Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Flimsy shelves, ulu and a mountain view

OK so I lied. I didn't go the the Puna farmers' market. Actually, I did go, but I got there too late. Apparently, if you don't pull in before noon, you'll find, as I did, that all the vendors have pulled out. So, I went to the Hilo farmers' market instead to pick up plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. I even bought a breadfruit, or ulu, something you don't see at the market very often these days. It's the large, bumpy green orb with white streaks you see in the picture above. The ulu is still a staple among many Polynesian people in the south pacific, but not many people eat it here in Hawaii anymore. When we were here on vacation some years back, I bought one and asked a Hawaiian man how to cook it. He told me; just carve off the out rind, which is bumpy and green, cut the pale yellow, squash-like flesh into chunks, boil it until it's soft, mash it up, season with butter and salt and eat it. I did. Yum! They are a kind of sticky, starchy consistency, like a sweet potato. I think that, when it came to breadfruit, Captain Bligh was right. OK, he wasn't right about it catching on around the world and making a fortune selling them, but he was right about the taste. I like 'em anyway. I was delighted to see this one on Saturday and snapped it up. I'll eat it tonight with some roast chicken.
Yesterday was a rare, beautiful, sunny day, so I drove up to the Volcano golf course just to check it out. That's where I snapped this second picture. That innocuous dome you see in the background is not just any pile of dirt. It is Mauna Loa, the most massive mountain on earth. It's impressively tall too at over 13,000 feet above sea level. Mauna Loa has been Pele's second home during the past few years. She lives full time lately at Kilauea, the mountain just to the southeast of Mauna Loa and the place where all of the recent volcanic activity on the island has taken place. But she visits Mauna Loa frequently. It's still active, as evidenced by large lava flows all over the southern part of the island. A hot, molten flow from Mauna Loa came to within four miles of the city of Hilo in the the mid '80s before it stopped. Whew!
There is a bit of a gentrified neighborhood around the golf course, where people were jogging and walking their dogs yesterday afternoon. But the favorite residents are the nene birds. Nene, or Hawaiian geese, are an endangered, endemic species. They exist nowhere else in the world. One theory is that a few ancient descendents of Canada geese made their way to the islands thousands of years ago. They stayed and evolved over time, adapting to the island environment. That environment was void of predators, so the geese were unafraid when the first humans came here. Those people found the geese to be easy pickings. Later, after Captain Cook's arrival, the people, feral cats, rats and later mongoose wreaked havoc on the nene population. Nene are smaller that Canada geese black and white stripes on their necks. The have very little webbing in their feet. That's because, unlike mainland geese, they don't swim much. Instead, they walk. The nene hike around on the craggy lava. They also spend time hanging at the links of the Volcano Golf and Country Club.
At the end of the same road that passes through the golf course is the Vocano Winery. They actually grow some grapes there and make a handful of respectable fruit and honey wines.
This morning, I'm waiting for Wayne. Wayne is the tractor dude who is suppose to return my repaired John Deere. He was suppose to bring it last week, but he forgot. I gave him a friendly reminder message yesterday. He's not here yet. I'll give him a little longer....
Yesterday was also a day to remember that, most of the time, you get what you pay for. I purchase some cheap shelves at Walmart. As soon as I began the assembly process, I realized they were cheap for a reason. The picture on the box showed two options; one with the shelves built as a single, tall unit; another with them split into two shorter units. It wasn't long after putting stuff on the shelves that I realized my choice to go tall was a mistake. With very little weight, the shelves began to list. Luckily, I was there when they decided to topple over and was able to catch them before then landed on the truck. With my shoulder holding them up, I performed contortions to get the stuff off the shelves and to then unassembled them. I put them back together in two segments, shorter and sturdier. They're still cheesy. Like I said, you get what you pay for. The stuff in the carport is now off the floor and on the shelves, which was the goal. I also pounded nails and hung all the garden tools. It was a pretty productive morning.
