Sunday, April 28, 2013

Full Ewe and Lamb Pen

When I went outside to do CDT and castrating for the our two little ram lambs born this week, I found two more little surprises.  Makamae surprised me last this morning.  I checked her last night and didn't think we were that close, but I guess I was wrong:  a little ram (sigh) and a little ewe - and of course, the two colorful lambs are rams.  It's a bummer, because I am full up with this line of rams, so I had to castrate.  

 Haven't named him.  No white or brown at all. 
 Domino popped out of my mouth yesterday, so I guess that's his name. 
 These are the two I found this morning.  The white lamb is the ram. 
 I like the little spot on the ewe lamb's haunch and the little bow-tie on her side. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

2 am Wake-Up Call

I heard a sheep making an urgent noise at 2 am.  Found her struggling a little, but the result was a little black ram lamb.  Everyone seems to be fine, but she's a little confused.  We'll have to keep them locked in together a bit longer than Oreo and her ram lamb.  This one is Lepo (because she always looks a little dirty).  She's the one who had the claw injury a few months back. 

I thought about putting her in the small pen, because when I looked at her last night at dinner time, I figured she was going to deliver soon, but it's so hard to tell with first timers.  I wish I did, because trying to get her in the pen was a bit more of a rodeo than I wanted at 2 am.  She didn't figure out how to follow her lamb's voice, even when I held him right under her nose.  I finally had to put him in the pen and pretty much grab her and wrangler her in.  She is interested in him when he's right there in front of her, but she can't figure out where he went if you try to lead her holding him in front of her.  Not the brightest sheep in the flock, I guess.  

Now, we've only got Makamae to go - I think she's not quite there, yet.  Oreo isn't bagging up, yet, so she's not due for awhile, I guess, and everyone else has had their lambs - at least for a few more months.  I did put an ad in for craigslist, but the people who answered were just dreaming, or wanted more ewes than I wanted to sell.  I really need to find someone to trade rams with, to tell the truth. 

So, anyway, I couldn't really get back to sleep for a long time, and I got up at 5 am for work pretty tired.  Unfortunately, we had a tech conference at our school and I did a presentation and felt like an idiot - I was so tired and so nervous and generally wishing I could just be at home.

Although I love my job, am passionate about it, am grateful beyond words for the organization at which I work, I must admit, the last month has been quite a tough one - and presenting a tech tool that I really like but don't feel expert about on a couple hours of sleep when you already feel like a putz - well, it's not all that much fun. 

Good thing the tool is cool enough that it eventually came out okay. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Farm Inventory

I walked around and looked at things this weekend (between driving over 200 miles). 

Both of the new orange trees have tiny baby fruit - this doesn't mean they'll make it, but at least they started.  Both of the old orange trees have blossoms.  The older Brazil plum has tiny nascent fruit - first time ever.  The grapefruit tree has several grapefruit, but I have no idea how to tell whether they are ready to eat.  The papaya tree is loaded, and there are a few that are almost ready to pick - although I LOVE green papaya salad, so to me all those buggers look good. 

There are a couple of blossoms on the acerola tree, but nothing to write home about. 

The coolest thing on the inventory are those asparagus crowns I got last week - they already have these tiny little spears.  They look so yummy - it is going to be hard resisting picking them until next year. 

The alternating sun and rain is making the sweet potatoes spread and grow like mad.  There are two volunteer tomatoes in the compost, a volunteer potato and some kind of sweet potato.  I moved some of that to better ground.  The compost area is pretty rocky (we started throwing scraps in there to build up dirt over time). 

Two ewes are fairly progressed in their first pregnancy.  One looks like maybe twins.  Cookie isn't pregnant - or not enough to show, and Ellie and Allie are still nursing.  Oreo is an amazing mom - we were able to let her and the new ram lamb out with the flock yesterday. 

