Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here We Go Again (Maybe)

Apparently, there is another possible hurricane on the way.  The kids are excited, because it is meant to hit us on PSAT day - which means not having to come to school on a Saturday to take a big test. 

I am not so excited about it, because storms are a lot of work.  I'd rather read the PSAT script and do the mind-numbingly boring work of watching kids bubble in answers with a number 2 pencil.  I'd even more so like to stay home and continue the productive work I did during our Fall Break (I canned and froze 20 lbs of pumpkin, deep cleaned the kitchen, and painted 10 interior doors). 

I suppose if it is blowing 80 mile an hour winds on Saturday, I could still paint door jambs and organize closets, but I probably won't want to.  I'll probably just be looking out the windows hoping more trees won't come down - or if they do, that they don't hit things like the house, the water tanks, or the barn.  My husband really trimmed a lot of the heavy stuff off the bigger Mexican cypress that didn't fall down, hoping to encourage the trees to snap off at the top rather than pulling out at the roots like the other trees should there be another storm - that way, they'll probably just block the driveway, rather than smashing anything vital. 

Hopefully, the storm will just scoot around us and be just a scare, because Puna district really doesn't need anymore of this.  The lava is slowly, inchingly, heading for Pahoa town and if (when, they say) it crosses the highway, three communities will be cut off from the rest of the island - including several teachers from our school.  There are alternate routes being worked on, but they will be dirt roads, very slow - and eventually, these routes will possibly cut off as the lava heads for the ocean.  That will mean a 30 minute drive to town will turn into a 90 minute drive and there will be several thousand more cars on my highway (two-lane, not really built to handle that much traffic).  They suffered a lot during Iselle (power, water, etc, out for weeks), and the lava is hanging over everyone's heads, and now, possibly another storm. 

The last one was pretty scary - and I've been through a couple before.  I think it was because it was largely at night.  I kept hearing things outside, and we could see the trees whipping wildly by flashlight, and at 8 or 9, we could see the car port had come down - and there just wasn't a lot of information coming through.  I thought, "If this is just the beginning, we're in real trouble." 

This new storm might have higher winds than the last ones, but - then again - the uncertainty is there - it might just divert and go around.  The vast majority of hurricanes in the Pacific over the years have done just that, actually, and if we hadn't just gone through one, I wouldn't even be worried. 

I guess worrying doesn't do anything, anyway.  No point.  Maybe, I'll just admit to speculating.  And I'll pick up some extra animal feed and fill the large water bottles in case our generator poops out again (it started AFTER the power came back on in August).  We do have a little 12 volt pump that can charge on solar, so we can have some water from our tanks for toilets and (cold) baths, but the drinking water is a different matter.  I am not looking forward to no cell, no land line, no internet, no lights, and minimal running water, but it's not really that big of a deal.  The only thing that bothered me was not being able to tell my family on Oahu that we were fine. 

Probably, it will be nothing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Poor Puna

It's been just over a month since the storm.  FEMA is declining to name the area a disaster area, and apparently, our state spent the hurricane fund.  If people are carrying hurricane insurance, and it reads anything like mine, the fact that it was downgraded just before hitting shouldn't make a difference - my policy says any damage within 72 hours of a Hurricane warning declaration.  I told my friend that, because she has roof damage and was a little dismayed - she didn't say whether she actually has the hurricane rider, though.

Now, there's a lava flow heading downhill.  It's moving 300 yards a day, and it's getting pretty close to some homes, but these things are unpredictable.  Some of the projections have the flow crossing the one highway that goes in and out of the area - even wiping out the main town down there.  I read an article that says they are moving a police substation and some ambulances to what could be the "far side" of the flow, so there are police and paramedics if the community gets cut off.  Somehow this feels a little ludicrous to me - the ambulances have a limited supply of medical equipment, and they won't be able to get to the hospital.  I guess they could send in helicopters, though, and something is better than nothing.

