Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Break (Pics)

Snapshots of my week off.  First, our one day of fun away from home:  

 Green Sands Beach - looking out toward the ocean. 
 Longer view from my perch. 

This hill is a lot steeper than it looks in the pictures. A very unique beach.  You can see my kids as specks at the top.  
 It's quite a hike or four-wheel drive into the beach - this is from the road. 
 Cliffs to the right of South Point, the southern-most point of the United States. 
 Dramatic Cliffs at Green Sands. 
 This is a fissure that opens to the water at South Point. 
 Close-up view of the neighbor's kids playing up on that steep beach hill.
 This is on the drive down - thought you might like to look at macadamia nut trees. 
 Pahoehoe lava. 
 I love this view, but the camera doesn't do it justice - Mauna Loa in the background and a ranch in the foreground. 
 More of the view. 
 On our drive we pass through the Volcano National Park. 
 South Point fishing platform.  It's a bigger drop than it looks.  Some people jump, but I keep thinking about how there is nothing but ocean for thousands of miles from this point - and the current at the point of an island is pretty strong. 
 Green Sands from the top, before you hike down. 
Windmills as viewed from South Point. 

Now for projects around the house:

 Canned goods:  Beef stew, turkey and salsa (although the latter two were from earlier projects)
 Papaya tree is full of papaya! 
 Almost done pulling the parts out of the oldest Volvo (background).  When we're pau with that, the car is going to scrap (hopefully this week), then it's fix up the newer Volvo and figure out what to do with our son's broken Merc.  (Put a Volvo engine in it? hmmm.....) 
 Canned pinto beans. 

This will be the ewe and lamb paddock soon.  Lots of good grass. 

 Lots of posts for expanded chicken fencing and ram pen. 
Not even half the t-poles we need - but that was all we had room for in the car...

So, that was it - one fun day and a bunch of useful projects.  We're getting there. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Preparing for Pens

We headed into town to hit the feed and fence store.  We bought an awful lot of poles (50 -7 foot, 3-4 inch, smaller wood poles), 60 t-posts, and the last of the drought relief alfalfa cubes and a couple of four foot tube gates.  We've planned out how to spend the tax refund and a recent contract my husband finished to improve the farm - and the first order of business is to separate those rams out and make a bigger and better ewe and lamb pen.  I think we probably need fewer poles than we bought, but they are useful for all kinds of other projects, too - like the housing and pasturing for 50 hens, which is project number two. 

We ended up calling our son to bring his car down to help us haul home the order - we figured he could go to church with us up here (we bounce between two parishes, depending on our schedules) on his way down.   We forgot to get our fence clips, and my husband says it's my fault - because I was talking story with the guy who was loading our stuff.  What he doesn't get is that I go there every week and talking story is part of the deal!  You have to keep those relationships up and not be in such a hurry all the time.  I called the store and they said they already noticed that I didn't get the clips and they put them on the side for me.  See - this is the reason you talk story.  They know my name, they put the stuff on the side (and maybe the guy will drive it up here anyway - since he lives down the road, though I'd never ask...) 

I have got to run to church now, but I've got some great pictures of our huakaʻi to Green Sands beach - I will post them when everyone and their aunty Sally isn't on the internet, hogging the bandwidth.  I hate rural's about the only thing I hate about rural living - that and being so far from my parents. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Canning and Freezing

Those giant cans of tomato sauce at Costco are under $3 - but it is a lot of tomato sauce.  You aren't supposed to can sauce from already canned tomato sauce, so I just froze batches of the spaghetti sauce I made last night.  All but 2 of those weird generic lids on the beef stew did seal okay - two of them feel sealed but look funky, so I am throwing those in the freezer, too. 

This morning, I am canning some pinto beans.  The jars are in the canner right now, and I dearly hope they work out.  I usually cook them in the pressure cooker and freeze them, but then there's that extra step of defrosting them.  I was hoping that I could get "fast food" put up during this break, but it's been a little stressful - probably because I am trying to do too much (hang laundry, do scholarships, manage these extra kids that showed up yesterday when their dad came to help with the dismantling of the junker Volvo - long story, but the kids are wild and demanding). 

I just wish I were better at this stuff. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Canning - Possibly Failure


I spent a really long day making a gigantic pot of beef stew and canning it in 7 quart jars.  There was more - that went in the fridge because it wouldn't fit in the pressure canner.  I bought some kind of generic canning jars from the store with generic lids.  The store was out of my usual brand and this is all they had. 

I am really concerned about how the lids looked when I took them out of the canner.  They don't look as buckled as others I see in a quick internet search, but they don't look right.  I swear I do not want to re-process or freeze nearly 2 gallons of beef stew!  I hear them snapping closed in the kitchen as I type, but aaargh.  This is frustrating. 

