In 2005 I bought this sweet small house on an acre of land consisting of nothing but a’a lava rock. Then in May of 2008, I started this blog. I began to share photos and write about how that acre of lava was developing (or not developing).
Since late spring of this year, I was given a home that is closer to the college where I teach, closer to town, and has land that will actually grow something. It is still rocky, but the lava has decomposed enough that it manages to provide more of the lush greenery for which Hawai`i is known.
While I lived in Ocean View, I complained about not being able to grow anything, or at best what did stay alive was growing at a snail’s pace! Now my complaint goes in the opposite direction – everything grows too quickly! This view into the side yard was taken in April.
Two months later in June, it was so overgrown that no one could walk through it! There is a lot of work to be done still, but with the help of some friendly landscapers, it is beginning to take shape. I’ll post more pictures as things start to look beautiful again.
I look forward to cleaning out this little area with its raised beds. It is a perfect spot for growing herbs, or starting seeds, or potting seedlings, and more. The purple sweet potatoes growing here were probably from starts the previous owner was tending. I will transplant some of those into a backyard garden.
Friends have given me lilikoi seedlings and several white pineapple plants. So much to look forward to here!
Recently, I have made several trips to the end of South Point Road to show visitors the Southernmost point in the United States. These remnants of a wind farm make me wonder just how environmentally conscious it is to let these stand. New working turbines have been built to take the place of the old ones, but what will we do with these discarded and useless turbines?
Our Big Island Self-Sufficiency group (BISS) here on the Big Island meets quarterly for a potluck and to share or exchange seeds, plants and cuttings. Other people there took lots of pictures, but you can see pictures I took at last year’s gathering here.
Kele’s garden is still full of banana trees and various tropical plants that would fill any gardener’s heart with envy! Needless to say, the food was excellent! I came away with several small plants and a bag of various seeds. Some of the items were new to me, like these.
Sonia is another garden and food blogger. She makes sure everything is in its right place! “Hot dishes go here, cold dishes go here, and desserts are over there – and I’m so happy you could join us!” Be sure to check out her blog from yesterday to find out a bit of the history behind BISS, and see more pictures from our gatherings.
This year, several of our members brought musical instruments to jam. I was able to get a couple video clips of them playing. Ignore the background chatter of all the people (65 people showed up!) in this YouTube, and you might hear the music that reminded me of my old “hippie” days in California. My little camera may not produce the finest fidelity, but the music was good toe-tappin’ stuff!
Peter played Mandolin, Altar played guitar (sometimes they switched), Phil played banjo and harmonica, Melanie played violin. Peter and Altar are from the Akaka Pit Stop where you can buy fresh fruits and veggies from their farm when you are on the Hilo side of the Big Island. Be sure to check out their website and tell them I sent you!
One of my intentions since the beginning of this blog almost three years ago has been to show readers what some of our local residents have managed to create on their acreage, and what they are doing to make it livable as well as beautiful. If you want to see some of these past posts, go through the categories on the right hand column of this blog.
The Southern end of the Big Island of Hawaii is not exactly the luxurious tropical atmosphere most people envision when they think of Hawaii. Here, every bloom is nurtured and prized, every square inch is utilized as much as possible.
Many of my posts talk of the challenges we face when we try to garden on our a`a lava. It is a constant process of finding which plants will survive during drought or heavy rain, coping with toxic air full of sulfur dioxide from the volcano, sheltering our plants from the strong trade winds, and working with minimum soil that we (mostly) need to make ourselves out of compost.
Little by little, our lava beds can become works of art. Recently, our Ocean View Garden Club visited another local property that exemplifies the creativity that is possible here, in spite of harsh circumstances. Plant art, found art, junque art – all are at home here and work together to form an oasis of beauty.
Click here to view a slide show of what is possible when creative minds are put to work.
Mahalo to those of you who have sent condolences about my drought-ridden garden! I have a tendency to get discouraged, and wonder if we will ever get rain. It looks like I’ll need to order my fifth load of water for the catchment tank this next week, unless we get a heavy rain in the meantime (which doesn’t look likely).
