At rising sun we harvest greens and feed the community at Hoku Natural Foods and Java Kai. Come high noon we're splashing in the ocean, cleaning off all the dirt from the farm and drinking cold coconut water. Rosa chases the puppies on the beach and we watch as a kite boarder takes off from the dunes and sales away. The phone jingles. Chef Adam from Hanai says the wild pig I hunted last week has been smoked overnight and the greasy meat, falling off the bone. Rosa and I head to the hills to gather our supper. We meet the Chef, talk story, he shows us spices form India and shares with us starfruit vinegar. Then back to the farm we go with a wagon full of warm smoked meat. We go through the back entrance to the farm, where the avocados and bananas are and harvest a bunch for someday's breakfast once they ripen. Finally, we reach the farm house where resident musician and music teacher Will Lydgate and Ukulele creator Samuel Bonanno with Komoa are outside on the stoop, working on their finishing touches to a song they've recently created. Rosa asks, "eat pig now?" Yes dear, let's share our gifts. We split the meat and sit down for a bite at sunset. The musicians walk over... the double bass, the deep sound of the moon making waves, and the ukulele, a finger board sailing the vibrations of the seas. Many bridges were built today, and it all started from one pig... thank you.
In my early teens, I used to dance outside in the streets when the tornado sirens were going off. I had a thing for wind and destruction. Aquarius, air element, water bearer, any relevance? Whatever is going on, I've run through tornadoes, surfed hurricane surf, hunkered down below bush fires, built igloos in -80 F at the South Pole, chased a big shark with a big knife, come to close for a grizzly bear 5 times my size and jumped outside a hotel running in my boxers during an earthquake in New Zealand. That's only the tip of the iceberg. I understand homeostasis... and enjoy the comfort of it, but am often reawakened to my humanity by at the slightest change of the weather and unforeseen circumstances.
I hear on the public radio chatter about being vigilant of terrorists and stuff like that, but honestly, I'm more thoughtful of a big meteorite, the big tsunami, and of when the sun burns out and fresh water runs dry, and while on the thought wave of life changing events I think of the big boar that lives in the valley just a few hundred below the lettuce patch....
He came within 15 feet of me today and the only thing between us was a patch of buffalo grass. For a few seconds there, I kicked up my boots and went ninja, because he came up on me before I had a sight on him. The bow was useless. A 150+ lb. boar marking his territory. My instinct was to get into boxing stance. The stink of wild pig. Half of me said breathe slowly and get him on sight, the other other half said run and the last bit of adrenaline pumping through my veins said to succumb. Not without a show I muttered to my inner dialogue. Dopamine release. I took a deep breath and put my finger on trigger with the right foot ready to kick and left foot ready to run. He slowly moved to the left out of the tall grass. I was hypnotized by the sun glistening through his back hairs. He was solid black with a steel-like shine. A nice hump above his forearms and tusks to show his strength. What an old, beautiful, protector of the forest. He huffed and ran away. May we share this land, and if you can Mr. Big, scare away all those piglets that are digging near the lettuce patch.
After that, I laid against a warm pile of mulch compost to rest my legs and heart as the westerlies ushered in cold wind. The full moon rose. Suddenly, there was a crack of limb to the tree next to me and the chickens went wild. A pueo (guardian Hawaiian owl) swooped down from the Banyan tree and plucked one little chick off the ground and flew it high up in the tree to eat. A minute later it came down for another one, and then another. Mother hen didn't know what to do for the owl was so quick and silent. Deep in the woods I could hear pigs moving around. Not wanting any trouble I stood up and brushed the mulch off my back, then walked back to the truck along the moonlit gravel road.
A more typical day on the farm... sunshine and lettuce.
Managing the feral pig population.
Rosemary roasted wild ham.
Turned into some of kind of German dish with carrots, onions and cabbage.
The same kind of taste one may find at Hanai. #hanaikauai @hanaikauai ... you know, all that .com # hash tag @ something BS. I'd rather teach my daughter how to grow lettuce and hunt pig and render lard before learning any of that immaterial binary logic nonsense, but hey, that's just me, and I'm halfway hypocritical for sporting it. It's tough being an old soul in 2015.
Where local ingredients are masterfully put together into edible delights in somebodies kitchen. Not my kitchen, not your kitchen, not the chef's kitchen even, but somebodies kitchen and that's the essence of adopting a kitchen; hanai la cocina. Where's the cream at again? Oh yeah, in the pasture.
