Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Setting Goals

It helps me to write down my goals - and a nice public space like this blog means I feel more accountable!

I really would like to get my warmer/drier needs plants starting in the greenhouse.  That means I need to help set up the tables that my husband brought home from a friend's this weekend and mix some planting mix out of my compost and some garden dirt and a little fine cinder.

I need to figure out what seeds I have (lots and lots of beans and a few other little things) and what seeds I need and/or want for plants that we would be partial to eating.  I am at least two weeks behind on this particular task, which is anxious-making.

I really need to get that FAFSA started, if not done, for my college kid, and the financial aid application done for my 3 Kamehameha kids.  Not my favorite task - worse than taxes.

I really need to get a handle on the impossible amount of laundry. Our family schedule has fallen apart as sports schedules and work schedules change - and we have to once again figure out which day each kid gets to wash, dry, and fold (this is the part the falls apart) their laundry.

We (need help with this one) need to think about a more permanent solution for the chicken run surface.  It gets very, very muddy and isn't draining well.

The sheep hooves need to be trimmed, and it is time for worming again.  Ugh.

I MUST decide which, if either, of the two intact ram lambs are going to stay intact.  And then, I need to castrate the unlucky one.

The phone corner, with all the piled up mail, old report cards, seed packets, weird parts to appliances that I am not sure are still functional, etc, etc needs to be organized and straightened.

And, of course, I want to do all of this in one weekend.  In reality, the FAFSA and the Financial Aid application will take most of the weekend, because I need to do my taxes first.  sigh.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


That's what I need.  I am finding myself rattling around the property and the house starting little projects and finishing few.  I did clean the sheep housing and added more cinder.  I washed a few dishes.  I weeded a bit in the outside garden, and inspected the plants in the greenhouse. (My husband brought home some plants from a friend and some old greenhouse tables, but he doesn't know what the plants are and I don't recognize them, either.)  So beyond a good half hour of mucking out, I really just puttered around.

Right now, like a child, I am meant to be cleaning my room.  Things tend to get piled up, and it is time to sort through them and give everything a good dusting.  Only...the computer was just sitting there, so here I am posting instead.

Once I am done with my room, I am going to bake.  My 16 year old requested monkey bread, and I will probably make snacky things, like muffins and sandwich rolls and cookies.  Dinner is a simple stir fry with beets and mustard cabbage and some chicken to be served over rice.  What I really want to do is take a nap, but I wasted an incredible amount of time as I sat and pondered selling my good mare.  Although I did bake some sandwich bread yesterday, I didn't accomplish anything else, except reading a book and a half and pondering (or perhaps the word is "moping").

I definitely need to get a move on!

Friday, January 21, 2011


A coworker gave me a bag of lilikoi.  I ate some over cottage cheese this morning, and I am determined to save at least one of the fruit to grow a vine or two.  I forgot how delicious fresh lilikoi is.  Also known as passion fruit, it is part of a popular juice combo called POG (Passion Orange Guava).  I really look forward to the day I can make my own cottage cheese and put my own fresh lilikoi on it.  It was soooo good.

My son's Hawaiian teacher said that the fruit is really liliko'i, but no one says it like that anymore.  It has an intense taste and a penetrating fruit smell, so sometimes visitors don't like it - but it reminds me of growing up in Maunawili.  We used to ride the horses out into the big pastures and pick lilikoi and share them with the horses.

Tomorrow morning, the woman is coming to look at the mare.  I am of two minds about it.  I want her to be occupied and loved and with my schedule, I just don't give her the occupied part of it.  She has SO much potential!  I will miss her a lot if she does go, and it feels a bit like giving up a part of myself.  I am fascinated by the sheep and spend a lot of physical and mental energy on them, but horses have been a part of me forever.

The babies are doing well.  I have to decide which of the two ram lambs to keep intact and which to castrate.  The white streaky one is starting to creep feed a little already.  In just six days, they have grown so fast.  I have been surprised by how fast the lambs grow.  The three week ones almost seem to have doubled in size and they are so adventurous.  This weekend, another chore I have in mind if the weather cooperates and I can drum up some help around here is trimming hooves.  Not really looking forward to trimming Elvis' hooves.  I think I will have to rig a halter and have someone hold him tight so I can lift his legs up one at a time.  I wish I had one of the flippers that you clamp the sheep in and turn them over!   It would be amusing as well as convenient.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oh, arrggh...