Mostly it’s been my vegetable garden that has suffered. I can’t seem to get enough water on them, no matter how hard I try. My attempt to conserve water for personal use (like bathing, flushing, and cooking) means I can’t water as often or as deep as I’d like. What my veggies need is a nice overhead soaking from the skies. Anyone know how to teach me to do a rain dance out there??
All is not lost, however. Like the new sprout at the bottom of my red ti plant above, there is still life. For some strange reason, my flowers are doing well. There is just enough of a mist occasionally to keep my brilliant nasturtiums blooming and spreading.
The geraniums don’t seem to need as much water as other plants. In fact, these magenta ivy geraniums are going crazy. I need to do a “dead head” job on them, but they are a gorgeous spot of color from my kitchen window.
The pikake blooms are sweet smelling and provide a nice contrast to the magenta behind them.
I’ve tried to pick my figs regularly, even though I only get one or two a week. They are a little morsel of flavor. Perhaps someday I’ll get enough to actually make some fig jam! I was about a day too late to pick these two. The birds got there first.
One plant that doesn’t need much watering and seems to keep growing during this drought is the tillandsia cyanea (Pink Quill), part of the Bromeliad family. Mine are all full of the pink brachts with tiny purple flowers. Locally, many call this “Kamehameha’s Paddles.”
Most everything that is in a pot seems to have fared much better, but even then they need a constant watching. I have two of these cardoon (also called artichoke thistle). It is a relative of the Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) and is grown for its stem, which I assume is cooked up for eating. I’ve never grown this before so it will be an interesting experiment. Does anyone know if the thistle can be eaten like a regular artichoke?
These four basils grown in pots are doing well. They are purple basil, lime basil, cinnamon basil, and sweet basil. They are right outside my kitchen door for handy use. The basil I planted in the ground was eaten by birds before I even had a chance to cover them with netting. Fast and hungry critters, they are!
This broad-leaf sage is doing quite well in a pot. I transplanted it from the ground in order to keep it going. It was starting to die in the ground, but has made an amazing come-back.
This little society garlic is in a pot for now. I may move it to the ground somewhere once the rains come.
Plants like hibiscus and geraniums don’t have much trouble surviving.
The lime tree was taken out of a large pot and put into the ground a couple months ago, and it’s doing well. There are already new blossoms on it. I tripled the number of drips going to it since the palms and bromeliads (on the same drip system) didn’t need as much.
I planted several stems of this purple flower and those have taken root quite well. They are now providing me with lovely blooms. Many friends say they have this plant, but don’t know the name of it. If anyone can tell me, please write!
This was another twig given to me. There was a bunch of this growing in Monty’s and Bob’s garden that I wrote about a few weeks ago. Bob called it “Jessup” but I haven’t been able to find anything about it on Google. I keep getting sent to people and places, but not to a plant. Another one that I don’t know. Any suggestions?
Of course, I find it impossible to kill my red chard. It tastes so good in a quick stir-fry with garlic and olive oil. For every leaf I pick, two more come up! A small patch of this keeps me in good greens.
This poha (Cape Gooseberry) is growing quite well, too. I’ve been saving up some of the berries to plant so I can get more bushes. I just had a bowl of poha ice cream in downtown Kona this past week. Absolutely wonderful!
The leaves on this petite orchid don’t look healthy, but the delightful blooms (less than an inch across) are poking out to be admired.
This tri-color stromanthe is managing to survive. I love the three colors of this striking plant.
At last, these three donkey tails found a home in hanging planters right outside my dining room window. They sat on my front steps for over a year, so some of them are not hanging down as straight as they would ordinarily. They have not needed much water to keep growing. Maybe as they get longer and heavier, they will straighten out.
Out of all the seeds I planted of this Thai hot pepper, only two survived. I gave one to a friend as a gift, and this one I’ll keep. Last year, I got dozens of peppers from one plant and since only one or two of these tiny peppers are more than enough for a good hot flavor, one plant is probably enough. I’ll put this in a larger pot next week.
