Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wonderful Day!

I had my sister for a day!  I haven't seen her much - last summer for a day or two and then probably two years before that for a few days.  She's been living in Europe and recently moved back to the states and was in Hawaii visiting our parents.  It was very nice, although all those words I don't get to say much (being with kids all day and mostly being a quiet person) came pouring out - I hope I didn't bore her.

My son had a lesson down in Hilo for a couple of hours, so I drove around with my sister, looking for a red ti leaf plant.  Apparently, my son needs it for a class.  I saw lots of hybrid ti plants (green and red mixed) but the really nice all red ones were all in people's yards, and I wasn't quite at the point of stopping and asking if I could pick....especially since he needs a WHOLE plant, not just a leaf or two.

I usually have luck looking for vegetation down Railroad Ave., but today, all I found was a very starved and dirty puppy.  I stopped the car, called the puppy, who came running over, popped him in my car and drove him to the Humane Society.  He had ticks and was covered in excrement.  I didn't want to take him home because of my own dogs, and if the vet at the Human Society can cure him, he will be a lovely puppy for someone - he looked to be a pit bull/hunting dog mix.  I really think someone dumped at the end of that road in the forest.

We have been letting our chickens out during the day - and it has been harder and harder to get them back in - it isn't that they don't want to get back in, but a few will get stuck in the horse stall and not be able to figure out how to get where they are supposed to be, and I end up chasing creatures this way and that - forget herding cats: herding chickens amidst sheep is much harder.  One of my girls is getting broody, so I marked all her eggs with a sharpie and then reach in to get the new eggs out every day.  Really hoping she will sit the whole 21 days.  I would love to have some chicks!  In the past, my buffs have sat for like 19 days and then get up - which is so irritating.

I need to catch up with everyone else's blog.  It's been difficult since my internet has been spotty in the evenings, and when I try to load pages, it says the pages aren't responding.  I would love to have very good internet out here.

The kids had a good bonfire last night, and I see that my husband corralled some of the boys to use the chainsaw they brought over to chop up some of our overgrown, low hanging cypress branches - it will be nice fuel for future bonfires.

My eleven year old took it upon herself to make French Silk Pie.  I drove my sister to the airport, and left her to it - it is a fairly big project for a kid who has never made a pie crust.  I told her to wait, but she thought she would just get through it on her own - because sometimes my "wait" turns into "not today" and then "maybe next weekend".... I suppose I had better go check in on her, because it is not only a pie crust, it is a baked pie shell....  As I ran in from the airport run and then ran out to feed and chase chickens - I checked her various steps.  She was doing okay at that point.  At least, I talked her out of the meringue - that would be tricky on your own for your first pie.  We have a lot of eggs, so maybe we'll try that tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2011

More May Day

I forgot my camera!  I tried to take pictures with my little phone, but they didn't come out very well.  I wish I could share this tradition with you.  This year, Papa 'Eono (sixth grade) was the only class which required the whole class to participate - the rest of the numbers were performed by the kids in the Hawaiian Ensemble - believe me, these kids, not matter what grade, are incredible.  I thought it was funny that the Kane Papa 'Eono (sixth grade boys) performed a song about shrimp - because so many of them are pretty tiny - the girls are still at that age where they are outstripping the boys in maturity.  

The killer number for me was "Waika" performed by Wahine Papa 'Ewalu - the eighth grade girls.  That song gets to me in any shape or form, but the girls were absolutely lovely.  I admit I cried.  I was trying to find a good version of the song to post, but although I did find versions on YouTube, I didn't feel comfortable sharing them. 

I can't tell you why that song makes me cry - it is a beautiful song, but there are a lot of beautiful songs.  I used to listen to it at a rather tough time in my life - so it reminds me of that time, it also makes me homesick for the Windward side of Oahu, because it mentions places on that island.  I used to know a version of that dance, and seeing one of the women who was at college with me (on the mainland) who also danced in our little "halau" (wasn't really a halau, but we did dance) at the production was pretty fun.  I keep forgetting she moved to the Big Island, too - even though our kids our classmates, we only see each other at May Day and Open House - even though we were very close friends back in the day.  We're both working mothers of four kids apiece, and although we always say we'll have lunch - we never have time.  

Well, anyways, I am glad my 13 year old didn't see me cry - because he would have been heartily embarrassed.  I am also glad my husband snuck out the back door after our baby girl was done dancing, because he would have just laughed at emotional me, too.  

I can hear my daughter's (not so?) ex- boyfriend chainsawing dead trees for the kids' bonfire tonight, and my husband sawing up wood for a new sheep shelter (yay! the horses can have the second stall back!) , and I know there are things I should be doing.  But, it is nice to sit here and reflect.  

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

New Ram and Merrie Monarch

I just went to pick out my new ram.  I can't pick him up until he is weaned, but he is a nice big Dorper twin.  Now I need to decide whether I want to buy a ewe, too.  They are offering me a decent looking pregnant yearling.  I think I will go for that, because that would mean another Dorper out of their nice ram, then cross my fingers for a ewe lamb.

I am going to keep Cal (the streaky black and white ram lamb) and sell Sam (my black ram lamb) - then I will have three rams - two kathahdin/barbados, and one Dorper.  Keeping three lines might get confusing, but I will have to figure it out.