It still remains to be seen how productive today will be. Until next time, aloha.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Off to the market

Yesterday's adventure at the driving range was, I must say, pretty satisfying. I haven't hit a golf ball in years. The last time occured at the Dos Rios course in Gunnison, when Ron's uncle Ellery came to visit. That was the fall of 2001 I think. Ellery was 84 at the time and kicked our buts. So imagine my delight when the first ball I hit went 200 yards and dead straight. Of course, I hit a few clunkers, a couple of slices and a few more hooks also, but for the most part, I was stiking 'em pretty well for being so rusty. The Hilo municipal golf course is the best bargain around. For $40 you can play unlimited golf for a month. Or, if you just want to play one round, I think it's a whopping $15 for Kama'aina and $27 for visitors.
Today I'm headed for the Puna market. I'll take the camera, so tune in the next few days to see a photo. It's actually not raining right this very moment. Instead, it's hot and humid. But it's better than rain. I limed and fertilized all the planted fruit trees and if the weather cooperates for one more day, I'll plant the remaining trees tomorrow. I've got a clove, a cinnamon, a star fruit and a dwarf banana left to get out of their bags and into the ground.
The pooches are sacked out. They lasted about 10 minutes outside with me before wanting to come back in and lay in front of fans. It's not that hot, really, but they are unaccustomed to the humidity.
I did a little research on rainfall totals around the country, just to get a bead on how much we get as compared to other places. Tillamook County, Oregon, renowned for both it's cheese and it's rainfall, located along the western flanks of the Coast Range, gets an average of 88 inches per year. That's wet. Seattle, also known as a pretty rainy place, get's close to 40 inches. Eugene, Oregon - nearly 50 inches. Miami gets 50 inches also. Los Angeles- 13 inches. Mountain View, Hawaii - 168 inches! So there you have it. If you are a mold spore, you will love it here!
Meanwhile, they're talking draught again back in my old home town of Gunnison, Colorado. One rancher has already placed a call on junior water users there to be sure he has enough to irrigate his pasture. Even though they received a lot of early winter snow, the late winter was dry and the runnoff is happening a little too fast with an exceptionally warm and windy spring.
Well alrighty then. I'll let ya'all know how good the Puna market is. Until then, Aloha!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Vog and ginger

Aren't these beautiful? They just popped up in the grass next to a tree in my yard the other day. I think they are some sort of ginger, but they are unusual in that the flower sprouted straight out of the ground just like this. Usually ginger flowers grow on established stalks. Quite literally, there were nowhere to be seen one day and in full bloom, just like you see them here, the next.
The trade winds have died down the past few days, prompting the vog to settle in. Vog is volcanic smog, created from current Kilauea eruption. Usually, it is sent aloft and to the west to create a constant haze over Kona. Not today. I had a chat with a neighbor this morning who said that there was once a baby vegatable farmer on our road who supplied many of the local restaurants and small market with greens. The vog was his undoing. As rarely as we experience it here, when we do, it burns the leaves of vegatables, turning them brown. She said she sold spinach to Cafe Pesto for awhile, only to have them switch to a Waimea supplier because she would not be able to come through for them whenever the vog was prevalent. I would love to have found a little house like mine on five acres in the Waimea area, but it would have cost about three times as much money there. So, we're here. Anyway, my neighbor said even in her greenhouse, the vog would burn her spinach leaves. That totally sucks. Fruit trees, however, and trees in general, seem unaffected by the vog. The neighbor said she has three coffee trees that are thriving and that coffee once dominated the North Glenwood area. Aparently, a blight of some sort wiped them out many years ago and nobody's made a serious attempt to replace it here since.
I heard a coqui frog last night. It sounded like he was somewhere just up the road, maybe across the street and up a house or two. There was only one, but at 10,000 eggs a lay, that could change quickly. I'll listen again tonight at dusk to see if I still hear him. We heard two about three weeks ago, but they disappeared so we assumed someone snapped them up or sprayed them. We are, geographically, very close to the Volcanoes National Park border, a place I know does not want coquis. So we should be able to get some help, what with the USDA now swooping in to help eradicate what has now been officially designated as a pest. I've seen their trucks around at lower elevations.
I'm headed to the driving range today. I haven't hit a golf ball in a couple of years, so the results could be interesting.
