September – A Month of Two Seasons
It began in a most excellent fashion, I must admit. For starters, the bride and I discovered a little gem when we visited a local landmark, the Palace Theatre–an old cinema and stage theater complete with an organ–to take in an artsy film, but only after a live organist concluded a bout of welcoming and seating music. (When have you ever entered a movie theater to the sounds of live organ music?)
(Our Phoona Keera cucumbers started coming in…)
We hit a new (for us) farmer’s market and cashed in a gifted voucher for an overnighter at a well-appointed B&B, Chalet Kilauea, in the good town of Volcano. I was offered a Conditional Offer of Employment by the TSA and will be further pursuing that part-time income stream, and I conducted a lovely home visit with the international exchange student and host family that I oversee. It was a good season.
(…as did our African Jelly Melons.)
Then, it all went South. The bride and our second eldest departed for a three-week jaunt on the mainland to visit family at the invitation, and expense, of some missed loved ones, leaving me to play a role that you might find in Hollywood had the films Mr. Mom (house husband syndrome) and Driving Miss Daisy (chauffeur to sassy personages) been merged with Places in the Heart (single parent struggles with agricultural issues) and My Left Foot (a nerve pinched between two metatarsals on my ambulatory appendage left me limping heavily and limited in ability during the last week of my love’s absence).
(All smiles back in the Commonwealth.)
Aside from instantly becoming a single parent for 2 homeschooled kids and a non-driving college freshman requiring rides, and having 10 acres of weeds…I mean food bearing plants…to manage with two fewer shareholders to help, that foot thing really hurt (okay, maybe I was more like Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects than the wheel-chair-bound Daniel Day-Lewis). I missed three weeks of farmer’s market, had to stand down on my car transporter job, and continue juggling my gigs in the education and tourism sectors. Now, I’ve had tough assignments in my life…but this was hard. (My hat’s off to single parents and disabled food producers out there!) Did I mention that we were victims of crime twice in those 3 weeks? Read on…
(Chillin’ with the cousins…)
Crime and (Lack Of) Punishment
What blog entry regarding the Big Island of Hawaii would be complete without an update on crime? To keep this short, let me just say that, after installing surveillance cameras on our property in the wake of a forced entry trespassing and theft, we filmed a gentleman stepping onto our lot from a private road to harvest our edible bamboo. I’d share the clip here, but it is under review by the police as potential evidence.
Then, a few days later, right in the parking lot of the University of Hawaii, someone attempted to steal our sedan, an Acura Integra. The unsuccessful thief apparently used a typical window-jimmy-type device to open the car and then tried to start the engine with a modified master key. The only thing preventing success is the fact that our particular model of this frequently stolen ride requires a chipped key. The engine would not turn over and, in the end, the thief could not get the master key out of the ignition.
(A major intersection road sign that is so frequently shot at the County has resigned itself to replacing it once a year.)
Two more formal police reports now filed, I can say that in the past 18 months, I have interacted with the police more than all the other 42.5 years of my life combined. (We continue to call in a wide variety of suspicious activity, abandoned stolen vehicles, and illegal dumping on a weekly basis as we cruise the back woods of the island delivering newspapers.) Big Island aloha…
I should note that crime is an equal opportunity issue here; no one is spared. The police officer who lives around the corner from our property has seen his home burglarized, there are local judges who have been victimized, tourists get hit almost daily, a church in downtown Hilo last year had a cross statuary taken from its yard, and even the most unlikely quarters are affected. Take King Kamehameha, for instance…
…or this Buddhist temple.
(Where’s Kwai Chang Caine when you need him?)
People of the (Mac) Book
Ever since my first job in high school as a research student at the National Institutes of Health hooked me on the power and elegance of Apple’s Macintosh line of computers, I have only owned Macs, with the Mac Plus (now found in museums) being my first. Since that time, circa 1986, my family has owned many a device sporting the internationally recognizable, unmistakable Apple logo–from desktop computers to laptops to iPads to iPhones to iTouches to iPods (no one has ventured into iWatch territory yet)–and when a new one arrives in the house, it is like bringing home a new baby, a time for celebration. (Yes, we also mourned Steve’s passing as if he were a close relative. In fact, I initially set out to wear nothing but black turtlenecks and jeans for a month, but the bride convinced me that I would probably be fired from my stuffy suit-requiring job. Which reminds me, did you know that a second Hollywood film is coming out about his life in the coming days? Even Gandhi only got one Hollywood biographical film…)
Well…with the eldest matriculating at the local institution of higher learning last month, she finally settled on her academic weapon of choice for the current season of her life, and we welcomed into the home a shiny new, bouncing baby MacBook of the latest design (amazing what college savings accounts will pay for these days). Perhaps we’ll name it Lisa, in honor of Mr. Job’s legacy.
