Friday, June 29, 2012

Radio Mural Makeover #2

Well, the pillbox mural at Ho'okipa must have gotten repainted the same day the ham radio club left, or shortly after.

I think they did a great paint job, incorporating the existing radio man and his wave.

Also, I'm not the only person intrigued with the art - here is a link to view a Facebook album for the Ho'okipa pillbox murals. Enjoy!  For other posts about the #pillboxmural, click on "public art" on the right side, which also includes some other art projects. It's on my to-do list, to clean up the labels on the right side, maybe by the end of this year!

They added an alien surfer shortly after!
And yes, there really are cows grazing on the bluff. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lychee Season and a Story

Updated 7/6/12 - Just found this pic of lychee 
at the farmer's market last month

A trio of lychee fruits. 

Lychee season is almost pau (Hawaiian for over), but there are still lychee fruits available at the farmer's markets and at Mana Health Foods in Pa'ia.  We've had apparently a really great lychee season - "choke" lychee as they say here, choke is pidgin for "a lot." Lychee season always seems to come and go fairly quickly here, maybe it's only a couple of months - compared to mango season which can last for months and months. 

Lychee fruit, partially peeled. 

I had more lychee to take pictures of, but I ended up eating them. Lychee is a popular fruit that was brought over, I believe, by Chinese immigrants. I know it's especially enjoyed in China and Vietnam, and it's fun to eat. The fruit has a thick, almost scaly skin, that protects it from fruit flies.

Lychee fruit with a seed inside. It looks like an "eye."

True story: Many years ago, DH was invited to a Filipino lu'au to celebrate a baby's first birthday. This is a big deal in Hawaii, and most families hold a lu'au and invite all their friends and family.  Towards the end, the hosts brought out trays of peeled lychee fruits. They told him it was dog eye balls. Since it was a Filipino event, and they had already given him balut to eat, and he had several beers by then, and even ate some dog meat, and other specialties, he believed them, and almost gagged. He says he can never look at lychee the same way again. I grew up eating lychee, so I'm not bothered at all. 

Fully peeled lychee fruit

A friend likes to serve lychee fruit, peeled with a dollop of cream cheese inside. It's quite yummy. But mostly I eat it by itself. It's also available at some supermarkets in the Asian section, in cans, just like canned peaches. Just like peaches, some lychee fruits are really sweet and others are not as sweet. The texture is like a grape, but a little firmer. 

If you have a lychee tree, and are trying to get it to fruit, the Maui Farmer's Union offered some lychee fruiting tips last fall.  Lychee trees grow quickly, but can be fickle. Sometimes lychee trees can "go off" and produce so much fruit, that people will sell lychee from their truck along the highway. Same thing for mangoes. The going rate for lychees is $4 or $5 per lb, but I've seen it for as little as $3/lb, probably because it's been a good season. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Lilikoi Morning

Liliko'i hedge, with heliconia leaves sticking up,
and some large chayote squash vines for good measure. 

There's a large liliko'i (passionfruit) hedge along our neighbor's fence line... which is slightly uphill, and the lilikoi has been climbing over the heliconia, over the ti leaf plants, and climbing now up to the kitchen window, where we put up a bamboo rod along the outside of the window. 

Continue reading about the vine that swallowed our house, green liliko'i, and liliko'i hunting...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Radio Club Takes Over Ho'okipa

Amanda from Gluten Free Maui invited fellow bloggers Erik Blair, Jerry Isdale, and others to check out the Ho'okipa bluff, where her ham radio club was hosting a field day, actually a field "weekend" this past weekend. This section of Ho'okipa is the same place where the pillbox mural is repainted every few weeks, so even though I had class that day, I really wanted to make it out there.  DH and I managed to get out there right around sunset on Saturday. 

Diane of the Maui Amateur Radio Club repainted the pillbox on Saturday.

Beautiful, and not commonly seen, view towards Ho'okipa.
(This is the million dollar ocean view the cows get!)

Field day turned out to be a national, and Canadian, competition between ham radio leagues all over North America, during which time clubs try to contact as many other ham radio stations as possible. Each club logs their contacts into the computer, and sends them to the national headquarters to tabulate the results. It’s a field day because instead of individual ham radio operators holing up in their own little hideaways, members get together to field test their equipment away from the comforts of civilization, socialize, and see how many other radio stations they can contact and how far they can get. 

MEO bus donated for the weekend, next to the WWII
foundation of the bunker. 

