Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here We Go Again (Maybe)

Apparently, there is another possible hurricane on the way.  The kids are excited, because it is meant to hit us on PSAT day - which means not having to come to school on a Saturday to take a big test. 

I am not so excited about it, because storms are a lot of work.  I'd rather read the PSAT script and do the mind-numbingly boring work of watching kids bubble in answers with a number 2 pencil.  I'd even more so like to stay home and continue the productive work I did during our Fall Break (I canned and froze 20 lbs of pumpkin, deep cleaned the kitchen, and painted 10 interior doors). 

I suppose if it is blowing 80 mile an hour winds on Saturday, I could still paint door jambs and organize closets, but I probably won't want to.  I'll probably just be looking out the windows hoping more trees won't come down - or if they do, that they don't hit things like the house, the water tanks, or the barn.  My husband really trimmed a lot of the heavy stuff off the bigger Mexican cypress that didn't fall down, hoping to encourage the trees to snap off at the top rather than pulling out at the roots like the other trees should there be another storm - that way, they'll probably just block the driveway, rather than smashing anything vital. 

Hopefully, the storm will just scoot around us and be just a scare, because Puna district really doesn't need anymore of this.  The lava is slowly, inchingly, heading for Pahoa town and if (when, they say) it crosses the highway, three communities will be cut off from the rest of the island - including several teachers from our school.  There are alternate routes being worked on, but they will be dirt roads, very slow - and eventually, these routes will possibly cut off as the lava heads for the ocean.  That will mean a 30 minute drive to town will turn into a 90 minute drive and there will be several thousand more cars on my highway (two-lane, not really built to handle that much traffic).  They suffered a lot during Iselle (power, water, etc, out for weeks), and the lava is hanging over everyone's heads, and now, possibly another storm. 

The last one was pretty scary - and I've been through a couple before.  I think it was because it was largely at night.  I kept hearing things outside, and we could see the trees whipping wildly by flashlight, and at 8 or 9, we could see the car port had come down - and there just wasn't a lot of information coming through.  I thought, "If this is just the beginning, we're in real trouble." 

This new storm might have higher winds than the last ones, but - then again - the uncertainty is there - it might just divert and go around.  The vast majority of hurricanes in the Pacific over the years have done just that, actually, and if we hadn't just gone through one, I wouldn't even be worried. 

I guess worrying doesn't do anything, anyway.  No point.  Maybe, I'll just admit to speculating.  And I'll pick up some extra animal feed and fill the large water bottles in case our generator poops out again (it started AFTER the power came back on in August).  We do have a little 12 volt pump that can charge on solar, so we can have some water from our tanks for toilets and (cold) baths, but the drinking water is a different matter.  I am not looking forward to no cell, no land line, no internet, no lights, and minimal running water, but it's not really that big of a deal.  The only thing that bothered me was not being able to tell my family on Oahu that we were fine. 

Probably, it will be nothing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Poor Puna

It's been just over a month since the storm.  FEMA is declining to name the area a disaster area, and apparently, our state spent the hurricane fund.  If people are carrying hurricane insurance, and it reads anything like mine, the fact that it was downgraded just before hitting shouldn't make a difference - my policy says any damage within 72 hours of a Hurricane warning declaration.  I told my friend that, because she has roof damage and was a little dismayed - she didn't say whether she actually has the hurricane rider, though.

Now, there's a lava flow heading downhill.  It's moving 300 yards a day, and it's getting pretty close to some homes, but these things are unpredictable.  Some of the projections have the flow crossing the one highway that goes in and out of the area - even wiping out the main town down there.  I read an article that says they are moving a police substation and some ambulances to what could be the "far side" of the flow, so there are police and paramedics if the community gets cut off.  Somehow this feels a little ludicrous to me - the ambulances have a limited supply of medical equipment, and they won't be able to get to the hospital.  I guess they could send in helicopters, though, and something is better than nothing.

The flow is relatively close, as the crow flies, to us, but it's downhill - because our roads situation here is a bit sparse, it takes nearly an hour to drive to where the flow is, but on the map, I was kind of surprised that it's not that far.   The one good thing that might happen is that they are working to open old abandoned roads to make alternate routes - something sorely missing on this island.  There are some old government roads down near the ocean that used to go straight to Hilo dating from the time they were building the Hilo Breakwater.  We used to have a railroad on this island for the cane fields and for the supplies for the Breakwater.  I wish will still had one.  It came all the way up to my community, and the roads that ran along next to the track are still faintly marked on maps, but their largely gone. 

Well, the next few weeks should be interesting.  The mayor is making political hay over it - promising engineers right on the spot as soon as the flow crosses the road.  What an engineer is going to do about an active lava flow, I do not know, but hey, okay.  It's not like you can bulldoze fluid lava until it is well cooled.  I don't blame him for giving the people down there hope - they've been through a rough time in the last 34 days. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Waiting for Eggs and other Rambling Thoughts

So, my pullets will be sixth months in about a week and a half.  At this point, I don't believe I have seen any eggs.  I did see some pullet sized eggs a couple of months ago, but that was too early, I think.  Kind of wondering if they are laying in the bushes - particularly all those trees that are still down and laying around in our yard - or the large piles of cut up trees that are the remnants of what fell on our driveway.  Kind of getting annoying feeding these birds and still having to buy store bought eggs.  The old hens are past my forbearance period, I think. 

Between starting school and the storm, I have broken out in weird hives.  I get a little itchy, I scratch, and the lines pop up.  I can even write on my arm with my fingernail and have word shaped hives.  Cool, if irritating.  I am just chalking it up to stress - or maybe a week of eating an ounce of almonds every day.  Who knows.  It's irritating, but hardly life-threatening.  I've never been allergic to anything, so this is just baffling.  I did have a babysitter when I was little who was allergic to 97 things - a fact which filled me with awe at the age of 9 or so, but now inspires me to a new kind of awe - his mother must have been driven absolutely nuts (no pun intended). 

The only problem with having the trees down is that three of them are laying on top of what used to be my garden.  I didn't like that garden spot much - and to be honest, the trees were always shading the spot for a large part of the day, so having them gone is probably good - but now I don't have a place that's been dug up and filled with compost readily available.  Also, the tree that broke in half rather than hitting our house fell on my roses.  It's still on my roses, and is likely to stay there until we get a break from the school calendar.  I wonder if the roses can wait that long? 

It's Cross Country season again - and guess who didn't have the guts to say, "NO!" to team mom?  Well, actually, I did say no to the girls' team - I would have to be nuts to do both the girls' and the boys' teams - but since the girls' don't have a team mom, guess what?  If they don't have a team mom - they don't get asked to volunteer or to bring anything to the potluck (Next WEEK, OMG!!!).  I have to get my parents to bring enough food for over 200 people or I have to cave and be...no, I won't. They have concessions (snack bar at athletic meets). Not going there.   I want to cry.  In fact, I have, a few times, on the sly, when no one is looking.  The only awesome thing about it is that one of our new freshmen boy's parents have a HUGE rice cooker - it cooks enough for 100 people.  In fact, they have TWO of them.  Now, that's a Hawaiian family!  Another family has a catering business, so you know, I really don't have all that much to worry about. 

I used to be so laid back about this whole thing - but then the girls' team mom drummed the fear of "failure at potlucking" into me.  Her girls have graduated, but somehow, I still feel that fear.  It's dumb; we always have enough.  We always have way more than enough.  Of course, I was counting on the girls to bring drinks, desserts, and plates/utensils....oh gosh, I just am not good at this stuff.  I don't have the time to be good at this stuff.  I thought I was doing good by offering up the boys' parents for the main dish and substantial sides - they just bring what they like anyway, but at least I could say to the girls:  please bring the little stuff - although, plates are kind of crucial, actually.  

It's all so manini; I know I am being ridiculous, but I guess you face what's in front of you, and the potluck has always stressed me beyond proportion.  Last year, I totally and completely embarrassingly burst into tears, because I was told I had to stay with the food instead of watching my kids run.  It was the first race for my youngest daughter, and I was devastated.  It was my 8th year as a XC parent - you'd think I wouldn't care by that point, but I really did.  I chalk it up to hearing my counterpart saying (as she always did), "Nancy, there's not going to be enough!" because the parents come, often, at the last minute bearing large pans of pasta and chili and it always looks like there won't be enough until suddenly, there is....  But by that last minute time, I am always wound up so tight from the implied blame that I didn't do enough, that it would fail because of me, that bursting into tears feels like a viable option. 

