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Lessons in the Bananas

I decided to share this, though I am not proud of what I have done.  I got a speeding ticket that I deserved. Here is part of the essay that I wrote, perhaps in sharing, we all can learn from my mistakes.

I was the third car out of five in a pack that was cruising along. The two ahead of me were ahead of me because they passed me. Lots of cars passed me, at least 15 since Hilo. I started counting cars that overtake me as a habit when I drive my own little old car. Because it is so old and small, people will do anything to overtake it. I have been driving for 28 years, and I had a perfectly clean abstract until that day on the new Saddle Road. I have driven commercial vehicles, cargo vans in NYC, summer school kids in school busses, and every other situation you can imagine. But that day, I didn’t hit the brake fast enough, and I was cruising in the pack rather than slowing down considerably. Lesson learned. But it is also that clean abstract that makes me want answers. Answers I didn’t receive.

I was aware enough of the situation around me. I was braking, but obviously not hard enough. I had put my flashers on because a police car had pulled over the lead car in the hidden corner of the bend. My headlights were on for visibility, and I checked all my mirrors and found another police car approaching at high speed with emergency lights but no siren on. It was in the most dangerous area as we approach the military intersection, where there are yellow lines all around. I pulled over, to let him pass, and the police car tore by so to pull over the car ahead of me. I signaled, checked my blind spot, waited for the other two cars to pass, and began to pull out. The officer waved an angry arm out the window that I should stay put too. So that made 3 out of 5 cars pulled over. The officer walked back to the car and yelled at me before he even reached the vehicle. He was yelling that I was doing 67 mph and the car ahead of me, that passed me, was only doing 60 mph. He was mad, and I knew more than to disagree with him. I have been an educator long enough to recognize bullying techniques. Accuse someone of something extreme and make a fight, then switch mode and say that you were defending yourself. That is also a stress reaction when you are burned out.

I zipped it, though I wanted to tell him my side. To enter into an argument with someone that was already irate, was not a good idea. He continued to yell at me about how I was going 67 and the other car was going much slower. I remember thinking that if that were the case, I would be bullying that car off the road. I would have been on it’s bumper in no time. And equally important, If that was the case, that officer was probably doing 15mph faster than me in order to overtake me, making him travelling at 82mph, which would be quite dangerous in a 40 mph zone, and also it would have called out for a much greater braking distance than what actually occurred. It was pretty clear that I shouldn’t make note of my own calculations, or he may likely pull my license even though it was a first offence.

I think it should have been clear that I was not much of a fighter, and certainly no threat to the officer. I was quietly sobbing while he yelled. I was scared because it was like what you see on the news. He eventually gave up on me, maybe because I didn’t offer him the fight that he seemed to want. When I saw him approaching the car again, even though I had ticket already in hand, and all I could think was “God, now what?” It was clear that I was shaken, and upset and in no condition to drive at that moment, so I read my ticket as I regained composure. So what does he do? Command me to go, to drive, to basically clear out of there so he can have the space so that he can pull over multiple cars all afternoon. I just shook my head at him in my best “really? Give me a minute” look and eventually drove away. I had a lot of questions that would remain unanswered. If he was as concerned about road safety as he noted, why didn’t he use his siren? Why did he pull over multiple cars at once? Why didn’t he explain the shifting speed limit. Why would he command me to drive when I was clearly too upset to do so safely? Why would he accuse me of going faster than the car ahead of me?

As I drove back to work, I thought a lot about him, and I was mad as can be at him and his attitude. I counted cars again, with another 12 passing me, and one “rode my bumper” to the end of the highway so close that I could see the color of his eyes in my mirror. All I could think was, “is this working?” Is it inspiring road safety? What was my take away? Did I learn a good lesson? In some ways yes, I understand that I was speeding. But what was taken away was just as great: I lost faith in our local police. As I drove, all I could think of was how happy I was not to be like him. But as the days passed, and I reflected upon it, I thought that he too probably didn’t want to be like me. I was just as stressed out as he, trying to do too much and speeding so to try to cram more work into my life.