Tomorrow is the May Day celebration at my kids' middle school.  The 13 year old feels lucky to have missed the hula/singing round this year, but my 11 year old is dancing tomorrow.  I love May Day celebrations!  This week is Merrie Monarch week - a very big week in Hilo.  There is a week-long celebration of Hula with competitions in auana hula and kahiko hula - for both wahine and kane.  I watch it on tv, because it never occurs to me to get tickets until it is much, much too late - and after waiting for two hours on the free night one year and not even getting in... Halau come from all over the world to compete or even just to do an exhibition - there is a big craft fair and a parade, too.

Even though I will just be watching the hula on tv tomorrow night - tomorrow morning, I am going to sneak out of work for an hour to watch my little girl (and all of the other kids in her grade....) dance hula.  She is busy ironing her muumuu and making her ti leaf lei.

Goat Dairy Visit

I took four students down to Lava Rocks Puna Goat Cheese dairy.  Our bus driver is one of the farmers, although his wife if the full time member of the team.  All the human kids (and me) got to milk one of the goats, to much hilarity.

Here is the milking parlor.  
And here is the shameless advertisement sign....

We will be airing our little one minute segment on PBS Hawaii sometime in June.  Our big camera died, so it was all filmed on our little flips.  I am a bit worried about that - but we can do a bunch of interview shots on Monday with the good camera with our bus driver/farmer.  I would like to see if some of the other farmers around here would want to be in our little segments?

The kids got to taste goat milk and fresh cheese - it was a good morning.  (My poor husband - now I REALLY want a goat or two or a cow.)  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I have no idea why I am hurting so much.  I didn't do anything out of the ordinary in the last few days - I did carry about 250 lbs of feed from the car, but that is a normal occurrence... It is true that I am not sleeping that well, but even that is not out of the ordinary.  But, today, I just ache.

I am hoping I am not getting the illness my boys had a few weeks ago.  I had to laugh, because my 13 year old never gets sick, and he mentioned that last night, "You know, Mom, I never got sick, so I just didn't even think that the really bad headaches I was having had to do with germs!  I just couldn't understand what was happening. "  He is of the "suck it up" variety when it comes to the school health room - unlike my 11 year old who visits frequently, I presume for the dramatic effect and sympathy?  My 16 year old kept going to school, attending track practice - until his body had had enough and shut down for a week.  

I have so much coming up this weekend; I can't afford to be sidelined.  My sister is coming for the day (I think, haven't heard the final plans?); my son has a driving lesson and his regional track championship (although the illness killed his chances, he lost a lot of speed during that week and a half).  I think my original due date for Minnie may be correct - which will bring her to Sunday-ish - you know how that goes.  I have a great field trip scheduled to the goat dairy tomorrow: we're filming for a PBS student news show.  No way I am going to miss that!

Oh shucks - I just remembered that I forgot the braided cheese bread for my 5th period class, AGAIN.  I promised them I would bake them something yummy because they are going through state testing this week and next.... I need to write it on my hand tonight to remember in the morning.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Now I wish I had talked to the farrier...

before he got here.  My freaky gray horse is quite hyper this evening, and I am wondering how that rodeo went.  Most of the time, he is awesome when you pick up his feet, once he stops trying to back up into the next county to get away from you....but somedays, his nuts days, he forgets that he knows who you are and he's off and running.

I just noticed that he chased the paint out and Ohia knocked out some of the electric fence on the way out.  Gib also spread all his food in a thin layer across the stall floor - a new thing, which probably tells me the trimming and fussing wasn't a fun time.  I questioned my husband, but he said, "I don't know; I was busy."

My farrier is a saint, and possibly one of the best trainers I know.  He is very patient and takes his time, but I do wish I had given him a heads up.

I must say, the horses look lovely with their new trimmed feet.

No lambs, yet.  Minnie is taking her time, but her udder is quite large these days, much bigger today than yesterday, so can't be long.

Off to make dinner!  Stroganoff.  Just had a hankering for it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Goin' holoholo (driving around)...a wandering post.

We used to do that when gas was cheap: go for a long drive, maybe to Kona, just to look at something different.  Those days are long gone - not just because gas is up at $4.55 and climbing, but also because who's got the time to drive for a few hours, just to drive?

Today, I had an appointment, so my student teacher took over my classroom.  I was pretty hyped up after my appointment, so I talked my poor husband into driving to see those Dorpers before it was time to go get the kids.  It wasn't far - maybe 7 miles from our house, but we took a road I haven't been on in a long time and it was almost like the old days.

We visited with the owner for a bit: they have suffolk/hampshire and dorpers, a couple of horses, and rabbits.  Their suffolk/hampshire ram is HUGE.  I thought Elvis was big, but this guy was a monster - and fast, too - their Dorper ram was muscular but smaller than Elvis at the shoulder.

It was kind of hard to get a good look at their lambs, but I guess in a week or two, they'll bring them down and separate the lambs out so we can get and look at them.  I was kind of hoping to get a ram lamb and two ewe lambs - but like us, they ended up with mainly ram lambs, and I think they want to keep their ewes.  Somehow, in conversation, my ram and two ewes became a ram and one ewe.  They are all half siblings, their lambs, so I would breed the new ewe(s) to one of my current ram lambs, and the ram lamb (when he's old enough) to all my ewes.  That would be a crop of half Dorper lambs who share a grandsire.