All is stellar.
Then the wind blows, and the rain comes. Here comes our first big winter weather storm. No snow, but cold, wet, windy, penguin overcast days and nights that bring forth the croaks of frogs and cracking of falling trees.
Enough rain to keep the ground wet for 4 days after the last shower.
I journeyed up to the farm the morning after the big pressure front passed by.
There was an eerie fog all around.
Beneath the cotton candy sky.
The nursery tent uprooted and blew over the platform, only knocking over one table of keiki lettuce and breaking a half dozen posts. I was amazed that this was all. I've been inside the nursery during 50 mph winds, all was cool, this must have been stronger.
This table sits on top thousands of lettuce plugs sowed by Yours Truly. Somehow, today, 5 days after the wreckage, half the lettuce is still alive and almost ready to go into the ground.
Shucks darn it.
But, the change made for a day of fun and camping out in the new shelter location.
The lettuce needs intense recovery. The ones that didn't get squashed got pounded by heavy rain.
Recovery and rehabilitation began by removing the tarp and dismantling the entire structure.
Two days later it was rebuilt and placed in a better location. The nursery is cleaner than before and more organized. Thank you wind storm from the far north!
The only other things instant next to instagram #steelgrassfarm @steelgrassfarm that I consume are instant coffee and oatmeal when in a pinch. Otherwise I'm waking up to @javakai_kauai Tres Hermanos organic coffee roasted by the roaster man TJ, plus a day ol' oat bran muffin at 50% off via the backdoor entry at Kai Bar, then driving up a few minutes before sunrise in the dark, past the little piggies on the side of the road, to Steelgrass Farm where the day begins... not so much instantly, but progressively, slowly, with the rising sun.
The sun shines upon the waterfalls to the west and a rainbow often arises from both above and from below as I set the sprinklers on autopilot.
I drink my coffee and eat my muffin. Then stretch. This day is young and every day is different. I do not think of old age or of dying, instead, I think of now.
An acre of lettuce on a ridge where I can hear the waves crash during high tide and rock slides roar to the west every now and then. The wind is ever so constant, the only change is how strong it is. Below me are valleys and creeks, where the pigs scurry and root through the dirt looking for grubs and worms. Sometimes, they venture upland, and that is where Wild Boar and I meet. Cats and dogs spray to mark territory, humans build fences and fly flags and planes to mark theirs, and I... well, I've never really had to mark my territory until a few days ago.
What's at stake one may ask? Well, months of personal energy and ingenuity planted into the ground. Years of training and practice with organic farming. And, a lifetime dream to homestead and be self-sustaining, back to the way of my ancestors, back to where I need to be... in the garden of Eden.
When I was hired at Steelgrass as the greens farmer guy I was told to paint the landscape. The medium I chose was lettuce, and the colors are shades of purple, red and green. The tastes of this lettuce blend strike all the big ones... sweet, salty, savory, a bit sour, a bit astringent.. and the textures range from super crunchy like munchin' on a tator chip to smooth and mellow and a bit salty, like a spoonful of butter.
What's equally as satisfying for me is the locality of this business. All my customers are within a 3 mile radius, and half the food I eat comes from... 3 mile radius. Today I ate a papaya and bananas from the backyard, cooked up a butternut squash from seed that Billie sent Rosa to plant, I honey glazed and roasted the ham from the pig we harvested three weeks ago, and finished off the night with handfulls of raw collard greens, kale, lettuce and arugula, which is a great digestif.
I intended to sell only to restaurants, but fortunately, the public demand for retail good lettuce speaks for itself, so I decided to outlet to Hoku natural foods, right down the street from us. This way folks don't have to go to a restaurant to enjoy our greens, they can buy 'em and take them home to share with family and friends.
The collards are young, but delicious.
Also on the back field is 'Uala, also known as sweet potato. Before 'Uala was planted there was only buffalo grass and hilahila, both of which have itchy hairs and thorns, respectively, that don't do the human body good... so why not plant something that grows like wild fire and we can eat? Replanting of the traditional canoe plants, plants that the Polynesians traveled with from across the Pacific and transplanted in Hawaii, is what's going on here. Hawaiian ancestors found what grew well on Kauai. Canoe plants still exist, hundreds of years later, and at Steelgrass we grow almost all of them.
