Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | July 6, 2014

R.I.P. Shep…

Herewith I humbly submit a piece of advice: When making plans, do not try to accomplish in a two day period a road trip, a tour of a big island, an all nighter, a root canal, and a funeral.

By the time one reaches a certain age, and especially if one has lived as full of a life as we have here at Magic Mountain Farm, one has seen the face of death. And perhaps even, held a loved one as they transitioned from this world into the next.

As it happened this week, we had a lot going on. Which is usually the case at Magic Mountain Farm. Forget being lonely and isolated. The phone was ringing off the hook. Text messages were pouring in. We had new help arriving at the airport at no less than 5:45 a.m. from New Zealand, via Honolulu. With a five hour layover. But just like in those ads on TV where you order something, that was not all we were getting or doing. My huScreen shot 2014-07-06 at 10.16.04 PMsband had an emergency dental appointment the same morning. A hundred miles from our farm. The route to which, only required a few mile detour, to go to the airport. So we offered the young man we were picking up, and the woofer* already on our farm a rare opportunity to have a tour of the entire island, if they wanted to accompany us.

Our amazing tenant and dear friend Juli offered to take care of the dogs while we were gone all day. She would be home, training a new caregiver to help with her profoundly disabled daughter.

As the day unfolded however, not everything went as planned. Juli’s new caregiver cancelled at the last minute so she was alone, with her daughter and the dogs. Thankfully on our end, the drive went smoothly, picking up David at the airport and continuing over the Saddle Road, between two volcanoes that top out at almost 14,000 feet. My husband’s appointment took a few hours. He came out dopey, but on the mend, and we got coffee and started back, along the Hamakua Coast, which is incredibly beautiful.

We had decided that we would try to mDSC_0061-e1306367071797ake one detour, on the way back to the farm. Waipiu Valley is stunningly gorgeous, even by Hawaiian standards. It is also far and out of the way, not an easy place to get to from where we live. So we thought, it would be worth it to go with our woofers, for them to have a once in a lifetime chance to see it.

And it was as amazing as it always is, no matter how many times we have seen it, to go. And also as remote. Which meant when we finally got back to the highway, several texts and messages popped up on my phone, letting me know that our dog Shep was having seizures again, only by this time they had been going on, back to back, for 1-1/2 hours.

When a large dog has seizures it is very ugly. And smelly. And violent. And frightening. Juli had her daughter and our other dog shut up in the bedroom. When we got home, which took another 1-1/2 hours, driving as fast as we could, her apartment was in a disarray with dog poop, pee, slobber, and a strange, terrible adrenalin infused stench that permeated the entire living space. Shep was on his feet, but just barely, leaning against the daybed. I managed to get him outside on the dog run, and that was where he stayed until he died the next morning.

Except for a few brief departures, Shep was with someone the whole time while we tried to figure out what to do. But being in a rural area at the end of the day does not offer a great deal of options. So what happened was, I spent the night holding him while we tried to contact vets and friends who might be able to help.

When the vet finally came up the road, just as they drove to where our farm begins,Screen shot 2014-07-06 at 10.17.21 PM Shep died in my lap. His great, golden eyes had been mostly fixed and open for some time. But the pupils suddenly became large and a shadow seemed to pass over. There was clouding. A dimness and somehow a grayness that overtook the darkness and the gold. And he became very still, though he was warm.

We were all weeping; me, Juli, James, our woofer Mariah. Juli’s daughter could not bear it and had to go back inside. She suffers from seizures as well, and was very close with Shep, so what was happening hit too close to home, literally and figuratively. The vet did not charge us, but James brought her and her partner a bag of our coffee and some fruit.

We buried Shep that same afternoon, near the road, where he can keep an eye on the farm. When the ground is ready, we will plant a tree over him. Perhaps Juli’s daughter, whom we call the Dolphin, will help us. Perhaps in the winter on Tu B’Shevat, which means “New Year of the Trees.” The Dolphin is Jewish and deeply spiritual. It could be an avocado tree, and that would be fitting, too, because Magic Mountain is a tree farm, and Shep loved eating avocados, almost as much as he enjoyed a chewing a good bone.