The Suffolk/Hampshire's were SO cute, but I am not ready to go the shearing route, yet, and just not sure if I could avoid the parasite problems with that breed and our wet warm climate.

The farmer had a cat who thought she was a dog: she followed us right out to the back pasture and she was panting by the time we got back.  I haven't really talked about our cat, Nani.  Nani means "what" in Japanese and "beautiful" in Hawaiian.  I think she takes after the Japanese - I tell my daughter she is defective, because she is not a cat who sits in your lap.  She may deign to let you pet her, occasionally, but usually as she is walking away. My oldest is the only one who can pick her up at all.

Well, I can't go holoholo in the car anymore, but apparently, I can while blogging - this post has gone hither and yon quite extensively.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Really NEED to Ride

I just finished helping the 13 year old with some homework - very impressed that he is doing his homework on Saturday afternoon instead of waiting until 8 pm on Sunday, but have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with chore avoidance. I looked out the window to the pasture and see the two geldings standing head to head like they are carrying on a conversation.  I whistle and they both look up toward the window, and I am overcome with a longing to get up and ride.

I always put my chores first, and in practicality, that means the horses tend to be lawn mowers/ornaments.  I have to admit, we got out of the habit of riding often while Ohia was going through his lameness issues, and it probably hasn't done Crazy Horse Gib any harm to have a relaxed time to calm down from whatever nutso environment made him so afraid of everything.  Having us in his stall all the time is helping, too.

I am making a promise to myself - I am going to fold that one load of laundry and straighten up the dining room and kitchen - and I WILL ride.

I am also planning to make Polish Easter cheese today.  It won't be ready by tomorrow - so it will be more like Polish Week After Easter Cheese, but I am going to try it.  It makes me bummed that I have no dairy animal and I had to buy all the cottage cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese to make it, and it makes me want to call that person on CL and buy that pregnant Dexter today, but at least I will make the jump into cheese making.  I will let you know how it goes.

On the Minnie front: no lambs, huge udder, waddling gate, but still has her appetite, so maybe a few more days yet.  

Getting Ready for Easter

Good Friday is always a day of contemplation and self-denial to remember Jesus' sacrifice.  Holy Saturday feels like a null space, a waiting space, but of course, I have a lot to do at the same time to get ready for a celebratory dinner tomorrow, so it is a more mental and spiritual waiting than a do-nothing waiting.

I will need to make mayonnaise today (I actually hate mayonnaise, but I wanted to make a broccoli casserole for my vegetarian daughter) and bake hot cross buns and maybe some easter egg shaped sugar cookies.  My son has his first behind-the-wheel official driving lesson today, so I have to run into Hilo and sit for two hours, because with gas at $4.55 a gallon, I am sure not going to make two 45 mile trips to take him down and pick him up!

Yesterday, I transplanted some jalapeno peppers and today, I need to do some bell peppers.  I would like to start some new seeds today, too, but not sure what I will add to my collection.  I noticed some of my tomatoes had blossom end rot, which I figured is because my husband has been watering them too much - but just in case it was a calcium deficiency, I crushed up egg shells and add a few crushed and dissolved calcium pills mixed with powdered milk and top dressed those pots.  We'll see if it works.

My husband planted the olive trees, and we had yet another eye-opening discussion on how to configure our land.  Our lots, like most in this section of the island, are long and skinny.  There are vast tracks of land and not many roads - so lots tend to be thin on the road side, and long.  We also live in a not very nice area - there is a "subdivision" down the road which is pretty wild, so we left a swathe of garbage trees between our house and the road. There is about an acre to an acre and a half up there which is pretty much just unused and a bit unusable since it was scraped clean of top soil by a bulldozer.  It would need a lot of manure to make it usable, and the fencing would need replacing even if we used it as a dry lot turn out for either the sheep or the horses.  There is a stretch of great grass that connects that part to the rest of the land, but it is right next to our driveway, and apparently, that is where the bulldozer is going when we buy one.  

I was thinking we could repair/replace that fence and maybe keep the rams up there when we needed them separate from the ewes, or we could keep the horses up there when it gets very wet in the back pasture - no top soil means hard clay, less mud.  We can't leave any small portable animals up there - like lambs and ewes, because they would get stolen, but rams and horses are less easy to move.

My husband absolutely disagreed with all my ideas, and has some big plans for digging ponds, making streams, using windmills to pump the water from the low pond back up to the high pond to make water flow for a lo'i (wet taro patch), moving the taro to a bigger ma'a (dry land taro plot) in the back pasture.  As cool as a lo'i sounds, I object to take both a taro patch out of the back pasture and taking a pond area out of the barn pasture, particularly if you are not going to give me more pasture area!  I am still wondering where I am going to fit in the 1/4 acre garden I have been requesting for awhile now.  Apparently, in the future at some point, we're going to knock down the garbage trees and extend my garden into that area, since for some reason, we need a lawn.

I am trying to be patient.  I know from experience that it will probably turn out great, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this year, once again, I will not have a big garden.  It is getting pretty late in the year to even get started.  At least, I have the greenhouse for a few things.  My usual (tiny) plot whose soil I have carefully built up with banana leaf mulch and composted manure is on a hill and - as you know - washes down in heavy rain.  His plan is to dig it out and make it level, which means I am going to lose all my built up soil at least for this year.  I still wish we'd put the garden on the flat bit on the other side of the house.... I know, I sound whiny; I am trying to stop and be grateful.  I just feel such a sense of urgency about getting a big garden in.

