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“Necessity..the Mother of Invention”

Amazing what we can learn and accomplish when driven by a passion or perhaps a need.  The author of the phrase is unknown, however I’m hoping most of you can can relate.  When there is an abundance of something we often take it for granted.  It’s not until we go without, that we realize our wants vs needs.

In a short 60 days we’ve learned to grow healthy, delicious, organic (did I mention I hate that term.. perhaps a topic for a new blog post) food.  Learning how to amend soil, resist pests without pesticides, and deliver on a vision of what could be – when so much is missing.   Isn’t life often that way though?  Or perhaps even ourselves –  which are in a constant state of improvement, self critique, vision, amendment, growth, harvest, and death – which leads to new growth.  In this case death being figurative and literal – think bad habits in ourselves and a seed.  Both must die to experience new growth – and amidst this growth there is constant attack.  Our latest menace have been ants which like to harvest “honeydew” from aphids on the buds of new growth.  While I don’t mind them in the soil as they do help aerate and can facilitate in the composting process, I’m optimistic that managing them properly while difficult, is possible!

Unless you’re dealing with fire ants – which are a whole other topic AND thank the good Lord we don’t have those, we need to primarily focus on the ants harvesting aphids.  They’re pretty amazing creatures.  They will literally farm aphids on the leaves, new growth, and blossoms and “milk” honey dew from the aphids rear-end as a result of them feasting on our garden.  In our case I’ve had to find a mechanism to keep them off all our citrus trees (lime, grapefruit, tangerine, orange, and lemon), as well as peppers, guava, ti, hibiscus, and gardenia.  The bigger more developed trees have actually been quite easy as I wrap a sticky barrier around the trunk that keeps the ants from crossing (thank’s to Dan Willey’s post @ FruitMentor .  Once the ants are prevented from going up the tree and farming, the aphids are much more susceptible to natural predators like ladybugs, mantises, and the all necessary neem oil!  The trickier prevention is anything without a sturdy trunk – we’re trying coffee grounds, peppermint oil, diatomaceous earth, all with varying degrees of success.  Due to the reliability of the sticky barrier, everything now gets a wrap that is thick enough to tolerate it.

The Cult of the Genius

What if what we’re searching for doesn’t exist?  Desire is deceptive, like an unquenchable thirst that is so quickly satiated once you get what you so dearly yearned for.  Life’s irony is to create a sensual being who seeks pleasure (and at all costs runs from pain), yet those same senses betray them.  In our pursuit of happiness we’ve been mesmerized by a dream, controlled by an idea, a film that plays in our head that convinces us of how things should be.  Instead of confronting our desires and determining our own path we take them to the masses for their direction… we give the power to others to chart our course, yet we’re numb to desire’s deception.  Why do we give so much power to the idea of what things should be vs what they truly are?  And what if this so called life, isn’t necessarily what we’re currently living but rather just a glimpse of what it could actually be?

Nietzsche said “Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius,”… “For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.”

The goal of Maui Urban Farmer is to create something greater than ourselves and leave a legacy for our children.  Not influenced by the media, nor peer or family expectations, but rather something that gives back, cultivates, educates, and ultimately one day leaves something better than how we found it.

Roughly 6 weeks into our project and we’ve learned so much.  We’ve already gotten to taste the sweet fruit of our labor (yes – pun was intended) – and we’re hungry for more.  With the goal to keep each blog post short – I’ll be posting a new entry shortly with a few lessons learned for those that are interested, but if I can offer a word of encouragement – if I can grow food so can you.  The options are limitless and not having a garden is no excuse.  Fresh herbs for example, will thrive in small planter boxes – hang them on a wall like art (near natural sunlight) and you will soon be on your journey to create your own urban farm.

Breaking Ground

It has certainly been a busy couple years, since moving from Oregon. In about 18 months, we sold our home, moved 1000 miles away to San Diego (two different rentals) and then moved 2600 miles away to the most isolated island chain on the planet. About 3 months ago we closed escrow on our new home, on the island of Maui, Hawaii. I won’t go into all the details as to why we uprooted our 4 children to go on this crazy adventure – but the sum of it is family, health, and sustainability. Maui with it’s abundance of natural resources, both in the sea (kai) and land (aina) alike, along with it’s 12 month growing season made the perfect backdrop for our new family project.

The goal of this Blog is to document our transition from what I would classify as a typical, middle-class, American family who quite frankly got very comfortable in their western, store- bought lifestyle.  Our desire was to flip that on it’s head and learn, with our children, what it takes to be self-sufficient. How do we experience the fruit of our labor directly vs indirectly (though the mighty dollar) and how do we experience true health, starting with what we put in our mouth. After-all… we are not just what we eat, BUT also what we eat, eats.  Our first step in our long journey was getting to Maui and getting settled in our new home. Our second step is to start building. Do we start working on the inside, the outside – where to begin?! The obvious choice became food. We want to start right by giving our food the best possible environment to thrive (Maui being a pretty great place for that) which leads to:

Day 1 – December 3, 2017:Today (after a trip to the home improvement store) we “broke ground” (kinda fun to say).. we busted out the pick ax, shovels, rakes, leather gloves, wheel barrel, organic compost, and got to work. All the boys got some sweat on their brow (Gabriel – 15, Caleb – 12, Isaac – 9) as well as Aunty Cynthia!  While Beth and Ellie (4) labored with love all day in the kitchen making sure the crew stayed hydrated and fed with delectable goodies like Chicken, Fig, & Chèvre Salad, fresh brewed green tea with lemon and honey, Italian wedding soup (Auntie made the meatballs) and even a lemon meringue pie! We actually ripped most of the grass up the evening before, so today we spent DIGGING. After a day of digging an “L shaped” 2-ft deep trench on a brisk, almost winter day in Maui (I quickly started fantasizing about back-hoes and other machinery that could make this process much easier).  HOWEVER – our goal is to learn to do it the “hard-way” on a smaller plot of land, our Kihei “Urban Farm”, so when the opportunity presents itself to go big-time we’ll know exactly what we need.

The design for this first planter box, is to dig 2 ft deep, put a 2 inch layer of rock/gravel, a 6 inch layer of amended soil, a slow-drip watering hose (for deep-root watering), then continue re-filling with amended soil until ground level. Then we’ll use 2×6 redwood heartwood (two of them stacked on their 6”side) to create the outer wall of the beds. We’re using the concrete slab which serves as the foundation of our covered lanai for the inner wall (we left about a 6” clearance from the concrete foundation to where we dug the 2ft trench). The redwood will be held in place by 2ft rebar on the outside and the soil on the inside. We’ll of course post pictures of the progress.  Our drive is simple – time together as a family, learning how to be self-sufficient. Along the way we’ll learn some biology, geometry, physics, chemistry, history, math, foreign languages, art, global cuisine and cultures, psychology, and a healthy dose of faith and patience (I for one need to work on that!).  We hope to share a bit of what we learn with others, including food prepared with organic fruit, vegetables, herbs, a lot of love and all served at the perfect moment so as to re-learn what that food was actually meant to taste like.