Beards, Turkey, and the Force (It’s November 2015, by golly)

November is a special month, even in the Sandwich Isles.

“Turkey!,” the gluttons among you shout. “Black Friday!,” shopaholics out there cry. “Confirmed Dengue Fever cases on the Big Island broke the 112 person mark!,” some smart Alec in the back mumbles.

Yes…yes, but it is much more than that. For starters, for charity inclined men across the land, it is also Movember. Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow…

It is also that magical time of the year when the Hammacher Schlemmer holiday catalog finds you, no matter how many times you have moved and how discreet you are with your new address. Just now laying mine down after some contemplative browsing here on a rock in the middle of the Pacific, I have to wonder how I (and anyone in the developing world) have managed to struggle through another year without an R2D2 humidifier, an outdoor heated cat shelter, or a bioluminescent dinosaur sculpture.

(Our First Taro Root…time for some poi)

In our family, November is also marked by two traditions that commence the day after Thanksgiving and continue until New Years Day. First, the Christmas tunes come out and fill our airspace anytime aural entertainment is sought, even here in this bastion of Island music. (Holiday melodies of Stevie Wonder, Ray Stevens, Chuck Berry, and Michael Buble caress my ears as I type this missive.) Second, the Christmas movies come out and evening entertainment time is booked up for several weeks with materials ranging from the very serious (Silent Night) to the zany (The Grinch) to the nostalgic (Polar Express, It’s A Wonderful Life, and multiple versions of A Christmas Carol (the Patrick Stewart and Jim Carrey versions being my favorites)). This year, on the post turkey feast day, we also began reading aloud A Christmas Carol to close out evening family meals. (Should be done by Christmas, no?)

(Two of the Kids Helping at Farmer’s Market)

All that said, November 2015 has an extra special twist. You see, we are only one month away from the release of The Force Awakens, an event that my generation has awaited for a decade and has pondered since Return of the Jedi left us hanging some 32 years ago–a cause celebre, indeed. We set out this month to get ourselves into a proper state of mind (and frenzy)…we went back and watched the six original films and key affiliated pieces (Fan Boys, Space Balls, the Family Guy parodies, and Ani, The Musical). We also arranged a group outing to watch the new release in December. (Yes, we are a family of nerds. Yes, we play D&D, too. Yes, we attend Renaissance Festivals in full costume. No, we have not yet joined the local chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism, but probably will in good time.)

The Month’s Highlights

T-Day Highlights. Two new favorites graced the table this year–butternut squash with cardamom pie and a sauce made from roselle grown on our property (somewhere between traditional cranberry sauce and blackberry preserves). Outstanding. 

(One of Our Roselle Plants)

Our elderly German neighbor and his wife graced us with their company and conversation, a fresh baked loaf of bread, and songs of thanksgiving in the tongue of the Old Country. As we went around the table this year, comments of thanks lingered on things like “we have a proper toilet and don’t need to poop in a bucket,” “hot showers and running water,” “electricity,” “a solid roof.” (If this strikes you as odd, check out our blog posts from around this time last year when we were living out of a makeshift campsite on our property in anticipation of the speedy erection of our home (ha!).)

Tryptophan Overload. Back to my long-running diatribe on the wackiness of the food system on this island, through the miracle of coupon programs and other sales gimmicks, we managed to land four (4) free turkeys just before Thanksgiving. One of the birds, weighing in at a hefty 25 pounds, was the delight of the Big Day, but we will now be eating big bird for many a moon to come. (Christmas is a ham affair for us and Resurrection Day calls for leg of lamb… We will have to fit these poultry prizes into our diet elsewise. Anyone out there wanna barter for some fish?)

Luffa. Did you know that those wonderful bathing accessories consist of the dried innards–an endoskeleton, if you will–of a gourd that you can grow in your garden? We planted some luffa on our property here a while back and promptly forgot about it. One day this month, we found a maturing gourd that resembled a giant cucumber and smelled of squash, and given the large number of exotics that we have planted from Africa and South America, we did not recognize this fine fibrous fellow for what he was until the bride cooked up a curried beef dish using the gourd. Yeah…that’s right…we tried to eat a bath sponge. You cannot possibly get more fiber in a vegetable dish. (Brings to mind that old SNL short “Colon Blow.”) 

