Turning a Corner? (March and April 2016)

A Wee Prologue

Our First Bananas From a Plant We Planted

Apologies, dear readers, for the tardiness of this update.  Rest assured that all’s well on the Eastern Front (of the Big Island).  These past two lunar cycles were brimming with activity and change–of the mind-bending and time-sucking sort, with just a touch of progress–and I am just now finding time to put quill to parchment.

But before I regale you with new tales of intrigue, or perhaps lose you in the following stream of verbosity, allow me to whet your appetite with a morsel of good news:  the construction of our home resumed following a 19-month delay, I began the TSA job that I applied for 18 months ago, and Mother Earth News magazine chose our family for their annual Homesteader of the Year Award.  (Don’t they say that good things come in threes?  Or was that death and pestilence?).

Hawaiian Hillbillies

I will also briefly note, devoted and somewhat deranged readers, that it would seem you are liking the new format of this chronicle and that you may have been joined by a few additional curious fools.  To our great surprise, three days after relaunching the blog in this new venue, total number of views in a day soared past 280.  Not impressive for some content out there (“puppy monkey baby” seems to be trending lately), but surprisingly high for a family diary, at least by my estimation.  I am not sure we have 280 living friends and family members, to be frank.  (Can the deceased access WordPress?)

Now on with the story…

Caprese, dressed avocado, and Cappolini Alio Olio Diablo (A glorious meal whipped up by the kids one Eve when I took the lady out on the town. They were so proud, they sent us this photo while we were out.)

On the Road Again

In our former lives, with careers that required domicile relocation every two-to-three years, we developed thick emotional calluses to the pain of nomadic life–missing and damaged household effects, change-of-address woes, ever shifting and new environs and acquaintances.  We also learned to navigate, and navigate well, the challenge and art of the logistics of the move, particularly with multiple small children and pets in tow.

This April, as hinted at in the last post, reaching deep down into the depths of our suppressed memories of days bygone, we tapped our dormant Bedouin-like skill sets and again packed up and shipped out with bright smiles and a song on our lips.  (If you did not already know, soul and funk are two genres that are particularly well suited to packing, moving, and unpacking–Sam and Dave, Earth Wind and Fire, Bo Didley, and whatnot.)

Packing Up

Essentially living out of suitcases for the past two years, this type of move is rather simple by comparison with what we have endured in the past.  No furniture to worry over, no broken glassware to mourn, no need to again fix that priceless Cambodian statuary that we usually display proudly over the privy.  Just a simple relocation from one temporary abode to the next as we await the construction of our yurt-lanai complex.

Ready for Shipment

(For those who are just joining the saga, and those who do not pay attention, by the grace of God, as executed through some of His faithful, we have over the past year found refuge in a house that needed sitting, quite literally sparing us from peering over the brink of insolvency while government bureaucracy and/or draftsman incompetence (depending on with whom you speak) delayed our ability to build our own abode more quickly and within budget.  The new digs are a vacation property–comfy, but pricey–and we pray, for finance’s sake, to be here none too long.)

Comicon in the Sandwich Isles

In a nod of acknowledgement, if not envy, of the boy’s recently completed Smithsonian Institution course taught by Stan Lee (see the last post for more details), we bring you the monthly update on our cast and crew with a new twist, a comics theme.

imageBoy Wonder.  Side kick to the Dark Knight, what better role for a teen lad?  The boy’s mug and a short piece on his vinegar-making endeavors were published in the March/April edition of Mother Earth News magazine (on store shelves now, or you can get a peak online here).  In March, he took up competitive, Polynesian-style, outrigger canoe paddling and began dabbling with the production of red wine vinegar.