My adopted kitty cat, Mr. Sox, is still struggling with his goopy eyes. He's been taking antibiotics for weeks now, to no effect. He's now so gun shy of the medicine or whatever treatment I might administer to him that he simply runs whenever I come near. So I think I'll have to just give him a rest, with several days of no medicine, before I start the next round. Poor guy. The vet wants to try antihistimine too, to see if it's an allergy. We're hoping it's not viral, since that would be even more difficult to treat. Dogs are so easy compared to cats. Just stuff a pill into a hot dog or piece of cheese and they gobble it down. Not cats. If they even suspect you've doctored their food, they'll refuse to take a bite. Mr. Sox really is a big sweetie. He's beginning to leave the dogs alone and even he and Abner are coexisting peacefully most of the time.
I'm off to the range. Wish me luck making some contact with the little white buggah. Aloha.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Papaya lovin' pooch

I've learned a few things since moving to Hawaii. One is that my dog, Doc, loves tropical fruit. He enjoys bananas but goes positively bananas over papaya. He can smell it the moment I cut one open from the opposite end of the house and comes prancing in to see if he can score a taste. What a big goofball.
Why is it that we can go bananas, but we never go apples or grapes or oranges. We go cookoo for cocoa puffs, but I think that's different....
I've also learned that, when it rains in the tropics, it's just too warm for a raincoat. Walking three dogs requires both hands, so an umbrella is out of the question. I've been pondering the idea of a hands-free umbrella. I know I would have a use for one, so maybe others would too. Until then, I'll just get wet.
I learned recently too that my old, reliable Purple Trooper is on it's last legs and won't we worth transporting to Hawaii. That's not something I learned because I'm in Hawaii. It's just something I learned in general. Anyway, I guess it's time for a new vehicle. That is exciting, I'll admit. Still, I love my old truck, scratches, dog hair and all.
I learned that Sunday is the best day to swim at the Sparky Kawamoto pool. There were maybe two other people there with me yesterday and much of my swim was spent in the pool by myself. A 50 meter, Olympic-sized pool was all mine, complete with a lifeguard on duty. The great thing about starting a swim fitness regimen in a new town is that nobody know me here. So I am in no way self conscious about pouring my beached whale of a body into a suit and going to a public pool. I don't care what these people think. Some of them are just as fat as I. In Gunnison, land of the hard-bodies, extreme sports capital of the globe, even the senior citizens are buff. So there was no way I was going to the college pool there and risk being seen by someone I know. No way. OK maybe in a full body wet suit....
My shoulders are a bit sore. I haven't swum (is that right? Here we go again... swim, swam, swum?) serious laps like this since college. Before that it was junior high. You can tell how long ago that was by the fact that I went to a junior high, not a middle school.
I've learned that you should be careful what you wish for. It might come true. In Gunnison, a dry place where water is scarce and people sometimes feud over what's theirs or their neighbors, folks, including me, often wish and even pray for enough moisture to keep the hay meadows green, the household spigots flowing, the rafts running on swollen rivers and the fish cool and happy. Some years those wishes come true in gunny. Other years, the prayers go unanswered. So I've moved to the rainforest where there seems, right now at least, to be way too much of that particular good thing. That said, the cracks in my finger tips have all healed since moving here. My nose rarely bleeds. My lips aren't always chapped. The crows feet are a little less defined and obvious. Here, I never have to water my lawn. Nobody in my neighborhood even owns a sprinkler. It's wet, to say the least. And cloudy and grey. My towel does not dry in a few hours after I've used it out of the shower. A few days, maybe, but not a few hours. Algae grows on the driveway and on the side of the house. Tiny heating elements are required in closets to keep them dry enough to prevent clothes from molding. We keep a dehumidifier in the office to protect the computer equipment. It sucks 50 pints of water out of the air in a tiny, 8x10 room every two days or so. In Gunnison, we occasionally used a humidifier to put moisture into the air.
And yet, some things are the same. My neighbors have cattle. They never have to put up hay to feed them in the winter. There's always plenty of grass for grazing. No public land allotments or putting up bales or piles for the winter. No winter at all, really. Of course, you'd never know it to see the locals here. They're wearing overcoats and sweaters and sometimes even hats whenever the temperature dips below about 72 degrees.
