Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Buzzing of Flies...

You ever hear the buzz of flies over the corpse of a large-ish animal?  I have, and those stories (gruesome, but somehow sickly fascinating) will be forthcoming - but this is a story of how we first met our neighbor....who came calling one day sure he would find the corpse of a tourist and fully expecting the buzzing of flies. 

About a year after we built our cabin, we brought our dog and two toddlers over to camp at our cabin.  (This is when we figured out that the sills of windows are supposed to be INSIDE the building)....we were relieved that the only signs that anyone had been at our cabin were a trail through the thigh high grass from the nearest neighbor to our deck.

Pretty much everyday, we would get up leisurely and leave for the day  - the cabin had no water or electric and the Big Island has a lot of things to do/see.  We would come home early because no water meant heating water to bathe the kids and we wanted to get settled before it got dark. 

Apparently, to the responsible commuters, it must have looked like our rental car wasn't moving.  One morning, as we were getting ready for my husband's job interview with the electric utility on the Big Island, we heard a voice from the forest, "Hello? Is someone there?"

It was a police officer in uniform.  He was shocked to see the cabin - he lived down the road and didn't know we'd built in (guess we hid it well enough after all).  We introduced ourselves - established that I'd taught with his sister on Oahu, that his wife was a cousin of another friend (pure Hawaii, let me tell you), but it wasn't enough to explain how happy he seemed to meet us.

Finally, he 'fessed up, "People kept calling me, telling me about an abandoned rental car.  I fully expected the buzzing of flies and some dead tourist - great to see a little family, all alive, instead."

Turns out the police officer lived down the road a bit; he and his wife became our best friends and supports as we moved through our journey from cabin to house. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The beginning....

The proper beginning is my own immediate family's teaser experience with rural living.  In 7th grade, I spent one memorable year on 7 acres in rural Wisconsin.  The closest we got to self-sufficiency was knowing people who owned a dairy, a small not very productive garden, and picking fruit already growing on the land.  But there was the dream, the subscription to Mother Earth News - the seed was sown.  

In 1990, my husband and I took all the money we saved from our wedding gifts and a year of living frugally and working like rented mules and bought 7.5 acres on the Big Island.  For those of you who live on the mainland, that might seem little more than a big house lot, but believe me, growing up on Oahu, that looks like abundance.  We didn't really know what we were doing, but at least we had the sense to look for property with dirt.  The Big Island is very young, lots of it is just lava rock - on those properties, it takes a jack hammer or dynamite to create a garden.  After that, it sat.  We visited the land and dreamed.  

In 1995, the dream took a little more concrete shape - we flew over and built a small 10x 12 cabin with 10x12 deck.  Because in the intervening years between purchase and building we discovered we had bought land in what amounted to the wild frontier, we were concerned enough to hide the cabin behind trees.  This meant that we hauled all the materials in through a small path in the forest - every board, concrete pier, nail, and roof panel.  This is while toting a one year old and a three year old on our backs.  We built that cabin with hand tools: a handsaw, a hammer, some nails.  It listed somewhat, and later, we found that we had put the windows in backward (the sills were outside), but there it sat.  Something solid to point to, a bare possibility of escape from the constricted life in a condo, and escape to a more self-sufficient life.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

Living off the Land - What's the Attraction?

Fourteen years ago, we left suburban Windward Oahu for very rural Big Island living.  We're so rural, we don't have mail delivery, county water, much less DSL internet or cable.  My husband and I started with raw land and a small (no water, no electricity) cabin and built a home and a barn.  The garden is taking a little longer.....

 We came with an intention, but absolutely the most minimum of knowledge. When we got a little more knowledge (this is hard, working at a job might be easier), we got a little derailed.  We added to our mortgage - mostly for good things like a solar photovoltaic system and education for the kids - but, good as those additions were, they keep us on the job-debt treadmill.  

We are starting again on our journey to produce a goodly portion of our own food, to live simply but well, and to get out of debt.  Most of the journey is sheer hard work and persistence, but there is a lot of pathos and hilarity along the way.  I hope you will be entertained.