Thanks to everyone who came out to the Haleiwa Cacao Festival…It was great to see the island chocolate community, and here’s hoping there will be many more local chocolatiers and chocolate makers in the years to come!

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Wishing everyone a very exciting and happy 2011. Here are just a few images from 2010–we’re looking forward to more trees and certainly much more chocolate in the coming year!

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Very exciting! Although these are some of our oldest grafted trees, it’s a thrill to see flowering in the orchard, and we’ll likely see first fruit set next spring.

Now that we’ve begun to get some decent rainfall, one of our consistent foes is starting to tassle: Guinea Grass, or Urochloa Maxima, is an invasive bunch grass that’s basically impossible to defeat, but still important to combat. Without the use of herbicides, it’s simply a matter of interdicting the grass before it really gets established, and for us that basically means hand weeding in tight quarters, or discing in more open areas.

Like so many stories of weed pests in Hawaii, this one starts with the importation of Guinea Grass as putative erosion control and cattle graze in the late 1800s. Naturally, it proved good for neither, but boy did it grow well.

In addition to simply managing the cultivated landscape, it’s crucial to keep a handle on our local Guinea Grass, as it contributes to major wildfire risks. Left uncontrolled it grows into thick mats, often overwhelming other local and native foliage and leaving a nice dry bunch of biomass just waiting for lightning, a cigarette, or a local offroader to provide the spark.

Jorquette. Plagiotropic whorls. Basically, this is the stage in a cacao tree’s development when the foundations of its eventual canopy begin to radiate out from the central trunk. And now towards the end of summer we’re seeing an awful lot of this in our Opaeula orchard, which is exciting and really fun from a strictly cacao botany geek perspective. In most of our trees we’re seeing this first whorl around the 1m mark in height, although there’s definitely some strong variation there between differing genetic parentages.

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There are moments when I think even if I spent the rest of my life simply removing plastic (t-tape, weed barriers, plastic bags, etc.) from our Opaeula orchard, I would expire before succeeding. The use and abuse of plastic in the agricultural environment around here is profligate in the extreme, and depressing at times. Without naming names, we have actually seen certain farmers disc drip tape right into their fields, rather than commit the labor to remove and properly dispose of it. Yikes.

Not that we’re immune to plastic ourselves at all–we do use drip tape for seasonal irrigation, but we try to use such materials responsibly, and make them last. Being orchardists by nature, all our focus is on the medium to long term, rather than on row crops that may be turned as many as four times a year here in our subtropical environment.

In some theoretical future, when the archaeologists are digging up our site, we’d like the orchard to look like an exception to the generalized layer of plastic coating the Earth from this period of time. Biodegradability is a must…

Just a couple photos of North Shore development: