The Hawai`ian Spring comes sooner than in most parts of the country. Still, I am always a little surprised when something actually starts to grow and bloom. This past week I’ve been weeding, planting, while ignoring a few of my older starts. What a surprise when I took time to look around! Here are a few of my surprises.
The little iris plants I put in as starters from my friend, Velvet, have grown, multiplied and bloomed! Here is a “before” picture, taken in October, 2008.
This Week of Surprises wouldn’t be complete without “before” and “now” shots of my patio. The first one was taken in March 2008, almost a year ago when my daughters and son-in-law were here. I described their work in this November 2008 post.
You can see how much has grown in, and also how much more there is to fill in. I have a long way to go, but it’s nice to have a cup of tea at my little table while I relax and admire the things that have grown.
Of course, there is the geranium, a plant that has almost weed status in some areas of California, but a treasure brought inside over the snowy winter in other areas, like Rhode Island. Their brilliant colors add much to a garden. I have red ones and violet ones, but the delicate pink is a real marvel. A tiny cutting was planted near a pink plumeria and the two should present quite a show later in the spring.
Last week, I showed some of the flowering plants and landscaping of Bob Elhard’s plot of land. I love to show local gardeners and their work because it gives me so much hope!
The photo above is a stone table in the entry patio he has created out of a lava slab.
He has used bits of found wood and stones to create little pockets of art everywhere you turn. Most of us here in Ocean View end up with all sorts of pieces of ohia that has blown down during a storm. I have my own piles of dead wood (like the one shown below) and someday I’ll go through them to find interesting pieces to use like Bob did.
I love to fish! I’ve been fishing all my life. Even as a little girl, I remember pulling in crappie and bream from lakes in the Midwest and catfish in the South. As an adult, when I lived on my sailboat, I fished on the Pacific Ocean for shark and other blue water fish. I waded out into the cold rivers of Alaska for salmon. I chopped ice off the top of a minnow bucket to go fishing with my children in Mississippi.
But I have never used a worm!
I can thread a hook through the eye of a minnow and put rotten meat in a basket to lure crabs, but I can’t bear the thought of touching a worm.
Last week at our local garden club meeting, several of the members mentioned that they would love to teach the rest of us about vermiculture. I’d taken an elective course in viticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which now has grown to have its own department .
Our class prepared and planted several acres with sauvignon grapes, which are bearing beautifully now. I knew vermiclture and viticulture were not the same thing, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know more about vermiculture.
When the question came up about red wigglers vs. earthworms, my worst fears were realized. It was clear that wine and worms were definitely not in the same category!
I listened closely to the conversation, waiting for some other brave soul to ask the question that was running through my mind.
“How do you handle them if you don’t want to handle them?” someone else finally asked.
Two responses came out of it. One is to wear rubber gloves, the other is to use chopsticks. Now that I could tolerate (maybe). I’ll wear rubber gloves and use chopsticks!
My second daughter, Inga, has the most incredible garden in Boise, Idaho. Her little magical space was on the Boise Garden Tour a couple years ago. She takes advantage of every inch in order to grow her garden, even out by the street.
I know Inga keeps several compost piles going so I asked her if she also grew worms. There are worms in her compost, but she hasn’t specifically set herself up to do vermiculture, she said.
Here is Velvet Replogle and some of her explanations of how to start and what to do with vermiculture .
Strips of damp (not dripping wet) newspaper are put into the bin as bedding for the worms. When Velvet first started, she used Styrofoam containers, but the worms burrowed a hole through the Styrofoam in search of food. She said that if they aren’t getting enough food, they leave.
Now she uses plastic bins with tiny holes so the worms can’t get through but still get air. You can see some of the holes in the far side of this bin.
With a moderate temperature and a relatively quiet atmosphere, the worms will stay alive and healthy. Like chickens, worms like a bit of grit, such as ground up egg shells or coffee grounds. After about a week, you can start adding other bits of kitchen scraps.
When you pull aside the wet newspaper, you see the dark and rich castings – by-product of your worms and the primary reason anyone would bother to raise worms.
This article states that castings have a nitrogen content five (5) times greater than regular soil. The phosphate is seven (7) times greater, potash is eleven (11) times greater, and magnesium is three (3) times greater.
Those facts are almost enough for me to reconsider my aversion to worms! When you are trying to grow something in a field of lava, you need all the help you can get. You’ll rarely get such magnificent fertilizer with so little effort.
