Kele’s Garden Revisited

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!

A hui hou!

Another Spring in Boise

As soon as Spring semester was over at the college, I took off for a week to visit my children on the mainland. I’ve posted photos of my daughter Inga’s garden in the past, but for the first time ever, I was there to enjoy it in person!

One morning while she was at work, I walked around her garden with my video camera. Another addition since I was there is the little dry creek and bridge in the photo above. Inga set it up to look like it empties into the pond.

Enjoy this YouTube I created of Inga’s garden in the early days of Spring, even though it was still very cold! You’ll see Quimby the Corgi, Mr. Bill and Spooky Boo her two cats, and a neighboring white cat that wanted to get into the act, too.

A hui hou!

Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa

Happy Memorial Day!

Today is the day many people use as the excuse to declare the opening of official grilling season. What better complement to your grilled veggies or meats than a tasty, easy to make, salsa?

This recipe was given to me by my daughter, Inga. I’m not sure where she got it, but once I tasted it at her home recently, I knew I had to make it soon! The day after I got back from my trip to the mainland, I bought the tomatillos and got to work. I had all the other ingredients already. I’ve eaten some everyday since then!

If you are a gardener, you might want to try growing your own tomatillos. Inga has great luck with them, but I haven’t. I may try again this year, but they are easier to find in my local grocery store.

I know you’ll look for any excuse to make this – and eat it, too! For those of us who watch our waist, this recipe contains almost no calories and no fat!

Roasted Tomatillo-Chile Salsa

10 ounces tomatillos, husks removed, tomatillos rinsed and dried
(The number would depend on the size of tomatillos, but generally about 12-15)
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 chipotle chiles (canned in adobo sauce)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1pinch sugar
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat broiler. Place tomatillos and garlic on a baking sheet. (I sprayed it with a light coating of canola oil spray)

Broil, turning occasionally, until charred, about 8-10 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins into a blender. Add chipotles and tomatillos to blender. Process until combined. Add salt, sugar and cilantro. Pulse until smooth.

Notes from Inga: I don’t cut the tomatillos. They get very soft after cooling down from the broiling and you can throw them in the blender whole. I buy the smallish can of chipotles and it will usually make 3-4 batches. I get a few baggies opened up and ready to fill. Once I open the can, I put 3-4 in each baggie, plus the ones in the blender for the current batch, then split the sauce between each baggie. I keep the baggies in the freezer for the next batches. Some chiles are bigger than the others, so that’s why some baggies get 3 chiles and others 4. Just eyeball it.

A hui hou!

Gardening As Art

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.

A hui hou!

IT’S SPRING!!

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF SPRING!

Even if the ground is frozen where you live, you know that Spring is right around the corner. Have you been going through your seed catalogs? Have you started getting itchy fingers, wanting to dig in the dirt? Are you monitoring the slightest change in temperature?

If so, you have the same case of Spring Fever that I do. I’m on Spring Break this next week and I’ll have more time to weed my beds, plant seeds, and nurture what’s already growing.

A hui hou!

White Rain Lily

I planted several of these tiny bulbs (Zephyranthes candida) on April 14, 2009. The first year, about 3 little strands that looked like grass came up, then nothing at all. I thought they had completely died. Today I happened to look down along the redwood path by my house and there it was.

I purchased these and other bulbs from Old House Gardens. According to the blurb that came with them, this plant was discovered in Argentina in the 1500s. These particular ones date to 1826.

“Its grassy foliage is followed in early fall by short, white crocus-like flowers that open after every rain.”

A day later, it had opened up even more.

So after the wonderful rains this past week, the only rains of any significance since I first planted the bulbs, here it is. What a sweet and beautiful way to end the old year!

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! (Happy New Year!)

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!

Shades of Green

Living on an acre of lava that offers many shades of black and gray, I might quote the Muppets and say, “It’s not easy being green.” I forget what it means to be green.

Friends from the mainland came to visit and were amazed at my catchment system, and for the first time, I had an inkling of just how “green” we live here in Ocean View. I know my friends in California think they are being “green” when they put in a 100 gallon rain barrel. It’s no wonder they are in awe of my 15,000 gallon tank! Still, our planet appreciates every 100 gallons saved.

So much of what we grow and eat here goes through its green stage, like these bananas before they turn yellow . . .

. . . or the coffee berries before they turn cherry red.

Herbs in all shades of green stand close to my kitchen door.

Fresh corn and other veggies offer more shades of green.

Then we have fruits – the enormous jackfruit. . .

. . . and wonderful limes.

I love cooking up a mess of fresh greens from my garden . . .

. . . or a pan of this brilliant green chard.

There are so many places where shades of green forms a spectacular frame, like this scene from Kauai.

Mostly green forms a background to other colors of Hawaii. . .

. . . or for our sensational orchids, and other flowers.

St. James Park in London provides another backdrop for early spring flowers.

Our Hawai`ian fauna also comes in shades of green. There is the florescent green of the Jackson. . .

. . .and the dark almost black green of the sea turtles.

The stately ti plants are considered good luck when planted around your home.

The green lotus leaves create a sense of serenity and peace.

The many pictures of green in my albums would fill a few coffee table books, each one another category of my life. This is only a small sampling of my green pictures. Beyond the visual green, there is a lot of symbolism to be found in the color green. I think I’d better reserve that for a future post!

A hui hou!

Caught!

It looks like the drought or the pheasants aren’t the only culprits responsible for losing plants! I looked out my kitchen window one morning this week and saw three healthy Mouflon sheep munching away.

They are such a nuisance that the National Park has a lottery for hunters to help get rid of them, especially in the Park.

These beauties must have spied me at the window, because two of them came a little closer to check me out.

This web site shows some of the damage being done by these feral sheep.

Bill Doar is a retired Community Policeman from here in the District of Ka’u. Since he retired, he takes beautiful nature photos and sells cards for visitors. Here is one shot he took of one of the Mouflon.

You can see this guy must have spotted my movements at the kitchen window.

Here is the last shot I was able to get before they turned tail and ran into the hills.

They are certainly a handsome animal, even though they do eat my plants!

A hui hou!

Watch Out For Garden Gnomes!

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When I was sent a copy of How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)
by Chuck Sambuchino to review, I had no idea what to expect. This witty and humorous little book can be read in just a few minutes, or you can take your time and truly contemplate what to do around your own home to prevent a Garden Gnome attack!

After reading this book, I am positive that there are many places around my own acre where these gnomes are lurking, multiplying and planning an attack. In fact, now that I think about it, I imagine it’s only my external motion-activated lights that have kept me safe so far. Also, I am convinced that gnomes are the reason I don’t find as many eggs in the nesting boxes as I did last year.

This will be one of those books your guests will pick up out of curiosity because of the title, then not hang around for tea because they want to rush home to fortify their property against the gnomes. They are as bad as rabbits in procreating (the gnomes, that is, not your guests)!

The book makes a terrific gift item because this is the war we should be fighting! In addition, if you order the book through my website now, you’ll be helping to support my fight against these critters.

Now if someone would just write a book about surviving the eminent attack by those pink flamingos!

A hui hou!