Who’s the Big Haole In the Back?

imageBaby Bowler.  If you are unfamiliar with the Hollywood spoof on comic heroes known as “Mystery Men,” this one may be lost on you.  For the adventurous, watch the film.  For you others, just think of a small female superhero whose “power” is the use and throwing of an acrylic bowling ball that houses the skull of her dead father, with whom she frequently converses.  This month, the wee lass (aka Pea Pod), began her walk

Time for a Sleepover!!!

down the path of Aikido and she is already resembling Steven Segal (maybe a little thinner).  Meanwhile, having mastered the art of capturing and cultivating wild yeast for sourdough
bread starter, she shared some of her precious critters with a fellow baker at church, and she worked with one of her sisters to begin supplying us with the most healthful organic, wholewheat, long-fermented bread available on this rock for our traditional Sunday picnic brunches.


Harley Quinn.  Ok…as the beloved of the infamous Joker, imagethis one is more of an archenemy to Batman than a superhero in her own right, but the parallel between this female jester villain and a particular member of our brood just cannot be ignored. T his one pushed ahead with her regular babysitting gig, which–being on a horse farm–sometimes involves other chores (see photo).  She also took the AP Literature exam, began exploring the college application process, and decided to buy out mom and dad’s share of our seed distribution business so she could take over and begin pocketing more of the profit.  (She is now negotiating with her siblings to buyout their shares as well.)  Starting in March, she began manning our farmer’s market table by herself.

ElastiGirl.  I know, I know.  This stretch-skinny superhero comes from a Disney film–the imageIncredibles–but I could not match up anyone from the world of imageMarvel or DC with our very own Slim.  (Suggestions?)  imageHighlights during this period included her induction into the honor society, pressing ahead with coursework (and signing up for next semester’s courses), some quality beach time with church and college friends, and investigation of a National Guard program.

High Tea at the Local Vanilla Farm

Wonder Woman.  She loved this character from childhood, so I give it to her.  (Storm, from the X-men, may be more fitting, though.)  This time of year, as usual, the Bride was largely consumed with the

Rocking Some Sun Flower Sprouts

events (typically pain) to unfold on 15 April.  You see, when we wed some 21 years ago, I agreed to do all day-to-day bills the year ’round.  The bonnie lass agreed to do the annual taxes alone in return.  For these two decades, it has been a rough road every spring, with me barely escaping imprisonment due to the “creativity” and punctuality of my tax preparer.  (She is rather cute, so she gets a pass.)  During this time, with my new job coming through, she also gave a quit notice to her part-time work so she could focus more on homeschooling, homestead crafts, and her more luctrative at-home translation gig.  (Digital nomads, remember?)

Easter Choral Performance

The Tick.  Now let me start by saying that, if you are wholly unfamiliar with the 1980s satire on the comics genre known as “The Tick,” please plug into the cartoon or live-cast versions that are now available via the magic of online streaming.  (Try http://www.putlocker.com, if all else fails).  Once you stop rolling on the ground with laughter from geeky, yet pithy, quotes scrolling though your mind, come back here and read on.  If there was ever a superhero to fit yours truly, this blue-tights-loving bag of bluster fits the bill.  (He is, perhaps, a tad bit more in shape, though.)

My months were spent preparing for the move (paring down our food holdings and nursery stock, organizing the yard work and cleaning of our soon-to-be-vacated abode), executing the move, and coordinating the unpacking and occupation of the new,

High Tea with M’Lady

temporary lodgings.  A variety of my freelance writing pieces sold (from bits on wine to quips on ancestral and whole food diets), my gigs with two non-profits continued on, and–as noted–my TSA job finally came through, reinistating my federal benefits (cutting our absurd health insurance costs by two-thirds), restarting the clock on my government retirement pension calculations, pumping up my “401-K” equivalent, and paying me a little scratch for my 25 hours per week of labor.  (Did I mention that, since I have already served in the federal government for two decades, my leave accrual with TSA is commensurate with that of a full-time, 20-year veteran of the organization?  They even said I could keep my pony tail!  Sweet deal.)  For the first time in nearly two years, I have been able to sleep past 3:30 in the morning…I gave up the paper route.

