My eighth farm was Old Ways Farm in Honaunau, Big Island of Hawaii.
The farmers are Steve and his partner. Old Ways Farm is on three forested acres in a quiet residential area. With all the tropical trees surrounding the property, it felt like a secluded oasis. Steve grew up on a farm in West Virginia. He met his partner while living in San Francisco, and they decided to move to Hawaii. The farm grows herbs–spearmint, rosemary, parsley, thyme, lemongrass, sage– and ginger. The farmers don’t want to bring anything onto their property that could contain something that could be harmful to their farm, like fire ants, so they are finding ways to use what is available on their land. They recently finished putting in a two-tiered pond. The pond grows algae and water plants which are raked off the surface and put into the compost. There is a fragrance garden behind the house.
My Farm Experience
My day started a little after six in the morning. It was just starting to get light when I went over to the house for coffee and oatmeal. Steve was usually off tending to the garden beds or harvesting for market early in the morning so I had a quiet breakfast by myself. I discovered that yogurt goes well mixed in oatmeal. At a little before eight, I headed out to the garden shed where I found Steve ringing the triangle to let the two cats know that it was breakfast time. The cats were always sitting in front of their food dishes before the bell was rung. The main project while I was there was sewing together long pieces of bird netting, and then putting the whole net up over the high wires that ringed the large garden. The intent was to keep out the ground foraging doves and pheasants along with the flying cardinals so figs and parsley could be planted there. The first step was stitching the long pieces of netting together. Steve sat on his haunches and held the netting taunt. I used a wire coat hanger that had been converted into a super-sized needle to thread a rope through the holes of the netting. Steve hopped backward and I crawled forward over the lava rocks that made up the front yard as we worked our way down each row.
At around 10:30 it was time for a smoothie break. Steve put frozen bananas, cocoa powder, ice and soy powder into a blender and poured out a thick, rich, refreshing drink. We chatted for a while during the long break. We sat on the floor Japanese style on large square cushions in front of a low table. Steve claims he is more flexible because he doesn’t sit in chairs. It took my legs a while to get used to sitting cross legged for a few hours. He told me about Hawaii. I learned about the landholding system and that large tracts of land are still held by a few individuals or corporations and leased to the people who live on them. Steve also showed me a Bible written in Pidgin English. It was quite fun to read out loud.
After smoothies, we worked again on the netting. After we got it sewed together, we carried it to the garden and Steve climbed the rickety old wooden pallets and strung the netting over the wires that circled the garden. Steve’s careful planning and measurements paid off as we unrolled the netting, and the rope on each section was in the perfect spot to be tied to the support pole for that section. Half way across we got to the tricky part and the poles were not in the correct place. We laid the netting across the rest of the garden and Steve dealt with the poles the next day.
Dinner was usually in the middle of the day with the idea being that it is better to eat earlier in the day so you can burn off the calories instead of eating a big meal shortly before you go to bed. Steve steamed collards from the garden and other veggies, and we ate it with toasted homemade cornbread. I took a walk down the narrow road as the sun lowered and turned red in the sky. Along the street were coffee plants that had just finished flowering and were now setting green fruits called cherries because they turn red when they are ready to pick. I got glimpses of the red setting sun and the blue Pacific Ocean in the not too far distance.
Both Steve and his partner attend and volunteer at a Buddhist temple. I happened to be there when the temple was offering talks and a meditation retreat. I hadn’t studied Buddhism before but I was interested in learning about it. The talks discussed the basic aspects of Buddhism: the four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The first Noble Truth struck me. It concerned suffering but took it to a deeper level that our lives contain a feeling of being unfulfilled. I’m always thinking “It would have been perfect if…” The temple also practiced Zen meditation. One of the thoughts in Zen is to see things with the ‘beginner’s eye.’ I understand this idea well because I am always trying new things and know the feeling of being a beginner where all is new, wonderful and filled with possibilities. These ideas got me interested in learning more about the practice of Buddhism and Zen.
On my free days, I went snorkeling. Steve gave me a ride to the beach and I hitchhiked back to the farm. There’s nothing like a good day laying on a beach.