(Typical Breakfast of Homemade Guac and Sauerkraut with Sage Sausage)

Working Class. So…the bride got a raise and is now salaried for her part-time gig, she has been accepted by a better paying translation company (a third steady client) for whom she is slaving away as a translator/editor/proofreader, the boy is now getting yard work referrals for more work, my medical processing was completed for a part-time government job, I had a few more small written pieces accepted by a magazine for publication, and I started a little copywriting work on the side. And…for the first time in my adult life working in the private sector…I actually got a Christmas bonus from one of the non-profits I work for. (No such thing in the land of federal employees, aka “civil servants.”) Slowly…slowly…inching toward improved cash flow while leaving enough time (and energy) to manage our ten acres. We are definitely no longer white collar workers, and we have only dabbled in blue collar opportunities… I’m not sure what we are, which makes filling out surveys more complicated than ever. (Did I ever mention that I have gotten paid in gift cards for completing regular surveys about our crazy lives ever since we left our careers?!?!?! Given our myriad contractual jobs, we usually go with “self-employed.”)

Paperboy. The paper route saw an explosion in new customers this month, leaving me and the boy scrambling to put up new mailboxes and memorize additions to our long-standing route. More customers means more money, and that is always good. And…one of my new customers graciously left me a tip in the form of a 5-gallon bucket full of fresh picked fruit. Not a bad tip, especially for someone trying to feed six.

Musings on Education. This month, in response to the many queries we received about the kid’s homeschooling and plans for advanced education, I drafted a little piece for Mother Earth News Magazine that, for copyright reasons, cannot be republished here. You can, however, catch the multi-part article over here:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/unplugging-to-reconnect-homesteading-and-the-kids-higher-education-part-1-zbcz1511.aspx

Sundry Tid Bits. Choir practice, in preparation for the Christmas concert, was in full swing with the bride and middle two kids joining in.  The bride will also, for the first time in more than 30 years, play the piano in front of an audience, as part of a duet for said concert. Meanwhile, the boy started working on the church’s website with sermon uploads and bios of the elders based on his own personal interviews. Also, at various points in time, each of the three cars were in the shop for one reason or another. Finally, we had an offer on our last remaining asset in Virginia–our last residence there–and we are scheduled to close next month. Woo hoo! (Still no movement on permitting and yurt construction here, unfortunately.)

Brood Report

No, this segment is not about the spread of a strange bee virus or zombies; it is about our offspring. (Then again, maybe there are some parallels hidden in there.) Let’s just go in order of birth, shall we?

“Tooth Pick.” That’s Joe College, if you were wondering. This month, she joined the UH women’s intramural rugby team. Her entire body is about the size of the other players’ thighs. Her teammates have repeatedly expressed concern that they are going to break her…as in, break her in half. She has not yet had the opportunity to face members of an adversarial team. Why do the words “compound fracture” keep haunting me from my days of training as an EMT?

The Jester. Second eldest underwent a minor surgical procedure this month to remove a pea-sized growth on her back that looked much like a baby muppet or, maybe, the head of a small wolf eel. (I swear the thing had the power of speech. (I miss Jim Henson.))

Next month, more surgery as three moles will be carefully extracted from her comely mug by a plastic surgeon. (In the words of Austin Powers, “Moley, Moley, Moley!”) Health insurance covers all of this and, so, as C3PO said, “Thank the Maker.”

The Boy. His dabbling with vinegar production from bananas has been a success, it would seem. Some of the best salad topping this epicurean has experienced in his two score and four years upon our good earth. So impressed with his efforts was the local CSA, they gave him a forty pound case of apple bananas to work with…gratis. Corks and bottles are on the way. Next step? Giving samples to the few high end restaurant chefs we have on this side of the island.

Pea Pod. She is all over the map. This month, at the ripe age of 11, she announced that, when she grows up, she wants to be a missionary or a bar tender. (I’ve encouraged her to open a missions bar.) She wants to join an aikido dojo in the new year. Then she decided to take up knife throwing…

Hawaii Fun Facts

Did you know that, according to recent Census Bureau statistics, about 77 percent of the state’s residents identify themselves as “minority races,” making Hawaii one of only five places nationwide to record “majority minority populations?”

(Church Baptism, Hawaiian Style)

Have you heard that recent Gallop polls indicate that, outside of English, the two most widely spoken languages in Hawaii are Tagalog and Ilocano (both from the Philippines), followed by Japanese and Korean?  Speakers of Hawaiian number around 8,000.

(Further to last month’s post, thieves here spare no one.  This target caters to the handicapped.)

And that’s a wrap…  Until next month…

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