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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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!
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!
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.
This is an article I posted over two years ago on an old blog before I became “lavalily.com,” but there are some great books discussed here. I thought some of my new gardening friends might spot a book they want to read.
Since I wrote this article, my beloved Kaimana has been put to rest, but I have a delightful Katrina. She started out like a hurricane, but her storm has subsided and now she’s merely playful and mischievous.
I hope you enjoy looking through the books I’ve discussed below!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I can’t remember a time when I was not in love with books. Even before I could read well, my parents made regular trips to the little libraries in whichever town we lived in at the time. I spent many hours looking through the books in my grandfather’s library. They were on a huge revolving stand, and although they were much too deep for me at the time, I would take them out and thumb through the pages.
Kaimana thinks he can read some of my books, too, but I think he just likes the smell of paper.
The first books I actually remember being able to read myself were the Raggedy Ann and Andy books. Then came the Bobbsey Twins, Elsie Dinsmore, Heidi, Nancy Drew – and I was hooked. Whether for personal pleasure or academic reading, my library grew from there. I still have books for math, French, Spanish and literature from my high school years!
But books travel to places unknown, and over the years I’ve lost books because of floods, being stomped on by horses, through two divorces, loaning them to people I’ve forgotten, and numerous moves from state to state.
When I moved from Ali`i Drive to Ocean View, I gave over a thousand books to the Friends Of The Libraries, Kona, plus four grocery bags full of books on gardening to Kona Outdoor Circle. I still have over a thousand books here in my home, plus at least that many in a storage unit in California. This next shot shows part of my attempt to sort out which ones to keep and which to give away.
It was in the early 70s when I read a book that changed the way I lived my life. I was re-structuring my life as a single woman, and although I didn’t embrace everything in the book, it did start me moving toward a more “natural” way of living. It’s one book I’ve kept over the years, and my copy is a bit tattered. I was surprised to find it can still be purchased.
I had three years of Ornamental Horticulture classes at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo under my belt, and I’d always had an interest in gardening. From that point on, I couldn’t get my fill of reading about ways to garden and provide sustenance for myself. If you’ve been reading these posts on a regular basis, you know that I also lived on a 37′ sailboat for 5 years. My gardening slowed considerably during that time, but my interest in gardening never waned. In fact, I grew cherry tomatoes in hanging pots and kept a pot of aloe vera on hand for sunburned passengers.
When I lived in Tucson on the edge of the Sonoran Desert, I found a wonderful book that provided me with ways to use the “Fruits of the Desert.” Many of the author’s recipes and information on those fruits can be extended to some of our own produce. The cover is beautiful, and I’m sorry that Amazon doesn’t have an image of it to show you.
One book I forgot I had until just recently, is Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally, by Robert Kourik. It’s a large and rather detailed book, but full of good information for the gardener who is serious about planning an edible garden.
If you are interested in an adult version of a picture book and dream book, pick up a copy of In a Mexican Garden. I drool over the photos in that book! I would label this book and others like it as “garden porn.”
This should keep you busy for a while, and I will be telling you about more off-the-beaten-track garden books in the future.
In the sidebar of this blog, I have listed books I use on a regular basis for my gardening ideas. If you are interested in buying one of those or ones I mention in this post, please order through this site. It will help support my purchase of more gardening books. Please note that I receive a small commission from Amazon to help support “Lava to Lilikoi.”
Is this an addiction that I want to cure? I think it’s too late!
Nothing spells the approach of autumn better than a bright orange pumpkin patch. How my daughter manages to get such beautiful pumpkins is beyond me! Many of you have been keeping up with my daughter Inga’s gardening in Boise, Idaho. Here is an update on what’s growing in her yard, including the pumpkin above.
Her yard is full of orange and yellow blossoms, just ready to produce fruit, but beautiful in their own right.
I have an old wooden ladder in my shed. I need to drag it out and use it as a backdrop for some plants (if the drought will let something grow)!
She finds odd bits of metalwork to add a fanciful touch to her garden.
I love the brilliance of sunflowers – another touch of the approaching fall season.
She tells me of all the wonderful fresh veggies she brings in for her supper.
But the biggest envy I have is for her “taters!” Inga and I just love our fingerling potatoes, sliced and fried in butter with fresh eggs!
I promise her (and myself) that I will get to Boise next summer and enjoy the garden with her.
A hui hou!
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