On that note, I had a discussion with my 16 year old who is very into computers - he said manual labor is  over and that we should have robots to do all the farming.  I told him that I thought, on the contrary, small family farms are not only the past, but will be the future of agriculture and the health of our communities.  I do lots of sitting around and thinking in my day job (figuratively - mostly I am walking around and thinking on my feet, really), but it's important for me to come home and work with my hands - and I am still thinking there, too.  I have had some of my best thoughts while shoveling manure.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How I Got Here

My eleven year old, helper extraordinaire, and the one child who still wishes to be with me more than being anywhere else, most of the time, said she was the only one of the four kids who wants to farm when she grows up.

It got me to thinking:  when I was her age, that was what I wanted, too.  Who knows why?  Most of my life was spent in suburbs, but I have always loved horses, and something attracted me to growing food, raising animals, even then.

When I was a little older, I determined that I wanted to always have horses - being 14, I think I was dramatic enough to ask God that I would die "near a horse" - of course, I then started to delineate to God what that looked like:  not die young because I fell off a horse, but die near a horse - like maybe one in my backyard....when I was really old.

In high school, I realized that I wanted to be an English teacher.  I was inspired by my AP English teacher who shared time to talk with me about books and helped me write my first 20 page paper on the "Development and History of the Novel" as an independent study.

When I was 30, I told my father-in-law that I wanted to grow at least 60% of our food.  He looked at the shack (truly) that we were living in and the overwhelming subtropical grass and weeds and said, noncommittally, "That's a pretty big goal."

Funny that somewhere along there all the different dreams the different me-s had throughout my life are coming together.   I have a farm, of sorts; I have horses (although that same eleven year old told her cousin - you don't really want horses: they are a lot of work and you hardly ever get to ride [significant glance to mother]. Poor thing, I am always so crunched for time, tacking up and riding always seem impossible).  I am definitely a teacher which is a job, like farming, with responsibilities that go well beyond the "work day".

It seems impossible, sometimes, that one life could stretch to fit all of these things.  Sometimes, I feel that I am not doing my best in all arenas at all times, because one or the other venture has to take precedence for a space of time.  And, of course, the whole wife-and-mother stint, which as a kid, teen, and young adult seemed just a given, not another area of effort and work, has its share of demands and joys, too.

I wonder what the future will bring.  Well, worry is more the word for it, me being me, and worrying something I do at gold medal levels.  I haven't quite hit the 60% goal of food production, much less the newer goal of "everything except flour and yeast", so whatever the future does hold, it will include hard work.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


We have limited sheep breeds to buy locally, but I saw a CL ad for Dorper Lambs.  I was contemplating some half EF lambs from Kona, but these Dorpers are raised close to my house and handle our rotten weather okay.

Anyone have any input on this breed of sheep?  One of the things that attracts me is the breed descriptions and the pictures of the huge udders.  I dearly want a dairy animal and sheep may be my only alternative at the moment....

Hair sheep also just make sense in our climate - it's wet and muggy and hot and the wool seems like it attracts parasites in a subtropical climate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

To Quiche or Not to Quiche...

My husband is not a fan of quiche.  On the other hand, I have A LOT of eggs in the fridge.  I made cream puffs, chocolate pudding (have to make that again - that was gone in a jiffy), I added egg yolk to my cheese sauce for pasta, we ate eggs for breakfast....but when it came to quiche, the poor man just made a face.

I made a no egg dinner:  cooked rice on the stovetop with tomato sauce, tomato paste, a whole lot of chili powder, black beans, onion, corn, and garlic, then laid a layer of refried beans and some cheese and popped the whole skillet in the oven to broil a bit.  It was quite good, actually - but used absolutely no eggs.

Minnie is still quite pregnant, so it looks like my estimate of another week or two, which I thought I might have to move up, really was correct.

Only one kid is still sick, and I am starting to get worried about him.  His dad is taking him to the doctor today, though.  After being sick for almost a week, he developed a high fever, which seems scarier than starting out with the fever and continuing to be sick for a week.  It seems backwards, and possibly indicative of a nasty secondary infection.  He looked like curdled milk yesterday, and had to miss Confirmation.  I called my student, who is also preparing for Confirmation, and she scanned and sent back a note from the teacher that Teddy should not miss anymore classes.  Hello?  He had a 102.5 fever!  You want him to get everyone sick?  I know I have been guilty of it as a teacher, too, but everyone thinks their particular aspect of a kids' life is the most important aspect.... She is a volunteer, first year catechist, so I can understand her issues - Confirmation is in four weeks, but still....

There are only 7 1/2 weeks left of this school year: one more round of 10th grade testing, Prom, Career Day, Graduation, and Ho'olaule'a to get through.  In the midst of all this activity, I have to keep teaching and pushing kids to do more than they think they can do.  I have a lot of plants to start - I am already late with my beans!  My husband works on infrastructure, so he wants to think (a lot) before he does things, which means every year, my garden is late and rushed, because I am not even allowed to prepare it by hand - he is going to use the tractor, so try wait, eh (he doesn't speak pidgin, I am just being irreverent).  This year, at least, I have the greenhouse, due to his excellent thinking (a lot) and then doing.

