickens and they smelled delicious. At least this one has good flavor going for it. Plus the pods are very low fiber, thus they are quite tender when cooked. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mini Greenhouse Fixes

My Initial experiment with the mini greenhouses were a success. My hubby saw them as failures because....
....the plastic shredded 
....the ground cloths became slug motels 


Those two problems just need tweeking. Since I plan to keep using these mini greenhouses, I'm upgrading to greenhouse plastic. Greenhouse plastic is thicker, stronger, and UV resistant. Between the winds here and the tropical sun, I don't expect to get 10 years out of it, but if I can get several years I'll be happy enough. 

Covering the ground was good for weed control, but bad for dealing with slugs. When I pulled back the ground cloth just to check out of curiosity, YIKES! It was a slug haven. They must have been having weekly orgys because there were slug eggs here, there, everywhere. Hundreds, no thousands, of slugs. Ok, the ground cover was a real bad idea. It allowed water to drain through it and create a nice dark, moist environment. So it had to go. I'd rather deal with weeds. 

Recovering the mini greenhouses wasn't difficult, it just took time. Lots of backing out screws then re-screwing in order to reattach plastic sheeting. Working at a good clip, it took me 20 minutes to do each mini greenhouse. 

At-da! Job done. Ready for replanting. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rain

No rain up until this past week. Only 0.1" the entire week before. Nothing the week prior to that. Not good. 

When growing vegetables, constant soil moisture is real important. Two weeks of almost no rain has kept me watching my soil closely. But combined with that no rain has also been a general lack of wind and sun. Thus my two major moisture robbers have been absent. But finally I was getting concerned. Yesterday's checking indicated that it was time to irrigate. 

So what did I hear the weatherman say? Flash flood warning for all of Big Island? Whoa baby, rain! Yes! Sometimes I luck out. In the past 3 days the farm has gotten over 4 inches of rain. Wow. End of dry spell for now. 

Weather is real iffy here. While rainy spells seem to have a season, the yearly trends recently haven't kept to the script. The past few years have been much wetter than what I use to expecting. And the rain has been happening thorough out the year, rather than primarily at a particular season. 

If this were the rain pattern all the time, farming would be much easier. But no. Sometimes years are significant drought, which puts a real monkey wrench into farming. Drought has its benefits though -- lots of sun, warmth, available days to get work done. But it also means that water must be hauled if the stored catchment tanks get used up, which usually happens with long droughts. 

For some reason, folks who want to get into farming or serious gardening don't realize just how much the weather affects growing plants. I sort of knew about it when I got started, but the reality really hit me during my first drought. Then again during my first extended rain period. And I'm still working on ways to deal with the weather ....
...storing extra water
...incorporating more compost into the soil
...learning how to manage the mulching better
...discovering which varieties need extra moisture, or conversely, preform better during dry spells 
...experimenting with shade tunnel
...experimenting with rain protection tunnels
...using greenhouses
I haven't gotten into exploring drip irrigation yet, but it is something I really need to try. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Snowing in Hawaii

First big snow of the season in Hawaii. In fact, both summits are seeing snow. Pretty cool! 

Last night I noticed a dusting of snow on one of the webcams. By this morning the snow was obvious. Plus the summit road was closed, a sure sign of snow and ice. Since it's suppose to snow more tonight, the road will stay closed until the plow clears it. Yes, Hawaii owns a snow plow! 


According to the weather service, they are expecting around 6" of snow, give or take. But sleet will most likely be mixed in at times, making the snow cover icy and as hard as a rock. Not the fun sort of snow to play in. But no doubt people will go up there for some early winter fun, and you can bet there will a snowman built down by a beach somewhere, or possibly some kid's front yard. 


Tomorrow I'm going to be occupied, otherwise I'd drive to a good vantage point to take some photos. Some years the snow caps the mountain and makes for some stunning photos of the beach in the foreground and the snow covered volcano in the distance. Always a great picture to email to friends. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Expanding the Growing Space

While I have plenty of growing areas to produce all the fruits and veggies that we need to survive ourselves, it's the extra cash crops that I'm focusing on. Thus the reason I need more garden spots. But looking around my farm, I see that I'm limited as to available open, sunny areas. Resale veggies are ones that require sun. So the flat, open area in the front of the property will remain the primary growing area.  The problem there is the lack of soil depth and lots of rocks. I've already spent years removing rocks, and it looks like I'm going to be doing more once again. Gee, my first thought was, "Where do I need more rock walls?"

