February 2006: Creating Space

Creating Space, Growing Abundance.

From the beginning, we have looked at what’s growing on the land here with an eye toward creating a more welcoming, nourishing place of sanctuary. There are a lot of trees on the land, most of them unintentional (that is, invasive species) and quite large. It will be the work of many years and some heavy equipment to fully transform all of it, but we took a few significant steps in the last few months.

In late September 2005 I got a visit from a local tree cutter and he offered (for a price) to cut down some of our trees. We had this very large and threatening banyan tree growing on a very old avocado tree, and I have been trying to figure out what to do with it for some time now. This banyan was about 30 feet from the house, and that is way too close for a tree that can cover a quarter-acre if you let it. That it had completely enveloped that avocado was unfortunate, as it bore good fruit, but it would have to be sacrificed.

Fortunately, avocados are fairly easy to grow and I have a plan to put in some really high-grade varieties: the seedlings for the rootstock are growing in our nursery right now. We are buying some really good fruit at the Lotus from some people with an avocado orchard, and I’ve arranged to collect some scion-wood from them this spring. These will be grafted onto the rootstock, giving us avocado trees of known variety and bearing season that can begin fruiting within two years.

So I asked our tree cutter to cut down the banyan/avocado and the two large schefflera growing on either side of it. These were all on a small slope not far from the house and I am planning to put a couple of fruit trees and a pond for the greywater system there. It is a prime location for papaya, as they will be very happy to suck up that yummy (if you’re a papaya, that is) grey water.

The large tree in the center of the photo is actually three trees: the Shefllera in the front, and behind it the banyan/avocado. Hidden behind all that is another Shefllera (or octopus tree) that we cut.

In the next photo you can get an idea of the space created by the tree removal. The photo is not taken from the same angle, but you get the idea. It’s also brought a lot more sunlight into this area, enjoyed mainly for now by the weeds and a few papayas I planted in anticipation of the clearing. They are now growing rapidly and fruiting already.

Opens things right up, doesn't it? The orange tree (with fruit on the right) is very happy to have the space.


Meanwhile, various things continue to grow for us. The vanilla vine that produced 9 beans for us last year I divided and planted in various places around here, looking for a place they would be happy. The vines grew readily wherever I planted them, but only this one flowered. I pollinated it (and the original) last May, a process that entails getting up there every day with a bamboo skewer and delivering some pollen to the pistil on the newly opened flowers. Most of the time, it is successful and we are expecting a very much larger harvest this spring. This is one plant that could have commercial possibilities for us if we can perfect the critical curing process. The growing is easy. We are experimenting with a new, simplified process that is really just dehydrating the beans in a dehydrator. The classic method is far too lengthy and labor-intensive to be practical on a small scale.

We very happy with how this vanilla is doing. There are more pods up in the tree, too.

Another plant easily grown here is curcuma longa, otherwise known as turmeric or olena in Hawaiian. This relative of ginger is a very useful medicinal plant primarily for it’s beneficial effect on the liver. It also works as an effective anti-inflammatory. We grate the fresh root and make a very pleasant tea, being also a good digestive. We sell it occasionally to the juice bar as turmeric juice is one of the medicinal additives they sell. Mostly, we just use it ourselves.