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Farming methods and implements

Farming in ancient times was labor intensive. The Islands' climate and geology provided plenty of sun, water and rich soil, but Hawaiians' lack of metal tools, wheels, or any type of mechanization meant planting and harvesting was done literally by hand. A farmer's hands and feet were his best tools. Hands cleared the soil, weeded, raked and shoveled. Strong feet did double duty as spades or hoes to move earth. Hawaiians also developed a variety of wood and stone tools.

To clear new fields, Hawaiians sometimes used fire. To fell trees – used in building houses or canoes – they used large stone adzes. To prepare ground for planting, farmers used the versatile `o`o stick to turn over soil and shrubs. The `o`o was made of hard wood, generally alahe`e, `ulei, kauila or uhiuhi. Four to five feet long, with a diameter comfortable for holding in the hand (one and a half to three inches), it had a flat point or flat blade at one end. With the `o`o, a worker could dig up deeper layers of earth and break it apart, dig shallow or deep holes for planting, or dig trenches and ditches.

Farmers weeded their planted fields with their hands or with flat stones or broken `opihi shells. For working in hard ground, shell was sometimes lashed to a wooden handle.

Planting was done by hand, with the aid of an `o`o to dig holes for plant starts and slips. For harvesting taro, a palau or taro cutter was used. This was a two-ended tool of wood (usually uhiuhi) with a round grip in the middle; the two blades at the ends featured convex cutting edges.

For harvesting breadfruit, Hawaiians used a lou or picking pole. This was a long pole with a short stick lashed at an oblique angle at one end. The forked end snagged the ripe fruit.

Hawaiians also used a specific tool to husk coconuts. A stake three feet long and one and a half inches around was stuck in the ground. The upper end of the stake was cut to a flat, curved point. A coconut brought down with force onto the point had its husk split in segments.

Farmers didn't have wheels or sleds to carry loads. Instead they used carrying poles or `auamo. Made of kauila or `ulei wood and measuring 40 to 90 inches long, they were designed to be carried over one shoulder with balanced containers or bundles attached to either end. With a diameter of one and a half inches, the ends of the `auamo sometimes included a carved decoration or figure.

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