The tiny little fig tree added a new fruit - there are four baby figs on that tree that is all of 9 inches high - I think they just cut a branch off an established tree and rooted it, so it probably thinks it's years old. 

The 11 hens that I have are producing 8 eggs a day - not bad for relatively elderly ladies. 

Even though we don't have as pronounced a change of seasons as most of you do, it definitely feels like Spring.  It's been raining mostly at night, and sunny at least part of the day, so it's perfect weather for growing. 

Now, if I could just get productive like this in the rest of my life -feel like I am spinning my wheels and getting nowhere in most areas these days!  I am going to my old school to help them with a project today, so hopefully, doing something new (and hopefully well) will shake me out of this rut. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A TIny Bit of a Surprise Lamb

Just a few weeks ago, the rams were chasing Oreo around, so I thought she didn't catch.  She never shed the wooly coat the hair sheep have their first year or two and she is an easy keeper - never eats the grain we supplement with in the evenings.  Plus, I am gone over 12 hours a day, so the sheep generally fall to my husband's purview during the school year.  I did notice to my surprise that she was pretty darned pregnant when I did my weekend inspection, but I was a little lost on the due date.  I have had ewes look a bit bagged up for a month or more. 

However, at 1:00 am, there was quite a lot of commotion out in the barn. It woke me up and I ran out with a flashlight.  Sure enough, there was a pretty black and white ram lamb and a confused but willing first-time mama. I dipped his naval, separated them out of the flock and gave the ewe some food, water, and her own supply of minerals.  She's not one of my amenable ewes, and I couldn't quite catch her on my own, so I trusted her obvious interest in the lamb and backed off.  I like it when first timers have singletons - so much easier.  Her mom was a first-timer with triplets, so a multiple birth could have been a real possibility. 

Hopefully, all is well, because I won't be home until almost dark. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Planting (Practically) in the Dark

I ended up getting 10 asparagus crowns after work yesterday.

I drove up to the community center in one of those subdivisions in Puna - the roads are private, not county, and sometimes are an adventure to navigate, so the person selling the crowns wanted to meet me at the center.  When I drove up, there was a young man with a laptop propped on his pick-up and a toddler running around.  I asked him if he was the one with the asparagus and he replied, "I wish I was."  This disconcerted me a little, and as I rolled up the window (quickly), my son asked, "Does he think you are asking for drugs?"  Welcome to Puna. 

Buying the crowns did feel a little clandestine; the woman drove up with a paper bag full of the nondescript roots and I slipped her the money.  When I got back in the car, my son said, "You know, Mom, that really did look like a drug deal."   Aargh.  Again, welcome to Puna. 

I live so in the boonies (although it's better now) that the local dealer used to have his clients line up on the main road - line up like they were in the school lunch line.  I used to call the police all the time.  Once he stopped me on my walk to tell me how he kept the people from doing worse stuff and he kept them in line, so I should be grateful.  My dog stood right between me and him, growling the whole time. He also told me if anyone robbed us, I should tell him and he would get my stuff back.  Interesting conversation.

Anyway, it was nearly dark by the time I got home.  My husband and I walked around again to examine currently unused spaces on our land, and then I mentioned that we should figure out where we want the basically permanent asparagus plants to go.  We ended up digging out the grass near the bottom of the rock wall near the pump house, dumping a deep load of compost, and planting the crowns.  It was basically dark and I was working by the light of the tractor headlights.  When my husband drove off to get another load, it was dark.  The coqui frogs were warming up and the basil in my greenhouse was fragrant. 

It was nearly 8 by the time we were done, but at least I know those crowns have a good chance to grow instead of sitting in a bag until the weekend. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


You have to love craigslist!  I found someone selling asparagus crowns for $1 near my work.  Love it.  I haven't had a lot of luck starting them from seeds - and these are a year old.  Excited!  Hope it works out. 


I asked my husband if he wanted to do something fun on Sunday after I finished the bills and the grading and generally unfun-on-a-sunny-day sorts of tasks.  I suggested the beach or hiking....his reply was, "Well, we could finish planting those trees...." 

