Friday, December 30, 2011

Farm Chores

I must tell you - I am very muddy right now.  Although the sun is shining (and it feels like a miracle) it is still mucky in the extreme.  I scraped out the worst of it from the sheep pen, just inside the gate.  I let Minnie and her two lambs out on the front lawn to experience grass for the first time since the lambing.  I castrated the ram lamb, gave him a tetanus shot, and filed his teeth just in case that is why she is less inclined to let him nurse than his sister. 

He is peppy and his mouth is warm, but he isn't thriving as well as his sister, but Minnie isn't completely rejecting him, so I just thought I would try.  I have been holding her in a head lock and holding up her front leg to let him nurse frequently throughout the day, and he's worked out a system of nursing from behind her, stealth style.  She does get upset if I take him, so it's not a totally lost cause. 

My paint horse is suffering a massive abcess, which seems to have broken out the bottom at the point of the frog.  His sole is soft and peeling, so I wrapped that with layers of gauze pad soaked in betadine, vet wrap, and duct tape.  Two months of steady rain in the 2+ inches a day level hasn't done him any good.  He's out in the yard, too - where it is softer. 

I have a feeling we're in for a drought.  We usually have a drier period in January, but the 1998 drought which lasted four months is still in our memories.  Whenever you have an especially wet late Fall, it seems there is an especially high possibility of drought.  We're in a lot better shape compared to 1998.  At that time, we still lived in the cabin.  Our third child was a baby and the cabin was pretty open to the elements, no insulation.  When it was 42 degrees outside, it was 42 degrees inside, too.  I would get up to nurse him and I could see my breath.  We only had a 2300 gallon water tank.  We were conserving a lot and having to haul water in clean rubber rubbish cans bought for that purpose several times a week, just to have water for the horses and to bathe.  We have 10,000 gallons of capacity, but we have bigger kids, more animals, more toilets.  I am looking forward to being able to feed without having to be splashed in mud and for Ohia's feet to have a chance to heal, but extreme conservation doesn't sound like fun - at least we're all at school 11 hours a day. 

I talked to a local mechanic and his wife about trading me raising and processing a number of meat chickens for them in return for a brake job on our son's car.  She said she would help me with the processing since we're both newbies at it and she wants to learn, but she's never raised chicks, and I have, so that would be a good trade.  I figure I will give 50 a go and give her half.  The estimate for the parts and labor was about $250, I think, so that would mean $10 a chicken...that would cover the price of chicks, electricity, starter crumble, and the time to care for and process them.  I will definitely need our husbands to work together to make a whizbang plucker! 

We had a houseful last night.  The usual kids, old friends of my two older kids - all of them except my son have graduated.  Most of them are in local universities, but one was on the mainland, so that was cool to talk to him about that.  It warmed my heart to hear one of them say, "This feels like home.  It feels good to be here, again."  I had kind of a rough day, yesterday, so that just made my morning.  And the wonderful byproduct of one of these movie nights is the fact that the kids burn all the boxes and burnables to make a "bonfire".  It isn't a chore if your friends are around to help, it seems. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Minnie Finally Did It

The babies are here!  I actually was able to watch this time.  I went out to do an evening check at about 8:30 and found her with two little feet and nose emerging.  I ran in to get my youngest and we were able to watch her deliver a smallish ram lamb and a large-ish ewe lamb.  I had to clear the nose of the ewe lamb because the sac was still covering her nose, but other than that, all was well. 

In a switch from previous lambs, the white one is the ram and the black one is the ewe.  I'll need to castrate the ram lamb pretty soon here - he is related to every single ewe on the place.  It's a bummer, because I would like more of the white colored lambs.  They do look like Elvis' get; I'd rather hoped Spot caught her before he died. 

I will post pictures later - it is pouring down rain and I don't want to bring the camera out into it. 

Today is one of my kids' birthday - so we have a house full - have to check on the home fries in the oven and attempt to dislodge the cake rounds from their pans.  I am good with bread and terrible with cake.  Rather depressing. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Really, Rain, Rain Go Away

or at least, take a small break.  We had over 5 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. The 5 inch rain gauge was overflowing, so I don't have any idea of how much over it actually was.  I guess I need to get one of those 10 inch gauges. 

My husband and I did get out of the rain yesterday, because we headed over to Kona to Costco, but it was voggy and overcast, but it was warm and dry.  We talked on the 5 hour round trip about concentrating on more food self-sufficiency.  We both grew up in suburban areas, but I am more ready to start processing our own live stock, so I told him I would like to start with meat chickens and get serious about finding a butcher for our larger animals (I don't have anywhere to hang or age a 150 lb sheep).  It will be my job to do the first batch of chickens, I am sure. 

I would like to get some milk animals, too.  The sheep didn't work out in that department and they wouldn't give that much in any case.  I would love to have a Dexter cow, but goats are much more affordable and easier to immediately house.  The weekly shopping I do, outside of the every three month staples (50lb sacks of flour, big box store sized oil, etc), is mostly dairy products: butter, milk, cheese.  We bake our own bread and grow most of our vegetables.  I do buy apples, which don't grow here easily and, one of my last suburban holdouts, cereal.  Having our own milk and cheese, after a learning curve, would save me quite a lot, even taking feed and animal care into account. 

To help afford these plans (including better fencing), I am applying for online tutoring jobs to do at night.  Unfortunately, our bills reflect a two-income past, and we're working on a one-income present, so to move forward (or even to make it right now) I need a bit more.  Frankly, I am tired just thinking about working another 10-15 hours a week, plus learning to milk and make cheese, but needs must.  Now that I am over the worst of the adjustment (I hope) at my new job, hopefully, I will be able to be more active in the greenhouse and with the animals.  I have let too many things slide. 

I am guessing we've had close to 100 inches of rain in the past 2+ months, so at least I can cut myself some slack for the outdoor garden, but I have no excuse for the greenhouse! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mystery Seeds

I have a big plastic bag of seed packets.  I guess it got moved around some, and there was a handful of mystery seeds on the bottom which had fallen out of their labeled packets.  They weren't that mysterious - some kind of green, some kind of squash, and some kind of pepper, but since I have a few different varieties of each of those categories, that was as close as I got.

I planted some outside, where they will probably drown, but it was worth a try.  I planted the rest in newly cleared greenhouse pots with compost added to the homemade potting soil.  I will just have to see what comes up.

While digging in the garden in a desultory and exploratory way between rain showers, I discovered a large purple sweet potato!  I was pretty happy about that.  I found one lonely snap bean on the one half drowned snap bean vine, and pulled quite a few turnips.  Looks like an unusual stir fry for dinner tonight.  I will have to do more exploratory, careful digging in the sweet potatoes.  I am not ready to dig up the whole bunch and replant the slips, but it might be worth a little check around for more tubers.

It rained so constantly and in such high volume yesterday that we didn't let any of the animals out.  They were quite happy to run out the gate this morning.  The sheep didn't even bother to investigate the horse stall for dropped hay cubes.  The rain has been so pounding hard on our metal roofing that it is quite hard to sleep, so I am dragging around, starting chores and wandering to another one before I am completely done - kind of like that fog I remember from being pregnant - when I would walk into a room and forget why.  It's drier today - I hope it stays that way tonight, so I can sleep!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm cold...

Don't all of you who live up north laugh at me (well, you can laugh, but behind your computer screens ;) ). It's raining again and it is dark and chilly. 

But on the good side - Vacation is finally here.  We had a lovely ceremony at school today with everyone in their dress uniforms, got out of school early, and came on home.  Monday is shopping day, but shopping is in the opposite direction from home, so we didn't go.  Shopping means feed, mostly, and a little milk and cheese, sometimes some fruit, but not much else.  Sometimes I will buy English muffins, if they are on sale, and if I was lazy the day before - like I was yesterday.

