Friday, September 30, 2011

Animal Affection

My horse Ōhiʻa was an orphan.  They grafted him onto his half-sister’s dam, but I contend that having to compete made him just the tiniest bit neurotic.  He is a tail chewer – not his own tail, but any pasture mate has to keep their hind end away from his mouth to avoid a haircut.  He is a weaver, but only if you are late with dinner (very bad habit, I know).  He stands with his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth, which is intensely goofy on a horse.  And any time I give him attention, he tries to give me some back.

Horses will often scratch each other with their cheek bones or even their teeth.  You’ll see a couple of horse standing nose to arse with their heads on each other’s backs.  They are helping each other stay fly free – if my head is on your back – the flies can’t land on you, and your tail swishes the flies from my face (and vice versa). 

Well, when Ōhiʻa decides one good back scratch deserves another, he just about bowls me over.  He puts his head over my shoulder and attempts to scratch away.  He really gets into to it, too, putting some of that weaving action into it.  I figure he is expressing his affection for his human mom, so I brace myself and bear with it while vigorously scratching his neck and back.

Elvis is just as pushy, but he tends to just tilt his head up, press as close as he can through bars (I have learned my lesson with the ram and don’t go in anywhere without something between us), and half close his eyes to better concentrate on the chin scratches. 

The ewes and wethers are a bit more reticent, but once they realize there is no wormer, syringe, or clippers in evidence, they press in for their chin scratches.  They are so noisy. The only one not hollering away is the one currently getting his/her affection for the day.

Crazy Horse Gib needs sneaking up on.  You need to walk in, not looking at him, pretending that you are working on something else.  Then you can slowly reach your hand out to his neck and give him a quick pat.  If he is in the right mood, and if you make a big enough fuss over Ōhiʻa, you will sometimes feel his nose make a quick poke at your back, which means if you are slow and measured in your movement, you can approach him and give him a good dose of affection.  He is so nuts, he’ll forget tomorrow what you did today, but at least you did it.  Poor horse. 

Nani, the defective cat, will not cuddle (hence the defective label) but she will deign to let you pet her under the hanging laundry, but only if you have to stretch your arms to get her, and only if you then let her roll over and pretend disembowel you with her hind legs.  I am sorry, Eldest Daughter, but your cat really, truly is defective. 

The budgie gets his love in the form of me singing to him in the morning and making inane bird whistles at him.  I wonder what I am saying, because he is sure intent on answering back.   

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fall Break

Almost time for Fall Break.  I plan to work on the garden.  My husband scraped and tilled an aread next to where I had the potatoes this summer.  I wish I could put some potatoes in the new area, too - what a wonderful way to loosen up the clay we have here!

Sadly, though, my potatoes weren't prolific, although they were productive.  We had several meals worth of potatoes, but none left for seed.  I think that is because I really left them too long in the fridge and so didn't have as many to plant as I could have.  This is one of the problems with not having enough time - some things get wasted.

Anyway, I am planning on cabbages and cabbage-y things out there for the winter - broccoli, chard, etc.  I did buy a package of banana pepper seed for the greenhouse.  I would like to try to put up some pepperoncini - I love them on sandwiches.  I bought some mesclun, because my husband enjoys a salad now and again - it is always something that I should have growing.  We'll need to do some digging with garden forks to get underneath the tiller pan that happens when you run even a small garden tractor over heavy, wet clay soil.  He's already added a good amount of the compost from the barn pile, so that will be nice to dig in. 

I was feeling pretty strong and enthusiastic, unlike how I usually feel when a grading term comes rushing toward me, but I woke up tired today after having frustrating dreams (in retrospect, they were kind of funny, but when I was in the middle of them I was frustrated, tired, and angry - not a good way to spend your hours sleeping). Thank goodness there are only two more days until break!  Usually, I feel this way when I have 2 weeks left, which is not pleasant. 

Two more days, and then I am going to spend the next week alternating between deep cleaning, deep gardening, and create curriculum for next quarter - oh, and I hope to get a ride or two in there.  Pray for at least partly sunny for me.... Riding in the pouring rain is a fact of life in the rain forest, but it ins't that fun. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mornings Are Starting to Get Cold...

