Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More rain in the rainforest - go figure!

More rain. We did get our window of opportunity for a relatively dry walk this morning. That was nice. But it began to rain hard by late morning and has poured pretty much all day. It's still raining, well into the night. The fog is again as thick clam chowder without the chunks. It reminds of the toolie fog in the San Juaquin Valley of California, the stuff that causes multi-car pile ups on I-5 every winter. Yikes.
The neighbor warned us yesterday that we would probably hear some shooting. It seems the feral pigs have been wreaking havoc in his yard, just generally rooting around and tearing things up. He had had enough. We did hear the shots. They were very loud. Don't know, however, if he actually got one or more of them or simply scared them off. We haven't seen them in our yard, but the dogs have heard them and bark when they do. That, I think, keeps them at a distance from our house.
Speaking of dogs, Doc is due for a few vaccinations, so he will visit his new vet tomorrow for the first time. He will be a complete and total basket case. He is such a psycho-nut. I'm just counting on surviving the drive with my hearing and nerves still in tact. I suspect he will bark and talk all the way there and shake like a quaking aspen in fear once we arrive. He is seven now but has not mellowed a bit. Still whacko. But he is pretty.....
More later. It's time for some chicken wings and a log in the woodstove to ward off the dampness of the night. Aloha!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sarcastic island humor... And a little more....

I saw a couple of pretty funny bumper stickers yesterday. They didn't exactly exude the aloha spirit, but they made me chuckle. One said, "Welcome to Hawaii. Now go home." That one reminded me of one that became popular in Oregon during the first wave of California immigration in the late 1970s, when real estate prices went through the rough in the Golden State and people began cashing out and moving north to the Beaver State. It said something like "Welcome to Oregon. We don't care what you look like, as long as you look like you're leaving."
The second sticker I saw here (on the same car, mind you) said, "Aloha also means goodbye." Finally, my favorite was, "How's my driving? Call 1-800-ainokea." What made that one even better was the fact that it was on a van with a big fat dent in the bumper.
It's raining today. Yes, it rains pretty much every day. But today, it's really raining, without any let up so far. In fact, it's been raining constantly and steadily since about 8:00 last night. At times, the rain changed from steady to deluge. The catchment tank is overflowing. We skipped our walk this morning. A little rain would have been fine, but pouring makes for a very soggy stroll. I'm hoping it lets up a little this afternoon. All we need is a one hour window....
We learned yesterday that, just like we can hear our neighbors immediately downhill from us clearly when they are outside, so can our neighbors just uphill hear us. That means, when the conversation gets lively on our lanai, they can eavesdrop on the whole thing. That bugs me. Not that we have any real fights or incriminating discussions or anything. It just feels like an invasion of privacy. There are lots of trees between us. We can't see them, but they can hear us. So we'll try planting a dense row of bamboo in addition to what's already there to see if that helps. The bamboo grows very tall. Another option is to build a wall, but that's not likely. Hmmmm..... it's a dilemma.
We drove down to the other end of Glenwood to check out the neighborhood down there. Turns out, we live on the relatively civilized end. The other end, which actually turns and becomes Jungle King Road, is primitive. Very primitive. There a few people totally living off the grid down there, and off the land, too. They are off the grid, but with no alternative energy source that I could see. I don't think they have electricity or phone or running water. There are also a number of tiny, homemade dwellings down there. Most are unpermitted. They're little 200-400 square foot shacks, really that private shelter for someone, usually a free spirit, his dog and a few chickens. There were also plenty of junked cars being reclaimed by the forest. There's really no place to take old cars here. No place cheap, anyway. So many are dumped in the rainforest. Amazingly, an old jeep that had been sitting at a pull out along the highway for literally years, with no top and no tires or wheels left, was finally removed completely. I guess the county finally got as tired of looking at it as the rest of us. Either that or somebody came along, saw a use for it and took it.
It's not uncommon to see homes being reclaimed by the rainforest as well. It does not take long for a house left abandoned and untended to become completely overgrown by the jungle, with foliage and vines completely engulfing it.
In America, we often think of the poor as being urbanized. We see them living in public housing tracts in run down, crime infested parts of cities. But America also has it's rural poor. You'll see it in Appalachia. You'll see it in small farm towns throughout the country. You'll see it on Indian reservations. And you'll see it in Hawaii. The contrast here is stark because of the huge, clear and visible gap between the haves and have nots. White, baby-boomer haolis moving here from places like California, cashing in on the real estate boom there, buying or building big homes on large parcels of land, driving up the cost of housing and making it virtually impossible for locals earning wages in a service-oriented economy to buy or even rent a home. Some people say higher wages are the answer. When the median home price soars to more than $600,000 (Oahu) the median wage would have to soar to $200,000 per year to match that. Not gonna happen. The home prices are soaring, not because local people are suddenly flush with cash, but because people from California and elsewhere are. Some say build more homes to increase supply over demand and drive down prices. Again, when the price of homes is driven by people coming in from outside the community with that much money, and the supply of those people comes from a generational pool larger than any in history (boomers) you can build all you want and the demand will still outstrip supply. You'll simply have more homes on the market that only those moving here from elsewhere can afford. There are plenty of those people, so those homes will be sold, for top dollar. The housing boom will have to crash elsewhere before it really has an impact here. That's my theory and I'm stickin' too it! The national housing boom does seem to be slowing a bit now, so we'll see. The only real immediate remedy is for government to step in and mandate the building of affordable, essential, workforce housing. Clearly, the market isn't supplying it, despite the demand for it. Shoots. Why would a builder construct condos to sell for $150,000 when he can sell them all before they're even built for $400,000? So, other forces will have to make that happen. Why bother? Because every human deserves a good roof over their head. It's that simple. It's a moral obligation. It's also a matter of sanitation. It is not good for anybody, the homeless or the wealthy, to have hundreds or thousands of families living in tents in public parks, with limited facilities. More and more, those people are not just drug addicts and alcoholics, lazy bums or mentally ill. More and more, they are working families who have lost their housing and have nowhere else to go. Homelessness, regardless of the cause, is also not good business. The spirit of Aloha is dampened, to say the least, for people who spend lots of money to travel to paradise, (wether that paradise is Hawaii, Florida or California) only to share the parks with people and their tents and vans and laundry and trash. I also believe that the majority of that housing should promote ownership, not rentals. If people can actually own their homes, they will be more likely to take care of them and to participate as full fledged members of their communities. Statistics have shown that when rental units in high crime areas are made available to people to own at reasonable prices, crime rates go down. Of course, there must be some rentals. I'm just a proponent of home ownership. It is for many, after all, still the ultimate American dream.
So there you have my two cents worth on housing. I'm not sure how I got there from "It's raining...." Oh well. Nothing like a good ramble.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Here are a few photos of the furballs, flora and fauna. First, these orchids are growing right out of the base of a Hawaiian Tree Fern. Next is Abner, gettin' cozy on the lanai.
He's followed by the three stooges: Crawford, Doc and Hopps. lounging on the lawn.
Finally, it's Ron going bananas!
I'll post more soon, so be sure to check back for the latest update. Aloha!