I ended up making six jars of lemon marmalade, but didn't bake and didn't start any seeds. 

It's so unpleasant, even our animals who are seasoned rainforest dwellers don't want to go out.  Everyone is holed up in their respective stalls and shelters.  Sounds like a good idea.  I am glad to be home. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Plans for the Day

I am soooo tired.  I always get this way at the end of a grading term; if it weren't the week before Christmas, I would love to sleep for most of the next week.  We do have one more half day of school tomorrow, anyway.  No sleeping for me.  We went to church last night, so I did sleep in today. 

Besides sleeping until I feel more human, I like to get deep cleaning done during school breaks.  Fortunately, this break, I have a motivated almost 14 year old to help.  He wants to earn money for a new desktop computer, so he sorted and bagged the recyclables, and as I write is scrubbing the siding on the house.  We've had so much rain that the dogs have been living on the deck and they rub on the white siding - it looks grimy.  There is some mold to deal with, too.  He wants to do the windows and the screens, too.  Hallelujah for capitalism.  It occurs to me that the reluctance to clean the bathroom for the common weal and the zeal to scrub the side of a whole house after 3 feet of rain is an object lesson in the relative merits of socialism and capitalism. 

Now I just have to get the 12 year old wanting something, and she can take care of the inside of the house...hmmmm....too bad she is a contented little soul who'd rather have time with her family.  In fact, in true Tom Sawyer fashion, I just noticed that she is out there helping her brother with the chore.  She helped him with the recyclables, too, now that I think about it.  She just wants to be where things are happening. 

Well, maybe not....she just came in and said, "Are you sure this job is only worth $20?"  I went out to try scrub some of the griminess and revised my work estimate up quite a lot.  They'll be out there for hours.  Sounds like her brother cut her a deal.  Smooth operator - she helped him with the recyclables (and easy fast job) for free to show him how much more fun it was to work with a partner. 

I plan to do my usual Sunday baking and to make lemon guava marmalade today.  Marmalade is a long process - not just the water bath canning, but also the whole cutting the lemons and cooking down of the marmalade.  While it is simmering, I might be able to get out into the greenhouse and get some seeds started.  I just pulled out a lot of old stuff, mostly tomatoes and eggplants and peppers.  I saved the tops and suckers from what was still green on the tomatoes and replanted those.  I need to repot some parsley and some jalapenos.  I can pull some taro and the turnips, but that might wait until Tuesday. 

I have to iron dress uniforms for tomorrow and do the usual Sunday laundry.  I should get to work instead of writing about it, for sure! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Sadly, not lambs - I don't know how I got her due date so wrong, and why she has to walk around looking imminently due, but that's how it goes.  Someday, soon, we'll have lambs - there are definitely at least two in there.  Minnie is enormous! I could feel what felt like hard little heads on each side of her last night, squirming around in there. 

The babies I am all excited about are the pumpkins.  I planted kabocha seeds eons ago, but since we've gotten over 2 feet of rain in the last couple of weeks (not even counting the month before that), I haven't been expecting any good results.  However, as I went out to peruse the garden, I saw little golf ball sized pumpkins.  I hope they don't rot - it should be drying up, sooner or later. 

We've had so much rain that trees are sagging on the side of the highway.  Even at school, one of the trees in a decorative island is falling - it isn't even on a hill.  The ground got so soggy, the roots just pulled right up.  The broccoli and chard bed is just gone - a river appears to have run through it.  The herbs, lettuce, and turnips are loving it.  The carrots are gone, but that was as sheep thing, not a rain thing. 

The sheep (as mentioned in an earlier blog) are looking like moldy cheese, and the hens look bedraggled and have almost stopped laying.  My clothes take five days to dry on the line under the deck and the Christmas cookies turn soggy almost immediately (at least the cut outs).  

Usually, though, we tend to have a bit of a dry spell, even a drought, in late December and January.  I am looking forward to it - not water catchment restrictions, but some sunshine and drier conditions would be lovely. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Helicopter Mom Debate

My 17 year old says I am a helicopter mom.  (He did apologize for going a little far in that particular rant, but didn't retract the term).  I find myself feeling a combination of emotions - to some degree, really deep down, I find the whole argument absolutely hilarious, but at the same time there are closer to the surface layers of pain and well, irritation.  (If you looked on the darned website yourself, I wouldn't HAVE TO). 

So, anyway, me being me, I actually searched the web and found a quiz to reassure myself that I am not, in fact, a helicopter mom.  According to the College Board, I should "Stay The Course", because I am striking a balance between involvement and letting my child put his own foot in it and figure it out. 

Maybe I should print that result out, so I can wave it triumphantly in the young man's face?  Nah, probably not. 

Three more work days until Christmas Break.  I am sure the deep-down layer that finds all of this teenaged angst excruciatingly funny will come to the fore - once my finals are graded and I close up my office for the two week holiday.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Standing Up

When I texted the following story to my friend on Oahu, all she said was, "Wow!  So not you!" 

Yesterday, I was shopping at Target for a Secret Santa gift for work.  When my youngest and I came out of the store, there was a family sitting on a bench outside of the store - a mom and dad and five teeny tiny beautiful children.  Dad was scolding - at first I thought he was scolding the kids to get them ready to walk around in Target - 5 kids under 6 or so can use reminders about how to behave sometimes. Then he started with the obscenities and I realized he was berating his wife. 

I walked past them, but stopped and muttered, "I can't let this one go. This is not right."  Being basically non-confrontational, I decided I would go into the store and find a security guard.  But when I walked by that mother and saw her crying, I stopped instead and asked her if she was okay.  She was embarrassed, I know, but it gave Dad a chance to take a breath. 

I told him that I had four kids and I remember how hard it was to go shopping with a bunch of tiny kids.  That my daughter and I would be so very happy to help them do their shopping.  He told me his wife had hit the curb with the cart and all the kids fell.  I looked at them: no one was bleeding or crying. He must have seen my glance, because he said, "Well, no harm was done." 

"I am glad," I said, "But your language was pretty strong there and you seem upset.  Take a breath."  He did seem calmer, but I hope I didn't cause more trouble for his wife later.  He thanked me and I went into the car and shook.   I really don't like confrontations.  At the very least, they could go home and talk about that nosy old woman (they were pretty darned young)  and find someone else to blame instead of each other.... 

In the meantime, Adobe products are kicking my behind.  I am trying to make e-Learning modules to post on our server and the Presenter ones are so boring, so I am making trying to make content on some of the Creative Suite products.  It's uphill going and my head hurts.  It's kind of like my farm - I have all these visions of where I want to be, but it is the learning curve that hurts. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moldy Sheep

and moldy clothes, and moldy towels.... life in a rainforest...

We had a fairly dry year.  It wasn't a drought year, but it was relatively sunny.  Well, our fourth quarter is determined to catch up to the average annual rainfall.  Minnie is actually moldy.  I don't know if they other sheep are moldy, because they are black, but Minnie has a distinctly green cast to her wooly winter coat.  She is also still pregnant, but that is another story. 

The yard is mud with a few grass roots floating on top.  No matter how much bedding I throw into the stalls, it is wet and soggy the next day.  I do have to say, though, the sweet potatoes, turnips and collards are loving it - I can't tell you about the kale and the carrots, because the sheep got out into the yard and my carrots and kale are history. The pasture is probably pretty swampy, so I don't blame them - and it is possible the rain is shorting out the electric fence. 

On Saturday night, my youngest marched in a light parade.  It poured the whole time - poured like buckets being poured on the kids.  We met her at the end of the parade route, marveling that she hadn't been electrocuted by the battery operated string of lights draped around each band member (just kidding).  It was something she will probably remember for life.  The gas station convenience store at the end of the route was doing a brisk business in hot chocolate and coffee, because, for Hawaii, it was quite cold. 