 

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*workers on organic farms

Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | June 30, 2014

The New Orange

In Hawaii there are infinite colors in nature.  The ocean produces more shades of blue here than one could have possibly imagined, if they had not seen it with their own eyes.  When it rains, greens from the yellowest to the bluest abound, making hues take on a three dimentional quality, as if color had a tangible form of its own.  Coffee cherries redefine the word ‘red’.  From tiny, hard green berries they grow to pale yellow, then by degrees, to orange, pink, Johnathan IMG_5164apple red, scarlet, crimson; swelling to ruddy, smouldering eggplant purple emitting an odor like ripe, dark olives, when they are at their peak.

So it is with the color orange.  When citrus and papaya ripen, the skins go from a dark, piney green to displaying subtle, near-invisible streaks of yellow.  In lemons this yellow takes on a milky quality, as if the fruit was formed from a bar of soap.  But as they ripen, especially at the top of a tree where they are hard to reach and exposure to the sun is the greatest, they actually turn the color of an egg yolk, and then, a bold brassy orange.  If the lemon is more round than oval, an unsuspecting consumer might get quite the surprise, biting into a slice.  Oranges go from greenish-yellow to yellowish orange.  But tangelos and tangerines take the color orange to a whole new level.  It is the reddest orange possible, without being red.  The color is deep and saturated.  No hint of yellow or brassiness remains.

Cactus Flower

Another plant, the tulip tree, produces flowers that are the reddest orange possible, rivaling, and even surpassing tangelos and tangerines.  The curved, lush blooms look like orchids from an ancient world, populated by dinosaurs.  And also, there are cacti. Orange cacti without a hint of green, that grow quite large and produce brilliant, scarlet flowers.  Their flesh forms in scalloped columns, with golden centers, pushing out to a deep rustic brown where ridges and the scallops form.  But between the gold and the brown is a pinkish orange, that practically glows.

And finally, there are the moon and the sun, which here, in Hawaii, can range from a brilliant green spark to mango, to cantaloup, to blood orange and countless shades and variations in between.  The green appears when the sun sets on the ocean on a perfectly clear day.  Just as the top of the sun disappears, there is a brilliant flash like a flawless emerald shot through with light. This past winter, the moon became a pastel, melon shade of orange, rustic and glowing, when there was an eclipse. The edges were dark, the center quite pale, with rich tones increasing and emanating out to its rim, where at last it was the blackest black, against the deep indigo blue, pure clear night.

 

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Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | June 13, 2014

BBQ Plus Avocado Pancakes

It’s been a busy couple of days cooking, so I am really glad to be sitting with my writing partner, having just finished a store-bought everything bagel with lox schmere. I am all calm and happy now, even though before, I went to my cell phone store to figure out why my bills have been so high.  Which just goes to show, most of the world’s problems can be solved with good food.

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Purple and yellow yams and egg fruit in a Dutch oven lined with ti leaves.

Every time I read about helping the planet and eating healthy I wonder what I could be doing.  Then I happily remember that I live and work on an organic farm.  Even better, it is in Hawaii, on a volcano, overlooking the ocean.  And the longer I am here, the more I know how to cook good things with local foods and the crops we grow.

The other day we had barbeque. I had to start in the morning because we have been having so much rain, especially later in the day.  In a climate where plants grow year ‘roun, barbeque is a great way to get rid of piles of wood, clear ground, fertilize soil, and make delicious food.  We start with wadded up newspaper, pile on coffee, avocado and pecan sticks, upgrade to full blown logs of peach, tulip, mango, more avocado, and guava, and finally, bamboo which sounds like firecrackers as it ignites and its chambers burst.  As the different woods burn they release fragrances; a hint of coffee, something fruity or musky. Some woods we avoid because they are poisonous, like Christmas Berry and Silver Oak. Usually I can get the whole thing going with a single match, but this time it took two, plus a lot of rearranging and fanning and blowing to get all the wet wood fired up.

When the coals are hot, it’s time to put on the Dutch oven, lined with ti leaves, loaded with whole carrots, local pumpkin, purple sweet potatoes, or breadfruit.  I like to mix it up.  After about forty-five minutes, everything is moist and tender.  Next, I balance the grill on some big lava rocks or logs.  Once it’s hot, I put grass fed island meat and wild fish, and slabs of our farm’s white sugar loaf pineapple.

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Eggfruit

The cook fire can take all day.  But when it’s done there is a surprisingly little pile of ashes, a new space to plant a tree, and some mighty fine barbeque.  We eat until we are comfortably full and sleepy.  Leftovers make an amazing, smoky hash.  If there is leftover pumpkin it makes an incredible smoky curry soup.