I have about six or seven of these seeds for a Sago Palm (Cycad) that were harvested by a friend on Maui. They had to be soaked, then stripped, and planted on their sides, half-way submerged in soil. They are starting to split and this one is even showing a bit of green. They are very slow growing, so maybe my grandchildren will see a plant from these seeds.
This is an autograph tree given to me by a colleague. It has been growing nicely, but you can see that something bigger than a bug (probably the mouflin sheep) has been taking huge bites out of the leaves. Animals are looking for anything they can find that might provide them with a little moisture.
One triumphant story is the cauliflower. Just a few weeks ago, I went out to find the leaves stripped down to the center vein. Most people have agreed that it is more than likely the caliche pheasants. I continued to water them, wondering if they would revive. Voila! They have huge leaves again and just might make it. I’ll try to put something over them so the caliche won’t get them again.
So that’s the latest from the lava field. My posts have slowed down a bit lately, but each fall semester, I teach five college courses. That takes up most of my spare writing time. Once I’m back into a good rhythm of school, I’ll do better.
Two of my favorite landscapers (Bob and Monty) invited a group of us “tree huggers” to come tour their garden. Since the land on their property is much like that of Ocean View, I gathered lots of how-to ideas on what to grow and what not to grow.
Their elevation is about the same as mine (2300 feet), same rocky lava ground, with perhaps a little more rainfall than I receive, although everyone is experiencing the drought now. Even without much rain this year, my first impression of their acreage was very tropical, what mainlanders picture as being “Hawai`i.”
Since I have said this post is about gardening from A to Z, I suppose I’d better start with A. The rest of the alphabet will be mixed up, however, and maybe I’ll end up at Z!
I love these large deep blue Agapanthus, shown here in front of Stromanthe. The Agapanthus in my garden is smaller and more of a baby blue.
The guys have concentrated their efforts on saving the native Hawai`ian trees, like this tall ‘Ohe Makai by their gate. Like many of the Hawai`ian natives, this particular tree is on the endangered list.
A couple of other native plants they have growing are the Ulei or Hawaiian Rose . . .
Monty’s primary interest seems to be the palms. Soft paths through the palms were everywhere.
I lost track of how many varieties of palms we saw. It seemed like we walked for miles through palm groves.
What rests below the top layer of rocks is one of the factors we all deal with here. If the drainage is stopped by a solid layer of lava, plants don’t grow well. Of those palms planted at the same time, some are quite tall, and others look like they have never grown, due to this layer that hinders root growth.
This Fishtail Palm could be one of the largest of its kind. They are rapid growers and intimidate all the other palms.
No tropical garden is complete without its anthurium plants. . .
. . . or ginger . . .
. . . or banana. This particular banana is not common. (Dare I say it’s “rare”?) It puts out two stalks of bananas each time. If you look closely, you can see them. Even the keiki (babies) that come up after the mama plant has died have the double growth.
Bob tells the story of them going to a nursery in Pahoa to buy a rhododendron, and came home with 39 of them! He said to place the plant on top of the lava, then mound cinder around it. The roots will go down between the big rocks and the small feeder roots will spread out into the cinder. I’m going to try (just) one, I think.
Spots of color were scattered throughout the acreage.
Tucked here and there were other familiar plants, such as donkey tail, ti plants, butterfly bush, and stromanthe.
We saw a few familiar plants in a variety that weren’t as typical as what we have in our own gardens, like this tri-colored jade and variegated monstera.
There were several healthy specimens of staghorn fern.
Various protea are usually found in our tropical gardens, like these banksia (not in bloom at this time), king and pincushion proteas shown here.
For me, one of the most stunning flowers was the passion flower, not the same as the lilikoi we normally have growing.
It seems everyone is suffering from either drought, effects of vog, or critters like rats, sheep, pigs, caliche pheasants. A few veggies are still producing here.