The Maui club’s field day involved taking over the Ho’okipa pillbox. Amanda said the pillbox used to be a WWII communications station, with a sleeping bunker nearby, and antenna on the bluff. So it’s kind of nostalgic that the local ham radio league took over the area for the weekend. Diane, a member of the radio league, repainted it with her design. The landowners gave permission to the club to sleep overnight on the property, paint the pillbox, and put up a tower. The MEO even donated a bus for the weekend, to be used as a portable radio station. The cows who normally hang out in that field, with their million dollar ocean view, also must have moved for the event. But they left plenty of cow pies everywhere.

Antenna for the field day event on Maui. 

My understanding is that on field day, radio leagues get points based on each contact they make, how many visitors stop by, what kind of visitors stop by (like press or elected officials), and whether they can connive, er persuade, visitors to go on the radio.  It wasn’t about having long fireside chats, but more like rabbits in heat – getting as many different contacts as quickly as possible. The tricky part was that there were so many other interested rabbits on the other end of the signal waiting for their connection with the Maui club. It was like a whole field of rabbits on the other end, impatiently hopping. (Anyhow, hope this is not offensive to anyone or their rabbits – just my way of making this interesting to read.)

Maui radio club operator and logger hard at work. 
Amanda explained why there was such a line up of clubs waiting to contact the Maui radio league.  Any club in Hawaii is so far from the mainland US and Canada, that it’s actually a feather in the cap (or a bunny notch in the bedpost) to connect with a radio league in Hawaii. So while many mainland ham radio stations have to search for other clubs to contact, the Maui club can relax, pick one frequency and stay there. The Maui radio operator is like a traffic controller for all those eager bunny rabbits, picking who’s next.  Hare today, gone tomorrow. Bad pun. Per Amanda, the radio station on Molokai is one of the most prized contacts in the competition. She said the Molokai radio station wasn’t even operated much, but now has some certified operators.

Listening to the radio is pretty confusing to a novice. It’s also not relaxing, so it’s not like the Maui club wasn’t doing any work. It’s like listening to the Cadbury bunny whose mouth is full of marbles. Imagine a bunny trying to say Whiskey and Foxtrot. You have to ask the bunny to repeat itself again, because maybe it was trying to say Tango not Whiskey. The call letters use the military code that I always associate with WWII Hollywood movies, Alpha for A, Bravo for B, Charlie for C, Delta for D, Whiskey for W, and so forth, so it’s kind of like listening to a Cadbury bunny in basic training.  The radio operator has to recode the words into letters and numbers and then the logger on the computer has to correctly enter or log the sets of information, making sure to enter zero instead of the letter “O” or vice versa and watching out for the number 1 vs. the letter “I.”  Ham radio has its own code language and protocol, like Twitter.  Devin, Amanda’s partner, explained that cell phones are similar to ham radio but are more reliable but have a weaker signal, or something like that. My brain was full of marbles by the time he explained how radio signals involve a trade off with reliability or signal strength.

Logging sheet, hard copy, next to computer screen.

Logging a contact (another ham radio station) requires three sets of information: the station id (a combination of letters and 1 number), the type of station, and their location. Location is usually the postal code for each state, but some states like TexasCalifornia or Florida have separate ham radio regions. I logged a few entries, and then my head hurt. The Maui radio club had managed by the end of the first day to log about 980 entries. I asked Amanda what keeps a club from cheating and just making up call signals and numbers. She said that the lists are checked against the lists of other clubs. In order to get the point, both clubs have to correctly list the other club’s station id, station type, and location. Conversely, if one club makes an error, both clubs lose the point.

For the station type, the coding involves a number then a letter. Amanda said the number is the number of radios, and the letter is the power source or location. The Maui radio club’s station type is 1A, one radio that’s portable. A is group portable. B is battery powered. C is mobile. D is home. E is emergency power. F is an EOC, which I looked up. I think it stands for Emergency Operating Center, since ham radios can also be used for emergency communications, especially when other forms of communication are not available.

How long will Diane's paint job stay up?
KH6RS are the call letters for the Maui club. 

