Saturday, June 30, 2012

Back in the Land of Rubber Boots

Apparently it rained the whole time I was gone.  The stalls were a mess, so I decided to go out and dig after my daily walk.  Lonely me and a pitchfork weren't going to cut it, but I decided to do my best. 

What a lovely surprise that I got a little help from my husband and John Deere: 

I don't usually get volunteers for the garden or the stalls. 

My other lovely little surprise today was the company I had on my walk: 

This little dog usually greets me on my way up the  hill and on the way down.  I was a little disappointed that she wasn't out as usual, but figured I'd catch her on the way down.  I guess she twigged to the fact that I had already gone by and chased me up the road.  She decided, being half a mile away from home already, that she was going to accompany me the whole way.  After about four miles, she was pretty pooped and glad to get home.  I hope that means she won't follow me again - although she is MUCH nicer to walk than my dogs - even off a leash.  She listens and she heels.  Her current owner told me once that he leaves her untied because she just showed up one night and he figures someone will come claim her.  I don't think so, she's been there for years. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Farming and Education

My desire to raise more of my family's food really comes from the same roots that feed my educational philosophy.  Even though I am at a conference devoted to technology in education and my gardening and animal husbandry practices use as little technology as possible, I believe they come from the same route of trusting your own self, creating your own bank of knowledge built on trial and error (using data from missteps, mistakes, and failures to change course), developing your own passion and your own, possibly idiosyncratic way of doing things.

Although I am sitting in a large city, surrounded by all the fanciest tech gadgets for education, the spirit of this conference is as far from the standardized, mass-produced education that is increasingly promoted in popular culture as living on a rural plot of land and raising your own chickens is from buying Styrofoam containers of chicken and eggs at the grocery store.  The tech is the tool, not the aim.

The aim is to ignite passionate curiosity, fuel creativity, foster questioning and exploration and doing it yourself.  I am so tired of people saying that kids can't .... kids can do amazing things when you create an environment that allows for autonomy, challenging problems to solve, understanding constraints in time time and resources,  thinking with your hands, developing knowledge, skill, and expertise, and receiving encouragement.  I actually got that last bit out of my best workshop yesterday -"Creativity is the Killer App" by Chris FItzgerald Walsh- but look how it applies to farming!  

I want to bring the same kind of frustration and joy, failures and success, the innate feedback (if you don't water those tomatoes in your greenhouse - guess what?!), challenge, hands-on thinking to my classroom.  I want every teacher to bring that to their classroom.  


Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Traveling, Technology, and Communication

I am a person of routine; I have to admit that.  I like having similar breakfasts every morning and knowing when I am going to do things and in what order.  I would like to think I am more spontaneous than that, but the truth is - I want yogurt and fruit or eggs and vegetables in the morning, and I want to have my walk and feed the animals and check out the plants.  I am not so stuck that I have to do things at the same time or in the same order, but I do like familiar things.

On the other hand, this conference is amazing!  So many ideas - so MANY people - and so much walking, walking, walking (the San Diego Conference Center is ginormous).  I didn't do anything I planned to do today - I didn't walk to the church a mile and a bit away.  I didn't get up and go to the gym.  I didn't find a grocery store and buy yogurt for breakfast.  But I did have breakfast with great teachers from my school and I did go to a fabulous session on digital storytelling and walked around and looked at posters and displays from many different schools.  I collected what feels like billions of brochures, business cards, and these silly little ribbons which you can stick together - I have "Blogger", "Plays Nice with Others",  "I love Edutopia", "I Color Outside the Lines" (my favorite ribbon is "My Brain Hurts")....and I have my eyes peeled for "Trouble Maker".  I have filled out every conceivable raffle ticket available and I plan to enter every drawing for a Kindle Fire or an iPad or document camera out there.  I can feel that by Thursday, my head is going to be seriously stuffed full of new ideas.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

ISTE 2012

Well, just color this country girl a little overwhelmed.... cities are big and I feel kind of lost.  I am sure being tired isn't helping with all that.  There was some pilikia at the airport - people wanting me to switch seats so they could sit by their friends (makes me feel like chopped liver - no one wanted to sit by me - or maybe like I was back in 7th grade), but it worked out great because I got to sit next to an off-duty flight attendant who knows the several members of my in-laws who are pilots for the airline and he talked just enough and was quiet just enough. 

We landed at 11 pm local San Diego time - and it felt like 11 and not the 8 it was at home, so I am not dealing with jet lag.  Neither my co-worker/ISTE roommate or I slept in, so now it is hitting me. 