There also carrots, radishes and beets starting to pop out the ground. This time of year crops grow well here that would not on mainland US, but they do take longer. For instance, lettuce in July may take 60 days before harvest begins, but right now it takes 80 days.
Only thing missing is a little homegrown red wine, and I'm doing a few trials of muscadine vines from North Carolina to see if any catch on.
What was once in this field was more than 500 green bean plants and dozens of specialty bean plants from Brazil. Over the course of one night, a sow and her 6 piglets took out more than half the beans, and nearly all the arugula and kale I planted two weeks ago. They haven't touched the lettuce yet, and my belief is that either (1) my magic is working or (2) lettuce gives off a smell or hormone that pig don't like or (3) when pig hoofs tramp into the lettuce beds their legs sink deep into the well-tilled soil and that freaks them out.
The guava, lilikoi and java plum fruit are not dropping anymore. Thus, the wild hogs are hungry. Just like in Alaska when the salmon don't run up the streams anymore and the bear are left looking elsewhere for other sources of food. The bear look to humans and their trash and shriveled berries and grass and dig for shellfish, whatever they can eat to store energy for the winter. The same goes to the pig... they are hungry this time of year and go digging for grubs. Easy to dig for food in dozed soil... so, they're drawn to all the edges of the greens beds that I plant in. There not eating the crops, just unintentionally uprooting them, and if I could coach the piglets on how to weed, boy, they'd be the best menehune. The beans went missing, okay.... kale stomped on, okay... arugula ripped to shreds, hmmm... and then they rip out all the tomatoes and peppers. Okay, that's enough. I ordered a crossbow and a few broadhead points and laser sight. Three days later, three pigs later... and we have received a piglet and a few hams for the day of giving of thanks, which is every day.
What I've been taught and what I know and feel is that taking another animals life is a sacred act. Before the hunt I give my offerings and blessings. During the hunt I spiritually shapeshift... I smell, feel, understand the prey and think like it. My senses attune to their sensory level and every crackle in the woods pauses us both in our path. The youngsters often stand behind a bush or tree, sometimes for 10 minutes, waiting for me to move or make a sound. They are curious as to who and what I am. Sometimes they will walk out of hiding and come right up to me. Mama pigs are the first to run and by doing so teaches the piglets to be weary of humankind. If it's a big boar, it may get impatient and try to make it's territory know. My first morning at sunrise with the crossbow and the big black boar on the west side by the banana trees made a bluff charge at me, with tusks and all. The anti-dry fire mechanism was engaged and I couldn't get a shot off, luckily it stopped it's charge and walked behind a bush, seconds later, right as I got the arrow back in ready position he made a second charge towards me I tagged him in the buttox. When the hunt is over... I give my thanks once again with tobacco and place certain organs and parts in the four directions, as well as, give the head to the nearest tree where it's life was taken. I believe that trees take in the energy of animals, they are like bookmarks and hold records of events.
I talk to the speak with the forest and the animals, I tell them that we can share the same land, but ask that they must keep to their side as I am trying to feed my kind on this side. Pigs can run through woods that humans have trouble with, and they procreate rapidly... they basically own this land that I am farming on, but I need some space to grow food for the community, and if the pigs want to intervene, then heck, we'll be eating lots of pig. Scientifically, 70% of the pig population can be taken and it will still be sustainable.
For all those chefs out there... this was my first time butchering a wild boar last week... it's not pretty, but it was delicious and nutritious and tasty. There's more soul to a meal like this then going to a grocery to buy a well-packed turkey or honey glazed ham, for where did that animal come from? What did it eat? How was it slaughtered and butchered? How many planes and trucks did it ride on? So much meat is on the fast track from farm factory to table and then when expiration date comes, if not bought, they sit in the sale bin for 50% off, next morning at the grocery it all gets tossed into a big gray trash bin. No burial, no offering, no return to the land, in a bag, back in a truck, to the landfill. I can't take this anymore, this is not the way to eat. Local, organic, from the wild, do it yourself, trade with your neighbors... is a throwback to three generations ago and it feels right.
We built our civilization up from the dirt through agriculture and raising livestock, then assembled into the smoky industrial age, which has transition into a digital era. Now, I'm thinking we have it backwards. There is no progress in looking at a little screen. Instead, evolution is tangible, dirty, and raw... it's not clean cut and organized like a keyboard... we're humans, and animals, let's never forget that.