On Sunday, I made 20 dozen cookies.  The kids and a friend decorated the gingerbread and sugar cookies and got a little silly with some of the leftover dough - making a foot long free form gingerbread man/alien.  I also made a triple batch of a stuff chocolate cookie dough and made three varieties of thumbprint cookies.  I filled some with white chocolate and peppermint bits, some with a peanut butter mix and peanut butter/chocolate frosting, and some with maraschino cherries and chocolate cherry frosting.  Oh, and I made a huge batch of ginger cookies.  I'd never made these before, but they were quite nice.

I gave a plate away to the friend to take home to her family and once I get some holiday cookie tins, I plan to bring some to school for my co-workers.  I believe the youngest girl brought some to her teachers today.  There is still gingerbread and sugar cookie dough in the fridge for rolling out and decorating later. 

The tree was decorated and we had our usual pupu decorating dinner.  It was very nice - much better than the last couple of years when everyone was exhausted and irritable and I ended up decorating mostly by myself.  I think it was doing the cookies and the decorating on the same day - that was the difference. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011


It happens at this time of the year.  It isn't even close to what happens in May when the clock is counting down to graduation and finals and Summer break, but there is a mini-meltdown as the semester end finals start coming closer.  Everyone's temperament gets that little bit more peppery - maybe that's why peppermint is such a favorite at Christmas?  (Okay, bad joke). 

I am definitely getting snappy. 

My final is done and ready to go.  I even copied the thing.  It's 7 pages long - 30 vocabulary words, 8 grammar exercises, 4 short character analyses, and one three paragraph essay.  I had them take another non-fiction online test today because I didn't reserve the computers for next week.  I took the test - it took me 20 minutes, but I (obviously, since I wrote it) know the answers and write quickly.  So I figure 2 hours is plenty of time.  You'd think I would just feel ready - and not just cranky. 

I will definitely have to do something different and productive this weekend so that I can reset my brain before heading into next week. 

It would also help if my ewe would deliver her lamb(s) easily, without needing help, and if (s)he/they nurse well and without worries. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting for the Other Shoe

When I watch the news, it seems like we're collectively waiting for the other shoe to drop.  There are some truly terrible things that could happen with the worldwide economy and with politics.  Since I have a wise father who watches markets, I may have been hearing about this before the economy hit the skids in 2008 which to some degree dragged it our further. I think people who homestead or approximate as closely as they can (like me) have this collective sense and the urge to act on it. 

In some odd way, the wait is dragging in itself - not that I wish any kind of expanded societal collapse on anyone, but this constant feeling of watching the danger come closer and closer in slow motion isn't fun either.  It is especially frustrating when I feel that I personally am not doing enough for my family.  Yes, I have a greenhouse and a garden and sheep (lawn mowers who are potentially food), but it doesn't feel like enough. 

I do tend to get a bit urgent about things (like my post yesterday on schools), so I am trying to keep things in perspective.  I can do what I can do.  There has been so much rain, the outside garden is doing what it is doing.  I could do more in the greenhouse, for sure, but I also have to parent my kids and teach other people's kids - and that means grading at night or helping kids with homework, or going to band concerts (one more tonight) and sporting events. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Things that Really Bother Me in Schools:

Teachers who say they do not have time….to calibrate, to discuss, to read, to do the work required by student-involved assessment. 

Anyone who says….but we’ve never/always done it that way….

Students who say…. The teacher (feel free to insert insulting epithet) gave me a bad grade….

Anyone who says….I didn’t understand, but I sure wasn’t going to ask questions….

Teachers who say….the kids are just lazy….

Parents/Students/Administrators/Media who say….the teachers are just lazy….

Anyone who says….well, our kids are just not as able as those kids in that other school….. 

Teachers who say…. Well, it’s the parents: they just don’t care. 

Parents who say….Well, it’s the teachers: they just don’t care.

Students who say… Well, I just don’t care.  

Yes, you do.  We all care.  

No one deliberately sets out to fail.  No one wants to do a bad job.  It is never all someone else’s fault, and there is always something we can do about it.  Not “someone”, “we” – we can do something about it.  We need to ask the hard questions.  We need to be willing to work in other ways than what we may expect.  We need to – all of us – put out the effort we would want for someone to put out for us. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Status Quo and Sheep

No lambs, but lots of rain, therefore status quo maintained. 

I am glad I am not Minnie.  She is obviously ready to pop and grunts when getting up and laying down.

The sheep are winning the fence wars again (we keep adding strands/bamboo, and it works for a little while, then they figure out a new way out).  The seem to like purple sweet potato leaves ....but they are leaving the turnips, carrots, and pumpkins alone, at least - and the other sweet potato variant, too. They love naval orange leaves, but leave the other citrus alone.  They love ti leaves above all else, apparently - the ti plants they can reach are nubs; fortunately, we have some ti that are well over their heads. 

We're just lucky it's only the internal fencing they want to challenge.  They haven't figured out the hog wire which runs our perimeter.    Thank goodness! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tiring Day

Somehow sitting in a room with a bunch of teachers is so much harder than sitting in a room with a bunch of kids.  You wouldn't think it would be like that, but it is.  We had a workshop today.  It was on a subject I have had LOTS of training on in the last decade, but it is always good to revisit important topics.  However, assessment is a huge elephant in the room for lots of teachers and it actually turned out to be not the most pleasant of days.   The food was good, though....

We are having dry weather after all that rain, so I am hoping that I can get some more seeds in the ground.  It is possible it is going to be fairly dry for the next month or so, because we tend to have drier - even drought - conditions in December-January.  Our rainforest weather is different than most of the rest of the state where December is the rainy month. I also want to get my Christmas decorations up, because I really love Christmas.  I know this is supposed to be Advent, and I do try not to overdo, but just having that tree up helps me prepare my heart for this special feast day. 

Minnie is still pregnant, or was still as of this morning.  I can't ask my husband to go out and check because the ram got him bad a few days ago, and he is hobbling.  Finally, my husband is talking about taking Elvis down to process - we just can't have him here anymore.  Although 80% of the time he is fairly innocuous, that 20% he is being aggressive is not worth it - plus he is related to all but one of the ewes at this point.

I have to admit that I am absolutely wiped and I know this isn't my most scintillating blog post.  Just didn't want to get out of practice...  Maybe I will have something more important to say later. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Still Waiting...

Minnie lost her mucus plug last night.  When I announced the news last night, I got two disinterested stares and two "Yucks".  I can still feel the lamb(s) moving around pretty vigorously, even though she is walking around swaybacked and sunken.  So it will be any day now, but I am hoping for the weekend, actually. 

Nothing much else going on around the farm.  It was rainy so long, the ground is still like pudding - difficult to do anything.  It was quite windy (50 mile an hour gusts), so I had hopes it would dry things up a bit, but it hasn't to any appreciable amount.  That's no excuse for the basically wasted greenhouse space, but I plan to tackle that this weekend.  Unfortunately, the greenhouse is quite far from the compost pile and the tractor working is an iffy proposition - which means plenty of work for my on-its-last-legs wheelbarrow.  Good exercise, anyway.

I am going to end up with way too many jalapenos - I threw an old pepper in a pot and there are about a million seedlings in there that need to be replanted.  I will have to make pepper jelly or really hot salsa again.... jars and jars of it.  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Drumming My Fingers....

Minnie is showing all the signs of imminent delivery, but she is taking her sweet time.  I am tempted to just go with my original estimate of Dec. 5, but what if I am wrong, and she is just as bad a mom as the first time?  That time, she'd left her first born ewe lamb in a corner and went off to have the ram lamb somewhere else.  She left that ewe lamb several times, even after I got her to accept her.  She was just careless with her lambs.  Her mom, Audrey, is a little better, so I am hoping Minnie will learn and become better.  If not, I will have to either cull her or sell her. 