My daughter knows how I hate the thought of touching worms, so I mentioned that Velvet uses chopsticks to move her worms. Inga’s response? “They are yummy! But a little hard to eat with chopsticks!” (big sigh) Our kids just never grow up, do they?
These redworms (Eisenia foetida) are also known as red wiggler, brandling or manure worms. They can double their populations every 90 days if given the right amount of food and a good home where they can live.
After watching Velvet and learning the value of these little wiggly things, I thought, “Maybe I can do this!”
Remember the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers?” It takes more than just showers to have beautiful flowers in May – or June or July or any month. It also takes digging and planting, nurturing and patience, faith and prayer.
My maternal grandfather was a strong typical “type A” personality, but when he worked in his garden, he was calm, happy and peaceful. His special joy was in finding many varieties of iris. He would drive all over Southern Illinois in search of new iris plants. Studies have shown that in a similar way, Alzheimer’s patients who are placed in a garden all day are no longer violent.
I don’t plan on collecting iris, but I’ve thought about the many varieties of daylily or hibiscus available. I’m trying a little of each to see which ones grow best here. It’s hard to decide – so maybe I’ll collect both!
Even when I lived on my sailboat for five years, I had hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes and pots of aloe plants for sunburn and wounds. I needed that bit of plant material to make me feel like I had a garden. Various cultures around the world have special tales about the healing power of plants on all levels.
Some of my favorite times as a small girl were spent in a special cherry tree in the back yard of a parsonage. We only lived there a couple years, but as long as we did, I would climb up onto a high limb and read. As a lonely child, it was my way to escape. Many of us have had spiritual experiences with trees, but we don’t discuss them for fear of sounding silly. We rarely talk about the spiritual aspects of gardening, until someone of like mind brings up the subject.
Maybe I’m a little strange, but I talk to my plants. I haven’t really heard them talk back, although they do respond by growing and producing. I used to think people who talked to their animal pets were weird, too!
Today, I live on an acre of a’a in Hawai`i. A`a is lumpy, rocky lava that blew out of the depths of our volcano. The only way to plant something is to move aside the rocks and dump in a bag of soil, which filters down after a rain or watering and I need to add more soil. Still, there are nutrients in the greedy porous lava. Plants do grow, with a lot of prayer and patience.
Peter and Eileen Caddy were founders of the Findhorn Community in Scotland. They moved to a barren plot on the northernmost tip of Scotland, a place where nothing should have grown. Yet they made it work, through meditation and conversations with the nature spirits and “devas” – the angels of each plant. They claimed to receive gardening advice from those beings.
No matter what we may believe about all that, their results were incredible. I hope for the same results in my lava. Here in this little corner of the Big Island, I suppose it takes calling on Madam Pele, our volcano goddess – or maybe calling on the menehune.
I believe that if you are open to it, the process of gardening will tell you everything you need to know about life. There is a definite spirit of cooperation and communication between plants and humans. It is easy to see how we cultivate ourselves when we cultivate a garden. The idea is to relate to all living things as if they can understand, because they can! It is a living prayer.
Saint Fiacre is the patron saint of gardens and gardeners. He carries a shovel in one hand and a book in the other. He gave up his life as a prince of Ireland to live as a monk on the edge of a forest in France. Many people came to him for his healing through herbs and flowers. His reputation grew and ultimately, he built his own monastery that featured his healing plants.
Being There with Peter Sellars is a wonderful old movie. It is the story of a man who started out as sort of an idiot child who learned to garden, and could speak of nothing but gardening. Through a minor accident, he was brought into a home where he gradually worked his way up to international significance with only his gardening remarks. Everyone thought that his words were profound, and they became metaphors for everything from politics to world finance to love.
The image people seem to have of Hawai`i is one of luxurious living that is mostly out of the reach of most mainlanders – not just to buy a home, but to even visit for a short vacation.
The truth is that much of Hawai`i would be considered more like a third world state by some standards. I remember asking my brother about getting something printed. He nonchalantly said, “Just take it down to Kinko’s.” When I said we have no Kinko’s, he was in utter shock.
What?? No Kinko’s?
It may come as a surprise to many of our friends on the mainland and in other parts of the world that until recently, we had no Borders, no Costco, no Kmart (and more). I hear we will be getting a Target sometime next year! There are new stop lights where none existed ten years ago. Many dirt roads are just now getting paved
When I was a pastor in Pahala and Na`alehu, two plantation villages near my present home, I invited a work team of students from a mainland university to come during Spring Break. They had no idea what they were running into, and people in their home towns scoffed at the notion of these students doing volunteer work for needy people in Hawai`i. Most thought they were coming over here to surf and have fun. A group of changed students carried a different message back home at the end of their week.