The coaches say that the "parents do this out of the goodness of their hearts" but really, it's their deal.  I do wonder if some parent decided to do this a million years ago (or at least 11 when our school started) and it just keeps going, or if it was one particular coach's idea, and he keeps the fiction going that it is some kind of spontaneous parental miracle every year. I love these coaches, I really do, but I feel this little kernel of frustration at the yearly speech at how wonderful we parents are - when I feel like we've been brought to this point by a certain element of duress. 

I am really not that much of a crybaby.  Really.  It's just this aspect of being an XC parent that brings it out in me, I guess.  You see, we never did the soccer thing, so all of this team mom/snack/participation thing is just not an old habit with me. 

Oh well, if my hens would just start laying eggs - it would all be grand.  I think I'd be so happy all of this would recede into a blip of annoyance.  I keep dreaming of hard boiled eggs and custard and scrambled eggs that taste a million times better than store bought...yum.  Plus, eggs are so cool.  After all these years of keeping hens, I still get so happy when I pick up those new eggs - it's like a treasure every time. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Post-Hurricane

Well, I guess it was a Tropical Storm by the time it hit us - although I wouldn't be surprised at all if the winds hit us at elevation at hurricane strength.  It's been surprisingly hard to deal with the aftermath in our area.  People are still without power, reliable phone, cell, or internet.  I feel really fortunate to have power, but my cell and internet come and go, seemingly randomly.  (I haven't shared my deep loathing for Verizon Wireless, but let me just share that they went down for over a week - and still charged me for using data.  For the 8th month in a row, I have had to argue it out with Customer Service.  Tiring - and therefore, they are losing our business). 

Our school held a hurricane drive - various necessities like canned goods, toilet paper, heavy duty garbage bags (for ice), drinking water, flashlights, batteries (hard to find commodity here).... Several teachers and lots of kids were affected.  It's been a long week and a half. 

The district got some attention because two precincts couldn't vote in the primary.  One hotly contested Democrat US Senate race was down to the wire - they needed those two precincts to determine the outcome.  Both candidates showed up to visibly help and garnered some ill will doing so - doubt they would have been here unless without an election to win.  Now the election is over, and they're out of here, and Puna is once again out of the limelight.  It still stinks in lots of the deep rural areas of Puna, though. 

I didn't have it at all as bad as some of our staff and students, but I am still so tired - like a hurricane hangover.  I even have hives, but I kind of think that might be from eating almonds every day of last week - I've never been allergic to anything, but maybe I overdid it.  It could be from stress, though - having a big storm and starting school at the same time was pretty stressful, to be honest.   I am really grateful my husband got that part-time teaching job, but even good change is stressful. 

We still have lots of trees down, but we're just leaving them for now.  Too many other projects to get done.  I won't be planting a fall garden, because three big pines are covering that spot - killed my struggling laua'e ferns, sadly. 

Hopefully, the big storms that our out in the Pacific stay far away from us (we're having an active year), and people get back their power, and the electric company and the state highways people decide that cutting all the trees that surround (and grow around) all the phone and power lines is a good idea and they upgrade our fairly antiquated phone system (in rural areas, anyway) - in other words, we learn from this. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hurricane Update

So, we were without power for 36 hours, which is much better than many of my neighbors, as well as phone, cell phone, internet, running water (for the most part).  We did have a wind up radio, but our Civil Defense was light on news on both Thursday and Friday.  In the aftermath, they are quite diligent about announcing shelters and ice and water pick-up sites, but it was maddening during the storm and the immediate aftermath not knowing - especially with Julio right on the heels of Iselle.  At one point, about 8 pm on Thursday night, the wind was so strong and we could see that big trees had fallen and the roof on part of the barn was off, and we had heard that the worst was yet to come.  It was so hard to have NO information about the track of the storm once the tv was out.  There was nothing on the radio, except people calling in with what was going on in their area.  I thought, "If it gets worse than this, we are in big trouble."  

I live in the area hardest hit by the Hurricane, but we were remarkably blessed.  My son said, "I prayed for the us, the house, and the water tanks."  I prayed for those, too, and for the animals.  It appears those prayers worked - all our animals made it through.  We left the chickens out of the coop and fed them in the horse stall which has two strong hollow tile walls.  The sheep have an enclosure that is built like Fort Knox.  The only thing that would have gotten them was if a tree fell on them - which, thankfully, didn't happen.  Several very large trees and clumps of waiawi fell across our driveway, but they didn't hit the water tank.  The greenhouse and even the papayas (which are very fragile trees) were protected by the house, but the barn carport roof fell down.  The roof fell across the cars, resting on the two (not running, project cars) convertible Spitfire windshields - they didn't even crack: the only damage was a very small dent in the kids' Volvo.  That felt miraculous, to be honest.

Our house got power-washed by the storm - all the mold and ick that built up over our very wet summer just got scrubbed off.  One big pine snapped in half - if it had uprooted like most of the other pines that went down, it would have smashed our roof. 

My family (my husband, in particular) were amazing.  We had to chain saw and haul off all the trees blocking the driveway, which took about 8 hours, just to get off our property.  We drove to town, because I knew my family would want to know we were okay.  Once we were in town, we had internet and cell phone, so I was able to tell my parents and sister we were alive.  The next day, our friends came and helped us dismantle the car port and chop trees that were going to go down.  There are two really big trees I am worried about - if they go, we could have damage to our house and water tanks, after all.  They are at least 100 feet tall, and I keep looking at them, because they are leaning just a bit more than they used to.  In the afternoon, my two sons and my husband put the car port back up! 

I used to grumble all the time, because my husband keeps putting 1 liter bottles of water in my freezers - they take a lot of space, but they really helped during the storm.  We didn't lose any freezer food at all.  My husband also keeps a 12 volt battery for the water pump - it isn't strong, but our basement bathroom had a flushable toilet and a little bit of water for the shower - it wasn't that warm because there wasn't a lot of sun for the solar, but at least after working very hard for 8 hours we could clean up a little.  Our generator froze up, so that's something we'll need to replace. 

He really tied down every thing so well, my husband, and he has worked tirelessly for the last 4 days to get us back to some normalcy.  

The freaky, spooky horse has gotten a lot friendlier over the last two days.  Every time I go outside he runs over to get close - not quite close enough to touch, but just right there.  He must have been scared.  The chickens and the sheep seem basically unaffected - although the sheep hung around up front near people for most of the day after. 

There are neighborhoods that will be without power (some of them on my road, which is weird to me - I have power, how come some of my neighbors don't?) for a week or more.  Some of the lower areas in our district look like a bomb went off.  Some of the people in the remote areas (we're on a county road) on the private roads could still be in real trouble, and no one would know.  I hear the news casters say, "People's cell phones are running out of batteries," but the real issues is that there is no cell service.  Every time the power goes out, even our wall phones go out, and cell is spotty in our area anyway, and now it is completely down.  That scares me.  I don't remember the land lines going down in power outages when I was young.  I think we may be hearing of deaths as people get more into these remote areas.  My daughter's friend's garage was smashed flat - I mean the car is about a foot thick now - if the tree had fallen a little to the left, that family would be gone, and there are many houses like that.

I'm still praying for our community.  The primary election here kind of knocked it out of the news to some extent - although that might change because the last two districts couldn't vote - and we have one really close US race.  It will bring a lot more attention to our hardest hit areas.

I'll put pictures up later; they are just taking a long while to load from my mobile device.  


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hurricane(s)

It's been awhile, but I thought it might be noteworthy to mention the two hurricanes on their way before the power goes out.  You might think we'd be used to hurricanes here in Hawaii, but, in reality, we don't have them very frequently.  The last three that had impact were in 1959 (Dot), 1982 (ʻIwa), and 1992 (ʻIniki).  I was alive and around for the the 1982 and 1992 versions. 