Another favorite, I made last night, is pancakes for supper.  Between my husband and me, we have a lot of dietary restrictions.  Visitors and woofers* can make for even more demands.  So it’s a good thing I like a challenge.  Last night, my pancake culinary skills reached new heights though, with avocados.  Yes, you heard me.  Avocado pancakes.  That taste great with maple syrup.  There is an annual avocado recipe contest here, that I might just enter next year with these puppies, they are that good.  I mixed bananas, egg fruit, and avocado, to replace most of the oil, plus a blue egg from one of our hens.  For the second batch I replaced the egg fruit with white zapote. At the end of the meal not a single pancake was left.  Besides tasting great, they were very digestible and as one of our woofers* said in a hushed tone of awe, “They melt in your mouth!”

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AVOCADO PANCAKES

Screen shot 2014-06-12 at 2.51.29 PMSift together:

1 c. flour, 1 t. baking soda, 1-1/2 t. baking powder, 1 t. cardamom

In a large bowl mash and mix:

1 small to medium ripe avocado, 1-2 ripe bananas (or any other soft, ripe fruit such as pears, papaya, etc.), 1 egg, 1-1/4 c. vanilla almond milk, 1 t. oil (coconut or butter taste best).

Add dry ingredients to large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Add 1 T. plain vinegar.

Optional: add 3/4 c. nuts, berries, etc.

Use a well-greased frying pan.  Pour about 1/3 c. batter per pancake.  Let the batter spread by itself on the pan.  Best if served immediately with your favorite toppings.  Makes enough pancakes to make two-three people happy.

*workers on organic farms

Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | June 7, 2014

Poultry Possibilities

3d8ae76eec8c42b229c2fbcd3688a9c2 Chickens are a lot of work.  The problem is this:  I rarely eat eggs, yet I am responsible for most of their care here on Magic Mountain Farm.  They need to be fed twice a day.  They need a calcium supplement.  They require fresh greens and compost.  Their pen must be cleaned regularly.  Eggs, if they are laying, need to be collected. And right now, my husband is raising baby chicks in the packing building, so soon we will have three more to add to our flock.

The reasons I don’t eat eggs are several.  For starters, our workers all seem to adore them.  They eat eggs with abandon, even going so far as to harvest them before I get to the pen.  Waking, I smell eggs frying.  But they are not for me or my husband.  By the time we are ready to eat, the carton is empty.  The other day I had to borrow store-bought eggs from our tenant to make dinner.  Now that it is summer and he does not have to run out the door before seven, one might suppose my husband would like to sit down for eggs, bacon and toast.  It is not to be.  For there are no eggs left by the time we are ready to eat.

Recently I instituted a two-egg policy.  There must be at least two eggs left in the carton at all times.  To make pancakes or fishcakes for dinner, or to scramble for my husband for breakfast.  We used to make fritatas, too.  But that was before I found out that my bad cholestrol was high and the chickens decided to do their part by going on strike.  They lay eggs cyclically.  This time it has conveniently coincided with my diet restrictions.

But I digress. What is surprising to me now that we have chickens of our own, is how anyone can sell eggs at a reasonable price.  In grocery stores here commercial eggs sell for about $3.50 a dozen.  Free range organic eggs are $6.00 and up.  They sell for that much at the local farmer’s market, too.  With all of the work, all of the food, and all of the egg-laying vacations chickens take, not to mention lives lost to disease and hungry dogs, I’m amazed eggs are available to common folk at all.

So it was very gratifying in the muck and the rain yesterday to realize how very helpful our chickens can be on our farm.  I was cleaning out the pen, which is as it turns out, is an endless source of perfect, highly fertilized soil; a fresh mixture of poop, pee, rotting compost and grass, dirt, and macadamia nut shells.  Somehow, especially with the addition of constant rain, it all turns into this highly nutritious goo for plants growing in our rocky, mostly lava land.

There are squash vines that have spontaneously sprouted all around the edge of the chicken pen.  Their leaves are the size of enormous serv7d4995e17df2430eae92c54e06aa932aing platters, with fat, yellow flowers peering out, the color of egg yolks.  They are climbing the pen, providing green nibbles, where ever the chickens can get at them.  Soon, we hope to see actual squashes, which taste so good in so many ways.  The plants provide shade and food, and are so beautiful.  Where the other chickens lived in another pen up above, the ones that were massacred by neighbor dogs, squash and sunflowers have sprouted and taken over in abundance.  They come from the compost and the seeds we fed them. When the chickens were in the pen, they ate anything that sprouted, but after their demise, a beautiful garden has grown, a testament that nothing too good or too bad, lasts for too long.