I looked up (again) how tall they'd be, and he got out the tractor to mow some tall grass in likely spots.  We walked around with sticks to place and pull as we mentally figured out where to plant. 

Once we had everyone placed, he asked if I wanted to dig now.  I said, "Nope," and skipped off home to fold mountains of laundry.  I did send out the 15 year old to dig holes, though. 

We ended up planting the curry near the house and water tanks where there was a nice draining spot with a load of compost already there.  It turns out curry only gets to 10-15 feet, so that was nice.  We planted the messier fruit trees up in a small strip of land between the arena and the driveway - clove, sapote, and mulberry. 

Of course, whenever we plant something it either pours buckets or is dry for days - so all 10 of the trees needs to be watered daily as they adjust to life out of pots and in the ground.  My husband wonders why we can't have normal weather?  For us, normal weather means a little sun during the morning (or at least a little dry) getting to rainy-ish in the afternoon, and rainy most of the night.  I don't think we've had normal weather in a few years, though.  It's all or nothing these days - like politics, it seems. 

I'll need to check on the pepper plant (still in its pot under a greenhouse table in the shade until we figure what clump of trees we definitely never want to bulldoze) and the mountain apple, which needs a lot of water and is in this hidden spot near the real apple and the play barn. 

I didn't get a chance to look at them yesterday as we left at 5 am to get me to the airport (I had to go to another island for an all-day meeting) and I didn't get home until well after 7pm.   I will definitely make the time tonight - hopefully my son will finish his track practice a little on the earlier side so I have time to bucket water.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Planted some of those trees!

We planted the Meyer lemon, the mountain apple, the two navel oranges, the Brazil plum, and the fig tree.  We drove around (well, my husband drove around and I followed on foot) looking for good places to plant the sapote, curry, clove, and mulberry, but were unable to make up our minds.  I was okay with not making up our minds, because even planting six trees is a lot more digging than I like. 

I hate digging. 

We took a break in the middle to go watch our son run his 4 x 400 relay (the last race of the meet).  He did well, and that race is always exciting.  Plus, you know, it's last which is exciting all on its own.  Track meets can be interminable in case you haven't had the pleasure of attending one.  They last 7+ hours.  

We had a nice surprise, though.  While we were tramping this way and that, I found a raspberry plant (or maybe two) near the kukui tree.  I was exclaiming, "Oh look - there's a raspberry forming!"  when my husband pointed out that just a little beyond that one was a vine with several ripe berries.  Yummy! 

I have a lot of teacher work and paper work to do tomorrow, but I hope to also pull that turkey carcase out of the freezer to make and can stock.  I think I can manage inputting grades and watching the pressure cooker at the same time.  We'll see.  This is one time the teacher work has to take precedence on a weekend.  I usually go early and stay late and work through lunch during the week so I don't have to do so much grading, etc on the weekends, but this has been a nutso couple of weeks for meetings and trainings and extras like that, plus kids wanting help with other classes, with my class, just a room to use to make their digital stories for their language classes....they know I am the teacher who sits in her room during lunch and is generally happy to see them (or at least, really good at looking like I am).  5 more weeks plus finals....that's all.  I have two work things to do in June, but July is for the farm and the family. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Things I am Struggling With

I am struggling with balance.  There are only so many hours in a day and over 12 of them are spent at work or commuting to or from work.  The reason my days are so long is because of the athletic schedules of my kids, so having to stay for 12 hours won't be a requirement for more than 3-4 more years which is when my kids will all have graduated.  It's a lot easier now than it has been in the past when I had 4 kids at home, and I wasn't at the same school as them.  It's relative, though.  I am still pressed for time, even if I am not traveling as many miles. 