I am not complaining - I can now walk to the chicken coop without stepping in mud, and the sheep can walk to the pasture without stepping in mud, and we found the reason for all the mud (more than the rain) - a busted pipe that led from the roof to the water trough (water catchment), but I really, really want a much bigger garden than I have ever had before!

By the way, last week was my students' debut on a student created news show which airs on our local PBS.  We're kind of novice and have nowhere near the equipment that many of the other schools have, but you can see our episode here.

It's particularly cool because the "Home School"  who does the in-between sections did all the commentary in the Ni'ihau dialect of olelo Hawaii.  They do provide English subtitles!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Inflation of all sorts:

Minnie's udder and belly are inflating.  I swear her belly is almost dragging on the ground.  I don't expect her to deliver for another week, but if she gets any bigger, she will have to roll rather than walk.

Food and gas.  I still don't understand why economist's don't count food and gas in the inflation index.  Food and gas (sometimes in the form of electricity) are what people buy.  All the rest is extra, really.  Perhaps some people in Washington need to get out more.  Gas is $4.49 for regular here - and Kona is even higher.  It's going up 5 -10 cents a week. Because we live on an island, that means mostly everything, if you don't produce your own, comes from somewhere else - fuel increases means price increases!

The only thing that seems to be deflating is my time to do everything!

Today, the plan is to bake the bread for the week and maybe make some pudding or lemon curd out of the abundance of egg in my fridge.  I have a funeral to attend this afternoon.  I would like to get some more seeds started since my husband made more tables out in the greenhouse.  At least that would mean some time outside.  The rains have stopped for the moment, but it is quite hot and muggy because the storm to the north of the islands is pulling the south winds up over the state.  At least it isn't too voggy today.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Roo Blues


I swear he is dinner.  This time, I think I mean it, even if it means I need to go to the trouble of finding another roo.

The chickens were out in the sheep yard for a little expanded point of view and a little scratching.  You'd think he would be in a good mood after that, darn rooster.  And, usually, when I come with my magic converted coffee can full of feed, it makes everyone excited and rush for the gate.  However, last night, Mister Roo was upset with me and attacked my boot.  I noticed that my foot was really stinging, but it wasn't until I took my boots off that I realized he got me right through that rubber.  I have a tiny puncture wound which is a lot more painful than you would think such a tiny thing would be.  I really hope he didn't give me anything nasty (like staph).

On the home front, three of the four kids are sick today.  It made my ride into work very quiet!  I am feeling a bit punky myself, but I do have to wait for the college kid (who takes the bus in to get a couple more hours of sleep) to be pau with classes, so I can give her a ride home.  My older son was determined to get up and go to school, even though I have been telling him to stay home all week - but today, he said, while still lying down, "I am going." Then he sat up and said, "Never mind, I am staying home."  One kid has a terrible headache (I actually believe him) and the other is clutching her stomach (I believe her, too, even though she is quite dramatic).

At least I will get home by 4:00 tonight.  It has been a really long week.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's for Dinner?

I am so very tired today, and I really, really don't know what to cook for dinner.

Digital Media is becoming a whole 'nother dimension at work.  I never don't have kids in my room, which is actually fine, but today we were trying to rip a DVD for a teacher whose father had passed away - we made a slideshow for her, but we needed to get it on DVD for the service.  That worked, but we were working on a deadline and it was mildly stressful - I really wanted it to work so it wouldn't be one more stress for her.  

Another teacher needed to film her classes and make a video and that was sort of a zoo because the SD card she bought was too small, so we had to lend her our club one.  Not a problem, just confusing and difficult to manage.  The camera was being temperamental today and some of the footage got lost.

It was very nice to come home and inspect the tomato plants - almost all of my 22 plants are starting tomatoes - I am hoping to get a bunch at the same time for canning purposes - these are indeterminate tomatoes, so crossing fingers.  My two kinds of basil are up to the four leaf stage - I love that intense smell.

My husband planted a whole lot of taro huli today!  The mala is now a lot bigger than my previous taro patch, so I am pretty excited about that.  It looks a bit like bun long variety, based on the one corm that got mixed in with the keiki, which would be cool - although my last attempt at bun long didn't do so well.  Bun Long is a Chinese taro - good for poi and good for chips.

Minnie is bagging up pretty well and waddling all over the pasture.  I still think we have another week - week and a half until she lambs, but it sure looks like she needs to pop.  I am hoping there is a single lamb for her first lambing, but she is enormous!

So what are you all making for dinner?  I am absolutely out of ideas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wish Grandma Were Here

My grandma had mad skills.  At one point, I actually got really mad at myself for not learning, but she lived thousands of miles away, and I didn't really have the opportunity.  So, now I am trying to learn from books and blogs and wishing she were here.

Grandma and PopPop always had a huge garden.  It seemed huge to me as a little girl, anyway.  Grandma canned tomato sauce and made yummy pickles.  She could also sew, although I certainly didn't appreciate the (sorry, Grandma) very ugly bathing suits she made us out of upholstery fabric after about the age of 4.  She had killer recipes for Polish and German foods.

She and PopPop were so frugal that they only needed the trash pickup half the time offered by their municipality.  Well, actually, we got that one covered - we only have to haul to the dump about every other month and we recycle and compost like nuts....

I fear I will never learn to sew, but I am a fair hand at baking and I am determined to get this canning stuff down.  I still wish Grandma were here, though.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lack of Sleep

I blame it on Grandpa - I was not sleeping last night.  It seems insomnia is catching.