The flow is relatively close, as the crow flies, to us, but it's downhill - because our roads situation here is a bit sparse, it takes nearly an hour to drive to where the flow is, but on the map, I was kind of surprised that it's not that far.   The one good thing that might happen is that they are working to open old abandoned roads to make alternate routes - something sorely missing on this island.  There are some old government roads down near the ocean that used to go straight to Hilo dating from the time they were building the Hilo Breakwater.  We used to have a railroad on this island for the cane fields and for the supplies for the Breakwater.  I wish will still had one.  It came all the way up to my community, and the roads that ran along next to the track are still faintly marked on maps, but their largely gone. 

Well, the next few weeks should be interesting.  The mayor is making political hay over it - promising engineers right on the spot as soon as the flow crosses the road.  What an engineer is going to do about an active lava flow, I do not know, but hey, okay.  It's not like you can bulldoze fluid lava until it is well cooled.  I don't blame him for giving the people down there hope - they've been through a rough time in the last 34 days. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting for Eggs and other Rambling Thoughts

So, my pullets will be sixth months in about a week and a half.  At this point, I don't believe I have seen any eggs.  I did see some pullet sized eggs a couple of months ago, but that was too early, I think.  Kind of wondering if they are laying in the bushes - particularly all those trees that are still down and laying around in our yard - or the large piles of cut up trees that are the remnants of what fell on our driveway.  Kind of getting annoying feeding these birds and still having to buy store bought eggs.  The old hens are past my forbearance period, I think. 

Between starting school and the storm, I have broken out in weird hives.  I get a little itchy, I scratch, and the lines pop up.  I can even write on my arm with my fingernail and have word shaped hives.  Cool, if irritating.  I am just chalking it up to stress - or maybe a week of eating an ounce of almonds every day.  Who knows.  It's irritating, but hardly life-threatening.  I've never been allergic to anything, so this is just baffling.  I did have a babysitter when I was little who was allergic to 97 things - a fact which filled me with awe at the age of 9 or so, but now inspires me to a new kind of awe - his mother must have been driven absolutely nuts (no pun intended). 

The only problem with having the trees down is that three of them are laying on top of what used to be my garden.  I didn't like that garden spot much - and to be honest, the trees were always shading the spot for a large part of the day, so having them gone is probably good - but now I don't have a place that's been dug up and filled with compost readily available.  Also, the tree that broke in half rather than hitting our house fell on my roses.  It's still on my roses, and is likely to stay there until we get a break from the school calendar.  I wonder if the roses can wait that long? 

It's Cross Country season again - and guess who didn't have the guts to say, "NO!" to team mom?  Well, actually, I did say no to the girls' team - I would have to be nuts to do both the girls' and the boys' teams - but since the girls' don't have a team mom, guess what?  If they don't have a team mom - they don't get asked to volunteer or to bring anything to the potluck (Next WEEK, OMG!!!).  I have to get my parents to bring enough food for over 200 people or I have to cave and be...no, I won't. They have concessions (snack bar at athletic meets). Not going there.   I want to cry.  In fact, I have, a few times, on the sly, when no one is looking.  The only awesome thing about it is that one of our new freshmen boy's parents have a HUGE rice cooker - it cooks enough for 100 people.  In fact, they have TWO of them.  Now, that's a Hawaiian family!  Another family has a catering business, so you know, I really don't have all that much to worry about. 

I used to be so laid back about this whole thing - but then the girls' team mom drummed the fear of "failure at potlucking" into me.  Her girls have graduated, but somehow, I still feel that fear.  It's dumb; we always have enough.  We always have way more than enough.  Of course, I was counting on the girls to bring drinks, desserts, and plates/utensils....oh gosh, I just am not good at this stuff.  I don't have the time to be good at this stuff.  I thought I was doing good by offering up the boys' parents for the main dish and substantial sides - they just bring what they like anyway, but at least I could say to the girls:  please bring the little stuff - although, plates are kind of crucial, actually.  

It's all so manini; I know I am being ridiculous, but I guess you face what's in front of you, and the potluck has always stressed me beyond proportion.  Last year, I totally and completely embarrassingly burst into tears, because I was told I had to stay with the food instead of watching my kids run.  It was the first race for my youngest daughter, and I was devastated.  It was my 8th year as a XC parent - you'd think I wouldn't care by that point, but I really did.  I chalk it up to hearing my counterpart saying (as she always did), "Nancy, there's not going to be enough!" because the parents come, often, at the last minute bearing large pans of pasta and chili and it always looks like there won't be enough until suddenly, there is....  But by that last minute time, I am always wound up so tight from the implied blame that I didn't do enough, that it would fail because of me, that bursting into tears feels like a viable option. 