So I can now say, even as I am not able to eat eggs, and must tend to their needs, that the possibilities with poultry seem to have no bounds.  We cannot bring ourselves to eat them, but we are still grateful for their blue, pink, and brown eggs that allow for cooking and worker breakfasts, and especially I am grateful for the incredible gardens they have helped to plant and to feed, and also for way they allow us to use every scrap of everything connected with them, to make Magic Mountain Farm a garden of Eden.

 

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Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | May 24, 2014

Breadfruit for Dinner

 

Breadfruit

Breadfruit

Mr. Izu and his companion Malco came to dinner last night.  I spent the whole day preparing.  Well cooking.  I wanted to make something special.  Something Hawaiian.  Something mostly soft and palatable that would not offend, including everyone human on our farm.  When I cook, it’s part planning and part inspiration.  I had decided on fish cakes and knew that purple Okinawan yams would be on the menu. Plus green beans.  The fish cakes remained fish cakes.  The yams became part of a ‘potato’ salad.  The beans were made peas, instead.

Although for the past forty years the temperature on Magic Mountain Farm has always been between 47 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, that is too cold for breadfruit, a native plant that sustained an estimated population of 300,000 people who lived on this island before Captain Cook ‘discovered’ it, in the bay just below where we live.  It grows best at around 800 feet, and continues up the slopes of our volcano to about 1700 feet, where it peters out because of the lower temperatures.

We cannot buy breadfruit at the store.  We are gifted by friends, or we do trades.  Sometimes we get it at local farmer’s markets, or ask at the Painted Church to take some from their grounds.  However we get it, we treasure it. Especially because my husband cannot eat potatoes, which they taste like.  When I first learned about breadfruit I was afraid.  In the same way I was afraid of cheese or carrot cake as a child.  Big hunks of cheddar or cooked veggies in a cake?  No thank you.  Bread-flavored fruit?  Please.  Spare me.

If one does not know how to prepare breadfruit, it is pretty disappointing.  Ripe and raw it is the consistency and flavor of a bland pudding.  Fresh and green it is very firm, requiring strength and a sharp knife to cut.  If steamed, it can be very mealy and dry.  Which, come to think of it, is how a potato is, too.  But learn how to prepare it and breadfruit, like potatoes, is amazing.

Once steamed, breadfruit remains firm.  It can be cut up and fried in coconut oil.  Add onions and peas and it becomes hash.  The hash tastes even better with thinly sliced pieces of leftover bbq’d meat.  Follow a recipe for stuffing at Thanksgiving.  Replace bread with cubed, steamed breadfruit.  The result tastes like a cross between really good mashed potatoes and stuffing.  If the breadfruit is soft and over ripe, locals like to eat it by the spoonful on a ti leaf with raw ahi (tuna).  I am terrified of raw fish in general and dislike the sweet, pudding-like texture of the ripe breadfruit, so this concoction has not passed my lips.  Instead I save the overripe fruit and beat it into pancake and waffle batter.  The result is absolutely delicious.

Purple Okinawan Yams, Egg Fruit, 'Regular' Yams, & Ti Leaves.

Purple Okinawan Yams, Egg Fruit, ‘Regular’ Yams, & Ti Leaves.

Last night, I served up breadfruit in two dishes, fishcakes and the ‘potato’ salad.  The fishcakes were fried in coconut oil and tasted, well, to be completely objective, spectacular. The salad, which incorporated the purple yams and breadfruit, was to die for.  I had three helpings of each, and would have gone back for a fourth, if there was a way to pack any more in.

We had told Mr. Izu, who is past 90, who still lives on the farm where he was born, not to bring anything.  So he brought my husband a pen he made from avocado wood, and also a paper holder, an oven spatula, and a heart with the words ‘Kiss the Cook’ inscribed.  His companion Malco brought two jars of homemade jaboticabo jam.  And we all sat round a table on a deck, overlooking the ocean while the sun set and talked story and ate and visited to our hearts’ and stomachs’ content –our woofers* Jay and Laura; our dear friends and tenants Juli and the Dolphin; Mr. Izu, Malco, my husband, and Dolphin’s aide Jennifer; and Jennifer’s dog, Bootsie.  And when we were sipping on coffee and spooning up our chia seed pudding I asked Mr. Izu and Malco, if we could do this all over again, next month.

