The Seed Merchant Feasteth (November 2014)

Month Ten

Welcome to the new format, a monthly blow-by-blow of the lunacy that is our post-cosmopolitan life. Enjoy the commentary and the random photos documenting our journey, and feel free to drop us a line.

Yay! We Have A Cess Pool

Party On, Garth. Party On, Wayne

Housebound and convalescing a day after Thanksgiving with cranial discomfort reflective of a parasitic infestation (rat lung worm anyone?) or maybe just flu, I found a little time to put pen to paper…or, in more contemporary parlance, connect wireless keyboard to iPad…and to indulge in some reruns of Saturday Night Live (considered therapeutic irrespective of your approach to healing…I think I even heard the Dalai Lama remark on the issue once).

Dove Meets Window Meets Future Ornithologist

Battle of Four Turkeys (not to be confused with the Battle of Five Armies)

Ah Thanksgiving… As midnight Thursday sales events, Black Friday, football, and other recently introduced yet unrelated “traditions” made further inroads toward the destruction of the original meaning of this celebratory day, we found ourselves with much in our lives for which to thank the good Jehovah. Mortgage free, healthy, living in tropical Hawaii…and despite the best efforts of the IRS and Obamacare, we are not destitute yet. (By the way, to whom or what do atheists–or even agnostics, for that matter–give thanks when (if) they choose to participate in the trappings of this holiday?)

Site Prep Continued

This year, though celebrated far from kith and blood kin due to our recent move, Turkey Day was blessed with wonderful victuals and camaraderie with neighbors cum surrogate family. Asked by a traveling acquaintance to house sit, we abandoned the campsite and indulged in our unexpected access to a proper oven and dinner table with a solid roof over head for the feast. (In the tradition of the Apollo program engineers (or maybe just McGyver), I was beginning to devise a new technique for slow roasting hefty fowl over a Coleman camp stove with the aid of some baling wire and lava rock, but that will have to wait.)

Kaiser Soze did not make an appearance, but the Usual Suspects were all there. My San Francisco-born wild rice, ginger, and crab stuffing, the bride’s “from scratch” cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie (from an actual pumpkin that we were gifted), green beans in bacon drippings… The boy assisted one neighbor unearth fresh sweet potatoes from their garden just the morning of the feast (certainly the freshest sweet potatoes ever served at one of our holiday meals). Let’s not forget the avocado pie made by our eldest from buttery sweet globes plucked from a tree right in the yard of the house we were sitting.

Pumpkin, Avocado, and Chocolate-avocado Mouse Pies

Through the miracle of grocery store reward programs, we scored free turkey. Not one…not two…not even three…but four, count’em four, free turkeys. On Turkey Day, our 16-year-old cooked up a scrumptious bird slathered in butter and Italian herbs. Even our vegetarian neighbors could not resist the juicy meat and crispy skin. We should have enough turkey sandwiches to last through next Spring. (We had hoped to raise our own turkey for this holiday, but our living circumstances and timing pushed that goal into next year.)

Foundation Prep Begins

The day after the big feast saw the family joining a church potluck at the shore. Nothing better to help process all that tryptophan than a little Hawaiian sunshine. Then, on Saturday, two of the kids disappeared to the nearby property of church friends for a youth group campout, complete with the roasting of–you guessed it–another turkey. A good holiday all around.

First Harvest of Bananas From our Property

Also of celebratory note during this period was our attendance of, and help with, the wedding of the son of church friends who we met on our very first exploratory trip here to the Big Island. The entire church was invited, giving you some sense of the more family-like feel of our congregation. Though new arrivals, we were thrown right into the mix–from guarding food between ceremony and reception, to serving hot plates, to stringing decorations. (This reminds me to note here that we have lost track of how many times members of the church have invited us to drop by their finished homes for hot showers with real running water or to just tuck out of the rain under a solid roof. This reminds me, too, of the quote of the month, proclaimed at the wedding: “For people living in a campsite, you guys look awefully good!”)

The Dark Side of Paradise

So…what’s the latest on the crime front, you ask? Well…as we wait for the local five-oh to organize our first Neighborhood Watch meeting, we continue to witness–and phone in–all manner of strange (likely meth related) activity along our country road and nearby surroundings. The highlight this month, however, was the vehicular police chase of a stolen car right down the road that fronts our property. The car smashed through a community access control gate and charged the police! Woo hoo! Who ever knew that there was a Hawaiian equivalent of the Dukes of Hazard?

