Friday, December 28, 2012

Housefuls of Kids

You know how I usually like a houseful of kids - cooking for a crowd and enjoying listening to their fun. 

This 15 year old birthday party was a big exception.  Most of the kids were very polite and some of them have been coming for years and years, but there was one boy this time - I am not even sure which kid it is, to tell you the truth, but I WILL recognize his voice if he ends up in my classroom next year.  This boy is shouting rude words, complaining about the amount of food (I made about 20 lbs of pizza dough last night, and there are many leftovers:  leftover pizza and leftover cake and leftover hot dogs, homemade buns, and piles of pancakes - all made from scratch), and generally being rowdy in the basement. 

After scrubbing the millionth dish and hearing what appears to be a herd of elephants in my basement, I gave a dark look to my husband and said, "I don't know which boy that is, but he will be very sorry if he is in my class next year...."

I have a reputation for being a rather kind teacher - although after a month of me, the class realizes that I may be smiley and kind and willing to sit hours during lunch to help them catch up, but they are working darned hard.  And I do not tolerate profanity, rudeness, or unkind remarks - and complaining gets the "small violin".  Painting your voice with frost works remarkably well if, on the whole, you are usually all sweetness and light.  This, of course, is not my real personality, but my teacher personality, honed after years of work.

Well, time to head down to the basement and tell the kids to clean up, call your parents, we're heading down to the rendezvous - the peril of living in the boonies - you have to stage the pick-up. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Plans and Wishes for 2013

Because I am already squeezed by climbing food and feed prices, and because I expect that squeeze to get tighter when the payroll taxes go up and my pay doesn't, planning for 2013 is going to be extra tricky. 

I found some of my 2012 goals, and although some of the things on them got checked off - like learning to pressure can and some work and bill paying goals - the farm goals are going to be pretty much rolled over to 2013.  Only now, they feel urgent.  That big garden will come in handy - and a ram pen is necessary for our sanity.

I want to buy onion sets - since growing from seed hasn't been very successful - and seed potatoes, and possibly as many as 50 dual-purpose hens and a rooster or two. If I get the hens, I want a bigger enclosure for them and easier to clean housing.  We do still need a ram pen and to close up the windward wall of the sheep pen - it's just too wet and the rain blows right in, making the one side of their shelter quite muddy, even though we've fixed the ponding that goes on in the entire sheep pen.  2012 was a year of rain and it tested all our drainage tricks. 

I want to try determinate paste tomatoes in the small greenhouse.  It would be nice to be able to build the bigger greenhouse, but it might be beyond our budget. Knowing how little grew in the outside garden because of the rain makes me leery of growing anything but greens outside this year.  It might be a nicer year - but it might not.  The sweet potatoes I have in several piles are growing like gangbusters - I don't know if we'll get any tubers, but the leaves are wonderful stir-fried, but so far that's all I have growing outside.  In the current greenhouse, I have several varieties of tomatoes, a lonely cucumber (I pulled out all of the other cucurbits because of the powdery mildew),  various basil varieties, lettuce, some funky variety of bok choy (it looks like spinach), some coffee seedlings, papaya seedlings, lilikoi seedlings, and some ohelo berry seedlings. I just put some house plants I always forget to water out there, too. 

I'd like to improve the temporary fencing we have around the taro so it can double as a ewe and lamb place, and to build a small shelter in there - right now we have a jury-rigged rain cover made of feed bags and some 55 gallon drums. Honestly, I need to pull all the taro out of there and replant it. 

My big wish is for some dairy goats, but that won't happen this year - or anytime soon.  If we did have a good, solid and large area for the rams, then it wouldn't be that necessary to have separate pasture for the does, but the bucks would need their own pen and it would be a lot of management, I think.  When I am home on school break, I feel like I can do so much, but I have to remember that I am gone 12-13 hours a day during the school year, and milking and cheese-making would be a lot to add to my schedule.

We'd like to find something that we can grow or make for market, perhaps a variety of things, because the construction industry is down here (as it is most places) so there isn't a market for my husband's engineering business - ideally, it would be nice if it something that we can use/eat ourselves, so even if our lack of experience in selling or marketing, it's not wasted.  I must admit thinking of ways to market and grow and deliver things we grow or raise is a little daunting.  There are just so many laws and regulations!  On the other hand, just raising enough to feed ourselves and to make a little money to feed the chickens and supplement the sheep from egg sales would be its own victory.

So after all this rambling, and with the realization that so many of my 2012 farm wishes were left undone - I think my one big goal is to grow enough paste tomatoes to can many pints of tomato sauce and paste is my biggest goal.  That's big enough for now, I guess.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Canning Conundrum

Even when I follow a recipe absolutely faithfully for putting up produce, I never end up with as many jars as it says.  I wonder why that is?  It's a little frustrating to put hours of work into something and only get half of what the recipe claims - not to mention washing and heating all those jars that just end up going back in storage.  

Oh well, I do get quite a lot of satisfaction hearing all those lids pop tightly closed and seeing the food I raised and prepared in pretty jars in my pantry.  I definitely need to buy more pint jars; I seem to be overloaded with half pints which is not a lot of marmalade, salsa, or what have you when it comes down to it.

Every year, I vow to grow more and put up more, but I end up eating what's grown while it's fresh - and not growing as much as I'd like.  Last year, it was because of the relentless rain, and the year before it was big life changes.  Maybe this year things will work out better.  At the very least, I ought to plant a bunch of determinate tomatoes - we eat a lot of tomato sauce and paste around here. 

It's going to be a busy week - one of my children has a birthday a couple of days after Christmas, and then some family is coming, and then it will be time to go back to work.  So, today, now that I am done with my canning, I am going to read a book, in spite of the rare beautiful weather and the wish my family has for pizza (we're going to have baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese and various other toppings for a light dinner, because after four hours of making preserves, I am NOT making dough - besides, it's a birthday tradition that there is masses of home made dough that the kids can fashion into their own mini-pizzas...)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Missing My Family

I really miss my parents and step-parents as Christmas gets closer, and I miss my oldest daughter, who will be home in six days, so it's not that bad - just wish she could be here on Christmas.  I even miss my kid who lives 20 miles away and whom I see nearly every Sunday (and saw on Wednesday for about 5 seconds).  I miss my sister and my nieces, but they're coming for just two days (but coming!),  in a little over a week.  

Maybe I miss my family so much because of the blustery cold weather and gloom outside, but I think it is because my dad always made Christmas really great - even now I love to get the corny emails with Christmas jokes and animated Christmas cards.  But it would be a lot better if he and my step-mom were here.  I am, as usual, just doing my Christmas shopping now, able to mostly do this because of my dad's generosity, and all I can do is make something at home and mail it - and I can't even get it out on time, because of trying to close out the semester at work.  I gave up Christmas cards years ago - isn't that pathetic?  I still have some die-hard friends who mail out the cards with the typed letters and the family pictures, but I am never that organized;  I am amazed, truly, that I am still on anybody's Christmas card list.  I am much, much better with email. 

Today, I made pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin custard, banana bread, fresh ginger bread, and in a moment, I am going to put up some of the vegetables in the fridge - just going to rest for a few minutes, because I have been busy since fairly early this morning and it is supposed to be my vacation.  I was really sad that my hens have slowed down - probably a combination of age and the dark, cold weather we've been having - but I had to actually buy store eggs for the baking today.  I should raise the price on my eggs, because they've really gone up at the store, and they are nowhere near as nice as mine.  Plus, layer pellet has gone up quite a lot in price - although we only give them enough to entice them in at the end of the day. 

Well, I suppose I'd better get moving on the rest of the tasks I set for myself today - one more load of laundry to fold and those veggies are calling to be made into canned goods!  I hope you are all having a restful lead up to Christmas, and that no one is as unprepared as I am.  At least, I found a nice roast in the quarter of a cow in my freezer - Christmas dinner is chosen!  Pull some sweet potato leaves and bok choy from my garden and hope there are a few last tomatoes and that one lone cucumber to add to the lettuce in the green house. make some dinner rolls and some potatoes, and I am ready to go.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wet Thursday

Oh, my goodness - it is THURSDAY!  Only 5 days before Christmas, and I have done very little shopping. Yesterday was our last day of school, and it is a lovely day, too - a celebration of the Founder's birthday.  I love our Founder and the ceremony honoring her birthday is one of the highlights of the school year for me - but dang, sometimes I wish she were born just a few days earlier! 

