Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Pathways

I am afraid I've been thinking again - it's a dangerous pastime.  But, you already knew that, didn't you?


I have an affinity for attempting to take photographs of paths, trails or pathways of any other sort.  I realize other people probably do this too and there are certainly far more talented photographers out there than I.  Nonetheless, during hikes that Tammy and I take, Tammy has to tolerate my desire to have the camera out to see if I can capture some of the process of going from here to there.

I was wondering what fascinated me so much with this until I looked at the bridge picture at the left.  This is not far from the entry to the Kuamo'o trail that meets up with the Nounou trail in Kauai.  When you stand on this side of the bridge, can you tell where it goes?  What will you see when you cross to the other side?  It's a hike in Kauai, so it probably leads to something wonderful to view, right?

Well, it does - and we'll show you later.  But, it clarified for me something I've thought for some time.  Too much of the time, too many of us focus on the big goals at the end of a process and too few of us recognize the beauty, joy or satisfaction of being right where we are.  It's the bridge that holds much of the beauty,  believe it or not.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't dream or strive for bigger goals.  And, there are certainly times when you need to ignore some of the details as you pass through on the way to somewhere else.  What it means is that we are often cheating ourselves when we are unwilling to put forth some effort to appreciate the process and where we are right now.

Just off the Awaawapuhi Trail in Koke'e State Park
Awaawapuhi is listed as a "difficult" hike on a few internet or published guides.  We have to admit that no particular part of this trek was all that hard.  There were no super steep climbs or drops.  There were plenty of roots and rocks and places were muddy.  But, that's true of many Kauai hikes.  The difficulty for us came with the final mile on the way back.  The total hike length (down and back) is about 6.5 miles.  But, it's the 2100 foot drop in altitude that you have to climb back up that got us.  Some people have reviewed the hike as being 'boring' until you get to the end.  But, we found it to be quite interesting.
Official end of the Awaawapuhi Trial
We've taken the Canyon Trail several times now.  There are some nice trail spots along the way, but we went with a shot on the ridge as our 'along the way' picture this time.  We've not been on the trail with the interesting shadows coming from the trees onto the trail before.  There was a light breeze, which made it tempting to sit and just absorb the surroundings for hours.
Canyon Trail near Waipo'o Falls
 The light wasn't the best for canyon photos this time around, but it was still great viewing in person.  I've been enamored with the natural arch on the ridge just across from the trail since the first time we came here. 
Waimea Canyon from the Canyon Trail
 For some reason, the Kuilau Ridge Trail came as a last minute hike the last time we visited the island.  This time, it was high on our list of hikes we wanted to take.  It's a good one to get back into shape for the kind of hiking you need to be prepared for on Kauai.  It also gives lots of opportunities to stop and enjoy the changing landscape.
Kuilau Ridge Trail
This trail is one of the smoothest to take, though it still has a climb to it.  Even so, Kauai reminds you frequently that to view her, you need to stop to look around.  Otherwise, you need to keep your concentration on where your feet are going.  Otherwise, your face just might meet Mother Earth up close and personal when that little lump in the trail turns out to have a little hook for your foot.
View from Kiulau Ridge Trails
The Mahaulepu trail was a first time trip for Tammy and I.  I realize the 'trail' picture this time sort of cheats by having a mountain in the background.  But, none of the trail pictures really made me want to post it this time.  It's not the trail's fault.  Blame the camera operator.

View near the beginning of Mahaulepu Trail
 The strange thing about this trail is it actually has all kinds of options for you to follow at the beginning.  It's awfully tempting to stay next to the cliffs by the ocean.  Why?  Because you can see this.

View from Mahaulepu
If the light is right and the waves are right, you have plenty of opportunity to have fun with picture taking on Mahaulepu. 

Another new hike for us was the Kuamo'o Trail that leads eventually to the east Nounou trail.  Like many of the "there and back" trails, you tend to forget the difficult parts you passed early on when you weren't as tired. 