A Jaboticabo tree on our farm.

A Jaboticabo tree on our farm.

*workers on organic farms

 

Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | May 16, 2014

Monsoons & Massacres

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Our bucolic farm.

I like to think that the way this day began, is how it always is on Magic Mountain Farm.  I woke up early (for me) at seven and took the dogs for a walk wearing only a robe and a pair of crocs.  The air was clear.  The sun was shining.  The sky was blue.  From our citrus field I could see the ocean lapping up against old lava, crusted and scaled with forest, like a dragon’s talons dipping into, caressing the water. All of nature seemed in perfect harmony. The grass, lush and green.  The clover, soft and pillowy. The pheasants chortling in the trees. Our newest addition, a little wild kitty I have christened Charlotte Turlington, bounding up to greet me, following as I went to feed our magical chickens that lay pink, brown and blue eggs.

After, I went and had coffee with one of my Ohana sisters (Hawaiian for extended family of the heart), Juli, who is also our tenant. The dogs were content to rest at my feet as we chattered.  Then the nurse came to help with her daughter, whom we call the Dolphin.  Our woofers were off for the day.  The plan was, to take care of a few simple chores; then to sail down the side of our volcano into Kailua Village for the rest of the day.

And so far, everything has happened according to plan.  As I write, I am comfortably seated in an upholstered chair with my feet up, writing, drinking estate grown Kona coffee that is almost as good as what we produce on Magic Mountain Farm.  My writing partner and I are pecking away while outside, it is raining.  For the forth day in a row.  And thank God, because we were in severe drought, running out of water in our catchment tanks on the farm, wondering how we were going to do laundry, let alone wash dishes and shower.

Most of the state of Hawaii and our island have rain in the winter.  In Kona, we have rain starting in the spring, ending in the fall.  Winter is our perfect weather time of year with balmy temperatures and clear skies.  When it is too perfect for too long though, us farm folk begin to worry.  What is great for tourism, becomes a disaster for locals.  Luckily, my husband purchased 4,000 gallons of water last week.  The very next day, it began to pour.

A few days later, we had a massacre on the farm.  Our upper chicken pen was invaded.  Dogs sounded the alarm.  But I failed to heed their warning, thinking it was just another squabble with neighbors’ pets.  Our woofers* warned me though, when I was about to take the chickens grain, that there had been… well, an incident.  Had they been human instead of poultry, the crime scene with mangled bodies strewn about in the grass, it would have made national news. A few hours later the woofers had pick-axed a hole, for the mass grave.

The fact is, Mother Nature can be both cruel and magnificent; beastly and bucolic.  We have three stray cats at the moment, all abandoned and half-starved that are being nursed back to health.  We cannot possibly keep them all, and will have to eventually trap and turn them in to the Humane Society.  Well, aunties Maybelle and Marmalade anyway.  Charlotte is a keeper.  And sadly, our dog Shep had a dozen back-to-back seizures last night that kept us up until 1:30am.  He was a stray too, that we adopted from the Pound.

In addition to having a lovely morning and a delightful day, truly, I have also had to contend with very little sleep, tortured animals, rain just as I was taking the dogs for a walk, and countless phone calls, not the least of which, is about relatives hoping to come for a visit this summer when we will be tenting our home for termites, and re-roofing guest and woofer housing.

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Happier Days

And yet, the longer I live here, the more I love it; mosquitoes, mold, choking vines, greedy weeds, drought, overwork, lack of sleep, sick pets, massacred livestock, monsoons and all, to the point that I am even, dare I say, torn about whether or not to leave at all this summer for the Mainland.

But that is another story, for another day.  For now, I will continue my rainy day, coffee shop writing, sitting side by side, feet up, with my dear, dear companion Stephanie, typing away, laying down the bones, downpours, mayhem and destruction be damned.

*works on organic farms

Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | May 6, 2014

Avocado Harvest

Right now it is the height of our avocado season. We supply local grocery stores and a Mexican restaurant, so we try to stagger our crop so something is coming ripe almost all year ’round. But at this very moment, they are coming off by the dozen. Sometimes when I look at an avocado tree, it is as if there are green ornaments hanging from the branches.  There are tiny new avocados the size of grapes.  Then there are the ripe ones.  They vary from a few ounces with no pit (!) to one whopper we harvested at 4 pounds – six ounces.  We looked up the world record –4 pounds – 12 ounces by a grower in Florida.  At the rate we are going we may surpass even that.