This is a pretty amazing ceremony, this celebration;  I was trying to find a video that I could post, since neither my camera nor my phone are at all good at video, but no luck - or rather the embed codes aren't working for some reason.  Rural internet?

Anyway, the kids sing in four part harmony, and there is one song where each of the parts of the school (Haʻahaʻa, Waena, and High School) sing different verses, and it so beautiful - never fails to bring tears to my eyes. 

It's just pouring down rain, buckets of it.  When I went out to feed last night, Thing 2 didn't come in, so I had to go slopping through the puddles and sliding in the mud under the trees to find him.  I felt like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, seeking for the one who was lost.  However,  I am certainly glad I don't have 99 more in the barn!  He started calling back when we started calling him, so it made him easy to find, and as soon as he saw me, he came running.  You'd think he could find his way home - he was just over that small hill in the back....

Later, at a party, I talked to a co-worker who'd visited the man who bought Buddy a few weeks ago.  Buddy is still mowing lawn, but I am not sure he won't be Christmas dinner, but I was irritated to find that he was alone in the back yard, and not in the neighbor's pasture with other sheep like we were told he would be.  I was really upfront with the guy that I wouldn't sell just one sheep if they were going to a place with no other sheep.  Kind of mad, actually, that he may have been untruthful. Poor little Buddy. 

Niele's baby whose born just a little while ago is gigantic - shiny coated, fast, and independent.  He's the best looking ram lamb we've ever had, so I am keeping him intact.  I do hope he doesn't take after Elvis, though - at least not in the protective mode. 

Okay, I should get up.  We might want to head to Kona for that late shopping - quite a drive. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

School Shootings

As a teacher and a mother, I find what happened in Connecticut just so overwhelmingly sad.  It's the Christmas season, and Christmas is so wonderful with small children in the house, and it just makes it that much more poignant.

In between finals, I talked with my students, barely able to keep my tears back, and during finals, while they were diligently bent over their desks, I thought through the lock down drills, rehearsing them in my mind - how would I keep twenty-one 15 and 16 year old kids safe if the unthinkable happened?

My students seemed mostly angered by the fact that the victims were such small keiki, but they were consumed with their final exams, and I don't think it sank in much.  

My own daughter had questions when we were in the car.  She pointed out our school doesn't have closets, and two walls in most classrooms are lined with windows.  She wasn't shaky or distressed, but she pointed out that the school would be hard to lock down for real.  I think she's been thinking about it a bit, in any case, because most of the area schools were locked down for several days due to two inmates who escaped earlier in the week. 

I find if awful that she thinks about these things - that we live in a world where it would be so real, that we practice for situations like this as we do for fires.  But on the other hand, the fact that she is so calm about it maybe points to it not being real, but rather a scary story.

Her calmness in the face of things that would have me shaking when I was her age is boundless.  For example, her friend came to school crying because her parents were thinking of breaking up.  My daughter comforted her, but she said (to me, later), "It's not that bad - is it?  Half the kids in school only have one parent at home!"

I asked her to consider how she would feel if I said I was leaving home.  She just looked at me in utter incredulity, "You?!  You would never leave us."  I persisted with the "what ifs", because I wanted her to feel some empathy for her friend - but she said she couldn't even imagine it, because it was ridiculous to even consider.  So I guess that there is some distance between the possibility of violence of school and the possibility that it would be real.  If that makes sense.  You can think about the contingencies, but not the for real reality.

Even a day later, I am having a hard time with what happened.  Children are so precious; life is precious. To hear of it being so disregarded, to think of the pain of those parents and families, is just so devastating.  I am going to offer a Novena for those families, for those precious little lives, and cling to my belief that prayer helps, that it makes a difference, that it is a candle of love against the dark.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Musings on Old Hens and the Freezer

I am missing eggs.  I know that it is winter, and I know my hens are sneaky little cusses with the egg-hiding, but some of them are coming up on 3 years old and I have to wonder if the distinct lag in production has to do with age.

That leads me to thought that maybe it is time to put the old girls in the freezer - except that I didn't get my act together to buy new chicks a few months ago like I was supposed to do. 

I guess it is better to get a scant few eggs every week and wait on the stewing hens then to be totally egg-less for the three + five months I would have to wait for new layers (3 months until I order and 5 months until they're at point of lay). 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Laid The Garden Out on Paper

I decided to put down my garden plans on paper for now, March, and June.  I have never done it for several seasons, and it really does help.  I know collards are nearly perennial here, so they just stay put, and everything kind of rotates around since we have a year-round growing season. 

There are some seasonal things - like beans do better in the summer and broccoli bolts if you don't plant it in November/December, but basically leafy things and turnips grow all the time. 

I was hoping it would motivate me, as well, since the last two weekends all I have done is poke around and weed the sweet potato.  It's the end of the term here at school and I am drowning in paper.  And surveys - my organization like surveys.

After I make the Christmas cookies - another thing I have put off, but school lets out next week and I want to make cookies for co-workers - I am going to sit down and look at what seeds I have and ponder whether I need to add or remove from my three season plan.  It's time to dig in and plant.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

And I Thought Horses Were Bad

If my horse had shoes (I keep him barefoot, but trimmed), he would be getting new shoes every 6-8 weeks...but my son's shoe turnover is rivaling that!  He is on his way to his third sport of the school year - and track will be the fourth sport.  

For XC, there were trainers and racers.  He left his racers at an away course, so those were gone (he left last year's shoes on Molokaʻi - the boy has an issue with leaving shoes places).  I got them cheap at a discount store, but still $15 is $15.  I bought him soccer shoes for regular price - although I steered that on-commission salesgirl right away from the $75 shoes!  The other day he showed me his trainers, which somehow morphed into school shoes - they have pukas (holes) on the bottom, so he'll need new shoes for track.  Sigh.  He'll need spikes for track, too. 

Now he's headed into the wrestling room - and those have specialized shoes, too.  This is getting as bad as a racehorse - where they put racing plates on before a race and then re-shoe with regular shoes after race day.

My first two kids only ran - track in the Spring and XC in the Fall.  Barring different sorts of racers for those, one pair of running shoes would last the year.  I would just replace the pads in January on the trainers - not ideal, but no one died.  I haven't had a kid who played so many different sports with specialized shoes!  At least with horses the farrier comes to your house to put the shoes on - I think I am just as frustrated with the thought of going to the shops and trying to figure it all out (been in an athletic shoe section lately?)  as with the figuring out where the money is coming from. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reading the Past

As I was leaning on the fence, looking into the pasture, I noticed that a big patch of ground that tends to stay soggy during rainy periods was covered with a leafy, low profile weed with a pretty blue and white flower.  I got a little worried that this patch had been damaged by the extensive rain of the last year and the fact that this area is high traffic and perpetually grazed on the way in and out of the barn.  I headed inside to do some internet searching. 

I am shocked, in some ways, that it only took about an hour of searching "small blue and white flower weed Hawaii wet" and extensive clicking and checking from the College of Tropical Agriculture site to find out what that weed was!  What a powerful tool the internet is. 

Turns out this weed is high protein and quite valuable, and exactly what I would plant, had I any clue that I was supposed to, on that wet, almost marshy high-traffic area!  Amazing. 

I found some wonderful old articles on forage and found out that basically everything anyone modern has told me about lots of different things that grow out here are WRONG!  Honohono grass is high protein and not water-filled garbage!  Those horrible red-stemmed persistant weeds are purslane, and you guessed, high protein forage - and apparently, the seeds do very well coming through a digestive tract, because they grow like monsters in my manured garden.  I am finding that every weed I am diligently turfing out in the veggies is a high quality forage plant for either horses or sheep or chickens.  I still don't want them in my veggies, but it is so reassuring to hear that the people of the past weren't so dependent on imported feed and that it is possible to raise grazing animals in my area.  (Horses included, provided they have good hooves - which Ohia, poor boy, never did). 

There is a wealth of information - although it takes a certain level of knowledge (which I don't necessarily have) to navigate - on the CTAHR site and I am just beyond myself with glee on having dipped just a spoonful into the forage possibilities. 

I am also very disappointed that this knowledge feels lost (or at least buried) - these articles are old and there aren't field trials with different forages anymore, it seems.  People just rely on shipping to provide alfalfa and continent grown grains.  And although the local food market is burgeoning here, it is more about restaurants or selling to a specialty market than a serious effort to feed our state.  Eighty-five percent of our food is brought in from elsewhere!  That's a serious problem if there is a natural disaster, or even a longshoreman strike. 