Yes, sections of Kuamo'o Trail were covered with roots like THIS!
There were also trees that bent over the trail so you had to duck at times.  But, there were a couple of clearings on the ridge facing to the interior of Kauai and you could see Waialeale if you managed to catch it without a complete cloud mantel. 
Waialeale from Kuamo'o Trail
 Another thing we enjoy is the changes in the surroundings as we traverse a trail in Kauai.  We moved from all of the twisty, bendy trunks of trees on Kuamo'o to some proud, stately evergreens on Nounou.  They both have their beauty, but I think Tammy and I were more enamored with the pines.
Kuamo'o/Nounou (east) pine area.
There was a bit more climbing than either of us typically likes at the end of Nounou (Sleeping Giant), so we actually opted to go with a different vista rather than completing to the top of the Sleeping Giant.  But, part of it is the reality that I actually like having some of the mountain left to provide some context for what we're seeing in our picture!
Nounou (the Sleeping Giant)
Then, there is the Pihea Trail.  It's an easy trail to take for a while and turn back or go all the way to the end (which requires a little climbing for the last bit).  The hard pat for this one is that you keep getting views of the Kalalau Valley which make you want to stop and gawk.
Pihea Trail - early stages
Yet, there are all kinds of interesting places along the way that have their own beauty and I was happy to try to give them their due as I was able. 
Pihea Trail - middle stages
Sometimes, the clouds move in and perform the 'giant eraser' trick on the vista that is the Kalalau Valley.  It might be tempting to be disappointed by that, except it makes you pay more attention to where you are, encouraging you to see more than the high wire act in the big tent. 
Kalalau Valley

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Favorite Place

Thank goodness there are places in this world that speak to us.  Perhaps the places that speak to me are not the same as those that speak to you.  But, I sincerely hope that everyone can recognize and listen when they encounter such a place.




 Waimea Canyon speaks to both Tammy and I and it draws us back over and over again.  Pictures do not do it justice and are but a shadow of what we experience.  Yet, the pictures are a window that allows us to recollect and imagine the conversation with nature we had while we were there.


Waimea Canyon is not the only place in this world that speaks to the two of us.  Many of the places that do are not nearly so grand and they hold their beauty in completely different ways.  Often, those places are subtler.  But, there are times when we need the big show to come along and remind us to listen a bit more carefully.  We are awed to silence as we walk to the railing and look down... and around... and we find ourselves paying full attention.  At last.

Sometimes we get discouraged when it seems that other people don't see or hear when they walk up to those railings and overlooks.  One person came up next to us and gushed, "That's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!"  They took a quick selfie with the canyon in the background and left after what amounted to about a 10 second visit.  Another young lady complained to her mother and (presumably) her grandmother, "I can't get service!  I want to talk to people.  I don't like it!"  She proceeded to turn her back to the canyon and stare hopefully at her phone, moving around to try and catch a signal while the other two tried to enjoy the view.

Then, someone appears that restores our faith.  They walk up and audibly gasp.  Then they stand, dumbstruck, while the canyon tells them stories of grandeur, beauty and wonder.

How long did it take for these lands to build up, with countless eruptions of volcanoes and periods of calm between?  And then how long to wear down, so we could see the beautiful bones of the earth, still able to sustain life?
Right now, all we need to know is that it took as long as it needed to so it could be here to speak to us.  We just need to open up our ears to listen.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Recharge

View from Kuilau Ridge Trail
Because we farm, we are privileged to see the outdoors up close and personal on a regular basis.  But, because we farm, we don't often get to see a beautiful day as a chance to relax.  Instead, it is a good time to exert ourselves and work extra hard to take advantage of the weather.  This is part of the reason why we so highly value an opportunity to go somewhere that has extremely nice weather much of the time and beautiful places to enjoy it in.