I am feeling torn because Ohia, although his abscess is draining, is still really hurting.  My husband said he was out most of the day - probably because he was in horse jail along with the Crazy Horse - but mostly because he was feeling able to walk out, which is good.  This was one nasty, nasty bout here, and I am not sure he is going to pull all the way out of it.  It's hard to be away. 

On the other hand, there is a lot of stuff I can learn here - if I can just figure out how to navigate this HUGE convention center and find the workshops, presentations, etc. that I would like the most.  I get the feeling that you need to come to more than one of these to really figure it out - even Twitter feed isn't helping....aaargh!  

Off to meet my classmate from high school who lives in the area.  Very excited! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Feeling Distinctly Put Upon

First, my Kitchen Aide mixer is broken and past its warranty.  I am SO sad about that.  Not sure how I am going to do without it - the old fashioned knead by hand routine again until I can convince my husband to take a look and/or spend the money to get it fixed. 

Second,  that darned Crazy Horse got through my fence, through the thick and over grown empty lot, and into the neighbor's nice manicured (think retiree - golf course like lawn).  His son is a NUT JOB and so I spent the first half of the morning worried that he would either shoot me or the horse - then spent the latter half of the morning wishing he would shoot either me or the horse.  Feeling bad about the millions of divots that the maniac gray monster left while gaily running away from me and the good neighbor from two lots down- but figure since his nut job son shot my dog (who didn't die but did come home with entry and exit wounds) and has some illegal greenery growing we could probably call it even at this point.  I finally gave up on the runaway and went home to bake cookies for the good neighbor, who took off work, cut his fence and got my horse locked in his pasture with his horse.  He said he'll catch him later and walk him home. I am actually wondering if they would rather keep the horse....sigh.  He's ridable, unlike either one of their horses (they have a laminitic horse and their own crazier-even-than-mine gray horse - weird huh?) 

I am now a little irritated that my stay-home husband knew about some rusty fence and didn't repair it, and irritated with myself because I heard my dumb-okole little dog (who masquerades as a border collie but is no help at all) barking last night.  My guess is that she chased Gibby until he decided to run through the weak link in the fence.  If I had gone out and given her what-for, maybe I could have averted it. 

Things aren't really going that well this summer - what with all the (mild but still painful) kid drama, things that go wrong all at once - sick horses, runaway horses, butting rams, broken mixers, and a washer that is giving me issues.  I suppose it will just make me happy to get back to work???  Hmmm.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

So Much to Do, I Don't Know Where to Start

I must pull down those bananas - today.  They are ripening too much and I am going to have to freeze them for smoothies or bake banana bread.  There are always household chores to do.  I think I am having a delayed crash - three weeks after school is out. 

Usually, I spend the first week after a hard school term resting a lot.  I didn't do that this time and I didn't think I needed to - but I am just not on my game.  There are garden things to do and household things to do - and all I want to do is go on a long walk and then either go to the beach or take a nap or read a book.  I know from years of experience that this enervated and listless feeling passes after 4-6 days of resting, but I feel guilty resting with so much to do! 

On top of this, Ohia is just not getting better - and I can't get the abscess to drain - it must be fairly high up in the hoof, because a hoof tester isn't finding the point of tenderness.  This is normal for him, because he usually drains his abscesses at the coronary band, which is a pain in the behind.  The usual anti-inflammatory isn't having as dramatic effect on him - I am sure he is somewhat inured to it after a decade of these problems.  It's kind of like watching your kid suffer....

Speaking of kids suffering - I am kind of having to watch that, too - trying to get kids smoothly through a transition (plus getting me through it).  Break-ups and that kind of pain, and who to live with and where and can you afford it?  (and secretly thinking, "Why don't you just stay home and wait to move out at least one more year? It's so hard getting used to college, much less learning to live with roommates and buy and prepare food." ... and then wondering if I am just feeling that way because I have issues with my kids growing up  - which I SWORE I wouldn't do.) 

I guess all this might be the reason I want to stay upstairs in my room with a book (now that I've finished with the walk).  Good thing I can look out the window and see those darned bananas - that will keep me from being lazy. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sick Horses and Grumbling Kids

Ohia is having a bad bout with his chronic founder.  I think the beet pulp pellets had some corn in it - not good at all.  This is why I prefer beet pulp shreds over the pellets.  I think I must be the only one who does, because the feed stores don't carry it anymore.

He always rapidly drops weight when these episodes are coming on and it is just so painful.  This episode is as bad as any he's had and I, as always, am faced with whether the humane thing would be to put him down.  It's a painful and stressful thing.  At the moment, I am just soaking his foot, hoping to draw the abscess out to relieve the pain - double dosing him with horse aspirin, bringing him out to the soft grass and feeding him three meals a day where no one else can steal it from him. 