Relatively speaking, of course.  It's been in the 50s of a morning up my way.  It seems a bit early, so I am wondering what this winter is going to be like. It could be so dry in January and February that we're conserving the water in our catchment tanks, or it could be bucketing rain - we have had, memorably, 33 inches in as many hours during one November. 

 I am in a bit of a quandry, because, as usual, I feel a sense of urgency to get seeds in the ground.  This usually hits me when I am a day or two out from heading to the grocery store, especially on a bill-paying day.  (I guess I am not the only one, as I read this blog from Small Farm Girl)

The greenhouse we built is just too small to house everything I want to plant, but putting things in the ground like normal climate gardeners is a gamble.  Remember when my carrots ended up four feet downhill from where I planted them?  We put a bid on a huge commercial greenhouse last week, using my husband's savings he pulled out to start a new venture - but we were outbid.  The greenhouse was 60 feet by 108 feet.  It was quite overkill for one full time farmer (husband) and one extremely part-time farmer (me), so it was probably for the best - but now we're thinking of how to put up a reasonably large structure to increase our flooding-subtropical-rain-proof food production. 

I absolutely, in theory, support the living on one income paradigm, particularly when it means time to devote to more self-sustainable living, but the reality has been quite an uphill battle.  Hanging laundry and being more diligent with the kids about turning off lights and computers is one small change that has paid off; as has turning off one cell phone and decreasing packaged services on the other.  Driving a smaller car and getting a job closer to home was helpful, too. None of these even touch the real problem which is a mortgage grown large through educating four kids or the rising cost of gas, food, and feed.  We're so fortunate in so many ways, but the change of moving from two incomes to one is going to take some getting used to - and some shifting around of things are done. 

Which brings me to the fact that a lot of the time, I feel pretty pressured and stressed - and I recently read an article that said, no matter how well you think you are shielding your kids from your stress, you are not at all successful because the transmittal is automatic and divorced from words and actions.  Now, I don't know how much of that premise is true - but way to add to a parent's stress.  You're already stressed and then you find out your stress not only translates to your kids, but it causes grave health problems for them.  Lovely.

Actually, I have a strange sense of humor and thought that was humorous in a dark way, which just goes to prove, I must not be that stressed after all.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Garden and Greenhouse Work

Kind of ripped out a lot of six month old plants - harvested half a gallon ice cream bucket of red jalapenos and took those plants out as well as some of the kabocha pumpkin that was looking sick - it seemed to be covered with the same powedery stuff that got the cucumbers.  I pulled all the basil, too, and made pesto.  It's purple, because I did plant a lot of purple basil.  I think I might make a purple pesto potato salad - I pulled the last of the potatoes yesterday and they are purple, too, so it might look quite pretty. 

I know it's not the best thing to do, but I just use my composted manure for pretty much everything - starting seeds, fertilizing and adding humous to our acid volcanic clay, side dressing pots in the greenhouse when they start looking depleted... and since my compost pile is exposed to the wind, seeds blow in, and so it will get these little weeds in it.  They aren't the kikuyu grass, which is like steel cable masquerading as runner grass, just little wild grown cover plants which are easy to pull up and are shallow rooted.  They grow fast, so part of the watering job every day in the green house is scraping these little plants out of the pots. 

I had a few 4 inch pots where the seeds didn't start, so I cleaned those out yesterday and added some potting soil I had purchased for the house plants I transplanted for my office.  I planted red onion, basil, asparagas (not sure how that will work out, but worth a try), some beans, zucchini, and some tomatoes. 

Outside, I cleared away the straw that was mulching the potatoes, turned over the dirt, and planted carrots, green onion, turnips, thick rooted Parsley, beets, mustard cabbage, and kale.  I already have brussels sprouts, collards, and several varieties of sweet potatoes. 