It often takes us a while to relax because we have trained ourselves to be ready to work in conditions like this.  The brain doesn't automatically allow us to 'chill out' and just take things in stride.  That might be part of the reason we like to add hiking into the mix.  Certainly, we like the idea of being active and we definitely like the chance to see some of the places the hikes take us to.  But, hiking means we are able to tell ourselves that we are doing something.  It stills that little anxious voice that says, "Hey!  It's nice outside, go WEED something!"

Tammy and I have been giving ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the artwork the earth is willing to share with us.  We've also been indulging in some amateur photography and writing, reading and honing our conversation skills.  It's only natural, given our professions, that most conversation circles around the farm or school.  It's what people do, talk about the things they are surrounded by most of the time.  So, we are surrounding ourselves with different things for a while.  Things like green hills, purple mountains and blue skies.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Blue Skies

There are a handful of days every Spring where the sky shows off an amazing depth of the color blue.  And, if you are lucky, Mother Nature will float some nice fluffy white clouds in it to add to the effect. 

It doesn't really matter all that much what else is in the picture.  That stuff exists to give you contrast so you can better appreciate the sky.

Oddly enough, it is not all that common for us to take pictures when we have a sky like this.  That might seem odd to say, but you need to consider our profession.  We are farmers.  A day like this is the perfect day to do ALL of the things that farmers do.  Picture taking is not normally on that list unless it is for recording purposes.

While we might not be taking pictures, you can bet we are noticing the sky.  Part of maintaining our health as growers is taking in the beauty of our surroundings.  We stop and take a good look every so often at the sky for the same reason we stop and sniff the lilacs or smile as we pass a sunflower or recognize the Great Blue Heron passing over the farm's airspace.

If you're going to work outside, you might as well take a breath and appreciate the office with a view.  Not everyone has the opportunity to do so.  So, here's to days with blue skies, lilacs and herons.  May we all have a chance to recognize what they bring to our lives.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Covering Sins

If it is going to be cold, there might as well be snow.

You can agree with this or disagree, that is fine.  But, in Iowa, there will be snow - and not always when you expect it.  This picture was taken after a surprise October snow this past year.  It did provide for some interesting photo opportunities because there was more foliage remaining on plants to catch the snow and give us different textures to record.
If you live in town, you might appreciate the snow because it covers up some of the muddy, dirty 'old' snow and the unattractive brown lawns.  Even if you are not fond of snow, you will probably admit that a new snowfall has a certain beauty to it.  Part of that beauty is the ability of a good snow to cover up our sins so that we might, for a moment, believe that things in this world can be right again.

On the farm, the blanket of snow actually does cover a few of our 'farming sins,' if you will allow me the use of that expression.  You see, once we enter the Fall months, green things do not grow as quickly to cover up ground we have scarred.  And, if you have a wet Fall, as we did this past year, it is pretty easy to tear things up with the tractor without meaning to.  The snow makes those areas pristine again - if only for a while.

The blanket covers a multitude of other 'sins' as well.  The bed of daikons that never sized up and were not harvested is now covered in white.  The stack of stakes we told ourselves needed to be moved for the past six weeks looks like a pile of white stuff and nothing more.  The bare patch in that pasture we wanted to rehabilitate but couldn't because it stayed too wet is now white, just like the rest of the pasture.  The remnants of hose and drip tape that should be cleaned up is... well, it's still out here somewhere.  Oops.

Even the paths that we commonly walk as we do chores every day are not so evident, until we make that first walk in the new snow to complete the next set of chores.  Well, I did admit to being a sinner, so that might be why I am willing to accept another snow.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Whether Wythards

"How much time do you think we have?" asked Tammy.
"This one's moving pretty slow, probably half an hour," I responded.
"Huh, we can try to put those lettuce transplants in then," she said.
"It'll be a little muddy, but it's only going to get muddier," I grumbled. "Let's go."

As farmers, we are in fascinated by the weather.  As farmers, we are motivated by the weather.  As farmers, we are often at the mercy of the weather.  And, as farmers, we weather the weather.

