Tag Archives: Ohia

Lessons from Lava

The official theme of this blog is ” homesteading, food, travel, and philosophy from the side of a volcano in rural Hawai`i.” So far, I’ve done mostly the first three, but very little of the fourth – philosophy. I could elaborate philosophically on many topics, and over the next few months, bear with me as do more of that.

The official title of this blog is “Lava to Lilikoi,” and that is a great deal like saying “how to make lemonade out of lemons.” In other words, when given an acre of lava, how do you produce lilikoi (our name for passion fruit) in abundance?

The drought has discouraged me from doing a lot of gardening, although I did plant 45 garlic cloves this week! They don’t like a lot of water, so this area should be perfect for them. I bought a pound of California softneck garlic from an heirloom seed company, since most stores sell garlic that is treated to prevent it from sprouting. (I understand that health food stores might have organic non-treated garlic, however.)

The opening photo shows some of these garlic bulbs, plus a few miniature pumpkins from the grocery store, and a couple of even tinier acorn squash that never did grow big enough to eat!

One of the many lessons of gardening I have learned has been not to plant anything that requires plenty of water, plenty of rich soil, or a different climate.

For example, my geraniums have taken over various spots of my acre, and they add a great deal of color to an otherwise gray landscape. Herbs in pots are growing nicely. I have been able to get some delicious beets and arugula occasionally. My donkey tails seem to do well. Palms that don’t require a lot of water are doing okay. Various flowering shrubs have done fine (when the Mouflon sheep don’t eat them). Other veggies did quite well when we had regular rains, or when the birds didn’t eat them.

Please don’t mistake this for complaining! I’m just stating facts about my own particular situation. Everyone in my garden club seems to be suffering from the drought, too.

So on this weekend after Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the beautiful ancient ohia trees scattered around my acre, for the hens that give me delicious fresh eggs, for the splashes of magenta, purple, orange, blue, red, pink , white and yellow that adorn my lava “lawn,” for a year-round temperature that allows me to be free from snow and ice. Living and gardening on lava makes me thankful for every single sprout!

I’m also grateful for my friends, whether here or on the mainland, who keep in touch; for my students who challenge me, and who keep my mind active and alert; for good health that permits me to continue gardening and teaching; and for my family members who make me proud to be their mama, grandma, and great-grandma, sister, cousin and aunt!

Finally, I’m grateful for my little Katrina, a sweet and photogenic joy in my life! Doesn’t she look pretty in blue?

A hui hou!

May Day/Lei Day!

LEHUA BLOSSOMS ON OHIA TREE
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LEHUA BLOSSOMS ON OHIA TREE

 

What do you think of when May 1 comes along?

The Lehua blossoms on the Ohia tree above are one sure sign that we are on the verge of summer. By May 1, the trees are loaded with red blooms and more are opening up.

When I was a little girl many moons ago, on May 1, we made little baskets to hang on the door knobs of neighbors. Sometimes these were baskets folded out of construction paper strips that we had made in school. Not as frequently, we were able to go to the “dime store” and buy a few little woven straw baskets.

Whatever we used, we filled them with flowers as our way of saying “Happy Spring!” on May 1, or May Day. Even today, May Day is celebrated here in Hawai`i as “Lei Day” with hula, everyone wearing lots of leis, and the crowning of the May King and Queen in the schools.

When I was a senior in high school, I was a member of the May Queen’s court. As a child, I enjoyed dancing the May Pole Dance, which originated in Great Britain.

For those who have ever done any sailing, “Mayday!” meant a life and death situation at sea. Fortunately, I never had to radio that emergency when I lived on board my boat.

However you think of “May Day,” it primarily means lots of flowers and a feeling of new life in our gardens. Here are a few signs of “new life” as we begin the month of May.

I call this my “Buttercup” plant because of the many yellow blooms that cover it. Some have already fallen off but there are many more buds ready to open up.

BUTTERCUP PLANT
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BUTTERCUP PLANT

 

Blossoms on my little coffee tree was one of the many surprises I found this past week! What do you think the chances are that I’ll get a cup of coffee out of this?

COFFEE TREE IN BLOOM
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COFFEE TREE IN BLOOM

 

Two weeks ago, I planted three Spic & Span gladiolus bulbs and today, I saw that two of them have sent up spikes of almost two inches! Today, I also planted one Florence Vaughn Canna
and one Canna Indica. I can hardly wait to see these all sprout.

Somehow, I have squash vines coming up in the oddest places, especially where I did not plant them! I think the birds have left me these gifts. At any rate, here’s one of the squash plants that many people around here eat. Sometimes they get about two feet long! The vines must be spreading out at least four or five feet. Here is a squash and I have no idea what kind it is. I have another one growing where I planted okra!

VOLUNTEER SQUASH
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VOLUNTEER SQUASH

 

The fig tree my daughters gave me last spring has five branches covered with figs. Here is just one branch! There were two figs on it last summer and they were sweet. It looks like I’ll have more than two to eat this year, if the birds don’t get them!

