Monday, June 26, 2006

Faster than you might think

Those of you who know me know I am not one who is known for her speed. "That Toni's got wheels" is not something anyone would ever say about me. I am reminded of my Deluxe softball days and, in thinking back, can still feel Tom Finocchiaro's hot breath on the back of my head, his hand gently but firmly pushing me in the back, trying to get me to run faster around the bases. Tom always batted cleanup. I was often up just before him and could be counted on for a single most of the time. I would get myself to first. Then Tom would hit me in with a colossal smash. Before I could reach second base, he was on my tail. That's how fast he was and how slow I was. "C'mon Toni," he would say from about one foot behind me. Sometimes he would even clip the backs of my heals with his toes. "Let's go! Keep going! You can do it. Run faster." If he'd only known how hard I was working to go that slowly.
On a tennis court, however, I do have wheels. In fact, I can be pretty quick if I don't say so myself. Tennis does not require sprinter's speed. It does require quickness. Snappy reflexes, decent footwork and getting an early bead on the direction of the opponent's ball are more important than miles per hour. So my stubby gams actually surprise people on the tennis court as I am able to get to a lot more balls than my opponent thinks I can. I think even the still-too-young-to-legally-drink instructor was impressed today as I chased down several of his shots, shots he actually hit all out just to see how we'd react. I hit them back. A couple I even hit back for winners.
I am now in excruciating pain. My right shoulder is aching and my left Achilles is tight as floss and swollen into a knot the size of a golf ball. I still have the skills, but the body parts aren't quite as resilient as they once were. Ah but no pain, no gain, right? A few more weeks of wailing on the ball and I should be feeling stronger. Either that or I will be experiencing intensive care at a local medical facility.
Ron has been a tilling and scooping fool on the tractor for the last few days. He's made a small but healthy dent in a giant, overgrown dirt pile on the property and has used that dirt to fill in some holes we discovered when we cleared a section out of the middle of the yard. The worst part of tilling is the amazingly strong and long grass strands that get entangled in the tiller. It takes about an hour of clipping and pulling to get it all out once the tractor's ready to call it quits for the day.
My mom tells me temperatures in the Great Pacific Northwest have topped 100 degrees for the past three days. Unbelievable. I remember getting a smattering of really hot days there every summer growing up, but never in June. August maybe, but never June. Thankfully, it's suppose to cool off tomorrow. Not many people there have air conditioning in their homes, so the reprieve from the heat will be very welcome. They oughta come to the tropics to cool off.
That's it for today. A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Feelin' skinny at the pool

Here is a picture of the happiest dog in the world. This is my Hoppsy. She's awesome. She is smart, funny and would make a respectable center fielder on any team. Even now, at the ripe old age of nearly 11, she can snag the tennis ball right out of the air. What a champ. Oh, and did I mention that she idolizes me and worships the ground I walk on. I've got to get one of those bumper stickers that reads, "I aspire to become the person my dog thinks I am."
The other day, while swimming alongside triathlon girl, I was feeling a bit frumpy. Today, I was a cross between Janet Evans and Heidi Klum, gorgeous and fast in the water. That's because on one side was an enormous woman who could not actually swim. Rather, she walked back and forth across the pool. I give her credit, though. At least she was there. On the other side of me was a snail's pace breast stroker who did not seem to want to get her hair wet. My freestyle stroke sent me past her like
an Olympic sprinter racing a granny with a walker. Wewhoo!
When I got home, Ron was making great progress on the tractor. Together, we not only got the lawn mowed and the edges trimmed but cleared another large patch of grass. Ron is pretty sore tonight. He hasn't exerted himself much at all for over a month. So he'll be hobbling around tomorrow.
Other than that, there's not much new. This weekend we're planning a big excursion; the two hour drive to Costco! Again... wewhoo! Aloha!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The trip from hell

It appears that Ron is experiencing the trip from hell. He was supposed to arrive in Hilo at 4:45 this afternoon after a long trip that took him to Colorado, Arizona and California. Instead, he was stuck at LAX for hours on end. He finally called to say that United would put him on a late afternoon flight and then arrange for a hotel in Honolulu since he would be arriving there far past the last departure to Hilo. He had a few other choice words about United. Apparently , there were hundreds of people stranded in Los Angeles, missing flights and connections. The lady standing in the line behind him was worried that her vacation would be over before she could get out of the airport. What a bummer. When he asked what was causing all the trouble, the gal behind the counter said, "It's summer." Hmmmm... Someone should buy the decision makers at United a calendar so they'll be able to see summer coming next time and can then prepare. Ron was in pretty good spirits, all things considered. I after so long waiting in lines and wandering around the airport the only thing you can do is laugh.
The new podcast is finally complete. Be sure to tune in. Just click on the link to the Hawaiian Rainforest podcast on this page, then on the Hawaiian Rainforest link on the following directory page. Or, search for Hawaiian Rainforest episode 3 on iTunes. You can actually subscribe to it there and it will download automatically for you when you log on to iTunes. I'll apologize here for the narration having a bit of an echo. It's the result of both the mic connection and the acoustics of the room. One day I'll break down and get a proper set up. I've included photos of the pool I've been bragging about (top), Hilo Bay near a place called the Ice Pond and a nice shot of Queen Liliuokalani Park. The park is supposedly the largest Japanese garden outside Japan. It's really a pretty place. At the bottom on the left is my psycho mutt, Doc. And in the final shot, see if you can spot the crab. Aloha!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Haolis in the mist