In the back of my mind, basically because many experienced cattlemen and horsemen have told me (all of them, like me, from other islands), I have had the idea that my area was a wasteland for raising anything but rubbish without heroic efforts.  Reading these articles from the past have given me a different view - and looking at those "weeds" in a different light. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sold Our First Sheep

Turned out the guy and his neighbor only wanted one (they have a few more at home), so they took Buddy.  It was a little hard to see him go - he was the one I had to supplement with formula last January when the ewe halfway rejected him - but we really are over-run with males.  That will leave two or three wethers to go, and we've decided to sell/trade Elvis for a new ram.  We'll keep Sam and the new ram lamb, but we need a new line in, as well. 

I am still not where I want to be with our flock, but weeding out some of the rams and wethers will make handling all of them a little easier. 

Another thing I need to do is order some dual purpose chicks to replace the elderly hens I have now.  In a few months, I am also going to order some turkey poults to try my hand at that. 

Between a few sheep here and a few eggs there and some turkeys next fall, the farm won't be paying for itself, but it will be a start, and you can't beat feeding your family off your own place.  Considering how expensive food costs are in Hawaii, it is more valuable than the initial bottom line looks. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Who Should Go?

A couple of people have expressed interest in purchasing sheep for lawn-mowing purposes.  I don't really want to sell any of the ewes, and I have already promised Thing 2 (and another sheep) to a co-worker, so I guess I am looking at Buddy, Sam, Koa, or Hulu - or any two of them.  The new ram lamb and Elvis, I am keeping.

To be honest, I wouldn't mind getting rid of Elvis, but he's too dangerous to sell to anyone who has small kids (as both of my prospective buyers have).

I'd like to use the money from these sheep to buy a new ram and to put into buying materials for the ram pen.

It's surprisingly hard to sell the sheep - but that is kind of what they are for and we are certainly over-run with more males than we need.  It's hard to go from too many to hoping nothing happens to your ram and your back-up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nice Surprise!

Not a total surprise - I did know Niele was due soon - but came home to a lamb in the pen.  He was born out in pasture and actually made it in with the rest of the flock.  He must have been born this morning, because he's all dry and clean and lively. 

And he's HUGE.  He's bigger than Thing 2, who is coming on 7 weeks, I believe.  I was kind of hoping for a throwback to grandma, who was Dodie and looked very Barbado-ish, but he's a lovely black lamb with a white cap on his head and two white stockings on his hind legs.  Handsome, even if I do long for more variation on the baa, baa, black sheep run we've got going here. 

I love it when things go well without me worrying about them.  I took a look at her last night and thought we had several days to go.  I guess she had me fooled. 

She's a noisy mom - calling when he is standing right there next to her.  She was like that the first time, too.  She had triplets her first time out.  Maybe she things she's missing some lambs here - but he's enough lamb to cover two and a half of her last three. 

They both seem healthy and I hope it continues that way, because losing two sheep in the last month was rough. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

First Pressure Canning

Since my kids didn't like the frozen turkey soup, I decided to try my hand at canning it.  I have cooked in the pressure cooker (beans and taro - separately, not together, of course) but I haven't tried canning.  I am getting wildly different canning times, depending on which recipe I am looking at.  I don't quite know which time to pick - it ranges from 25 minutes to 75 minutes!  I guess I will go with the longer time, just in case - and hope my jars don't explode in the canner. 

Hopefully, I will also have time to pull back the black plastic and turn over the soil in the outside garden.  It's time to plant broccoli and lettuce!  Since we took down the fencing to make a pen around the taro patch, I am not sure how I am going to keep the hens from scratching up my seeds - or Melly from digging her little holes. 

I let some poha grow where my bean and cucumber supports are and it is sure taking over.  I like poha, though, and so I am more inclined to move my supports than dig it up.  We used to have lots of poha here, but it all disappeared for a few years.  Poha is a yellow-orange berry that grows in a husk like a tomatilla.  It makes a great jam, and would probably make a good substitute in a relish for cranberry, in case I do reach my all-homegrown Thanksgiving next year. 

Lepo's dressing came off, and it was probably a good thing.  She's not bearing much weight on the affected foot, but the flesh exposed by the missing claw seems to be toughening up and it is dry and not infected.  I will give her one more day of penicillin and talk to the vet down in Hilo about whether to switch her to something else for a longer time.  It's still sunny and dry, so I let her out with the flock in the big pasture - it was my husband's idea, so she'd be encouraged to eat more.  Yesterday, she lay down a lot rather than grazing. 

Because we've had a such a wet year, the basement bathroom grout needed extra treatment.  I just tried some oxyclean, since scrubbing with a normal cleaner didn't do all that I wanted.  I hope this works! 

I think I am going to be exhausted heading into the new school week, rather than rested, but it isn't restful knowing that there is so much to be done at home, either.  At least, I hope I will have conquered the powdery mildew, gotten the garden ready for my greens and broccoli, and have a bunc of soup in my pantry! 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sunny Day - Time for Farm Inventory

One ewe has a claw injury - gave her a shot of penicillin and wrapped it well.  Put her and surviving bottle lamb in kalo patch to kind of weed around it and provide them with small safe place to be.  Quite a lot of horn missing, so not sure how that will all work out, poor thing.

Five grapefruit on previously non-productive tree!  Yay!

Lots of lemons, as usual.  Yay!  But not as exciting as new fruit varieties.

Olives are recovering well from inadvertent sheep pruning.

Sweet potatoes are flourishing.  Only one purple variety growing true - the rest have seemed to have crossbred into something new.

All cucurbits are covered in powdery mildew - sprayed them all with Neem oil solution.

Walked 6 miles, because it was a beautiful day.

Washed all the bedding, because it is both sunny and windy - so things dry faster. 

Fertilized all fruit trees after weeding underneath them - lemon, tangerine, orange, lime, guava, olive, jaboticaba, and banana. 

Got the kids to wash the cars, the dogs, and the windows for Christmas money.  Everything just feels cleaner!  

Tomorrow's tasks:  making turkey stock and putting it up and baking, probably pumpkin something or other.

Oh, and some grading.  Then it is time to head back to work. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looong Day!

Today was our Sophomore Biathlon at school.  The kids biked 10 miles and ran 3.  I stood at the finish and recorded 144 finishing times.  The funniest were the 3rd lappers, because we didn't reset the clock and they thought they took over two and a half hours and were sure they failed PE.  The clock was off by over an hour, so they were mostly all good. 

It made for a long day.  After that was done, I sat at my desk and graded LATE work.  There was so much of it, that I didn't get to the actually due work, which means that I will be working this weekend.  Oh well.

We lost one of the bottle lambs, which is sad.  We just couldn't get him to eat enough and he never ate the creep feed after Audrey died - he sampled it before she died, but then wasn't interested.  He did eat grass, but we were forcing him to drink milk replacer and he just wasn't getting enough.  We've done fairly well with our sheep at lambing, so I hope we can get back to the "hair sheep have so few problems with lambing" norm.  The other lamb, who was the weaker one at the outset, is eating well and spends his days out in the pasture with the flock.  We still keep him separate at night, so he won't get squished without a ewe to watch out for him.  He can see the other sheep on the other side of the wire divider and he just knows where to go at night.  It's been fairly chilly, so he sleeps in a bowl with high sides.

There isn't much else going on - we're staying home for Thanksgiving because I would like to spend some time with my older son - we only see him on Sundays for Mass and sometimes dinner after.  If we went to my brother-in-law's, he'd be off with his cousins and we wouldn't be able to talk much.  I wish my older daughter could come home, too, but she's staying with my mom.  We'll see them all at Christmas - which isn't that far away.

Next Thanksgiving, I hope that everything on the table, except the wheat for the bread stuffing, will be grown or raised on my place (we made the bread from bought flour - I guess that kind of counts).  This year, it's only the greens and the sweet potatoes that are grown here, but in March I am going to order turkey poults and I'd like to get some seed potatoes, too.  My sweet potatoes are already started.  I've only had luck with pumpkins one year, but maybe if I grow them in the greenhouse.... I would sure be proud of us, if we could grow or raise next year's feast!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Driving in the Dark

Although our day length is not as variable here in Hawaii as it is in more Northern Latitudes, it has shortened enough that it is fairly dark when I leave home and quite dark when I come home.  This means when I visit the animals, it is by flashlight, the out door garden has to wait for the weekend, and the greenhouse has this bizarre fluorescent light.  It's nice that my husband is home to feed the sheep, chickens and horse.  It was never fun to do it in the (relative) cold and dark by flashlight. 