FIGS
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FIGS

 

I’ve planted nasturtiums to cover some of the areas that are not hospitable to other plants. They have just started to come up.

NASTURTIUM
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NASTURTIUM

 

My donkey tail is getting plump. I need to make or buy some macramé hangers to get them up where they can really grow.

DONKEY TAIL
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DONKEY TAIL

 

My mixture of salad greens is about ready to give me a little salad.

SALAD GREENS
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SALAD GREENS

 

Along with the salad makings, I have several beautiful basils. Here is the Siam Basil.

SIAM BASIL
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SIAM BASIL

 

I have planted Holy Basil, also, but it’s not big enough to see yet. The Sweet Basil is growing like crazy, however. This picture was taken last week, and it’s about three times as big now. You can see the small lettuce plants a student gave me beside the basil. The other day, I ate a fresh sweet basil, tomato, and Jarlsberg cheese sandwich on whole grain bread that was heavenly.

SWEET BASIL
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SWEET BASIL

 

A common flower, but one of my favorites, is the geranium. These red ones are in pots outside my kitchen window, taking their cheer inside.

 

This peach colored geranium is starting to get a little growth on it.

PEACH GERANIUM
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PEACH GERANIUM

 

Today I did a lot of pruning, planting, watering, and weeding – then fed the weeds to my hens. On these warm, sunny days, I run out of time with so many projects to take care of. Once school is out (just one more week!), I’ll be able to spend more time outside.

A hui hou!

 

New Life!


As I came out of the house this morning, my eye caught this growth. A branch of ohia that touches the ground, and looks totally dead, is shooting up a lehua blossom. Even if our temperature doesn’t vary more than a few degrees year round, there still is a definite feel of spring this time of year.

Perhaps the struggle for growth in a field of lava creates a shift in perspective. The tiniest bit of green that pokes its head through the black stone is cause for praise and excitement.

While I watered my plants this morning, I took pictures of a few precious keiki (Hawai`ian for babies – and a term we use for new and/or young plants).

One that I am especially excited about is the beautiful Barbados lily I was given by my daughters. http://www.tropilab.com/orangelily.html I’m still trying to find out more about this beautiful plant. What I’ve read so far indicates that it is actually a Hippeastrum Striatum, a variation of the amaryllis. The nurseryman told us that when it dies, a new plant will pop up wherever the flower falls. This seems to be coming true. If you look closely, you’ll see it sprouting up new growth. How many can you count?

In one of my small raised beds mentioned last week, I have a kabocha vine starting to grow and bloom. http://holybasil.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/you-like-kabocha-dontcha/ I really love the flavor of this vegetable. If you check out this website, you’ll see the many ways it can be prepared. I haven’t tried them all yet, but intend to. It’s called “Japanese pumpkin” here by my local friends.

My pink plumeria is starting to bloom. The yellow ones started about a month earlier.

This gardenia is in a container in my patio area, rather than in the ground. But it’s still exciting to see it start to do something. If you look closely (maybe with a magnifying glass?) you can see a tiny bud starting to develop.

The same thing is true of this pepper plant. Somehow the label got lost on this plant after I bought it, but I think I remember that it’s supposed to be hot. I guess the only way I’ll find out is to taste it! (laughing)

I planted peanuts in a little pocket of soil my daughters created for me. They used ohia leaf litter, mixed with compost and some of my “pig dirt” (see last week’s post). You can see the ohia leaves still dropping off. But the peanuts are looking healthy. I remember eating fresh raw peanuts out of my Grandpa Jones’ front yard in Mississippi. Yummy!

There is new growth on my coconut palm. Some of the older leaves have burned edges from the sulfur dioxide in the air (from our volcano), and you can see some spots from the acid rain.

My red banana had a few burned leaves, but it looks like it just might make it.

New growth is very rewarding! Watching my plants sprout and grow is like giving birth to my children again!

Aloha!


Shades of Gray

There is dramatic starkness in an acre of lava. The huge ancient swooping ohia trees provide more shades of black and gray against the stony landscape. Another early growth out of new lava is the bit of green fern that gives a spot of color amidst the somber monotone.

The legend told to every newcomer to Hawaii is that Madam Pele will turn you upside down and give you a good shaking. If you can survive that, she allows you to stay, but on her terms. Learning how to handle her and accommodate her moodiness is part of gardening here.

Walking across the a`a lava can be tricky, and I developed a better sense of balance in the process, along with nicks and bruises. Picking up the lava rocks can do some real damage to your skin. I tried using gloves at first, but found it was faster to simply pick them up to move them. My skin toughened up at last.

But skin wasn’t the only thing that suffered. The tires on my car were getting shredded from driving over the rough stones. I needed to cover up the driveway to protect my tires. I bought the cinder, and a friend called in a favor from a dump truck owner. Once the cinder was on the driveway, he used his little Bobcat and smoothed it out. What a difference it made!

I also wanted a place to park near the house, so a base was put down and cinder dumped on that, as well. Here are pictures of that process. Never would I have thought I could be that excited over a load of cinder!