Elvis has decided that it is fun to try to catch me.  He got me good when I was trying to get Audrey and her lambs in the small pen, even though he is usually totally engrossed in eating when there is food available.  Now he seems to be watching me when I go out to feed the chickens.  Unfortunately, the chicken run is inside the sheep pen.  Today I barely made it out of the gate.

Someone taught him that human pats (former owner) feel good and someone else (me) has learned her lesson about keeping up the tradition.  I guess that is why this the "Hapless" rather than the "Akamai" Homestead.

This week has been a bit of a challenge, even though it has only been two work days so far.  The students are great and my student teacher is working out great - I am just incredibly tired and rather cranky when I get home.

My divine 18 year old is cooking tofu in butter and garlic and it smells yummy, and there is leftover Thai peanut sauce and noodles from last night (yummy, if I do say so myself), so maybe tonight I will be able to catch up on some work and feel more ready for tomorrow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Busy Day

We made a lot of progress on our expanded garden beds today, thanks to my husband and his tractor.  I watered my seedlings in the greenhouse - they definitely dry out faster there.  Of course, the deep clean of the animal shelters always happens on the weekend.  I also did some castrating out there, my first time but just a fact of sheep farming, I suppose.  First time anything is always a little anxious.

The oldest daughter went off hiking with some of her friends from high school. It is always nice to see those kids; we've had some lovely huge sleepovers in the past, and now they are all growing up to be young men and women.

As I am typing here, I hear some thunder out in the distance and a few rattling rain drops on our metal roof (metal for rain catchment).  One of our catchment tanks is only about 1/3 full, so the rain is coming at a good time.  Just a few days of light rain and we use so much water with all these animals.  I am including the 4 two legged young animals who are going to learn the hard way (a turned off water valve) if they don't go the easy way of shortening their showers on their own.

Yesterday, I was really thinking about what to do with the horses.  The sheep are very much taking the time left between being a teacher, a mom, and a gardener, and I have been feeling guilty about that big galoot of a horse out there being untrained.  I love her manure, and she is an easy keeper, but I am not using her mind or her body in the best way.  She tends to make it difficult for my laminitic gelding to get his share and generally just pushes him around and all the other animals on the farm, too.  (She tries to push the humans around, but isn't very successful.  I have no patience for it, and it could be dangerous, so she just isn't allowed.)  So, I said a little prayer asking what I should do for this mare.  And, darn it, if there wasn't someone on craigslist looking for just this type of horse.  I don't know what will come of it, but we'll see.  I will miss her terribly, but maybe it is for the best.  

A lot of changes, therefore, might be down one horse and we've doubled our sheep population. The garden space has been quadrupled, not including the greenhouse.  I wonder what else is in store for us?

Greenhouse Pictures!

Sorry, Faith - this took awhile.  Finally, I am posting these pictures.  We adapted the hoop house to fit up against our house, attached to the deck.  It has the added benefit of sheltering the stair case which was getting pretty beat up in the weather.  So far, I have transplanted 14 small tomato volunteers and started a few eggplant seeds.  The eggplant seeds are quite old, so we'll see if they sprout.

Out in the garden, I planted some garlic that sprouted in my fridge.  It was grown in Hawaii, so I have hopes.  I also planted some onion seeds, turnips, beets, lettuce, and mustard cabbage.  Of course, now that I have planted seeds, the sky is rapidly clouding over.  It never seems to fail that when I plant seeds, it pours for days and washes the seeds away.  If I do get anything, they are all out of place and I am left guessing what they are.  It was very sunny when I was planting, and the soil was lovely and fine and dry.  Next time there is a drought (rare), I will know what to do.  Plant some seeds and let the rain come to fill up the tanks! 

Here is a picture of the finished greenhouse - view from the stairway.  
Looking down the staircase.  
 Looking down from the deck.  You can see how we put up the beam and attached it to the frame.
 The early stages, just the pcv frame is up.
 A view from near the water heating solar panels.
We extended the frame out a bit over the raised area next to the pump house and water heating panels.  I really need to pull that volunteer avocado out of there!  I plan to use the lava rock walls as supports and a seed starting place.  We've always talked about terracing that area for a small kitchen garden or veggie start bed.

 You can see how the hoops attach to the deck here.
And here, too...
I was so pleased with the project, I guess I overdid it with pictures.
Now that we are going to spend so much time "down below", we should really stop using it as a storage place for construction leftovers.  