It's a good time to start planning what should be done when there is more light to do it by.  Next year, I want to raise turkey poults.  I had been thinking meat chickens, too, but actually, we could put the current aging and much less productive hens in the freezer and concentrate on egg layers, as well as the turkeys.  We definitely need to build a ram pen and probably need to buy a new ram and sell some of these.  The bottle lambs will have a home when they're weaned, but I have two more wethers to deal with - sell or put in the freezer.  Currently, my freezer is full of that quarter cow and some fish we bought from a fisherman up the road. 

I always would like to expand my garden, but to be honest, I am not able to keep up with it with my job.  Maybe if we put in a new, bigger greenhouse with artificial light to work at night it would be more feasible. 

On a different note,  I have decided to can this year's turkey frame soup instead of freezing it.  When I froze it last time, the veggies just got a little too mushy.  I am going to see if pressure canning will preserve the texture better next time.  Anyone have any experience with this? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Job, Lava, and Peppermint

None of these things has any bearing on any of the others, except that because I moved positions, I have a different room and this one smells like peppermint for some undefinable reason. 

I love peppermint things - especially as we slide into the holiday season.  I really have been trying to exercise regularly and eat healthier, and I thought that these holidays wouldn't be too hard - I handled traveling in June fine, after all.  However, for the last week, I have been so sick with some kind of upper respiratory bug and have been eating far too many easy foods - I didn't feel well enough to plan for the Farmer's Market and I cleaned out and replanted my greenhouse just a few weeks ago, so there isn't anything really fresh at home, either.  (I do have say for myself that I have only asked for one piece of candy from the kids' Halloween goodies, though).  But right now, peppermint ANYTHING sounds wonderful. 

I have been in this new position for, ummm, 4.5 hours now.  I have had my prep period for the day and one class - which I hear is my bounciest (they were great and it was fun).  I am coming in the middle of a quarter, in the middle of a book, and a huge swathe of kids aren't doing well, so it was a little nerve-wracking this weekend. 

However, on the weekend, my husband and I took the opportunity to drive up to the Volcano.  Halemaumau crater is erupting - well, there's a glowing lava lake in the middle of this old crater - and it's visible from the Jagger Museum.  So we drove, stood there looking at it for 5 minutes or so, and then turned around to pick up the kids from the Homecoming Game.  Exciting. 

Actually, it was pretty cool, and you can see the fountaining at Puʻu Oʻo from the top of our road, too, so the volcano is pretty active at this time.  Unfortunately, with our current variable winds, that's meant that we've had vog.  Having lots of vog when you also have a sinus issue is NO fun, no fun at all. 

Okay, I thought I would distract myself with lava and bouncy kids - but I still want peppermint.  Sigh. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sheep can be Annoying

Especially when you separate an in-heat ewe (too young to breed) to a small pasture with a few other sheep, but no ram.  And you're sick.  And she screams all day long, right in your window. 

That's it for me today. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


On Friday, my last period of the day was being a bit more obstreperous than normal.  Part of that is this class has its own challenges, and part of it was me telling them that I am the second teacher of theirs who is taking a different position on November 5.  The kids who came up from the elementary through the middle school have had teachers leave mid-year every year since 5th grade - I imagine they're sick of it, and I do feel bad about it. 

The one girl in the class asked if I like teaching.  I was in the middle of telling her that, yes, I did very much - when another student said, "It must drive you nuts when students don't do their work."  (He is a student who doesn't do his work).  I told him, "Nope.  I just press 'F' on the keyboard. It's your work, and your grade." 

That isn't strictly true, but it had the desired shock effect - all my young men who waste a lot of time every class and avoid work like it hurts - well, they finished the job at hand. 

It got me thinking about independence.  There are two major competing trends in education right now.  One of them is the philosophy that every student learns differently, so it's a teachers job to teach each kid in a way they can learn - if there are 25 different kids learning 25 different ways, that's 25 different ways to teach every thing every day.  It's called differentiation.  The other is that teachers should be judged on the performance of their kids. 

I agree with differentiation (that acknowledgment of different ways to learn, different strengths) but I think that my job is to help kids discover what their strengths and styles are and help them to make their own adjustments, their own scaffolding, to learn.  If you want to measure my teaching, don't use a single standardized (non-differentiated) test and then blame me for not differentiating, but, instead, measure if my students are more independent learners, if they've made strides in scaffolding for themselves. 

I do actually differentiate all the time.  I try to give students as much autonomy and choice over how they learn what I have to teach them - to the point of irritating teachers who are a lot more traditional.  And I LOVE "edtech", using technology in education.  It takes a lot of the same skills to write out, storyboard, shoot, and produce a movie that it does to write an essay, and it's a lot more fun.  I know my kids are writing a lot more than my more traditional counterparts, by and large, and they're a lot more invested because the product is a lot more public.  But, it isn't my job to do the work for them.  As adolescents, they need to start investing themselves in their work, because in a few short years, they will be on their own. 

It's kind of how I feel about politics, too.  I can either sit around and expect the government to differentiate for me to the point that I have very little responsibility and very little invested, or I can do it myself.  Now, I am not as independent as I would like, but it's a goal.  It's a lot of work, too.  I am not gifted in handiwork.  It takes me a lot longer to do things that involve building or putting things together, so if something like that needs to get done, it's going to take me a long time - much longer than the average person, and triple the time (if not more) than a person gifted in that area.  If a student doesn't have a quick memory or doesn't read quickly - they will have to take longer, use annotation methods - it's just the same as my lack of handiwork skills. 

There are times, paradoxically, that independence takes a group.  In our family, my daughter makes better cakes than me, but she can't make frosting to save her life.  So when it's a birthday, she makes the cake, I make the frosting.  The Bible talks about different gifts and talents - so that is part of the equation, too.  So, on that note, it is a good thing my husband is good at those handiwork things, or our farm would be full of my ramshackle building attempts rather than the lovely sturdy structures he makes.  So, I have to say, independence also means doing for yourselves a family group or a community - its a measure of self-investment, pride, hard work. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Planting and Black Plastic Mulch

We've been giving the Things outings.  They get popped in the taro patch if we're working in the greenhouse or garden and are within direct line of sight, and they've been let out into the larger sheep pen from their little stall.  They're still too dumb - I mean, inexperienced - to find shade when it's hot, so they can't be left long.  I had to wet down Thing 2 and stick his nose in a bucket of water after just 15 minutes in the sun.

The Things' outings, plus the lovely weather, has inspired me to put in all the rest of the sweet potato slips and to put black plastic over the manured garden to kill some of the weed seeds that blew into our compost pile - and to keep both chickens and Mellie (who dearly loves to dig holes) out of the area.  Mr De put the coffee trees in bigger pots -they're too small to put directly in the ground and planted a few pot bound things we had hanging out at the side of the house - two gardenias and a rosemary.  I have always wanted gardenia right next to the house where the smell will waft up to our bedroom windows, and he so kindly obliged me.  That corner of the house takes the brunt of the trade wind rains, so maybe having some shrubbery will protect the house a bit.

The kids and I did some cleaning and now I am paying bills; we'll head to 6 pm Mass, where we'll see our moved-out son, and that will be the end of the weekend.  I was thinking it was Saturday, because basically, I slept yesterday- I was sicker than I thought, I guess - and I was wondering why everyone was driving on a Saturday morning, dressed like they were going to church while I was on my walk.  Then it dawned on me - uh, yeah, it's Sunday.  Well, that was fast.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lamb Update

I had a moment yesterday morning when I was worried about Thing 1.  He was not terribly hungry and seemed shivery - but only after he'd eaten.  But last night, they both ate very well and they were bouncy and playful early this morning. 

I have to give a lot of credit to my husband, who has gotten really good at feeding without all the undue spilling and waste of formula that seems to accompany my feeding efforts.  He figured out which of the Spring lambs would do best as companions to the babies and made a soft warm place for them (although Oreo, one of Ellie's triplets, kept trying to usurp the place - that turned out okay, because she seems to be taking a shine to the Things and that will give them someone to cuddle with).  It's good for her, too, because she has always been a bit standoffish with the flock and the only one she'd sleep near was Audrey. Maybe the Things smell a little like her? 