The coaches say that the "parents do this out of the goodness of their hearts" but really, it's their deal.  I do wonder if some parent decided to do this a million years ago (or at least 11 when our school started) and it just keeps going, or if it was one particular coach's idea, and he keeps the fiction going that it is some kind of spontaneous parental miracle every year. I love these coaches, I really do, but I feel this little kernel of frustration at the yearly speech at how wonderful we parents are - when I feel like we've been brought to this point by a certain element of duress. 

I am really not that much of a crybaby.  Really.  It's just this aspect of being an XC parent that brings it out in me, I guess.  You see, we never did the soccer thing, so all of this team mom/snack/participation thing is just not an old habit with me. 

Oh well, if my hens would just start laying eggs - it would all be grand.  I think I'd be so happy all of this would recede into a blip of annoyance.  I keep dreaming of hard boiled eggs and custard and scrambled eggs that taste a million times better than store bought...yum.  Plus, eggs are so cool.  After all these years of keeping hens, I still get so happy when I pick up those new eggs - it's like a treasure every time. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Post-Hurricane

Well, I guess it was a Tropical Storm by the time it hit us - although I wouldn't be surprised at all if the winds hit us at elevation at hurricane strength.  It's been surprisingly hard to deal with the aftermath in our area.  People are still without power, reliable phone, cell, or internet.  I feel really fortunate to have power, but my cell and internet come and go, seemingly randomly.  (I haven't shared my deep loathing for Verizon Wireless, but let me just share that they went down for over a week - and still charged me for using data.  For the 8th month in a row, I have had to argue it out with Customer Service.  Tiring - and therefore, they are losing our business). 

Our school held a hurricane drive - various necessities like canned goods, toilet paper, heavy duty garbage bags (for ice), drinking water, flashlights, batteries (hard to find commodity here).... Several teachers and lots of kids were affected.  It's been a long week and a half. 

The district got some attention because two precincts couldn't vote in the primary.  One hotly contested Democrat US Senate race was down to the wire - they needed those two precincts to determine the outcome.  Both candidates showed up to visibly help and garnered some ill will doing so - doubt they would have been here unless without an election to win.  Now the election is over, and they're out of here, and Puna is once again out of the limelight.  It still stinks in lots of the deep rural areas of Puna, though. 

I didn't have it at all as bad as some of our staff and students, but I am still so tired - like a hurricane hangover.  I even have hives, but I kind of think that might be from eating almonds every day of last week - I've never been allergic to anything, but maybe I overdid it.  It could be from stress, though - having a big storm and starting school at the same time was pretty stressful, to be honest.   I am really grateful my husband got that part-time teaching job, but even good change is stressful. 

We still have lots of trees down, but we're just leaving them for now.  Too many other projects to get done.  I won't be planting a fall garden, because three big pines are covering that spot - killed my struggling laua'e ferns, sadly. 

Hopefully, the big storms that our out in the Pacific stay far away from us (we're having an active year), and people get back their power, and the electric company and the state highways people decide that cutting all the trees that surround (and grow around) all the phone and power lines is a good idea and they upgrade our fairly antiquated phone system (in rural areas, anyway) - in other words, we learn from this. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hurricane Update

So, we were without power for 36 hours, which is much better than many of my neighbors, as well as phone, cell phone, internet, running water (for the most part).  We did have a wind up radio, but our Civil Defense was light on news on both Thursday and Friday.  In the aftermath, they are quite diligent about announcing shelters and ice and water pick-up sites, but it was maddening during the storm and the immediate aftermath not knowing - especially with Julio right on the heels of Iselle.  At one point, about 8 pm on Thursday night, the wind was so strong and we could see that big trees had fallen and the roof on part of the barn was off, and we had heard that the worst was yet to come.  It was so hard to have NO information about the track of the storm once the tv was out.  There was nothing on the radio, except people calling in with what was going on in their area.  I thought, "If it gets worse than this, we are in big trouble."  