 Here is a detail of how the pvc attaches to the flange on the deck side.  The greenhouse beam is a bit over 10 feet in height.  It's about 20 feet long and 12 feet deep.
 The boys moved some old 20 ft. long boards out to the greenhouse yesterday, so I do have some surface to keep the seed trays up off the ground and out of reach of my naughty dogs.  I am so delighted with this project!  The ends are still open so it is more a rain cover than a warmer area.  I am going to try the tomatoes in there, because they really do suffer in the heavy rain we have here regularly.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Newest Lambs

 I realized when I saw this little one what I have here is not an old link to the Hawaiian Feral sheep but some katahdin blood, which makes a whole lot of sense, now that I think about it.
I think he is so pretty.  

 This one looks like his half brothers and sisters - and a lot like his dad, Elvis.

They were pretty big and active right from the start - which is why I thought Audrey was having triplets.
Everyone's peaceful.  I will leave them out for the day, and put them in the lambing pen when it comes time for dinner.  

The Last of the Lambing for a Bit

Went out to feed and found Audrey at about the same state as Dodie two weeks ago - two little wet lambs on the ground and one placenta.  Both are ram lambs and they are up and strong and nursing.  The second one to be born was a bit confused and trying to follow his yearling sister, so I sent the flock outside.  This gives me a day to get the lambing jug in place and lets everyone have a bigger space to get to know each other.

I am checking on the ewe and the new arrivals every hour or two, and the second placenta has delivered, too, so everything is going well.  I had to help dry them off with a bit of dry straw, but it is a nice sunny day with temps in the upper 60's/low 70's, so no worries.

Unfortunately, the pictures are just not loading - have been trying for two hours, so it will have to wait until fewer people are jamming up the internet in our rural area.  I notice that times of high traffic are slow as molasses - although why 10 am on a beautiful Saturday is slow, I don't know.  I do know it is time for me to get off the internet and get some work done.

Our next lambs aren't due until late April/early May, so I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I will be posting pictures of the new arrivals (one is a quite attractive streaky black and white) and of the greenhouse project later.  Today's chores, in spite of the lovely day, will have to be indoor chores.  I didn't get my grading done yesterday, and I need to do it today, and there is a pile of laundry which is quite frightening.  I do hope to try to plant some garlic which sprouted in my fridge - don't know if it will work, but it is certainly worth a try.

I hope everyone has a productive, happy day.  

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thunder and Howling Dogs

The atmosphere is unstable over the Big Island this afternoon, resulting in computer outages at the library (which we braved on the way home), loud thunder, and for some reason, howling dogs.  One of our dogs loves to howl; usually he waits until one of us is calling a child in from playing or visiting the neighbor.  It's very hard to call a child when you are laughing because the dog is howling with you.  He watches your face and takes a break when you take a break.  It is fun to try to fake him out....take a big breath, open your mouth and then do nothing.  Sometimes he catches it before he actually starts to howl.

This is a bit illustrative of my sometimes puerile sense of humor.  I am going to share with you another instance of my sad deficiency in an adult sense of humor - it is all those years hanging out with teenagers, I am sure.  Today, I let the sheep out for a bit of a run in the big pasture.  The lambs took off as if it were the Kentucky Derby only with more hopping.  The older sheep, except poor Audrey who is waddlingly pregnant, took a few exploratory hops - but Minnie fell.  There was absolutely no reason for it, but she got up quickly and looked, well, sheepish.  I thought, "I really can NOT tell any adult human being that I thought that was knee-slappingly funny!" but here I am, telling you.  It must be the lack of adult conversation in my life.....

I am not looking forward to going out into the thunder and lightning to do the feeding.  I am going to wait for a bit to see if it passes through. We were driving in it most of the way home, but outpaced it, and now it has caught up.  I am fairly sure we'll lose power for a bit tonight.  I suppose I should get the meat pie in the oven before that happens!

If my sheep expert friend is right - THIS is the night Audrey will pick to lamb.  She'll probably need help, too, knowing my luck.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I actually spend a lot of time in a state of amazement, just a general state in life, but this week has had a number of outstanding opportunities to be amazed.  When I got out to do chores,  I stand amazed at how much FUN watching lambs is.  Where I would normally be impatient with myself for forgetting to buy water filters for the catchment system and grumpy that I have to stand extra long at the water bucket with the trickle coming out of the hose, I was happy I had an excuse to stand out there and watch Hulu and Niele hopping around and bothering all the grown-ups at dinner time.

