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.
Welcome to the garden island.