Things are different down in our isolated district of Ka’u (two syllables – Kah-oo). The area of Ka’u is larger than the county (island) of Oahu, and much of it is lava, just like my acre. Many people live “off the grid,” and have no electricity or phone service. I have already written about the need for living on catchment, which means catching our own rain water. That’s not an economic necessity, but just the way it is in this part of the island.
As a result, “buying locally” isn’t simply a trendy thing to do here. For us here it is another of those necessities. Take a walk with me down the paths between vendors and see what you can buy.
I don’t grow corn, but others bring corn to the market – so beautiful and delicious! I am eating one right now, as I write this blog. Don’t mind the butter dripping on your screen.
Albert and Lily Ledergerber have a stand here several times a month, but not this week. He came to do their week’s groceries, however, and he showed me the fresh corn
Another friend (Lorie Obra) grows, picks, processes and roasts her own coffee from her estate. Personally, I think that Ka’u grown coffee is much richer and more consistent than Kona coffee, but don’t tell anyone I said that.
The first stop I make at the market is to Lorie’s stand for a cup to sip while I do my shopping for the week’s vegetables and fruits. She always bakes some sort of pastry to accompany it.
The seasons vary but some things are available year-round.
You can buy local honey, Japanese eggplant, several varieties of lettuce, fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, homemade breads, local mac nuts (macadamia), and so much more.
One loaf of whole wheat bread was over $6.00 at one of the chain groceries in Kona this past week. Is it any wonder most of us either buy from “the breadman” or make our own?
I doubt if there are too many of these being sold in the mainland markets – Artocarpus heterophyllus. We call this “jackfruit.” They can get bigger than this, but here you can compare the fruit to the basket. Be sure to click on the link to see what it looks like inside.
There are too many good things to get pictures of them all. Eventually, I will feature more of the individual vendors. Today is just an overview
I do a lot of wishful thinking around the plants that are for sale
Artisans bring handmade garments, gourds and more
The jewelry here was all created by one woman. I plan to do a feature on her soon. She has made some of the most beautiful jewelery I’ve ever coveted. This shot is only one small end of what she displays on her table.
You can even buy locally made soaps and scents.
Marge and Dennis Elwell of Na`alehu Main Street said this market was begun with four farmers getting together in order to sell their produce. It has gradually grown to the size it is now. Marge and Dennis proudly wear their “Ka’u Farmers’ Market” t-shirts
The Na`alehu Farmer’s Market is held on the front lot of the Ace Hardware store every Wednesday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm and on Saturdays from 8:00 am until to noon. At certain times of the year, the buying is more skimpy, but there is nearly always something to be found.
There are other farmer’s markets on the island, and bigger ones, but none has quite the hometown cozy feel of the one in Na`alehu. If there is someone you need to talk with, you can almost count on them being there
This is an area of the Big Island that most tourists know nothing about. If you are a visitor to our island and you just happen to be driving on Highway 11 through Na`alehu in the District of Ka’u, please stop and see what the excitement is about. You will be treated to some of our local fare
Here’s summer squash, fresh from our Na`alehu Farmers’ Market. I’ll have it for supper with a warm whole wheat tortilla I just made. Join me?
I moved into my house in February, 2006. So far, this blog has been about those early months of owning my acre of lava. My intent was to write about everything here in chronological order, but alas, my mind doesn’t always work that way.
I feel a strong need to tell you about my “girls,” my six hens. I’m not sure what happened to all the fresh local eggs, but it seems that most (if not all) of the egg farms on our island have shut down. I refuse to buy eggs that have been shipped for who-knows-how-long all the way from who-knows-where on the mainland.
So I set out on a quest for chickens. I knew there must be chickens somewhere because I hear roosters all over the place. (That’s another story!) The first day of my search, I asked the local feed store if they knew who was selling chickens. Right there on the bulletin board was a note from someone right here in my community who was taking orders for baby chicks.
I’d already done a bit of reading and looking around to see what I might want. So I made an order for six chicks to be delivered sometime in April. I opted to let the young man raise them for the first month. I didn’t want to invest in a brooder, or worry about losing them quite yet. Maybe I’ll try that next time I get chickens.
In my past life as a mother of four and a local community 4-H leader, I’ve helped to raise everything – pigs, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and cats – but never chickens. This would be a totally new experience for me.
