Hot and Dry (August 2015)

“Music Is the Strongest Form of Magic.” – Marilyn Manson

Every now and and then, you just have to “Jam,” as the Gloved One famously sang before his untimely death.  In my world, that might mean Hindi classical tunes as much as it might translate to some AC/DC.  Tuvan throat singing?  One of my favorites.  Sea chanties and pirate song?  Love them.  Celtic ballads in spoken verse?  (Tam Lin is very high on my list with renditions by Tricky Pixie and Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club being my favorites.)  All that said, I sit polishing the last verses of this post to the tunes of Muddy Waters…  

Welcome back to the blog.

Our first Blackberry Emerged

Miscellany First

Why does miscellany always come last?  If it is worth mentioning, why cannot it come sooner in the order of things?  In a new mark of egalitarianism, this month, we first bring you the tidbits.  (Remember what they said…“The revolution will not be televised!”)

A Changed Man.  For the first time, I realized this month that, when I walk into the local farmer’s co-op, I am greeted by name by the workers.  A farmer’s co-op!  This was a great reminder of how different my life is now.  Formerly referred to as “sir” as I walked the alabaster halls of a federal government building in a tailored suit accented by a gold watch, cuff links from museums around the world, and Mont Blanc pen in the modern-day equivalent of Rome, or addressed formally by the sommelier at our local wine bar after hours, I am now heralded cordially by my blue-collar contemporaries as “dude” or “man” or “brah” as I pick up my bat guano and crushed coral.  My, how life can change…

The Boy.  Returned to the island, he promptly secured a job trimming fence lines on a local farm.  At the ripe ole age of 14, he is now making more money per hour than his dear old dad does transporting cars for a rental company.

Seed Saving

More on Work.  The bride secured a 20-hour per week gig working with the handicapped.  Can’t think of a better venue for the expression of the very big heart that beats in the buxom chest of this small woman. This puts a significant kink in our flexibility with the return to a Monday-Friday commitment (no more ad hoc beach runs), but it is right for now.  She, and I, also received an invite from Uncle Sam to participate in interviews for TSA jobs we applied for more than a year ago (you just cannot beat the federal government’s hallmark brand of inefficiency and inertia)…  Will let you know how that goes next month.  The two older girls took over the wife’s portion of work on the paper route, and eldest (a.k.a. “Slim”) began working a full day on Saturdays at a Thai restaurant, where the owner and workers immediately adopted and began trying to fatten up their fellow countryman.  (I feel like we have morphed into that Jamaican family popularized by the Wayan brothers on In Living Color…“Whatch’ya mean you only got five jobs, maan?”)

Purple Yard-Long Bean and Collards From Our Land

College Girl.  Eldest began her “higher” education (or at least “more costly” education).  From cultural anthropology and sociology to aerial dance and pre-1500s world history, she is embracing the life of the co-ed and already planning out next semester’s line-up.  For one elective, she’s eyeing an oceanography class that would keep her out on a boat most of the time and that requires SCUBA certification.  (This place is a veritable playground for the student of science, especially in the marine and geologic realms.)

Wired.  Finally, we broke down and secured Internet connectivity in the place where we currently hang our hats.  For the cost, it is nothing like the speed and data allowances available on the mainland, but no more runs to Starbucks, McDonalds, the library, or the mall just to check email or make an Amazon purchase…  We can even stream a few hours of video each month…  We again feel civilized (almost).

Potting Out Purple Heirloom Cauliflower

Flight of Fancy

Face it.  Our lives are weird.  This month, I was asked by one of my many community contacts if I was up for a helicopter ride over the region of our district that encompasses our property to try to gauge altitude-decibel ratios of tourist helicopter overflights for the benefit of local residents.  Honestly, who could turn that down?

Early one morn, I reported to the airfield for my pre-flight briefing.  (Did you know that tourist helicopters here on the Big Island are outfitted with survival rations in the event that you go down and are lost for a few days?  I was equally surprised.  It takes only 90 minutes to drive across the entire island…  Having previously worked in Search and Rescue, to include downed aircraft incidents, if rescuers on the Big Island cannot locate you within a few hours, something is very wrong.  Then again, for those of you who really know what life is like here, “this is Hawaii…”)  

He Still Hasn’t Learned to Change the Roll

Having ridden in choppers on a number of occasions for prolonged periods in my previous life, but in less comfortable and safe circumstances, there was nothing about this ride that stood out above the typical magic of helicopter flight, except for the take-off itself.  Once the pilot had ensured that my life vest was properly secured to my waist, and had gone through the checklist and received flight tower clearance, he flashed a mirthful grin and queried, “How’s about some good take-off music?”  Not sure what to expect, but hoping it was something along the lines of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries” or maybe some Led Zepplin, I gave him the thumbs up.  I was very pleasantly surprised at what I heard next–an introduction to Count Basie’s band and the smooth crooner serenade of Old Blue Eyes. That’s right…it was the 1966 live recording at the Sands in Las Vegas…“Come fly with me, lets fly, lets fly away.”  And with those words, nose down, we soared into the Hawaiian skies.  What a jokester, and what a cultured fellow. (I should note here that the very first helicopter ride of my life was some 20 years prior with this very same company, but on the Hawaiian island of Maui, when the bride and I were luxuriating on our honeymoon.)