My daughter says ever since she tasted the4530_1162710389227_6127495_n avocados on our farm, Mainland avocados have never been the same.  No matter how good one might be, it cannot compare to ours.  And ours are only available here in our state.  That is because to send them to the Mainland we would have to use poisons that have been outlawed in the United States.  Only avocados from other countries where the poisons are still legal, are allowed in, after they have been sprayed.  California avocados, because they are grown there, are are allowed. But they are runty, stunted little things when compared with our beauties.

Recently some changes were made so that one certain small avocado grown here, known as the Sharwil may be shipped.  If they are shipped only during winter months. After an elaborate cleansing process to protect crops on the Mainland from insects here, like the notorious fruit fly.  Needless to say with the high cost and shortage of laborers and the complicated steps required, not many are being sent.  I cannot image what they would cost, if they are available.

Meanwhile, we have so many avocados falling daily on the ground that we have taken to forcing farm visitors, members of our Quaker Meeting, and friends to take them.  Three times in the past week I have brought a big boxful to the thrift shop to put out with the free clothing. They are gone in minutes, either to astonished tourists or locals including one other farmer who likes to feed them to his pigs. Which doesn’t even count for all the fallen ones with minor flaws that I toss away from the trees.  Or the ones we keep and eat every single day at lunch and dinner.  Or the ones that rot and are given to compost, our worm farm, and the chickens.

The good news:  I know where to pick everyday from the ripest, readiest trees because of how many I collect from the ground, and, the Mexican place we supply is opening another restaurant.  Already we are stockpiling for the new place.

Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | April 27, 2014

Turd Gobblers

Though I am stubbornly loathe to admit it, I love my dogs.  The fact is, I love them almost as much as my daughter. Which is to say, they are my late-in-life children. They are good and sweet.  Obedient, innocent and clean. With

Shep, Milo, & Alex

Shep, Milo, & Alex

modest appetites. Except that my friend and neighbor, Juli, has told me that given half a chance, Milo will go root in her daughter’s nose like there is a steak up in there; like she is mining for gold.  And Milo will shamelessly lap up the contents of her daughter’s diapers.  Now Shep has one-upped Milo.  On our morning walk he dragged me under a macadamia nut tree, ostensibly, I thought, to root out a mongoose.  But no.  It was to root out and gobble up a turd.  When I realized what he was doing and tried to drag him away, he yanked me back to finish off his new-found treasure before Milo could sneak over and do it for him.

I don’t know if I can ever bring myself to lie on the living room rug and let them lick my face again.  The horror of what happened on our morning walk is just too fresh.

It reminds me of another time, when a neighbor we are on good terms with, chased them down the road, shoeless and shirtless, and swore the next time he found them on his property he would shoot them.  It was the third time with the third different neighbor.  When three different neighbors threaten to shoot your dogs on three separate occasions, it is possible that it is not just coincidence. We decided to investigate.

Alex, Mike, Shep & Milo

Alex, Mike, Shep & Milo

As it turned out, our little darlings had beaten up the tiny, feeble old dog in the neighbor’s front yard, and been terrorizing their baby goat.  Ever since paying the vet bill, to Milo and Shep’s horror, we have kept them penned up, in the house, or on a leash. The have finally, bitterly at first to be sure, adjusted, except it has not prevented them from continuing with other shocking and disappointing displays of behavior from time to time.  And as we are now always with them, we are the unwilling witnesses to our little darlings indiscretions and secret compulsions.  So it is that I will try to be ever mindful when my late-in-life-children wish to cover me in kisses, that no, I cannot and will not be touched by the tongues of shameless turd gobblers.

Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | April 25, 2014

Fallen Fruit (& Nuts)

Fallen Pineapple

Fallen Pineapple

A few years ago we had a ‘woofer’* named Alex who used to run around in the early morning collecting fruit off the ground.  It was amazing how much she came up with.  We had avocados, lemons, limes, oranges, and guavas piled high, and there would be more every day to add in the kitchen, from her rounds.  Which incidentally made it a lot easier to walk, especially around one of the avocado trees where every year about this time, the ground turns into guacamole.