ʻIniki was very destructive at the north end of the state, and that's the one that comes up in the media.  I saw one Reuters article, written by a woman who grew up here, that referenced that one and said the only hurricane of note before 1992 was in 1959.  I can't figure out how she conveniently forgot the 6 days without power (and in some cases, county water) in 1982.  Barbecuing the turkey for Thanksgiving is certainly engraved in my memory.  We had a close shave in 2007, but it turned out to be nothing.  I think people (like me) are simultaneously thinking that this will be the same thing and that it's going to be bad.  Maybe if you are as old as I am you have the second thought, and if you are young like my kids, you think only the first thought. 

School was supposed to start today, but has been canceled for both today and tomorrow.  Most of the students came to campus yesterday to pick up their school computers and some were helping to prepare the garden area for the storm (taking down tarps, putting away implements).  When the call went out (the school has a system that pushes recorded messages to our phones), I heard a boy whoop with joy over the news that school was canceled.  I actually feel a bit sad, even though I am relieved we're all off the roads and safe - some of our kids commute from hours and hours away. 

Anyway, this is what we have to think about:

The barn roof is perfectly situated for our regular winds, but it is like a big wing for the direction of the hurricane winds.  If we do get the 60 mph winds with gusts to 90, we could lose the barn roof.  The chicken coup is not wind proof, so the chickens need to go in the tack room, which is fine if the roof stays put, but it means I need to take all the feed out and the tack out and clean out a LOT of chicken poop tomorrow.  The overabundance of classic, semi-working cars and kids' cars need to be accounted for.  I think, if we move things around, we can fit 2 spitfires, the Chevy, and the small hatchback in the main garage.  One more Spitfire could probably squeeze in with the tractor.  I don't know what is going to happen to my greenhouse, but I will have to hope that since it is close to the house and in a low area that it will be okay.  All the tarps we have up (over the trampoline, etc) need to be taken down.  The barn carports and the old sheep stall next to the horse stalls have old roofing.  I'm worried about those.  We'll put the sheep in the new stall, which my husband built like Fort Knox. 

I really wish we'd figured out a pond liner. With all the rain we'll be having, the pond will be pretty full for a few days - it would be nice if it stayed that way. We have 10,000 gallons of catchment.  That's awesome - unless a tree branch crashes into the fiberglass tanks.  We've had really strong winds before, so I am relatively confident that will be fine, but if it's not, it would be nice to have the pond, too.  

There are lots of things that need to be stowed away - like the cement mixer and wheelbarrow we had out to work on the new chicken coop, some fencing materials, a few odds and ends.  I am kind of wondering about the building materials for the cottage, but probably we can just move those in closer to the barn. 

So today is Iselle - and she appears to be heading, basically, right for my house.  However, we do have these two massive mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, that have always steered hurricanes around the Big Island.  They keep talking about 10-12 inches of rain - and that's just a bad day, not a disaster, in a rainforest.  We had this one storm where we had 24 inches of rain in 24 hours, and it didn't even register at my house - although when I went out a few days later there were bridges and whole chunks of our highway washed away.  We've even had 80 mile an hour winds when we lived in the shack and not even the waiawi and cheap fiberglass barn blew over - it did fall over later when we had a big muddy long period and the horse rubbed up against it (an embarrassing, early moment in homesteading)  My husband was out on the roof, putting in all the screws he never got around to in the middle of it, but nothing happened.  In town, people lost roofs, but nothing up here. 

So, again, I have this "Well, we'll see." attitude.  On the other hand, here I am in a Hurricane Warning and I am thinking about making cookies, and my daughter on Oahu is only on Tropical Storm warning, and I am flipping out about her.  She's one of those who is saying, "They always say it's going to be bad, and it never is, ho hum," and she may be right in this case, but if not, she's there, and I am here, and even those she's 22, she is still my baby.  

In a couple of days, Julio will be close to the islands.  That one, so far looks like it will go a bit north of us, so I am not even thinking about it. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trying a New Web Tool.

 I chose not to go to ISTE, but I can follow it on Twitter and learn some new tricks.  Here is a web tool called AnswerGarden.  I am going to try it in my classroom (although it just looks like an uglier Padlet, frankly)  It's easier to share on Blogger, though. 

AnswerGarden: What is your favorite project around your home? ...

Friday, June 27, 2014

Not at ISTE

Okay, when the invitation to apply to ISTE for this year came out back in November, I kind of had this moment of dread.  I just didn't want to fly all the way to Atlanta.  San Antonio just about killed me last year - plus, I was all excited about the possibility of teaching Summer School. 

Now, I am half way through Summer School, and the folks all left yesterday for ISTE, and I am watching Twitter and feeling mildly sorry for myself for not being there.  On the other hand, they met at the airport at noon yesterday and only landed a few hours ago, so yeah, getting there sounds like my own personal vision of hell.  But...all that excitement, all that new stuff to learn, being in the same state with my 3rd child and making sure he's okay.... (I do admit reason three is lame, and the umbilical cord was cut 16 years ago!).  Also, I always put off a certain kind of session, because there is so much to do - and now I wish I experienced and Ignite session.  I feel in need of some "passion igniting" right about now.

I come home from work earlier than I ever can during the regular school year, but I am about 10 times more exhausted.  I think it is because each day is like 2 and a half regular days worth of lesson planning and work.  I want to do so much with these kids, but there is only so much a human brain can get at a time.  I'll have to re-think some concepts next year - especially if I leave this open to 10th graders, again.  They really aren't ready for it, in general.  Not all of them, I have some super 10th graders in the morning session and a couple in the second session, but most of them need an essay writing class first - which is how we did it at my old school.

No gardening or even cleaning is getting done (by me, at least).  My husband did an incredible amount of laundry over the last few days.  He took the opportunity to clean out the son's room while he was gone.  I can't believe how many clothes that kid has - he got some from his brother, some from his cousins, some from me, and apparently, he hasn't had to do laundry for something like 3 months.  I am barely exaggerating, and yes, I know that is disgusting.  Oh my goodness.  Piles and piles of folding.  (I helped with that.).  He's coming home to a reduced wardrobe. 

Two weeks left and then I can do at least one project before the real school year starts! 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Griddle Done!

I am so happy with how the cast iron turned out.  I had to spray the griddle three times with oven cleaner, but it looks great, now.  What a satisfying project. 

In the process, I have also discovered coconut oil.  I like it!  I bought it because my daughter wanted it for her hair, but it worked wonderfully for the cast iron.  I cooked eggs with it, and ham, and it didn't taste coconut-y at all.  Even though I bought it, it is nice to think that if I were so inclined, it is something that I could make from locally grown plants. 

I have two and a half weeks left in Summer School, and I have all these dreams of finishing my quilt and getting my house in order in what's left of summer.  The reality is that I really only have a couple of weeks left, and some of them are extra volunteer work days for technology in-services and SAT prep in-services.  So, maybe I can do part of one project.  I want to ride my horse (a project all on his own, since he's so skittish) and get a few blocks done on the quilt - but I really should do those big household projects that get put off to major breaks.  The other reality is that even though this Summer School class is a blast, the schedule is exhausting.  I am plum worn out, to be honest. I haven't figured out how to teach without making myself so worn out by the end of term that I need to sleep for 3 days.  

Part of the tiredness is that the youngest daughter came up with huge post auricular lymph nodes, which necessitated various doctor's trips and blood tests (I really don't like driving into town much  and worrying is tiring all on its own)  and resulted in a rather amusing incident where I asked to feel her spleen and we got the giggles.  It is probably Cat Scratch disease, but I am also wondering about leptospirosis, because of a family expedition to a waterfall. Both of those are scary, but she just seems mildly ill - like a cold, although if she runs, her abdomen hurts a bit (hence the spleen request).  Her running coach is probably irritated, but I am not risking a ruptured spleen for June conditioning. 

At least I got the cast iron project done.  




Monday, June 23, 2014

Restoring Old Cast Iron

I was inspired to go out into the old cabin and find the cast iron we had.  It was in pretty bad shape, and I was wondering if I could fix it.  A bit of googling, and I decided I could try. 

I sprayed both pieces liberally with oven cleaner.  I do have a self-cleaning oven, but the last time I used the function, the oven box developed holes.  I don't want to make the problem worse, so I am stuck with the oven cleaner and trash bag method. 