The Homestead

In the third week of March, after waiting a year-and-a-half (some eighteen moons), the county gave us our building permit.  That’s right, living in a democratic and free country, the authorities-that-be finally saw fit to give us concurrence to use our hard earned money to build a dwelling on property that we purchased and owned outright two years ago.  (By all accounts, including from some who have personal experience, it would have likely been smoother if we arrived on island destitute, marched to the Social Welfare office, and took up in public housing, as many here do…but I digress, yet again).

I’d like to say it is smooth sailing from here, but alas, this is Hawaii, and for those of you imagenot distracted by marketing images of Mai Tais and beaches, you know just what that means.  Do not hold your breath, dear readers, and keep us in your prayers.  Our builder is aiming to have enough constructed by June (a working toilet and shower and sleeping space) that we can begin, again, to occupy our land.  Sticking to deadlines is not a strong point of the good folk of Hawaii, however, so we have secured back-up lodging to facilitate our 5th move since arriving on island.  (I forgot to mention that we can only stay put in our current place until mid-June.)  We will, as ever, keep you posted.

So…Permit in hand, we reengaged with our builder to review and tweak the blueprints.  Here’s a rough look.

imageThe builder locked in a new excavator (the last one did not complete the job correctly) to recreate the housepad in line with the modified design that has now emerged from the permitting process and our new draftsman/architect (the last one did not produce a workable design).  (I know it sounds to many of you like we are having to do, and pay for, everything twice.  If you choose to hold that view point, you would be correct.)


Baby Pineapple Coming In

We are now working through rainy days, which delay work, to trench out the new housepad and pour the foundation blocks upon which our platform posts will sit.  The restarted construction (and the squatting family of wild pigs that we previously documented) has forced us to scale back our production of annuals, but we were able this month to sink some new food-producing trees and plants into the homestead grounds–Egg Fruit, Soursop, and Icecream Bean trees and a mess of pineapple–and some of our already planted goodies (like the banana featured in the opening paragraph) began to produce.


Homeschool.  The lessons marched on.  During this time we added the wonder of Lumosity to the daily routine (check out http://www.lumosity.com) and agreed to allow them to watch the brilliant Terry Gilliam film 12 Monkeys in exchange for a discussion on bioligical warfare and papers on the implications of time travel.  (Watching children ages 11 and up wrestle with theoretical physics is a great way to pass time over a nice bottle of Bordeaux.  In fact, you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a room full of pre-teens and teens at the moment when arguments over who takes out the trash morph into animated debate over the finer points of time loops, relativity, and wormholes.)

Multi-tasking:  Husking Cacao, Watching History Channel

More Visitors.  During this time, we were graced by a visit from yet another young couple (with a few young kids) from our former professional lives.  We enjoyed some heartwarming evenings catching up, reminiscing, laughing, and–of course–eating (including an adult outing while our elder brood watched over the younglings).  As with all good visitors who trek so far to see us, we also gave them the grand tour of our budding farm of exotic weeds…free of charge…and sent them on their way with a bag of coffee that we hand picked.  Just like other recent visitors who saw the possibilities of our property and the positive changes in our lives, these friends also gave us a shot of much needed encouragement as we struggled to remain optimistic about our home building saga.  (Who is next?)

Saint Patty’s Day.  It came and went with the usual family observance of corned beef, imagecabbage, roasted potatoes, a wee wedge of Dubliner cheese, homemade Irish soda bread, and a touch of Guiness…all consumed in congenial family style to a backdrop of Celtic tunes.  Are we Irish?  No.  Was Saint Patty Irish? No.  (He was a misplaced Scotsman, by the goodness of haggis and all Lochs of note, and–in part–so are we…at least me and 3 of the kids; the other two by law.)  While we do not have leprechaun here in the Pacific, we do have menehune and I swear we were visited by a few on that day (or were they Jehovah’s Witnesses?).