The Learning Never Stops
These two months saw a good deal of cerebral exercise and high culture for all. To begin with, in September, since our homeschool principal and head mistress (the Bride) was out of town, I (the substitute teacher) decided to add some new modules to the kids’ learning–cryptozoology, Esperanto, early Nordic folklore, phrenology, and a few other choice topics to enhance life skills for today. Dr. Seuss would have been proud…
(Blackberries ripening…IN OCTOBER!!!!)
On a more serious note, before the bride slaps me in the head, I’ll just summarize:
The lad began his dive into AP Biology and knocked out a soil biology primer at the University of Hawaii. (Did you know that microscopes are a primary farming tool today for organic, natural, sustainable producers?)
( “Queen of the Upo.” She pots, plants, harvests, and saves seeds from these monster food items and has asked to take over our small seed and seedling sale efforts at the farmer’s market.)
Dear Ole Dad (me) spent three days at the first annual natural growing symposium hosted by the fledgling Hawaii Farmer’s Union United. Chock full of learning and the best organic, locally grown food to be had on the island, topics ranged from beekeeping to the production of IMOs to financial considerations of small growers; there was something for everyone (attendees ranged from USDA researchers to grunge hippy permaculturists living in communes). The bride joined me for the closing event, an evening showing of “In Search of Balance,” a just-released documentary on natural growing that features several notable local producers who were speakers during the symposium, complete with cups of kava and “burgers” made from breadfruit. (I recommend the film, if you are interested in the current state of the U.S. food system and the fuel you put into your body each day.) Daily sessions were opened with blown conch shells, group circles, and a variety of Hawaiian chants. (My life sometimes seems surreal.)
(Never a dull moment living on a live volcano…)
Wee One decided to celebrate her October birthday by taking a few friends to a live theater production–Mary Poppins. (This after spending a day with dad buying shoes and taking advantage of local birthday deals, like a free burger platter at Hilo Burger Joint and a free cone ice cream at Baskin Robbins.) And the whole family celebrated Back to the Future Day (21 October 2015) by watching the famous trilogy (okay…I know this is not exactly “high culture” like the theater, but it comes darn close by local, provincial standards).
(A quick stop at the grocery store that is our property in preparation for the night’s dinner. A little celery, some spinach, a few yard-long beans, an upo squash… Behind the lass, to the right, you can see two of our upcoming additions…baby black mission fig trees in planter pots.)
Jobbers. Second eldest, the court jester, landed a regular babysitting gig (8-14 hours per week) and now–like her brother and older sister–is making more per hour than her old man in his rental car transporting job. That said, their work is arguably harder, and the old man stood down from the car transporting job this month as we continue to adjust our income streams in an upward direction (better pay, fewer hours, greater flexibility, “jobs” with multiple benefits is the key). (For those new to the blog, flexible and multipurpose income streams are crucial in the first several years of establishing a sustainable homestead, or so our research would suggest, and this is a key–if tiring–element of our longer term plan here.)
(Making a new batch of sauerkraut, one of the cheapest and easiest all natural sources of probiotics.)
All six of us attended a three-night international film festival at the University, exposing the kids to wholly new understandings of genocide in West Papua, the plight of Aung San Su Kyi, the injustices of the communist suppression campaign in Indonesia, and the struggles of the people of Timor Leste. (One of the kids–speaking about their many years in conventional institutions of learning–asked, “Why didn’t we ever learn about these things in school?” Hmmm…) As part of the experience, the tikes were enthralled by student speakers from the UH nursing program, geopolitical studies department, and other areas, who hailed from far away places like Burma (where the older two traveled as tots), the Solomon Islands, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea (PNG). (The experience was further enhanced the following Sunday when missionaries to PNG spoke at our church.) Priceless.