I guess it is just that it is the last six weeks of school, a period when times seems paradoxically too short and too long - too short for all the things I want to do with the students and too long until summer.   It's also, fairly reliably, the period of time with the nicest weather and it kills me to be inside.  I know that chances are quite good that as soon as that last song is sung at graduation, it is going to start raining up in Gloomville and it's going to rain all summer.  Or at least those portions where I am not working on my extra summer work.  It's just how it goes.  July has been, in our small microclimate, the rainiest month on average.  I am not just being pessimistic; that's just how it is. 

Gardening did happen this weekend.  I planted kale, collards, turnips, and radish, and weeded around the citrus and olives and in the sweet potatoes.  However, the deep cleaning didn't happen, the making and freezing of breakfast convenience foods didn't happen, and the making and canning of turkey stock from the Easter bones didn't happen, either.  I just can't do everything I set my mind to - everything that seems to be necessary to reach my goals of self-sufficiency and my ideas of a well-run household. 

And, to tell the truth, I am bone-deep tired.  I am not sleeping well because my mind sees fit to tell me what I didn't finish during the day, and I am just tired - 3rd quarter in any school feels like full court press and it is also the time when the scholarship and financial aid and taxes all need to be done.  Those things are very stressful for me - just the absolutely antithetical set of skills which are my strengths.  At this time, I have deep sympathy for learning disabled students who are often asked to do things repeatedly that are antithetical to their strengths and who are frequently in trouble for things which are.  In short, I feel like I am good at nothing for a good long chunk of the year and by the time April rolls around, I am exhausted and frazzled.  No fun, but at least I, who was always really good at school, have a taste of what so many of my students face year in and year out - more, to tell the truth, than when I was a new teacher in the late 80s.  It keeps me compassionate, or at least I hope it does. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Still Contemplating Where to Plant the New Trees

I am especially concerned with the pepper plant, which is a vine rather than a tree.  It needs partial shade, which basically describes every where, most of the time in Gloomville.  However, there are some days which are sunny, and I'd sure hate to lose my new acquisition.  Also, it's a vine, so it needs to climb. 

I tried to grow some pipinola on the  Ľohia trees near my house, but the vine didn't make it, so that makes me hesitant to go out and plant there again.  I am actually thinking about repotting it into a larger container and putting it under my greenhouse tables - it will stay warm and partially shaded and it can climb all around under there, as far as I am concerned.  That will make it easy to harvest, too. 

The clove and the mulberry need it fairly sunny, or at least well draining.  These aren't easy to come by in our area, so we'll have to really dig out a wide area around where we'd like to plant and add cinder to the compost and dirt mix.  I actually guess the mulberry will be fine - there are some down the road at the local public school that are doing fine.   The clove I have no experience of, but the nursery people said it was a very easy plant. 

The one I am most emotionally invested in is the fig.  I really want that one to make it!  Apparently, once they're established, it's very easy to propagate by staking down a branch until it roots, and then cutting it off to start a new plant. 

I know the lemon will be fine - my lemon tree is my only consistent citrus producer. 

I forgot to mention that the nursery threw in a sickly blueberry plant with our first order.  It isn't doing well at their elevation and they were handing them to customers who lived at higher elevations.  I know blueberries are susceptible to rust in the wet conditions we have, so I am just going to repot that one and keep in the greenhouse for a long while. 

I once met an elderly couple who lived down in Nanawale - it's very low in elevation and very tropical down there - they told us to be careful what you plant because when they first got here, they planted all over their yard and the upkeep off all those trees was a lot for them as they got older.  We have a considerably bigger lot than they do, and it is much colder and things (except grass) don't grow extremely quickly as they do in the more tropical zones, but I am taking their point.  I really want to think about where things go - and how we might expand pastures or areas to plant feed crops.  Some of these new plants, like the sapote, have seeds which are poisonous. 

It all still feels a little like a puzzle. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

More Plants :)

I talked my husband into driving down to the Makuu Market in Pahoa this morning.  We'd never been, but a friend who is very reluctant to leave his house went, so we knew it was worth it! 

