23 January 2012
Not many people hope for rain in January but I certainly do. January, February and March are some of the driest months for Kona coffee farms. The constant sunny weather also makes them some of the warmest for us. Visit the farm in the summer or fall and you'll likely experience rain every afternoon. For sunny, warm and dry weather, visit us in January.
Kona coffee loves the rain. We received over 60 inches of rain this past growing season which allowed the coffee trees to produce a very healthy crop. There were a few times where I wished the rain would let up but I never wished too hard because I knew we'd need the rain this winter. If we go a couple weeks without rain, the trees all start to look very thirsty. A couple more weeks and the leaves start to turn yellow. Too much leaf drop results in poor coffee production the following year. If things get really bad, then we start to lose entire trees.
Unfortunately, irrigation is not a viable option for us. We're too far up the mountain to get county water and digging a well through a couple thousand feet of lava rock is not at all practical. Instead we collect all the rain from our roofs and store it in large water tanks.
We have 80,000 gallons of rain catchment capacity. That may sound like a lot and is more than enough for household use. For irrigation, it is nowhere near enough. A Kona coffee tree can use up to five gallons of water per day. Even at the minimum of one gallon per tree per day, that's still a lot of water. With about four thousand trees to irrigate, we could go through all of our water in a couple weeks. So we really have no choice but to hope for rain.
I'm not complaining about having sunny, warm weather all winter long. I certainly don't expect any sympathy from people living in places like Alaska or North Dakota. Being able to go surfing any time of year is pretty awesome and I definitely appreciate the warm winter weather. I also appreciate getting some nice, wet winter weather occasionally.
I woke up this morning and could feel the clouds outside. I've been watching the sky all day long, hoping to see some rain. A few hours after lunch, I finally felt sprinkles. Not a heavy downpour like we can get in the summer months but enough to give the trees a drink. Too much rain would cause a coffee bloom and we don't want that until spring. A half inch of rain is about perfect this time of year.
After happily standing in the rain for awhile, I decided to get my camera and take some pictures. Pictures of wet coffee trees seemed real exciting at the time. They seem a little less exciting now that I look at them on the computer. I don't care, it was a good excuse to stand in the rain.
The rain caused the coffee picking crew to leave early. That means I'll have to carry all the wet, heavy bags of coffee cherry myself. Again, I don't care, I'm happy to have the rain. I'm sure we'll have clear blue skies with little fluffy clouds again tomorrow. Maybe I'll go to the beach. It will be extra easy to enjoy the great weather knowing that all the coffee trees are happy too.