I particularly loved the delicate little “society garlic.” I was given a few small bulbs to bring home and plant. The flower can be tossed into a salad and the flavor is heavenly. My car probably still smells like garlic (not an unpleasant odor for me)!
Bob said his primary passion is xeriscaping, which is designed to reduce the amount of water generally needed for growth. That means succulents and other drought-resistant plants. I have some of these in my own garden, and I plan to do more.
At the entryway to their home are these lovely cycads, both male and female. Need I point out which is which? It’s the biggest one, of course. (smile)
I started this post with A=Agapanthus. Even though this bromeliad is called “tiger-striped bromeliad, I’ll pretend it’s a Z=Zebra-striped bromeliad to keep with the alphabet theme. (Don’t tell on me!)
A touch of serenity concludes the tour.
Enjoy this slideshow for more pictures than I could include in this post, and for individual shots of those plants I’ve made into a collage.
Click here to view the slideshow. If it takes you to a web page instead of the slide show, click on “slideshow” in the upper left hand corner.
Several weeks ago, I showed Inga’s garden, promising a review of her latest project – a roof to provide shade for her patio. I just received the pictures for your enjoyment. As you can see, her father and brother-in-law pitched in to help. Inga and her sister kept everyone supplied in nourishment and beverage.
There’s something wrong with this picture! While we struggle to get through a drought here in Paradise, my daughter’s Boise patio looks more tropical than our own tropics! Of course, a mister system helps.
I am impressed with her ability to make such a small space hold so much and still look spacious. I can’t seem to get that effect on an entire acre.
Even the necessary utilitarian area is beautiful.
So many beautiful things growing!
I keep trying to get a few tomatillos to grow. She has no problem.
Her fruit trees keep her well supplied.
With so many things growing . . .
. . . it’s a wonder she has a chance to sit here and relax!
As always, I get lots of ideas for my own patio and garden.
Mahalo nui loa, Inga!
This past Sunday I had one of the most fascinating experiences I’ve had in ages. This particular group of people was given an opportunity to take a class in Hilo at Kim’s home, one of the Slow Food Hawai`i members. She lives in a section of Old Hilo that has a view of the ocean. . .
. . . and of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church.
Fortunately, we had Chef Sandy Barr-Riviera, an instructor with Hawai`i Community College culinary department, to teach us and to help with some of the side steps, like dissolving the rennet and citric acid in water (2 separate steps), while we all anxiously kept peering into our pots to see if it was cheese yet.
Here, Chef Sandy is helping Bill Stein, head of the Department of Agriculture at UH Hilo.
We worked in pairs since the stove space was limited. That gave those of us who weren’t brave enough to go first an opportunity to watch and see if it all worked. Sara and I were the third pair. Here she is hard at work.
Sonia Martinez, a friend who is also a food and gardening blogger, was part of the class. I took pictures of her working, then she took pictures of me at work. Be sure to read her version of what happened in the class, and to see more pictures. Here is a picture of Sonia (in the back) and Chef Sandy (in front).
I have inserted photos showing the process I went through. You can get an idea of how it looks as you work through the steps. Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll is the “go to” book for making cheese at home. You can order it from Amazon here: <a href="Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses”
Instructions (ingredients included in the narrative):
A gallon of milk takes up a lot of room, so be sure you use a large enough pan. I used a 6-quart Cuisinart pan that was adequate. Also, let me preface this list by saying that the procedure is so much easier than it looks here. I’ve divided the steps so it’s simple to follow, but I know it looks like there’s more to it than there really is.
• Using a thermometer for accuracy, bring the milk to 50 degrees.
• Then add 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid that has been crushed and dissolved in 1 cup of bottled water. The reason you want to use bottled water is to make sure you don’t have any chlorine in the water at all. Chlorine will completely stop the process and you’ll never get cheese.
• Continue stirring over heat until the temperature is around 95 degrees.
• At this point, add 1/4 of a tablet of rennet that has been dissolved in 1/4 cup bottled water. One trick Sandy showed us was to pour the dissolved substances through a skimmer to make sure it is evenly distributed over the milk. (I’m smiling because it looks like something is starting to happen!)
• Stir again, and remove from heat and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes.
• The whey should be starting to separate from the curd. Check this by pressing a spoon down in the mixture enough to see if there is good clear whey. This was an almost clear, yellow/greenish liquid. The curd looks like cottage cheese.
• Using a long knife (like a bread knife), criss-cross cut the curd into pieces that are about 3/4 inch square. Actually, mine didn’t cut that cleanly, but after slicing my knife around for a while, the curds were adequately small (but not too small).
• Put the pot back on the heat for a little longer, stirring again until the temperature reaches 105 degrees. It doesn’t take long so keep a close eye on it.
• Take it off the heat again and continue stirring for a few minutes.
• Have a good glass microwavable bowl handy. With your skimmer, lift the curds out of the whey and into a sieve.
• Press the whey out gently and put the curds into the glass bowl.
• Repeat this process until you have all the curds out of the pot. You will need to keep draining the whey as it tends to keep “weeping” as you work.
• Once all the curds are out of the whey, use a funnel and pour the whey into your empty gallon milk jug. Keep the whey and use it to make ricotta, or give it to your chickens in their water to get bigger and richer eggs.
• Now put the bowl of drained curd in the microwave on high for 1 minute.
• Take it out, stir in 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt. I only used 1 teaspoon as I don’t like my cheese too salty. One teaspoon was still a bit salty for me, but okay.
• Then microwave again for 30 seconds. Take it out, stir a little and let it run from the spoon to check on the consistency.
• Mine wasn’t quite ready after this 30 second nuking, so I did another 30 seconds. You will need to judge your own cheese. It may even take a third nuking.
• Taking your big spoon, stir it around (almost like kneading bread) until it is shiny and thick. Sneak a little taste if you want!
• We’re almost finished! Scoop out a ball of the mozzarella that is 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and roll it in your hands.
• Sonia got 6 large balls of the cheese and I got 10, but mine were a bit smaller than hers.
• Drop these balls of cheese into a larger bowl filled with ice and water. This stops the cooking process.
• After about 10 or 15 minutes, you can scoop them out and put them in a container to keep.
• I put each of my cheese balls into a little plastic sandwich bag once I got home and closed them with a twistie. I kept one out to eat on a cracker. I have never tasted such delicious cheese!
While I was working, I kept thinking about Little Miss Muffet sitting on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey. I wonder if she had been making mozzarella, too?
NOTE: We were told to bring a gallon of Mountain Apple brand whole milk. This is local milk, and not pasturized several times like the milk from the mainland. I would like to experiment with lowfat or nonfat milk. We were also given a list of utensils to bring with us.
a cooking thermometer that registers from 90-110 degrees (if you have)
a heavy bottomed pot with a lid that will hold a gallon of milk
a long knife (bread knife will do) to cut the curd
a 3-4 cup capacity tupperware bowl (or similar) for taking home the cheese
clean dish towel
a slotted skimmer if you have
a large spoon to work the curds
a funnel to put the whey into your empty milk bottle
I didn’t have a thermometer, but there were several available that we all shared. There were also extra bowls for microwaving the cheese. I can see I need to buy my own thermometer if I’m going to make more cheese (and I plan to)! The class was provided with the rennet (the tablets shown below), citric acid and salt.
Mahalo to Sonia who took all the pictures of me, mahalo to Sandy for teaching us, mahalo to Kim for the use of her kitchen (it will never be the same), and mahalo to the rest of the class for participating. We couldn’t have done it without each other!
If you get a chance to take this class in the future, I know you won’t be disappointed. The result may not look as “perfect” as what you see in the store, but the taste is far superior!
One of the blogs about blogging I read is ProBlogger. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? This week, there was a challenge to respond to seven categories. I decided to take part, mostly because it requires some thinking about my posts in the past and where I’d like to go in the future. Here are the seven categories:
1) My first post.