Those are all the musings I have in me today. Until next time, aloha.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Novelty wearing off?

I am beginning to feel my normally cheery self slipping away. The rain is beginning to get to me. I expected it to rain here. I did. I thought I was fully prepared.

I also vowed to give this place a fair chance. But it has now been nearly five months, and it is still raining. Except for the first week I was here and fewer than a handful of days that were partly sunny, it's rained. Shoot, even Lewis and Clark knew, when they were holed up at Fort Clatsop enduring the longest, wettest winter of their lives, that Spring would come eventually. Here on the east side of Hawaii Island, I am not so sure. Now, I've always thought of myself as someone who loves the rain. I love the way it seems to freshen the world. I grew up in a place that gets plenty most years. But there's a far cry from 40 or 50 or 60 inches a year and 140 plus inches. Here, we never get that "just after a good rain" smell. That's because it's always raining, so there's no basis for comparison. If it rains here all summer and I lose my summer by having moved to Hawaii (what irony, huh?) then I will have to seriously reconsider my location. Moving to the other side of the island is out of the questions since the cost of housing there is way out of our price range.
I think the worst thing about it is, on those rare days when the sun does peak through the omnipresent cloud cover, we feel compelled to work around the yard rather than go to the beach or the park. So we never really get to enjoy where we are. And if that's just the way it is, why be here? I might enjoy it more if I simply came here for vacation once or twice a year.
I'm even getting sick of the music they play on the local all Hawaiian radio stations. Some of it is really exceptional. There are local artists here who are talented, for sure. But the really good stuff is played sparingly, in between hours of Jawaiian, Paniolo and incredibly cheasy pop tunes. Where the hell is Jawaii, anyway? Jawaiian is just local artists playing raggae music with a Hawaiian slant. And that slant is slight, to be sure. They even sing with a Jamaican accent, (Yeah, mon)which is weird, since they have their own island accent that sounds nothing like the Caribbean. Paniolo, or cowboy music, is Hawaiian country & western. Oddly, it too is sung with a bit of a southern twang. Neither are done particularly well. Then there are those really corny local pop songs like "Big Island Ladies." The chorus goes like this: "I like those B-I-G Island ladies (Big Island ladies)Those sexy body girls they drive me crazy (they drive me crazy)..." That is probably the most requested song around her right now. Or "Your body's just like a Chevy...." Ron likes to sing along to that one with me in the car. They also play a lot of cover tunes performed by island artists. Some are good. Not all. It's about 80 percent bubblegum crap that's all been done before, better. The 20 percent that's good, however, is really good.
If it rains tomorrow, I will have no choice but to jump in the car and drive to the sun. The vitamin D supplements aren't quite cuttin' it. I think I'm beginning to experience the early onset of rickets. Aloha!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Oh my darlin', oh my darlin' oh my darlin'......

Clementine.... You are planted in my garden, sweet and jui-cy Clementine. Yesterday was a beautiful day. (Hey, one day out of every three weeks ain't bad, right?) So, we planted a few fruit trees. One was a Clementine tangarine tree. Another, a yellow grapefruit. The third, a Grey Abiu. A what, you ask? We did too. About two weeks ago, we went to the twice-a-year fruit tree sale at Plant It. It's a place renowned for its quality, grafted trees. They usually only sell wholesale to commercial growers. But twice a year, they open to the public. Anyway, there was a tree there, the Abiu, that was all but sold out when we got there. They'd had a run on them, so we figured they must be either very pretty or very tasty. We were assured they were both and that the tree would grow at our altitude in our rain. We bought the second to the last one. We also bought a cinnamon tree, a clove tree, a star fruit and a dwarf banana, which we have yet to plant. That'll happen in about three weeks, when I anticipate the next sunny day.
I've learned a few things this week. The most obvious is that planting fruit trees in water-logged soil is a chore. Digging a whole in wet, compacted dirt is hard work. The good news is that we have that dirt. Not everyone on this island is so lucky. This district is a mixture recent lava flows and not so recent. So some people have nothing but rock below them, while others have deep, rich, volcanic soil. When you see cheap land prices advertised in the Puna District of Hawaii Island, you can be confident it is little more than solid rock. Still, if your not looking to grow much or can afford to truck in some topsoil,it might be OK. If, that is, you are willing to risk the possibility (or should I say probability) of another lava flow.
