Close Encounters of the Porcine Kind

Weeks Twenty Four and Twenty Five (14 -27 July 2014)

In a move that may be viewed in the blogging world as both radical and unorthodox, in an effort to catch up on my chronicling of events of note, and because the pace of activity here is beginning to blur together events and times and dates, this post will cover two weeks and bring you all fully up to speed on where we stand in our efforts to build a sustainable, organic, off-grid Hawaiian homestead.

Let me begin by saying that these two weeks have been frenetic. Not since our Day of Four Cars–captured in a previous post (and not to be confused with the Middle Earth’s Battle of Five Armies)– have we seen such hectic activity. If it seemed to some of you that we dropped off the face of the planet, in terms of being incommunicado, this post may shed some light on our recent endeavors.

Enter the Paperboy

No, this is not the title of a new Adam Sandler spoof of a Bruce Lee classic. This is one of my new roles as a seeker of flexible income streams as we build the homestead. That’s right. I–or more accurately, we the family–picked up a paper route in the neighborhood of our new property during the first week of this period. With me behind the wheel, the bride serving as navigator, and our youngest assembling the paper sections and inserting ads and coupons, we have set off each morning these two weeks between 2:30 and 3:30 to bring the good people their morning news. (The youngest, by the way, has proven to be quite the trooper in the endeavor and has been dubbed Newsprint Road Warrior. During week two, she began to train her older siblings on the ins-and-outs.) Here are before and after pictures:

If you have not serviced a paper route, it will be hard for you to understand the challenges herein. For now, let me just say that after just a few days of learning the ropes of the paper courier trade and trying to memorize the locations our paltry 120-plus customers, I was convinced that this enterprise will provide material for an endless stream of humorous tales and plenty of high adventure along the way. In fact, I may need to start a separate blog on this topic alone.

In the first week, while out cruising the backroads of the island at ungodly hours that I was previously unaware existed, I have had to dodge a wild pig, slalom around entire families of soft-ball sized toads, brake for rogue wild guinea pigs, face berating by neighborhood watch, suffer the suspicious glances of the Hawaii Five-O, and negotiate potholes that would qualify as swimming pools under most Homeowner Association bylaws. As the first people on many of the roads in our area each new day, it turns out that we also get first dibs on free wild food. On one morning alone, we collected 10 recently fallen avocados and I have lost track of how many guava we have enjoyed.

And…one of our customers left a treat for us one morning–homemade preserves.

Rolling back to our lodging and a few hours more sleep just before dawn, we do have the opportunity to enjoy the early morning show… (Yes, even on a cloudy day, the sunrise here can be quite a sight.)

Transporter

During this period I also received my first assignment as a Transporter and, for that particular day, rather than move vehicles cross island, I pulled airport duty. Attired in my spiffy company t-shirt, sharp black shorts, and out-of-the-box-new Vans (closed toed shoes required for safety, be it Hawaii or not), I found myself jumping into and driving different makes and models of vehicles every 20 to 30 minutes, leading me to ponder the likely hidden forces behind the phenomenon of non-standard vehicle controls and ask why there is not more demand for such. This day of multi-vehicular experience impressed upon me the fact that every car manufacturer on the planet seems to be trying to reinvent the positioning and mechanism of activation for windshield wipers, turn signals, and the like. To what end? I’ll note, too, that after two decades as a world traveler in my previous profession, there was something strangely refreshing about being on the other side of the traveler-service industry coin as I handed off keys to recent arrivals and introduced them to their new set of wheels.

Fishing Big Blue

Before I disappoint by failing to regale you with tales matching those of Captain Ahab, please know that the island has been suffering from the dregs of two tropical storm systems that mozied across the Pacific. Following the last post, I met up with my new deep sea fishing mentor at 5:00 in the a.m. (after my paper route, of course) to start learning the ropes. Unfortunately, after arriving at the shoreline with boat, tons of ice, and heavy tackle in tow, the captain determined that the conditions were too rough for his small vessel and, not wanting to follow in the wake of the S.S. Minnow, we forewent a repeat of that famous three-hour tour. We stayed on land. I did have a chance to get better acquainted with the old salty dog and gain some further insights on his expectations in regards to assistance I need to provide. The forecast for this upcoming week looks outstanding and we are scheduled to set out again tomorrow morning. More on this next week.