Nap time

It's nap time in the Todd-Niederpruem household. The sound of soft snoring can be heard through our not-so-soundproof, uninsulated walls. It's a nice sound. More of a purr than a snore, really.
Here's a weird phenomenon. Any cat experts out there, please feel free to help explain this one. Abner, by boy, and Mr. Sox, the big bruiser tom cat who came with the house, don't get along very well. That's to be expected. Both are fixed. Abner has declared the inside of the house for himself. Mr. Sox, the outside. The lanai seems to be neutral territory, as the two will sit peacefully out there with us. Anyway, for the second time in the past few days, we've heard kitty fisticuffs, followed by Abner coming home covered with poo. Yuck! He hates it! So do I. It seems Mr. Sox is actually pooping on him somehow to make his point, that under the house is his turf. Is this common? I've never heard of it or seen it, but then I've never had two tom cats trying to share a household before.
Abner gets along well with Lucy, the little female calico who came with the house. And she and Mr. Sox act like an old married couple.
Lucy is very afraid of the dogs. She runs at the slightest glimpse of them, which prompts them to chase her. If she'd just sit still, they would give her a good sniff and be done with it, but she doesn't quite get that yet. Mr. Sox, on the other hand, commands their respect. They give him all the space he requires.
Yes, with three dogs and three cats, we have quite the menagerie here. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

How dark can it get?

Last night gave me a whole new understanding of just how dark dark can be; just how black the blackest night; just what zero light looks like. There was no moon. The house was enshrouded with a heavy misty fog that lowered visibility with a light down to about 10 feet. With the lights off, that visibility was zero. Even the cats, with their giant pupils, seemed a bit spooked. They stayed close to the house, taking advantage of the glow from the windows.
There are no street lights here on Glenwood Rd. So when the moon is hiding, it's dark. Really dark. Hold-your-hand-up-a-centimeter-from-your-face-and-not-see-it dark. We can't see our neighbors lights through the foliage from here, so the darkness gives a profound feeling of isolation. When a light it shined, it illuminates the mist as a white haze, obscuring the surrounding forest. It's all very cool.
Ron and I went to a beach park in Hilo yesterday. It's a shallow, protected lagoon with a sandy bottom, perfect for swimming. A green sea turtle caught the eye of a couple visiting from Minnesota. I marveled along with them at the docile, contented creature. Ron was too much of a whimp to swim with me. The water was a little chilly. When it started to rain I was unphased. He, on the other hand, found it tough to continue lounging with a magazine along the shoreline. He whined about getting wet while waving me in. So, we boogied off for a beer an Hale Inu (or something like that), a tiny open-air bar we discovered our first week here. Then it was off to Ocean Sushi Deli. It's not our favorite sushi establishment in town, but it's good and very reasonably priced, so we could pig out for less.
This morning was a stark contrast to last night, with bright sunshine and blue sky. This afternoon, however, is shaping up to be foggy and drizzly again. We're staying in and whipping up some chicken for dinner.
There are two rabbits living on our street. They are very cute. I was surprised when I saw them. I had been lead to believe there were no rabbits in Hawaii. I've recently learned that they are illegal. So I'm debating on whether or not to call the authorities to report the sighting. There are only two of them, and I think they are pets and hang out in one general area. There are no other rabbits with which they could possibly mate. For all I know, they are fixed or the same sex and cannot mate with each other, either. I think I'll try to find out who cares for them, if anyone, before making a report. What do you think?
I'm getting a bit bored and am anxiously awaiting my tractor. Once I get some mowing accomplished, I can begin the planning and planting of my mini-farm. Until then, it's a good book and the Olympics. They like to show Curling during the day. While I do respect those athletes and their mastery of an ancient game, it's not the most riveting television. Brooms and rocks on ice just don't cut it as must see TV.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Stink eye; comments from the Mainland