My white ewe is looking rather large, so I am hoping she is closer to her due date than I thought and not expecting triplets!  I am not sure I am ready to sort out lamb legs in a difficult delivery.  Therein is another place to be amazed - I didn't know ewes could get that big - she practically has to roll rather than walk.  On the other hand, it could just be enormous lambs - because I see them moving around in there, which didn't happen that much with Dodie.

The best, most wonderful amazement is that my paint horse is nearly sound, is picking up weight like a champ - he hasn't been this comfortable is such a very long time.  I have tried everything - from bute, to cat's claw, to corn oil (terrible) to rice bran oil (not bad), but finally found beet pulp.  I read that beets are considered anti-inflammatory and good for arthritis...and, apparently, whatever causes the paint's inflammation, abscessing, and pain!  I am absolutely grateful and amazed.  Every time I go out to feed, I have to just double check.  I saw an improvement on day 3 of this new feed, and it's just gotten better and better.  I would never have guessed.  I really thought beet pulp would have too much carbohydrate, but I guess it really does have a low glycemic index.  Crossing my fingers that it will continue.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Short Lamb video

Look how much they've grown in just one week!  

Niele means curious, and she is ALWAYS sticking her head in first.  I can see it is going to cause problems for her (and me).  I let Mama and babies out with rest of the flock today for the first time after they all got used to one another with a fence between.  It's a blast watch them jumping around in the field.  I wish I could get a video of that, but the camera doesn't have much of a zoom.  Parts of the pasture have very long grass, so sometimes one of the lambs get lost (usually it is Hulu) and he or she starts screaming for Mama.  

Niele seems a bit smarter than Hulu, but he is more cuddly, which is a bummer considering I can't keep him as breeding stock.....Actually, instead of eating him, since he was first, I will castrate him (tomorrow, after I pick up some tetanus injection) and let him be a companion to the ram and a general lawnmower.   It's a very sentimental of me, and I am going to have to get over it or we will be overrun with sheep, but since he was our very first lamb born here, ever, I suppose I can be a little sentimental.

We dug up some of the garden beds that got pretty much pounded down in the heavy rain last month.  A few hardy seeds got through all that, and I pulled on lonely turnip today. Not sure what I am going to do with one turnip, but there you go.  The greenhouse frame is done; all that is left is to decide on flooring.  I am going to move my seedling "table" (two barrels from the arena and a piece of plywood covered with tarpaper) under the green house roof and separate out some tomato volunteer seedlings from my last container of tomatoes. They were growing well until it rained so hard all the tomatoes split and the vines died off.  I left one tomato in the pot where it fell off after a heavy pounding rain, and now I have all these lovely volunteers.

We were going to go on a farm tour of an aquaponics farm, but then we heard that there was a fire at the facility and the classes were cancelled.  My husband had already decided Kona was too far for today, so we were already second-guessing our decision when we got the phone call.  I was sort of looking forward to a trip to Costco and the circle island drive as a change of pace, but oh well.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just the basics....

Today, I did the basics, barely.  I fed and watered and rotated animals for the best grazing fit and did a LOT of research.  I figure this is my last sit down day for a good long time.  Tomorrow, some of my students are coming into do school service projects, so that is that day gone.  Friday- Sunday will be finishing the greenhouse and working on the garden, because the plan is to expand the garden to 10 times its current size, and cleaning animal pens, and getting ready for Monday, when school starts again.  I even have some grading I didn't finish! Yikes.

Confirmation classes start up on Sunday, which necessitates me driving down on Sunday and waiting after Mass.  It is a long story - but it usually means we all go to different Masses.  I am pretty sure that Confirmation is supposed to bring families together and not mess them up, but those are actually choices certain members of my family make because enduring food shopping with me while my son is in his class is too difficult.

Basically, the whole drive around, coordinating five different schedules, etc, etc. and having what amounts to two full time jobs starts all over.  Vacation, as much work as it was, is over.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Struggling a little today...

It's cold (for me, don't laugh, everyone - it is in the low 60's) and drizzly, which is to be expected.  One thing I would like to do is to control the mud around the barn better this next year.  My horse popped another abscess - this climate is easy for one of my horses, and really, really hard for my paint.  I have been soaking him and giving him anti-inflammatories and feeding him separate from the aggressive mare so he gets his fair share, but it is hard to know what to do.  I listened to a farrier who promised me eight kinds of miracles, and now he is so much worse than he ever was - and it takes a long time for a horse to come back from that.  Hooves only grow so fast.  My new/old farrier told maybe it is time to put him down, but the horse is such a good soul, such a kind and courageous horse.  I am not sure that is what is best for him, because it may be possible to get him back to walk-trot sound - he has been this bad in the past, and we pulled through.