This did work very well with the Griswold small frying pan which only had surface rust and not much gunk.  The skillet is much more gunky and I had to re-apply the oven cleaner several times.  I am considering a wire brush if I can't remove the gunk with a rag this evening. 

For the frying pan, I sprayed it twice and let it sit for about 24 hours.  I rinsed it off and then let it soak for about an hour in a vinegar and water solution and scrubbed it with Hawaiian salt to remove the rusty bits.  I heated the pan over the stove and then rubbed it with coconut oil and popped it in the oven.  I had two different directions open - one said 450 degree oven, and the other said use the smoke point of the oil.  I went with the later, which meant an oven at 350 for 45 minutes, with an additional couple of hours in the oven with the heating element off, but still warm. 

The pan came out black and the scrambled eggs I made for dinner didn't stick at all!  I am pretty proud of my self, and I hope I can have a similar success with the skillet. 

I did a little research on my pan, and I am figuring it was made somewhere between 1920 and 1950, which is pretty darned cool.  I haven't braved the thick coating of oven cleaner on the skillet to find its providence, but we'll see tonight. 

I feel guilty that I let them sit out there for 10 years (!) without a second thought.  I never had good results with cast iron - thing stuck to the pan and I didn't quite know how to clean them properly, but after research, I kind of got excited about the whole subject.  I do have a Dutch oven made of cast iron that I really like, but I have been having mixed results with taking care of it.  I live in a rain forest and there is a lot of environmental moisture, which complicates matters.  I am looking forward to reseasoning it with coconut oil rather than olive oil (it kind of stays tacky and sticky) and seeing if I have better results. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Just Call Me MIA...

Sorry, it's been a crazy few weeks.

Yes,  I am done with National Boards - at least until I find out I didn't pass (although I certainly hope I do!)  I took the test on May 30 - it was actually so much fun.  I quite enjoyed reading the new literature and writing about it.  By the 6th essay, I must admit I was pretty tired - and that last one is a piece of student work. You pick out errors and tell what you would do to correct them.  (I am allowed to say this - the directions are available online).  I was so tired and the sample had so MANY errors, I kind of got stuck on where to start.  I wasted 10 minutes of my 30 just looking at it and thinking, "Umm, all these errors are massive.  Where do I start?"  Other than that, though, I got done and felt a bit disappointed it was over. 

I am sure I qualify as a geek. 

I had a very short break, in which I tried to clean the house and organize things, and then I started Summer School.  We're only on day 4 of Summer School, and I am totally exhausted.  Teaching two 3 hour classes is much more strenuous than teaching four 80 minute classes and one 20 minute class.  I think it's the fact that lunch is only 30 minutes.  Also, I have 23 papers to grade every three days - detailed grading with a ton of descriptive feedback.  It's a lot of fun, but I am tired. 

Over the weekend, I walked 12 miles (my usual walk, two days in a row) and then we hiked to a waterfall and swam.  It was a very nice weekend. 

The hens started laying a new spot and now it's like Easter all over - they keep moving their laying spot.  My husband is getting there on the new chicken coop with the fancy laying boxes, though, so hopefully, this will be a problem of the past soon. 

I have looked at the greenhouse and thought about planting lettuce - isn't that lazy of me?  We have two coffee berries on one of the larger seedlings - which is exciting, but isn't going to make anyone even a cup of coffee.  Maybe a teaspoon of coffee. 


Friday, May 9, 2014

Easily Pleased and Other Flaws

I work for an extremely generous organization.  They offered me two days off to work on National Boards.  I took them.  I usually don't take the offered days off because I would seriously rather be in my classroom, but I am finishing up on my last two entries and I needed this day. 

One of my co-workers told me to go to a coffee shop to do the work, but I wasn't that tempted to do laundry or clean the floors or go outside and weed.  I just want to finish this thing and upload it and forget about it until December, when they tell me the scores. I'm at the point that every time I re-read my entries, I find something I can do better, and I just have to finish it.  I have been doing every end-of-the-year checkout thing they send me right away and turning right back to National Boards.  (Except, well, I haven't graded the 75 essays - though I have been hounding the kids who didn't turn them in). I did spend 7 hours in intense concentration, finishing the penultimate entry.

But now I am distracted! At this moment, my son is pole vaulting at the State Finals.  I wish I were there.  I wish, at least, my daughter was there so she could text me.  I have no patience - I just want to know if he got a PR.  I would be happy with a PR - and so would he, which is more important. It won't get him even in the top six, but it would be cool. 

So, I am sitting here, distracted, needing to hoʻomau and just get through this last stupid entry.  Thinking about my son.  Thinking about (everything else that needs to get done). 

I am also thinking that the sound a chicken makes after laying an egg is awesome.  It's like trumpets announcing a present when you have old hens who are sporadic layers.  Yay! An Egg! 

I am easily pleased.  I admit it. I am easily pleased; I forgive at the drop of the hat if someone is even remotely kind; I have the sense of humor of a 15 year old.  I consider all these things both flaws and blessings - blessings because I am pretty happy a lot of the time, and flaws because I look foolish a lot of the time, too. I mean, who has chickens for years and still gets ridiculously excited when she hears that egg-laying cackle? 

Okay, time to get back to work.  I really want to not have to do this tomorrow.  I want, on the contrary, to go to work tomorrow and scan my entries on the nice copier and upload the entries on their nice internet and then finish writing my final exams, grading papers, and studying for the test portion of National Boards.  Tests I like better than watch videotapes of me teaching over and over and over and over again and then writing about what I see.  Ugh.  I guessed I am not so easily pleased when it comes to myself.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Progress

Not farm progress - well, that, too, I guess.  My husband jerry-rigged the tractor to mow the lawn (we've been having a problem with the belts - the expletively expensive John Deere belts that break the first time out).  It looks great.  He still gives credit to Gibby Crazy Horse for keeping it mostly mowed and making it easier.  The new hens are completely integrated with their older flock mates with not much squabbling.  And I weeded a little, a very little, around the greenhouse and in the asparagus.  

No, the progress is on my bid for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. I think I am done with two of the four entries.  I feel like I dived deep into writing today during my Study Hall, during my preps, during my meeting (cancelled) period, and during lunch.  I barely looked up from my drafts or computer screen. I can't believe I've been in this room for 10 hours. Fortunately, there were two periods with kids in here, but other than that - yikes.  I can't even tell if what I wrote makes any sense.  I need to step away and not think about it for a few hours. 

In the middle of all that, I fielded tons of email and wrote one version of my final exam - two more versions to go! I corrected one paper - just 74 more to go!  I texted my husband to ask him to pull something out of the freezer because I am so fried, there is no way I can cook tonight.  I had the temerity to ask my walking buddy if she wanted to go for a walk, but she's getting the school newspaper out, so I went back and persevered with my National Board.  Good thing, because one part I thought was pretty solid -I re-read it and it was utter crap. Well, half utter crap, and half so-so.  Now it is all so-so.  Sigh.  I don't think any of it is perfect, but it's due, so it's done.  You know what I mean? 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Lunch from My Garden

Well, more or less...

I dug up a sweet potato, picked some bok choy, flat parsley, and garlic chives and combined then with green lentils and black beans from the pantry and seasoned it with paprika, coriander, turmeric, and tahini.  It's not very pretty, but it tastes good. 

We're thinking about ducks.  I haven't had much truck with ducks, but I am interested in trying. We generally have a standing puddle-like pond - it only ever disappears in a real drought.  We almost never have even two completely dry days in a row, so it's not much of a worry - if we ever did, we could just put out a kiddie play pool. Now, I am just researching how much of a pain in the butt ducks will be. I like the idea that they eat slugs and lay large eggs that are good for baking.  And they are more of a meal than a chicken would be, also a plus.  Muscovy's are very popular here, so I am leaning along those lines.  If anyone has positive or negative feedback about ducks, I would love to hear it! 

In other news, my son is "under consideration" for the State Finals for Pole Vaulting.  We'll have to wait until maybe Tuesday to hear if he's made it to the event on Friday.  It's on Oahu so if he goes, there may be an opportunity for grandparents.  On the other hand, the school where it is taking place is actually kind of a pain to get to, so maybe not.  For any Grandparents who are reading - Pole Vaulting is several one second bursts of adrenaline interspersed between rather long periods of waiting (or other parents' bursts of adrenaline), and Your Grandson is clearing about 12 feet and the top guys in the state are older, have more reliable access to a proper pole (long story), and will probably clean his clock.  It's still a great opportunity, so prayers and crossed fingers in order, please. 

