Thursday, October 23, 2014

Six reasons to go to the Maui Seed and Plant Exchange

Six reasons to go to the Maui Seed and Plant Exchange

Organic Farmer Gerry Ross of Kupaá Farms with the Mana Ulu taro variety.

For a gardener, visiting a well-run local seed swap is like winning a jackpot. If you have a green thumb or have ever harbored the slightest hope of turning your brown thumb green, the upcoming Maui Seed and Plant Exchange is worth your time. And it’s free! It will be held on Sunday, October 26th from 1 – 4 pm at the Hawaiian Canoe Club hale, Hoaloha Park on Kaahumanu Avenue, across from the Maui Mall in Kahului.

The seed swap in June was amazing. Organized by Maui Seed Savers founders Evan and Elan, the seed swap tables were piled with seed packets, bags of seeds, leaves, roots and stems. Plants that you’ve never heard of were there. Plants that are harder to get were there. Plants that other people have successfully grown on Maui were there.

Note: I am traveling and am very jet lagged, using a computer that I don't normally use with a very strange screen, so these pictures are not edited, and may be incredibly blurry, and are not organized. A future project will be to go back to this post and clean it up - one day. Thanks for understanding!

By the way, if you don’t have any seeds or plants to share, you are still highly encouraged to come to the event. If you have seeds or plants to share, please bring them, but if you don’t, it’s better for you to attend if you’re interested instead of staying at home because you feel you are not contributing.  You can always share in the future when you are able.

That’s part of the point of having a seed swap and plant exchange. It’s not just to trade seeds and get free seeds. It’s to find out what grows on Maui.
So six reasons to attend the Maui Seed and Plant Exchange.

1.   Free stuff
Woo hoo! Getting free stuff appeals to one’s inner freeloader. It’s always nice to get free things and to give things, not only because it saves money but it creates community and connections. You can pay to buy seeds, but it’s not the same as getting free seeds from someone who you have met and has a connection to that plant.

2.   Save time and effort
You can buy packets of zucchini seeds but they may not grow that well on Maui, or not that well in your particular micro climate on Maui. You might be at the wrong elevation, or have the wrong soil, or have too much wind, or too much dampness to have success with that particular zucchini variety. You could perhaps buy 10 zucchini varieties and maybe one of them will actually grow and produce zucchini, but it’s trial and error. Going to a seed swap gives you a chance to obtain seeds of plants that have grown successfully on Maui. At the June swap, there was a huge bag of corn seeds of a variety developed by UH Manoa, specifically for Hawaii soils and conditions. I have had a terrible experience with growing corn here. My plants got about a foot high and then keeled, due to the mosaic virus in the soil. Some people have had success growing mainland corn varieties from some random seed packet bought at Walmart or Home Depot, but most of us have torn out our hair.

3.   Variety
The variety of plants at the seed exchange is amazing. Herbs you’ve never heard of, or that may require research to obtain, like the moringa tree or epazote, an herb used to make beans more digestible, and save your friends and family from your sneaky gas attacks. Or heirloom varieties of sugar cane or different varieties of taro, the treasured local Hawaiian starchy vegetable.  You won’t find some of these varieties at the local nursery or hardware store. Also, you are contributing to genetic variety by saving seeds and planting different varieties, not just the few that are commonly available.

Why is genetic variety important?  Long story short, having a lot of genetic variety for one plant species or crop provides greater resilience and adaptability to changes in the environment, bugs, diseases, and human needs. Protecting genetic variety is crucial to supporting local agriculture that can feed an island.

4.   Education
Going to the plant and seed swap is educational. You’ll learn how to grow different plants and tips on what not to do. The volunteers in June were all farmers or gardeners so you could ask them random gardening questions too, even if they weren’t related to the seeds or plants on the table.

5.   Preserve local culture and heritage.
By cultivating plants that are valued by the native Hawaiians or other ethnic cultures on Maui, you help preserve local history and heritage. Taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, chayote squash, moringa, mamaki, breadfruit, and sugar cane have cultural significance in Hawaii. There are more varieties than the ones that are commonly available, and each variety may have different culinary features or uses.

6.   Food Security
In one of those zombie apocalypse scenarios where there are no boats to Hawaii bringing supplies of toilet paper, coal, and food (with TP being the most important item, just kidding), being able to grow local food crops that can withstand Maui’s unique growing conditions is going to be part of human survival. Maybe it will never happen, but what if? Even if life is still normal, you get to part of promoting local food security by growing your own food and saving seeds and plants that grow well locally.

Lastly, you should go because I am traveling off-island and cannot attend the next seed swap. Let me know how it is!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rise and Shine! Visiting the Upcountry Farmers Market

Visiting the Upcountry Farmers Market is a way to experience the sheer joy of having a garden or farm without all the work!  It’s like drinking a jolt of green wake up juice that gives you a gentle but firm energy boost. All this green growing energy runs through your veins and arteries and you feel wonderfully alive, like a young plant shooting up to greet the morning sun.