My son has a big race today - the district championships.  I really wish I could go with the team, but I have an important meeting after work.  He's really gotten stronger in the last couple of weeks.  His last mile time was 5:49 and he said he didn't even feel tired.  That's a good thing, because the freshman five mile run is coming up in a few weeks and if he sticks with his goal of beating his older brother's everything over the next few years, he'll need to place in the top 3 for the boys.  Good luck, because this class has some speedy kāne.  In fact, I have a strong hope the team will be the first to qualify for the State meet as a team - that won't affect my son, but it still would be cool - 16 or so of them came in under 19 minutes for their last 3 mile time trial.  I wish I could run that fast.  I really do.  Only God knows why I wish that, at my age, and never having been particularly fast - but I do.  It would be amazing. 

My seedlings are coming up in the greenhouse - I will need to really go out and water tonight - I just realized I haven't been out there since Audrey went down.  Uh oh.  So many things to remember all the time. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bottle Lambs

I have read in several places that bottle lambs are an unfortunate certainty if you have enough lambings to rack up the numbers.  It is our turn to bottle feed lambs. 

Audrey died last night, probably of milk fever.  I gave her calcium, but I don't think I got it there in time.  I didn't see the message on my phone for several hours which told me that my husband found her down and I had to wait for lunch to go home.  I don't feel confident to do the IV administration, so I had to do the subcutaneous injection route.  It didn't work, which is a bummer - from our original flock, we only have Elvis left, which is sad. 

And now, I have two ram lambs to feed.  So far, they aren't liking the bottle, so we've been syringe feeding them.  I am going to try a different nipple style tonight, after I visit the store; gosh, I hope they get the hang of it, because syringes are a pain in the butt and take such a long time.  The night feedings are going to kill me.  I got up at 3:00 am today and I am feeling it, for sure.  Just in case, I will also pick up some more big oral dose syringes because the little 3 tsp ones are ridiculous.  You still have to slowly drip milk in, but at least you don't have to stop and refill every few seconds. 

I know people do this, but I have to admit I am feeling a little overwhelmed by it - like I am doomed to failure and these little guys will starve.  It's a pretty uncomfortable feeling.  When we had to feed Buddy, he was a little older and he could still sneak in and get some milk from Minnie.  These two are completely dependent on us. 

The other issue is how to integrate them with the flock - they're our only lambs right now, and today would be the day I would let them out in the big pasture with their mamma - only they don't have a mamma now.  I can't let them out in 5 acres with a big flock all alone!  And if we keep them confined, how will the flock accept them later? 

I guess you learn as you go. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Chores

It's the most amazing day outside, but I decided that, beyond hanging laundry, checking on lambs (and picking grass for mama), a little bit of work in the greenhouse, I need to do a lot of baking and clean floors. 

Currently rising in the kitchen are two pans of dill bread (made with dill seeds from my garden) and a big batch of cinnamon rolls.  My 14 year old complains we don't have food - what we don't have is microwavable, individually wrapped, preservative laden convenience food.  I figure if I put a bunch of cinnamon rolls and pancakes in the freezer, he will at least have something to grab without complaining. 

I also have a crock pot full of my own chicken with some vegetables from the Farmer's Market.  Unfortunately, my tender-hearted youngest saw the hen and knew it was ours - so it will be tough getting her to eat it.  I wish I'd been able to sneak it by her. 

If I get done with the baking, pancake making, and floors, I might pull Gibby out again.  We are going to the 6 pm Mass tonight, though, which is a good 40 minute drive away, so it will depend on the timing.   I would love to go for a long, not so fast walk today, but that will be a timing issue as well.  My left foot has a bit of swelling over the metatarsals, although it isn't really sore.  I did feel minor soreness while running.  I think maybe I had my shoes laced too tightly.  I have funky, high arches, so I have to take a long time to up my mileage or my speed. 

Basically, that's my Sunday.  What did you folks do?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gibby's Work

Okay, so I am trying to get Gibby to lunge.  This is a really hard thing without a round pen.  Today, I actually had my niece on him, my daughter walking next to his head and me holding a lunge line.  He did that but he was pretty wigged out by the whole thing. 

I tried a couple of different bits on him, but the shanked bit just freaked him out.  I think someone did a number on him with a bit like that.  He got very frightened and wanted to charge around.  I just went ahead and put the copper snaffle back on his bridle.  I could almost hear him thinking, "Wow, someone listened to me."  He tried hard today.  It was a good day.

The kids had some activities today.  We dropped our son off at school to catch the bus to a special XC practice, drove to town to drop off our daughter for her fundraiser, and then we went to run.  I ran a 5 k in 30 minutes.  It might have even been less, but my only watch was a regular analog watch and I forgot to look at the seconds.  This was my goal time when I started running a few months ago, and I reached it faster than I expected.  I hope to get even faster by December, when I want to run a race with a friend. 

The sweet potato slips I put in the random piles of compost (around the ti, near the greenhouse) are really flourishing, which is nice to see.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 (temporarily named lambs) are doing well, too.  One of them is a bit more tentative than the other, but, in general, they are well.  I think Audrey is relieved she had twins this time - much easier to keep track of than triplets.  I think one of her daughter's from the earlier birth is missing her.  She always liked to sleep right next to Audrey and now I have Audrey in the lamb pen.  It's been so sunny - the seeds I planted in the greenhouse are already sprouting.  It's good to be getting back on track with the garden and the greenhouse.  I hope that this coming year will have a better mix of sun and rain - instead of the basically unrelentingly poor weather we've had up her for the last 12 months.  Almost nothing grew for so long. 

What's weird, weather-wise, is that the two flowering cherry trees down in Mountain View are starting to put out flowers - which is not supposed to happen until March.  I think the trees felt like I do - summer felt like a slightly warmer winter and this finally feels like summer.  I hope that doesn't hurt the trees, because the relative cold is coming soon. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lots of Work Going On While I Am At Work

 Sorry - this is the old camera, but my husband took lots of pictures of the work he's been doing around the place while I am teaching.....  He made this temporary corridor to get the sheep from the pasture to the kalo patch - and he layered lots of compost on my garden. 
 Play barn and garden. 
 Play barn again. 
 Better picture of all that lovely compost! 

 This is the pasture side of the barn and satellite dish turned coop - it's a drainage problem.  A few days with sun and he can dig it out and improve the drainage.  I hope it works! 

From the front of the barn. 
 Audrey and the new babies. 
 New driveway into the pasture!
 Gibby!  Nice to see him curious instead of panicking. 
 Muddy mess being transformed. 

 Even though it's blurry, I like this picture of GIbby. 

Audrey and ?  and ?  - any suggestions for names.  
 The gang's all here. 
 Where's my food? 
 Fence again. 
The papaya is bearing more fruit.  Yum! 

New Lambs and Whine about Rural Highways

We had an eventful day yesterday.  Just about the time we were leaving school last night, there was a terrible accident near our home - which meant that we were stuck in the car on the road for 2 hours.  There are no alternative routes to my house, just the highway, so when they close it, we're stuck.  This has happened before when a pole fell down due to soft ground from tons of rain.  This time it was a fatal accident. 

At just about the same time as the accident, my husband was searching our pasture for Audrey who didn't come in with the other sheep.  Sure enough, she'd had her lambs back there and decided not to come in.  It's a pain (as all of you who have had to carry lambs at ewe nose height know) to get them in...why ewes can't look up to see lambs is a mystery. 

I love that Audrey is such a good mama.  By the time I did get home (at 8 pm - over 2 hours after I left work), she'd settled in with them.  They were strong, nursing well, and all I had to do was dip those umbilical cords and make sure she got some extra feed and water with electrolytes.  They are two unrelievedly black ram lambs - a bummer on both the color and the gender - I would have loved two more ewes.  

Speaking of ram lambs, I checked my records, and I didn't make a mistake on the two ram lambs from spring.  I didn't castrate Buddy because I thought he was going to die (he's the one that got sick) and I did castrate Koa - he's still castrated, but he has some other sort of swelling on his abdomen.  I wonder if he is cryptorchid - but he doesn't seem to be in pain and he's growing well. I just have to make sure I do a good job with these two.