While the gentrification of North Glenwood Road is in progress, that progress is decidedly slow. We, of course, for better or worse, are a part of that process, being the middle class haolis from the mainland that we are, transplanted to the rainforest. And there are a handful of others I've seen. These are people who actually walk their dogs on leashes like I do; people who mow their lawns and landscape; people driving SUVs. I even saw a guy jogging the other day. But it's nowhere near complete - this middle-class haolification if you will - of the neighborhood. Not by a long shot. There are still plenty of places with rusted old cars overgrown with foliage. There are sagging car ports and dilapidated catchment tanks. For every spoiled pet pooch in the neighborhood there's a farm animal or guard dog tied out in someone's yard. There are homes with rows of chicken shelters covering the front lawn and no small number of makeshift structures that have seen better days and were obviously built without permits. Still, compared to South Glenwood Road, North Glenwood is Beverly Hills.
A couple of days ago, while taking our customary morning walk, the furballs and I happened upon two pickup truckloads of young men. They had pulled over at the entry to a pasture along the road. There were 8 or 10 of them, piling out of the beds and cabs of the trucks. I said hi and asked, "What's up?"
"We're going to kill a cow," one said.
"Be gentle, be quick, then bring me a steak, ok?" I responded. They all laughed. I wondered why it would take 8-10 guys to kill a cow. Seems like one guy with a well aimed shot from a pistol could do the job. I'm guessing they were not only going to kill the critter, but dress him out on the spot. Maybe they were up for some sport and planned to wrestle the hapless bovine. I had seen that very cow (although I think he was actually a steer) grazing in that very pasture. So I was a little saddened by the prospect of his demise. I am not a vegetarian, but I prefer not to have actually gazed into the eyes of the animal I'm about to chomp into between the buns of my burger.
That takes me back to childhood. When my grandfather died, we inherited two cows. Their names were Rosie and Lady. Rosie was sweet. While she had been a milk cow and bore many young, she was also a pet. Lady was an ornery, cantakerous beast with long horns and a surly disposition. We lived in a 1600 square foot tract home on a tiny lot in the suburbs. It was a nice house, to be sure, but would not accommodate farm animals. Keeping the cows in the garage was out of the question. My dad's boss came to the rescue, by offered his pasture. He owned 27 acres just outside town. Not long after we acquired the cows, Rosie gave birth. The calf was healthy, but poor Rosie was producing too much milk for him alone. My dad had to drive out to milk her every morning before work. My mom actually made butter using our Hamilton Beach blender. We had a freezer full of the stuff, formed into balls and wrapped in waxed paper. We also had way more milk than we could possibly drink. My dad liked it. He had been raised on whole cream straight from the cow. I, on the other hand, was a 2% homogenized and pasturized girl. The drive became tedious for my dad and the milk was overwhelming our tiny family. So dad bought another calf for Rosie. She adopted him immediately and produced enough milk for both babies. I immediately named the adopted calf Ralph. He was all black - an Angus - with big, brown eyes. Feeling bad, I asked my dad about naming the original calf. "What should we call him?" I asked.
"He already has a name," said dad. "His name is Food." Dad would not allow me to accompany him to the pasture after that. I guess he knew me pretty well. It was bad enough that we ultimately ate Food. Our neighbors ate Ralph.
I felt a little twinge when Mr. Pig (that's what we called the big black porker lounging in one neighbor's yard up the road here on North Glenwood) disappeared. I knew why he was there and I knew what happened to him when he was gone. Doc looked for him for days afterward as we'd pass his pen. Mr. Pig would sometimes charge the fence, getting the dogs to lunge and bark back. I think Mr. Pig was a bit bored there, all alone, day in and day out. Passing him became one of the highlights of our walk. Now, he's bacon. Maybe instead of calling him Mr. Pig, we should have called him Kevin? (Ha ha ha ha.....)
I got the chance to talk with a rancher up the road who I see nearly every day as I walk. He lives around the bend at the top of the road. He's a retired fireman from Honolulu who said he and his son had wanted to buy the property they now own for years, but the owner wouldn't sell. He described that owner to me as "a rich haoli guy." Anyway, the rich haoli guy had a change of heart a few years ago and sold them 102 acres for a song. They now run about 70 head of cattle and have a nice horse arena, too. It's a lovely spread. The fireman built his own house on the property. He is often accompanied by his three-year-old grandson. He's a nice guy. It feels good to have a fireman in the neighborhood, even if he is now a rancher.
I saw the biggest snail today I've ever seen. It's shell was the size of a baseball and it was sitting on a cement ledge at the transfer station. That's where we go to dump our rubbish. There's no trash pick up in these parts. It's really not as bad a chore as it sounds. When the can is full, I just pull the bag out, tie it up, throw it in the truck and drop it off on my way to town. Easy. And we don't have to remember to put all the trash out at the curb on trash day. Shoots. There is no curb anyway.
Of course, until we get county water and a sewer system, I don't see this place transforming into an upscale suburb any time soon.
(The picture you see here is our catchment tank. Rain water runs off the roof of the house and is siphoned into the tank. The pieces of wood you see hanging are tied on to hold the cover down more securely. The tank holds about 10,000 gallons and is almost always full to the top, regardless of how much we use.)
That's all for today. Tomorrow I plan to travel around with the camera, rain or shine, to take some more interesting pictures. Wish I'd gotten a shot of that snail today. Aloha!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Buns of steel? Not!