DH and I only stayed for a short while, since I had been in herbal medicine class all day, and my bunny brains were pretty tired.  It was great to see the set up for amateur field day, get really close to the pillbox, and find out what it really was.  Next, I’m wondering, how long will the mural stay up? Diane said that one year, the design stayed up until December, but that some people stopped by during the event, wanting to repaint her new paint job!  Maybe they can incorporate the design into the next mural instead of wiping it out. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pesky gnats

We've ended the season of crab spiders... the last crab spider I saw was a couple of weeks ago, and well, looks like we're getting some gnats. Gnats are easily confused with fruit flies which are bigger and cause damage to the fruit. Gnats just like to hang around the fruit or veggies - and in this time of ripe mangoes and other tropical fruits, the gnats somehow get into the house, and are mildly irritating.  Other bugs somehow get in too...which reminds me of a comment I overheard this weekend, "A screened-in room in Haiku is heaven."  Having a deck outside exposed to the elements means there are always various bugs flying and wandering around. 

A gnat, not a fruit fly, next to a jalapeno (that was stung by fruit flies).
The wings are hard to see in this pic. 
The gnats are not too terrible - they don't bite, they just flit around the kitchen and anywhere that has ripe fruit. I don't have a good solution for them, other than maybe using some of that environmental bug spray (comes with a green label, they sell it at Home Depot) and it uses cedar oil or some kind of essential oil to kill bugs. It doesn't work well in a large outdoor area, like a big yard, at least not where I live, but in a smaller area, may be okay. I'm also not sure if it's ok to use inside or not... so read the label. I've wondered if spraying some tea tree oil scented vinegar in the air would also keep them away, but haven't tried that yet.

Other than that, just put up with the bugs. They will pass. 

Same gnat, not happy this time.  Wings are clearly visible. 

This past week has also been rather rainy for June, almost like Oregonian weather... overcast with heavy showers. Haiku has a reputation for rain but even Hali'imaile and upcountry was kind of wet on Wednesday.  Yesterday was the first sunny day in Haiku, but then it rained again last night and today looks murky. The nightblooming cereus have also been blooming right now!  We captured one to put in a jar at home, and it still remained open, although not as wide, as it was the first night. 

Another tip we heard about: put vinegar in a bowl to deter gnats. I can't vouch for the effectiveness of this yet, since the gnats haven't been too bothersome lately. Another friend recommends adding a little dish soap to the vinegar and water, saying it breaks the surface tension in the water and the gnats will drown.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mangoes and Fruit Flies

Warning: there are some gross pictures of fruit flies below. 

When getting mangoes from a friend or in the wild, sometimes the mangoes have been infested by fruit fly larvae.  They look like little white worms or maggots. The mangoes look terrible as well. 

Fruit fly infested mango

EWWW... I've talked about fruit flies before, occasionally. They are not quite as big as house flies, but look very similar, and they lay their eggs in fruits and vegetables - everything from tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, even jalapenos, oranges, mangoes, guavas.  They don't seem to bother lilikoi (passionfruit) or lychee, which have a hard outer rind, and I've never seen them in bananas or avocados. But anything with a soft skin that's penetrable is very popular with the fruit fly, which usually hides during the day under a leafy canopy of cassava or other shady plants, and comes out to lay eggs in the early morning (and possibly at dusk).  It's a real nuisance for Hawaii gardeners and farmers, who combat this pest with special traps and sprays. 

If you only have one or two tomato plants, you might not have a problem. But if you have more than a few plants, they will find you. Same thing applies to other fruit trees and veggies. If you only have a few fruits or veggies, the flies might not notice, but once they know you are growing some nice things, they'll be back next year and the year after. Fruit fly eggs and larvae will also survive if the fruits/veggies are buried in a compost pile, even up to a foot deep. Tip: You can drown them or freeze them, if you're only dealing with a few infestations and don't want them to spread in your garden. 

It's Hawaii, so bugs love being here too... 

I ended up freezing this mango, so that it would kill
all the fruit fly maggots and eggs. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cutting a Mango

This is how I like to cut mangoes, to save the most juice and maximize the fruit off the pit or seed. 

I like to cut mangoes on a hard surface that’s not porous. Some cutting boards are made of wood or a porous plastic that soaks up mango juice, so I prefer to use a plate or other nonporous surface so I can keep more of the juice. 

Mangoes have a narrow oval seed or pit in the middle, along the length of the fruit, so you can’t just cut them straight across or any old way, because the seed is very hard.  Some mango seeds are very thick and others are rather thin, depending on the variety of mango. Usually the hybrids have narrower seeds.

Figure out which end is the stem side and which end is the tip. Hint: the stem side has the dot on it, where it was attached to the tree. 

Hold the mango semi upright so that the tip is pointed downward and the stem side is pointed upward, but so that the entire mango is slightly at an angle. With a sharp knife, I will slice down about 1/2” to the right of the seed, so that the knife is rubbing against the seed as it comes down. 