I live in the area hardest hit by the Hurricane, but we were remarkably blessed.  My son said, "I prayed for the us, the house, and the water tanks."  I prayed for those, too, and for the animals.  It appears those prayers worked - all our animals made it through.  We left the chickens out of the coop and fed them in the horse stall which has two strong hollow tile walls.  The sheep have an enclosure that is built like Fort Knox.  The only thing that would have gotten them was if a tree fell on them - which, thankfully, didn't happen.  Several very large trees and clumps of waiawi fell across our driveway, but they didn't hit the water tank.  The greenhouse and even the papayas (which are very fragile trees) were protected by the house, but the barn carport roof fell down.  The roof fell across the cars, resting on the two (not running, project cars) convertible Spitfire windshields - they didn't even crack: the only damage was a very small dent in the kids' Volvo.  That felt miraculous, to be honest.

Our house got power-washed by the storm - all the mold and ick that built up over our very wet summer just got scrubbed off.  One big pine snapped in half - if it had uprooted like most of the other pines that went down, it would have smashed our roof. 

My family (my husband, in particular) were amazing.  We had to chain saw and haul off all the trees blocking the driveway, which took about 8 hours, just to get off our property.  We drove to town, because I knew my family would want to know we were okay.  Once we were in town, we had internet and cell phone, so I was able to tell my parents and sister we were alive.  The next day, our friends came and helped us dismantle the car port and chop trees that were going to go down.  There are two really big trees I am worried about - if they go, we could have damage to our house and water tanks, after all.  They are at least 100 feet tall, and I keep looking at them, because they are leaning just a bit more than they used to.  In the afternoon, my two sons and my husband put the car port back up! 

I used to grumble all the time, because my husband keeps putting 1 liter bottles of water in my freezers - they take a lot of space, but they really helped during the storm.  We didn't lose any freezer food at all.  My husband also keeps a 12 volt battery for the water pump - it isn't strong, but our basement bathroom had a flushable toilet and a little bit of water for the shower - it wasn't that warm because there wasn't a lot of sun for the solar, but at least after working very hard for 8 hours we could clean up a little.  Our generator froze up, so that's something we'll need to replace. 

He really tied down every thing so well, my husband, and he has worked tirelessly for the last 4 days to get us back to some normalcy.  

The freaky, spooky horse has gotten a lot friendlier over the last two days.  Every time I go outside he runs over to get close - not quite close enough to touch, but just right there.  He must have been scared.  The chickens and the sheep seem basically unaffected - although the sheep hung around up front near people for most of the day after. 

There are neighborhoods that will be without power (some of them on my road, which is weird to me - I have power, how come some of my neighbors don't?) for a week or more.  Some of the lower areas in our district look like a bomb went off.  Some of the people in the remote areas (we're on a county road) on the private roads could still be in real trouble, and no one would know.  I hear the news casters say, "People's cell phones are running out of batteries," but the real issues is that there is no cell service.  Every time the power goes out, even our wall phones go out, and cell is spotty in our area anyway, and now it is completely down.  That scares me.  I don't remember the land lines going down in power outages when I was young.  I think we may be hearing of deaths as people get more into these remote areas.  My daughter's friend's garage was smashed flat - I mean the car is about a foot thick now - if the tree had fallen a little to the left, that family would be gone, and there are many houses like that.

I'm still praying for our community.  The primary election here kind of knocked it out of the news to some extent - although that might change because the last two districts couldn't vote - and we have one really close US race.  It will bring a lot more attention to our hardest hit areas.

I'll put pictures up later; they are just taking a long while to load from my mobile device.  


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hurricane(s)

It's been awhile, but I thought it might be noteworthy to mention the two hurricanes on their way before the power goes out.  You might think we'd be used to hurricanes here in Hawaii, but, in reality, we don't have them very frequently.  The last three that had impact were in 1959 (Dot), 1982 (ʻIwa), and 1992 (ʻIniki).  I was alive and around for the the 1982 and 1992 versions. 