The thing that amazes me most is that the weather is actually very rarely completely unfriendly to those who are diversified growers.  Now, I also have to admit that the weather is also rarely perfect for us, but that is beside the point.  We could successfully argue that this past season was a completely unfriendly season, but the evidence would tell us that we are incorrect.  Many of our perennial crops, such as apples, berries and asparagus did very well.  The broiler chickens and turkeys sized up and the taste of the meat has been exceptional.  Egg production stayed very consistent all season long.  The garlic was a little smaller than usual, but turned out just fine.  Half of the onion crop was really nice.  We had some decent summer squash, zucchini and cucumber.  In short, there were good things that happened, even if the whole body of work balanced out on the negative for the year.

One of the things we are considering this January is how we, the Genuine Faux Farm farmers, are going to respond to the climate and the resulting weather patterns we are likely to see from this point onward.  There is no escaping the fact that we must pay attention to the weather if we want to raise produce and poultry.  There is no good way to predict exactly what we will encounter and it is perfectly clear that whatever the weather is, it will impact what we do and how well things go.  But, one thing is clear to me.  Our world still provides what we need to be successful farmers, we just need to prepare to use what we have responsibly and we need to take a longer view than the next succession of lettuce.

But don't worry.  I'm sure your farmers will grumble about the weather multiple times in the coming season.  It's normal.  If you consider that weather systems are sometimes akin to an alarm clock (hurry up, plant that lettuce!) you might have sympathy for the grumpy farmer.  After all, wasn't it you who knocked your alarm clock to the floor this morning?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Reaching the Blue Hole


Some may have noticed that the Genuine Faux Farm farmers have been up to something.  Well, we've actually been up to a few somethings of late.  One of those somethings has been the opportunity to visit one of our favorite places on this earth (Kauai).  The photo above shows the crater of Waialeale, the dormant volcano that also features the second tallest peak on the island behind Kawaikini (which is essentially next door).  A person is often able to see into the crater from the Kuilau Ridge Trail.  Some hardy souls hike to the crater and swim in the 'Blue Hole,' but we're not inclined to do so ourselves.  We will settle with this view from a distance.

Another item that we have been up to lately is the series of short blog posts interspersed with a couple of longer ones.  In fact, we have put out a post a day since December 27.  Is this something you have noticed?  Judging by the numbers provided by blogger and Facebook, we're tempted to say that you have not.  The problem is, we do not trust the metrics provided by these tools either.  So, it is difficult to make any judgements from our end.

A significant issue that a small farm business has is difficulty reaching out to people effectively.  We put our efforts into growing food, getting it ready for sales and delivering it.  But, we also need to reach the people who we hope will support us by purchasing all of that good stuff.  Sadly, it feels like the path to make these connections is becoming more and more like the difficult trail to the Blue Hole in Waialeale.

We are hopeful that we can grab, and hold, at least a little bit of your interest via our blog and the Facebook posts we put out there in hopes that it will entertain and inform.  We aren't doing these things only because we want sales, though that is part of our goal.  We are also doing this because we feel there are some things that need to be said and ideas that need to be pursued.  In short, we want to encourage you to think about things pertaining to growing food, dealing with local food systems and farming processes.  We hope to share with you some of what we do and how we want to do it in hopes that we can all make a difference together.

But, the noise that everyone hears has never been louder nor has it come from more places than it does today.  It makes the path between our farm and you pretty muddy and difficult to pass.  We are willing to do some honest work to promote and inform, but I am also certain we are not willing to play the social media game with its ever-changing 'rules of engagement' and nebulous metrics.  If you are enjoying what you are seeing here and/or have thoughts about changes, this would be a good time to respond as we are ready to listen and adjust.  We don't need to be 'popular,' but we do want some feedback to see if there are some who get something good out of what we do here.  Don't be shy, give us a quick comment or email!  Thank you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Recovery Walk

Tammy and I began the process of renewal and recovery with a light hike on the Mahaulepu Heritage Coastal Trail starting at Shipwreck Beach.  We have never been to this particular location before, so we were not entirely sure what to expect.