My husband was grumbling a bit when we drove in, because we could see from the highway that it is quite a large market, and he thought it was just a giant farmer's market.  It's more like a flea market, actually.  I knew I could get plants down there.  I specifically went looking for olena (tumeric), pink shell ginger (that's the one with edible roots), and puakenikeni (because I love the flowers).  I didn't find any of those, but I did find an attractive ornamental, a small mojito mint starter, some red ti leaf, garlic and regular chives, a Harry Chapin record (are you reading, Dad?) and a rooster trivet.  My husband got a Chevy Chase movie and a couple of records, too - yes, records.  We still have a turntable which we use. 

It was just nice to get out.  There are food vendors there, too, and we bought and split a small pizza made in a wood oven.  I've been telling my husband I wanted to build a wood fired oven in the backyard.  The vendor had his on a cart and it looked like maybe he started the fire with propane tanks mounted underneath, but burnt  Ľohia wood.  The pizza was very tasty and a good deal, too.  I would love to have a wood oven outside to make pita bread - the electric oven inside the house just doesn't get hot enough. 

Afterward, we drove down to Kalapana.  We didn't hike into the lava flow, but we drove along the coast.  I forget, living mauka, how much I love to look at the ocean.  The coast there is rocky, not swimming beaches, but it is beautiful.  You can see from all the hala and coconut growing down there, as well as the frequent small ancient cemeteries that there were thriving communities down there.  Hala is woven for mats and baskets and coconut has so many uses beyond food. 

It was nice to have a break, even though there is always so much to do at home, and I am pretty happy about the chives - I have never had any luck growing them from seed for some reason - and also the mint.  I have been wanting some for some time.  The two plant vendors I checked with said to come back in two-three months and they would have cinnamon and puakenikeni, so we'll have to go in the summer. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Lovely New Trees and Such

There is a commercial fruit tree nursery not far from here.  Twice a year, they open their doors to the individual customer.  Most years, I kind of drive by the sign and don't think about it, but a couple of times we've gone down. 

Yesterday, I saw the sign as I drove by to work, and I called my husband to ask him if he'd go and pick up a Meyer lemon, a curry tree, and "anything else that looked good."  He came home with Mountain Apple, mulberry, clove, Meyer lemon, curry, Brazil plum (he forgot we had one and it isn't doing great), and white Sapote.  He also brought the sale list which,  when I perused it, indicated that there were also black pepper vine and fig, so we went back today, and also bought two more orange varieties and a couple of apple bananas, as well.  We have several varieties of banana, but apple bananas are a favorite. 

It's all pretty exciting.  They've had cinnamon in the past;  I was disappointed that they didn't have it this time, and the vanilla orchid looked pretty wonderful, but it was very expensive.  The clove and curry trees smell lovely.  We've bought curry in the past and found out that horses love it so much that they will eat the entire tree down to the ground - which is something you more expect from a goat than a horse! Now all I need to do is get some olena (turmeric) and I can have a mean curry - I do love curry. 

The sale cut a little into the greenhouse budget, but I think that having fruit and spice bearing trees (and a vine, in the case of the pepper) is a good tradeoff. 

Once we've planted all these, plus the lilikoi that I've sprouting in the small greenhouse, we'll have two kinds of lemons, a lime, four orange trees of various varities (some spring fruiting and some fall), grapefruit, tangerine, avocado, three or four kinds of bananas, curry, clove, pepper, Brazilian plum, acerola cherry, mulberry, fig, and Sapote.  Oh, and one apple that might make it, olives, and one mango that the sheep ate and we hope will recover.  If all of these fruit at different times, we'll be quite blessed with a variety of healthy food sources that need less maintenance than a seasonal garden, which sounds good with my nuts schedule.