My husband is attempting to use our small tractor to clear out this pernicious growth called cats' claw.  It isn't the valuable anti-inflammatory cat's claw - just some nasty thick voluminous growth that sprouts up when you bulldoze.  We bulldozed years ago, and now the growth is over 6 feet tall and impenetrable.  When we bulldozed, we asked them to leave a strip of trees between us and the arena and the road.  A lot of cats' claw grew up on the borders of those trees.  Now we're thinking of taking out the trees and putting in a bigger greenhouse or two.  I have mixed feelings about the location - I like that the trees act as a buffer for the noise of cars driving past, but I don't want to give up any of the pasture land.  I would be willing to give up some of our rather large yard, but my husband isn't willing to do that.  So the compromise place is on the non-view side of the house and involves knocking down trees.  They aren't useful trees, by and large - just waiawi, which is also invasive and clumping.  It isn't good for burning because it is very oily and it only produces useful fruit when it is not all clumped and thick like it is there. 

Well, I have rambled on for enough.  Have a lovely Sunday! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dogs Gotta Go

The temporary solution was to tie up the dogs when the sheep were out, but there was a failure in the solution and my Sweetpea is dead and so is Spot, my Dorper ram.  We're sad over the ewe lamb, but my daughter is sad because her dog has to go. 

Even though I am frustrated and upset, I know deep down I am a bit sad about Balto and Cinnamon, too. 

Very Sad evening.....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Planning Planting

One blessing about living where I do is that I can plant all year round.  It also ups the pressure on me, because I feel like I need to plant all year round; there is so much to learn, so many things I do not know.  Since my climate is typical to Hawaii and not typical to North America, no book or website is going to quite right. 

What I would like to do is to have a continuous harvest of a variety of different vegetables and fruit, but also have a ton of some things all at once (like tomatoes and cucumbers) so I can put some things up. I would like to have enough of this continuous harvest to sell in a format similar to a CSA, because a little extra money is never a bad thing.  I would also like to be able to sell composted manure and seedlings.  Self-sustainability and food security on an island, particularly an island like Hawaii Island which is rich in agricultural resources, starts at home. 

Although I am an English teacher, I am always looking for away to get the issue of self-sustainability and food production into the classroom. (I wonder if I can somehow partner with the Hawaiian culture teachers who have that lovely mala out back???)  Although my land is far from any school, really, it would be lovely to be able to connect my farm to a school, somehow. 

I am not sure how much of that last bit is my wish/need to put my life back in balance.  It helps to have the kids and I at the same place, but I still feel a bifurcation between home and work.  The cusp times are the hardest when I feel like I have to worry about both places - in the mornings while I am getting ready for work or at the end of the school day when I am trying to wrap up the day and plan for all the things that need to be done when I get home. 

And then there are those ambitions:  a really BIG garden intensively planted, a cupboard full of my home-canned everything, boxes of produce to sell to people who enjoy local food, but don't have the time to go to the Farmer's Market, whole week's meals produced at home, and last, but not least, a family cow or two milk goats. 

When I realistically look at the demands of my job and my kids, it just feels very overwhelming.  I am gone for 12 hours a day and when I get home - I am tired.  Because we are committed to cutting down our enormous electric bill, the laundry just takes more planning, because we have less income and my pay schedule has changed, bills take more planning, because I am committed to cooking home made meals based as much as possible on things I grow or scratch make, meal planning and preparation takes a bit longer.  I rarely ride, which makes me feel guilty about the cost of the alfalfa cubes.  I spend about 10 minutes a night with the sheep, petting them like big wooly dogs, checking their condition and peeking at their eyelids, because darn it if sheep don't take a nose dive alarmingly fast if you don't keep up with them.... I give the dogs about two minutes of regard (usually thinking, "Wow, you seriously need a bath - what have you been rolling in?")  and then I am in the door, trying to figure out dinner, homework, and what stage the laundry is in (sopping wet, needs to be hung, half dry, stiff as a board dry and ready to fold), and what else it was I was supposed to do when I got home....  I know most working mothers have the same issue with time and compartmentalizing, but the farm is a whole level of planning and responsibilities on top of what my life used to be as a working mother. 