We were so cheap we didn't want to pay the $20 to get all of us in to the Regional Finals, so we stood at the top of the hill outside the fence where we had a decent view.  We still couldn't see the height placard, so I texted the running coach who was down on the field and asked him.  I do love technology.  

My younger daughter has decided to start running next week.  Track is over and conditioning for Cross Country doesn't start until June, but she heard the times for the upcoming 9th grade girls on their 8th grade Big Run and is a bit scared about her place on the Varsity.  Nothing like someone nipping at your heels to get you going, as the sheep would say. 


Friday, April 25, 2014

So Much Fun!

I kind of had a bad day.  I was thinking, as I sat through lunch proctoring standardized testing for stragglers, that I really should have stayed home.  The virus is not giving up, and I feel like that ball of dust bunny under my couch - muffled, confused, and cranky.  (Hey, I think dust bunnies are cranky - they probably don't want to be stuck under the couch and shouldn't be there anyway). 

My last period class cheered me up, though.  They did an amazing job at their monologues, told me repeatedly how much fun they were having (can we do this EVERY WEEK?!) I told them I'd wanted them to prepare a poem for discussion next week (something they usually like to do - the discussion part, at least - so they like to think of questions to stump the crowd), but instead I wanted them to tell me what it is like, or say something profound, about being a teenager in 2014.  The catch was - they had 25 minutes to plan, act/film, and vine or instagram their 6 second story.  I told them to go outside and surprise us. 

It was so much fun.  I learned that teenagers like to sleep, eat, text, talk about the opposite gender, and that they stress about school.  I learned that teenaged boys have too much energy and sometimes just have to act dumb. 

I already knew those things, but it was still a total blast.  What a great way to end the week.  My room looked trashed - desks everywhere, scripts everywhere, but I said, "Hey. we've got one minute before the bell - can you put the desks in order and clean up?"  And it was done, like magic.  Too bad that doesn't work at home. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Darned Cold

Not the winter kind of cold, the virus kind of cold.  I never catch colds, really, I don't, but I have a doozy this time.  I guess all those kids sneezing and hacking away finally got to me.  I am a big baby when I have a cold, too. 

I did do a lot of my National Board stuff yesterday and a little today, and I went to see my son Pole Vault at the track meet. (He did well, a personal best!)  I whimpered and hacked and sniffled through all of it, though.  Such a whiner, I freely admit it.

I am hoping I feel better tomorrow.  I have a gigantic (free) ham I got from the save a tape promotion at the local food store, and I want to dig up some sweet potatoes and use some of those baby greens out in the greenhouse to make a nice Easter dinner.  We are hoping to go to the 7 am Mass - I love the sunrise Mass the best on Easter - but it will mean leaving home by 6 am.  That's going to be a tough sell for our kids. 

I see two Saanen goat kids on Craigslist.  I am tempted to call; I know the people that own the dairy, and they take good care of their goats.  I want milk goats in the worst way, but they don't say whether the goats are doelings or bucklings - and at the price they're asking, I am betting the latter.  There are also Aussie-Heeler-Catahoula pups....It's dangerous for me to go on Craigslist.  It really is.  It's just that one of my favorite dogs in my life was Aussie-Heeler.  My husband would kill me if I brought home a puppy, because he would be the one who would have to deal with it, since I am gone 6 days a week.  They are soooo cute, though. 

It must be Spring - I want ducklings and goat kids and puppies.  I already gave into my craving for chicks;  you know how chicks go, though.  Now they are just small chickens - lovely but in no way cute and cuddly. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon

It was pretty cool.  I wish I'd thought to grab my camera, but on the other hand, I know from experience my camera doesn't take good pictures of the moon - kind of diminishes her to a small point of light. 

I was just shocked we could see anything - it's always (always!) cloudy at our house.  It's particularly always cloudy when there is something cool to see in the sky, it seems.  Last night we got lucky right up until the actual moment. It rained in town, I hear, so many of the kids came to school fairly sad about that. 

It looked red - like a red disc was eating away at the moon, which went through a month's worth of phases over the time of the eclipse. 

It was actually windy and a bit nippy, so my daughter and I ran out a few times, said, "Wow! cool!" and then ran back inside. 

At least we have something to talk about today. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

13 Straight Days of Work

Because I have been incredibly fortunate to get a couple of extra work opportunities, I am working for 13 straight days.  I teach SAT classes on Sunday afternoons, and this weekend, I am working on Summer School prep for both days of the weekend.  I really am so very grateful for the opportunities, but I am feeling slightly daunted facing all these days in a row with no breaks!  I think it is because I am not feeling that well today (Day 2).  I seem to have picked up the cold all the kids are snotting around the school.  Time to just focus on the positive! 

I took advantage of the late track meet on Saturday (a Saturday morning at home - what a concept!) to try a new homemade grout cleaner.  It didn't work as well as I wanted it to, but it worked some.  It used lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar - so I had some lemon peels left over.  I scraped them and soaked them in vinegar for the two week soak.  It's the best cleaner for my floors and counters (and no driving in traffic!)  I was pretty happy to not have any waste - even though waste of food isn't a problem between feeding dogs, chickens, and making compost - but it still felt good to be able to get double use out of the lemons. 

Chicken update: the chick I thought might be a cockerel - I am 99% sure I am right that he is indeed a he.  So now I have to decide whether an extra rooster is a prudent safeguard against the loss of the first or a terrible idea.  We need to move them outside soon - they're quite large for the tack room pen.  It's always a little dicey when you introduce the young ones to the established flock.  The Barred Rocks are active little hoppers, so we'll need to fence them off in the night pen with a double and of chicken wire until they all feel like they're one flock. 


Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicks Sure Do Get Ugly

You bring home these little peeping balls of fluff and, within a few weeks, they turn into little monstrosities.  Eventually, they turn into lovely chickens, but there is this period I always find creepy, when they are feathering out, but the look kind of gawky and ...well, dinosaur-y.  They still peep, but it is much less adorable.  They kind of eye you with that bird eye and they are all patchy with feathers and down and some spots where down is coming out but feathers are taking their time. 

And when you have older breeds that aren't sex-linked, you end up playing, "Hey, are you a roo?" when one looks a little bigger or the come looks more prominent.  It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, if I can keep the two roosters in two different places, or have one for dinner...  I just hope I don't have more than one. 

And they aren't quite ready to go outside, but they are outgrowing the inside.  I have to laugh - I've never had Barred Rocks before and they sure are active.  They kind of pop up and down before running.  The Australorps are fast but they basically stay on the ground, but the BR can pop as high as the top of the large dog kennel they are using as a coop in the tack room. It kind of reminds me of whack-a-mole without the ground and the holes.  Of course, I am not whacking my chicks, but the heads popping up and down gives the same effect.

As a side note, completely unrelated to chicks - I have discovered Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap.  (Actually, my older daughter introduced it to me).  I like the peppermint - love any kind of mint soap.  It makes my skin feel so good, and I notice it is brightening my complexion.  They had a bulk sale at the health food store, so I brought and old marinara jar and filled it up.  It just makes my day knowing that I have a nice jar of this stuff sitting at home.  I'm simple and easy to please, I guess. 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Canning Bone Broth

Finally got around to putting up that beef bone broth I made this weekend.  It's in the canner right now.  I also took my daughter for a ride on the Crazy Horse.  He's been enjoying the life of Reilly for months now as our schedules have him mowing and weed whacking and acting like a lawn ornament rather than a riding horse.   He does come running in when I call him, though, which is endearing.  I am sure he thinks I am going to feed him. 

He still will stand still for me to mount, but was less happy about the kid.  Dummy.  Then he doesn't want to get more than two feet away from me when we go out, so I walk and jog (trying to get him to move, darn it) in front of him.  We walked all around the pasture, which had the sheep hopeful for grain.  I would like to work with him more, but 12+ hour days (starting next week - 6 days a week) doesn't leave a lot of time.  I really should sell him, but he enjoys his life and I would worry that he would end up with someone less calm, which would undo all the calming down we've done. 

