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What does a Kona coffee farmer do in the off-season?
16 July 2012

Coffee This year's harvest season is only a month or two away.  The trees are absolutely loaded with plump beans so it looks like it will be an extremely busy harvest this year.  That's a good thing because it means lots of coffee.  It just hope it doesn't start too soon because I'm not quite done with all of my off-season jobs yet.

The "off-season" is the best time for odd jobs and large projects.  For example every year the pulper should to be taken apart, cleaned and serviced.  This year I cleverly scheduled that job to coincide with Valerie's parent's visiting.  Then I bought some scrub brushes and showed Valerie's father what needed to be cleaned.  He did an excellent job.

Another "off-season" job that needs to get done before the harvest starts is my coffee dryer.  It works, it dries coffee, it just doesn't do so very easily yet.  I still need to fabricate a few parts and redesign a few others before the dryer will work the way I want it to.  I really hope to get all that done soon.

I keep saying "off-season" but Kona is in the tropics so really there is no off-season.  Things grow a bit slower in the winter but only when compared to how crazy fast everything grows all spring, summer and fall.  So even during the "off-season" there is still plenty of farm work to do.  We keep a list.  Here are some recent entries:
  • June 15 - CBB street, front, greenhouse.
  • June 22 - CBB backfield, house.
  • July 1 - Mowed front
  • July 2 - Mowed back
  • July 5 - Fertilized back (6 bags), street (2), front (5 1/2), greenhouse (4 1/2), house (3 1/2).  Baited traps.
Coop There are a lot of gaps on the list.  The most recent entry is already a couple weeks old and several of the other entries were only half-day jobs.  So what did we do the rest of the time?  I don't remember exactly.  All I know for sure is that it felt like work.  It's not like we sat around all day doing nothing but drinking coffee.

The list is only things that are time sensitive.  For example spraying and fertilizing need to be done on a schedule so it's important to know when and where they were done last.  Other jobs, such as fixing stuff, cleaning stuff and selling coffee, are all done on an as-needed basis and don't usually get written down.  There is definitely a lot of work that doesn't get listed in the farm diary.

During this year's off-season I took on a few projects that aren't directly coffee farm related.  One project that took longer than expected was a new chicken coop.  Our old chicken coop was no longer getting the job done and we needed a new one.  Without any coyotes, foxes or other predators on the island, the chicken population can quickly get out of control.  Throw out Feed chicken feed for our own chickens and soon every wild chicken on the island decides to be our pet.  Then all those "pet" chickens decide to poop all over the porch.  So building a good coop became a priority this year.

Chickens will roost in just about anything so there's no need to get too fancy.  Still, we wanted a permanent structure that looked nice and would last with very little maintenance.  In other words, I wanted to build it right rather than quick and dirty.  It ended up costing about $1000 and requiring a couple weeks to build.  Most of the cost is in the fencing.  Good fencing isn't cheap and building a sturdy fence is more difficult than it seems.  Especially when every single post hole requires digging through lava rock with a pick axe.

Fly The original design included a roof over the entire pen.  Our domestic chickens (bantams) are lousy fliers but the wild chickens are excellent fliers.  Without a roof, the wild chickens can fly right in, eat all the food, then fly right out again and proceed to poop all over the porch.  So a roof seemed like an important feature.

As it turned out, the roof isn't really necessary.  Just because the chickens can fly over the fence doesn't mean they are smart enough to do so.  More often then not they pace frantically back and forth outside the fence, as confused as can be, until all the food is gone.  With no more food they will eventually give up and go back to wherever they came from in the first place.  It's amazing how quickly the wild chicken population returned to normal, making our porch once again poop-free.

Step Another off-season job I completed this year is our back porch.  It's a great place to sit and enjoy the morning sun.  The porch is much better than the "giant leap for mankind" that used to be there.

We've wanted this porch forever but didn't get a chance to build it until this year.  It was the first project scheduled for this summer, starting the day Emily finished school.  I had several great pictures of her helping but my computer decided to crash and destroy all the pictures in the folder labeled 2012.  That really sucked because there were a lot of other cool pictures in there too.  Oh well, here's a picture of the completed deck.  You'll just have to imagine pictures of Emily being super helpful during the construction.


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