Yup, it’s early, so if you like to sleep in late, this is probably not your farmers market. But if you can get there by 7 am, you bright-eyed, bushy-tailed early bird you, then you’re in for a treat. Warning: If you get there past 8 am, there’s the risk that some of the goodies are sold out. For the best selection, get there at 7 or even before. You can grin at all the late comers with the satisfaction that you got to see the market in its full glory. If you get there later, don’t despair. The market has become so good and popular that many booths are still open at 9 am or so.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Preparing for the Zombie Hurricane Apocalypse - Iselle and Julio

Amazingly, the sun is shining at this very moment and the rain has paused. But the last few days have been a bit crazy on Maui (and the rest of Hawaii) as local residents and visitors prepare for a double whammy hurricane. Is it the zombie hurricane apocalypse, or is it just a lot of rain coming our way? (Make sure to click on the blue rectangle "Read Next Page" at the bottom to see cartoons by parody account @tropstormiselle.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crazy school bus accident, and the dangers of the road by Mama's Fish House

Maui is so relaxed and rural, it seems that nothing really bad could happen here. And while we complain regularly about traffic, it’s nothing compared to anywhere else. Excluding the Road to Hana, which has scores of one-lane bridges and more curves than the Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated.

Photo by Corinne Bourgoin on MauiWatch.

DH and I are driving down Hana Highway towards Paia this morning, around 10:30 am, and suddenly come across a road block, just past Hookipa Beach Park. WTF??? Both lanes are closed and there’s a detour up Holomua Road, that goes into the sugar cane fields and leads to the old Maui High School.

Both lanes of Hana Highway are blocked!
This is the view coming back down Holomua Road to Hana Highway, on our way back.

Even though we have last century’s TV at home, complete w/ rabbit ears and fuzzy snow, I am armed with mobile technology. The Facebook page for MauiWatch, which gives Maui residents the latest accident and traffic news plus other breaking news, says there is a BIG accident with a school bus last night. Someone stole an Akina school bus and crashed it outside the entrance to Mama’s Fish House restaurant, walked away from the crash and tried to hitchhike! WTF?? This accident also explains why the power went out in the middle of the night.

How the heck are we going to get to Paia? It turns out, there are roads that wind through the cane fields and hit Baldwin Avenue. I am using my map app on the iphone and see a cross road called Lower Hamakuapoko Road, but there is a big yellow gate across it. We drive a little further, wondering if we have to go all the way to Makawao (7 miles out of the way) and a truck and car shoot past us. Hey, they must know where they are going! Besides, it’s an island, so how lost can we get?

OMG! Where are we?!
Somewhere in the deep boonies of the sugar cane fields above Paia.

We follow the truck and car and take the next right going towards Paia. It’s a windy road, but it’s paved, but there are sneaky vicious attack potholes (VAPs) that are ready to pounce on lazy drivers. DH manages to avoid most of the VAPs and we follow the curves, hoping not to lose sight of the car in front, then we turn right and voila! We are on Baldwin Avenue, heading down the hill to Paia. Good old Baldwin Avenue, I could kiss thee!

Down we go, and WTF!? There is a line up of cars going all the way down to Paia. We wait for 10 minutes in traffic, move about 10 feeet, and then decide that the powers that be do not want us in Paia, so we go home.  

Baldwin Avenue, past the Maui Yoga Shala (the old Paia Train Station,
about a mile up the hill from Paia town) is bumper to bumper with cars coming down through the accident bypass. We are heading back home, to Haiku.

The full story of the crazy school bus snatcher? Beats me. From what I gather on Facebook, he stole the bus last night, passed another car on a double yellow line, was being pulled over by police, and then took off again and flipped the bus over outside Mama’s. Some commenters said the driver tried to hitchhike and then ran off into the cane fields.

Here are a couple of comments from MauiWatch's Facebook page (original punctuation and spelling):

 “apparently dis bus was driving crazy passed my mom on a double and was pulled over by the cops when my mom was giving her statement and before the cop could get to the bus da driver took off and flipped the bus by mamas

 "The driver of the bus stay hitch hiking on baldwin and olomoa street. Brown shirt "hawaiis finest" on the front and black shorts."

But I kinda have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) around the area near Mama’s Fish House. 

8 years ago, I had a bad accident around that bend. I had my little rusty Maui cruiser (what we call a beat up car on Maui, a lemon that runs). After I pass Mama’s this minivan coming towards me, suddenly turns left in front of me towards Mama’s back parking lot. WTF!? I brake, but hit the van in the middle.