I am thinking about baking something - maybe rolls as cookies aren't really appropriate during Lent.  However, I really do need to fold a huge pile of laundry and chug along on my rough draft for the Boards some more. 

I still feel so proud of myself when I can something.  It's kind of ridiculous, but the pressure canner is still a bit intimidating, and when the jars line up and make the lids go "ping, ping, ping" as they seal - it feels like an accomplishment. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

National Board Blues: The Things That Aren't Getting Done

I have a few quarts of beef bone broth I made sitting in the fridge.  The plan was to cool it and de-fat it and can it up.  It's been there a few days because I had to run errands all day yesterday and pounded away at National Boards today.  I spent hours, six and more hours today, working on just a fraction on one entry.  I would much rather be canning my beef broth. 

Right now, I am sitting in my car waiting for track practice to be done.  I should be pounding out more on the National Board - or studying these ridiculous flash cards I bought as a birthday present for myself (I know, joy, right?  Flashcards?!)  They are fairly ridiculous, and I am tempted to return them.  They look to be much more a mix of the PRAXIS and GRE exam then specifically for my exam.  Oh well.  Review my Masters degree and get into the mood for a long test, I guess. 

I have one more full day to work on National Boards and then I am going to an Educational Conference.  I figured back in January that it would be a nice break from National Boards, but between cleaning (the last good deep clean before Easter because of SAT classes) and cleaning chicken coops and brooders, not to mention pressure cooking soup bones and shipping a really old Volvo to my daughter on Oahu (involved sitting at the dock for an HOUR - I should have brought my National Board stuff!), driving kids back and forth to practice, etc., I have not gotten as much done as I dreamed I would.  Bummer for me. 

Frankly, I just want to take a nap.  Or maybe I just want to one quick walk around the walking track on campus.  I have been entirely too still all day. 

Oh, but I found the best recipe for Artisan bread! 

3 cups bread flour
1 t yeast
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups water 

Mix it all up, let it sit, covered, for 12-18 hours (my schedule actually had it resting well over 24 hours and it was fine).  Preheat a cast iron dutch oven for 30 minutes at 450.  Bake the dough in the dutch oven with the cover on for 30 minutes, remove the cover and bake for 15 more minutes.  (Actually, I would go a little less - the bottom was very hard on this loaf).  It's so chewy and crusty - very good.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Natural Cleaners

Although I admit I am always looking for ways to save money, the real reason I like to make my own cleaners is because the store is really far away.  I can go through one of those spray and wipe bathoom cleaner bottles in a week.  Although work is closer to the store than home, I don't like going after work because 1) basically I have too much work to do and 2) the traffic is horrible after school.  It's only horrible between the bypass road and school, but that's bad enough. 

So I bought a big box of Borax, a big box of washing soda, a huge pouch of baking soda, and I buy gallon jugs of vinegar (possibly they are 2 gallon jugs - they're big).  I also bought Fels Naphtha, because I thought I would make some laundry soap, but the grating hasn't appealed.  I have lots of lemons on my trees at most times, so lemon juice and peel is a great addition to the home made cleaner arsenal.  

I love lemon vinegar cleaner.  You just soak lemon peels in vinegar for a couple of week and it cleans kitchen counters, granite, laminate floors, bathroom sinks - all shiny and not too vinegar smelling. 

I made a cleaner for my bathroom yesterday with 4 T borax, 1 tsp washing soda, 4 T baking soda,  1/2 a lemon's worth of juice, 1 1/2 cups vinegar and 3 cups hot water.  It was strong and next time I will wear rubber gloves, but it shined up my shower doors and shower tiles very nicely. 

I just ran out of Pledge, so the next recipe I will try will be some kind of wood cleaner. 


Monday, March 10, 2014

New Rooster

My coworker gave me her extra young rooster.  That was very nice of her, actually.  My daughter thinks that "is so Hilo."  I guess it isn't a usual gift given at work, a fowl in a pet taxi. 

I am hoping the introduction to the ladies will go smoothly.  They are, after all, fairly old and he's under a year.  I hope they don't give me a horrible demonstration of "hen-pecked".  We'll just have to let them visit him in the pet taxi and then slip him on the roost after dark.  That's worked in the past - everyone wakes up and goes, "Oh hey, you're not new because you just slept with us, so it's all fine." 

The chicks are doing well.  We lost two - one was kind of gimpy and listless when I bought her - I wish I had opened the boxes they came in before I left the feed store! I don't know why the other died.  Maybe the stress of the boxes or the new home.  Maybe they just jammed up together in panic that first night and she suffocated, but the rest are all lively and fine. 


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chicks Were In

I bought 10 Australorp and 10 Barred Rocks.  I was disappointed to note when I got home that one of the chicks is small and has a twisted leg.  They were almost twice as much as the hatchery, but of course, that doesn't include shipping.  Basically, it cost a bit more for 20 than I would have paid for 25 from the hatchery, but it was worth it to be able to stop by work and show them off while waiting for my son to be done with practice. 

It took a little bit to get them home, so I was disappointed to see that my husband hadn't set up the chick brooder arrangement before I got home.  My daughter and I scrambled like mad to get the fence set up, the big dog kennel set up, the bedding, feeders, and water chick fountain, and the light set up - plus feeding the bottle baby, grown chickens, dogs, horse.  I forgot to look the back gate so the ewes went out again, which was another scramble. 

I mistakenly decided to check my work email, because going to buy the chicks took the time I would normally correspond with kids and parents - and since tomorrow is the end of my grading period, I have gave feedback on four papers for revision by tomorrow morning.  I have not yet started cooking dinner.

I could make some mental parallels about being a mother hen with too many chicks, but it feels like too much work.  


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chicks (tomorrow)!

I was all excited - today was supposed to be Chick Day at the feed store.  I called, just in case, because it is quite a drive (and it is Ash Wednesday, after all).  They didn't get them in, but they are getting them tomorrow! They are even getting the breed I really want (Barred Rocks).  And the order is for pullets.  Although, you know how it is with these non-sex-links - some of them are going to be roosters.  That's okay with me.  As long as they aren't ALL roosters. 

I once had a friend who was a nurse.  She said she bought 30 straight run chickens and one night (or rather, one very early morning) she came home from a double shift and 27 of them proclaimed they were roosters all at once.  She put them all in the freezer that very morning.  I always think of that story when I am tempted to buy straight run.  A rooster here or there will be okay - 27 of them would be a lot of work and freezer space. 

I would promise to post up pictures tomorrow, except that...Blogger is still crashing my browser when I try.  So not fun. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I really wanted to..

Post this picture of my amazing 3 pound sweet potato, but every time I try, it crashes my browser.  Too bad.  It is as big as a child's head.  Or it was.... we ate it over the course of two days.  I felt like a Borrower - remember those children's books?  Tiny people who can make one potato last for days. 

I am now posting without the picture to see if it works. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bottle Time (Video)

video


A video from my phone - shaky camera and all.  Here's the baby getting her bottle.  She wasn't as jumpy as usual, but it is still cute (in my opinion).  I guess I am still just so happy she's eating! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Procrastinating

I was trying to think of a more flattering title than this one, but the truth is, I'm procrastinating.  I am meant to be working on my National Board entries one and two, and I am, sort of, but I keep bopping up to check on things:  turn over the vinegar lemon peel cleaner that's sitting for the requisite two weeks to get properly lemony (which doesn't need me to check it), wander outside in the rain to check if there are eggs or raspberries, chop up some carrots in case someone wants a snack, check my email for work.  I briefly ponder making a huge batch of waffles for the freezer or putting the ingredients for beef stew in the crock pot for tomorrow's dinner (I promised the son pizza for tonight).  I look over the fence to see how the mamas and lambs are doing out in the rain (they're fine, of course).  

What I should be doing is watching that video of me teaching (yuck - hate myself on any kind of recording device, always have) and analyzing what I could have done better (plenty), writing about that particular process, and moving on to the work selection.  What I want to do is bake, or read, or plant lettuce in the greenhouse (which tells you how desperate I am not to be watching videos of myself teaching - the greenhouse is a mess right now and usually not my favorite chore). 