If you've ever canned stew, you know what a process this was - cutting the meat and vegetables (12 cups of diced potato, 8 cups of carrots, 3 cups of celery, 3 cups of onion - a big pot full of vegetables).  You have to process the quart jars for 90 minutes - but the getting up to pressure and then venting pressure just takes a LOT longer than that.  

Oh, well, chalk it up to experience.  Tomorrow I am going to try to can some pinto beans instead of pressure cooking them and freezing them as I usually do.  I hope that isn't a big mess, too! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

They Will Find It - Or Why You Need Poultry Netting

So, I thought I would be sneaky and just dig a small bed in the outside garden.  I figured, if it was small and in a bare patch of dirt, the chickens wouldn't find it.

I was wrong, of course.  I turned over some of the ground and made a seed bed, and then planted some various greens and beets.  I had hoped the chickens wouldn't notice, because the ground was so bare there after we pulled up the plastic.  Of course they did;  I can see where they scratched up all my seeds.  It's kind of amazing how they can find all those little black seeds in all that black dirt, isn't it? 

I am definitely going to have to pick up another roll of 2 ft X 50 poultry netting when I head into town for feed and milk.  My husband and I took the long drive to Kona yesterday and I picked up some seeds: radish, turnips, Scarlet Nantes carrots (just finished my old pack and want more carrots), and poblano peppers. I wanted to get some kale and celery, but forgot.  My weekly routine has me going in a very small radius - work, home, once a week to the feed store and grocery - so even though the Kona Home Depot guaranteed has the same seeds as the Hilo Home Depot, somehow it felt like an adventure buying them there.  Sigh, I need to get a life. 

There is very little sun, but, on the other hand, there hasn't been much rain, either.  It's just gloomy, basically.  A bit voggy, a lot overcast, and dark enough to need lights during the day in lots of parts of the house.  Although it is a little bit depressing, it isn't stopping me from running outside or doing the gardening.  The chicken factor is a bit of a bummer - but once I get another roll or two of wire, I should be able to get out there and get some more seeds in. 

Tomorrow, after the trip to town, I am planning to do some cooking and canning:  lemon marmalade, beef broth, pinto beans, and, hopefully, beef stew.  It's track season, which means coming home late after practices, which means I need "fast food" in jars in the pantry. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Minor Gardening

It's very gloomy and dark, but at least it isn't raining.  I am so very tired after this long week (heck, long month), that the gardening I did today was pretty small scale.  I weeded the coffee seedlings in the greenhouse and kind of generally checked on things.  I cultivated around the collards and carrots in the outside garden and fluffed up the soil and put in some bok choy, beet, and turnip seeds.  I made one small bed in the new garden area and also put in bok choy, beet, and turnip seeds.  I gave the horse his monthly dewormer and fly sprayed him. 

That was about the extent of my energy for today.  Pretty sad effort, huh? 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pray for Sun, Please

We're starting our Spring Break - after tonight's last performance of the world's first and only Hawaiian Opera, "Keaomelemele" (which is amazing, by the way).  Every morning this week has felt like summer is coming, a nice change after all that cold and high winds we've had, but by the afternoon, large drops of rain are falling down.  I want Spring Break to be dry and sunny during the day with gentle rain at night, so I can get out there in the garden and get this quarter's veggies in the ground for May and June harvest. 

Besides not being able to garden efficiently in the rain, I must say that I had enough rain yesterday afternoon.  I had brought dinner to my son who was performing a bit later, and was waiting for him to come out of track practice.  His friend was with me waiting as well, I had his and his twin and my son's dress white uniforms in the car and their dinner and I was ready to go home (had to come back at 9pm to get my son).  I heard this sound like drumming on the metal roofs of the school. 

"Is that rain?"  I asked because it wasn't raining where I was and it was a different sound than I used to. "Oh, gosh!  Get in the car!"

We dived into the car just in time.  The rain was, and I am not kidding, bigger than golf balls.  It was huge and lashing sideways.  We waiting for about 5 minutes and in that 5 minutes, the drainage ditches were filled with raging waters.  It was pretty intense.  Still no son, and no daughter who I'd sent to get him.  I decided to go with an umbrella to get them. 

Scurrying from  the front door of the car to trunk got me absolutely soaked.  The umbrella kept my head dry, but the rest of me was as wet as if I had jumped in the ocean.  So when I found my son, and realized he was worried about his school laptop even though it was in his backpack in it's fairly water resistant case, I figured I was already wet, so what the heck - I gave him the umbrella.  He used it to protect his school bag.  Just opening the door left 1/2 inch of water in the handle well. 

