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!
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!
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.
Last Saturday, on April 24, I was one of many who volunteered at the Earth and Ocean Fair at the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Resort and Kahalu`u Beach, a county park that adjoins the hotel. I even took part in the raffle fun, which consisted of getting your card stamped at specific displays. This card was then entered into a drawing! (I didn’t win anything.)
I was told that this fair began about ten years ago as Coral Awareness Day in an effort to let people know how to protect our fragile reef. It is still one of the primary features of this fair. Volunteers train to monitor the reef that is forming around the Big Island.
Information about the Big Island Reef Fund was available.
Everyone was there several hours early getting set up for their displays.
All the displays gave information on how to protect our natural surroundings here in Hawai`i, especially our giant sea turtles.
This display of debris found in our ocean is eye-opening.
A Mini Cooper and a sailboat were on display. I never did find out if they were being given away or just for show. Both are economical ways to travel.
This is just one of several displays of solar power businesses.
Someone walked around inside this humuhumunukunukuapua`a (our state fish), reminding people to protect our ocean life. I’ll bet you can’t say that name fast (unless you live here on the Big Island)!
I couldn’t resist getting a shot of the tide pools and beach area. What a beautiful and restful place to have a gathering of environmental folks.
Several culinary students from our West Hawaii campus, led by Chef Betty, prepared a variety of meals so we wouldn’t starve. They offered regular chili, vegetarian chili, chicken Caesar salad, and more.
One of the insects that plague us here is the fire ant.
Groups of young people who are committed to saving our earth and ocean put up several displays.
We take so much for granted. Here is a cost analysis of what our Natural Resource Management puts out to protect plants and animals, and control the weeds and invasive species of plants.
A colleague, Betsy Morrigan, volunteered at the “Fish for Knowledge” booth.
Much of the work done to protect and monitor the waters that surround our island state is funded through Hawai`i Sea Grant.
One area of the hotel was available for local crafts. I love the hand-woven baskets.
Several of the local “aunties” were demonstrating how to do the Lauhala weaving. I want one of their hats!
I accepted a cup of kava and started to sip it. One of the men standing by said to just knock it down in one gulp – so I did! I can’t say it’s delicious stuff, and it would take me a long time to deliberately include it in my diet.
Another Hawai`ian traditional food is poi, or pounded taro. This is another of those “delicacies” for which I haven’t acquired a taste yet. One of my students used to bring fried poi balls to class occasionally, however, and they were absolutely wonderful!
These taro roots are ready to be made into poi. In the background, this mother is feeding her child a bit of poi.
There were plenty of crafts for children. Betsy is holding a fish for them to add their colored thumbprint to the fish.
This is only a sampling of the many local crafts on display.
I was delighted (and proud) to see a former student, Ruth, representing the National Park Service.
Of course, no Hawai`ian festival is complete without a band and hula dancers.
It is nearly impossible to show you all the displays. I hope I was able to capture a feel for the day. You might Google this event because there were articles in the newspaper and other places. I love living in Hawai`i. Please do what you can to help preserve this Paradise!
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the fruits at the California Avenue Farmers’ Market in Palo Alto. The fruits and veggies were intermingled with flowers and other products, which I’ll show you next week. This week it’s time for your veggies.
Across the way from Joanie’s Café where we ate a fantastic breakfast, there was the “asparagus and potato” stand. That’s the first stand that really caught my attention. When I shop in my local grocery store, I might have a choice of two or three kinds of potatoes, but look at the variety here – with fresh asparagus, no less!
I learn so much when I write these posts! I hadn’t noticed the name “Zuckerman’s Farms” on the canopy of this stand until I was writing, so I looked it up on Google. This farmer is part of an organization called CUESA, which means “the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture,” a topic about which I’m extremely interested.
The many varieties of common vegetables we often take for granted were obvious at this market. Of course, it was all fun and educational to see them, but I have to admit to a degree of envy that people have this at their disposal every week of the year! Check out these colorful cauliflower varieties.
Here is more cauliflower with artichokes and broccoli. . .
And how about all these fava beans??
So many beautiful varieties of string beans!
I’m not quite sure if sauerkraut qualifies as a vegetable or not, but it’s certainly made out of a veggie – and mighty good stuff it is, too! I grew up in Midwest German neighborhoods eating sauerkraut, spare ribs and mashed potatoes, almost all of it homemade. I absolutely adore sauerkraut whether cold from a jar, or slowly cooked with thick pork ribs. My dad made sauerkraut in our basement, until a batch blew up and ended up all over the ceiling! Needless to say, this stand caught my attention right away.
Squash is another vegetable I love, so I try to eat as many varieties that I can – both summer and winter squashes. There are amazing displays of fresh-picked squash. Here are at least two links to information about the Happy Boy Farms.
