Monday, September 10, 2012

Hawaii - Week two

We had another good week, with similar times spent on actvities as during the previous week, except with less figuring out electronics & internet, and more actual use of our computers to research things and make plant lists. We received the "crate of stuff" we shipped from the mainland, and unpacked and organized it. We went on a couple of mini exploration expeditions, but all in all didn't get out much.


Orange lilikoi
Besides most of the same foods as the first week, we ate taro root, many ripe papayas, jackfruit fruit and seed, a brownish lilikoi, some delicious orange lilikoi (much better than the yellow ones from last week), and turmeric. Much of the new stuff came from taro farmer Clive, who has work parties twice a week and sends us home with lots of food at the end!
We find taro super starchy and bland, with a lot of potential to soak up flavors of other foods and fill us up fast. Jasmine made a delicious curry with the taro, green papaya, coconut, and honohono. We find jackfruit seed similarly bland and starchy, with a mealy texture and the ability to absorb other flavors. Jackfruit seed takes some fiddling to peel a tough waxy layer off the nuts, but takes less work to grow than taro, and probably we'll figure out some tricks to make the seed extraction go more quickly and smoothly.
Practice climbing vine
I tried climbing a strong vine to get up a coconut tree, and found it very enjoyable and practical. I need to build more arm strength though! I made it 2/3 up and got a little confused as to how to get past a weird loop in the vine; then felt a little too tired to go all the way up. Later, back in the forest where we're staying, I found two vines wrapped around each other providing a wonderful practice climbing rope!


Clive's taro field
We've learned a lot from just two sessions with farmer Clive, mostly about planting taro. He plants 18" apart in rows 4' apart and keeps everything well mulched, never exposing the soil. He manages all the unplanted portions of his 20 acre lot in cane grass (Pennisetum purpureum), a common weedy vigorous biomass producer. He basically mows and chips the grass, applies weed mat to kill the roots and keep it from resprouting, then peels back the mat to plant taro into the stubble, mulching as needed with more chipped grass from the edges of his cleared area. He's built about 2-3" of soil over bare rock in the last 15 years, while producing a lot of crop to sell at local markets in the last 4 years. I don't think we'll mimic exactly what he's doing, since we want to produce for ourselves in more polycultural, low maintenance ways, but we can definitely learn useful lessons from what he's figured out over the years.
Clive's ginger patch
I haven't made it to any ultimate frisbee games yet, but have found an enjoyable semi-similar pursuit: catching papayas as someone else knocks them off the tree with a special mini-plunger-on-a-tall-stick. It challenges my reflexes and eyesight, as the fruit gets pushed off at some angle or other from its perch on the tree trunk, and falls down through leaves and between or bouncing off branches, hopefully into my soft hands instead of the hard ground.
I'm still reading Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture, which has already given me some useful new ideas and plant pointers; I've never before read permaculture books with the tropics in mind, so now I get more meaning from many concepts I only skimmed before. I read a draft report on sustainable farming in Hawaii, but didn't find it very useful. Much of the book covered marketing and selling products, and the parts about actually growing food didn't go into enough detail (especially about Hawaii specific concepts) to add much to what I already know.


We enjoyed the fascinating sight of an 'Io (Hawaiian hawk) eating prey (most likely a bird) on a branch, ripping off feathers to discard in between tearing off chunks of flesh. We saw a few cool new insects, including a funny little bug who seems to live inside a flat brown dead-leaf-looking mobile home, from which the bug pokes his or her head from at least two openings (one in each end) while dragging the whole structure to and fro. We'd never seen anything like it before.

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