Nah, just joking.  Actually, I was thinking about work, worried I am wrong about the time that Minnie is due, and just generally stewing.  I kept half falling asleep, thinking/dreaming I heard a ewe in distress and waking up fully to realize it was just my husband snoring.  Yeah, I am not sure how I confused those sounds either - it's just a measure of my wooziness from lack of sleep.

Considering I have at least 2-3 hours of driving around after work between picking up kids and running errands, maybe I should consider another cup of coffee.... except I don't want to be up tonight, too.  Probably the kids will be loud enough to keep me up while driving.

As my son pointed out after a particular driver's ed lesson: "Sleepy tired is as bad as Drunk driving.  Mom, you are SO guilty."

Lemon Marmalade Pt. 2

I have to admit to conflicted feelings about my first canning experience.  On the one hand, I am enjoying the non-processed version (that half-filled jar in the fridge).  On the other hand, the two jars on the shelves look too pretty and were so much work.  I can't imagine ever opening them!

I am sure I will when my parents come in a month - to brag, if nothing else.

It occurred to me that you might like the recipe.

Lemon Marmalade

10 lemons
4 cups water
4 cups sugar

Scrub and peel the rind from the lemons. Cut the pith from the lemons, cut them into 1/4 inch slices and remove the seeds.

Place the 4 cups of water and the fruit and rind in a non-aluminum pot to soak for 3-4 hours.

Bring the rind, fruit, and water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook until very soft (about 45-60 minutes).

Add the four cups of sugar, bring to a full boil, and then reduce to a low boil and cook until candy thermometer reaches 220 degrees, or until the fruit reaches gel stage.

Prepare jars according to manufacturer's directions.  Fill 3 pint sized hot jars with hot filling.  Process for 15 minutes. Check seal after 12 hours.

My mistakes:  I couldn't get a good reading on the candy thermometer because of the shape of my pot.  I think I went well past the sheeting/gel stage because my finished product, though tasty, is quite gelatinous and not like marmalade (more like jelly).  This could also explain why I ended up with 2.5 pint jars instead of the 3 in the recipe - I think I boiled it down quite a lot.  It does taste very good, though.  I wonder if lemons from the store would make a more yellow marmalade.  My lemons always are partially green in color, even when they are ripe.

I would love to mix the tangerines and lemons from my trees together in this recipe.  Next time I have enough ripe tangerines or oranges, I am going to substitute a lemon or two with them....I will let you know how it goes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lemon Marmalade

Well, that was an experience.

All that work and only two and a half pint jars.  I put the half full  pint jar in the fridge to use immediately.  It tastes good.

Anyone know how to adjust time if you adapt a recipe for pint jars to half pint jars?  I would have liked to have 5 jars instead of 2!  All that peeling and and chopping and boiling.  I am proud of myself, though!

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

I spent the morning outside - yay!

I woke up inordinately late, because I spent the night thinking about reading - about teaching reading and thinking skills at the same time.  Well, actually, I woke up at four and make a 45 minute round trip to my son's school because he has a track meet on the other side of the island and the bus was leaving at 5 am, but then I went back to bed and didn't get up until 9:30!

To make myself feel less lazy, I went outside and tried to clean up after all this rain we've had. More is expected, so I had to leave some barrier to rain flooding in, but I tried to get the wettest and most icky spots out of both the sheep stall and the horse stall.  I top dressed the tomatoes in the green house with composted manure.  The sky is gloomy and dark, but refrained from pouring down on me.  I put one of the manure loads around the bananas - they like fresh manure.  I need to get out there and trim off the dead leaves and compost them.  They mellow out the nitrogen heavy manure from the stalls and chicken run and provide a good base of brown matter to add to the green in the compost pile.

It looks to me like Minnie is due in about two weeks.  It's her first time, so I am a little nervous.  She has a bit of a bag, but it still looks not ready.

Do you remember the mare I sold a couple of months ago?  I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't heard how she settled in to her new place.  Well, I ran into a friend who is on the show circuit, and she knows the new owner.  Scarlett is getting bred next month!  I wonder if she will be a good mom? Nature will have to kick in, because she sure didn't seem like she would be.

I am taking a few minutes to rest from shoveling mud and wet manure (heavy) before cleaning bathrooms and finally getting to that lemon marmalade canning.  I am excited but a little apprehensive as I have never done this before.  I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out....

Tonight is Prom night, but I don't even get pictures, because my son is planning to get ready in the locker room after the meet!  They are going in a group of friends, rather than with dates, so I guess it could be more sad.  It is also only Junior year - next year he WILL let me take pictures.  I guess my freshman in college didn't get enough of prom, because she is also going (it's her last eligible year) as are some of her fellow recent graduates, but somehow that is less exciting...partially because her hair is crayon red and although I respect the need for a young adult to assert her own identity and try new things, I am just not used to it.  In the nicest possible way, I think she looks like a cartoon.

Off to wield the mop, broom, and cloth.  I hope everyone has a lovely day.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Absolutely Nothing to do with Plants or Animals

Unless you count teenagers as animals, which, I suppose is debatable.

I have been beating my brain on my reading strategies class today.  All of us are choosing to read today - you are looking at my blog.  I am not picture heavy, so you are reading.  It's a good bet all of us are pretty much on the automaticity level for reading.  I am a secondary teacher.  I have never been taught to teach anyone to read, and the literature out there is pretty overwhelming. Over the years, I have taught myself, through research, trial and error, pure determination, to teach secondary age non-readers to read. It is not the same as teaching a 6 year old to read, it really isn't.