I am very grateful for the rain, but I think if I could go for a long walk and think about what I want to say, I might get a lot of things sorted out and could sit down to write without the bopping about.  It always worked in college and grad school - walking was an important part of my writing process.  

Besides the slow and frustrating process on my writing, the good news is the bottle lamb has decided whoever is holding the bottle is officially not scary.  We no longer have to run around obstacles and other sheep to catch her to give her the bottle.  She runs right up to us now, chows down with a will, and staggers away with a full belly.  She's nibbling grass, as all are all the lambs, but she isn't nibbling on grain, yet.  None of the lambs are, except the two very oldest who are about 5-7 days older than her (I'll have to look at my records).  I actually enjoyed slogging out in my big rubber boots and my big jacket with the oversized pockets (to hold lamb bottles, dog biscuits, hoof picks, and such) to do the morning chores.  This is a big improvement over our past rather frustrating experiences with orphan lambs. 

I do have to say one of the lambs is about as goofy as can be.  She never fails to miss the gate and run into the fence a few times before she finds the opening.  Her twin is a lot more nimble, so I just don't get it.  She was a tiny thing when she was born - lively and strong, but not the brightest gal in the flock, I suppose. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Finally - bottle success!

Although our sheep are generally very healthy, we've had a couple of bummer lambs here and there.  And it's always been a struggle to get them to take a bottle, and we end up using a dose syringe and trying to feed them little tiny drips at a time for a long time. 

Well, finally, we found a nipple that our most recent orphan will take.  She was fighting it for awhile, and we would hold down this ewe she liked and let her nurse and try to feed her with a dose syringe, too, but she finally takes the bottle.  It's a sad thing it is one of those nipples you have to stretch over the bottle top (I have wimpy fingers), but watching lots of ounces go down her throat and her little tail spinning away in joy makes the frustration of trying to put it on the bottle worth it.  Sometimes I still hold the ewe and I suspect she is nipping in on all the ewes during the day out in the pasture - I've seen her dart in there, get a bit, and get out of the way. 

It's a huge relief. 

We sold all our males and a few of the ewes I wasn't interested in keeping all on one day two weeks ago.  It was a great relief, an answer to prayer.  Now we just have 3 ewes and 7 lambs, since the same night we sold all the others one of our ewes died.  I still don't know why.  She wasn't acting ill, seemed perfectly fine the day before.  6 of the 7 lambs are ewe lambs and I castrated the ram lamb.  I want to bring in a new ram at the end of this year - to let these lambs grow up a bit and give the mamas a break.  Actually, I want to bring in two new rams and rotate them between two groups of ewes. 


In the meantime, we can enjoy these little lambs.  This is the most lambs we've ever had at one time - all born with in a week, for the most part.  They have their own little joyful dynamic going. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

By Request - Hamburger Bun Recipe

This is for a reader who put a request in last week...for some reason, I didn't see it until now!  Sorry about that: 

I am a bake-by-feel kind of person, so measurements are pretty approximate. 

2 cups of milk, heated until it feels warm to your pinky
1 T sugar
1/4 cup butter, cut into pats, and semi-melted in warm milk
1 egg
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
5-6 cups of bread flour 

In mixer bowl, combine milk, butter, sugar and yeast.  Add about 2 cups of flour and stir until all is incorporated.  Add egg.  Stir again.  Add flour 1/4 cup at a time mixing until incoporated.  When you get to the point where flour is difficult to incorporate, start kneading.  You have to knead until it feels like an earlobe.  I know it sounds weird, but pinch your earlobe, that's how the dough should feel - it takes 8-10 minutes, or so.  You can also use a Kitchen Aid appliance with a dough hook. 

Form the dough into a ball and cover the bowl.  Place in a warm place and allow the dough to rise (at least an hour - I usually go for two hours).  Punch the dough down and divide into 12 equal pieces. Take each piece and form a disk, then fold the edges over to make a smooth ball.  Stretch this ball into a hamburger (or hot dog) bun shape and place on a greased baking pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the buns sound hollow when taped. 

You can skip the egg, or even use warm water instead of milk, but the resulting buns won't be so soft.  You can substitute up to 1/2 the bread flour with whole wheat flour.  You can also use plain all purpose flour, but the bread flour makes very nice rolls.  If you use water, you can also substitute 2 T of olive oil for the butter. 

Have fun! 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sheep Happenings

On one night (Tuesday), three ewes delivered a total of 5 lambs.  One set of twins were a bit small, so I went out every few hours during the night to check on them, and every time I went out, there were more new lambs.  I woke up Wednesday morning realizing that I had 22 sheep.  Although I had always thought I wanted 20 sheep, I find that our pastures are better off with about half that number, so I put reran the craigslist ad. 

To my surprise, someone called and wanted everything I had to sell.  He was driving by at lunch, would someone be home.  Yup, I said, and off they went.  I didn't have a chance to say good-bye; but all the males and two ewes I wanted to cull were gone.  All that was left was 4 ewes and 7 lambs. 

When I came home that evening, it seemed so empty.  And night chores were so fast and easy! 

Unfortunately, we lost one ewe, I am not sure why.  We used a sock sweater to graft the ewe lamb on her sister, and we are attempting to supplement with a bottle.  We must be the only people unable to bottle feed lambs.  I think it is because they already had the real thing for several days, so bottle feeding is quite a struggle - not adorable on countless bottle lamb videos. Sigh.  The ewe lamb is doing pretty well between what we can get in her with the bottle and what she can grab from her foster mom.  Everyone went out in the big pasture for the first time today.  I had to carry three lambs out when they took a wrong turn and their mamas kept going, but when I just went out to check everyone was with a mama at lunch time, they all were.  Phew.  The orphan is sticking like glue to her adopted family. 

When 7 of your 10 sheep are lambs, it doesn't feel like 10 sheep at all.  They grow fast, though.  


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rain!

Just when I start worrying, it rains.  Nice how that happens - looks like only a couple of days before we have those "light and variable" which really means - from the south, voggy and dry for us. 

Hopefully, this little bit of rain will fill up our tanks, flush the livestock water clean, and just generally help things grow (and toilets flush).

I generally like being on catchment.  Usually, there is enough (and sometimes too much) rain for our tanks, and the sunny days just help our photovoltaic and solar water heating systems help - it's a win-win - when it's raining, you think, "Yay! Water in our tanks!" and when it is sunny, you think, "Yay! My electric bill is going down!"  It would be perfect if it rained at night and was sunny in the day.

The worst times are those "Kona Wind" days (which doesn't come from Kona for us, actually): South winds, vog piling up and imitating rain-less clouds: no sun for solar and no rain for tanks.  Plus all that nasty volcanic gas. 

I guess everywhere has its ups and downs. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sheep Popping Up All Over - And Stress, Stess is Popping Up All Over, Too.

I definitely need to sell some sheep.  I have a lot of ewes looking round and bagged up and it's just time.  I hope that this time the craigslist listing will work.  I want to sell 10 sheep - all the boys and half the girls.

We're in the middle of our yearly January drought, and I am starting to get a little worried at the state of our tanks.  We're down as far as the pipe goes on the one tank and 3/4 full on the second tank.  I asked the kids to shower at school, since they don't really get the idea of "short" - they are taking shorter showers, but not stop and go showers, which is what you need to do.  Get wet, turn off the water to soap up, turn on the water for a quick rinse and done.  Not fun in the cold(er) winter weather, that's for sure. I don't think it is going to be as bad as the 1998 drought, which lasted 4 long months, a

It's all during my not-so-favorite-time-of-the-year:  taxes and scholarship time.  I hate paperwork, I dislike doing taxes - and scholarships are even worse.  Two FAFSA, two College Board CSS applications, all the documentation, and the high school financial aid application.  I appreciate all the help that the generous Ke Alii Pauahi fund gives to my kids, but the paperwork is stressful.  Plus, I do our taxes and my two college kids' taxes, too.  For an English major it is all very difficult.  At least this English major.

