Well, I wielded a machete for the first time yesterday. The banana trees needed the dead leaves chopped off and the machete is the tool of choice. Terri, who owns Kumu Aina fruit farm with her husband Bob, sharpened the blade and told me to be very careful. After she demonstrated the proper technique of swiping the brown leaf off from the top and also cutting the thick cane grass away from the base, I began swinging. The first swipes didn’t go so well. Dried banana leaves are very fibrous (and apparently also high in phosphorous so they’re good as a natural fertilizer). But after I realized it’s better to cut in on a little angle I was on a roll.
As we chopped away, Terri noticed that one group of bananas hanging down were ready to be harvested. The flower that blooms from below the fruit had dried up and a few of the bananas were starting to turn yellow. She chopped into the fleshy tree enough so that it could tip over, but not crash to the ground. Then she cut off the bananas, leaving enough of the stem so that they can hang and ripen more in the outdoor kitchen. Finally, she chopped the rest of the tree down. Banana trees have little offshoots that start up next to the existing trees. So the little kiekie (a Hawaiian name for children pronounced kay-kee) next to the harvested tree will take its place.
If on the two other farms I felt like I was channeling a pioneer spirit, here I feel I’m connecting with more primitive ancestors. Granted, the farm does have solar power, so I can plug in the computer to type away, or charge my phone. So maybe it’s not that extreme. But between the water catchment system that collects the water for the sinks and outdoor shower, the composting toilet, and my shelter with two screened-in sides, I feel like I’m living pretty close to nature. It took a little adjusting.
Part of the adjustment, with my shelter at least, came from the warning that wild pigs might be out at night and to not be alarmed if I hear them. They can be pretty dangerous to the animals on the farm. That was enough to make me almost put a machete under my bed. Almost. But I was reassured that the pigs aren’t interested in humans, and they couldn’t get into my shelter even if they wanted to. I think I’ve heard them in the distance, but knock on wood, they haven’t come too close. The little brown coqui frogs create a cricket-like symphony that probably drowns out some of the pigs’ snorting. I’ve been sleeping with my headlamp (very necessary past 6 pm) wrapped around my wrist in case I hear the pigs in the night and need to shine a light on them/ make my escape. Oh paradise.
One thing I haven’t had to adjust to at all is the delicious fruit. Those bananas taste pretty good mixed into oatmeal in the morning with a little fresh coconut. There’s nothing like a good breakfast to welcome the sunlight that banishes the threat of those noisy wild pigs.