I started checking books out of the library and looking on the internet for ideas on chicken coops. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but knew I needed to have something ready for them when they arrived.
My two daughters (Debbie and Inga) and my wonderful son-in-law (Harry) came to visit in March during spring break. Harry, is a general contractor in California, so I asked his advice.
And “would you please build a chicken coop for me?”
I think he knew what was coming, because he flew from California with his tool belt and his own power saw! He quickly set up shop.
He was as confused about what I wanted as I was, but anything to please a mother-in-law, right? He took an old metal futon couch frame that I’d left sitting behind my shed and converted it into a beautiful coop.
I showed the finished coop to a friend (his wife raised chickens). He took one look and said, “It will never be this clean again.” He was right!
When I got the call, I was ecstatic, but as nervous as when I was having babies. He brought the “girls” over at one month of age – three Rhode Island Reds (who will lay brown eggs for me) and three Araucana (who will lay blue or blue-green eggs). The Araucana girl in the top photo is a color called Wheaten.
Here they are on April 13, 2008. Just below the log perch, is the Wheaten Araucana. At the bottom right is a Rhode Island Red and there are two mottled black/tan/gold Araucana. I haven’t been able to figure out the exact name for that coloration.
Here they are, six weeks later – and they are growing like weeds! One of the Reds is in front and an Araucana behind her. Not sure why they find that bare piece of wood so fascinating!
By early June, I knew they needed to get out and scratch around. So I enlisted the help of a friend to build a “chicken run.” We opened up a square at one end of the coop, added a removable door, and built a run for them to use. They get down through the door and a little ladder-type arrangement. Here you can see the beginning of the framework.
It was finally finished and the “girls” got their first taste of relative freedom.
You can see the entire run better in this next picture. Sometimes I toss a bit of corn scratch in through the top and let them search for it. They are now four months old – big and plump! I expect them to start laying in about another six weeks or so. Stay tuned!
Kaimana, my wonderful friend, loves the outdoors. He’s gotten out by accident only a few times, but he always found his way back home. His paws were always scraped raw when he returned, not being accustomed to the harshness of the lava. Now he mostly sits to watch the world go by and fantasize about a life of freedom.
When I first moved in, the lonely monstera you can see through the screen was gracing my entryway, compliments of the previous owner. I added a turtle pot at the bottom of the steps. Now Mr. Turtle lives over on the other side. I’m not sure what’s growing in it here. A friend gave me a few cuttings of a ground cover that didn’t make it. He is empty as I write this, waiting for divine inspiration.
The monstera was eventually shifted down to the ground and I began searching for a way to add my own touch to the entry. On this next photo, you can see where I put the monstera.
You can also see the small Angel’s Trumpet trees growing from cuttings I put in. This name is shared with the closely related genus Datura. The Brugmansia genus is perennial and woody, the Datura species is herbaceous. Also, the Brugmansia has pendulous blooms while the Datura has more erect blooms. http://www.abads.net/ I’ve been calling what I have “Datura,” but seems I’m incorrect in that. Can anyone straighten me out? There are many beautiful trees of the Angel’s Trumpet here on the Big Island.
I was given cuttings of ti plants (Cordyline Terminalis), or ki in Hawai`ian. Ti or ki is grown in profusion around any Hawai`ian home to provide good luck and protection. http://www.hiloweb.com/webman/ti.htmlIt has bushed out and grown even taller since I took this shot. I was amazed at how quickly they grew from simple eighteen-inch pieces of stalk. I put them into water with a rooting compound and within a very short time, I was able to put them into the ground.
I was given a large full basket of a variety of orchids, so I stuck that in the corner where the monstera had been on the front stoop. They are difficult to see here. Isn’t that a nice path going around the house?
This has definitely been a “work in progress.” As you can see, there was a lot of work to be done to make the entry more inviting.
The dark green lattice work I’ve started putting in around the lower portion of the house is a great improvement, don’t you think?
Little by little this acre of lava is being transformed, but I’m an impatient woman.
Some plants seem to do well by moving the lava rocks, dumping in soil, and putting in a rooted cutting. For regular garden vegetables, however, this method doesn’t work.
The only way to have veggies is to build raised beds. There are many advantages to raised beds, and especially when you are dealing with a yard of lava. With the help of a friend, I built several small beds.
Local friends have a piggery nearby, and they have been helping me out with their dump truck full of cured “pig dirt.” Their real soil, added to the natural by-product of pigs, mixed in with my compost material, creates rich soil. I wish I could cover my whole acre with it! It doesn’t look as big in the picture as it really is (next picture). I’d already used a lot of it before I took this shot.