But hey, today I lent out two of my favorite young adult novels (both by the same author), helped a 10th grader do a good job on his homework, got a glimpse at two truly chicken-skin level senior thesis statements that amazed me with their depth of thought about the Hawaiian culture, had a great cross curricular discussion with my math counterpart, and rescued the rather depressing failure that Period One was turning into with a lively discussion about expectations and how the unexpected not only produces humor, but also reveals something about culture and society - not bad for a class that five minutes before was falling asleep.  Hopefully, going home will produce small joys, as well.

Watching Sweetpea chase chickens is always a good start.  I hope she doesn't grow out of it. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cloudy with a Few Spates of Rain

Basically, it is weather that makes me feel at home.  After 15 years living here, sunshine looks odd, although I enjoy it on the rare occasions it makes its appearance. 

When our nephew was here, he offered to help out the garden, "If it isn't raining," (he's from Texas).  I started giggling, which probably wasn't nice, but the thought of no rain out here in the rain forest was amusing. 

I harvested a very tiny few veggies today - snap beans, tomatoes, these little eggplants, and a couple of last potatoes.  The collards and brussels sprouts are starting to take off - they like the rain and we had some good hard rain days in the last week. The sweet potatoes look like they want to make leaves instead of roots, but the leaves are good in stir fry.  Maybe I need to plant them with less compost (nitrogen rich because of the horse manure) to encourage more rooting and less leaf generation.

I hung up a load of laundry.  I forgot how I like doing that.  It can be a drag when you know in our weather it is going to take 3 days to dry, but the smell of clean laundry, the rhythm of going from basket to line, and the imaginary sound of all the money I am saving here in the land of the highest per kilowatt cost in the US....blissful. 

My 17 year old is over on Oahu.  He ran his race this morning - 3 miles in 18:56.  It's his personal best and damned impressive, if you ask his proud mom.  I wish I could have been there.  His sister was there; she said he looks different and asked about her other siblings.  She has only been gone three months or so, but I guess things change.

I have some bathrooms to tend - and some animal shelters to clean, more laundry to wash and hang, and all the baking to do, and I sure hope to fit a ride in sometime this weekend.  Better get back to work! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just a Quick Note

I feel like writing, so I will post a quick note.  Maybe this is the time I need a Twitter account.  Don't know if any of you is a big tweeter, but I just never thought my life was all that interesting.  ("Going out to feed the sheep." "Sheep were loud and annoying, but that food sure shut them up." "Time to cook dinner." - nope, just not that interesting in the minute by minute segment, and I rarely share opinions on anything juicy enough to care about.) 

Went to bed thinking of yet another graphic organizer for the 12th graders.  I sent it over in an email this morning and popped in at the last period to see how they did on them.  I could see where we might need to tweak it some more, so I pondered that and think I have an idea.  Hope I don't dream of graphic organizers - I did that this week, and the dreams were both stressful and boring, at the same time. 

My son is going to Oahu for a race - I wish I were going, too.  Not that I would at all like to go chaperone (the boys sleep in the wrestling room at an Oahu school and the girls sleep in a dance studio), but I would LOVE to go see my daughter and my parents and see my son run one of his last few cross country races....  Although I get hot, sweaty, and incredibly annoyed at the traffic when I am on Oahu, from a distance, it is still my home.  The Kailua of my memory is the best place in the world to live.  I don't understand how my husband doesn't miss it like I do - maybe it is because he spent the last three years living there part time and the realities of the traffic have sunk in for him. 

Oops, time to get the child/young man and take him to meet his team at the airport.  I am going to splurge on a storebought pizza for dinner tonight.  I much prefer my own, but I am not getting home until 7 or later tonight. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Running Around

This is a different running around then the last few  years - when running around meant driving up to 120 miles in a day (up and down, like a shuttlecock, along the Highway between home and Hilo).  Today, I have seen more of the campus than I have since my first day and my grand tour. 