Stuffing Squid with Italian Sausage for Dinner

Crime and Punishment in Paradise

During this time, we restarted our montly Neighborhood Watch (NW) meetings with a community question-and-answer session with our county prosecutor and a talk by the Big Island’s NW Educator.  (Briefings on home invasions next month!)

imageAlso during this time, in the new neighborhood where we are staying, we had a hit-and-run death about 4 blocks away, an SUV stolen about 2 blocks away, and a pedestrian robbed at knifepoint while walking around the neighborhood.  A NW call into the police resulted in the arrest of a convicted felon who was wanted under a new warrant…he was sleeping in his car (hiding out) along our paper route.

Finally, in early March, a joint task force involving the U.S. Marshalls and the ATF began a six-week operation that targeted fugitives with outstanding state felony arrest warrants.  The operation focused on fugitives who were wanted for violent crimes, including homicide, assault, robbery, firearms/explosives, sex offenses, narcotics, arson, abduction/kidnapping, crimes against children, and gang/organized crime affiliations.  Twenty-six individuals were on the Big Island (they had a combined total of 588 prior arrests, averaging 22 per person), generating $119K in bail…  That’s right!  After all the hoopla, some of these jokers were released.

Now who’s ready to vacation in Hawaii?????

Frustrated Gecko Hunting Larvae Inside of Jar

Will the Real Hawaii Please Stand Up?

Back by popular demand, here is the regular infusion of madness that some of you have begun to call “the truth about Hawaii” or “the real Big Island.”  (One fine reader even recommended that I turn these clippings into a book.)  Enjoy.

Did you know that Hawaii ranks as the slowest state in the nation in getting refunds to taxpayers?  The Hawaii state tax website informs citizens to wait 16 weeks before even checking to see when their refund will arrive.

Did you know that Hawaii is the only state in the Union that:

  • Lacks a law against sex trafficking?
  • Permits cesspools for residential human waste disposal?
  • Taxes Girl Scout cookies?

No?  How about this…  Did you know that, as of 2014, Hawaii had the lowest gun-death and ownership rate in the nation, but that as of 2016, it was one of the few states that does not have a law against using a firearm while intoxicated?


In other cheery news, as of March, Hawaii’s Department of Education had open cases imageagainst 37 public school teachers, counselors, and custodians for behaviors ranging from sexual harassment to other “inappropriate conduct” toward students.  (Before you take this news negatively, you need to understand that this is remarkably better than the last data reported, from December 2014, of 63 cases.)  In a similar vein, did you know that the state’s premier public university, the University of Hawaii, until just this April did not have a policy prohibiting professors from dating students?

imageOn a more positive–if not hard to believe–note, the Gallup-Healthways annual well-being index this year has ranked Hawaii as the number two state in the nation for “well-being.”  Hilo is ranked the fourth happiest seaside town in America.  (It is unclear if that includes all the homeless vagrants wandering the streets of the downtown and bayfront areas, or whether the respondents were sober.)

Hawaii’s branch of Farmers Union United showed the highest percentage growth of any state in 2015 and was recognized by the organization’s national-level leadership for its monthly gatherings, where chapter members get together to collaborate, celebrate and share their harvest, similar to what farmers union chapters did across the country three generations ago.

On a puzzling note, during this period, legislators introduced special bills to begin enforcing theimage law when it comes to agricultural theft (I wish I was making this up) and to enforce laws regarding incidents in which slow drivers insist on staying in the left lane (an oddly common occurrence here).  (It is a bit of a mystery as to why it requires new legislation to ensure the enforcement of already existing laws–theft and standard traffic procedures–but we welcome any measures that eek us toward the norms of civil society.)

imageIn a recent nationwide survey, Hawaii came in as the No. 1 state where you’re most likely to live paycheck to paycheck.  Despite having the third-highest median household income in the nation ($71,223), the cost of food, housing, transportation, and utilities per paycheck are all highest in the nation.

Recently released FAA data ranked Honolulu Airport as having the highest number of plane traffic mishaps in the nation for the third year running, but Hawaiian Airlines was ranked as No. 1 among carriers for its ability to stick to schedule.

Life in the Tropics (Mushrooms Growing in the Shower of our Rental)

And that’s a wrap…





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