Most reading text books for secondary level kids say things like, "Set purposes for reading" or "Use what you already know to make connections".  Makes sense, right?

Struggling readers don't even know where to start.  They think that good readers just read - the words go by their eyes and they can answer all the questions.  They don't know that there is a whole host of things that go on between the eyes perusing the text and the pencil moving over the paper.  In fact, good readers couldn't even tell you what they are doing.  It's so automatic, the steps have become invisible to them.

At first glance, teaching someone to read, after the basics of phonics and basic words are out of the way, is like teaching someone to breathe.

"First, you breathe in.  Then you breathe out."

Just think about all the muscles and nerves involved in breathing in and out.  Think about trying to tell someone how to do each muscle in order.

I know I have told countless students to "Visualize when you read."  I didn't even think about all the skills involved in visualizing:  sequencing, identifying the setting, making an inference about why a character would do and say something in particular, and connecting those ideas to other ideas and experiences.

It's been a mind-bending but fruitful thinking day.  I didn't grade, make copies, or do anything else that would be normal on a prep day, but I sure made my brain smoke with thoughts.  Time to put that on the back burner to simmer while I change over to "farmer me".  Simmering has always brought out unexpected results - just like simmering a stew brings out the flavors.  Hopefully, my students will benefit.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Snow, Rain, Frisky Animals

My husband was working on creating a curving stairway of cement block yesterday when the storm hit.  It was very sudden; in Hilo, where I work, it was sunny and then suddenly bucketing rain, thunder and lightning with no gap, right over our heads.  My son said that in the hour and a bit that he was in trig, the campus runoff ditches turned into rivers, that there was a waterfall over the culvert near the Learning Center.  Unfortunately, as I said, my husband was mixing cement.  I imagine that was a bit of a mess.

I am not sure of the purpose of the stairs, but they sure look nice.  Our house is set into a hill with a daylight basement.  On one side of the house we have a lava rock wall which curves around from the driveway down to the basement area (next to the new greenhouse).  In the platform created by that wall, we have our pump house, solar water heating panels and a small area that we’ve always intended to make into a small garden of sorts.  My husband took out some of the rock wall and created a curving pathway, in which he is setting cement blocks as stairs/stepping stones.  It looks cool and I am looking forward to the finished project and what he is planning to do with that area. 

The smell of the snow on the mountain in clear every time I step outside.  It is pretty far – at least an hour’s drive, but that cold smell must travel.  It is fairly chilly for Hilo today, not see your breath chilly like it gets up at my house (up mauka), but chilly for Hawaii.  I am a little frustrated with my 13 year old’s insistence that he doesn’t need a jacket.  It isn’t “cool”, I imagine, to wear a jacket – or maybe he is worried he will lose it, like the last one.  The cold is making the animals, who come with their own jackets, frisky and playful.  I am feeling bad for the ewes: we had this unseasonably warm winter and they were panting in their wool winter coats, but now they’ve shed and it is cool – but judging by the playfulness out there, I think they’re doing okay. 

This weekend, I definitely need to deal with the mess the heavy rains have made in my animal housing and do some deep cleaning out there.  If I have the time, I am hoping to get to that lemon marmalade project.  Lemons are great because they pretty much hang out on the tree until you are ready to pick them, even if they are ripe.  You can have blossoms, immature fruit, and mature fruit all at the same time. 

Speaking of citrus, I was excited to see some blossoms on my navel orange and grapefruit tree – the latter is as old as the lemon, but the fruit that is growing (one grapefruit) now is the first I have seen on it.  The navel orange tree is pretty young, and has produced only one (very delicious) orange, ever.  It was a very unprepossessing looking fruit, and we thought it would be woody or sour, but when we cut it open it had to be the best orange I have ever eaten – I am hoping this summer that I get at least 5.  Citrus takes such a long time to mature,. 

The olive trees I have yet to plant are already getting some blossoms – I think I should pinch them off, because the trees are so tiny – sacrifice this November’s possible olives for a long and fruitful growth of the trees.  Farming is often an exercise in patience, isn’t it?  It’s a good reminder, because I am so often impatient with myself and the multitude of things I need to do and to learn. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Storm Coming...Hail in Hawaii?

Or so they say.  They sky does look a bit funky, but they're predicting winter weather on our summits and possibly hail on our lower elevations.  That would be cool, especially if they cancel school... I am as bad as a kid.  Although, honestly, the kids at our school really like to come to school.  Don't get me wrong, it isn't school they like, they just like to be around their friends.  However, most of the kids have been saying things like, "The teachers at this school support us, not like at other schools", so maybe they like us, too.

Oh wait, I don't want them to cancel school tomorrow, actually!  I have a team of students doing a news story for PBS, and it's due tomorrow!  Nope, I need them to adjust some of the sound levels and then I need to mail it off.

I am reading one of my favorite books in the world with my first period class.  It is called Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin.  It is very long to cover in a class, but I told them if they were willing, I would jam through it, keep the talking and writing about it to a minimum while we worked through it.  These kids have had me before, so they know when I say, "I love this book!"  it turns out to be pretty good.  They are now taking the book into other classes and reading bits aloud to their friends and kids are coming to ask for this 758 page book to take home.  I love it!  I am exploding with things to talk about, but I promised I would wait until the half way point - we're all putting post-its like made and writing book journals to keep our thoughts for the mid point discussion.  It's not always you get a class like this, that's for sure.