I had this strange dream which was long and convoluted - but the upshot of it was that I couldn't get on a plane because I was buried in receipts and couldn't find anything I actually needed to get on the plane with - and I knew I had left a kitten on the plane which would die if I didn't give it food and water.  I had neglected to do so at the last lay-over, so I was feeling incredibly down because I had left an obligation undone which would hurt a kitten (I know, right, so heartbreaking!)  Everyone who was traveling with me left me behind because they had their documentation in order.  I woke up feeling very incompetent, very stressed, and slightly relieved that I am not that bad - I mean, I am not killing kittens due to my negligence, and I can certainly find my driver's license in my purse and could, in fact, get on a plane, if necessary. 

It still doesn't make me feel better, though.  I just have to guts through this stuff - and I have to guts through my National Board.  I am starting to get a little panicky, because I am having the darnedest time getting the video taping done - nothing has been usable until today - and the video tapes need to be from different time periods and different units, and time is running short.  By unusable I mean you can't hear clearly - I had the camera too far back for the small group work and it was picking up EVERYONE, which means you can't hear anyone.

Oh well, like all the other stressful times in my life - I am sure I will get through this.  I am probably cutting years off my life, but I WILL get through it.

Thanks for listening.  Anyone want to buy some sheep? 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is it About January?

Is it the arrival of the seed catalogs?  It is the end of Christmas and the turn of a new year?  I always start dreaming big in January.

I found my last year's January notebook with lists of seeds and prices and garden plot sketches and big plans.  None of them really came true.  I guess it's my version of resolutions (although I did lose weight!).  I guess I am no more successful than many at keeping those resolutions.  The fact is, when school is in session (which is going to include the bulk of the summer this year),  I am gone 12-13 hours a day and keeping up with things at home is difficult.  Track is fast approaching, and that means a couple of months of Saturdays gone.  My son said repeatedly he didn't mind if we didn't come watch - so I took him up on it, just coming back for his last race - but he was obviously upset later when he admitted it.  So my husband bought up stadium chairs and a huge umbrella for the 8 hour+ track meets so we can sit there without killing our ʻōkole and getting sunburned/wet.  Track is a bunch of waiting for a few seconds of exciting.

Speaking of hurrying up and waiting for runners - my son ran as part of a three member relay team on Saturday.  They collectively ran 31+ miles from sea level to nearly 4000 feet in elevation.  Each member ran 5 two and a bit mile sections.  Someone has to drive and park every two miles to drop off the next runner and pick up the one who is just finishing.  The race went near our house, so I ran out to the road to watch for my kid.  I went out an hour early, because I misread the clock, but I cheered on the front runners for the ultramarathon (some crazy people ran the whole 31+ miles alone).  It was exciting, and I almost wished I could be part of a team.  I found myself telling my daughter, "You and your sister and I should be a team next year?  Wouldn't that be fun?"  As clear as a thought bubble, I saw, "Umm, no..." in her eyes. 

We are getting closer to having a bigger, newly stocked chicken area.  I am thinking Barred Rocks this time...not real happy with the Aracauna hens.  Does anyone have Barred Rocks?  I am looking for a fairly prolific layer that can also double as a meat bird.  We have a few Buff Orpingtons, which I have always liked, but I want to try something different this time.

The two dogs are adjusting to the loss of our alpha dog, and it's been interesting to watch.  They jockeyed some for alpha position, had to be scolded for misbehavior that had been stopped (chasing sheep, snapping at hens), and the little one who was always focused on the other dogs is now focusing more on the humans - a good thing.  Both of them learned new tricks this week (simple ones, like sit up and lay down) because of the new human focus.  I miss Balto, but the other dogs have been a focus which helps. 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Lambs

Apparently, there are two new lambs on the farm.  I haven't been home to see them.

Just this morning, I was speculating whether the ewe could have dropped her lambs in the pasture without us knowing - she was still quite large, but she was bulging with milk - like it comes when they've already lambed.  The dogs were running around out there (and were called in and corrected immediately! Dogs are NOT allowed in pasture areas!) a couple of nights ago.  When I got to work, however, my husband called and said, "Allie had two little lambs; they are black and white."

That's all the information I get until I get home and turn them over to look for gender and to iodine up their umbilical cords.  I'll let you know.

One less thing on my mind, no more going out at night with flashlights.  I know you in the Polar Vortex will laugh at me, but it's darned cold for Hawaii up at my house!


Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year

Yes, I know New Year's Day was last week...but today is my first day back to work in 2014.  There aren't any kids, but I am slogging along getting ready for them.  

Challenges to today included a power outage right in the middle of coffee brewing and a broken fridge.  The fridge broke a few days ago, necessitating the disposal of far too much food, jamming what we could save into ice packed coolers and the "farm/overflow fridge."  This complicated the getting ready in the pitch black early morning with no power thing.  I gave up and bought coffee at 7-11 and picked up a manapua for brunch.  I still missed my morning workout - I have decided I want to get back into breaking my workout into two parts on the days I don't drive my niece to school.  I am waiting to restart the 4:30 am workout at home until there is at least a possibility of light happening before we leave for work. In other words, 5:00 am is early enough on these darker winter mornings. 

The fridge breaking also meant delaying my long-procrastinated task of marking admissions papers.  I am now done with that and ready to finish getting ready for tomorrow and Wednesday's classes.  I have a good idea of the flow I want for the quarter, so it's just a matter of laying out the lessons and the days now that we have the special practice schedule up and running.  3rd quarter is devoted to the whole school Hoʻike - which means days and days of shortened classes for practice.  In the end, it is worth it, but I tell you, it feels like a major scramble for class time. 

I think I am on my last bag of layer pellet - no eggs for weeks means when this bag is done, the hens are due for freezer camp.  I wish I had timed this better.  I need to buy new chicks - I needed to buy new chicks 5 months ago - except the new, improved and expanded chicken coop is not yet built. 

I just have to get through National Boards this semester and then I can concentrate more on the homefront. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Saying Goodbye, Saying No

We had to let our Balto go on Monday.  He'd been slowing down and having difficulty moving, but we just worked with it - taking him out to the grass, carrying him back on the deck, cleaning him up when needed - but Sunday night he went downhill fast.  We had tremendous thunderstorms and lightning all night, and I couldn't even move him to the garage.  My husband stayed with him from midnight to 3 am, and then I went down until morning.  We called the vet as soon as they opened and tried to keep him comfortable until his 2 pm appointment. 

I texted our older son as we were driving down, in case he wanted to come to say good-bye - he lives not far from the vet's office.  He did come; it was very sad.  Our poor dog was never sick a day in his life, so he wasn't used to the vet; he was scared.  We stayed with him - I stayed while they put the catheter in and my husband and stepdad stayed until the end.

And this is where I get to express my immense appreciation for my husband.  He isn't sentimental about animals, but he sat for hours with Balto in the night - offering food (eventually he refused the food - and this dog never refused anything resembling food) and water - he helped me clean him up and make him comfortable in the morning.  This dog had dense fur which needed to be cleaned often once he became basically incontinent.  He stayed with the dog in his final moments and brought him home and buried him.  He put a cross (frankly, left over from a grave marker my kids made when this very dog killed one of a stream of steay cats - let us not speak ill of the dead, but this dog was deadly to stray cats, the occasional sheep, and two whole flocks of chickens - although I finally broke him off that habit) on the grave, picked a rose from our garden and placed it on the grave.  He did all of this in the rain.  I am so used to having to handle all these types of things, and this time I just couldn't, and my husband did.  I was so entirely grateful. 

At the same time, my family was here visiting for a couple of days.  Kind of a sad thing that this took up most of one of the two days my family was visiting.  I dropped them off at the airport yesterday, and then we rushed to our friend's for a BBQ.  While we were there, I heard a kid goat yelling in the pasture above their place.  It turned up on their lanai early this morning (more thunderstorms), and my friend called this morning asking if we'd take it.  I guess I have finally learned to ask my husband before saying "Yes" to animals.  After all, he's the one who would have to bottle it and take care of it for the next two months as I am gone 12-13 hours a day.  We said no - but it's so cute, and I want goats!!!  But it's very unfair of me to say that when I don't have to bottle it several times a day and deal with it if it jumps our sheep-not-goat-proof fences if it got bigger - we've never had a lot of luck with bottle kids.  It would be sad to lose another animal so soon.  I know people do it successfully, but we've never been able to.