Today is a treat.  The weather, so far, is lovely, and NO ONE has practice!  I am going home to ride after work and looking forward to it mightily.  I will have to work through lunch to get the stuff done that I promised myself to do in order to do so, but it will be worth it.  I can ride, check out the lambs with light other than the tack room light and a small flashlight, and make a proper dinner. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


No, that's not a cleaner way to swear - although, that has possibilities.  I will need to practice. 

We had approximately 25 cu yards (or more) of finished compost made from yard waste, sheep, chicken, and horse manure and it was causing a water flow problem.  It's now mostly gone - distributed under bananas, around ti, around roses, and in layered in the garden, as well as mixed up in potting mix for the greenhouse.  Pretty exciting stuff!

I have so many sweet potato slips - I have planted them around the ti and in random spots where a pile got clumped.  I still have a large number to get in the ground.  Good think I love both sweet potatoes and their stir-fried leaves.   

We've been having the most dry days in a row we've had for an entire year.  It feels like the summer we really didn't have, at least up my house - which makes being at work a little harder than it usually is - I want to plant things!  Good thing I mostly love my job! 

On that note, one of my student's asked me if I missed school during break.  I had to answer, "Yes," although there was more to that answer - I also loved seeing my oldest child and my parents and getting on the horse, and getting the greenhouse cleaned out.  The student said, "I knew you missed it!" which makes me think I am doing a good job of transmitting some of my excitement about reading and writing to the kids - now if only it rubs off. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

In the Greenhouse

Today was a day to work out in the greenhouse.  I pulled out all the plants, topped off all the pots with a mix of potting soil, compost, and coffee grounds.  I planted three kinds of tomatoes (might be too late in the year, but worth a try), bok choy, three kinds of basil, winter squash, lettuce, and cucumbers (also late in the year). 

I planted sweet potato slips under the ti leaves and in the pile of compost left over from the potting pile dumped by my husband.  There are still quite a lot of slips to plant, but we're not quite done with layering the compost on the outside garden. 

One of the Buff Orpingtons is standing on one leg.  I can't really see anything wrong with her leg - no sores, swellings, or breaks, but the ewe's not limping anymore.  Odd. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Near Death Experience

Well, not really - I didn't see any lights or actually have a physical brush with death. 

Kind of disappointed in myself that my almost last words were "Holy" and an obscenity.  My husband says I should be happy that at least I got the Holy in there. 

I picked up my niece who is on an exchange with our local university this semester and was driving her up the mountain to ride Gibby this afternoon.  Two cars were turning right onto a road and decided to drive on the shoulder which obstructed the view of the truck who wished to make a left turn onto the highway.  As I passed the cars which were on the shoulder, the truck pulled out right in front of me.  I had no time to brake, so I swerved (while saying my almost last words).  Tires squealing, I thought I would lose control of the car, but I swerved back into my proper lane.  If there'd been an oncoming car, I would have had to run right into the truck, but thankfully, there wasn't. 

Since my car is so small, I think my front end would have gone under the big pick-up and my niece and I would have been killed.  Even the airbags wouldn't have helped. If I'd been driving our SUV, I would have for sure hit him - the smaller car has great maneuverability - but we wouldn't have died.  I guess I am glad I had the maneuverable car because we got to come home and ride.

Riding is always important - and it took my mind right off the near car accident. 

Gibby did well - he's really stiff on the right, so we worked on circles (my niece and my daughter who are novice riders) and side passes (me).  I found that it isn't the mounting that he minds, it's the person stepping in the stirrups.  When I gave the girls a leg up, he did great.  He knew the rain was coming and started getting a little antsy after 90 minutes (walking pretty much exclusively) in the arena. 

I spent the first few days of my school break on Oahu.  I had a follow-up with the breast care center and I got to see my daughter and my parents and a few friends who live in my hometown.  I also walked/ran 20 miles over three days - 10 in just one of the days.  It started me thinking about trying a marathon.  One of the friends I saw has run in over 30 marathons - as well as had a marathon battle with an inherited kidney disease and cancer.  She's always been an inspiration - and ever since I saw her run a marathon when we were in middle school, I have wanted to do just one.  It will take me a long, long, long time to finish, but at least it will be a goal I accomplished. 

Maybe I will do it. 

Friday, September 28, 2012


A much needed (by my farm) break from school is coming up.  Although I am heading to Oahu for a follow-up to my mammogram scare last March, when I come back I plan to pull all the dried out, sad looking plants from my greenhouse and work on the outside garden and the taro bed, too.  It's just a little early for the broccoli-type stuff, but I can put in a few other brassica and lettuce.  I have quite a few taro huli hanging around in buckets that need to be planted.  I need to come up with more of a routine that works during the school terms, because I lose a lot of productivity during those times. 

I feel somewhat urgent about providing for the food security of my family - at least the ones who still live with me. 

I am sorry for not having written for some time, but I do notice that less weird referrer stats show up when I take a few days off.  I don't really get those weird spikes that seem to be happening because Russian proxies bounce off my site, and I am unable to take the time to navigate through the Google help to figure out how to report or block or even to find out if they are my problem or Google's.  Any other bloggers noticing that stuff? 

Audrey is a lot closer to delivering than I thought - because Elvis was chasing her in June, I thought we were looking at December/January, but he must have been chasing her for nothing, because she is only a few weeks out.  It's definitely at least twins because I can palpate a couple of little heads and she's quite rotund.  Remember she had triplets back on March 2?  I am hoping it is only twins, and I need to keep the rams away from her for a year just to give her a break.  She's not as young as she used to be. 

I hope that we can use the break to get the sheep stall scraped and load that large load of cinder to resurface it as well as move more of the mountain of compost into the garden spaces and around the bananas.  Bananas don't actually need finished compost; they can take manure straight from the barn, but finished doesn't hurt them.  I think the citrus could do with a good dose, too.  There is just a lot to do and we probably don't have a ton of relatively rain free time to do it in. 

Hope all is well with you all. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

That Horrible Moment...

when you realize that the two ram lambs you castrated 4 months ago slipped their bands and you have four rams and one wether instead of two rams and three wethers.  Sigh.  I think I am going to have to invest in a Burdizzo or learn to castrate with a knife. 

Audrey's limping and I can't figure out why.  Caught her and inspected her hooves and dipped them in hoof solution, but can't see anything.  Hope it works belatedly.  It brings back memories of years of dealing with Ohia's hooves.  I still miss that horse - found a picture of him while cleaning today and hit me kind of hard. 

Our small chest freezer is full of meat - up to the top.  We defrosted a couple of steaks for a barbecue tonight and they look GREAT!  I can't wait to try them. I am a little bummed I wasn't here to help load up the freezer because I don't know what all is in there and I don't think there was any rhyme or reason to how the meat got loaded in.  That's the one drawback of a chest freezer - the digging around you have to do to see what's inside. I do love grass fed beef, so I am happy in spite of the hassles of excavating the freezer. 

I had a great day on Maui - stimulating professional conversation and the long flight back wasn't too bad, because the second leg was on the same plane as the first, so we just all had to move seats.  I know I have mentioned it before - but I really love my job.  I love teaching, I love teacher geek work like yesterday, and I love the organization at which I am so blessed to have a job.  And then I get to come home to sheep (mixed blessing) and Gibby (great blessing) and the dogs and cat and the garden. 

I do feel blessed. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beef Delivery

We decided to go in on a cow with some neighbors.  Tomorrow, our 1/4 will be in the freezer - all grass fed and good.  We'll have to move some items from the chest freezer to the smaller freezers, but it will be worth it!  It's the next best thing to growing your own. 

I am going to Maui tomorrow for a work day with teachers from the other campuses of our school.  I love doing the work, but I am not looking forward to the whole airport thing.  It isn't so bad flying direct from Hilo to Maui, but to get back we have to fly the wrong direction to Honolulu and then back over Maui to the Big Island.  It's asinine and irritating, and I am not looking forward to it. Maui is going to be busy in the evening, too.  (I have to secretly admit I am not fond of Maui - long story). 

I ran into my niece at school today - she was giving a guest talk in one of the classes. I asked her how long my sweet potato slips could sit in the bucket, since the garden isn't done being layered with mountain of compost.  She said, "Forever.  Don't put them on any ground you don't want them to grow on!!!"  (She really did add the three exclamation points, you know, verbally.)  It was reassuring. 

I haven't had much time to exercise, which is making me cranky.  It's the end of a marking period, so the kids are all scrambling and I sat until 4:30 twice this week helping kids finish work for other classes.  I feel like a saint - well, not really, but I do feel virtuous.  At least the mostly rest has let my hamstring heel up a bit. 