The second thing I learned is that a really good pharmacist can make tuna flavored antibiotics for a cat. Poor Mr. Sox has been struggling with a nasty eye infection, so the vet changed antibiotics and sent me home with a bottle and a syringe to feed him. I was either suppose to mix it with his food or inject it down his throat. Oddly, it was strawberry flavored. The smell was so strong and sweet I could hardly stand it, so I knew he would hate it. Sure enough, he wouldn't touch it in his food and, after being force fed the stuff three times, wouldn't come near me. I don't blame him. No self-respecting cat is going to even entertain the idea of consuming strawberry flavored anything. So we appealed to the vet for something different. They called the hospital pharmacy and viola! Tuna flavored, concentrated medicine. Now he gobbles it up in his food. We joked with the pharmacist about how we dote over and spoil our pets and he assured us we are not alone. He said he's made beef and chicken flavored medicine and even oat and molasses flavoring for a horse. Cool.
Ron is whipping up a batch of sweet bread french toast for breakfast and it is smelling good. So,gotta go. Wikiwiki. Aloha!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Crawford's new doo

Crawford got a haircut the other day. I did my usual hack job on her. Ah, but if anyone can pull off this "look" she can. Cute, huh? She seems pretty pleased with herself.
The rain just keeps on falling. Even the long time Kama'aina are complaining. Long timers, some born and raised on the island, are pining for the sun. Some have said they are ready to move to the mainland. The ground is so soggy it will take days to dry out once the rain finally stops. Needless to say, here has been no landscaping, mowing or planting at our place. No matter. The tractor is in the shop. Mechanics say it's a slight leak in the mower deck hydraulic line. That's why it lowers itself as you drive along.
Flash flood warnings had folks living in low-lying areas of East Hawaii moving to higher ground last week. They put out warning messages here that advise drivers not to proceed through large puddles. "Turn around. Don't drowned," says the ominous voice. If there was only some way to capture all this water and send it to places in the world that need it....
Hawaii has just repealed its infamous gas cap. It will be interesting to see just how much faster gas prices climb now that the restriction has been lifted on wholesale prices. To make all you mainlanders feel better, the price of gas in Hilo this week is $3.51 per gallon.
Despite the highest prices for gas in the nation, drivers here don't seem detered from their daily excursions. The mall parking lot was jammed yesterday, as it is every day, and traffic was heavy dispite the rain and cost of fuel. So people were not only driving, but shopping. That would indicate to me that we have a long way to go before the price of gas is high enough to actually change people's behavior. It just doesn't hurt badly enough yet, I think. Oh sure, a few people have likely switched to mass transit where it's available or have begun to car pool. But not enough people are doing that yet to make a significant impact on prices, what with more than oodles of newly prosperous Chinese and Indians ditching their bicycles and sandals and buying cars (and therefore gas) for the first time. I read recently as that sales of Escalades and Navigators, two of the biggest gas guzzlers made, are UP. Folks who can afford $50,000 for SUVs are apparently unaffected by high gas prices. Meanwhile, the people of Europe are laughing themselves silly, I suppose, over us Americans, whining about $3 per gallon gas when they are paying twice that.
On a positive note, I've discovered an amazing community swimming pool in Hilo. My old pals in Gunnison would drool at the sight. It's the Sparky Kawamoto swim stadium, a full, 50 meterslong, 25 yards wide, complete with platform diving. It's partially covered but not completely enclosed. Those sitting in the bleachers will stay dry, but the center of the roof is open and lets the rain right in. The walls are open, too. Pretty cool. I've been twice and don't think I've actually ever swum (Is that right? Swim, swam, swum?) in a full, olympic competition-sized pool. Fifty meters is a long-ass way. It's great. It even has hot showers and lockers. The stadium is open for lap swimming every day. Best of all is the price; it's FREE.
That's all for today. I'd write more but I'm late in taking my vitamin D suppliments today. With all this rain and cloudiness, I can just feel the rickets setting in.Today, it's vitamin D. Tomorrow, it may be Prozac. Aloha!