Genetic Diversity and Biomass Boom

Somewhere Close to Weeks Thirty Three, Four, and Five (18 September – 5 October 2014)

Allow me to open this week’s entry with a word of reassurance that I am not losing my mind. At least, I don’t think I am. I am, however, losing my sense of time (blissfully, I might add), and that can complicate things when you are trying to keep straight events documented in a weekly blog.

You see, as I’ve noted previously, in our current lifestyle, there is very little difference between a Tuesday and a Saturday in terms of activity and commitment; it is easy to lose track of the days. Then, when you daily wake at 3:00 a.m. and return to bed for a few hours more slumber somewhere around 5:00 a.m. (as part of the life of a newspaper courier), the darkness makes you also lose track sometimes of whether it is morning or night and which date to go with in your calendar reckoning (have to log those miles for tax purposes).

So…all this, compounded by the blur, the swirl, of our increasingly busy and complicated days as we start to gain a small foothold on establishing our homestead, led me to inadvertently include in our last post events that actually occurred during this post’s timeframe. Many a humble apology.

From here out, consider this blog an exercise in time bending, a form of literary time travel, if you will. Always entertaining, sometimes out of order. It is what it is.

Sit back, enjoy the content, and set aside the importance of chronology (at least every now and then, and as long as it all still makes sense).

Ramping Up

As alluded to in the title of this post, in the past few weeks we have increased by many fold the genetic diversity and biomass of our small ten-acre patch, and we all have the calluses, bruises, tans, and weight loss to prove that we played a role. (For the first time in decades, I have to wear a belt to keep my pants up, my hands are perpetually sore from using muscles I had long forgotten, and the kids tell me I am getting “wiry.”)

From the plant kingdom, Cara-Cara orange, Double Mahoi banana, Poha berries, and Arabica coffee are only a few of our new arrivals.

From the animal kingdom, our second eldest proceeded with plans to invest some of her personal savings into the establishment of a flock of heritage breed chickens. Why? To stand up a small, local fresh egg business (possibly to include home delivery), to sell rare chicks, and to play a role in the perpetuation of a heritage breed. So…with the help of Craig’s List and my handy dandy trailer, we set off to secure a dozen Australorp cluckers–one rooster, and a modest harem of 11, including 5 layers and 6 pullets.

Introducing Roscoe…

…and his ladies.

In terms of biomass, lets talk about mulch. One of the wonderful things about living in this agricultural community is access to free, multi-source wood chips and mulch that are loaded for you, free of charge, into your waiting pick-up or trailer. (In the same vein, we have also identified, but not yet tapped, a free source of manure.)

As we have told many of you, the Big Island is in many ways a grower’s paradise; these free and plentiful resources are only one feature that makes it so. As of this writing, using our trusty new trailer, I transported 2,000 pounds of wood chips (for landscape and garden walkways) and 2,800 pounds of mulch up to the property to cover laying beds and tuck in already planted coconut, breadfruit, persimmon and other assorted trees.

A Man and His Mulch

Our Homemade, Hand-Crafted, Wild Guava Wood Fence and Growing Area

The Veggie Patch

Let’s not forget the new minerals and microbes that we have also welcomed in recent days. I’m talking here about sea water.

Did you know that coconut trees grow best when occasionally showered with sea water? With some 20 coconut trees making their way toward maturing on the property, we now routinely keep on hand a five gallon bucket of Poseidon’s tears, which we dole out by the cupful on the expectant little spawn of palms. (On the topic of sea water, did you know that it also works wonders on acne? It has become a popular face wash for the kids. Oh…and you can actually make salt from it. (One of our next projects.))

This is yet another free, abundant soil amendment and broader resource, one that we scoop up once per week when we hold homeschool lessons at the beach.

School at the Beach?

Yes… That was always part of our long-term plan–or should I say “bribe” to get kids more excited about the big move to this island. Once a week, early in the morning, we head to the shore and go through lessons while watching sea turtles sun on the rocks. (One nearly grazed my leg when it swam up behind me as I stood in thigh-high water and gave me quite a start.) The sweet ocean breezes gently ruffling our papers every now and again is a minor annoyance, but one that I think we are all willing to live with.

Palaver and Provender

The outpouring of support and camaraderie here continues to amaze us. In the past month, we have been hosted by numerous new friends to scrumptious meals that included everything from wild pig and mountain sheep to home brewed beer and homemade goat’s milk blue cheese. Delightful company and conversation has abounded as we have chewed the fat over topics as wide-ranging as U.S. foreign policy to the state of the church in Hawaii to the peculiarities of food production on a volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific. Settings have ranged from a self-built house near the shore to a self-built cabin in wooded mountains to a more conventional home close to the volcano’s caldera. Classical music, coqui frogs, and the laughter of children defined the ambiance.

In between, neighbors and friends have showered us with gifts of food from their properties (bananas by the stalk load, avocados bigger than softballs, eggplant, and more) as well as cuttings and seedlings that are helping us get established more quickly (sweet potato slips, baby avocado trees, sugar cane starts, plumeria…you name it). At the same time, realizing our difficult living conditions, we have been offered shelters from rain storms, hot showers, the use of an off grid cabin, and loans of equipment ranging from solar panel arrays to hot-water shower bags.

This week, a neighbor who lives about 3 minutes up our little country road asked us to house sit for three weeks. A real house…with proper showers and toilets…with a widescreen t.v….with satellite subscription programming….with a refrigerator and stove…a washer and dryer! Our youngest quipped, “This is like vacation!” (By the way, even with all these modern conveniences, the house is completely off grid–solar power, rain catchment water, cesspool waste management.). We all luxuriated in the first hot showers we had taken in 8 weeks.

My Oyster Mushrooms Began to Fruit!!!

To Market We Go

We finally dipped our toe into the local Farmer’s Market scene as we just begin to start producing. No…the honey is not flowing yet and the tallow balm production is not up and running. This initial foray focused on products from our modest nursery, begun in the driveway of our rental while we awaited the clearing of our land, and–of course–newspaper subscriptions. The bride and our youngest, working from one of the fold-away tables that make up our campsite dining room, sold one sugar cane start and one baby soursop tree and handed out free newspaper samples (with appeals to become our customers)…all while knocking out reading and homework to the sounds of some soothing acoustic music and among like-minded growers, producers, and cooks. (Did I mention that there is no overhead charge to sell at the market? This place is great!)

Mending Fences

…and the yurt building inched ahead…

Builders Marking Out Yurt Floor Plan In Preparation For Foundation Excavation

As that famous cartoon pig was fond of saying, “That’s all folks.”

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