In other fishing news, I took to the shoreline again with no result. I lost plenty of tackle to the submerged lava rocks and chatted with a young Hawaiian shore fisher about the latest fishing tips. All that aside, whether or not you haul in something, there is something theraputic about standing on the cliffs of the shore, listening to the waves, and intently watching the clear waters. As a bonus, I got to watch a sea turtle feeding in the area where I was casting, which was more than enough to make the outing worthwhile for this recovering mainlander.

Possibly More Roles to Come

Flexible income streams are the lifeline of the startup homesteader, and we are ever in search of new ones. In addition to scoring another small paid and published written piece, this week the bride and I both threw our names into the hat for part time local airport security jobs that would reinstate us as federal government slaves…er…I mean highly regarded civil servants…and reconnect our access to those coveted federal employee health benefits we had to walk away from to pursue this new life. Meanwhile, a private security firm is weighing my eligibility for a position as a background investigator, and I had a meeting with a local entrepreneur who needs a freelance writer to capture his ideas on paper for potential financial backers and users alike. I’m sure this issue is keeping you on the edge of your seats and we will keep you all posted.

Homestead Update

Sadly, not much to report here. Those tropical storms mentioned above have dumped rain down upon the island daily to such an extent that all work up on the property by our builders came to a halt. Eager to get started, we employed the new 4-wheel-drive to climb up onto the grounds to begin removing large rock from and laying mixed pasture grass seed down on the area that we would like to use to graze our animals.

We also planted about one dozen coconut trees, and put down some cantaloupe seed.

And…we made further preparation for the days ahead, when we will need to bivouac on the property as the construction continues. While picking up the older three kids from summer camp up on the mountains and near the other side of the island, I made a quick stop at Costco and loaded up on components of our soon-to-be base camp. I am continually impressed by how much the Jeep can hold.

(The picture does not quite do justice to the situation. Crammed in this vehicle for this trip home was 1 adult, 3 large teenagers, 1-week worth of camp clothes and gear for said teenagers, 2 folding tables, 6 chairs, a large utility rack, miscellaneous food purchases, and one grumpy 9-year-old stuffed in the cargo area).

Smallville

Our new home is in a small town. In fact, 7-11 is the most cosmopolitan of the 4-5 commercial buildings in our “town.” In the tradition of Jeff Foxworthy, let me just explain our recent experiences this way:

You may be in a small town if you do not have a physical address or mailbox and must retrieve parcels from the post office.

You may be in a small town when you know the Post Master (not a mail carrier) on a first name basis.

You may be in a small town if the 7-11 clerk greets you before dawn to ask how the new paper route is going.

You may be in a small town if you have sat down and chatted with the police officer responsible for public outreach in your area and his name is in the contact list of your cell phone.

You may be in a small town if you meet people for the very first time and they already know your family’s story. (“Oh…. You’re that couple from the East Coast building the farm up the road…”)

This is a different experience for both of us–one born in Hong Kong and one born on the outskirts of our nation’s capital. We love it.

Mary Kay of the Granola World

Those of you who have been following our antics for awhile know that my bride is quickly becoming the Mary Kay of the granola crunchy world with her homemade toothpaste, tallow balm, and shampoo. Well… The innovation never stops in this household. We now have a fantastic all natural body spray that replaces deodorant and cologne and costs a fraction of either. This miracle spritz is of two simple parts: witch hazel and an essential oil of your choice. Simply fill a spritzer with witch hazel, add as much essential oil of any fragrance that you like, and enjoy. Personally, I now walk around smelling like a pot of Earl Grey tea thanks to the bergamot concoction that I have settled on.