More like buns of blubber!
I started swinging a tennis racquet on Monday and running around a court again like a maniac. An old, fat maniac, but a maniac none-the-less. It was WAY fun. I really do love hitting tennis balls. I'm taking drill classes on Mondays and Thursdays. I happened upon a flyer posted to a downtown bulletin board advertising classes for kids, so I called the instructor on the off chance he might have something for adults. Voila! It's been a long while since I played regularly, so I peter out pretty fast. My butt is killing me! I haven't moved laterally like that in awhile. My butt and my shoulder and my forearm and hand from gripping the racquet - they're all letting me know they are alive and well but extremely sore for the moment. The pain should subside in a few weeks. And even if it doesn't, I don't really care. It's a blast. I'll just power down the Aspirin and keep on playing.
It rained pretty hard last night and continued throughout the the morning. It's dry for the moment but the clouds are ominous and dark, threatening to dump. The water tank has been replenished from above, so I took an extra long shower this afternoon. The days have been relatively dry for the last week, so I was able to clear a pretty large patch of ground. I also began to develop the same look that both my grandfathers used to sport. They each worked outside; Grandpa Todd was a ranch hand. Grandpa Steinberger was a farmer turned carpenter. Both had perpetually brown faces with white foreheads. They always wore hats.
Unfortunately the weather pattern seems to have shifted and I think we're in for another wet spell. Hopefully it won't be as wet as last February and March, a time during which I expected to see Noah and his gang of furry friends floating by the house at any time.
I found this orchid in my yard this week. Amazing, huh? It's in a pot along with a group of anthurium, near the catchment tank. I might never have noticed it without this bloom. The hibiscus (pictured on the left) gave us a flower yesterday, too. It's got several more buds just about ready to burst open. That should be pretty.
Mr. Sox's eye condition has not gotten any better. So, I have resumed his medication. He will no longer eat it mixed with food, so I have to grab him up and inject the liquid down his throat. It's tuna flavored, but still an unpleasant experience for him overall. He hates it, and he hates me for at least a few hours after each dose. He has become very wary of my approach, so I have to vary the time and location a little with each grab. It's usually unpleasant for me too, as I am bearing the scars of scratches from each administration of the medicine. We'll keep this up until the antibiotics are gone. That means my bloodletting will continue for at least another several days. If this doesn't help him kick this infection, I'll probably have to admit him to the kitty hospital for treatment. Poor guy. He really is a big sweetie. A little ornery, but a sweetie.
Abner no longer takes any shit from him, so he (Mr. Sox - seen here) is backing off a bit when it comes to terrorizing the new guy. In fact, the other day, Mr. Sox went after Hopps in the middle of the yard for no good reason other than that he felt like it. Abner didn't like that, and proceeded to chase Sox across the yard all the way back the he house. Abner was protecting his doggy sister. Pretty cool, huh?
Somewhat amazing too, considering that Mr. Sox outweighs Abby (perched on the table here next to the cat treats and my ukulele) by nearly five pounds. That may not sound like much until you consider that five pounds is almost half of Abner's entire body weight. They actually are getting along pretty well for the most part, with the exception of an occasional growl or hiss.
It's pouring again. Bummahs! Time to go. A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Quite a kick