Well, that's it for me - not very exciting - except for the beef! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When Farming Hurts

I pulled my hamstring pulling sweet potatoes on Sunday.  I thought I was just sore from squatting and pulling, but nope, it is a genuine strain.  I really strained the muscle nearly 30 years ago in track and it's been a bit dicey since then.  Sometimes, if I am riding after taking a break or even kneeling in church, the muscle will cramp up.  When I was pregnant and still riding, I would dismount and fall to the ground (not gracefully) because the muscle would give out on me. 

I thought since I really do spend a ridiculous amount of time working out each week that I would have avoided something like this - but apparently not.  I am limping around and wincing from the bottom of my wimpy soul.  Thank goodness I work at a school with wonderful athletic trainers who don't laugh at the middle-aged wannabe, but instead hand me ice and compression wraps and apply heat and manually stretch me out (ouch) before I head off to run with middle schoolers (my goal is to up myself to high school next year) or to the cardio room.  I have to do something while waiting for my student athletes....

Beyond the physical trials of doing something at my age that would have been a lot easier 20 years ago, the farm is moving along.  I pulled those sweet potatoes, picked up some seeds for things like greens and lettuce - things that grow better in our winter.  My husband cleared the patch for the bigger greenhouse.  I could, in theory, have made last night's dinner completely from ingredients in my kitchen - although I did leave that homegrown hen in the freezer and used store bought instead - the day's coming (in case any kid is reading - you will not know when we eat her; don't even try to guess) but it wasn't last night.  

Step by step, getting closer to having several meals a day raised and grown on our own land. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

In the Garden

As there appears to be a longish break in the incessant rain (meaning rain just part of the day). we've made incursions into the garden areas.  My husband wants to move the entire manure pile to the garden (there has to be 20+ cubic yards of composted manure there) because it is causing water flow problems in the sheep stall in its present location. The thought is to layer it thick on the "new garden" - which is two years old - because the soil is not as good as we'd like it there. 

Those plans meant that I had to get out into the garden and pull up all the sweet potato slips and dig out any tubers.  Considering I started with 6-8 small slips from my niece, I was impressed with what I pulled - a 5 gallon bucket packed with slips and about 5 lbs of sweet potatoes.  I cut up about a pound of them this morning to throw in the crock pot with beans and chicken.  I had two or three different varieties of slips to begin with and some of them have crossbred so I had some really unique mixtures of the Hawaiian sweet potato and the Okinawan purple sweet potato.  I am looking forward to seeing how they taste tonight. 

We wanted to get the sheep into the taro bed, so my husband made a corridor of emergency fence to the fenced bed - a lot of the taro got smothered by the thick grass, which is a huge shame, but the sheep should clean out the grass and we can see what's left and get it pulled and replanted.  Taro and sweet potatoes are so great, because you can pull the roots and replant the tops (if you can resist eating them - I love both lau and sweet potato leaves). 

My husband also cleared out the area where he wants to put a bigger greenhouse, burning a lot of the brush he'd cut down.  We bought a huge load of six inch minus cinder to layer in the sheep stall for drainage, too.  Hopefully, all this work can lead to greater food production.  I think we're going to need it as gas prices rise.  85% of the food on island shelves, I've read, is imported from elsewhere.  Fuel increases mean food cost increases so the more I can grow, the better it is for us. 

I just wish there were more hours in a day.  Maybe if we put lights in the greenhouses I can spend more hours out there after work. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Falling Behind

This could be a bad pun based on the near approach of the season, but since we basically don't have Fall here in Hawaii, it means pretty much what it means.  I got up at 4:30 to do my Rosary and my elliptical thing and to water the greenhouse plants - and once again, I notice that the greenhouse is in sad neglect.  There are weeds and overgrown things and not much production going on.  (Although, I did notice that the jalapenos, which I thought were long gone, are actually producing a second crop of rather nice looking peppers).  Since I basically have to walk through the hanging laundry to get to the greenhouse, I noticed that there is an awful lot of dry-ish laundry hanging out there, too. 

My husband has been making a great effort to finish up some projects around the place.  He put up the glass tile in the coffee corner in the kitchen and finished the grouting on the kitchen bar.  He put up four very sturdy saddle racks out in the tack room and some heavy duty shelves.  I just got several panicked calls from the cinder hauler, so I guess he ordered cinder, too - which is good news for the sheep pen (hope that contractor's check doesn't bounce - because we've had trouble with him before - and that job's where the money came from).  My next wish list is baseboards in the bathrooms, but I don't really get a say - and I think baseboards are inordinately expensive and possibly not terribly important in the scheme of things. 

The outside garden is, as it has been all year, a wash - pretty much literally.  We've just had so much rain, which is sad because just over the lip of the mountain and down into the south part of our island, they've had nowhere near enough.  I wish there was a way to proportion it out - so we could both grow things!  My plants all drowned and theirs all dried up.  The only thing growing well is the thick grass that is choking out the kalo. 

Cross Country season means that most of my weekends are devoted to races and then doing as much catch-up around the house as I can.  It means getting home really late because of practices and having just about enough time to monitor homework and cook dinner.  It means very little time for gardening.  That's probably an excuse that I could find a way around, but to tell you the truth, with the beginning of school, my own exercise schedule and my kid and family obligations, I tend to put it on the back burner.  It is also not as fun to do it all alone, and basically, that's what it means with our family schedule - me being alone in the greenhouse or garden.  Fortunately, we have quite a lot of very accessible and reasonable year-round Farmer's Markets to make up for my lack of effort. 

I am starting a research project on agriculture and food-production, so hopefully it will motivate me to watch the kids get fired up, too!  I hope so.  It's time I stop "falling behind" and start "catching up". 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Best Weekend....

I got to ride with a friend, went to a barbecue.  Went to my favorite race of the XC season (not the kids favorite by a long shot, but I love that course as a spectator), took a long nap and got some perspective on some thorny issues at work.  Make hand pies (pasties) which I can take to my son and didn't stress about anything. 

I need to ride more....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Dear Students:

What I want for you.....

I want you to develop questioning minds – to be curious and to think deeply.

I want you to find and evaluate sources and to cite them correctly so that everyone's work is given its just due.  

I want you to choose words with care to create the exact effect that you want in your writing (and speaking). I want you to have a wide and varied vocabulary so that you can have lots of ideas from which to choose. 

I want you to be able to manipulate images, audio clips to produce effects in audience. I want you to be able to use what you know about images, audio and how they interact with ideas so you can observe when you are being manipulated. 

I want you to be able to analyze tone and mood in the work of others  and I want you to be able to create tone and mood in your own work. 

I want you to be critical consumers of information. 

I want you to create – through words, images, audio – particular effects for particular audiences.  I want you to be fluent in persuading, opining, informing, delighting audiences.  

I want you to be effective communicators – both when you are producing communication in writing, speaking, and multimedia and when you are the audience.   

I want you to be able to analyze, evaluate, edit, and revise your own work. 

I want you to be able to analyze, evaluate, and comment on the work of others. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Beach Afternoon

I have been mentioning to my husband that we should go to the beach all summer.  We come from a place that has a beach that is routinely on the lists for the best beaches in the world, so he is a little sour about the Big Island beaches in comparison.  I just want to get into the ocean.  We live on an island - even if it is a younger island with mostly rocky beaches, there is no reason to treat our life like we live in the Midwest and there is no ocean! 

The really nice beaches are two hours away, but we have some beautiful places in Keaukaha in Hilo.  So, I decided to woman up and do like I did when I was in London and go by myself.  I did the one minimum requirement for myself yesterday and packed up and went down to Richardson's Beach Park.  It was gorgeous and not too awfully crowded and stayed in the water for nearly an hour which eased all the aches and pains caused by working out every twelve hours more days than not. 

I can just see a slice of ocean from my office window, if I crane my neck.  I love my job, but I would really like another beach day like yesterday! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gibby Breakthrough!

Since I have gone back to work, I don't have a ton of time to work with Gibby.  Maybe he thinks I am playing hard to get, because whenever I come home, I whistle loudly and he pops his head up high and calls back but I don't go out.  Getting his attention like that was a breakthrough - and last night showed me he is really coming around.  