We were all flustered and irritated and could hardly hear each other over the rain on the roof of the car.  I dropped the boys of the minimal overhang at the bus ramp and drove away.  Amazingly, just a half mile away there was no rain at all. 

Not so amazingly, my son called me when I had gotten nearly all the way home saying he forgot his ID.  He needed his ID to get scanned in for attendance, so I had to drive back.  I was one cranky mom, believe me.  On top of that, my clothes are all too big and they started to fall off with the weight of all that water.  So, I was walking around looking for one boy in a sea of kids wearing the same dress white uniforms, holding up my pants and squelching in my shoes.  He wasn't where I told him to be, of course.  And, there was no parking, of course.  I had to park in the back of the building and slog around looking for him.  I finally grabbed a boy from my advisory and asked him to, "Please go in the locker room and tell my kolohe son to get his okole out here - RIGHT NOW!" 

Anyway, when our Poʻo Kumu told us we could leave between this morning's matinee and tonight's big final performance, I took the opportunity to leave.  Didn't watch my daughter's 8th grade Holo Run, told my son he was going to have to wait for lunch, and went and used my parent's and sister's generous birthday gifts to buy new shoes that aren't falling apart and pants that aren't falling off of me.  I didn't spend it all - I hate shopping with a deep passion - but at least I won't look disreputable when I come back from Spring Break. 

Now, I am just hoping for a little nice weather over break - so send a few good dry thoughts for me. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

I am so excited!  I had the live stream on as I was getting the kids ready to do their work (had a few kids who were interested and to keep them focused on the papers rather than flipping between the streaming video and their Word program, I told them I would keep half an eye on it and let them know when to pull up the live stream), and so I saw the white smoke.  Since I let them watch live stream when one of their classmates was in on the ATERA Nationals, I figured this was historic - why not? 

Plus, I was interested myself, or course.

I was amused by the sight of the bird perching on the chimney for the better part of the hour before the smoke went up.  Here is this bird, completely unaware of the billions of people watching through tv/internet...and then the new Bishop of Rome appears and announces his name is Francis!  How appropriate! 

The spokesman for the Vatican says that Pope Francis has taken his name in honor of St. Francis Of Assisi.  Among a great many other stories about St. Francis is the story of the birds who came to listen to his sermon.  On the feast day of St. Francis, some churches will have blessings of pets.  I taught at a Franciscan school and the children brought their pets on October 4 for the special blessing - it was a lovely day at the school.  Although St. Francis isn't the patron saint of farmers, I always was fond of him. 

On top of this, the new Pope is a Jesuit.  I love the Jesuits - they are teachers, and I received an excellent education at a Jesuit university.    I really have great hopes for this man.  As archbishop in Buenos Aires, he moved out of the bishop's mansion into an apartment and took the bus rather than using a chauffeur - he even cooked for himself.  I loved his speech, too - very humble and prayerful. 

I hope all this Hope continues.  The world needs some Hope right now. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ultimate Frisbee is Not a Contact Sport - or How I Spent My Sunday Evening

So, I was really looking forward to Sunday dinner.  My older son was coming up with his girlfriend to eat with us, and he was going to pick up our younger son who was playing Ultimate Frisbee down at the Hilo Bayfront.  All we had to do was cook - no driving, no worries.

At 6:30, my younger son calls and says, "Umm, Mom?  Can you come get me? I need stitches."

As  I was questioning him about how big the cut was, where it was, I could hear people chattering in the background, trying to tell me, "He needs stitches!"  Yes, people, I know he needs stitches, but I am 45 minutes away, it is getting dark, and I am trying to figure out how to deal with this - so just be quiet for a second.  Yikes.  You'd think they thought I was some kind of low-life non-caring mommy.

I told him to call his brother and have his brother take him to his place, so he won't be sitting down there in the dark and bleeding while I get my okole down there.  This is all complicated by the fact that my younger son doesn't have a cell phone, of course.  I am sure the people who think I am a loser mom aren't going to be reassured by 18 year old driving 20 year old Volvo which needs a bath, but that's not my worry.

I realize that the ER is our only bet because all the Urgent Cares are closed on a Sunday, so that's where we head.  He's told by the admitting doc that "Ultimate isn't a contact sport, buddy," which is like the fourth time my son has heard that in the last hour and a half.  They basically superglued his forehead back together and we were on our way.  "I could have done that myself," I thought as we shelled out the copay - and I might have if the cut weren't on his face to tell you the truth (or at least stitched it - I doctor up animals all the time and have lots and lots of topical antibiotics for humans and animals).  It was all neatly done and relatively quick, considering what a mess our only ER can be, and dinner, though cold, was delicious when we finally did get home. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Beautiful Day!

