21 December 2013

Organic Cotton Grows in Pahoa

Well look, cotton grows in Nanawale!

My story is rather amusing because I did not realize I had cotton to harvest. In fact, I tossed the plant to an area of my garden I rarely visit, so it was a pleasant surprise to even notice it.

Why am I so enthused over growing non-GMO organic cotton in Hawaii? There are so many reasons that I'll not take the space here to elaborate. But don't ignore a few facts:
  • According to the 2011 Textile Exchange Organic Cotton Farm & Fiber Report, approximately 151,079 metric tons (MT) of organic cotton (693,900 bales) were grown on 324,577 hectares (802,047 acres) in 2010-2011.
  • Organic cotton equals 0.7 percent of global cotton production.
  • Organic cotton was grown in 20 countries worldwide in 2010-11 led by India and including (in order of rank): Syria, China, Turkey, United States, Tanzania, Egypt, Mali, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Pakistan, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Benin, Paraguay, Israel, Tajikistan, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Senegal.
  • Approximately 219,000 farmers grew the fiber in 2010-11.
  • In 2011, organic fiber sales in the United States grew by 17.1 percent over the previous year, to reach $708 million, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2012 Organic Industry Survey.
  • The future looks promising, with organic fiber products appearing in more mainstream outlets, led by large and small U.S. textile retailers alike.
  • Sales of clothing made from organic cotton bucked the gloomy picture for organic products in 2011, rising in the UK by 2% against the year before while food and drink fell 3.7% in the same period.

GMO protestors may note that approximately 65% of world cotton production currently comes from genetically-modified crops. A spokeswoman from the Soil Association said:

"Larger brands tend to do a lot of 'blending' – using organic alongside non-organic. The issue is partly about shortage of supply of organic cotton, due to the dominance of the GM corporations. That is why our campaign is pressing big brands to sign up and drive the demand for organic, non-GM cotton."

The Soil Association is UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Sweet, eh?

Now in reference to the 2011 Organic Cotton Market Report by Textile Exchange, the good news is that textile, apparel, and footwear industries embraced a broader cotton portfolio that spans certified organic cotton and non-genetically modified seed to initiatives that improve the way conventional cotton is farmed — environmentally, socially, and economically.

The bad news is that for the first time in 10 years, organic cotton production dropped
by a whopping 37 percent. Along with other industries, that's a serious setback.

This poses an interesting challenge for the 81 percent of companies that indicated plans to expand their organic cotton programs each year for the foreseeable future.

Where exactly is this fiber going to come from? Will it meet geographic, quantity, and quality

The facts are particularly useful for global companies that are into exports. Although farmers are challenged in every respect on the mainland, production of organic cotton is strong in California and Texas.

No doubt our island is a good place to grow organic cotton. My question is if it could be a Hawaiian-made niche for small farmers on all our islands?

I recall councilwoman Brenda Ford presented the 2013 question, "couldn't Hawai'i be a non-GMO niche?"

Actually, Hawaiians could develop their own certification system instead of the USDA programs that entail contradictory regulations over food and textiles. That's where the battleground consist of unethical corporate-bully lobbyists. Is it possible to simply claim pesticide-free, made in Hawai'i?

Back to my cotton plant ... I gave up on it when I saw a tree in my hood that had the same-looking leaves. I figured my plant wasn't cotton after all, was replaced with a voluntary, and that the seedling must have unknowingly died.

Now I have several new seedlings on my garden table. In conclusion, abused organic cotton thrives in lower Puna!

Ever Gotten Organic Cotton?
Natural Pesticide-Free Cotton Grows in Seaview
Small Scale Cotton Growing

03 December 2013

Hawaiian Oregano

Healthful Herbalist | Big Island Weekly

Native Hawaiian Variety
The so-called spurflower, or ‘ala‘ala wai nui (wahine), is a similar species that originated in Australia and became one of the early Polynesian plant introductions. It is considered an indigenous Hawaiian plant. Although the scent and flavor are not as strong as its cousin, this member of the Plectranthus genus (P. parviflorus) has been used in lei making. It is often found in dry, rocky places on all major Hawaiian Islands, from sea level to 4,250 feet in elevation.
The website www.bioinfo.org reports that traditional peoples used this plant to treat syphilitic sores. And like its mint relatives, a tea made from this plant can help to soothe an upset stomach and other digestive ailments.
MAHALO Barbara!

10 September 2013

Rosemary Health

Add "brain food" to that VeganBlogger list!

According to a collaborative group from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research in La Jolla, California and Japan, rosemary fights free radical damage in the brain. So published on News Medical 2007 October.

The research report states that the active ingredient in rosemary, known as carnosic acid, can protect the brain from stroke and neurodegeneration that is due to injurious chemical free radicals. I think that matches "mood elevation" on the health benefits list.