At the same time, my husband decided the kids are going to get up at 8 am and start chores by 9 after eating a hot breakfast.  This is a distinct change from their usual sleep in late and over-schedule the rest of the day so you can avoid chores plan and therefore is leading to a lot of grumbling.  It is slightly amusing grumbling (usually involving the word "pointless" and the phrase "I am going to pay someone to do this - so I don't have to learn"). 

The grumbling seems to bring them closer together as siblings.  I caught sight of the two boys throwing the football this afternoon.  Usually they are glued to their different computers, so it was lovely. 

I am planning to inform them that I intend them to harvest all of the taro when the grumbling dies down.  I think it is too early days for that now.  (As I think of it, an evil giggle bubbles up). 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Butchering My First Chicken

My husband came in from feeding and said the prolapsed chicken wasn't looking well.  The prolapse was decreasing yesterday and she was eating and no one was pecking at her, but this morning she looked a little mopey and there was some bleeding, so I decided I would cull her. 

I had to watch two YouTube videos just to make sure I knew what to do.  I felt like a surgeon getting ready - except you know, I don't think surgeons have to sharpen their instruments.  Then, as I was sharpening the knives, I felt like I was in some cartoon - the evil farmer sharpening her knives for the demise of the hero hen. 

Anyway, besides the initial realization that my knife needed to be sharper and having to figure out a better way to get the jugular, things went ok - a little sad, but okay.  I said thank you to her and sorry that she had to put up with me learning - but the water was hot enough that the feathers came right out.  Cleaning out the innards was the hardest thing - but I didn't cut into anything like the rectum or the craw, so it all went relatively smoothly.   I threw the chicken in a freezer bag and into the freezer and that was that - one relatively small stewing hen ready to go. 

I know I am posting two blogs in a day, so do view the early blog to see pictures of our afternoon at the Volcano National Park.  At least it isn't more sheep and more bananas! 

Volcano Visit

Yesterday was National Park Day, so we headed up to Volcanoes National Park for a "photo shoot" for our daughter.  Her modeling portfolio is quite old, so it was worth a try in spite of our rather sad camera - plus it was something to do.  Here are some pictures from our visit:

This is a view of the current eruption in Halemaumau Crater.  All you can see from the back of Volcano House is the plume. 

My youngest getting into the "Photo Shoot" spirit. 

A picture of my son with the eruption in the back ground.  

We drove down the Chain of Craters road for different backgrounds.  Here you can see pahoehoe lava flow in the foreground and an old flow in the background which reached the ocean.  

A close-up of pahoehoe lava.  See how it looks like ripples?  

My daughter - one of our "photo shoot" shots.  

Lava fields from the car.  It looks a lot shinier in the sun than my camera catches. 

As you can see, the Volcano Park has a lot of varied terrain.  We don't take advantage of it as much as we should.   We've done all the hikes that we are basically capable of and interested in (there are some gnarly survival hikes that I think I would have to be 20 years younger and kidless to be interested in) - well, that's my husband's rationale.  I like doing the same walk over and over, because it gives me a constant to measure my improvement on, but the fact that we have to drive there and pay the $25 a year to have the pass and the sometimes crowded conditions on the shorter more accessible trails is a deterrent to my husband.  My favorite hike is a four mile hike into Kilauea Iki Crater.  You descend a rather steep train to the bottom of a smaller crater and walk along the length of it to climb back up at the other end.  One trail end starts at the Lava Tube, which is a lot of fun.  I always feel like I will see a dinosaur any time when I am in the crater - you feel like you've stepped back in time. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Back Again

I went to Kona this week to work.  I did take a few pictures with my phone camera, but they aren't great.  I will try to get them off an on this blog later, but I have been feeling guilty for not posting, so I am just going to post today. 

One of my hens has a egg duct prolapse.  I am not having luck catching her - and I am not sure if I am going to cull her or try to repair it when I do catch her.  I need to elicit some teenage help to catch her I think. 

I have been taking advantage of summer freedom to walk 6-7 miles every day.  I am trying to work my way up to actually running some of it, but my knees aren't cooperating.  Having Elvis ramming me every few months hasn't been good for my knees - although my knees have been dicey since having Osgood-Schlatters in middle school anyway. 

Today, though, my husband and I went "together" - which means I walk and he runs ahead and then meets me on his way down, which cuts my walk short.  However, there was a garage sale!  We stopped and there were actually things we wanted!  (Odd around here where people try to foist of junk).  We ran the two miles home (well he ran, and I jogged) to get money and the car.  I ran for more than two telephone poles (my usual thing is to run two poles, walk one, etc)!  I am SOOO proud of myself. 