Since we've had 3-5 inches every day for three straight weeks with only a little break this weekend, the stalls and pens were a mess.  My husband and I spent four hours working on them - but part of the length of time was due to the unfortunate and inconvenient stalling of the John Deere.  The connections to the battery seem a bit dicey and it was fiddly to have to jump it - probably, we need a new battery.  Our compost pile got a huge input of material - mud and muck, and the stalls are scraped clean waiting for straw when Minnie goes into active labor.  Since we used the pallets for the greenhouse tables, we'll need to figure out a new lamb jug arrangement. 

The good thing about the down time with the tractor was that I was able to apply a hoe to the garden - the rain means a huge crop of weeds.  I also found a new nesting place for the hens - they weren't laying there two days ago, so that dozen eggs was new - which means there are probably other nesting places I am not finding.  Those araucana hens are sneaky.  We've been letting them out later and later hoping they would lay in the coop, but they seem to hold it until they are out free-roaming.  Is that even possible? 

We've plans tonight that will keep us out late - hopefully Minnie will wait for us to gt home - but probably  not.  That's not the way these things work.  They seem to wait until the car drives off for the night or the day and then pop them out.  Good thing these Barbados/Katahdin cross sheep are fairly self-sufficient.  Minnie was a yearling mom and she delivered twins without incident - the delivery part, anyway.  The counting part was a different story.  She had a lot of milk, too, but she left it up to the lambs to remember where she was. 

While I am waiting, I will be drumming my fingers with a bit of impatience, and hoping she delivers this weekend or next, and not on a work day.  So far, I have been lucky that way....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am inordinately clumsy today - have burned myself making three different dishes today.  I have been doing Thanksgiving for a couple of decades now and this is the worst one, yet ...

Let's see - I spilled part of the pumpkin pie mixture on the floor and collapsed one of the pie crusts - one of the pies, therefore has a crust about an inch in from the edge of the pie.  I figure it will taste the same, but you have to wonder how that happened at all.  I burnt my finger on that one.

The pumpkin flan - I don't know how that came out - definitely put far too much cinnamon, but I only burnt the tip of my thumb. 

Turkey:  in the oven, so far so good, but burnt the palm of my hand while putting it in the hot oven.  Not sure how that happened...

I have a wall oven, and it is a bit small.  Matters are not helped by the fact that the heating element is detached at the front of the oven and drooping down.  A new wall oven is not in the budget, so on big meal days like Thanksgiving, I get burned.  I just expect at least one a year - but three is getting annoying.

I woke up this morning listing the people in my life for whom I am thankful.   I am glad I did that, because when I was in the most fiddly part of the baking and had just burned myself the second time and was inclined to be cranky  (My son says I owe enough money to the "Swear Jar" to take us to the movies), my almost 14 year old came stomping through the kitchen making boy noises.  Sometimes when I am cranky, this sort of behavior is less than appreciated, and I think he expected a scolding.  When he looked at my face and saw me smiling, I got the sweetest smile back.  The kind of smile you miss when your kids grow up and turn into teens. 

Now, that was something to be thankful for! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Now is Not the Time to Give Up

Most of the lessons in literature that lasts and the collective wisdom of the ages is that perseverance is the ticket to - well, some kind of positive result, whether it be happiness, success, what have you.  Along with that comes the assumption that there is a clear goal which you persevere towards, even when it seems that someone keeps moving the goal posts.

I have come to the realization that I have a few too many goal posts to persevere toward, and that they often are in different directions, so that two steps toward one goal means two steps away from another.  I believe this is a common affliction in modern life; I imagine it was an affliction in the past, too, but perhaps not so much as now - especially for parents, because some of your goals are actually other people's goals.  If that makes sense. 

But for today and tomorrow, the goal is food.   Pies, a turkey, mashed turnips, mashed potatoes....
It's nice to have a single goal for a day or two. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemon Bars

I have never made these before, but there was a lemon that needed using, so I made the attempt.  As usual, when I make something new and tasty, the whole pan was gone within the day.  That was the extent of my homesteading/homemaking activities on this rainy weekend. 

The outside garden got a once over and quick weed-pulling in between showers, and the laundry got hung (under the deck where it will take days to dry in this rain), and it appears that while I was work on Saturday, some of the floors were swept, vacuumed and/or mopped, which is always a good thing. 

We had the rare and wonderful opportunity to completely embarrass our teen-aged son.  We took the younger kids to the movies and ran into him and his girlfriend.  He needs to read up on reverse psychology - the more he tries to avoid him, the more pleasure I take in rubbing it in that I am still his mommy.  The young lady in question is quite lovely and was actually excited about the invitation to a decades old rock band (which is more than I can say, since I loathe, loathe, loathe this band enough to want to wash out my mouth when I find myself singing along with them on the Classic Rock station - not because the lyrics are so bad, just because they are irritating and ubiquitous).  She may not thank us later, but who knows - maybe these elderly men who should know better than to wear leather pants will surprise me. 

I am not being ageist - I really enjoyed seeing The Moody Blues two years ago, even though their bassist was wearing leather pants, but the band in question - I didn't like them thirty years ago, either. 

Well, I am well of the homesteading topic.  I'm off to buy purple sweet potatoes, since mine are still determinedly all leaves and no tuber, to make a sweet potato and haupia (coconut pudding) dish.  I am also going to attempt a pumpkin flan.  We'll see how that goes off.  I'll let you know. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Muddy Weekend Half Planned

Or maybe what I want to say is half of a weekend is planned to be muddy - since I have to work for half of the weekend, only half is available for mud-based chores.  It's still raining a good chunk of the time, so mud is the order of the day. 

I had some poi yesterday, just a little taste.  Now I want more.  I need to pull up some taro, pressure cook it, and make poi.  Yum.  My son was telling me about some poi balls he had at our school festivities yesterday, and I want to try to make those, too - although they are deep fried and sugary and probably need to be limited.

What really needs to get done is work in the greenhouse - pulling out the tag old ends of stuff and planting new food products.  The thing is I love producing food in my own garden, but on top of my engrossing full time job, actually being in the green house shoveling dirt and little seeds in the greenhouse all by my lonesome is not actually that fun.  It's an effort to make myself get out there - I have to remember how cool it is that those little seeds actually produce food.  I think if my husband, at least, came out and helped, I would feel a lot more motivated.

Sometimes my youngest comes out, but she would much rather be baking in the kitchen (or, let's face it, watching terrible re-runs on tv).  The quickest way to get her out the door is to say "horse", if you want outdoor chores. 

Speaking of horses, I haven't seen mine for weeks.  It's dark when I leave, mostly, and dark when I come home - particularly with this rain. Even if I do participate in the care and feeding, it's by feel in the gloom.  This time of year is a busy, fulfilling one as a teacher, and I LOVE Christmas, but it is a bad time for Farmer Nan, who fees very cut off from her venture. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Garden Planting and Seeds

My fashion minded eldest told me that when the economy crashes, eye liner and lipstick sales go up - they are relatively inexpensive ways for people to feel good, shop, and not break the bank. 

I am not fashion-minded, nor do I enjoy shopping in general, but my relatively cheap pick-me-up purchases tend to be seeds.  It used to be small items of tack or grooming implements, but seeds are cheaper, as the budget gets tighter.  Then, I end up with little packets of seeds in the fridge, if they need to be chilled to preserve them, or in coffee cans in cupboards.  Some of the seeds I have are years old - I plant them just to see, and sometimes I am happy with the results. 

I almost always try to buy non-hyrbid, open-pollinated seeds with the intention of seed saving, but I always end up eating all the veggies before I can save their seeds.  I need to develop some self-discipline in that area. 