I decided to administer my own “sentence” if you will. I forced myself to take a day off, to rest, and to do good. As a farmer, there are no days off until you get injured. So this was really hard for me to do. What I did as punishment for my being a “stressed out speeder” was to take a 100 lb rack of bananas that I grew, and divide them up so that the whole neighborhood got a share. It may have made more sense to sell them to a restaurant and that would have paid the ticket, and just “be done with it,“ but that would not have offered what I ended up taking away that day. The real lesson was to go door to door and listen to my neighbors, because that was what I was really angry about. The police officer didn’t allow me a safe place to state my side, to educate me, or allow me to feel safe in questioning his judgment. I figured that other people needed to be listened to as well. So I spent a day giving my neighborhood that opportunity.

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What I learned was pretty humbling. I may have been mad at myself for speeding, and at the policeman for yelling at me, but my neighbors, who I was a stranger to, shared stories of long stored grief and pain. I talked to the elderly that were home in the middle of the day. We talked about the fears they have about aging, about kidney transplants, the haunting memories of the Korean War, and of loosing their husbands and wives through death. My entire neighborhood was hurting, and I had no idea. I was doing the same as so many others, just work yourself silly and zoom between tasks, and cram your life so full of obligations, that you forget the real lessons of life: to mourn, to forgive, to heal, and to listen. Be a good neighbor and think of others.

In summary, that is what a speeding ticket is about. We are putting ourselves above others at the risk of public safety. We think our lives are more important, or our obligations more necessary, so we push the speed up so to “live more” when really we may be missing life around us in more ways than one. Did I learn a lesson? Yes. Will I do my best not to do it again? Yes. Do I deserve to be punished? Yes.   But the biggest reward for me was learning that my own heart could be transformed, and to come to the realization that the policeman, who I was previously so mad at, probably needs someone to stop by his door with a bunch of bananas, and to be there to listen, just as badly as my neighbors did.

The Return of the Waimea Farm Fair

After 20 years, the Waimea farm fair returned this year.  Expanding on the giant pumpkin growing contest of years past, this year brought tomato tasting and pumpkin cooking elements as well. I may max out at a 45lb squash, so no “giants” for me, but I do love to celebrate with the growers.  It is a squash solidarity.  You do not understand patience until you grow squash in Hawaii.

All beautiful and worthy contenders  Pumpkin and squash can be tricky here and Hawaii, and our giants can vary by hundreds of pounds from season to season.  But that isn’t the point, the point is that community gathered to celebrate nature, ambition, and the pure dedication that it takes.  HPA school entered three very different pumpkins that helped to illuminate how different pumpkins from the same patch can be.  The Largest at rear of photo took 1st in the school garden category) Soil maverick and giant pumpkin grower Noah Dodd led the way for HPA by using his own unique soil microbe building methods to get the squash to grow to super sized proportions.

Donna Mitts and prize winner Myrtle
Donna Mitts and prize winner Myrtle

I know and respect organic grower Donna Mitts, who has been giving me updates throughout the season. ( see image above) Her squash was golden and beautiful, and very deserving of the attention that it got.  She named the squash Myrtle, and it grew into it’s name.

Future grower Baby Max

Baby Max showed the enthusiasm that we all felt.  Here Max celebrates Donna’s pumpkin. Council woman Margaret Wille joined Donna Mitts and myself in a photo among the giant pumpkins.  Chefs and home cooks alike marveled at the culinary possibilities.

The Winters Ohana shined

Young Kawika Winters himself weighed in at only 1/2 a pound more than the giant pumpkin that he grew.  Here he awaits the judging  flanked by the other contenders.

Donna Mitts grew "Myrtle" organically
Donna Mitts grew “Myrtle” organically

Ribbons were awarded in many categories, including record keeping for the school gardeners.  How wonderful to reward a quieter, but valuable dedication. Mala’ai School garden won the record keeping prize by creating a beautiful photo log that captured the season. http://www.malaai.org

Cooking Contest

After the celebrations for giant pumpkins, we moved on over to the tomato tasting and pumpkin cooking competition.

tomato tasting station

The tomato judging begins

As the judging took place, many of us marveled at the challenges of comparing the beautiful island grown produce.  We were very happy to see some of our islands best including the innovative Chef Sandy that were part of the judging crew.

