Monday, May 24, 2010

The Color Purple

Aloha ,

May and June are Purple months in the islands...I look forward to these months every year for many reasons, and one of them is most definitely the many shades of purple that dot the upcountry landscape.

The Jacaranda tree is not especially beautiful before it blooms, with only a few disc shaped pods hanging off the ends of the barren branches, shedding little twigs before the leaves open. Two Jacaranda trees at Hale Ho'okipa are displaying lavender color blossoms right now, with more opening daily.

The Lower Kula Highway is such an impressive and scenic drive with these blossoms showering the landscape. The bell shaped flowers flutter down in the trade winds, blanketing pasture land and road ways purple . The pesky silver oak tree also blooms this time of year. Orange blooms of this invasive tree make a nice contrast to all the shades of purple and blue.

Today I happened upon a Jacaranda in bloom with a large cactus flowering right next to it...The stretch of road that divides upper Kula from lower Kula is dotted with statuesque cacti. The cactus flowers will form an edible fruit we call Panini. It is covered in fine little spines that have to be removed before the fruit can be peeled. I have never attempted this job, but from what I hear it takes some heavy gloves to harvest the fruit and then many shakes in a paper bag to remove the spines. It is alot of tricky work for a not so impressive fruit.

Often, plein air artists of Maui can be seen along the roads and accross the pasture lands as well this time of year. Inspiration abounds with soft golden light at sunset. I hope to post some paintings by some of our artists soon.

Today the sky was such a brilliant blue, and the sun so bright... I really did need my sunglasses.

It was almost breathtaking. Every single day I am grateful for the place I call home, today I was in awe.

So, come to Maui, have one more month to witness the many Colors of Purple.
It will really put a smile on your face!

Aloha, hope to see you soon..........


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Organic Gardening Maui Hawaii

Aloha from a lovely upcountry evening, with crickets chirping in the yard, and the Night Blooming Jasmine perfuming the air.......

Today was a very warm day on the Valley Isle. I am still hoping we get more rain before summer really kicks in. I have to spend a fair amount of time watering in the summer months. I hope one day to get my cistern restored so I can use it for the garden during drought times.

For now, I use the drip hoses in different areas of the fact, they run along the back fence where I have papayas, pineapples, bananas and a mango tree. I also wind them in and out of the vegie garden to make life a little easier. I used to bury all of my compost, mostly around the base of the fruit trees, but also in the garden. I am now feeding most of the compost to the ducks and chickens.....looks like they are pretty happy about the treats.
Every now and then, the compost does not get buried deep enough and I get many little papaya sprout surprises. Some of my best papayas are the volunteers that pop up here and there around the yard. The sunrise and solo papayas are on the breakfast table regularly. The seedless Mexican papaya is still producing, but at the end of it's cycle. It has been a great producer, and I'll be sorry to see it finish. However, I have recently planted three Jamacian papayas that I am excited about. I'm told their fruit is sweet and quite large.
The tasty little upcountry peaches are ripening and falling from the tree this week. It looks like another bumper year, lots of sweet peaches to garnish my morning fruit salads. I also have been getting fresh coconuts lately and grating the fresh coconut meat into the morning marvel. I have a Samoan coconut tree in the yard, but it will be awhile before it bears fruit.

This week I also also have a HUGE amount of bananas "going off". They are a Chinese variety, a nice sweet flavor with a firm meat. The best nanas I grow are the Apple Banana variety, my favorite., The little apple flavored bananas are so sweet! In about 10 days I will be cutting down another large banana stalk to hang. Once a couple of them turn yellow on the tree, the whole tree comes down, and the stalk is hung to pick from. By then, a "keiki", a baby tree, will have started growing next to the the producing tree. Bananas are almost like has to really keep on top of them to stay in control. They just keep on expanding and expanding.

It was not really a wet enough winter to have very many tangelos this year. I am going to have to start watering them to increase the production. The fruit is so juicy that it will fill up a cup when squeezed. Ants sometimes find their way up some of the citrus trees and and create a sticky mess that results in a black substance on the leaves. I am using cedar chips around the base of the tree to keep the ants away. I then have to clean the leaves with the Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap. They look a lot better now that I worked on them a couple of weeks ago.

Organic gardening in Hawaii takes some effort and creativity. I like to do companion planting when there is room and the combination works. I have found that my comfry plants attract the leaf eaters. I always have several comfry plants growing in different areas to keep the bugs busy and distracted. It is a sure bet to find the little leaf beetles in the comfry patch and pick them off by hand. The ducks are quite content taking care of the bugs that I don't want to keep around.

I also have really expanded my pineapple zones as well. I am mixing them in with the papayas and some begonias. They take so long to produce fruit, a few years, that I don't usually dedicate too much space to just pineapple. I prefer to mix it up a bit.

I'll write some more about organic gardening in Hawaii in the next few months. I love spreading the word and sharing the bounty. If you can't be here to eat it, hopefully you'll enjoy seeing photos and reading about all the ono food from the Valley Isle.

Aloha for now,

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pupu o Ni'ihau


Today was May Day, better known as Lei Day in Hawaii. The schools always have pageants and the children perform a hula or song for their ohana, usually decked out in their flower leis. It is sooo sweet, and I always looked forward to it when my keiki were young.

Today's post is in celebration of another sort of lei. Instead of flowers, these leis are made of gifts from the sea. The breathtaking shell lei are strung with tiny gems washed up on the shores of Ni'ihau and Kauai. The debris line during the winter months is scattered with the shells . Pickers spend many hours picking shells with tweezers, often lying in the sand to be close enough to better see the tiny gems. Many hours in the sun can yield a film canister of shells.

Once the shells are gathered, they are sorted into shell types, sizes and colors, discarding any flawed shells. Removing grains of sand from inside the shells is a delicate process and has to be successfully accomplished in order to pierce the hole for stringing. A stainless steel awl that is sharpened often is used to create the puka (hole). Depending on the lei style, the shell is pierced in a particular place. I've read that an average of one out of three shells break during this process.

There are several styles of leis, some strung in patterns similar to flowers, some strung singly and wound around a cloth foundation, some sewn in layers on cloth in the style of feather hat bands. Whatever the style, the love and patience of this art form is a way of life, a spiritual practice.

I am fortunate to have multi-strand Kahelelani lei from the 1950s. This fuzzy shot posted is a picture I took through a magnifying glass of my necklace. I thought it might be fun to try and see the detail of the colors and patterns on the shells. These are the smallest turban shells, measuring 3-5 mm. Kahelelani are the most tedious to collect, sort, pierce and string, and the most expensive. I have been thinking about having my lei re-strung, and began researching possibilities. A wonderful site I discovered belongs to a talented couple, a photographer Lisa Seed, and a lei maker Rob Arita. Their Hawaiian Lei web site is an oddessy of beauty. Rob's striking leis are filled with aloha, start to finish. Lisa's photographs capture the beauty of these gifts from the sea. I am posting two of Lisa's photos today. Her shots are the obvious clear and professional photos. You are invited to visit their site, perhaps choose a piece of will be an heirloom to cherish.

I hope you've enjoyed this story, and if you are blessed with a special piece of Ni'ihau jewelry, it also has been on an amazing journey....wear it well and with aloha.

Happy Lei Day!
A hui hou,