My airbag goes off and punches me in the chest. I am in shock that this dude out of nowhere decides to turn left in front of me. What was he thinking? Why would he think he had room to do this? Police come to the scene and say my car is totaled. My husband shows up, and jumps up and down the hood of the car because it is folded in half like an upside down V, like the crease on an origami paper bird. He manages to jump on the hood enough to make it flat, but it’s like an aluminum ball that you try to straighten out but it’s still crumpled and crappy looking. We exchange insurance cards with the other driver, who is from somewhere in Micronesia and works at Mama’s Fish House.

Later, it turns out that the other driver had a fake insurance card! Hawaii is a no-fault state for car insurance, meaning one’s insurance covers owns own personal injuries.  I didn’t seem badly injured, just sore, but we didn’t know yet. And the driver at fault is the one whose insurance pays for car damage. But this guy’s insurance was invalid. 

This is actually a pretty common in Hawaii. People get insurance, then cancel it, and keep their insurance card. Called the police officer who was on our case, and he was totally useless and said they won’t pursue it.

By the way, Maui police are a mixed bag. For accidents, they don’t seem to be very helpful at all. Another friend got into a car accident in Haiku 8 years ago and the other driver had no license, no insurance and the police did nothing. On the other hand, we have the infamous officer Taguma who loves to give tickets for speeding and we don’t have tons of cops on the road, so that can sometimes be pleasant. DH claims that Maui’s police force numbers compared to population size is about 10% of the national average. That could be changing with the supersize police station in Kihei.

Ah Maui! The Hana Highway is now open, at least as of 2 pm, and traffic is flowing slowly according to the folks at Mama’s Fish House. But it’s a dangerous section of the highway. One Facebook commenter writes, “I lived on that corner for a little over a year and saw a lot of spaghetti I hope all are well.” Us too, because it’s a lot of excitement for a little island.

For more info, visit the MauiWatch page. Kind of wish I had checked it this morning! Big shout out to MauiWatch!

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Friday, July 11, 2014

The Gorgeous Maui Water Lily Farm

Haiku is always full of surprises: hippies, secret pot farms, kombucha cafes, hidden hobbit houses. There’s a water lily farm off of Hana Highway, about 15 miles from Kahului called the Maui Water Lily Farm. While there is a noticeable sign on the highway, most people in a hurry will miss it.  And it’s worth taking some time to savor. Sometimes they are open, sometimes they are not. The sign at the driveway will let you know.

Address: 83 N. Holokai Road, Haiku, HI 96708
Phone: (808) 572-7878

Ever have someone make a fresh flower bouquet on demand? I felt like a fairy princess as Nico waded knee-deep through the water lilyponds to cut five fresh water lily blossoms. He carefully placed them into a plastic specialty bag and gently tied them. He cautioned me that they would only last for a couple of days, maybe 3 at most, and that they go to bed at night.

One of the water lily ponds at the Maui Water Lily Farm.
Buddha overlooking the water lily pond.
What’s special about water lilies?
  • They are actually fragrant, a soft and not overwhelming scent.
  • They close their petals at night and open up in the morning.
  • The flowers are phototropic: they move towards the light, bending and stretching.
  • Even when the flowers stop blooming, they close up as buds and still look beautiful.

These water lilies kept moving towards the light!

Haiku Water Lily Farm has two main ponds, filled with water lily plants. When I stopped by, in late May, there was another unexpected surprise: the water hyacinths were blooming. There were masses of these beautiful lilac blooms along the sides of the pond. Nico said they bloom for a couple of weeks every spring.

Water hyacinths in bloom.
P.S. Two events happening this weekend:

Mo'okiha O Pi'ilani Launch 2014, July 11th, today at noon, Lahaina – This Maui canoe has been restored to perfection and is being returned to Maui waters.

Summer Bash for Education, July 12th, Saturday, 6-8 pm, Kihei. Donate school supplies, win door prizes, watch live entertainment including the Burn n Love Elvis impersonator.


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Monday, June 2, 2014

Whatever Happened to May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii?

On a bright, startlingly cloudless day in Haiku, I watched the royal court step onto the grassy field at Haiku Elementary School. It was sunny, unlike the May Days of my childhood. I could hear the relief from the parents and spectators next to me. It wasn’t going to rain this year!

Haiku Elementary's May Day King and Queen,
with part of their royal court, 2013.

But something about a rainy May Day instantly transports me back to the past.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Puffed Sleeves, Bright Crochet, and Halo Halo – Where Am I?

Everywhere I look, puffed sleeves. Every variation of puffed sleeves imaginable: elaborate, showy puffed sleeves, simple plain clothed sleeves, embroidered puffed sleeves, lacy puffed sleeves. Snow White could happily borrow a dress from the ladies here.

Gorgeous yellow dress with princess puffed sleeves.

Notice the fairy tale pink dress with puffed sleeves.
Where am I? I’m on Maui, but it doesn’t feel like Hawaii. To one side of a grassy field, a