Ice cold pumpkin juice
refreshing pumpkin juice

Then more talk of pumpkins.  Donna Mitts wore many hats throughout the event including making the wonderful and refreshing “Pumpkin Juice” that cooled us under the hot Waimea sun.  She used pumpkin puree, apple juice and pumpkin pie spice to make this welcomed treat.  Then came the judging of the pumpkin cooking contest.  Many of us were nervous as the judges buzzed around through plate after plate of homemade, beautiful food.  There were three categories, including Main course, desert, and misc category.  Pumpkin butter, pumpkin curry, pumpkin tortellini, pumpkin nut bread, pumpkin casserole, pumpkin chiffon pie, pumpkin crumble, and my dish Pumpkin Noodle Nut.

My Pumpkin Noodle Nut dish
My entry in the line up

I am not sure why I was nervous with such a wonderful mix of people celebrating food.  But when farmer/organizer Paul Johnson and the judges gave the “all clear sign” that the crowd could sample all things squash, my tension eased, as we laughed and nibbled the plates clean.

Storming the table after judging
Guilty! We pounced on the table.

I mean we really went for it.  Each dish was special, and made with love.  We celebrated local ingredients and family recipes.

Paul reappeared as a wizard

Paul was a good sport, and surprised us all by reappearing in costume.  The kids loved it!

Clean plate club and 2nd place ribbon
A clean plate, a red ribbon, and the recipe to share

Then the prizes were announced by category. I would not have been a very good judge, because, each one was so wonderful.  It was like picking puppies or kittens.  The unique dishes were creative and flavorful, and many were very nutritious as well.

I took a risk by entering a brand new recipe to the contest.  I wanted to showcase squash as much as possible in one dish.  I had made a gluten free, vegan recipe called noodle nut last year.  After meeting with Chef Stephen of Under the Bodhi Tree restaurant in the shops of Mauna Lani http://www.underthebodhi.net  I was inspired to try new things.  So I changed my existing recipe to include cooked pumpkin puree, ground toasted pumpkin seeds, and grated fresh pumpkin.  Chef Stephen does raw and vegan entrees, and also loves to use pumpkin seed.  Pumpkin is so versatile, so I thought…heck go for it, this is the only pumpkin contest we have ever had on the island, so I thought it is time to pull out all of the stops.

So just a day before the contest, I was revamping and “pushing the pumpkin” into the recipe, and I am so glad I did.  Using all gluten free and vegan ingredients, my home grown black pumpkins, home grown cayenne chili peppers, Pat Hall’s aquaponic grown green onions, and local macadamia nuts.  It was an island proud dish.  The empty dish says it all.  It was cleaned out and awarded a 2nd place ribbon in the main dish category. Third went to the lovely pumpkin curry, and first place went to one of our island’s best chefs, Executive chef James Babian.  Chef Babian was the Executive chef of the Four Seasons resort here on the Big Island.  He can be credited with helping to move the buy local movement here over a decade ago.  He makes his own pasta from scratch in the kitchen of the restaurant that he and his wife Christine created in Waikoloa village named Pueo’s Osteria. http://www.pueososteria.com   Go there, trust me.

Let’s just say if anyone deserves first place, I have to say it is him.  I managed to get one lone tortellini off the plate before the other tasters descended.  It was divine, and sort of melted in your mouth.  I feel lucky to have gotten one, and no, I have no photos, because it was either grab one, or photograph it.  So sorry blogosphere, but eating won.  It was that good.  But watch out Executive Chef Babian, I’ll be back next year with another year of pumpkin cooking under my belt.  I’ll do my best to take on your tortellini again..or at least be quite ready to again grab one off the tasting plate.

Mahalo to all those who attended, volunteered their expertise, and added their talents to the day.  We all love a good come back story, and what better come back than that of the community farm fair.

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My Pumpkin Noodle Nut

Fish Composting Beds Opened!

composting bed
Remember this? Well….I am very pleased to report that it is now this!

Compost

I used EM-1 to add even more rich microbes to the heathy new compost and replace any that may have gotten burned out when the fish composting really heated things up. The fish composting was a success! (yeah! Thank you to Redwater Cafe and their continued donation of green waste and fish bits, Merriman’s for cardboard, and Starbucks for the donation of coffee grounds to help me build the soil!) The compost is a bit chunky due to my using a lot of sticks, but after a little bit of sifting out large pieces, the new compost was ready to be added to one of the beds. This will give a Spring makeover to a well used bed.