As I explained to visitors from Uzbeckistan who were shocked at all the food lying in the dirt, we just cannot keep up with production.  Probably they thought we were lazy, gentleman-farmer Americans.  But my husband does the work of at least three people, and I do the work of at least two, and still there is more produce that finds it’s way to the ground, than I like to admit. Just yesterday I came across mounds of coffee beans under a tree while weeding, that the rats had beaten me to.  I had to throw handfuls into the grass so that when they sprout we can mow them.

When fruit falls it rots where it lands which provides compost and food for wild animals (birds, mongoose, rats, mice, and a myriad of insects and vermin).  Or we scoop it up and feed it to chickens.  Or we eat it.  Or give it away.  We cannot sell it.  It could be bruised or have bug damage that is not obvious.  If it is an avocado the stem is broken, not clipped.  That means it will rot more quickly and may already have maggot eggs freshly laid.  Other fruit is bird pecked and rat-gnawed.  We may be willing to wash and peel it to avoid rat-lung disease, and we may be willing to cut away bad spots, but we do not expect the same of our customers, and neither do they.

There is one exception.  Macadamia nuts.  These we only harvest once they have fallen from the tree. I like to think of them as the ultimate vegetarian food, only harvested after being given up by the host.  There is a cult in India where members sweep the ground in front of them, lest they step on any living creature; where they eat only food that is fallen.  I like to imagine them discovering our farm and asking to set up an ashram here.  They would be in

Fallen Tropical Fruit

Fallen Tropical Fruit

raw, vegan heaven here on earth.  Not that I would care to join them.  I keep losing weight as it is, with all the work on Magic Mountain Farm, and am certain I would vaporize if I were to subsist on only what our land was willing to donate.

On the other hand, I find it curious that there are so many, especially women, especially in my former haunts in Los Angeles, who worship the false idols of thinness and eternal youth, who do not consider the humble, lowly life of the farmer’s wife.  They would have helmet-head hair most of the time to be sure, and have to wear grubby, stained clothing, and wear big clunky boots and Crocs, and work harder than they ever did in any class at any gym, but by golly, they’d be wiry and strong with clear eyes and a proper set of crows’ feet, and a pink snap in their cheeks from all the fallen fruits and nuts, the hard work, and the clear, starry nights, walking our dogs, ghosting and gliding up and down this side of our volcano, that we call Magic Mountain Farm.

*workers on organic farms

Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | April 5, 2014

Rooster Frenzy

I am a night owl, not a morning person.  But it is 7:42 am, and already I tossed and turned in bed for a half hour and then, got dressed, and walked the dogs.

We have strategies to block out noise at night on Magic Mountain Farm, but there is only so much one can do, to manage Mother Nature. At a certain point in the evening, the point when the sound of koki frogs’ 80 decibel mating calls becomes too much, my husband closes all of the windows and goes out to hunt them.  When we go to bed, we turn on a clean air machine, ostensibly to filter out the vog, but also, to drowned out the frogs.  Then last night, we took the rare opportunity to dine out at our friends’ home in town.  We drove separately and in the parking lot at their condo, my husband took out the teenage rooster in its carrier, that he had put at the behest of a co-worker, in the back seat of his car, to take to our farm.

As I write this our dog Shep is barking at the top of his lungs.  Milo wants to do more battle but hrooster+vintage+image+graphicsfairy007e has had enough.  So he is giving her a good scolding and telling her in no uncertain terms to settle down.  They have been antsy all morning.  Earlier than usual.  And it is the young rooster who spent the night in dog pen, that I am blaming.  And my husband.

We have two chicken pens.  One below has three stout Amazon hens.  The other houses a slim, wild mama and her five surviving chicks.  The dog pen is tucked in-between.  The new rooster, who my husband has named “Rooster,” has been crowing since daybreak.  A big rooster stud who has been pursuing mama up above, has been crowing back.  All the Amazons are in a dither.  Milo and Shep have been barking their two cents and having wrestling matches in the living room since the hubbub began.  And there has been a fundraiser going on, on the radio, which went off at 6:30, because that’s when it is set for on weekdays, for my husband to wake up and go to work.

So unable to take anymore, of the thoughts in my head, the fundraising, or the wild and domesticated animal kingdoms, I got up and took the dogs, for a walk.  And as I wrote the last sentence, the roosters have stopped, and Milo and Shep are lying, tuckered out on the rug while my oblivious husband continues to saw wood in his dreams in our bed.

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