When I got home, there was no dinner in the making, which normally would have me scrambling, but since my husband had told me earlier he was cooking, I was not stressed.  I looked out to the pasture and Gibby was out eating.  I thought I would go to the fence and see what happened.  I whistled and his head popped up like a Whack A Mole game and he came right over when I stood at the fence. 

Believe me, folks, this is a radical difference from run-away-Gib.  He didn't like the cheese crackers I was eating, but he did like the alfalfa pellets I brought to reward him for coming. 

I think my farrier who told me it wasn't worth my life keeping this horse is going to be really surprised next time he's out to trim hooves.  My next step is to remind him he won't die if he stand tied for a good long time (the horse, not the farrier). 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Rack on the Counter

I have a baking rack that never goes away - it sits on the counter waiting for bread or cookies.  It sometimes gets covered with mail, and it is turning into the place that people put news and tasks for me - the receipt from the latest trip to the gas station, the accident report a month ago, papers that need to be signed.  I would rather have it filled up with bread or cookies. 

Speaking of cookies, the current 10th graders have let it slip that I make good cookies - and the new 9th graders are starting to throw hints.  It's pretty funny.  One of these evenings, I will pull out the mixing bowl and fire up the oven, but today - today, I am pooped.  I haven't had but two prep periods for my own stuff since school started.  I have been in full steam helping other teachers with note-taking and stuff.  Two more days of this and I should get a little time next week to work on my online modules, grading, and general planning. 

It's been raining buckets again - I have to say, the sheep stall is getting quite squishy.  I can see why they prefer to invade Gibby's side whenever they have the opportunity.  Seeing how Gibby is so prone to bolting, it is a good thing that none of the lambs are really that young and can skedaddle out of his way.  12 sheep and a horse in a 20X 24 enclosure is fairly full - but that's where they all go if the rain gets to be too much - or if it gets close to feeding time. 

Although droughts start me to worrying about water in our tanks, a week or two of nice dry weather would be so welcome right now.  I don't think we've had 5 full days of sun since last October - we've had the occasional sunny morning, but the rain comes pouring back.  If it continues, the Cross Country season is going to be quite a mess. 

Speaking of XC, I volunteered to be the Team Parent again.  Why do I do that?  There must be something wrong with me.  Every year, at the end of the season, I think - I will NOT subject myself to this again.  I can't really say no to the coach - and I know he's really glad that I am here.  He keeps saying, "I am glad your son is running...."  Yeah - I heard you talking when my older son was a freshman - you knew you had me for 7 years, if my other son came up, too.

 I don't mind it - except for the potluck for the teams from the continent.  It is always during grade time and there is always at least one other mom who thinks I did a bad job and who audibly worries in front of me that there is not enough food.  There always is.  Always.  The kids and coaches and parents walk away with rounded stomachs and there are leftovers.  I let people bring what they feel comfortable bringing and I don't do the "if your last name starts with, bring..." and we always have a lot of chili and a lot of noodles, but everyone is always happy and full and no family struggled to buy or make something they couldn't afford. 

I got smart this year, though, and asked another helpful mom to please help me with the (damn) potluck.  I kept the parenthetical comments in my head, of course.  No need to scare away the volunteer! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Running Silent

Sorry, guys, the beginning of the school year is a mad rush to get things set up and this year is particularly crazy.  I guess that's good - suddenly people want their local resource teacher!  But it makes blogging kind of hard - as well as house cleaning, gardening, etc. 

I really need to get out in the green house and basically pull out everything and replenish the dirt in the pots and replant.  My fairly disorganized house is driving me nuts - all I can reliably do is the main bathrooms, a little laundry, and dinner/dishes.  I am mildly frantic because my oldest came home and said she couldn't stand staying with her brother any more because he didn't have any vegetables, all they had was eggs, and they were both too broke to buy food.  I sat there open-mouthed and thought, "Hello, kid, your mother is 20 miles away - call me, come home and eat, ask me to bring you cooked food - don't just sit there and starve."  He is waiting on his scholarship check and his next paycheck and his room mate to come in from Japan and give him money for the security deposit, propane, and rent. (Roomie arrives tomorrow).  Even if he didn't have the gas to come home - I would have driven down and brought food, for goodness sake. 

So I texted him to ask if he wanted or needed anything - would it be helpful if I made lasagne and stuff to go in your fridge?  Do you want fruit? - he said, "Umm...sure.  Apples."  It makes me wild to think he is sitting down there hungry and not asking for help.  There have been even leaner times in our family life, but I would skip meals to make sure the kids had.  They don't have store bought snacks, often, and they complain, but there's always food.  I should have expected it, though - we found out about the car accident last month by finding the police report on the counter where our son so carefully laid it so I would see it when I woke up.  They didn't call for help, didn't wake us, just handled everything and laid the report on the counter. 

I don't know whether to be proud of his self-reliance or shake him. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

New List

Summer's over and I didn't get to everything on my summer list.  That's pretty typical - I tend to make ambitious lists. 

Here's the end-of-August-through-September List:

Pull out the old jalapenos and tomatoes in the greenhouse
Remix the soil with compost and replant those pots
Start seeds for sale as seedlings
Continue to improve outside garden soil for planting greens in November
Trim Sheep hooves
Finish quilt top (have one of four rows done so far)
Get XC blog up and running (has to be immediately since the season is pretty short)
Pull kalo and replant huli

I have a whole other ambitious list for work.  I don't know why I inflict these lists on myself - I just feel bad when I don't get them all done.  

Oh well, I really want to make cookies for our buildings room cleaner today - he really worked hard on cleaning my blinds in my office this summer, well above and beyond duty. As I didn't finish (or barely start) my Saturday cleaning and as we promised the older kids to meet them for church tonight, I kind of suspect the cookies and the bare minimum cleaning are all that's happening today.  I slept way in today - dead to the world until 7:30!  I mean that's nuts and a list killer.  I can't let that happen every weekend! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to School

Wow!  What a week!  We started school on Monday with the kids.  I am now having to blog for this personal blog, for my classroom, and for the Cross Country Team.  All very exciting, but my head is spinning, that's for sure. 

I have to say, so far, I love all my classes; for kids who are supposedly behind in their English language skills, they are pretty darned quick off the block, which makes things fun.  Yes, they need some grammar and some practice with disciplined close reading, but wow - how fun to have kids who are thinking, thinking, thinking.  Even if they are also always talking, talking, talking..... 

Tomorrow I am teaching all four periods, because some teachers have asked me to teach note-taking to their classes.  I am going to be very tired by the end of tomorrow - and I seem to need to go to town for animal feed and flea spray for my cat.  The only way you can tell it is summer up here is the increase in fleas and coqui frogs.  Otherwise, it is fairly chilly and rainy, as usual.  At least, it will by Friday, so tired can be answered with a sleep in the next day.

My son really and truly moved out - well, I am sure there are odds and ends left behind, but he stuffed his new (old) car with belongings and drove off last night.  He forgot is razor, so he had to come to my office to get it, which was a bit anti-climactic, but yeah, my second baby is gone.  Now we only have two kids are home.  I will have to adjust my cooking - or suffer leftovers for days for my lunches. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I am grateful for my children - all of them - but yesterday, I was particularly grateful for my youngest.  She came back from a workshop on Peer Mediation ready to start a group in the high school - and she won't be in high school for another year!  That didn't stop her.  She went to ask the counseling department if they would help.  On her own. 

I am grateful for the new administration at my job.  Really, incredibly grateful.  We had to share three words for how we felt yesterday after our first day.  Mine were "Relieved.  Hopeful.  Grateful." 

I am grateful for my coworker how got here at 6:00 am to work out with me.  I can't do it once the kids are in school, because my son rolls out of bed only after I have yelled, "I am leaving in two minutes!" up the stairs.  I tried to trick him once by yelling it half an hour early.  It didn't work.  But somehow, he generally gets ready in that two minutes.  It makes me ponder the nature of time. 

I am beyond grateful that my efforts with Gibby are starting to really pay off.  I couldn't spend much time with him on Monday or Tuesday, but when I got home last night, he was making those nickering noises that usually mean either, "I am happy to see you."  or "Feed me."  or, you know, probably both at the same time.   I ran toward him - a move that in the past would have had him spinning and gone out the door to the pasture.  He stood rock still, let me open the gate, walk in and approach him.  When I left and came back with a rope lead, he did avoid for a second, but turned around and stood still again.  This is much bigger than it would have looked from the outside. 

It's good to feel grateful for today instead of my usual worried!