Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where Do We Fit?

It seems today that you have to be one thing or the other, particularly in politics.  What happened to the individual?  To nuanced thought and gradations of possible stances? Why are things so all or nothing?  

I, personally, am sick of the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle way over there in Washington - but at least there are two sides of the aisle there.  In Hawaii, the politics tend to be all one-sided.

But, what I am really thinking of is the ideas surrounding self-sufficiency and homesteading.  This - dare I call it a philosophy? - isn't firmly on one or the other side, is it?  For me, it's about a stubborn wish to be independent, and it appeals to the inner frugal-person in me.  It's less about oil or the environment - but the more I can see what I can raise myself, the less I want to waste the gas it takes to go buy stuff that I don't really know the origins of.  For others, the wish is focused less on the idea of self-sufficiency and more on the need to "tread lightly" on the earth.  Similar aims from very different starting points. 

Some of the anti-small farmer laws and policies out there contradict the push to make policies to address climate change.  It makes no sense. 

I am blogging here, on a computer, and dearly desire a good smartphone so I can take pictures and upload them without the humbug having to pull out the SD card or wires; I even teach (and love it) in a school which has a 1:1 program (each kids has the use of a laptop during the school year).  And at the same time, I farm in the most chemical free way I can, mostly because I am too stingy (and broke) to afford chemicals, and also because chemicals just don't seem like a great idea. 

I don't know where I fit - and I hate the idea that makes me feel like I actually have to fit somewhere. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Cooking - Ginger and Citrus

As the weather is still wet and blustery, I spent today in the kitchen.  A couple of weeks ago, a friend at work gave me a couple of pounds of ginger that I decided to deal with today.  I also noticed quite a number of lemons on the tree that were ready to pick, so I added them to some wildly sour hybrid citrus from my son's house.  A lot of produce to deal with, in other words.

I decided to peel the citrus and use the juicer to make juice from the fruit.  The peels went into a solution of water and sugar which was boiled down to syrup.  The peels are drying on a rack, the simple syrup is jarred, and the sugar drips remaining will be saved as well. 

I peeled the ginger (quite a task) and sliced about half a pound of into paper thin slices and cooked them in a rice vinegar and sugar solution until they turned pinkish and translucent.  I chopped the rest and cooked it in 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar until a syrup formed - the chopped ginger is now drying and the syrup has been jarred.  It's a spicy sweet syrup - I think I will add it to my tea, or use it for a dip for oven fried chicken or in ginger snap cookies.   The pickled ginger can be used as a garnish with sushi or in a bento lunch.  Yum. 

The crockpot is full of chicken waiting for a shoyu sauce, the lamb is doing well, and I can't possibly worry about my garden until it stops pouring (if I have any garden left and it hasn't washed away.) 

My kitchen smells very good, and I feel like I accomplished something - always a good feeling! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Around the Place Pictures (New Lamb!)

 A different view of the greenhouse from up above. 
 New garden area - first pass with the tiller, no covered to kill some of the weeds. 

Papaya trees are getting full.  
 Nani, the cat. 

Baby papayas.  
 One of the workshops is turning into a bike shop! 

Our new baby with her mama.  So happy to have a little white lamb - so many black lambs around here.  They get kind of hard to tell apart.  

Here she is again!

Friday, February 22, 2013

New baby!

Allie had her lamb last night; my husband didn't tell me until I called right before I left for home.  I asked him, "Ewe or ram?"  He said he didn't check!  So, on the way home, the kids and I were chatting about it.  My son said, "Mom, guaranteed it is a black ram lamb."  Sigh, I have so many of them. 

I was very happy to turn over a little white lamb and find a ewe.  She's lively, nursing well, and very vocal.  Allie has more blood on her back end than I am used, but it seems to have been shed earlier and not continuing.  I am certainly crossing my fingers that everything continues going well - very much not ready for another bottle lamb situation, and Allie is my last ewe from Minnie, of whom I was fond. 

I will get some pictures up tomorrow.  Exhausted after an ambitious lesson plan, full schedule kind of day....and it's getting dark what with all this rain we've had. 

To Illustrate My Point...

 When I mean a lot of rain, I mean a lot.  Welcome to the rainforest.  This was after just half an hour of heavy rain. 
 You build for rain here, which means gravel draining areas and big gutters and downspouts. 
 Sometimes, the gutters aren't enough. 
 It was too dark when I got home, but this is how my pastures looked, too. 
 Rain that sheets down. 
 And ponds. 
And floods. 

We had over 5 1/2 inches of rain in just a couple of hours.  We've been a little spoiled - from October 2011 to October 2012, it rained like this at my house just about every day (I think there were 4-5 days that it didn't rain in that year period).  And this is why I have decided that for anything other than cabbages, I need greenhouses. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Rain, It Raineth...