It's November, and it's time to start thinking about new seeds for the new year.  What do I want to plant in my garden?  Why didn't I keep better records this year?  What new could I experiment with out there?  I know I want lots of tomatoes - and maybe some determinate paste varieties because I am dying to can some sauce - and cucumbers and peas and beans.  Maybe not so many eggplants this year - but definitely cabbages, turnips, and squash (hopefully they'll be more productive this year).  I think I will need to peruse some seed catalogs soon!  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Of Course...

Back to work after a long (rainy) weekend.  Of course it is quite a lovely day today, when I am not home to capitalize on it.  The stalls are saturated - we must have gotten 15 inches of rain in the last week - the sheep don't want to be in there, and there is no way to dry them out. 

Actually, a beautiful day down here doesn't mean it is beautiful at home - but I hope it is, so the garden and the animal housing can start to dry out.  The ground is like jello with grass. 

We had a lovely anniversary, though.  We drove to Kona, just the two of us, for a massive Costco run and then stayed for dinner at one of the nice hotels up in Waikoloa.  It's nice to have mostly teenagers that can stand a day by themselves.  Getting home to unload at 8 pm is a lot nicer when you have young men to help you carry and a young lady to help you put it all away in the freezer and cabinets, too. 

I am impressed at the growth in the turnips - they are one crop that very much enjoys the rain and isn't hurt by the lack of daylight.  I am delighted that I will be able to pull them up and bring them to Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought I might make a side dish of stir fried greens, as well, so I can use the turnip tops, collards, and the baby Chinese mustard and kale, not to mention my ubiquitous sweet potato leaves. 

The fact is, though, even with those lovely greens and turnips, so much isn't growing well - might be the lack of sun, too much rain - it might even be chickens stealing seeds, though I don't see signs of them in there.  I need to plant more!  I have so much to learn! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Taking on More....

At what point is enough too much?  My life as a teacher and a mom, particularly with the shorter days and the rain we've had in the last week, is eclipsing the push for greater food independence.  I haven't seen the garden since Sunday morning.  I have no idea what the torrents of rain have done to my seedlings.  I stop briefly to glance at the sheep as I am driving out for the day - by the time I get home, I can see the ghostly outlines of the white sheep, blotches of the  paint horse, and  most of the big gray horse, but the black sheep are hidden in the murk.  I can only hope my husband is watering the greenhouse remnants, because by the time my 11 hour day is done and it is time to do laundry, help with homework, and cook, I am not thinking about those elderly tomato plants.... 

In fact, as I typed that last bit, I remembered I picked some tomatoes and placed them on the table while I hung laundry on Sunday - I think they are still there, because I haven't seen them in the fridge (which is actually bad news for the watering bit...) 

I do somehow make time to read, though, so it isn't like I have no time to myself.... it helps that we have SSR at school, but I also read before bed.  

My husband and I are contemplating a big step in our lives which would dramatically increase our commitment to our church (right now, all we do - rather badly because no one can find the time to practice together - is play music at one Mass on Sunday).  I am not closing any doors, but I do have to say, spending one weekend a month for the next five years sitting and listening sounds like Purgatory.  I like to learn; I love the Lord; I hate sitting and listening - give me a book and a pad of paper any day over any kind of lecture, meeting, or presentation.  I fidget, I doodle, and I fidget some more.  I am sure it looks highly disrespectful, even though I don't mean it to be. 

I have a high tolerance for fidgety kids in classrooms, because I know to the very itch in their toes how it feels to be them. 

So, I am left wondering if I am really worried about whether I am capable of putting in more time doing charitable works, etc. or if I am really dreading, completely and totally, the deadly prospect of sitting and listening. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Thunderstorms

Yesterday was incredible.  The thunder started about about 10 am and by 1:30 or so it was as dark as 6 pm outside.  It felt like the lightning was centered almost directly over the school. 

It was as if the day were backward, because it was dark in the middle of the day, but the edges of the thunderstorm started dissipating at about 5:00, so the day got lighter as the evening wore on - at least until the sun actually went down.  It cleared up enough to have a bright moon shining in my bedroom windows. 

Today is brisk, but partly sunny, and quite windy.  The wind appears to be tradewind generated, so I bet more rain will occur later this evening.  In fact, my office window looks in the weather-generating direction, and yup, there are more rain clouds on the way. My office feels as cold as a refrigerator, but I am sure that is just me.  It can't possible be 40 degrees in here - even if my hands and feet feel like it. 

Once again, we've had a series of late evenings, so I haven't inspected the garden, but I imagine more seedlings are barely holding on with their toes, so to speak.  It must feel like when you are standing on a rocky shore with a rising tide sucking at your feet.  Your toes grasp for purchase but you feel like you'll float away. 

This weekend my husband and I are celebrating our 22nd anniversary.  Although I want to celebrate in traditional ways (ie nice dinner - probably cooked at home, but something special still), I hope we also celebrate by working together to get the greenhouse in order.   Given the probability of an exceptionally wet winter, I think the greenhouse is going to be my produce source - except for those ever-hardy-in-the-rain brassica (brussels sprouts, collards, mustard, and kale) and I hope some of my root vegetables, too. 

I suspect that I missed the boat on broccoli again - usually I plant it too late and it bolts.  I got it in early this year, but not early enough to have a good sized seedling before the flooding rains.  Just can't seem to get that timing right - I love broccoli, too.  It's a bummer.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Out of Step with the Weather...

We have had floods of rain alternating with a nice sunny day - of course, when I wanted it sunny, it was raining (my silk shoes won't be the same), and when I was deep into cleaning my house, it was sunny.

I am used to it; it's like some kind of rain forest rule for residents.  It will rain when you have to work outside, and it will be sunny when you have to work inside - like a specialized Murphy's law. 

We also had a smallish earthquake - actually there were two almost exactly an hour apart, but only one of them woke me up.  The one almost directly under me was so small, I didn't even feel it - I felt the bigger one down the mountain from me.  Earthquakes are kind of a by-product of living on the side of an erupting volcano.

Last week, I could see fountains in the vent as I was driving.  That is always fun.

My garden is starting to show some of the effects of the pouring rain - a few seedlings washed out of their beds - I just replanted them.  Some things are sprouting, but I have hopes that when there is a little more sun, they'll pop up -it's happened before.  Sometimes they aren't where I planted them, but as long as they grow, I am not going to complain.

The brassica and the turnips are loving the rain - and so is one variety of the four sweet potatoes I planted.  I've never had much luck with the purple sweet potatoes that I really love, but this other variety my niece gave me is growing like weeds.  I hope it will also grow roots and not just masses of lovely leaves. 

The hens are sneaking under the canvas cover to lay eggs in my manure cart.  It is the weirdest thing.  At least I found their stash before it was too late.  Now I look every day - they have been waiting later and later to lay their eggs so they can go hide them.  I look by the cat door under the deck, next to the house by the clothesline, in the manure pile, under the project cars....I know I am missing some, but hopefully, I can watch them and find their hiding places.  Sneaky little girls....


Friday, November 4, 2011

Wild Weather

I know it is nothing like the wild winter weather that happens on the continent, but the atmosphere has been unstable for days here, and it finally brought thunderstorms yesterday afternoon and last night.  I am a little tired as the light show woke me at about 3:30 this morning, but that's okay. 

Last night, I attended a play at a high school in the area.  They did the Sound of Music, and it was really great!  I am always impressed with the local high school dramatic productions.  Hilo High has an after school Performing Arts club, and their stuff is always wonderful, and the productions I have seen at other local high schools have been equally well done.  For a small-ish town, we have quite a few arts programs available for all ages.  The Palace Theater in Hilo often has local productions which involve actors from the community of all ages.  I have taught at a few different schools, so it seems I always know someone in every production.