It did, of course, start at a beach - which was nice enough.  But, we were here to do a little walking and exploring, so the beach wasn't of huge interest to us at the time.  Towards one end of the beach, someone had taken the time to make a giant heart in the sand.  Cute, but not what we were looking for either.

After a cursory examination of the beach and a few efforts of picture taking to get used to the camera again, we turned away from the beach and explored the beginning of the trail.  That might seem a bit odd to say, but in our defense, it wasn't as if the trail entry was as clear as you might think.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't hard at all to find our way around.  But, there were actually several little side trails that led to various viewpoints.  In fact, there were many side trails for the first third or so of the walk that we could opt to take.  Some of the trails followed the water as closely as was practical and others provided shade, but no view of the water.

On the way out, we were happy to stay out by the water most of the time.  On the way back, we found the shade to be a pleasant addition.

As is true for so many of the hikes we have taken, it seemed like things only got better the deeper we went into the hike.  But, it didn't take long to be happy we took this trail.  After a very short climb, we were able to see the ocean on one side and some of the smaller southeastern mountains of Kauai.  We're still trying to get a handle on which peak is which in our pictures, but while we'd like to name them properly some day, just seeing them was enough of a treat.

Rather than provide a whole bunch of words to fill the space, we thought we would share a bunch of pictures with captions instead.  If you happen upon this blog post, we hope you enjoy this.  If you don't happen upon this blog post, then we'll just simply enjoy it all by ourselves.  Either way, we're happy.



Kamaulele or Kalapa, we're not yet certain.
Some of these pictures may not be the ones we will identify as our best later on, but they serve for the purpose of sharing!
Our first ocean viewpoint from the ridge over the water.
Going forward (to the East) things got rocky.  Looking back West, one can see the inlet that comes up to Shipwreck Beach.
Looking back at Keoneloa Bay

A shaded section of the trail looks a bit like a tunnel.

The power of the ocean has worn interesting patterns into the rocks.

As is often the case on our hikes, some little birds visit us and tried to be helpful.

"Mind the big rocks!" they said.

...and mind the roots too!
That's Pu'u Keke in the background.


The light was just right to show off the character of the rocks
This may well be our favorite picture of the trip!

The rocks changed character again later in the hike.

Eventually, we had the opportunity to go down by the water

And sometimes a plant would surprise by growing in the middle of the rocks.

A possible heiau
There are various sites on Kauai that have cultural and/or religious significance.  A heiau is an ancient Hawaiian temple or religious site.  The Waiopili Heiau is usually listed with a question mark because the significance of the site is not yet known.  There is a useful website that describes the conservation mission for this trail, which includes this historical site.  Another blog gives more perspective.
Looking back over the hiking route.
Sometimes it is a little surprising to look back and see where you've been (both in life and on a hiking trail).  This look back was rewarding.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Inadvertant Exploration

It is one of our favorite places in the world and we've even been on this particular trail before.  But, things look a little different.  There has been a bit more erosion after heavy rains in 2018 and the traffic for this particular hike has gotten much heavier, also contributing to the erosion.

We came to a junction we didn't quite recall and took a different path than we have in the past.  We got to a clearing and saw this. 

View from Black Pipe Trail
Yep, we were aiming for that brown spot in the picture.  Guess we took the wrong fork in the path.  But, our inadvertent exploration provided us with a pretty nice reward.  We also took the fork back and put it where it belonged - not to worry.

Also from Black Pipe Trail
And, not to worry, we did get to the intended destination as well.  We didn't see the little bird that spoke to us a few years ago at the end of the world (see post linked at the top of this post).  But, we did see some beautiful things.

View from Canyon Trail
The mildly amusing thing about our detour is that we were actually afforded the privilege of sharing the hike with two other fine people this time around.  Tricia and Tom were pretty laid back regarding the additional steps that were taken.  No harm, no foul. And lots of wonderful things to see.