I needed this plant sale to make up for a truly horrible week and having to get up at 3:15 am  this morning to get my son and his two friends to the bus for their Kona track meet.   Being able to go back to sleep until 8:00 (while horrifyingly lazy) and then being able to go to the fruit tree sale and actually being able to afford these trees was a real pick-me-up.  Plus, my husband has gotten a few little jobs in the last week, so I know there will be a bit more coming in. 

Well, enough talking about it - I need to get out there before it starts raining again.  One thing I learned at the fruit tree nursery is that I need to fertilize my citrus every month (or even every two weeks during rainy times) instead of every 3 months!  I also want to make a bunch of pancakes, waffles, and English muffins to throw in the freezer.  Time to get moving!

Friday, April 5, 2013

What is Your Definition of Self-Sufficient?

A little while ago, I decided that I needed to break out of "survival mode" with my life and set some goals for myself.  I decided, arbitrarily, that my goal was to be "self-sufficient" in as far as what I put on my table.  For me, "self-sufficient" means I will only have to go to the store for bought food once in a great while - I will still need (or want, really, because we could just eat taro) bread flour and yeast and apples and things that just don't grow well here at all - things we would still want to eat. 

I mentioned my arbitrary goal to a co-worker, and he started questioning me,"Are you going to drive to work?  That's still dependent on corn.  It's a futile dream."  It kind of made me think about what my definition of self-sufficiency is. 

For me, it is not having to go to a grocery store but every three months or even less.  It means at least 80% of the time knowing where my food came from.  It means finding economical ways I can do it myself.  Someday, I hope this will be a reality for my table.  I am still going to have to buy a quarter of a cow once in awhile, because I would rather not use that much of my 7 acres for one animal, but I would like to buy that from a local rancher rather than from the store. 

For the barn and garden, I want to continue to find ways to make my own potting soil and soil amendments, and to learn what will grow "up my house" to feed the chickens and sheep and to supplement the grass enough so that I can stop buying imported alfalfa for my horse. 

What dreams or definitions do you have for self-sufficiency? 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Temporal Disconnect

At work, we just got back, really back, into the swing of things after Spring Break.  Sure, we had school last week, but there were two state holidays in there, only two real school days, and one school-wide service learning day.  Half the kids didn't show up for school, to be very honest.  Quite a few were on a mainland field trip which happened over the break, but some of them had the "flu".  Yes, I just went there with the quotation marks.  One kid I genuinely believe was sick because he came back in hacking and sniffing and coughing, but yeah, the rest of those kids?  Slackers with parents who back them up.

Getting back into the swing of things isn't easy - but I made it harder on myself by cooking a turkey on Easter.  It was the most festive meat I had in the freezer, so I pulled it out.  Then I figured, "Might as well make a pumpkin pie and all the trimmings!"  It was so dark and chilly all day on Easter and I got so into the groove of making what amounted to a Thanksgiving dinner, that I actually felt a sense of temporal disconnect - it felt like November with the joy of Christmas coming up.

But no, it's just April.  Yes, summer is coming, but to get to summer, I have to get through standardized testing, increasingly antsy kids, finals, senior project presentations... a host of less fun teaching activities.

On top of that, my garden is nowhere near as far along as I'd hoped to be with all that time off, my house, frankly, could be swept and dusted more frequently,  my sheep need their hooves trimmed.  I just feel like I don't do anything good enough, because I am always just keeping slightly ahead of chaos - at least at home.  Fortunately, when I am at work, I am at work.  Even with the help that my kids provide (which needs to be supervised and is therefore not as helpful as it could be), nothing is getting done to the standard I expect.

That's why, when I made my goals a few days ago, I decided I am giving us 5 years to get basically food self-sufficient (baring mainland-y fruits like apples and bread-making supplies like yeast and flour - flour doesn't do well in Hawaii).  By that time, unless the older kids come back, everyone will be out, at least in college, and I won't have 12 hour days waiting for kids to finish atheletics, and hopefully, I will learn to rhythms and order to keep food growing all year round.  And I will have a dairy animal or two.