The first cut: about 1/2" from the stem. I'm holding the mango at an angle, it's not straight up and down.
That gives me one nice slice. 

First slice. The mango pit is barely visible - it's a small white dot on the left side of the photo.  

I’ll rotate the mango and then slice again along the other side of the pit to get a second oval slice. These two oval slices are where most of the fruit is. Now the mango seed is revealed, encircled in mango flesh.

Second slice, knife rubbing alongside the seed. 

Two good ovals. Sometimes, one side of the mango is riper
(and mushier) than the other side. 

Then I like to take the knife and insert the tip along the skin of the mango and run it in a complete circle around the seed, cutting as close to the skin as possible. Then I remove the skin. 

Insert knife into center oval (the one with the seed). 

Circle knife around skin and remove skin. 
Now is the tricky part because the mango pit is very slippery. So I will grab the pit across the middle between two fingers and hold it upright and firmly against the cutting surface. Next comes 4 knife cuts. 

Grasp the mango seed firmly. 

Slice at an angle along one "edge" of the seed. 

A triangle of mango flesh falls off from this "edge."

Slice the other side of the same "edge," to get another
triangle wedge of fruit. 

Go to the other edge or side of the mango seed. 

Slice along the second edge. 

Last slice: very little seed to hold onto. 
If I don’t hold the mango firmly enough, then it can slide all over the place. The last cut is the trickiest, and usually has the least amount of fruit. But now all the fruit is off the seed.

The mango seed, mostly clean.
At this point, it's not worth scraping, but it's great to chew on! 

For the two side ovals of fruit, I can either scoop the fruit away from the skin with a spoon. Or make parallel cuts along the fruit or even square cuts and then scoop the fruit away. 

Diagonal slices into the mango "side oval."

Square mango pieces. 

Scooping out slices of mango from the skin. 

The remaining mango skin. 

Then since I really like mangoes, I will happily nibble on the seed or any bits of fruit that are stuck to the skin and are just too hard to cut away. I won't show any pictures of that - it's mostly mango on my face.  Make sure to wash up afterwards - "mango face" is very messy. If you're allergic to mango sap (but can otherwise eat mangoes), get someone else to cut up the mango for you, or wear gloves. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pillbox mural facelifts

Updated 6/22/12

I just realized that it's much easier to see the mural (or wall of graffitti) coming from Hana to Pa'ia, rather than from Pa'ia towards Hana. It's not that visible if you're headed towards Hana because it's blocked by trees. I've been calling it a pillbox, but I've also heard of it called a "block house" and "artillery bunker" (probably from WWII).

Just found out the Amateur Ham Radio League on Maui is having a big field day event tomorrow, Saturday 6/23 from 9 am to sunset there. They also have permission from the landowner to repaint the pillbox. 

Facelift of the #pillboxmural a couple of weeks ago.
Hau'oli la hanau (Hawaiian for Happy Birthday).

Redo of the #pillbox mural a few days ago.
Don't know who the "Supreme Beings" are. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hurray for Mangoes

Yum, ripe mangoes from Mana Foods. 

Ah, mango season, the most delicious time of the year. I am deliriously happy with mangoes - mango smoothies, mango cobbler, mango bread, and mangoes eaten without any fanfare, the juice running down my chin. Mangoes lurk around every street corner and piles of them land on the roadside, like mango road kill.  Sometimes I’ll see eaten-out mango pits along the side of the road, which means a mango tree is nearby. Just look up.  

Mango road kill... Hint, there is a mango tree nearby. 

I dream of mango chutneys, mango jams, mango pies, and dehydrating mangoes for later on in the year. The Paia Mantokuji Bon Dance, usually in July, sells delicious mango pie. 

Mango season has started in earnest, and can even go through the late fall, like October and November, or even December depending on where the mangoes are growing. Friends from Ulupalakua have a tree that fruits in late October. I’ve even picked mangoes in Kihei in early December!  But the peak of mango season is right now. If you don’t have a mango tree, and I don’t either, go to the farmer’s market or Mana Foods, or walk around your neighborhood and look for mango fruits by the side of the road. If you go to the grocery store, make sure the mangoes are local. Some of the Maui supermarkets will import mangoes from Mexico or Costa Rica and they taste like crap, and they aren’t fragrant at all!  A good mango will exude a luscious fruity smell.

Mango picking in Kihei last December.  