I'm actively working to expand. Besides looking for more nooks and crannies, I'm also coming up with ways to expand the main garden. By removing the grass aisles, I'll gain over 33% more actual planting space. So that looks like a viable option. Plus it would be the fastest way since most of the rocks have already been removed from previous gardening activity.

Above, the aisleway has been turned over, then compost was tilled in. 

Another option is converting the ornamental taro growing area into veggie beds. That's a real tempting option too. 

Down along the chicken pen is a 20' x 15' spot that gets decent sun and has adequate soil. I could move taro to that area, thus freeing up better locations for more veggies. 

Much of my grassy, pasture zones get plenty of sun, but are full of rock and poor soil. Those spots would take some serious work. But it's a thought in the back of my head. 


Above, I've prepared the soil along the back edge of a low rock wall and planted a little taro. Utilizing the narrow, small margins helps increase my production. 


Above...here's another "edge" garden site. I'm putting 20 pineapple starts along one of the concrete pathways around the house. Noodles helped me remove rocks and till in the compost. Gee, I had to be careful not to run him over with the tiller. He's not afraid of motors, obviously. 

Some of the new areas will be used for vine crops .... pipinola, pumpkins, gourds. So I'll only need to prep the spots where the individual plants will be growing, not the areas in between where the vines spread. At least for now, that's the plan. I can prep more ground after the harvest. 

As for row crops, for virgin garden spots I'm preparing just the actual row only for now --- not the space between the rows. Eventually I'll expand the 12" rows into 3' wide beds, but not immediately. Why? Lack of time. First step is create a row and get a crop in and growing. Then as time permits, I'll remove rocks and add soil amendments to the aisleways. Rather than prepping the entire area first, it's more important for me to get a crop growing. Thus prep will happen along the way as I'm harvesting crops for market. I know that lots of people advocate...actually insist on... getting the garden area fully prepped first, but that would mean working the soil for three years before growing my first crop. A year of rock removal and bed creation and two years of building the soil fertility. Keep in mind that I'm not using commercial fertilizers, which would give me an instant boost now but would interfere with the development of a long term healthy soil system. No, I'm not going to wait for 3 years. I need the crops now and will simply work with what I've got, improving as I go along. And ya know, I'm no spring chicken anymore. Waiting years to get a new crop going isn't in my favor anymore. I want to see these crops getting harvested before I'm too old to do it! 

So here's my task list....
...choose a spot with at least 3" of soil (even if it's just between the rocks) and gets at least 6 hours of sun
...mow the grass down as close as possible. 
...run the rototiller shallowly over the surface to cut most of the grass plants off at the soil surface. 
...mark where the rows will be
...use a mattock to open the soil along the rows, removing the rocks as I go along. Remove any Bermuda grass roots that I see. Open the row about 12" wide. 
...top the row with compost, manure, and other soil amendments. Work them in with a mattock, shovel, or tiller (whichever does the job). 
...plant beans, peas, or potatoes

There will be lots of more work in the future. Things like building the soil volume, increasing the soil fertility, eliminating the Bermuda and kukuya grass, removing more rocks to widen the growing area. But the goal I'm keeping in mind is growing sellable veggies ASAP. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Kapapala Ranch

Last day of my Thanksgiving vacation proved to be special. I was invited to Kapapala Ranch for a picnic & tour. What a treat! 

Kapapala Ranch is a large (34,000 acre) working ranch in my region. Yes, it's huge. 90 miles of ranch roads, 350 miles of fence line. It hosts 2400 breeding cows (plus bulls and calves) and 2000 Spanish meat goats, several donkeys, and numerous ranch dogs. It's an amazing operation. Unless you've seen it, it's difficult to imagine the incredible terrain, the beautiful vistas, the forests and wildlife. Seeing this vast ranch just blew me away, for real! 