Last, but not least, and probably most scary, on the learning front, eldest was given permission by the good state of Hawaii to try her hand at driving out on actual roads.
That All So Popular Blog Segment – Miscellany
Home. Following on the good news in our last post, our building permit sailed through the final phases of permitting with the County only asking for some minor revisions to the building plans. Then, upon resubmitting, we learned that a newcomer in the department who is unfamiliar with yurt dwellings and the more-than-one-hundred permitted yurt-homes already on the island has decided to pay some additional attention to our (and several other yurt builders’) plan, causing another (let’s pray small) delay. Will keep you posted.
(Prepping pots for seeding…)
A Run For Office? The Bride and I were approached one day by the founder of a new political party that focuses on buying American–the American Shopping Party. (I swear that I am not making this up…did I recently mention the word “surreal?”) Buying local, sustainability, and all those other leanings that attract growers like ourselves are all part of their focus. To make a long story short, the conversation ended with a request for me to consider running for office as a representative of our district. Sigh… (Remember that fortune cookie I keep talking about?)
(”Please don’t bother me.”)
Chicken Like No Other. Within a 10-minute drive of our property, we found a poultry operation modeled on Joel Salatin’s famous farm in Swoope, Virginia. We pre-ordered our grass-fed, free-range, organic bird (and a pound of liver) several days before the Sunday harvest, and we picked up our prize only several hours after processing. Hands down the tastiest and healthiest bird we have enjoyed on the island (while living in Virginia, we bought all of our meat directly from a similar farm). The livers were so sweet and mild that the kids, not big liver fans, had multiple helpings. (Check it out sometime: www.punachicksfarm.com.)
(Our first passion fruit… We must hand pollinate due to a lack of larger pollinators on our land. The honey and other bee species we are blessed with are just too small to effectively work the large flowers.)
Whether you fancy the modern syncretic and commercialized Halloween brought to us by the likes of Walmart and the Hershey Corporation, you gravitate to the adaptation known as All Hallows Eve (or All Saints’ or Hallowmas) brought to us by the Early Church, you like to kick it old-school with bonfires, costumes, and apple and nut games as you herald the end of summer and pay attention to the dead as in the original Celtic Samhain (pronounced “sah ween”), or you just like to commemorate the launch of the Reformation and Luther’s nailing of the 95 thesis to the door, this day has something for everyone–from the recent Hindu immigrant to the sixth generation Irish Catholic to the neopagan to the observant Protestant. This year, as last, our clan spent time with congregation members judging costumes and chili, playing games, and scoffing down potluck nosh.
(The Joker, a skeleton, and a hobgoblin dressed as a human. Joe College was too swamped with schoolwork to join in this year…)
Speaking of goblins, have you ever wondered about the origins of the name of pumpernickel bread? It’s from the German for “goblin farts.” I kid you not. (My apologies for the digression, but if you do not learn at least one new thing every time you allow your mind to be further warped through interaction with this blog, then I am simply not doing my job.)
(Costume modification at the party…)
Hawaii Fun Facts
Did you know that Hawaii Island (the Big Island) imports 83-percent of the beef that is consumed here, though the ample pasture lands are full of bovine? Did you know that most of our local grass-fed beef is exported to the mainland for finishing on grain? Go figure…
If that is not odd enough, 95-percent of pork, lamb, and goat consumed on the island is shipped in from elsewhere, despite populations of wild pig, sheep, and goat that are so out of control that government-sponsored culls and hunting promotions are regularly used to keep them in check.
What does this mean? Well…by some research estimates, the whole state of Hawaii only has on hand a two-week food supply due to the reliance on imports. If the ships stop coming, Week Three is going to get real interesting. Food security is a dicey matter on these ill-used and oft-abused rocks in the middle of the Pacific.
(Efforts to form a Hawaiian government inched forward…)
Shifting gears a bit..did you know that the University of Hawaii in Hilo is the most ethnically diverse university campus in all of the United States with students from 40 foreign countries in attendance?
(You know that you live somewhere “interesting” when anthropologists come calling. They don’t call us all “Punatics” for nothing…)
Finally, it was recently reported in the news that Hawaii electric companies sport the highest percentage of customers with rooftop solar in all of the United States. They are also the first in the nation to end net metering for solar-equipped customers, despite a government goal to be completely free of fossil fuels by 2045. (Huh?)