The fact that I live fairly far out of town and the fact that once I am home, I tend to stay home means I don't see as many of the productions as I would wish, but I am glad I went last night, even though I don't think my shoes will ever recover from the flooding wet I had to walk through to get there. 

I had some relatives in last night's play, some kids I coached in elementary track, a few children of people I have worked with - it made it even more exciting. 

I will need to go out to the garden and see if any of the seedlings and young plants survived the pounding rain.  At least the sheep and horses seemed to be none the worse for wear this morning.  I guess Crazy Horse has spent enough of his life in pasture to not freak out as much at thunderstorms as would expect.  That's a relief; I have had my share of stupid thunderstorm moments where I had to run around in pastures finding witless frightened horses to bring them into the barn - all the time praying that neither of us were struck by lightning.   It seems Crazy Horse and Ohia have the sense to come in from the storm and put themselves to bed.  Very nice. 

The sheep aren't as smart as all that, but their internal clock brought them in at 5, so it all worked out - that was before the worst of the storms, but not before the worst of the flooding rain.  I am beginning to believe the adage that sheep are stupid.  I maintain, though, that they are not as stupid as chickens.  I don't think anything beats a chicken for being ridiculously stupid. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

First Time in 19 Years

Last night was the first Halloween in 19 years that I did not go trick-or-treating (or rather driving kids around to trick-or-treat)!  Since we live in a rural area, we always need to drive the kids to another neighborhood, usually Volcano. The houses are spaced enough apart, that you have to do a lot of driving - drive to one cluster of houses, walk around, get back in the car, etc.  We've done that for most of the last 15 years, with occasional excursions to Hilo to break the pattern.

Last night, one of the younger pair didn't want to go - he'd just finished a long day of school and a long play practice and since there was candy in the car for my husband, he just hopped in my car and came home.  My older son was going with his girlfriend and he agreed (lovely boy) to take his younger sister.  They ended up going to Keaau Ag Lots, which is a nice neighborhood, but the lots are big, so the kids must have walked three miles.  They came home with a lot of loot, but they were very tired.

I found a stash of eggs the chickens were hiding, so we had scrambled eggs benedict for dinner while waiting for the two to come home.  It appears that 5 of the Araucanas were hopping into my garden cart for the last three days to lay their eggs.  It's funny how you can tell the different eggs apart from different shapes and slightly different colors - Araucanas are the birds that lay blue, green, or pink eggs.  Most of my hens lay slightly oddly shaped eggs - long and skinny, with a marked point, and there is one hen that lays rough eggs (ouch). 

There's a flash flood watch in effect for my island; the skies are gloomy and gray - and although I slept through it, there was apparently lightning and thunder last night at midnight.  How appropriate for Halloween!  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Using Veggies

My vegetarian daughter is home, and I have some veggies to use up.  I was thinking about making veggie balls.  I am kind of mashing together (pun intended) a few different ideas to make these; I am hoping they will come out well. 

My idea is to cook various root vegetables until they are soft, mash them to get the right consistency, add peas and a little flour, egg and garam masala (which I have to make),  form the mixture into balls and roll them in panko and fry them in a few tablespoons of olive oil - or put them in mini-muffin pans with a small amount of olive oil which is my short cut way to make meatballs.  I am hoping they taste a little like the samosas I ate in London, only without the pastry.  Probably, I will serve them with the very last of the lettuce and some home made hummos.  It doesn't seem like a lot of food, but it does seem a little fiddly.  Maybe I will feel full just from all the handling of the food, but my family will be hungry...I should think of something else to serve with it.  Eggs, probably, because we are still in that awkward between harvests time and there aren't many other choices.  And rice, because this is, after all, Hawaii. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moulting Chickens....

That's what I assume from the dearth of eggs and the gobs of feathers blowing around on the ground, anyway.  We're only getting 4 or 5 eggs a day from our 14 hens - mostly from the 5 Buff Orpington's. It looks like the Araucana chickens are the ones most off their production. 

It has been rainy and it is getting a bit darker earlier, so that probably has something to do with it.  About half the chickens just hit their first birthday, and the other half are 18 months, so that might have something to do with it.  I will have to start chicks again this Spring. 

Minnie the ewe is looming large and laying around looking like she is approaching imminent labor, but she's got at least 4-5 weeks left.  I think she is just a whiner.  I was pretty much a whiner at the end of each of my pregnancies - especially the one where the baby was 10 lbs 10 oz....boy, was I cranky when that one went over a week overdue!   I sympathize with Minnie.  She was a terrible mother the first time around; she left one of her twins behind several times and my husband had to carry the lamb out to the back of the pasture several times.  She was only a yearling, so we'll have to see how it goes this year before making any decisions.  She looks to be carrying twins again. 

The alternate pouring rain and rather gloomy skies mean the garden is growing slowly - except for the turnips; they are growing gang busters.  I haven't been able to do much out there because of time issues and now this stupid back thing.  I was feeling a lot better last night, but I must of overdone it, because today, I am aching again.  This is getting annoying. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Yet another day I am thinking about mutton.  Specifically, ram burgers.

Remember this past summer when that darned Elvis rammed me twice?  Well, he must have damaged my coccyx pretty good, because every once in awhile I step in a hole or carry a feed bag wrong and there I am again - in pain. 

Sunday and yesterday were the worst it has ever been.  I even missed work.  I never take aspirin or acetaminophen, but yesterday, I took both - and sat with a heat pad and hobbled around like an old lady and tried every stretch I could stand without screaming.  Believe me, I hobbled out to the sheep barn and gave Elvis the evil eye, too.  I didn't expect that to help anything, but it sure improve my mood. 

My son even had to drive today because I am too sore to even attempt the clutch, although I am at work today.  For someone who prides herself on her strength and stoicism when in pain, I sure have been acting like a baby.  I couldn't sit at home and look at all the stuff that needed to be done - too frustrating.  I can't sit (or lay down) anywhere without pain, so I might as well sit at work in pain and grade papers and give the kids a laugh as I move around like a 100 year old with osteoporosis.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Here We Go!

My older's son's last race - well, last race I will see, because I am, of course, planning on him going to the State Finals!  I am far more nervous than he is, because I am also hoping for the whole team to be able to go.  He's hoping for that, too, but he cultivates this "I don't care," attitude about anything to do with school these days.  I remember everything counting too much at his age, but I guess we deal with growing up in the best way we can.  Senior year can be so stressful:  so many decisions to make and so many changes coming up that you both long for and are just that nervous about. 

My younger two have races, too, which I won't be able to go to because they are quite far away and I promised to help with the course this weekend.  I feel really bad about not being able to support ALL the kids this weekend.

I visited the garden by flashlight last night, and the hole the dog dug was in a place that didn't disturb any particular bed - she dug up the walk way and maybe edged a little into the herbs on one side and the lettuce on the other. 

I picked greens for stir fry last night:  turnip, chinese mustard cabbage, collards, the outer leaves of the brussels sprouts and, of course, my favorite sweet potato leaves.  They were very good with the eggs and rice and portuguese sausage - a change from the usual pre-race pasta. 

Oh, and I taught two math classes yesterday - of course, I taught note-taking and not actual math, because I am good at daily math, but Algebra kicks my butt.  I heard a sophomore say to a neighbor, "Why is the English teacher here? That's weird."  I was very nervous, not because it was a math class, but because it's always nerve-wracking to get up in front of a new bunch of kids and in front of another teacher.  You'd think I'd be more used to it, because I have had EAs in my class for years and because I share a room with a teacher who enjoys being able to work at her own desk and who am I to kick her out of her own room? But I am not, apparently.  All was well, though.  Once the activity was started, the kids were engaged and interested. 

