Poi To the World! (December 2015)

Another December in the Sandwich Isles and “winter is coming.”  (No, we don’t have White Walkers here, unless you count the growing geriatric demographic, but we have plenty of meth heads, and that’s close enough.)  Welcome back to the blog.

(A smashing harvest of roselle from our property.  They taste like cranberries and rhubarb and make great sauces, preserves, pie filling, teas, and other drinks.)

This month, while other parts of the world were consumed with celebrating Stan Lee’s birthday, lamenting the missteps of Bill Cosby, or mourning Meadow Lark Lemon’s death, we were wholly consumed with Christmas–celebrating the birth of the little Jewish dude with family feasting, neighbor parties, scripture readings and reflection, church choir concerts, and the like.  And let’s not forget the blessings and presents!  “What’s what?,“ you ask.  Well…

Our insurance company finally decided to total the van (damaged by hot-wiring thieves back in July), resulting in a nice check.  A minor, parking lot fender bender in the Jeep garnered us a free replacement of a previously damaged bumper that we had left unrepaired due to lack of funds.  We gifted our sedan a new timing chain and a friend borrowing said ride threw in two new tires.  A free Christmas ham dropped in our laps as the result of a neighbor’s purchasing error.  Our newspaper customers showered us with so many Christmas cards, we could not display them all (honestly, who gets 100 Christmas cards from virtual strangers?) and their tips and gifts simply bowled us over.  (There’s nothing like finding a crisp $100 dollar bill waiting for you at 3:30 in the morning when you stuff a paper into the cold plastic newspaper box of a faceless customer). Don’t forget that we continue to live complimentarily under the roof of a loving, lifesaving Church family.

(Processing the roselle.)

This month also brought blessings in the form of a new arrival to our church–a game-night-loving family of six from the mainland, complete with four homeschooled kids (3 girls and one boy, one just entering college), who roughly match the makeup of our brood.  New friends all around.

A quick family update…

The Elves

Joe College, before taking off for Old Virginie–compliments of a grandparent, as a high-school graduation gift–wrapped up her first semester at college with an aerial dance performance before a live, paying audience…

…and then an outing with classmates for a little old-school Polynesian cliff diving.  (I suppose Cirque du Soleil is a good back-up career for this one.)

The Jester began a full-fledged effort to brush up on SAT tricks in preparation for the exam next month.  (Her current scores are more than sufficient to gain acceptance to many good schools, but she is angling for a scholarship.)

The Boy, based on a referral from his boss on one horse ranch, picked up additional hours on another horse ranch.  While mostly shoveling manure and performing other menial tasks for now–to build the ole college account–the boss has expressed a willingness to teach the lad to handle the animals.  (Cattle drives and lassos in this one’s future?)

Wee One somehow scammed her grandma into piggybacking on big sister’s trip to the Commonwealth and went wheels up with Joe College.  All month, including via iChat when she was not physically present, she talked about beginning to study Aikido upon her return.

(Singing at the mall.)

Misses Claus

The bride locked into an overabundance of translation work, which kept her up late many a night, but also engaged that big noggin of hers in a satisfying way and helped offset Christmas expenses.  (Speaking of “the bride,” an editor of a magazine that is publishing one of my pieces tells me that this term is politically incorrect…even though my spouse finds it to be a term of endearment and many women have complimented its usage.  Sigh…)

(These squash just keep getting bigger.  Found this one hanging out of a tree on our property, five feet off of the ground.)

Father Christmas

For my part, I have picked up a good deal of freelance writing–everything from high-end steak house menu pieces on ribeye to guest blog posts on sustainable living and composting–and have even begun to receive direct orders from satisfied customers who are willing to pay me double the going rate.  Huzzah!


Childhood Flashback.  The Christmas Eve day’s outing that we organized with church members to take in the three-decade-anticipated The Force Awakens was a success; turnout was good and fun was had by all.  Seeing Han, Chewi, Lea, C-3PO, R2D2, and an Old Obi-wan looking Luke Skywalker (even if only in a few-seconds-long cameo) brought a tear to this old Lucas fan’s eye.  (Alas, if you were not in elementary school in the United States when the first movies of the saga came out, it is hard for you to understand the deep impact these modern fairy tales have played on the lives of many of us.)  I pine for the next installment.

Professor Homeschool.  In our continuing family education efforts, “hyper-homeschooling” some call it, we found ourselves back at the University one evening for a lovely lecture on electron microscopy and its use in marine science, to include creating artwork from scans of sea creatures.  (Turns out that UH Hilo has one of the only programs in the country that trains students at the undergraduate level on the electron microscope and allows them to use said device in basic research projects.)

(Our once lovely garden being reclaimed by nature in our absence.)

Cashed Out.  After some six highly unusual dead months on the typically hot Northern Virginia housing market, our last financial asset on the East Coast, our former residence, sold with the deft assistance of our longtime real estate buyer-broker, who unexpectedly offered to go out of pocket to match any funds that we were willing to put up during the sale negotiating period.  Another blessing, to the tune of several thousand dollars, indeed.