Rosemary is a frequent ingredient in spa items, like soaps and aromatherapy blends. Also, this herb is a culinary delight. Chic Eco Catering favors it for roasted potatoes.

Rosemary grows exceptionally well in lower Puna and from what I understand, all over Big Island. Dirt is necessary, but once established, it is compatible with lava rock.

The blue blossoms are lovely, but I do wonder if flowers are more profuse in higher altitudes. They certainly grow into large lovely bushes in Pahoa though.

Haven't built a rosemary nursery, but buyers are welcome to contact me for healthy plants at $5 each. Same 6-inch size usually sells for $10. Advance ordering recommended.

24 March 2012

Gardening with Yurt Awnings

Before ordering or building a yurt, one must decide if and where there will be windows.
First you study the property: ― sunrise, sunset, typical wind direction. Next it's the interior floor plan.

Then regardless of the kind of window/s you select, consider exterior awnings. Why go the extra expense? Because they're functional.

Yurt awnings provide privacy and weather protection. My particular location has windows open most the time, but seasonal high winds and heavy rains are common. Yet with an awning, the need to close a window is very rare.

Gardening is my thing and I get a kick out of seeing blooms climb up to my windows. Pictured below are morning glories germinated and grown with the help of awning-rainwater runoff.

Hence, I discovered the awnings very useful for starting plants. Those hard-to-germinate seeds come alive with this method. Not pictured are impatiens that thrive in the heat under another window due to the consistent moist ground. There's an inside blooming view from every window now.

My location is in the rain forest, so of course required maintenance will vary. But typically, the usual daily rain will bring beautiful benefits with minimal effort.

Last, but not least reason to love awnings, ―ambiance!

There are awning downsides illustrated below. All it takes, however, is some periodic mildew cleaning and rust preventive measures on your awning hardware. For yurt dwelling lovers, it ain't no big deal, ― just a little forewarning.

16 March 2012

Love Pikake

Barbara Fahs of Big Island writes about Pikake and making Jasmine tea from it. Pictured is my treasured plant in Pahoa, Puna District, where it thrives. The smell is absolutely divine!

27 December 2011

Coqui War on Big Island

The legitimate concern about preventing noxious pests from entering Hawaii is being undermined by the use of exaggeration and lies to promote the invasive species control agenda.

To find out more about the Hawaiian coqui, go to www.HawaiianCoqui.org, and see Sydney Ross Singer's book, Panic In Paradise: Invasive Species Hysteria and the Hawaiian Coqui Frog War (ISCD Press, 2005).

31 July 2011

Aromatic Spider Lily

The spider lily, a/k/a the crinum lily, is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family. They grow from zones 8 to 10 on the mainland and Hawaii's zone 11 loves 'em!

Here in Puna it's a fast grower, averaging 4 to 5 feet. The flowers are fragrant and they bloom from summer through fall. I love the white, but they can be pink, red, striped or multicolored.

Not long after I moved to Big Island late 2007, I visited the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden located north of Hilo where I sensed a magnificent aroma in the air. There was an area near where the stream fall flows into the Pacific at Onomea Bay. I kept walking in circles searching for the source of the perfumed air and once discovered, I was determined to have spider lilies in my landscape.

I noticed a few of them planted in Pahoa's new shopping center landscape next to Long's Drug Store. Mine was pulled and gifted by a neighbor early 2009. By 2011 there were two stalks with a third forming this summer.

So that worked well, but I'm anxious to learn how to propagate bunches!

06 July 2011

Chicken Gun Protects Gardens

Amazon's "Stream Machine" is the ultimate tool to run off roosters, hens, and their chicks from your garden.

You'll need a pool of water and maybe some good running shoes. I have my water gun handy by my fish pool. My gun has been outside for about 2 years and proves to be super durable.

I also happen to recycle beer bottles in my food-garden island. Pretty nifty around the banana trees. So when the chickens come to destroy my new plants, I can hear their claws and flown dirt hit the bottles like an alarm.

Is this a commercial?
Guess so. May it help all who live with chickens, ‒ and at the right price!

04 June 2011

Daily Garden Admiration

Reading Deepak Chopra's book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, made for a milestone towards inner peace in my life. I especially live by his advice to spend at least fifteen minutes a day with nature.

My nature preference is in my own garden. Typically I exercise with many pauses to look closely at what's going on. Many days I do not pull a weed, move a rock, or any kind of labor. I simply admire. It's amazing and today I'm compelled to share some treasured pics.

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams

24 April 2011

Spinach in Pahoa?

Oh, how I miss garden-fresh vegetables from the mainland! Yet Waimea territory, northwest of Big Island and about 2600-foot altitude, is prime for my favorite veggies. Spinach is one of those favorites and it's an on-going challenge to find it in Puna.