Ever heard of jumping maggots? Me neither…until this month. That is why I did not recognize the little yellow bugger on my foot that vanished as quickly as it had appeared. I felt it land on my foot and, looking down, thought it was a piece of old fried rice. Then I noticed more of them…emerging from some passion fruit on a plate on the coffee table before me…and moving from table to floor…by arching their bodies and springing many inches into the air. The Island never ceases to amaze. Queensland Fruit Fly is my best guess. (I will warn you, good reader, that I am weak in entomology classification.) Here’s a photo of the spritely tikes.

Speaking of local findings and challenges, our large family tent–between the cat shredding the mosquito netting to the dog mauling the door zippers–just about gave up the ghost. We have packed it away for now, given that we have been offered the use of a small off-grid cabin just a few lots away. So…the campsite has not yet been closed down, but lodging accommodations have been halved (one small tent remaining…for now). We eagerly await the pitching of the yurt…

Assembling Storage Sheds At Campsite

Don’t Fear the Reaper (but What About the Sower?)

Blue Oyster Cult, despite their exquisite application of cowbell in their contributions to the rock genre, certainly did not have agriculture in mind when they penned the lyrics of that famous tune. But it does beg the question, “What about the sower?” Well…the sower (me, in our household)…kept busy this month.

Fresh Banana Flowers Make Tasty Salad

We began to build our collection of spices. Trees for harvesting cinnamon, nutmeg, and mace were dropped into the ground, as were vanilla bean and black peppercorn vines. (I am still on the hunt for cardamom and cloves.) Once we start producing our own salt from sea water and the herb garden matures a tad more, we may never have to buy flavor enhancing agents again.

Three types of figs were added, as were another type of mango, kefir lime, Australian finger lime (like fruit caviar), jackfruit, mangosteen, and others. A dozen gifted taro plants also joined the collection. Wonderberry seed and more blueberry bushes were introduced to their new home.

The pasture is slowly coming along and received another dose of goodies–flax, sainfoin, red wheat, barley. We began to seed the margins of a second pasture-like area with meadow species that will attract pollinators and give our future bee hives nearby stashes of highly variable nectar and pollen.

Pasture Slowly Growing In

The bride linked up with a food-producing neighbor and former entomologist (who regularly showers us with extra banana, avocado, etc.) to attend a permaculture class focused on the development of individual food security and the 100 most productive (and easy) food bearing plants to grow in our area of Hawaii. She even came home with a cutting–an edible form of hibiscus–which is currently struggling to regrow a root system in a pot of dirt in our nursery. Also, we found a source of free, organic horse manure (already aged and mixed with wood shavings) and we hauled away our first ton of black gold.

I Bartered Two Seedlings for This Haul at the Farmer’s Market

Bringing Home the Benjamins

Authorized by Seed Savers Exchange as the Big Island’s first and only official distributor, we began using our farmer’s market stall to sell tiny genetic packets of wholesomeness–heirloom, organic, non-GMO seeds of everything from medicinal and culinary herbs to vegetables to fruit to flowers.

What?!?!? You are unfamiliar with the nonprofit organization affectionately known by granola crunchies the world over as “SSE”? An ignorance we shall have to remedy… Pour yourself a cup of lapsang souchong , light some tea candles, coax ye olde gramophone into producing some soothing melodies and bask in the warm glow of your flickering electronic device as you explore the SSE website.

Our Lava, Fire Coral, Kukui Nut Bookmarks

Meanwhile, the older girls landed some adhoc work cleaning out returned rental camper vans just up the road from our place, and the boy locked into some paid labor with a couple who live just a few lots away from ours. Each kid has decided to invest in our company’s new seed sale income stream by funding one quarter of the initial start-up cost in exchange for one-half of the profits. In addition to our regular weekend farmer’s market gig, the bride also hawked our goods at an early Christmas fair and made preparations to begin doing the same near the port when the tourist laden cruise ships roll in during the holidays.

My $3 Farmers Market Breakfast

Glasses Half Full or Half Empty

Well… My glasses were simply, but severely, masticated by our growing canine, as noted in my last post. It took several days to secure new spectacles. It was frustrating to not see clearly, but with the optimism (and enthusiasm) of Sponge Bob Square Pants, I’ll note that I was chauffeured everywhere like a rockstar by my eye catching bride (who also had to cover the paper route in my time of blindness). The design of the new lenses have added credence to our neighbor’s insistence that we are “John and Yoko” incarnate.

The Caboose

So that was November, in a nutshell. I’ll wrap up by imploring you to be good to your newspaper carrier and reminding you that, for us service industry types, tips are always much appreciated.


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