I taught my own class (it was a blast today - the book we're reading together sparked a far-ranging discussion on religion, gender roles, and expectations - awesome stuff), worked with more 12th graders on thesis statements, tutored a sophomore during lunch, helped at the study hall (more thesis statements - must be zeitgeist), and I have about a half an hour before heading over to talk to more Seniors about thesis statements. 

I would be having even more fun if I were not feeling as if I were on the edge of catching a chest cold.  Just have that slightly removed feeling - as if the virus were putting a lag time between the world and my experience.  Of course, that could also be because I had about 5 and a bit hours of sleep, too....It was worth it.  I went to dinner with some dear friends (former co-workers) and stayed out too late.  We had Japanese food, very delicious. 

I confess that with four and half hours left until I can go home - I am pooped, done, all tuckered out.  Too bad it isn't Friday. 

Last night, before going out, I visited with the sheep.  Since my husband has pretty much taken over the weekday feeding schedule, when I go out all they are looking for is affection.  The horses are still eating, usually, because horses take a good hour or more to eat their meal, but the sheep are done and the pushiness is for the scratches under the chin.  A few of the ewes are quite insistent, but some of them, I have to woo - sneak up on them and remind them it feels good to get scratched just at the right spot.  Their eyes glaze over and half close until someone pushes them out of the way for their turn, then there is the general discontent and loud baa-ing grumbles.  Last night I felt like I had 8 very large dogs instead of 8 normal sized sheep. 

I am wondering what to make for dinner... we don't have a lot of quick ingredients to hand tonight, and I am so tired and we get home rather late, so it should be something easy and relatively quick - has to be either chicken or omellettes at this point.  There is enough lettuce in the greenhouse for a salad and a few late tomatoes....throw a little rice in the rice pot, pour some Yoshida's sauce over some chicken and pop it in the oven.  Sounds good to me.  Chicken it is - the eggs can wait until another day.  (Oops, too much like, "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" - getting silly, time to hele on). 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I just read the blog I wrote a half an hour ago. 

I have waves of feeling incompetent - never have been good with change, always have been very hard on myself. 

Seriously wishing I could stay home with my veggies and my sheep and horses and only have to talk to people once a week when I go to town..... 

Aroma of Lilikoi

A coworker gave me a big bag of lilikoi and now my office smells strongly of the fruit.  It is a combination of sharp, sour, and sweet and it is making me hungry.  I like to eat it with cottage cheese, because it has a very strong taste - particularly the yellow ones, which these are.  The purple ones are a bit more mellow. 

I promised her bananas and eggs in exchange - we have a lot of very ripe bananas, so it is nice to move them on out.  Another co-worker asked to buy a dozen eggs, so that will pay for my daughter to replace her lost school ID.  I love bartering, and I love that my chickens can pay for themselves.  I used to sell manure, which helped the horses pay for themselves, but now I think I need all my composted manure.  I suppose that is another way that the horses pay for themselves: by improving my garden soil and giving me good seed starting medium for my greenhouse.  Love the cycle of things. 

The best thing about the smell of the lilikoi is that it covers up the smell of the moldy blinds.  I have put in a work request to have them removed, but for now, I am putting up with itchy, red eyes, sore throats, and headaches - which may be attributed to the moldy blinds or maybe to the sun pouring into the windows because I can't put my blinds down or the whole room stinks. 

I had the opportunity to go in and present a mini-lesson to another teacher's class of 12th graders today.  What a blast.  I had given her a couple suggestions for a reading response strategy, and she adapted it to her text (a re-telling of the legend of Hi'iaka and Pele - one of my favorites). The main goal was to get kids to write good strong thesis statements.  I had a quick chance to preview what they wrote and to figure out the issues going on with them, and then I got up and talked to them and then they got to work - it was wonderful and effective and fun.  Ninth graders are their own kind of wonderful, but working with seniors was also fun.  Fortunately, my son is in the OTHER English teacher's classroom, so he won't have to deal with my embarassing presence in his classroom.  I believe he has forgotten that I was his English teacher for all of 7th grade, and he was fine with it back then. 