I started this blog as a record for myself only. I was trying to make soil from compost and other materials in order to get something to grow on this acre of rocky lava we call a`a.
2) The post I enjoyed writing the most.
The reason I enjoyed this post is that it is about a special family event I wasn’t able to attend. My first granddaughter got married in October on the mainland and I couldn’t get away from teaching to fly over. Also, I didn’t take the pictures, but it showed several of my children and grandchildren. Needless to say, I shed a few happy tears as I put it together in a post.
3) A post which had a great discussion
I’ve written about lilikoi (Passion fruit) several times and each post brings more discussion than anything else I write about. Mainland readers probably don’t have a clue what lilikoi is, so it’s mostly Hawaii residents who get into great discussions about this fruit with an unusual flavor.
4) A post on someone else’s blog I wish I’d written.
My brother writes a blog that is way more popular than mine, and he tells of great things to do in and around the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area. Like me, he writes about his travels. He and I had just been to England, and we both loved London. I absolutely love this post he did all in black and white photography. It gave me an entirely new perspective to London.
5) My most helpful post.
This post was about a little book that has guided my life and the lives of others over and over. If you are looking for a way to set goals and objectives for the next year, this is the book that will help you.
6) A post with a title I am proud of.
I think the reason I’m most proud of this title is because it represents several decades of waiting to have my book of the same name published. It is about a book I used in my psychology practice and with students. It can also be a self-help book by exploring some hidden meanings in your life.
7) A post that I wish more people had read.
This was posted to honor AIDS Day, and invites us to look at our lives and how we respond to unexpected events in our lives. AIDS awareness is growing, but still not enough.
It took me a while to decide on each of these categories. There are so many posts that would fit into each category. After looking at these seven posts, I get a good sense of where my pleasures reside in writing this blog. My topics have evolved quite a bit over the past two years, and on an unconscious level, I think I have been going in the direction that most suits me best.
I hope you are finding these rambling posts helpful when you garden or cook or travel or reflect on life.
A hui hou!
Aloha! Feral Fables, my newly published e-book, will be available for a special promotional price of $2.99 until August 1, 2010. Go here to to buy or sample Feral Fables. Use the promotional code “SL25S” (not case sensitive) at checkout. Mahalo! (Thank you!)
This past Saturday, our Big Island Self-Sustainability group (BISS) met to celebrate the Summer Solstice with a potluckat the home of one of the founding members, Kele, in Hilo. I love living in Ocean View, but I have to admit to more than a little envy when I see what can happen in a yard where there is actual soil and rain to help things grow.
These pictures are in order as I walked around the outside of his home. There were surprises with every step. I won’t try to give you the names of everything I saw, but most of you will recognize banana trees, and the amarylis in the foreground.
You might say that his entire garden is a banana grove.
Even with a house (and more flowering plants) on one side, the banana grove feeling remained.
The path curved down away from most of the bananas, guiding me around the corner of the house.
For those of you who are familiar with the tobacco plant, you might be surprised at the small size of the leaves on this specimen. Perhaps if it was in the ground instead of a pot, it would look more like the tobacco most of us know.
Oops! More bananas, plus some great-looking papayas!
These are ornamental bananas, a pretty pink, but not for eating!
And yet more bananas about ready for chopping off the tree.
Sometimes there are pieces of interest that are not growing.
I got a few ideas for how to handle some of my pots from Kele.
The bananas don’t seem to stop!
Here’s one of the striking spots of color.
A simply stunning display! Too bad I had to get a car in the background.
The bright blue ginger provides a colorful background for the salmon cannas.
And this takes me back to the driveway entrance to Kele’s home.
I had no idea that Betty Crocker offers landscape awards. Some of the community groups sponsor these awards here in Hawai`i and each year, they encourage local residents to nominate someone they believe has an unbelievable garden. There are four categories, and Kele won this year. He’ll be flying to Honolulu soon to accept the award. I think you’ll agree that his yard certainly deserves it.
Congratulations, Kele, and thank you for letting me share this beauty with my readers.