The math teachers' rooms face the mala/garden area.  I kept looking out the window and wishing I could start a garden out there to grow food for the Food Bank.  I mentioned it to the kumu in charge of the mala and to the math teacher, and they are both pretty enthusiastic, so it's time to figure out who the heck you are supposed to ask about these things.  The school is quite a bit lower in elevation than my house, so it's sunnier, but there will probably be more pests.  The ground is pretty much lava rock covered with a thing layer of dirt, so raised beds are the only possibility.  Lots to think about: which kids will participate (probably 9th graders and volunteers), where I will get materials (donations), seeds/seedlings (me and hopefully, volunteers), how will we get the results on Thursdays to the Food Bank....pretty exciting.  The seniors have to do a legacy project - that would be another source for student leadership. 

I don't know why I have this urge to plant gardens everywhere to feed people. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Big Weekend

I have been coming home after dark, so the garden is a bit of a mystery, right now.  My husband reports that a dog, or possibly a couple of determined chickens, have dug a hole in the middle of the garden.  I really need to get a permanent place for a garden, surround it by a dog and chicken proof fence and go from there.  It has to be the little dog, because the big dogs spend their days on a long run line.  When the sheep are locked up, the dogs are allowed off for a bit to run around and do their thing.  We notice that they pretty much lay around where they can reach with the run line, after running around the yard for about ten minutes, so I guess the run line is long enough for them. 

This weekend is the regional final race for the Cross Country season.  It's also the last race I will see my son run in, ever, since even if he gets to states (probable), the State meet is on Maui, and I won't be going.  It's feeling a bit bittersweet, because I don't know if my other two will choose XC in their high school career, so it might be my last race, ever. 

I am the "team mom" so I am getting a bit of flack from my counterpoint on the girls' team for not getting "enough" course marshalls.  I honestly don't know what I can do beside ask - I can't fine them, or coerce them to volunteer.  Sigh. 

At work, I am braving the wild world of Math.  I am delighted that the Math teacher asked me to come in and present a lesson on Note-taking in Math class.  I will have crazy busy days tomorrow and Monday, but it's progress...people are asking me for help!  I like to work. 

My daughter is coming next week for a visit.  I can't wait.  I hope that she comes home some and doesn't spend the whole week at her best friend's house.....I miss her ridiculously and tear up everytime I think of her being at home.  I am such a weenie that way.  Hopefully, when all four are out, I am not some sad sack missing my babies.  See - I always thought, with four kids, I would completely be over the moon when they all left. 

My ten minute little break is done here - off to the rest of the day.  I even eat at my computer, trying to work out the online lessons I am making.  If only the software would do what I wanted it to.....without all the little faking-it-out tricks I need to do.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

It wasn't pumpkin, but it was good!

Unfortunately, I had a crop failure on the butternuts this summer, so it was a store bought squash.  I cubed it and cooked it in chicken broth with a chopped onion (also store bought, as I have not yet been able to grow an onion this year - I have no idea why).  I added some paprika and cayenne at the end and mashed it up with a masher - I was too lazy to pull out the blender. 

It was quite good, and I had some of it for lunch today - it was even better today than it was last night. 

I am still craving pumpkin everything, so I was happy to see that all the kabocha seeds I planted almost two weeks ago popped right up and looked strong - the plants in the greenhouse just aren't making it, so hopefully these outside versions will do well, even this late into Fall. 

The turnips, radish, mustard cabbage, and sweet potatoes are going gangbusters, and I can see quite a few carrots popping up - still no green nor red onions, which is just confusing.  Green onions, at least, usually do well up at my house, so I just don't know.

Always something to learn. 

I bought a 5 cu ft chest freezer on craigslist last week, so I am looking forward to finding someone butchering a cow.  I figure I can fit a 1/8 cow in there and still have room for the turkeys that go on sale at the grocery store this time of year.  I am a bit leery about the chest construction, but I was thinking I would just divide everything up into week size portions and then pull it out one by one and put it in the inside fridge - so one week I might end up with a steak, a pound of hamburger, and a chicken and I would have to figure out what to do with them on whichever day.  It shouldn't be too hard - to make things easier, I have a weekly rotation of basic ingredients: Monday is chicken, Tuesday is beans, Wednesday pasta, etc.  If something gets out of whack, I just switch it around.  We had chicken last night, so it's something different today.  If I can buy meat in bulk, we can eat a little more of it - right now, we eat beef about once a week, chicken once a week, and the rest is beans, pasta, or eggs. 

I helped proctor the PSAT on Saturday morning, but in the afternoon, we drove out to Ahualoa to look at a "tractor".  That's what the ad said on craigslist - "tractor".  It looked fairly big and it was very cheap because it wasn't running.  Well, when we got there it was more than fairly big - it was enormous!  It wasn't really a tractor, like a farm tractor, either - it was a one of three machines brought in to build the H-1 freeway on Oahu.  It was a monster. 

Sometimes you get that craigslist fever, like here is this deal and you want to get it because you drove hours to see it.  Somehow sanity prevailed and we said we needed to think about it.  After a few hours of thinking, it became just funny - it was so big my husband would be crashing into things, and I would probably come home and find five new ponds (it had the hugest backhoe) and no trees on the property!  It gave us the giggles thinking about it! 

Beyond that, I didn't accomplish much this weekend - desultorily pulled a few weeds and took the longest nap in the afternoon on Sunday.  I must have needed it, because I feel a lot better today than I did last week, but now I am regretting all those seeds that didn't get planted and the bread that didn't get baked....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Food Hubs

I am really fascinated by the idea of food hubs.  There a couple of different ideas about what that means - for the USDA, it means small farmers banding together to create on brand to be more attractive to larger scale buyers.  On this island, that might mean several small farms with sheep working together to be able to provide a steady supply of lamb to the resorts on the Leeward side or restaurants all over the island. 

Another definition is a central place to either garden or distribute food to the community.  I suppose you could consider a Farmer's Market (of which this island is lucky to have so many) a food hub, but I was thinking more about a program I saw advertised at church where farmer's/gardener's donate extra produce which is distributed to low-income seniors one day a week.  A similar idea is the arrangement someone on a sustainability group (internet based) I belong to made with the Hilo Food Bank.  They've agreed to accept produce dontations from gardener's/farmer's on Thursdays for distribution on Fridays to needy families.  The group has been asked to "grow an extra row" for the community. 

I would sure like to get that even more organized.  There is a church near where I live which hosts a charter school during the week, and there is a community center nearby.  The land is pretty rocky, not much soil, but there is some, and there is always the possibility of ripping the lava, and building raised beds on top of it.  I bet that charter school would really like to have a gardening program which could work with the senior center....  and there is another charter school up the road where my friend is the principal....this could be a good idea whose time has come. 

I am not the person to organize it - I am just getting my feet under me as a gardener myself, but I find the idea of the community coming together to make sure the vulnerable have food really attractive.  At least I can start talking about it and asking people who know more than I do for help. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stir Fried Greens Picked by the Light of the Moon

Sounds a little like a recipe appropriate for October, doesn't it?  Actually, it was pretty dark - I don't believe the moon was completely available as a light source. 

Somehow during the week and a bit off, it got dark - now when I come home after kids' practices, it is getting dark.  The gloaming, as it were.  Since we had Monday off, yesterday became my shopping day.  I try to do everything - feed, food, gas - all on one long, after work errand.  That means, when I get home, late, it is getting dark and there are bags and bags of feed to unload, and groceries to put away, plants to water in the greenhouse, sometimes animals to feed depending on my husband's schedule. 

I found myself in the very backend of the gloaming - in the dark, as it were, finding vegetables for stir fry by feel - a few different kinds of sweet potato leaves, a few collards, some baby turnip greens, and a couple very young green peppers (one had a slug on it, yuck, yuck, yuck).  I even spied out some brown eggs from my Orpingtons (but only because I know where two of them like to hide their stash). 