Exercising the Brain

Homeschooling ain’t the only learning to be found here, by thunder! In addition to a class on bibliology and hermeneutics for both of us during weekday evenings at our place of worship, a Bible Church, the bride began an intensive (8-hour per week) course on business aspects of agricultural endeavors, which included her going to several local farmers markets to conduct market surveys for her own potential products (like the tallow balm she makes). For my part, I kicked off two formal courses: one on soil science at the local college and one on permaculture through a sustainable farming establishment nearby. I also continued to attend a weekly Writer’s Group to advance my freelance efforts. Learning lots and I’d like to say that I have never attended a college course in which the lecturer addressed the class in flip flops, shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt (aka Aloha attire).

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Okay… Lots to cover here, so I’ll keep it brief. First, there was a home invasion in the neighborhood where we are staying and it was only a few blocks away. This follows on the heels of a large drug bust 2 weeks prior up the street. Not to worry…. We are out of here in two weeks or so (and it really is a nice neighborhood). But there’s more…

We also learned that in the immediate vicinity of our plot of land, there was an attempted vehicle theft and a home robbery, both at the residence of one of our paper route customers. Oh…and some nearby neighbors were just sent to prison for murder.

So… I’ve volunteered to become active in the local Neighborhood Watch program, which left me sitting in a local police station at the end of this week learning about the ins and outs of criminal issues in our local area. It is really not as bad as it may sound. In fact, we are in one of the safer areas of our district, but we may get drawn into community involvement in ways we had not foreseen. (Making this more interesting, if not funny, is the fact that on the day that I ended my federal career back in January, on Chinese New Year, I dined at a Chinese restaurant that evening and received a fortune cookie that predicted a future role as a community leader… Yikes! I just want to grow stuff, including solid kids, and relax.)

The Broader Family

Spoiled Lizard. Several posts back, I introduced you to our guard lizard, Camile, who patrols our dwellings for insects in exchange for free lodging and a lot of (probably unwanted) human attention. Since then, she has become the most spoiled Jackson Chameleon on the island. While this magnificent creature, akin to a miniature dinosaur, is supposed to sleep in the branches of trees and plants, and she has free access to such arrangements on our screened lanai, she has become somewhat of a pampered princess and now curls up on a pillow, like a dog, to slumber (note the closed eyes and curled tail).

Wizened Goat. I also previously made introductions to our dairy goat, a Nubian, named Zelda. As we have gotten to know the old gal more, her intelligence has given us pause. It appears, for example, that she knows her name, as she will respond to it. I kid you not, when we took this picture, we literally said, “Smile Zelda!,” and here is what we got:

Keeper of Nine Lives. A few posts back, I mentioned our resident and very shy wild cat, Tiki, who may well go with us when we leave here, our temporary rental home. Our youngest daughter has earned the feline’s trust to the point that she allows herself to be picked up. Well… We finally got a few pictures of the camera shy lady, who we hope will keep mongoose and wild guinea pigs at bay for us up on the property.

And now… For a new introduction…. After a month of searching through Craig’s List, the local Humane Society, and another local shelter for rescued animals, we finally found our pooch. Guard dog extraordinaire! Protector of the flocks! Recently birthed in Hawaii, of papered parents, and with a heritage reaching back to the the great Down Under, please let me introduce the latest member of the family, our yet-to-be-named Australian Shepherd.

Mention-worthy Miscellany

Camp. I retrieved the three older kids from camp up in the mountainous area between the east and west coasts only to learn that they had been subject to some of the finest cuisine I had ever heard of being served at a kids summer camp–wild sheep and rabbit. They had a blast, but all three came home sick from a circulating virus and took several days to recuperate.

Motor Vehicle Considerations. Finally…we passed all inspections and were granted state of Hawaii license plates (all handled by the Department of Treasury). We arrived at the local police department to obtain our Hawaiian driver’s license only to be turned away; we need to study first and make sure we are ready. Yikes! We had to track down a Hawaii Driver’s Manual (only $4.65 each or free at the local library) and the clerk at the police department gave us a tip off on which pages to focus on. (Didn’t even have to slip her a Benjamin.)

Pause, Deep Breath, Happy Thoughts, Repeat

So there you have it…two weeks in a nutshell and bringing us right up to the present time. I think I covered it all, but–then again–I am still in the middle of a grand sleep deprivation exercise (paper route). I’ll leave you at this point with a simple “adieu,” and I will try to be more punctual and pithy in future posts.

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