So once at the Maku'u market, I met a Filipino lady selling vegetables and herbs. I told her about my spinach craving and she introduced me to Okinawan spinach, (Gynura crepioides). She said is was used in stir-fry by her family and although she hadn't tried it raw, she didn't see why it could not be enjoyed that way.

I transferred the plant to a larger pot with lettuce and watched it flourish in my Pahoa garden. Then I made stir-fry, spinach omelet, pasta casserole, and varied cooking recipes. Okinawan became my lettuce substitute for sandwiches and salads. I found it a bit tougher than conventional spinach, but it was tasty.

This is a sub-tropical perennial vegetable that can be grown as a ground cover. It roots well by placing a cutting directly in the ground, from sun to partial shade. I read that when planted from seeds, it somehow loses the purple underside of the leaves. Well, it's hard enough to find the plant, much less seeds, so it's growing throughout my garden today.

As pictured, this spinach has lovely soft-teeth edged shiny leaves that are green on top and purple on the bottom. The seller said tiny flowers can be either yellow or orange-red, but I've never seen any blooms and have been growing it for about two years.

My lilikoi is producing now, so a passion fruit vinaigrette to accompany raw Okinawan is on my to-do list. Should be tasty with my cherry tomatoes, basil and local goat cheese. If in my hood, I'll share a clipping!

Hawaii Cities by Elevation
Pahoa Stats
Maku'u Farmer's Market is held on Sundays, 8am-2pm in Keaau. Find Hawaiian crafts, plants, produce, jewelry, shells, ethnic and recycled clothing, food, books, etc. from approximately 150 vendors.

14 April 2011

Gardening Passion at Work

After years of Hawaiian terrain study and reaching out to local experts, Chic Eco now offers custom garden services in Hawaii: design, weeding, pruning, mulching, pest control, fish ponds, tree trimming, bull dozing, custom fencing and gates. Basically, anything that enhances your garden rooms or open spaces.

We take pride in providing work with attention to detail that your typical landscapers just don't do!
Organic/natural permaculture expertise:
  • Specialty is garden rooms for meditation, dining, play ...
  • LOW hourly intro discount rates. View of your site will enable me to quote anything!
  • 30 plus years of personal gardening design & maintenance experience.
  • Skills from coastal shores to 4,000 foot Hawaii elevations.
  • Artistic maintenance may include focus on blooms, colors, space, scents and edibles.
  • Incorporate design needs, such as for pets and children.
  • Weeding, hauling and unlimited service options.
  • Professional requests (commercial settings) welcome, including botanical green roofs, walls and signs.
  • Lodging at the site is negotiable.

I prefer to work with an environmental platform 'cause if I'm happy, you're happy, the plants are happy!

09 July 2010

Self Puna Gardener Newbie Sought Dirt

What a trip it was for this Kentucky-born gal to learn that landscapers don't provide soil here. I designed my fifth-acre property lot to have a corner island of fruit trees, flowering bushes and vines to climb the tall Ohia tree. I visioned it as my blooming food island. My shopping list was complete and I was oh so eager.

Thankfully, it was the banana tree supplier at Maku'u Market that asked me where I was going to get the dirt. Since he was recommending a landscaper, I was shocked. Landscapers don't supply dirt? So he explained that any landscaper has to work out the foundation with me. I learned the only truck loads you can get in this Big Island region is mulch from the Hilo dump. That's mulch, not dirt. With lava everywhere, you'd think I would have known that!

So my mission began for the foundation of seven varied banana trees. I learned the Hilo Transfer Station provides free green waste (mulch) when available. The equipped truck was on the west side, so I had to wait. Next mission was a hauler with a truck. That led to learning how the haulers work. There's self-loading in Hilo from 7am to 5pm. Assisted mechanical loading availability is subject to working machinery and time permitting. There may also be a wait time (line of haulers) for assisted loading. To abide by road regulations, haulers are asked to bring a pitchfork and tarp to properly cover truckloads of mulch.

Acquiring local dirt is complex, so I went for the easy method of Home Depot purchasing. They allowed me to pre-order so that the landscaper could pick it up on his way over. And although I'm a seasoned mainland eastern gardener, I didn't have a clue to what banana trees required. This is where the expertise from landscaper Jeff Goodman of Tropical Abundance came into play.

Jeff analyzed my site with his wife Lani beforehand. They studied my dumped pile of mulch, which was a combination of the city and neighborhood green waste, ‒ a total of three truckloads. Lani could tell that some of the green waste was newer and more acidic. They determined how to distribute the mulch and where to place the plants with soil, lime and chicken manure. They also sourced me a grafted mango and avocado tree to pick up at the Garden Exchange in Hilo.

No doubt every Puna garden newbie has a story to tell. I hope mine helps other gardeners from the mainland where lack of dirt is an unfamiliar situation.

Do enjoy my before and after pics. I am happy to report that one year and one month later my apple banana trees are producing!