I added what I picked (in what felt like some Halloween preparation) to green beans and eggplant harvested previously, some shoyu beans and broccoli from the freezer, and the young one cut up some tofu we bought at the store.  It was quite tasty.  I really love sweet potato leaves and collards stir fried in olive oil with teriyaki sauce!  It is tasty, and I feel so virtuous eating my greens. 

The trick to stir frying eggplant is to get the oil hot and to cook it into submission before adding the teriyaki or shoyu - otherwise it either stays bitter or absorbs far too much of the sauce.  Sweet potato leaves can be added at the end, but collards need a good long time to cook or they stay kind of tough.  I am looking forward to the turnips and their greens in a couple of weeks and the kale a couple weeks after that! 

However, I am feeling anxious about my kabocha - I have indifferent luck with squash - something always seems to happen - the tractor accidentally (I ask you!) runs over the heart of the patch - or my lovely volunteer acron squash on the compost pile gets weed whacked.  Lawn and garden machinery has it in for any winter squash I this year, I planted them next to a bright hot pink trellis.  Maybe that will indicate to the machinery operators that they are not weeds

As for the summer squash - I think my dog has a secret love for immature crookneck - because I will find her little paw prints next to the plant - and the lovely little baby squash gone.  Circumstantial evidence, but convincing to me! 

For some reason, I am absolutely craving pumpking - maybe it is that harvesting by the light of the October moon thing again - and it just seems extra important that those kabocha fluorish - even if it means I need to wait another 113 days for my first pumpkin. 

I find myself obsessing over my garden in a way formerly reserved for horses, sheep, and classroom - especially the darned squash.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wishing and Hoping

I planted kabocha pumpkins (small pumpkins that do well here) in the greenhouse and outside, and I am just so hoping one version or the other will take off.  I am getting blossoms on the greenhouse version, but although the ends of the greenhouse are open, I am not sure any bees are buzzing around, so not sure if fruit will set.  I do hope so - I love pumpkin with quinoa and glazed tofu, pumpkin curry soup, and pumpkin dinner rolls made with kabocha.  It would be safe to say I am craving pumpkin right now.  Of course, considering that I just put in the seeds in the outside garden, I am still a good four months away from enjoying any....unless I can find a good deal at a farmer's market. 

Even though the winds have been off-and-on south winds, and it has been fairly sticky at lower elevations, up here it is still nice and cool and pumpkins and other fall ingredients, soups and stews are sounding good. 

I think I will go make some baked bean soup right now.  That sounds good with some cornbread for dinner tonight. 

Very Articulate Kid

I am reposting this link from TED.  An articulate argument for local food production and small farms.

It's worth the time to view this little clip! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Never Fails

It never fails that when I think I have a handle on things, something unexpected happens.  Today, it was a flat tire. 

It was going to be a busy day - I had my two younger kids and two friends in the car on the way to their middle school cross country meet.  There was an ice cream social fundraiser to get them to after the meet, and the high school meet later in the day.  All three cars were going to have to be out and about. 

I hit a rock in the road - I swerved to miss it and ended up hitting it and tearing a hole in the sidewall of the tire.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  I was on the the busy two laned highway, so I thought it best to drive the extra mile or so to the school and pull off there.  I thought about changing the tire myself but decided to wait for my husband - probably to the disgust of the very capable looking security guard - she could have changed it in not time flat.  I probably could have done it, but I didn't have blocks for the tires, and if I messed up, it would be so much worse.  The kids had to walk in to the race - a mile walk at least - this is one BIG campus (K-12), but I didn't feel sorry for them - their coach texted me back she thought it was a pretty good warm up! 

We spent the morning driving around trying to find a tire replacement - Sears, Lex Brodies (local tire place), and finally Firestone.  We figured we better replace two tires - the front two were looking worn - that was $300 I didn't really have.  I remember when it was $300 for all four tires for an SUV - wow, prices have really gone up!  Fortunately, they allowed us to take our old tires - just the thing for growing potatoes and containing things like mint.  Ugly, but effective.  Old tires are pretty good at keeping horses from knocking over their water or salt lick bowls, too.  The silver lining - the guy at Firestone said come on in once a month and pick up tires when we need if we want more.  Nice. 

I am supposed to be down there getting ready to course marshall, but I am feeling pretty darn worn out, so I am up here in my office, typing up the plans I have in my head for the second quarter.... and getting some peace and quiet.  Between the tire guys, my husband, and my own voice in my head, I am pretty tired of hearing how stupid I was for runnng over that rock; that $300 for tires really wasn't in the budget and is very discouraging. 

On a brighter note, I am trying to visualize the future - where I want our farm to be in one year, two years, etc.  This year has been a year of setbacks, but that just means we have to work harder.  The challenge is to articulate what I want - do I want enough food for us, plus some to give away to the Food Bank, or do I want to have enough to sell?  Does selling mean a modified CSA format or participating in one of the several Farmer's Markets around here?  Lots of decisions to be made....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Garden Planted

Yesterday, I cooked and baked all day.  I hadn't made bread when my son called to ask if he could bring some friends home with him from Cross Country practice, so I had to make lunch.  I made pasta and doctored up the store bought sauce with some tomatoes from the greenhouse.  I have a lot of eggplant, so I sliced it thin, dipped it in beaten egg and corn meal and fried it.  There was a good amount of cornmeal and egg left, so I added baking powder, mixed it together and fried that, too.  For something so simple, it was extraordinarily good. 

I made hamburger buns so we could have burgers last night.  This was because I had heard through the grapevine (17 year olds are too busy to say anything directly) that my son wanted hamburgers.  Turned out, he wasn't even home for dinner.  The burgers were accompanied by baked cottage fries. 

I made cookies (already gone - the whole batch - along with both pies and the three big pans of banana bread I made earlier this week - hungry teenagers!), and finally got around to making juice out of the big bag of lilikoi in the fridge. 

Anyway, you get the idea - so today I decided to spend the morning outside.  There is always the laundry hanging and bringing in, and there was the new garden.  My husband has been dumping forest loam and compost on the clay soil that is normally there for a couple of weeks, so it was time to rake it over and start figuring out trellises.  Fortunately for grumpy me, having my youngest run in to look for string got my husband out to engineer the trellises.  Good thing, because he is really much better at that sort of thing.  We still had some bamboo left from our massive foraging trip a few months ago, so we used that, some old waiawi sticks my daughter made a feedsack teepee out of a while back, and some old fence - waste not, want not.  This save most of the precious string (we had a mild disagreement about that string; I swore up and down I bought it for just this purpose, and my husband swore he bought it, and I should not use it....anyway, we only used a little bit of it and were able to build trellises with old plastic clothesline, the aforementioned fence bits, and bamboo). 

The young one got involved and we planted a gardenful:  broccoli, carrots, turnips, red onion, green onion, beets, dill, basil, spinach, marigolds, kabocha pumpkin, cucumbers (not sure about those at this time of the year), snap beans, and swiss chard.  I predict a lot of stir fry in a couple of months. 

In the greenhouse, I also started some banana peppers, English peas, and parsley. It's about time to plant some more green peppers (I think I may have inadvertently planted some with the beets, because the seed had fallen out of the packets when the young one was carrying the gallon sized freezer bag full of seed packets.  I did my best to separate them out, but I think at least 2-3 seeds got mixed in there - well, we'll see, won't we.  It will be too wet for the peppers out there, but I suppose it is an experiment. 

I have no accomplished most of what I hoped to do during this break from teaching.  Now I have to spend the last few days planning for next quarter and getting my head out of the garden/farm game and back into the teacher game.  Wish me luck!