Hayseed.  Though farmer’s market sales slowed due to the fact that we were absent (had to swap out the 2015 seed stock for the new year’s offering), we started to get a number of bites on our Craig’s List ads and ended up selling off more tree seedlings than we typically would at the market alone.  The nurseryman smileth.

House Building.  Our real-life Monty Python skit continues…you know the one…about the clown show known as the Hawaii County Government construction permitting process.  One year after our house-building permit was initially kicked back, only to find out that nine-months of the delay were due to incompetence or wrongdoing of a now-fired senior county worker, a new arrival in the county office that does the final review of permit applications took a special interest in all unconventional-home projects underway and insisted on a variety of updated engineering specs that the county has not requested for similar projects since 2006.  The engineers of our yurt home scrambled to meet this fine fellow’s demands, only to be told that they provided too much information and that he needed something simpler, some drawings.  Our engineers went back to the drawing board right in the middle of the holidays and we do not expect to see something before the New Year.  (Maybe some nice crayon work-ups would do for the lad…).

(How aggressive are the weeds?  These are growing straight out of a pile of gravel…no dirt in sight.)

Nomad’s Regress.  Meanwhile, given that our current blessed lodgings are good only through March, we have begun the search for another reasonable rental (like we had the first two months here) and we have been reassured by a neighbor to our property that, if need be, we can resettle ourselves at his vacant off-grid cabin for up to five months without charge.  We do not cherish the thought of returning to bucket showers, but it does have a very useable compost toilet (better than a pail), a rudimentary catchment for washing dishes, and a clean, well-built 2-story cabin with car port and rustic camping kitchen (few wild pigs and amazing star shows at night, to boot).  Plus…it is just down the road from our property, making it easy for us to return to a more regular maintenance, planting, and harvesting schedule.

Look out Hertz.  Our sedan–long loaned out to a church member in need–was returned to us the very same day that our Jeep died (bad battery).  Once the Jeep was up and running, the sedan immediately re-entered the “market of the needy” as we loaned it out to a new employee at the bride’s place of employment, another new arrival to the island.  It seems that we are always having one of our three vehicular beasties repaired or on loan (when someone is not trying to hot-wire them), giving home-life the familiar feel of my former gig with the car rental agency.

(Speaking of gigs, did you know that 30-percent of people in the U.S. workforce now characterize themselves as “freelance,” leading economists to define a new entity known as the “Gig Economy”?  Count me in!)

(Our Charlie Brown Christmas tree ringed by gifts from newspaper customers.)

Surprise!  Being a former federal employee, I received a lovely Christmas-time letter from the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.   What?  You’ve never gotten one?  Mine cheerfully notified me that, per the recent national news stories about many thousands of feds’s personal identification information being stolen in a computer security breach, I am officially hereby named a victim and am the lucky winner of three years of free identity-theft monitoring services.  Wow.  Federal employment…the gift that keeps on giving…  (I hope the North Koreans can make good use of my credit record, though I am not sure what that means anymore for someone with no debt, angling to live in a yurt, and growing much of their own food.)

House Guest.  Then there was this guy…a most welcome holiday visitor who needed a bit of care and feeding while his owners were away.  About the size of a shoebox (don’t let all the hair fool you), he became fast-friend and roommate to the boy.  We took him on the paper route some three or four times and he rode along as if he had been doing it all his life, curled up on the passenger seat, only raising his head to check things out if we lingered too long at a stop or heard wild pigs snorting and rustling and rooting.


Home Theatre.  With the full series of the t.v. cult classic Firefly and the subsequent movie Serenity being gifts from ole Saint Nick, we spent some quality group time huddled around the largest laptop we own to revel in the adventures of Mal, Walsh, Zoe, and the rest of the crew.  While the mere existence of Fox News infuriates many, the premature cancelation of this beauty had the potential to spark riots…  To the fans out there I say, “keep flying.”

Hippy Wisdom.  There is a saying here on the island among self-sustaining, homesteading types:  “Live like peasants, work like slaves, feast like kings.“  Well…during this Christmas season, we fully threw ourselves into the latter piece of this mantra.  Pickled herring, roasted oysters, spiced wine, and charcuterie galore kept us full and warm through the break.  Another memorable holiday season of feasting and family.

Hawaii Esoterica

Contrary to the popular depictions of life in Hawaii as being generally opulent, did you know that Big Island residents 25 years and older earned an annual median income of only $30,853 between 2010 and 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and that 33% lack any college degree?  The percentage of residents living under the  official poverty line is higher than in most states.

Finally, in the category of “General Lunacy and Mayhem,” here on the Big Island during the week of Christmas, we saw yet another shark attack, the reported number of Dengue Fever cases reached 170, it was reported that the rapid dying out of our native hardwood (Ohia) has accelerated and spread due to disease, and that the uncontrolled spread of a virus is killing off bananas throughout our agricultural area and forcing scientists to look for GMO solutions. Oi vey!

Until next time…


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