...everyday, it seems.  And the size of the drops - like golf balls at times.  We've had gusts up to 50 miles an hour in some parts of the state, but I don't think necessarily at my house.  It's been gusty, howling even, but I don't think as high as 50 miles per hour.  The stalls are soggy, portions of my gardens are flooded, and it's cold.  Cold for us means 60-63 in the house and quite a bit colder outside, but nowhere near what so many of you have to face in the winter. 

All of this meant that the weekend was pretty much spent indoors.  I did run out and frequently check on Allie who is due any time now, but beyond pulling a few weeds and watering in the greenhouse, gardening consisted mostly of scowling at my beds and thinking, "Everything is going to drown." 

I did work on my sadly neglected patchwork quilt, took a long nap, and considered pickling and crystallizing ginger - considered, didn't actually do.  Other than that, I accomplished nothing this weekend - driving kids to a couple of activities, a little bit of laundry, and some piece work.  That's it. 

Oh, and taxes and FAFSAs and scholarships - none of which got all the way done.  Very frustrating and head hurting - and apparently, so unpleasant, the tasks and hours of work I spent on it are hidden from my memory - because I didn't remember them until the end of this entry.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Waiting for Lambs

Allie is due soon.  Any day now.  It's her first lambing, so we're having that long protracted going-out-at-all-hours-to-stare-at-sheep-behinds experience. 

She isn't very happy about the whole thing.  She keeps staring at her stomach as if to say, "What is going on in there?!"  She is also not all that happy with me staring at her behind every few hours either.  She is a ewe that has always known her own mind, and right now her mind says get away from the starer.  Makes things difficult.  

Meanwhile, it's the coldest winter we've had in quite some time and spitting golf ball sized rain drops at intermittent periods.  Coldest is relevant - it's hitting maybe the upper 40s at night and in the 50s during the day at this altitude - but for us, it's cold.  The sheep don't seem bothered, but of course in the winter even hair sheep have wooly coats. 

I am still struggling along with the minutiae of FAFSA and scholarships and taxes and getting frustrated with a university system that does massive maintenance to its online system on the very weekend people who are filing taxes with college tuition exemptions can file - these exemptions weren't able to file until 2/15 - and they do this massive maintenance now?  And our school shut down their Financial Aid system for 12 hours today, too.  Frustrating. 

So I am cold and frustrated and never have been patient waiting for lambs - I think I will go bake something.  It's Lent, but still - lemon chess pie sounds good.  I have a lot of lemons on the tree right now, and we're full up of marmalade....

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Because I have kids, and because I spend my day with other people's kids, I am always thinking about the line between enabling and empowering.  When is my devotion to tracking down work, making sure kids do their best work, turning into enabling?  Am I empowering them to learn by nagging, or simple enabling irresponsibility?  It's for darned sure they won't be coddled at most universities or at most entry level jobs, but they won't have seven bosses and a schedule that would fell an ox, either. (Some of my students travel more than 5 hours a day, round trip, to get to school - after 6 hours of school and 2 hours of athletics). 

To be honest, the question comes up with adults.  When are you being a good friend, a generous giver and helper, and when is it time for self-reliance to kick in?  I have been the receiver of generosity - mostly my parents' generosity and have been profoundly grateful.  I am aware of the need to be generous with what I have - and I am very generous with my time, although I have little excess food or money to give, which makes me feel ungenerous, so it is constantly on my mind. 

I feel a little parsimonious, though, when it comes to our tractor.  People are always wanting to either borrow our tractor or have my husband come over with the tractor to save them from hand-tilling or hand-digging.  It's stressful, because our tractor isn't that big and a lot of the jobs being asked for are on rough aʻa lava and much too big a job for what amounts to a jumped-up lawn tractor.  Once we'd put tires (expensive) on the tractor only to have them chewed up by the lava on a friend's property - another time saw our tractor broken.  Fortunately, my husband could fix it with a jury-rigged solution, but it was a bit worrisome to be without our tractor and without the means to fix it, should it need expensive parts.  

I see on various online classified ads people looking for free or cheap livestock or places to live for work exchange, and some of the ads break my heart, and I wonder if I am being called to be generous - but we struggle to keep this place going.  It means living simply (my son calls it "being cheap") and I would be hard pressed to feed a mouth or two extra.  With a homestead which we're working to feed ourselves and not to produce a cash crop, we don't have the resources for an extra pair of hands - particularly as we are not at the point where we are even feeding ourselves completely.  To me it seems you need to produce a cash crop before you can think about hiring - and work stay is a way of hiring - the electricity and the food cost money.

