Monday, March 16, 2015

About that coffee and macadamia nut farm...

For our last Big Island farm hurrah, we spent three and a half weeks on a coffee and macadamia nut farm. Because when in Hawaii... right?

We were a little apprehensive about this farmstay because we'd had such an amazing time at Earth Matters and we'd been hearing that coffee and mac nut farms weren't exactly the most exciting places to work. But we really did want to learn anything we could about Kona coffee, and even if it wasn't exciting work we figured that at this point we could do just about anything for 24 days. Plus, this farm was really close to the best snorkeling spots on the island and we would have our own private space.

We were there during the off-season so unfortunately, the farm work was especially unexciting. (Hurrah!) Patrick actually spent most of his time helping with construction jobs. This work probably prepped us for the coming months of helping our parents with house repairs, so we really can't complain.

(Also? We were living for free in a beautiful flat with a gorgeous view, in Hawaii, in February/March while everyone else in the country got pummeled by snowmageddon. We really can't complain.)

I pitched in with the construction work when absolutely necessary but I was much more interested in being around the plants - no matter how tedious the farm work might be.

So I spent a few days pruning coffee trees. The process is surprisingly like pruning grape vines; given our prior vineyard experiences this made the work go quickly despite the rocky, uneven paths and the treacherous weaving and bobbing that was required in order to dodge the bazillion crab spider webs.



to be pruned in a few months -
have to determine the strongest spurts first
(see? just like grape vines!)

During our short stay we witnessed the progression of coffee buds.

from barely showing...

... to "Kona snow" practically overnight

... and from flowers come coffee beans
(eventually - these were leftover from the last harvest)

But that was about the extent of the coffee tree exposure. We actually learned more about coffee farming from a 15-minute video at the Royal Kona Coffee Museum up the street than we did at the farm. So mostly we just enjoyed drinking coffee.

(first bag free with 20-hour work commitment!)

Macadamia nut trees were another story. I spent hours and hours (and hours and HOURS) clearing broken and hollow shells from the paths and tree rows at the farm. This enabled the mac nut pickers to easily find the good nuts. The seven 100-lb burlap bags of broken and hollow shells that I collected were eventually run through the chipper and used for coffee tree mulch.

Anyone else would've been bored to tears with this task but honestly, I really enjoyed my time with the trees and the songbirds and the iTunes and the occasional wandering chicken.

all clear

Patrick, Lila (the other HelpXer) and I also spent about three full days husking macadamia nuts.

step 1: hurl giant burlap sack of mac nuts onto husker

step 2: wait while machine does its thing
(the debris will also be coffee tree mulch)

step 3: try to pull out remaining debris without getting pummeled by mac nuts

The three of us made a really good team - we even beat the "bags husked/hour" record set by the German HelpXers a few months ago. Take THAT, Germans!

But it was loud and tedious work and we were glad when we were done.

And now for the not-so-tedious fun stuff about our farmstay...

In addition to coffee and mac nuts, Larry's farm has an abundance of trees that produce ginormous fruit. We enjoyed all of this very much.

ginormous palmelos

ginormous lemons and
ginormous piles of tangerines

ginormous avocados

ginormous cups of roasted cacao
(thanks, Lila!)

(incidentally, this is what a cacao looks like inside)

(and incidentally, avocado and cacao make awesome pudding)

ginormous buckets of jaboticaba from Larry's friend

Larry also showed us how to make kombucha.

Patrick is now hooked...
Jen is still not sold

And we had three adorable farm kitties to keep us company during down time. They had real names but we could never remember them, so the super-friendly kitty was "Skinny," the mostly-friendly one was "Chubster," and the super-skittish one was "Mama."

Skinny, Mama, and Chubster
(in that order)

We spoiled them rotten. Sorry, Larry.

oh hai


Our lodging was pretty awesome. "The Octagon," as it was called, had a spacious sleeping/sitting area and a well-equipped kitchen. The bathroom was inside but the shower was totally outside. A little odd at first, but we really came to appreciate bathing while overlooking the beautiful ocean and gardens.

the main room of The Octagon
(kitty not included)

a shower with a view -
the ocean is there, it was just a gray day

much bread was baked here

From The Octagon's balcony we witnessed a terribly predictable sunset almost every day we were there. I really don't know how Hawaiians stand it.






(Kidding, obviously. We really looked forward to sunsets.)

We worked hard during our stay but we definitely enjoyed some play time too. Larry was great about driving us to local snorkeling spots and even lent us gear. More on that later...

In summary: definitely glad we had this opportunity; don't need to work on a coffee or macadamia nut farm ever again.

thanks, Larry! (and Lila!) -
the blur represents our combined level of fatigue that day

Next up: Big Island "vacation" and then the mainland... Gulp.


  1. Good grief that's the biggest avocado I've ever seen! But more seriously, I've always wanted to do a farm stay and will someday... maybe when the kids are a little older.

    1. Thanks for reading! We've WWOOFed pretty extensively in Canada, Australia and Hawaii (and random other places) over the past two years. Lots of farms take families, and it's such an amazing experience for everyone. I highly recommend it!

  2. I was also shocked by the avocados, and your super clever naming of the kitties ^_^ hee. The place you stayed at looks wonderful, even with the outdoor shower!

    1. Thanks OrangeMew - yep, The Octagon was a pretty sweet flat. We miss it! I have to give Patrick credit for the kitty naming though...!

  3. We did a farm stay on Kauai, in Thailand, and Switzerland and I can highly recommend it. You leave with a complete different and new perspective of what and where some products in our life come from. Most important you get those free sunset views...

    1. Yes - they really are great, aren't they? :)

  4. very beautiful! i grew up on the big island! nice to see some photos of home.
    ladies in navy

    1. Lucky you! We really enjoyed our time there. Thanks for stopping by...

  5. i know this crazy old Vietnam veteran in Montana that ties his own flies and makes his own kombucha