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.