My favorite! Free mangoes! Woohoo! Mahalo!
What do mangoes taste like?
Hard to describe, like a peach but more tropical. Maybe a peach with overtones of other fruits. Some mangoes have the same flavor throughout the bite, and others, I swear, have undertones that remind me of cherries or plums. Others remind me of pink bubble gum.  Mangoes can have some complexity. Some mangoes are delicious right up to the underside of the skin, and others are bitter as you approach the skin.

How to use mangoes?
Anything you can do with a peach, you can do with a mango. So any recipe that calls for peaches can be substituted with mangoes. Which is fantastic, because I love peaches and they taste horrible in Hawaii. By the time they are shipped here, they taste like cardboard. They never fully ripen and the flesh is mealy. I have had a few exceptional peaches from Mana Foods, but those are exceptions, not the rule.

The scent of ripe mangoes is intoxicating. Sweet and fruity. Coming home to our jungalow if we’ve been out all day is like being greeted by the mango welcoming committee. One bowl full of ripe mangoes generates a scent so strong and fragrant, it careens across the front door like a wave breaking on the shore. It will knock you out.

A way to ripen mangoes on the tree, and minimize fruit fly damage. 

Mangoes ripen very quickly. A ripe mango usually has three or more colors – red, orange, yellow, green. It will be soft to touch, but not squishy. Mangoes left together in a bowl will ripen more quickly than mangoes put in the fridge or kept apart. Picked green mangoes don’t ripen, but they can still be good in a mango curry or chutney, or in a local delicacy, pickled mangoes. 

Wild Bill's pickled mangoes at the Makawao Farmer's Market.
Wild Bill is a cat, but he doesn't like mangoes; that's why he sends them to the farmer's market. 

When I have too many mangoes, which hardly ever happens, I’ll give them away, freeze batches of mangoes, or dehydrate them.

Speckled wild mangoes.
The dark dots and speckles look bad or weird,
but inside they are just fine.
And some wild mangoes have a richer, deeper flavor than hybrids. 

Tips on gathering roadside mangoes
Feel free to pick mangoes off the ground that are on the road, but if you have want mangoes that have fallen in someone’s front yard, then knock on the door and ask permission to take any mangoes first. Most people say yes. Fallen roadside mangoes are often wild, small mangoes that can be utterly delicious and stringy, or hybrids with smooth, nonstringy flesh. 

Stalking roadside mangoes... see the chewed up mango pits?
You bet there's a tree above. 
There are some lovely wild mangoes along Baldwin Avenue a few miles uphill of Paia.  If you’re gathering mangoes in the wild or on the roadside, be careful about cars whizzing by.  The technical term I think is "gleaning," gathering what would otherwise be wasted. Also, you may encounter some really soft mangoes. They could be okay, and just a bit overripe, or they could have fruit flies!  Fruit flies love to lay eggs in mangoes and other soft fruits. Their larvae look like short little worms, and they can jump, at least an inch high. The fruit will have little wriggling white maggots and bruises with darkened flesh or whitish knotty streaks. If you can cut around the section with fruit flies, then you can salvage the edible, unblemished parts of the mango. If it makes you feel more sanitary, cook those mangoes. DH says fruit flies are extra protein. Um not yum. I’ll take infested mangoes and freeze them before chucking them into the compost. I don’t want to breed fruit flies in my compost pile, and freezing kills fruit fly maggots and eggs. 

Wild mangoes from Hana by Ono Farms at the Maui Fair last year. 
Allergy tips
There are some people who are sadly allergic to mangoes, actually about a 1/3 of the world’s population from what I’ve heard. I used to be terribly allergic to them, and would break out into hives around my mouth. These days, though, I have no problem touching the skin or the sap, thank goodness. I don’t know if it’s because my diet is healthier now as an adult, less processed and refined foods, and less dairy, maybe it was only a childhood allergy, but whatever the cause, I’m delighted to indulge in mango madness.  If you are currently allergic to mangoes, a friend mentioned she tried a variety that was pretty bland and tasteless, but could eat it without any rash. But what’s the point? You could try cooking mangoes and seeing if you still have a reaction. Another friend is allergic to the mango sap only, so her husband gets to cut up all her mangoes. Nice system!  Or you could try making changes in your diet – cutting out dairy or other common allergens, easing up on processed foods, and then seeing if you still react to mangoes.

Pirie mangoes at the Maui (County) Fair held in September. 

Anyhow, I have to go cut up some mangoes!  They are calling my name.