Behind these beautiful squash boxes, you see seedlings ready for people to take home and plant. I was so inspired when I came back home, that I put some seeds in little pots and other seeds I put directly into the ground. Everything is up!
I was surprised to see so many root vegetables. I usually think of them as fall or winter crops, but in a place like California (and actually in Hawaii, too) I think almost anything can be grown at any time of year. That was my experience when I lived in California, and it’s my experience here in Hawaii.
Sugar snap peas are among my favorite spring/summer veggies. This is a beautiful display of the basket overflowing with goodness. I have sugar snap peas coming up in my garden right now, which shows just how cool it is here this time of year. That’s not how most people think of Hawaii.
What a delight to see so many mushrooms! This is a delicious, low calorie product that can be a special addition to almost any recipe. They also can stand alone on their own. If you haven’t discovered the versatility of mushrooms, just Google mushroom recipes.
It’s worth making a special trip to California Avenue in Palo Alto on a Sunday morning just to do your week’s grocery shopping. Join others in making this a Sunday tradition. Next week, I’ll post flowers and other items available at the market.
I apologize to those vendors I don’t mention or for whom I don’t provide a link. I looked up all of the names I could read on my photos. Next time I get to this market, I’ll be more diligent in my efforts and ask!
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.
The first item to be addressed on our acre of lava was a 15,000 gallon water catchment tank full of algae. The water in the tank was full to the brim, but the color of the green on the sides of this blog! In the toilets, it was almost black.
I found a young man in the area who worked on water tanks http://www.poolbrite.net/. He took one look inside and vowed he’d never seen a tank so green, and definitely didn’t encourage me to use it! Over the next few weeks, he “shocked” the water several times, killed off all the algae, then vacuumed it out. He went through this process several times, before he felt it was useable.
Notice, I didn’t say “drinkable!” Even after a couple of years, I still buy my drinking water, although I’m sure it is fine now. I plan to put in an ultra violet filter that will make it safe for drinking.
The cover on the tank was old, covered in bird sh*t, and a dead bird was in the bottom of the tank. As soon as the water started to look clear, I bought a new cover (see photo above). This keeps the sun off the water and protects it from any outside debris.
The gutters are designed to catch all our rain and pipe it to the tank. We added a gutter on the shed in order to maximize the water we caught. Every drop counts around here! There is a net bag at the end of each pipe to catch leaves and trash before the water enters the tank.
There is a pump under the house that then pumps the tank water back to the house for use. We installed two filters – one to take out the chlorine and the other to catch anything else that might have gotten through. These are replaced about every six weeks, or you end up with the pump clogged and not working.
While suburbanites make an effort to be “green” by buying 50-gallon rain barrels, that wouldn’t go far here on the south end of the Big Island of Hawai`i. We live off catchment water. We love the rainy season, and a drought can hit us hard. By late summer, I may have to buy 4,000 gallons ($150) from a water truck that gets it from the county. They will pump it in, getting us through until the first rain, but it messes up the chemical balance in the tank.
There is a delicate balance to maintain the water. The pH and chlorine levels need to be just right, so I’m constantly checking, then adding whatever is necessary to keep it right. I rigged a “Mark Twain” kind of rope so I can measure the depth. “Conservation” is the constant word of the day. But I lived on my 37′ sailboat (http://lothlorien-lucy.blogspot.com/) so I already knew about conserving water.
There were so many things I wanted to do – plant a garden, make curtains, buy a stove – but our basic need for water came first. I’m pleased with what has been accomplished.
I admit it! I get jealous when I read my usual gardening magazines and see people digging in rich loam, trying to decide the best landscape design to showcase their home.
I re-locate rocks!
My years of gardening in California and Arizona are proving to be useless here in Hawai`i. One would think it is similar, and that may be true for some parts of Hawai`i. It’s certainly not the case for those of us living on the south end of the Big Island of Hawai`i, and in this particular area.
I came to Hawai`i almost twelve years ago, but lived in an area where there was more decomposed lava, i.e., I had soil. When I bought this land and house two years ago, the only things blooming were ohia trees, which are one of the first things to grow after a lava flow, and wild yellow poppies that were spreading all over the area. (See photo above)
On the surface, it looks like you could rake aside the rocks and find the soil underneath. But when you move a rock, all you find is more rock. Under the ohia trees there is a bit of tree litter starting to decompose, but mostly it’s a matter of finding soil somewhere else
The process involves moving aside enough rocks to get a nice hole (without the rocks rolling back down into the hole), then pouring in a bucket or bag of soil for your plant. Of course, every time it rains or you water, the soil filters down into the cracks between the lava rocks, so of course, you need to pour in more fresh soil.
Still, I’m very happy to be here, so I won’t bore you with what led to the purchase of this acre. This blog will guide you through the ongoing process of converting lava into a more friendly growing place.