The word may have gotten out, so another teacher asked me to come in and do the same lesson with her ninth graders, too.  I am looking forward to that - and the science teachers are coming back with good reports about the suggestions I gave them.  Since the relationship between me and my EA is puzzling and she keeps forwarding my emails to various administrators (believe me, I am not being rude or whatever in these emails - just asking her to work with particular students on particular tasks), I have been feeling really sad about certain aspects of my work.  Having these positive interactions with other teachers and seeing that things are working is just what I needed. 

I really have never had such a negative relationship with an EA before.  I have had the privilege of working with so many good EAs that it is discouraging to have someone sitting in the back, making negative judgements - particularly one whom I feel is going behind my back instead of asking directly.  I have had EAs who spoke up and questioned - in fact, my favorite person to work with, ever, was a woman who questioned and argued, but also listened - we learned from each other.  I have just started copying everyone she would feel necessary to forward anything to up front.  I am sure they are annoyed by the amount of email they are getting. 

Plants and animals are easier in so many ways.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Country Western Day

It's Spirit Week this week at school which this year means each day of the week has a different music genre theme.  Today is Country Western Day.  I wore my hat and my actual riding boots and casual pants I actually would ride in and which are NOT work clothes.  I feel good, but it's lunch - and I have this strong urge to go ride Crazy Horse.  I am enjoying the music drifting in the windows from the hula pā area. 

Tomorrow is Hip Hop/Rap day - kind of thinking I won't dress for that one - and I may go hide where I can't hear the music.... my biases are definitely showing.  I don't own anything that can count as "bling". 

Has anyone grown quinoa?  I am thinking about trying to grow either this grain or amaranth.  It might be too wet to grow either, but I would like to have some sort of grain from my own land.  ALthough we had some wheat grow as volunteers from not completely composted scratch feed, I don't think they did that well - so looking for something from a warmer climate. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I don't know if it was the sobering 10th anniversary of 9/11 or just a general feeling that life is short, but instead of cleaning, baking, or gardening today, I rode my horse. 

I still pulled a few potatoes and a few weeds, but when I was done with that, I pulled on my riding boots and caught that Crazy Horse.  Ohia (should be 'Ōhi'a now that I have diacritical marks available) just followed us around like a dog - no halter necessary.  He hasn't had much work since I started my new job, so I spent a good hour reminding him how to stand, bend, lunge (not terribly successfullywith , but some progress - at least the pulling out to the end of the 30 foot lunge line reminded him he can't get away from me, even if it also left me with a rope burn).  When he stood still while I thumped on his saddle and generally made a lot of fuss, it was time to mount up. 

He had a brief second when he thought about spinning and running away.  I wonder if he has ever successfully dumped someone with this maneuver, because it seems to be a favorite avoidance technique for him.  He's never gotten me off, but it does mean a lot of tight circles until he stops blowing hard and pulling.  Today, though, he just tensed, thought about it and then calmed down.  We did a lot of suppling exercises - figure eights, spirals, alternating bends around the line of trees in front of the barn.  He was walking calmly but energentically and chewing and smacking his lips, which means happy submission for a horse.  He has such a light response to aides when he isn't in flee mode - you just have to look in the direction you want to go and that little shift in weight cues him to bend in that direction.  Really lovely.  The few good circles I got out of him on the lunge showed his elevated trot, too.  He looks like a chunky old ranch horse, but this horse has some dressage and jumper potential, too - if everyone ignores his rope burns from his cowboy beginnings.  

If he can ever stop being afraid, this horse is going to be a great joy to ride.  Now, he just isn't all that trustworthy - even his reflection in the window glass of the workshop in the barn spooks him.  A rider who isn't experienced or is even momentarily inattentive couldn't trust this horse - he needs someone to think for him and anticipate what will scare him. 

I hear Winston Churchill said, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."  Internet quotes are unreliable, but whomever said, I agree.  It was good for me to ride - I feel both physically and emotionally better than I have in quite awhile.  This definitely needs to be a regular part of my weekly schedule.  It will do Crazy Horse Gib a good service, too;  if I do end up having to sell him, at least he will have a better chance at being less scared of people.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Absolutely Tired....

