Of Longboats and Lava and Mary Jane (May 2015)

Now…where did we leave off?  Ah, yes.  Mount Doom… Orodruin… Amon Amarth…  The volcano upon which we live…

For the first time in 30 some years, lava rose high enough in the caldera that observers could witness the site with the naked eye from the observation point within the national park.  A breathtaking display through the earlier parts of the month, with the lava rising so high in the caldera that we could see sputtering fountains and webs of molten rock glowing through cracks in the cooled surface… Due to the crowds flocking to the site, we headed up one morning around 4:00 a.m. and were surprised to find others there before dawn as well.  Watching the show in darkness and then in the light of dawn, accented by the sunrise itself…what a spectacle!

Homeschool Field Trip to See the Ancient Petroglyphs

Aside from the pyrotechnic display, it was still a month of tribulation, I tell you!  First, the passing of the King of the Blues.  I took the kids to see the Hall of Famer some eight years ago, fearing then that it may be the last chance we would get to hear the master play.  (I was not about to repeat the mistake I made with Ray Charles, the ole “I’ll catch him next time” mentality.)  Even then, B.B.’s health forced him to keep his sets short and he remained seated throughout, but the kids still remember and they are the ones who called my attention to this unfortunate news.

Then, the King of Late Night (post Johnny, of course) retired, after 6,000 episodes (more than  Carson, I must note).  I’ve watched that guy since freshman year in high school.  We miss you already, Dave.  (I wonder if my grandfather felt this way when Lawrence Welk hung up his microphone?)

Dave Sweet, father of the modem foam surfboard, was laid to rest at the age of 86, to the dismay of surf historians everywhere and a broad swath of Hawaiian shore dwellers.  And, as if that were not enough, John Nash died.  Sigh.

Hawaii Fun Fact

Native Hawaiians make up 21-percent of the state’s population, according to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Our First Pineapple Coming In

Frankly, watching cultural icons move on unsettles me, makes me feel as though the world has shifted somehow, like a piece of life just went missing.  I’d say, “I feel old,” but I really don’t; just unsettled…for the moment.

Alright…alright…enough pop culture commentary and sentimental goo.  (I think the lavender oil in the bride’s homemade shampoo is messing with my hormonal balance.)  Back to the homestead blog!  Think dirt!  Think chainsaws! And such…

Welcome to The Hippy Grill

Weed Island

As you know by now, we moved here, in part, for the growing conditions.  Indeed, most things “grow like a weed.”  The weeds, on the other hand, grow with a speed and vigor more reminiscent of microbes–maybe something akin to the mycorrhizae that can magically cover a suburban lawn in mushrooms overnight…or maybe ebola.  This, of course, warms the cockles of the hearts of many a mainland corporate executive–glyphosate sales are brisk among those seeking quick solutions (poison over prudence)–irrespective of the danger to ground water, the ocean, the soil bio-zone.  I’d show you a picture of the weeds at our place, but something a lot like the main character of Little Shop of Horrors swallowed my camera one day while I was strolling about our property.  (We are a tad behind on the mulching and the ole chop and drop maintenance.  By the way, did you know that, in the permaculture world, the polite term for “weeds” is “pioneer species”?)

Exploring A Lava Tube

There are many others who seem to also have moved here for the growing conditions, but their focus is actually on weeds…or, I should say, one particular “weed” that has gained prominence here on the Big Island.  That’s right.  The ole 420.  Mary Jane.  Pakalolo, as it is locally called.  No, recreational use is not yet legal.  "Medical" use is common, however.  (I just had a car body shop manager show me an entire mason jar filled with his “medicine”…he has the card, it is kosher.)  Just like in most corners of our great nation, recreational use is even more common and many look forward to the end of prohibition.

Baby Butternut Squash Under a Banana Plant

To give you a sense of the prevalence of said cultivar, I’ll note that I have had people here introduce themselves to me not only by name, but in affiliation with the particular variety of marijuana that they are known for having first imported to and established on the Big Island.  As a seller of vegetable and fruit seeds at the farmer’s market, I have lost track of how many times buyers have asked me to explain germination rates and growth patterns of, say a particular eggplant variety, as they relate to cannabis cultivation.  (Yes…LOTS of people here grow their own.)  I have even had Caucasians from New England (transplants here) tell me that they are Rastafarians…that they have a religious right to pass the dutchie.  