I should never, ever have let my boss pasture his wild horse here - she broke all my fences and took my baby and her baby for a long run - and he road foundered before I could catch them.  I know it is weird to think of wild horses in Hawaii, but we have them - they are in Waipio Valley - they break all the fences down there, too.  A fellow teacher caught her, sold her to my boss, and when he went on a trip, I took care of the mare for a month.  Her wild hooves were fine, my poor paint has weak white hooves, and it was the end of it.  It was ironic, because it was the day she was supposed to be out of there, too.

We worked hard on the greenhouse frame.  I could see my 16 year old looking at the materials and thinking, "There goes my drivers' ed class - again."  I understand his pain, and really, having him driving would help so much, but there are things we need to do here on the homestead to make sure we eat.  Our family may be facing some big life changes soon, and food is important.

On a bright spot, the lambs are healthy and fun.  My adult chickens (5) laid 5 eggs yesterday, so we're on the way back to full production (only 3 today).  Our greenhouse frame is up (although I thought I might have cracked a bone in the putting up the beam - false alarm: twanged my nerves in my wrist and it was just numb for the night), all that's left is the covering and a course of bricks at the bottom - for which I have already dug the trench.  My kids were extremely helpful in putting away the Christmas decorations and they GO BACK TO SCHOOL tomorrow - except the college child.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Enjoying the lambs!

They have such distinct personalities.  The ram lamb has a little white feather shaped marking on his head.  He is slower and more intense in his nursing.  The ewe lamb has a white cap on her head, and she has been investigating every corner, first to every new thing, even though she was second to be born. I am playing with the names Hulu (feather) and Niele (curious).

Today, I sent the other sheep out to the pasture, and let mom and babies out of their lamb pen into the bigger area.  The lambs ran around and around like was a race track, before nursing and flopping down for a nap.  Thank goodness human babies can't run around like that when they are three days old - can you imagine?  I will have to see if I can insert a video into the blog.  It may have to wait until I have faster internet capabilities.  It's nice the lambs are often born in twos - someone built in to play with.  

We went down to buy greenhouse materials.  I had had the idea in the past to attach a green house frame to the house - we have a daylight basement, and I thought we could go from the deck above down to the ground next to the basement.  After looking into our possibilities, my husband decided that wouldn't be as bad an idea as he originally thought!  However, he wanted to use clear pvc roof panels, since they are sturdier and more attractive than poly film.  Also, the cat walks on the deck railing all the time - what if she decided to explore the greenhouse frame with her claws? I can just see her sliding down the curve, claws digging in and ripping it all the way down.  

We got the pvc arcs up yesterday.  It is raining today, but we're trying.  While my husband was painting the beam and the purlins, I cleaned animal pens, gave a horse a bath with anti-fungal shampoos since he seems to picking up the first stages of rain rot, wormed all the ewes (ram looks good after checking his eyelids), and cleaned one ewe's nostrils out.  She just seems to need more worming than the other sheep and more susceptible to nasal bots.  I am happy to say I was able to worm the three ewes all by myself - a first.  

My next big job is trimming the ram's feet - a job I am not looking forward to, both because it is a new job, and because he is quite large.  

I have one more week off from work, and I have a whole list of things to do, but if the rain keeps on like it has today, working with the garden will have to wait.  I have to do some heavy clearing of new garden beds and slipping around in the thick clay mud here is no fun.  I want to dig out the chicken run (again) and add new cinder, extend the old garden bed to double its size, and dig out the new bed, and add a foot of finished compost to each bed. And of course, I need to check which seeds I have in storage, and see what else I would like to buy. I am really planning a much more ambitious garden with the new greenhouse, and with the intention to sell the extra.  People have been asking, and it might be a way to allow my husband to not work all the way on Oahu.  I ran into my son's old teacher, and she seemed enthusiastic and said that other teachers at the kids' school would be very interested in buying eggs and veggies....so I am going to try!  It will take awhile to build up my capacity and to build a customer base, but at least now there is hope and something to work for.  

 In the house, I need to clean windows and organize closets.  For work, I need to plan that new reading class and get the last few units of the trimester firmed up.  My students came in on Friday (New Years Eve no less!) to organize my room and do some painting, and we hope to finish on Thursday.  What nice kids - organizing my book collection and cleaning where the classroom cleaner just doesn't go (although she should) was a big job.  

I think I need more than one more week off!