It was a big Cross Country day - the big Invitational race at our school with six or seven visiting teams, which meant a big potluck and pool party.  Along with a couple of other "team moms", I emailed incessantly and today I felt a little superfluous.  There were plenty of course marshalls, chute workes, and far too much food.  I am proud of my son, who had his personal record today, kept his top three spot on the team and made his personal goal of being in the top 20 in the Hawaii runners.  He didn't make his personal goal for beating all the mainland girls (time wise), but for our new relationship of 17 year old and mom-who-is-not-allowed-to-be-proud that just gives me something safe to talk about.  The kids they bring from the mainland, particularly the California teams are FAST.  This year, actually, they weren't superhuman, but one team still pretty much swept all the awards.  We're still talking about the Dana Hills kids from three-four years ago - I am sure many of those runners went on to be top college athletes.  They had one girl who finished the three mile course in just over 16 minutes - on our course, that is amazingly fast. 

At least this year, we didn't have ambulances carting kids off - I was worried because it was hot, and many of the mainland kids aren't used to our humidity. 

My husband cleared a spot for a new greenhouse on the side of the house.  It's a big muddy mess right now, like anything we clear at first.  It reminds me of the sea of mud when we first moved here.  I am trying to write down some of our experiences in the beginning when we had no real running water and were living in the small cabin.  I write a little every day, because I don't think my older kids remember much and our younger kids remember almost nothing of what it took to get where we are now.  Even I forget sometimes, when I want things to go faster or smoother.

I am actually feeling a bit down, in spite of things going so well today - leftover feeling from wearing too many hats and feeling only middling good at any of them, I suppose.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses....

I would have a pretty full stable - more than I could feed on my 7 1/2 acres anyway. 

But that's a good thing, right?  Wishes are the start of plans. When you have a plan, you can start the actions that propel you where you want to go. 

I wish so many things for my kids, but I have to trust that I wished for and with them wisely and long enough that they can go out and accomplish those wishes.  My oldest daughter was just signed as a model with an agency in Honolulu - they are interested in her for the Japanese market, which is what I always thought would be her niche.  And my oldest son is getting recognition all over the place for the skills he has quietly been developing since he was 11. 

The tech coordinator at our school emailed me to ask if he would be interested in teaching the middle school kids, or making online tutorials, to teach game development.  I told her to ask him directly, because the 17 year old developmental stage kicked in.  The other day, I mentioned to him that his dad had made a trade of eggs for bananas and that eating a banana when we got home would be a good idea since 1) we had so many and 2) the athletic trainer told me that he should eat within 90 minutes of a hard workout.  He replied, "I don't know why, but when you tell me to do something, it automatically makes me not want to do it - even if I was going to anyway." 

I thought about it for a minute and realized how well I remembered that feeling, and how hard it was for me to explain to my mother when I was 17 and told him, "You are right on developmental schedule.  Congratulations - but you should still eat the banana. If it helps, imagine that it's the trainer telling you and not me." 

I have the two middle schoolers at home, too.  I think they are just starting to make their first grown-up wishes.  I wonder where these wishes will take them?  I wonder, too, if middle-aged me has any wishes left, or if I am just in hard-scrabble existing mode?  Probably it is just somewhere in the middle.  I do have some plans for the land, for my work, but a large chunk of self-doubt that just wasn't there when I was 20 is intruding - and here I thought by my 40's I would be so much more competent.... 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Walking Around

Spent a few minutes walking around the farm today. 

Two banana plants are putting out the precursor (the infloresence, I have seen it called) to a stalk of banana fruit.  In 8-9 months we'll have probably a hundred plus pounds of bananas to deal with.  I love bananas, but 50 lb stalks - and this time there will be two at one time - can get overwhelming.  I do let them get really ripe and then freeze them for smoothies and for baking banana bread, but our freezer space is limited.