Our District Named “Ground Zero”

More Food Follies in Paradise

Many people ask us, “Isn’t the cost of food high in Hawaii?”  Even locals look at us baffled when we explain our current model of life.  (You know they are asking themselves, “How can they afford to feed a family of six?”)

Well…  The definition of “food” is key to this question.  A half-gallon of Breyer’s Ice Cream can run $8 here.  A bag of run-of-the-mill corn chips may run you $6.  Canned and frozen produce can cost more than local, fresh varieties from the farmers market.  The common variable? Processed comestibles.  Nosh imported from the mainland.  

Our 10-Year Old’s Rendition of Garlic Roasted Wild Squid

Alternatively, locally-raised grass fed beef finished on brewery mash or wild tuna caught just offshore by a hobbyist?  $3 and $3.99 per pound, respectively.  (We bought ¼ of a steer this month from our neighbor, a butcher.)  Avocados, guava, bananas?  Often available free…either as wild or dropped fruits or gifts from neighbors.  I have written several times about the availability of free sheep, goat, and pig meat here…  You just need to learn where to look, and you need to focus on whole food–real food.  Add in the cost saving benefits of a CSA ($16 per week for a box…and they often throw in extras without charge) and growing as much of your own produce as you can, the cost of food in Hawaii becomes very reasonable (often cheaper than what we saw in San Francisco).  Local, seasonal, whole foods…always the answer to nutrient density and, at least here, one answer to affordability.

Thus ends the sermon.

More Excitement In Our Area

Cyclops

What homestead would be complete absent at least one barnyard critter saddled with a name that harkens back to Greek antiquity?  I found this lady battered and bruised and missing an eye on our land under some tall vegetation a few days after we had two cluckers vanish entirely from behind their electrified enclosure.  

Based on our observations and discussions with other free rangers here, it looked like a Hawaiian hawk or owl had been bellying up to the table on our land.

Second eldest, a true chicken whisperer, put on the Florence Nightengale cape and went to work.  Day by day, the little lady regained strength, began eating on her own, and preening.  Once she was no longer hunkering in her cardboard box and began roosting, even sleeping, on the box’s edge, we moved her back in with the others, all of which we relocated to a friend’s enclosed chicken yard until we can deal with the predator issue.

Sibling Contracts Rarely Work Out Well For Anyone…

“If You Build It, They Will Come”

What do you call the emotion that consists of a mixture of relief, joy, frustration, and anger?  How about “reljofranger?”  (Sounds German, no?)

On business unrelated to our building conundrum, the bride this month met a senior manager in the office that has held up our permits.  Making a long story short, after hearing our story, he looked into our case and found anomalies that may indicate our 9-month delay has been for naught (other than the character-building benefits clearly intended by The Maker).  He has agreed to personally oversee our case and has asked us to resubmit our plans using our original, already excavated house pad.  (This all happened the very day we were to submit final plans using a second, yet-to-be-constructed pad.)

If this goes the way it appears to be going, it will save us at least $15k (that we do not have) and will restart our construction shortly. Prayers are welcome.  Will keep you posted.

Another Casualty of Mold (Leather in the Tropics…)

Who’s Hoo?

In the wee hours of the morn, as we travel to and fro and hither and yon to bring the good people of this island their daily print news, we frequently encounter wildlife; on occasion, we also cross paths with animals.  My personal favorite–harkening back to a brief dalliance by the boy and me with falconry–is the pueo (Hawaiian owl), experiences with which I have written about here prior.  

A special treat this month was an opportunity to observe a baby pueo on what must have been one of its first flights, for we had difficulty at first telling from its pattern of movement if it were raptor or bat. Its size, plumage, and eventual stabilization gave away its identity in the end.  It reminded me of a gently lobbed, fluffy softball in mid-air after leaving the pitcher’s mound.

Speaking of things that say, “hoo” and my longstanding appreciation for said creatures, it only seems appropriate to mention (again?) that alumni and current attendees of my alma mater are referred to as “Hoos” and that it is this esteemed body from which the venerable Dr. Seuss derived the name for his well known and lovable creatures–“All the Whos in Whoville…”  Mayhaps this gives cause for my frequent encounters with these hunters–or are they guardians–of the night…  Hawaiian Hoos unite!

…and that’s a wrap!

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