Time to switch gears to farm and mom mode.  Time to run out to feed before it gets dark and stormy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why April is My Least Favorite Month

Number One Reason:  Taxes. Yes, I was the great procrastinator this year, although when we were young and just married, we used to borrow someone's computer and be frantically working to get it done in time to drive through the post office emergency tax drop off by midnight.  It was easier to do that in the days before kids, mortgages, and itemized deductions.  Now, I have the financial aid stuff to do after I do the taxes, and unfortunately, financial aid applications make taxes look like a walk in the park.  I loathe April.   Last year, we were also trying to evaluate financial aid offers from the various universities my oldest applied least this year, we are spared that agony.  It all starts again next year with the next college-bound kid.

Another reason I loathe April is the fact that it is standardized testing month in Hawaii.  One period of testing determines so much for a school.  Many of the kids don't see the point, since the results don't come for several months, have no direct effect on them, and some, at least at the 10th grade level, see it as a way to stick it to the school.  I don't know why politicians and people who are not in schools working with kids think that one standardized test, often badly written, is a true measure of what kids can do - and then use it as a stick to punish schools.  At the very least, they are missing the "carrot" part of the "carrot and the stick".

In the middle of the taxes and pondering the state of American education, I was running back and forth to the kitchen to work on the baking: sandwich bread, cinnamon sugar biscuits, and mozzarella biscuits.  The 24 cinnamon sugar biscuits are already gone, which is its own testament, I suppose.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Olive Branches

Well, really, olive trees.  I bought four young olive trees (about 3 feet high) from craigslist.  I need to plant them today.  I am pretty excited to find a variety that will do well up here.  Apparently, they are tolerant of vog, too, which is great!

The young couple from whom I bought them said they've brined a few off their own trees, and they are delicious, but they haven't done any pressing for oil.  I will need to do research.  It is going to take a good 2 years until we get olives, so I have plenty of time to learn.

I never did get to the marmalade yesterday - I realized I had only two weekends left to do taxes.  So while my husband dug out the chicken run and raised the roof on it so we don't have to bend down to get inside, I tackled the taxes. I think I would rather shovel chicken manure, frankly.

It's funny, because since he's been home for a few weeks, he's been helping out with feeding in the morning.  This is a big help, because going to work with mud (and worse) splashed on my pants is less than professional.  Before feeding for a week or so straight, he thought I was exaggerating the ram issue.  Now, I notice that bitter tone that always creeps into my voice when talking about dealing with sheep when Elvis is around is creeping into his.  We absolutely didn't pet or coddle our ram lambs, so they are, thankfully, a little wary of us.  Elvis is affectionate, unafraid, and inclined to ram at the smallest provocation.  

Today is the church and Confirmation classes.  That means the whole morning is pretty much gone (only a month and a half until the actual Confirmation!) and I have to hear people complaining about that...and then have to come back and finish the taxes and fiddle a bit in the greenhouse and grade papers.  What I really want to do is take a nap!  9 weeks until summer, and hopefully, my son will have his license so he can drive himself to pre-season cross country training....and no one is dying to go to summer school, or anything like that.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Usual Complications

Having four kids means a lot of change.  I am sure God made my life like this because I was always fond of a routine.  Now, each day if different and I need to keep 5 or 6 schedules in my head.

Last night, both girls (18 and 11) were supposed to be out and about, so we took the boys to the "cheap theater".  That was the intention anyway.  Halfway through dinner, my 11 year old's teacher chaperone for the campout called from half way up Mauna Kea and said he was bringing the lot of them down, because my daughter had thrown up.  I left the men of the house at the movie, and drove back to the school to wait an hour in the parking lot.  At least, I satisfied the security guard at the gate's curiosity - he was wondering why that bus was coming in early....

Now I am worried about my girl, though.  She has been heading into the health room several times in the last couple of weeks with stomachaches - which I just thought was her being tired and dramatic, but now, with the vomiting and the pain when I push on her upper left abdomen and the fact that she's lost 2 lbs in the last week, I am getting slightly worried.  However, she is running around, as usual, talking up a storm.  I am in a quandary, because they have a school camping trip early next week that I know she doesn't want to miss, and she really does look fine today, except for the weight loss and slight side pain.  I think I am going to let her go on the huaka'i and schedule a doctor's appointment for the following day.

Today, I dropped my son off at his track meet and ran some errands before his 1500 m race - told him I wanted to watch all, but couldn't - which race would be the one he wanted someone to be there watching most.  He picked that one, the one Coach wants him to focus on most.  He ran it in 5:00 flat, which is better than last time, but not quite what he wanted to make.  It's fairly early days, yet, though.  He needs to take about 10 seconds off his time to qualify for States - but he couldn't go anyway, because the Behind The Wheel classes for Driver's Ed are sacrosanct.  Always so complicated....

The whole thing took the entire morning, so now, I know I need to get going on at least one project: making lemon marmalade (my first venture into canning), cleaning animal housing, or doing housework.  The eleven year old votes for the housecleaning, because she thinks it could be done fast enough to allow for time to ride, but I am dying to jump into canning....hmmm, decisions, decisions.