Gradually, I shoveled buckets of it into the beds with visions of fresh veggies floating through my brain. I’d been hungry for beets, so that was the first thing I planted. They looked so pretty growing in their rows.
The first picture above shows my first harvest of little beets (the other produce there is not from my garden). I cooked up the greens first, because they don’t last very long once they’re picked. I’ve eaten all the beets now, so it’s time to plant more.
I also picked a mess of collards and mustards from the small beds. For just one person, the small beds are ample.
This past week, the same friend helped me build a larger bed out by the shed. We bought 4X4 lumber on sale at Lowe’s and created this 8’X4′ bed. I put cedar mulch in the bottom to keep the soil from dropping down into the lava too quickly, and now I’ve started to shovel in more “pig dirt.” As soon as it’s full of soil, I’ll plant more veggies.
I’ll build a few more of these larger beds. As you can see, it will take a lot of buckets before I fill this bed! This represents only three buckets of “pig dirt.”
I can hardly wait to show you pictures of the new veggies that will be growing here. So far, the wild local mouflin sheep haven’t decided to eat my produce before I do.
If you read this blog and you are not a resident of Hawai`i, that’s probably what you’ve been wondering. Lilikoi is the Hawai`ian name for Passion Fruit. It has a very distinctive flavor and not everyone likes it the first time they taste it. I think it’s definitely an acquired taste, although it was love at first bite for me.
You can cut it in half, and spoon out the insides with a spoon and eat it, seeds and all. Sometimes I cut up a whole bag of them, scoop out the flesh into a colander and let them drain into a bowl overnight. The juice that results is perfect for making salad dressings, ice cream, jams, or anything else you can think of.
A friend gave me an already established purple lilikoi vine along with some of the yellow lilikoi fruits. I planted the purple vine, ate a few of the yellow ones, and kept the seeds from the rest to plant. The picture above shows the seedlings. I gave some to a friend in Kailua-Kona (where they have a little real soil) and hers are growing like crazy!
I put these seedlings out, poured soil in around them, but some still are not much larger than they are in the picture above. Some of the others are about 8″ tall. It will be a long time before I get enough lilikoi juice to make ice cream.
Another of my other early attempts at trying to grow something at 2300′ elevation in lava was this banana. I’m not quite sure it will make it. But you can see a few leaves trying to push through.
My greatest success has been with the plumeria or frangipani, as it is called in some areas. The smell is delicious and visitors to the island love the scent from their welcoming leis. I have white, pink and yellow right now, and I’m looking for some of the deep reds. They are the simplest to grow. I just move enough rocks to put in some soil, stick in the cuttings, and they take off. This picture shows one of my early plants, flowering in the first season. http://sd1new.net/GardenPages/plumeria.htm
I was given several protea plants. The picture below shows them before I put them in the ground. Unfortunately, the sulfur dioxide got to them and they probably aren’t going to make it.
In each pot of protea was a very tiny bit of green growth. The nurseryman who sold them to my friend said that I could plant them. They were from jacaranda seeds that had fallen into the soil around the protea. I carefully put them into little pots and you can see the results here. Again, I gave some away, and I have two in my yard that seem to be growing nicely. It’s hard to imagine these tiny seedlings becoming one of the huge beautiful jacaranda trees. http://www.floridata.com/ref/J/jaca_acu.cfm
I won’t bore you this time with more of my early attempts at getting things to grow. I plan on doing mostly raised beds for veggies, and a lot of container gardening. (See Janice Crowl’s Container Gardening in Hawaii in the Amazon link on the right.)
I did bring home seeds that will probably go into big containers, rather than into my lava yard! Please do read her post on this wonderful event. She covers it professionally and with good close-ups of some of the seeds and plants available.
I do want to comment on it, however, and show a few of the pictures I took while there. The Theme of “Ignite the Fire Within” was illustrated by two fire bowls.
The gathered fruit offerings brought by the community of gardeners.
So many of us lost plants to the sulfur dioxide. A friend brought blooms from her two protea that survived, saying that it was Pele’s way of weeding out and that the survivors were to be blessed.
Signs from a couple tables with seeds and plants for the taking
Care for a refreshing drink of coconut water?
Next year I plan to wear boots and carry a bigger bag for seeds and plants.
This is an example of a sitewide notice - you can change or remove this text in the Customizer under "Store Notice" Dismiss