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We have a couple of empty fields that I am planting with coffee.  Conceptually, the planting process is easy:  clear the field of undesirable weeds and rocks, dig a bunch of holes then put a tree in each hole.  Easier said than done.  Planting definitely qualifies as hard manual labor.  Since this entire island is made out of lava rock, digging takes a lot of determination.  Many farmers use bulldozers and fancy digging machines to pound holes through the rock.  My neighbor recently planted one of his fields.  Not only did he use a fancy digging machine, he also had a large work crew.  My fancy digging machine consists of a heavy steel bar and a shovel.  My work crew consists of me.  One day I convinced the kids to help some.  They even kept working when it started raining.  It wasn't until I was temporarily distracted with another chore that they retreated back to the house.


We have several hundred coffee tree saplings waiting to be planted.  If I don't manage to plant them soon, they'll outgrow their containers and we'll have to replace them with younger trees for next year.  I may give some of my extra trees to the neighbor.  I'll have to start some new saplings anyways because there will always be a few scattered trees around the farm that are sick or dead and need to be replaced.  Starting new trees is easy compared to planting them.

Dirty Hands Saplings The fields I'm planting have already been mostly cleared.  I had to make a couple final passes to remove any rocks that were missed and cut the weeds back as far as I could to give the trees a head start.  I took some line and tied flags every six feet then used some spray paint to mark where each tree would go.  Then I started digging.

Each hole needs to be a foot or two deep.  If the roots hit rock then in a couple years, after the tree has grown larger, it won't have a strong enough root structure to support itself and it will fall over.  So I dig a little deeper than necessary to remove any large rocks hiding in the bottom of the hole.  Sometimes this can require substantial digging.  If the first hole doesn't work, I'll move over six inches and try again.  Only twice did I hit so many rocks that I had to give up and skip that tree.

It is currently the start of the rainy season.  That's the best time to plant because the new trees will get plenty of water in the coming months.  Most days are sunny in the morning and cloudy in the afternoon.  I wake up early so I can get in a couple hours of planting before it gets too hot.  Then I head out again in the afternoon after the clouds come in.  By the time dinner gets here, I'm dirty and tired.

Coffee Tired

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