ʻIniki was very destructive at the north end of the state, and that's the one that comes up in the media.  I saw one Reuters article, written by a woman who grew up here, that referenced that one and said the only hurricane of note before 1992 was in 1959.  I can't figure out how she conveniently forgot the 6 days without power (and in some cases, county water) in 1982.  Barbecuing the turkey for Thanksgiving is certainly engraved in my memory.  We had a close shave in 2007, but it turned out to be nothing.  I think people (like me) are simultaneously thinking that this will be the same thing and that it's going to be bad.  Maybe if you are as old as I am you have the second thought, and if you are young like my kids, you think only the first thought. 

School was supposed to start today, but has been canceled for both today and tomorrow.  Most of the students came to campus yesterday to pick up their school computers and some were helping to prepare the garden area for the storm (taking down tarps, putting away implements).  When the call went out (the school has a system that pushes recorded messages to our phones), I heard a boy whoop with joy over the news that school was canceled.  I actually feel a bit sad, even though I am relieved we're all off the roads and safe - some of our kids commute from hours and hours away. 

Anyway, this is what we have to think about:

The barn roof is perfectly situated for our regular winds, but it is like a big wing for the direction of the hurricane winds.  If we do get the 60 mph winds with gusts to 90, we could lose the barn roof.  The chicken coup is not wind proof, so the chickens need to go in the tack room, which is fine if the roof stays put, but it means I need to take all the feed out and the tack out and clean out a LOT of chicken poop tomorrow.  The overabundance of classic, semi-working cars and kids' cars need to be accounted for.  I think, if we move things around, we can fit 2 spitfires, the Chevy, and the small hatchback in the main garage.  One more Spitfire could probably squeeze in with the tractor.  I don't know what is going to happen to my greenhouse, but I will have to hope that since it is close to the house and in a low area that it will be okay.  All the tarps we have up (over the trampoline, etc) need to be taken down.  The barn carports and the old sheep stall next to the horse stalls have old roofing.  I'm worried about those.  We'll put the sheep in the new stall, which my husband built like Fort Knox. 

I really wish we'd figured out a pond liner. With all the rain we'll be having, the pond will be pretty full for a few days - it would be nice if it stayed that way. We have 10,000 gallons of catchment.  That's awesome - unless a tree branch crashes into the fiberglass tanks.  We've had really strong winds before, so I am relatively confident that will be fine, but if it's not, it would be nice to have the pond, too.  

There are lots of things that need to be stowed away - like the cement mixer and wheelbarrow we had out to work on the new chicken coop, some fencing materials, a few odds and ends.  I am kind of wondering about the building materials for the cottage, but probably we can just move those in closer to the barn. 

So today is Iselle - and she appears to be heading, basically, right for my house.  However, we do have these two massive mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, that have always steered hurricanes around the Big Island.  They keep talking about 10-12 inches of rain - and that's just a bad day, not a disaster, in a rainforest.  We had this one storm where we had 24 inches of rain in 24 hours, and it didn't even register at my house - although when I went out a few days later there were bridges and whole chunks of our highway washed away.  We've even had 80 mile an hour winds when we lived in the shack and not even the waiawi and cheap fiberglass barn blew over - it did fall over later when we had a big muddy long period and the horse rubbed up against it (an embarrassing, early moment in homesteading)  My husband was out on the roof, putting in all the screws he never got around to in the middle of it, but nothing happened.  In town, people lost roofs, but nothing up here. 

So, again, I have this "Well, we'll see." attitude.  On the other hand, here I am in a Hurricane Warning and I am thinking about making cookies, and my daughter on Oahu is only on Tropical Storm warning, and I am flipping out about her.  She's one of those who is saying, "They always say it's going to be bad, and it never is, ho hum," and she may be right in this case, but if not, she's there, and I am here, and even those she's 22, she is still my baby.  

In a couple of days, Julio will be close to the islands.  That one, so far looks like it will go a bit north of us, so I am not even thinking about it. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trying a New Web Tool.

 I chose not to go to ISTE, but I can follow it on Twitter and learn some new tricks.  Here is a web tool called AnswerGarden.  I am going to try it in my classroom (although it just looks like an uglier Padlet, frankly)  It's easier to share on Blogger, though. 

AnswerGarden: What is your favorite project around your home? ...