Starting out from the ranch house, ...

we climbed aboard one of the ranch trucks .....along with 6 of the ranch dogs. Their choice to go along, while several others decided to stay behind. 
3 of the dogs opted to hop out and run the whole distance, one chose to ride the whole trip, and the others hopped off and on like we were a San Francisco street car. 
I got the feeling that those dogs were hoping to find a job along the way, but no luck. This was a day off. Can't call it a day of rest, since several of the dogs trotted miles and miles. 

First let me say that this wasn't like any Sunday drive I've ever gone in before. We travelled the ranch roads at a dog trot speed (8 mph, yes the dogs trotted along with the truck the whole way), so rough that it was impossible to keep one's elbow on the armrest. The road started out pleasant enough, but the higher we got in elevation the rougher the road became. 4 wheel drive LOW was required! 


The open pastures were once planted all in sugar cane back in the plantation days. Now they support cattle. One thing I was surprised to learn was that sugar cane had been planted at rather high elevations. And rather far away from the processing plant. Some of those more remote fields had been abandoned earlier than the closer fields, and while they now sported some tree regrowth, they were still predominately grassy. Interesting fact -- clumps of banana trees exist here and there in the fields. They had been used as markers in the cane fields to warn of dangerous situations for the heavy equipment. When the cane fields were burned off for harvesting, the bananas did not burn. Thus there was a clear warning of existing pukas and fragile lava tubes. Pretty clever solution. 

Around every turn there seemed to be another amazing nature scene. 
The higher we climbed, the more native the forest got. By the time we reached the top of the ranch (5000' elevation), the forest had changed to koa and ohia trees, the home of the i'iwi (a threatened Hawaiian bird). While I spotted i'iwi, there's no way I could get a photo of one. But what a thrill ---- I actually saw my first i'iwi!!!!!! 

Our destination was the ranch reservoir. 

Manmade of course, it supplies the ranch with quite a bit of valuable water. The reservoir looks to hold about 4 million gallons and gets its water from a 3 acre catchment field above the reservoir itself. From here, 9 miles of pipe send the water down to the lower ranch where it is needed. 

It's a great location for a picnic. Up here in "god's country", miles from civilization. 

Heading back down after lunch, we passed the goat herds being guarded by several large guardian dogs. 

We also visited the Ainapo cabin along the way. 

This little cabin was built in 1840 and is quite historic. Isabella Byrd stayed here in her trip up Mauna Loa, though I don't recall the year off the top of my head. This site was an established camping area prior to the cabin being built here, and it still retains its charm to this day. 

Coming downhill, the coastline views are impressive. One turn after the other revealed spectacular vistas. And usually we had at least one dog leading the way. 

What a grand trip. I am ever grateful for being invited along. Mahalo nui loa !!! 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Small Business Saturday, Ka'u Style

Do you cringe at Black Friday? I do. In fact, I avoid it like the plague. But around here, that's easy. Just don't leave our district. You wouldn't even know that Black Friday existed if you drove around Ka'u. I like it that way! 

Now.....Small Business Saturday is another story. Around here, just about every business is small. Not all, but most. And this Saturday was a good time for small businesses to come out of the shadows and air their art, crafts, farm products, and services. 


A local small business (Hawaiian Flowers) offered their grounds for a bit of a show & tell market so that other Ka'u small businesses can get some much appreciated advertising....and make a few sales as a bonus. 


Lots of businesses were represented including coffee, honey, fruits, baked goods, craft signs, jewelry, flowers, block print clothing. Even the local chiropractor was there -- hi, Frederick! 


Small business is how many folks survive here in my area. Jobs are scare, almost as rare as hen's teeth. So people have to be innovative to survive. Some of us provide services, while others make or grow things. 


Our little fair was well attended. Easy to see that by looking at the parking situation. It was a challenge to park the car! Good thing we drive a small one.

Above, local honey. If you've never had fresh, raw honey, you're missing out on life. That store bought stuff is terrible, take my word for it. I never liked honey until I moved here and tasted the real stuff. 