We provided amusement to the garage sale hosts when we literally pulled out the piggy bank to get the last five dollars in change.  I bought some fabric remnants for a quilt (I like to work on a quilt every summer), a mirror, a lovely set of soup plates, a silver plate pie server, and a trivet.  My husband got an ancient dehumidifier (and to be honest, he picked out the trivet).  Oh, and we got a cheese slicer!  I am so excited because it looks like you can actually replace the wire on this antique.  We are forever breaking the wires on those things and they aren't replaceable.  As you can probably tell, I am ridiculously easy to please. 

By 8 am, I have accomplished a goal, acquired a big pile of someone else's junk, and I still have the whole day ahead of me.  I think the next big thing is stripping animal stalls and expanding the outside garden.  I have another business trip in two weeks, so there are a lot of things I need to get done. 

Pictures coming soon of heiau and Kona ocean and a very cool freshwater spring next to the hotel which is also where King Kamehameha the Great settled when he retired after uniting the islands.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Looong Week

My week was book-ended by two graduations - my son's and the school where I used to teach.  I was getting email from former students asking me to come (as if I'd miss it!).  The two are a study in contrasts.  My son's class had roughly 130 kids and my old school had 26 (which was one of the biggest graduating classes we've had).  My son's graduation was relatively formal and traditional, and except for the kihei color and the "trick" at the end, was exactly the same as his sister's graduation two years ago (her class threw confetti, this class through cards - which was hilarious because we teachers were confiscating cards for months) and this school, although the basic format is the same, the kids ALL do graduation speeches, so the graduation becomes very original.  I have already had two kids (juniors),  "You ARE coming next year.  You ARE.  For MY graduation."  (as if I'd miss it!). 

I founded that high school - 7 years ago it was me and 22 ninth graders in an incredibly loud room (loud from noise outside our room - the walls didn't go all the way up).  I was lucky to have another teacher come in and teach math so I could have a prep, but otherwise, it was a one room schoolhouse.  I even had to teach science - which admittedly was a blast, but a joke for a high school level class.  We did very cool things - the kids had internships, we did all kinds of projects all over the place, we went to the old irrigation flumes in Kohala and rode canoes, PE was swimming lessons at the county pool.  With 22 kids and a bus, you can do a LOT of cool things.  We did a 30 minute rendition of Romeo and Juliet (that was HILARIOUS) to the delight of the kindergarteners. 

I look at this class of 2012 - our 5th graduating class and am amazed at how far this tiny school has come.  It makes me nostalgic for what could have been.  I had to take my new job for my family, my sanity (no more driving 120 miles a week going back and forth, back and forth) and I do love it, actually - but I was so glad that I went to the graduation.  I stood in the faculty line for the hugs (I was asked by staff and students, so I didn't feel weird).  I signed a copy of a novel one of my former students self-published - right next to my name in the dedication.  Kids graciously included thanks to me, along with the other teachers - thank you for teaching me to write.  Thank you for teaching me to do my work.  Thanks for trusting me with the digital media computers, for giving me a voice to express myself, for putting up with my obsessions and letting me get credit for it.  I don't know if any of you, the class of 2012 from our tiny school in Hilo, are reading this - but thank you, young men and women for including me so graciously in your lives, for remembering to thank the adults who've loved you and taught you and wish for you to do your best. 

And especially thanks to the juniors and the alumni who showed up and pushed the brooms and the mops - last year it was just Kumu and I and one kid and boy, it took HOURS.  It was much nicer to have your help - and it was great we all went out and shared a meal to celebrate! 

To my readers - if you are ever in Hilo -  you must go eat at Ken's Pancake House.  And when they ring the bell, just yell, "Sumo!"  It will make sense after a few times. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Walk Around The Land

Papaya.  We've tried to sprout trees for some time now from papayas from the farmer's market.  This one is doing well - and you can see the fruit growing along the trunk. 
 Taro. I pulled this for our guests - we made taro patties with sweet potato.  I cooked up the leaves in the crock pot for a side dish.  These few plants made enough patties for about 20 people with several left over.  You can see why this is a nice subsistence plant in many places in the world. 

The beautiful fence my husband built.  I think it makes the pasture look so much nicer.  There is hog wire behind it to keep the sheep in. 

The fence from another angle.  I like the way it looks with the cypress trees. 

The girls hanging out under the tiare.  There are some sad looking roses, too. 

My husband had to chain saw through that jungle to make the fence line.  

Banana.  This bunch is ready to come down.