One Of Our First Fruits (Calabash Squash or Upo)

When we first bought our undeveloped lot, we were warned by real estate gurus to do a walk around to make sure that there weren’t any rogue illegal plants on our property or that illicit growers were not using our land for some “guerrilla” gardening, either of which–if found by DEA or reported by a neighbor–would not put us on good footing with the authorities.  One of our neighbors, after purchasing his land, learned that it was previously owned by a commercial scale pot grower.  He found buds and leaves in kitchen drawers and laundry cabinets for months after moving in.  

The wafting fragrance of grass is not uncommon in public places here.  Recently, while taking visiting family members to a local night market and catching a strange, not-like-tobacco-but-smokey scent to my left, I looked in that direction and had to chuckle as I watched a stoner light a doobie right under a sign that read “No Drugs Allowed.”  It is not unusual here to be invited to smoke a “j” or to be hit up by someone for papers when they find themselves short of supply.

All this said, I reflect back to our honeymoon on Maui some twenty years ago when we were approached several times in a two-week period by young, well-meaning folk who offered to sell marijuana to us fun-seeking tourists.  I suspect that the Big Island is not alone here in “paradise” in regards to the enjoyment of the leaf.

Groucho and Harpo

Back in my days as an anthropology student, I recall a linguistics lecture that touched on how the importance of anything in any society can be gauged by the number and variety of names that exists for that thing.  Just think about how many terms you know for pot or a joint or a user…

Back in my days as a fed, I recall a conversation I had one day while stomping around the Golden Triangle with an avuncular DEA Agent, who instructively asked me, “What is the difference between beer and marijuana?”  "Dunno,“ I quipped.  "Only one is legal and only one is addictive.”  "Hmmm.,“ I said.  "Wow!,” I thought to myself.  From the mouth of a frontline, drug war stormtrooper…

And for those of you wondering….  I have passed two drug tests since arriving on island.  (Even the most basic of jobs here require such measures because use is so prevalent.)  Along with visible piercings and tattoos, recreational substance use is a leading reason why many locals have trouble finding work on the island in many sectors.

Out With the Old, In with the New

With the departure last month of the elders from the Han side, we prepared for and then welcomed three cousins from the bride’s broader clan, Canadian sect, for a two-week visit that was chock full of reverie and punctuated with shore time, volcano time, museum time, weeding and planting and mulching time, lava tube exploration, and many a good meal and movie.

We miss you guys and look forward to your return.


From an ettiquette perspective, if you live with your parents after high-school age, is it socially aceptable to tell people that you are a homeschool undergraduate?  If so, what are the acceptable courses or thrusts of study that you can claim?  “Post-high-school life studies 101?” “Job-hunting strategist?”

Homestead and Farmer’s Market Report

There are only so many entertaining ways to describe planting and harvesting and mulching, and there are only so many times I can cover this ground without putting even myself to sleep, so I’ll just briefly comment that the conveyor belt continued…that we continued to drop at least 25 new seedlings in the ground each week (okra, pop corn, French heirloom squash, bush beans, lima beans, bok choy, leeks…) and to walk away with increasing amounts of wholesome nosh (heirloom lettuce, arugula, poha berries, blueberries, bush beans, tomato, and more).  Still not even close to self-sufficiency, but inching ever closer.

One of Our Giant Taro Leaves (Tasty in Stew)

The nursery (part on our property, part at our temporary dwelling) continues to grow as we strive to fill our bellies and keep up our stock of seedlings for the farmer’s market.

Speaking of ye ole market, seed and plant sales continued apace.  In fact, in addition to serving as distributors for two prominent seed companies, we began making sales of our own collected, cleaned, and prepared seed (I think non-GMO papaya was our very first sale)…

Cleaned Seed Drying for Market

…and starts that originated from seed collected from specimens out of our own garden (a unique jet-black capsicum annum that we call “Lava Pepper”) was the first to go.