If you ever come to Hawaii......if fact, if you go traveling to another culture or area a buy some souvenirs, why not seek out the local small businesses. These little guys are working hard to survive. And usually they offer the real McCoy, not stuff imported from other countries. 


Above, a couple of friends having fun and hamming it up for the camera. You're never too old to make a fool of oneself in public and have fun! 


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful

Everyone seems to be posting a list of what they're thankful for. Blogs. Facebook. Emails. Text messages. My main thought on this topic.....Why don't they make their list first thing each and every morning? Why only be thankful one day a year? 

I've had some pretty close calls in my life. I've seen others around me having even closer calls than me, but for some reason many of those people don't have the same response that I do. I don't understand why. Just let me say..... I'm thankful plenty!!!!!!!!  I'm thankful ALL the time. 

I've made it to almost 70 years of age. Just for that fact alone I'm thankful. I can function fairly normally. I'm warm. I'm fed. I'm generally safe. I'm very thankful for all that. Sure, life has its ups and downs, and lots of problems & hassles. But I can still be thankful 365 days a year. 

I've worked in medicine much of my life. So I've seen or heard of some of the tragedies that can occur. I've had close friends who worked in social services or were police officers, so I've heard of the horror stories from those sectors. I've had relatives and friends who went to war, and their horrors were too damaging to even talk about afterward. I read the news about disasters and catastrophes happening daily. Mother Nature aside, mankind can be pretty ugly. Being aware of all that horror makes me constantly thankful for my life so far. 

Hope and thankfulness. Thankful for life so far, and hope for a chance at a decent future for a few more years. 

All these deep thoughts aside........

I had a gentle, peaceful Thanksgiving Day. Shared time with hubby and a family friend. Had a passable meal -- nothing to write home about -- but enjoyed every bite. 

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 do.....eat 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 them........like 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 stones.....to 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. 
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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, ....so 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 Sundays...today 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 bit.....so 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. 

 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Using Guavas

My current over abundance of guavas is fortunately not a problem. My chickens eat the vast majority of them. I wait until the fruit is quite soft, mash them with a hand mixer, them mix them in with cooked rice and other kitchen scrapes. They get to eat all the wild guavas that I gather. Those wild ones are far too sour for me, but the hens don't complain. 

I do have a sweet guava tree in the farm. And it produces enough fruit for my needs because we're not big guava eaters. 
 

Uses for guavas.....
... Fresh eating. Everything is edible - skin, seeds, flesh. 
... Added to a tropical smoothie. Drop in whole, uncooked or cooked. 
... Juice. I cook them in water (just enough to cover the fruits) then smash them using a hand mixer. When cool, I strain off the juice and use it for other recipes. Usually I'll strain the leftover pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds. 
... Guava pulp. Cook. Cool. Pour off the juice (for guava juice). Smash with a hand mixer. Force the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds. (The discarded seeds either get added to my next smoothie or go into the chicken feed.) If the guava pulp is too thick, I'll simply stir some guava juice back into it. 

Guava juice and pulp can be used in all sorts of recipes. While I'm not a fan of pure guava juice, I like to mix it with other fruits to make a tropical drink. The juice can also be used to make guava jelly, though I've never tried to do it myself. 

Guava pulp lends itself well to kitchen experimentation. Guava jam is a no brainier. The pulp or juice can also be added to salad dressings, as a flavoring in batters and other coatings, in cookies/cakes/pies/icings, to flavor sour cream or cream cheese dip, as a sauce over ice cream, etc. Once I was at a friend's house for dinner and had guava glazed ham. She also makes a mean guava glazed chicken wing! Another friend made me a guava flavored flan. Yummy! 

Since guavas are seasonal, I tend to make my excess guavas into pulp then freeze it for future use. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Guava Abundance

One of the names that this year could have would be Year of the Guava. I've never seen such an abundance since moving here. Even the wild guava trees are full of fruits. 


My edible guava tree is producing very large fruits this year, besides making lots of them.....

While I have trimmed by domestic guava tree to prevent damage to it, the wild guava go untended. As a result many of the trees have branches bending waaayyyyy over. Looks bad, but it makes for easier picking.