People look at our house and barn now, and (one friend, in particular) look at how far they have to go and think we should share.  I am so aware of how much our parents have helped us, how that generosity has helped - but I also am aware of how really hard we worked to get here, and how hard we still have to work to both keep it and reach our self-sufficiency goals.  The work is still hard, even if it doesn't show quite so much as when we lived in the shack and when the house was a shell with bare studs on the inside.  I just would love to have enough extra produce to donate to the Food Bank, to help that homeless couple with a place to live and some board, to have so many sheep and producing chickens I could give that struggling family a few sheep and a small flock - hopefully, some day I will have that excess, but right now I slide into the second pay check of the month with $10 and we eat and live simply, and my neighbors are going to have to forgo the use of our tractor so we aren't faced with a big tractor sculpture in our barn rather than a working tractor.  And I will satisfy my need to be generous with tracking down kids and being generous with time and help when they need to improve their grades.  And keep praying about it, too, so I can find out ways to be generous. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Ghost in the Machine

Nope, I am not going to start talking Descartes and philosophy - but I swear there was a ghost in the elliptical today.  They got these fancy ellipticals at the beginning of the school year with inclines up to "20" whatever it measures - it's just so high you're practically kneeing yourself in the face.  So there I was, 30 minutes or so into my hour on the machine when I try to lower the incline (I have a tricky hamstring from my failed attempt at track in high school and the trainers at school told me to keep the elliptical kind of flat).  With a wild whirring noise, I see the numbers going the wrong way and the incline went all the way to the wall. 

There are other machines in there, but I was darned if I was going to quit and start over on another machine - I kept going with that killer incline and finished my hour.  I felt so brave after that, I actually went into the weight room.  I find the weight room intimidating.  My co-worker showed me all the machines one day during lunch, but I haven't been brave enough to go in and try them out.  It's the thought of what all those football and soccer teens will think of the old lady in their midst.  They are such nice kids, though.  All they did was say, "Hi,"  and attend to their own workout.  Phew.  Of course, it is kind off season, so it wasn't packed, but I felt okay.  I can do this. 

It takes the place of digging gardens and mucking animal pens on days I work off the property, and I find that I really like working out.  It's news to me;  I wish I could tell the 15 year old me to not be such a wimp and just get out there and do it - you'll like it.  Pulling my hamstring kind of ruined stuff, but it was something I could have gotten over if I hadn't wimped out.  I would rather ride 8 horses a day, like I did in my early 20s (I was so skinny then), but I find that even the machines at the aerobics room give me a kick.  I don't find it boring, because I am always planning for the farm, or going over lesson plans, or praying.  I have always had an overactive imagination. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Avocado Seedlings and Replacement Planting

Still fighting the mighty cold I am convinced I brought on myself through bragging I never get sick.  I decided not to hack at the taro this weekend so I don't exacerbate things, but that didn't stop me from checking out what was germinating from two weeks ago and what wasn't and needed to be replanted.

My investigation led me to replant some more corn, squash, and beans - the seeds are pretty old, so it might be a hit and miss operation.  One bean and one corn came up from the first try.  That's a 25% success rate, so I may have to do this a few more times. The collards are coming up and some of the swiss chard and lots of the bok choy, so that will be good.  My poha (cape gooseberry or similar) is going well, but the kids eat them as soon as they appear.  Very good for vitamin C, so I am fine with that.  I moved what appears to be sweet potato from my compost area and replanted it near the Hawaiian sweet potato I have in abundance in several areas. 

In the greenhouse, I planted some determinate tomato seeds, jalapeno, and replacement cucumber - about half of what I planted flourished (2 of four) and so I just planted 4 more seeds.  I cleaned out some old lettuce that was bolting, transplanted a bunch of lettuce seedlings into larger pots, thinned the broccoli, and contemplated the coffee seedlings.  They look like they're getting big enough to move into the ground.  Yum, coffee!

We have an area which was built up with large lava rocks - we've been throwing kitchen scraps there for years hoping to make soil.  Apparently, I have eaten a lot of avocado over the last year, because we had 12 seedlings/small trees growing out there.  My husband and a young man who is staying as a house guest and my 15 year old son went out and planted all those threes up by the riding arena.  Last time we transplanted avocados that grew from seed, they grew well and then just died overnight - the two from-seed ones - while our nursery bought grafted avocado kept going, so I just don't know.  I hope they grow. I love avocado - and they might be a great crop to try for ethanol production.

Allie, Minnie's lamb from 2011, looks like she's due soon with her first lambing.  It's hard to tell, because she's skittish about letting me check, but she's getting bagged up and other parts look like they're getting ready.  She should give twins, or a big singleton - I can't check her well enough because she's very hard to catch and she's always been woolier than she should be - being a hair sheep.  I need to have some help to really get her.  It's funny, she'll eat right out of your hand, but try to move behind her and she's an escape artist.   I do kind of wonder if Minnie had some woolie blood, but Audrey (her mom) looked like a classic Barbados sheep and Elvis looks very Katahdin - but Minnie never really shed her wool and her lambs are the same.  Must be some wild hair gene from generations back.