The bride has made a strategic decision to look for better markets for some of her goods.  Sale of surplus produce, eggs, and honey remain a future goal due to the challenges presented by not residing on our property, though we tend to it daily.  The girls have secured a food vendor license and plan to begin hawking num nums in the near future.  The boy is focused on propagating more fresh herbs for sale (rosemary, dill, and fennel are just a few of the specimens rooting in the makeshift nursery of our current abode).

The kitchen in the home where we currently lay our heads at night is evermore looking like that of our past residence–something between a place for propagating food, preserving food, or preparing food to eat.  Here is a random shot of the counter one day showing sweet potato starts rooting in a dish, a pineapple top rooting out and waiting for planting in a bowl, and homemade kimchi going through the last phases of lacto-fermentation.

Ohia.  As you may recall, our land is covered in a local hardwood known as “ohia,” a creature so fragile that just the act of driving over its roots with a bulldozer or clearing the underbrush around the trunk can cause the sylvan giants to wither and die.  Following the clearing of our property, we were left with some twenty moribund, but standing trees and, this month, we began working with a proper tree man to bring them down, lest they dangerously come down later at their own time of choosing and manner.

Expertly Dropped Between a Banana Plant and A Bed of Chives

This fellow is, with a chainsaw and tree, what Picasso was to oils and canvas.  Dropped this timber within a two foot gap between a banana plant and bed of chives and lettuce!

Sundry and Bits

Scrivener’s Struggle.  Though our current conditions and ongoing transitional phase have really taken a toll on my ability to sit down and write anything worth publishing (or getting paid for), I was this month notified that a piece of poetry that I submitted a while back will be included in a soon-to-be released anthology, and that it is being considered for a monetary award.  The bard is not dead yet!

Crows?  Again, somewhat like those who “took the black” and joined the ranks on the great wall of Westeros, another convening of the members of Neighborhood Watch came and went.  We were regaled with tales of local car thefts, drive-by-shootings, criminals released by an imperfect court system (and out on the prowl again), and the like.  What?  You haven’t seen this stuff in Hawaii’s tourist brochures?  (One of my non-profit job roles is to assist tourists who are victims of crime here on the Big Island.  Theft of personal property from travelers is a daily occurrence.  Most victims with whom I deal are incredulous that such things happen in “paradise.”  "I mean…this is Hawaii!?!?!,“ is a comment that I often hear.)

Cashing in Chips.  This month, we set into motion wheels of a great machine that will see the sell-off of our last remaining asset on the mainland, our former residence, where the ‘rents have been staying.  "Finally cutting the cord?,” you ask.  No, no.  This has been an “all in” proposition from the start.  This is the final, strategic move to liquidate in a way that allows us to keep a wee bit more of our hard earned money.  (Though I believe the IRS has already sent us a personalized “Thank You” card for this capital-gains-inducing move.)

Paddler Rising.  This month, the wee one began expressing her athletic prowess through the medium of Hawaiian canoeing–a traditional Polynesian style outrigger event that is as popular here as soccer is back on the mainland’s east coast.  After three practice sessions at her level (10-year-old, non-competitive), she was invited to jump up to the 12-year-old category and go into competition.  Woo hoo!  (For those of you unfamiliar with the lass’s past, this type of jump has happened since she was two years old, first with tae-kwon-do and then with gymnastics. I keep encouraging her toward a career with Cirque du Soleil or a world-class international crime syndicate that specializes in art and jewelry heists, but the bride tends to frown on my guidance, despite the fact that I am a certified Career Development counselor…)

Meanwhile, the eldest registered for SAT, GED, and driving learner’s permit trials and began exploring the start of college at the local campus. Who is this person that used to call a computer a “Pee Too Too” and reveled in the chance to smear her face with mashed potato or chocolate cake?

Bringing it Home

And with that, I’ll stop.  For it is already June and time to start capturing in words things of note for that fine month, such as our one-year anniversary of arriving in Hawaii and a one-year assessment of where we stand, or sit, or lie curled in a fetal position in a corner…   Adieu


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