The lilikoi is recovering from the sheep and chicken depredations;  I am not sure how long a vine has to grow before it produces fruit, but hopefully, some time in the next year, we'll have lilikoi. (Oops, that reminds me, a coworker traded me juice for eggs, and I left the frozen juice in the freezer at work - definitely need to recover that, if it is still there). 

The pipnola is starting to climb up the waiawi clump - that should be a nice addition to stir fry at some point. 

The sweet potatoes are spreading like crazy.  A bit worried the compost I planted them in is too nitrogen rich and it will be all leaves - the leaves are good in stir fry, but I am crazy about the local purple sweet potatoes, so I hope they grow, too. 

There are just about enough lemons to make marmalade, so that is a project to do soon, but the rest of the citrus are resting.  I went out and gave the tangerine, grapefruit, orange, and calamansi lime trees a pep talk.  Probably a good dose of compost would do a better job of motivating everyone. 

It is a lovely, sunny, just-warm-enough day here in upslope Puna.  Everything smells heavenly; the ginger flowers are blooming, the spider lily just put out a big stalk of flowers, and there are even some roses blooming.  The anthuriums I have planted in a little bed in front of the house have put out a lot of flowers (in spite of my broad neglect).  They have no smell, but they are pretty.  We're heading out to church and then to a church picnic, and I am actually regretting it, because I would like to stay home and putter a bit and not have to putter in the near constant drizzle that is a regular part of living up in a rainforest. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sweetpea has a Lot of Personality

I came home the other day to find Sweetpea standing on Sammy's back - sort of pawing at him.  He was absolutely unbothered, so it almost looked like she was giving him a massage.  She still finds chasing chickens quite amusing, but she is learning about the wider world of the pasture. 

My husband and daughter rigged up a run line that pretty much gives one dog the same range he/she used on a daily basis - from the front lanai to the big tree where they love to lie down.  We found if we tied up one dog, the other one doesn't chase sheep alone, so the old dog (ie the "instigator") may be able to stay at home. 

I had to discontinue the penicillin because Sammy was getting scours, and have resumed hand cleaning the draining wound.  He looks much happier than he did last week. 

Tomorrow is a race out in Waimea, which is so pretty.  The air is so crisp and it is just nice to see a different part of our island.  I tend to make this shuttle run up and down the same road, with a once or twice a week detour into Hilo town proper, and so it is nice to get out and drive up to the northern end of the Big Island.  Waimea is an old cattle ranching town, full of history.  The race is challenging with a rather long run up a steep hill, but there are lots of places the spectators can see the kids running through.  Some cross country courses have the kids running off and away from the spectators.  (I know my daughter preferred it like that - she could walk at times! She was more of a social runner. My son is more serious). 

I attended a conference today on using technology in the classroom.  My son was invited to be on a student panel.  I was amused because the facilitator was really trying to elicit from the panel that their teachers needed to use more tech, but even though my son is quite an amazing programmer, he really prefers to have the teacher facilitate discussions more than anything else.  I was also amused because my son is no better at using a microphone than I am.... I had better learn, though, to become more comfortable....I think it will increasingly become part of my job.

"Business" is booming at work - I have had several teachers ask for help with tweaking reading assignments and one direct request for aid for some kids.  The administrators told me not to overload myself, because they are hoping I will be designing more program-wide stuff.  I think the fear was that if I got too involved at the direct service level and then pull back later - it wouldn't be so good.  I can see their point, but it is so hard for me to see a kid needing help, or hear about a kid needing help, and not just jump in!  On the other hand, I really want to look into creating an online writing lab...and there is a learning curve for the software and platform for me, not to mention just writing all the curriculum for it....

Another project I thought might be a good idea is to write a few of the "Hapless Stories", as well. We had quite a colorful start here on the Big Island - starting in a tent, having no real running water for a good long time, living in the cabin for 6 years....lots of stories.  I thought I should write them down for the kids, who were so small while it was all happening, and might not quite appreciate how far we've come as much as they could. 

So with all of these things on top of the gardening, sheep and horse tending, and wife- and - mothering, I am grateful to say my plate if full.