I've heard a few comments lately, from people concerned that Ron and I will settle in here, only to be ostracize. They fear that because we are white and a minority, we will not fit in and will be treated as unwelcome outsiders. They say they've known people who moved here and had that experience. Those people have since moved back, having acquired a bitter taste for Hawaii.
So far, we have experienced only limited "stink eye" as they say here. No more so than if we'd walked into the wrong bar in any city USA and found we did not match the typical clientele. In fact, with the exception of one cranky, overworked haoli waitress, everyone has been as friendly as can be. The neighbors we've met so far have all been welcoming and nice, more than willing to talk story for a while if you happen to pass by when they are out in their yards. I'm sure we won't become best friends with everyone we meet, but I also trust there will be plenty of people we encounter who we'll find we really like and who really like us. My personal belief is that if you are friendly with people and treat them with respect, they will more often than not, do the same in return. My theory is that those haolis that have moved from the mainland and had bad experiences were not as open as they might have been to people of different cultures and backgrounds than themselves. There are no doubt many who live in the islands who resent the invasion of their homeland from afar. That's no different from many mainlanders who dislike the wave of immigrants coming to their towns. The bottom line, in my mind anyway, is that if you choose to play nice with others, they will, in turn, play nice with you.
Today, we began our mini farm with an experience in herbs. I planted several of my favorites in small pots. We'll see how they grow. I also wacked a bunch of bananas from the tree today. They are a bit small. I'll wait longer before harvesting the next bunch.
There are some public hearings to discuss such riveting topics as community planning and solid waste management coming up in the next few weeks. I plan to attend to get a feel for the dynamics of such meetings here. Who knows. Maybe I'll even kick in my two cents worth of comments. I'll be sure to report on my impressions in this very

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Toni's rainforest blog

Trubiute to Uncle Ernie
Aloha- It's another beautiful day in paradise. A sad one, however, as last night, I learned that my uncle Ernie has passed away. He was a kind, generous, softspoken, hard-working man, much loved by many. He had many talents, too. Ernie could build a computer or install a garage door with equal expertise and skill. Along with his wife, Elise, he raised four lovely children - my cousins - who will carry his spirit with them always. You can see a lot of Ernie in all of them. They are all among the best humans you will find anywhere on this earth, raising fine families of their own. My heart goes out to them all, especially my aunt Elise. She has lost her soul mate. I only hope she can take comfort and strength in the fact that she had such a long, happy marriage with such a good man.
I know my dad, Ernie's brother, is feeling profound sadness today. He and his brother were close as kids and that closeness never waned, dispite geographic separation. Dad always admired Ernie, always looked up to him, always knew that he'd be there for him if ever he needed a helping hand.
So in tribute to Uncle Ernie, I say let's all strive to be just a little more like him in our daily lives. Be inquisitive. Read and learn something new. Tinker. Lend a hand. Be kind. Be generous. Smile. The world is now a worse place for his passing, but it's a better place for his influence. Rest in peace, Uncle Ernie!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fledgling post

Aloha and welcome to my hawaiian rainforest blog. It does rain oddles here on the windward flanks of Mauna Loa, but not always. In fact lately it's been beautiful. We're settling into our island home, getting used to the nuances and quirks of the place. The neighborhood is eclectic. On our road, there are small cattle ranches, a couple that raises lambs, a lettuce farmer, lots of chickens, a few goats and one large pig that I suspect will one day become family bacon. We'll order up the tractor this week and within the season should be clearing the six-foot tall, viney cane grass that dominates large portions of the property. Meanswhile, we're fertilizing and liming citrus trees and getting the pets acclimated to their new tropical home. It's actually been - dare I say it in February - a little chilly these nights, with temps dipping into the low 50s. It's prompted Ron to fire up the wood stove to take the chill off in the evenings and early mornings.
I'll add photos and more information later. Until then, mahalo for checking out my blog and I'll look forward to your additions.