It's sunny and dry and cool but not cold.  I worked hard this week (or, to be more accurate, worked my students' tails off) and am done, done, done with my grading.  I got up early because my son had to get to school by 5:45 to catch the bus to his preseason meet.  It was a bit of an adrenaline morning, though, because I didn't get up quite early enough and I had to rush the boys (son and friends) up, shove food in their hands as they walked out the door, and pray that my husband got them there in time, because the bus is much preferable to me driving them 60+ miles one way. 

Nothing like a little adrenaline to get you going in the morning, so I got the animals dealt with, hoed up the weeds in the garden, watered in the greenhouse, spread some of the love around with the sweet potato vines that are taking over and now I have this beautiful day ahead of me. 

After all that cold and rain, it's nice to feel the sun - it takes away some of that moldy feeling you get in the rainforest after a long spell of rain. 

While it was raining I got into a big flame war on Yahoo comments.  Sigh, I don't know why I bother.  It's just that I really am interested in the Papal Conclave and who our new Pope will be, but it really bothers me that 1) they have to stick a seemingly obligatory and random paragraph in every article about the sex abuse scandals and 2) the comments are full of bigotry, hatred, and ignorance.  The scandals were and are terrible - but it doesn't define the Church.  No one would dream of writing articles about families and putting a random non sequitur paragraph mentioning child abuse in every article - painting the whole because of the sick minority part is prejudice, no matter which whole group you are talking about. 

It was actually a lot of fun, but it gets tiring after awhile, especially with really slow rural internet and when your opponent can't reason, can't write, and uses Wikipedia to cover up for a basic lack in historical knowledge - copies and pastes, no less. He should have known a teacher can spot plagiarism in her sleep.

I think I will stick to farming and teaching the next generation to reason, write, and to acknowledge sources and skip the political and cultural arguments with random strangers.  Unless it's raining and I am feeling in need of a little fun.   

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Budgets and Balances

The last thing I budget for is generally people food.  First, I pay bills, then I buy feed, then I buy gas for the car, and the last thing is food for people.  When times are good, I stock up the freezer and the cupboards so when times aren't so good there is part of a cow or some fish from the guy up the road or soup or spaghetti sauce in the freezer.  There is flour to make bread and pasta and cans of beans plus whatever food I put up myself.  Food is slow, but it's there. 

We've had a long stretch of extra bills and expenses, so those usual fall backs are running low.  I only have a few cups of flour left (although there is a 25 lb bag of brown rice) and the cans are running low and the only thing in my garden is a bunch of sweet potato leaves and some bok choy.  I do have some chickens who are not laying very well, so I could put a few of those in the freezer, and there is a yearling lamb who is ready for processor, and I am getting creative in the kitchen.  I am beginning to understand why the Church positioned Lent where it is in the calendar and liturgical year, as we run out of the abundance of Fall and nothing new is growing, really - although because I live in Hawaii the reason things aren't growing is because 1) I planted late and 2) it rained so much many of my seeds didn't sprout (yet).

Well, in the meantime, I am going to pull all those soup bones out of the freezer and probably that gigantic turkey I bought on sale several months ago, defrost and can them up and boy, did I appreciate having those jars (I used the last of them last week).  I think putting up a good stash of beef broth, beef stew, and turkey meat and broth will be a great project this weekend.  I guess I need to take the turkey out of the freezer tonight.

Although living like this is often stressful, particularly when I am getting to the back of the cupboard and the bottom of the freezer, I am really appreciating the Lenten reminders to slow down and connect to Christ.  Lent is a great reason to explain why we don't have ice cream to the kids, too. 

It's also temporary - we have a tax refund coming up and I am nearly done with the tuition thing and, barring the rising prices of gas and the concomitant rise in the staples I do buy at the store, I should be back on budget with a restocked freezer and cupboard soon. I know I feel a sense of satisfaction when I have made the biweekly feed store run and I am all stocked up and also when I am able to look at a full cupboard.  I have never had to live so close to the bone as I do now, but the instincts have been there all my life (it must be all the novels I read).  I feel more sure of myself, though, that I can handle things. Sometimes, I falter and get a little scared.  That's when it is time to pray and center myself.

I think our ancestors who lived more closely to the land the way I am striving to now, understood that need to pray, and that the sacrifices of Lent were not just "giving up chocolate or my favorite tv show" but connected to what was happening in the calendar, in the seasons - a more mindful, perhaps, way of living.