Either I am the world's slowest swimmer, or the girl in lane next to me at the pool today has some kind of kick. She was actually kicking, with a kickboard, using only her legs, and propelling herself faster than I was swimming with all of my appendages combined. I am slow, that's for sure; probably the slowest swimmer in the world. Still, that was some kick. As it so happens, she is a triathlete, training for her next race. She hopes to compete in the Ironman next year. She looked fit and buff and was also very nice. OK, so people watching doesn't always make one feel better about one's physique. Looking around though, there were still a few people splashing about today who were chubbier than me.
The weather was warm and nice today. It's raining again tonight. That's just fine by me. It can rain every night for all I care. Just give me a little bit of sun sometime during the day. The weather man was reporting today's conditions as exceptionally hot with highs in Honolulu of 86 degrees. I think Hilo hit 82. It was warm, for sure, and the humidity makes it feel a little warmer, but it was really very pleasant.
Sitting in the office with me right now are Crawford, Hoppsy, Abner, Lucy and Mr. Sox. Mr. Sox is feeling a little overwhelmed and outnumbered, but he's hanging pretty peacefully. Doc is out on the lanai where it's a little cooler. He's been surprisingly quiet for about an hour now. Lucy is staring at the screen, watching the cursor go across.
It was a nice, lazy day. I picked up more produce at the Farmers' Market, some dog food at a local pet store and a paper at Hirano Store. We took our daily walk and hung out in the yard the rest of the day. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I'll be back in the tractor saddle. Aloha!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The cure for a case of woe-is-me

Let's say you're feeling a little down about your situation in life. Maybe work is a drag. Or you've put on a little weight. You're getting a little older and you don't like the additional lines you've noticed popping up on your face. Whatever your woe, I've got the cure. It's people-watching. That's right. Just spend a little time watching others and you will, in no time, feel better about yourself. The other day while filling a water jug at the Mountain View Store, I happened to get in a little people-watching by accident. My spot on the spigot afforded me the perfect view of the parade of low-lifes marching in and out of the tiny market. I watched one guy in utter amazement. He staggered out of the passenger seat of a car that had just pulled in and parked right in front of me. His hair was about shoulder length and brown, I think. It was hard to tell, since it had obviously not been washed in this century. Neither had his clothes. It was quite something to see him manage to actually propel himself forward, let alone remain upright, as he made his way into the store. I can't imagine how he was able to find his way once inside. He was about as blotto as a human being could be and not be comatose. When he re-emerged through the doorway a few moments later, he swaggered and swayed his way across the parking lot toward the gasoline bays. There, he plowed face first into a 2x4 plank sticking out the back of a truck that was filling up. He winced, looked around, bewildered, then patted the board almost apologetically as he cautiously made his way around it. The dude staggered out to the highway. When I drove by him, he held out a thumb on one hand while voraciously shoving a sandwich into his mouth with the other. No, I did not offer him a ride. He wasn't the only colorful character to visit the market in the 10 minutes I was there. Just the funniest, saddest and most pathetic. There was also the usual array of jittery tweekers, disillusioned tourists, macho monster truck drivers, working stiffs and more. It's a busy place for such a tiny store.
The very next day, while waiting to check out at the KTA (that's a local supermarket) I was followed in line by a woman too fat to actually walk the aisles. Her fanny spilled over the seat like large blobs of pahoehoe lava stopped in mid-air en-route to the floor. She rode an electric cart with a basket on the front. It was, of course, overloaded with food. Not long after she pulled up, her husband did the same. He too rode a cart, for the same reason. These people were immense. They each tipped the scales at 400 pounds or more if they weighed an ounce. Within moments, offspring appeared. They were ambulatory, but chips off the old blocks none-the-less. These youngsters were well on their way (or should I say weigh) to becoming their parents. The chubby kids, a girl and a boy, were about 10 and 12. I could only surmise that the folks had been at least a little bit thinner a decade ago. If they'd been as huge as they are now, I'm quite sure the little tikes would never have found their way into this world. I was disturbed with the idea that they were able to get things together to breed in the first place.
OK. That's enough musing at the expense of others. The point is that people-watching can help you see that, no matter how bad you think you've got it, there's someone else out there who's worse off. Probably much worse off.
Crawford and I went to the vet today. She has a weird squishy, irritated looking bulge between two of her toes. I was relieved to learn that it was just a cyst, possibly caused by a foreign body like a sticker or sliver or something she stepped on. "See that little puka there?" asked the Vet. "Oh yeah..." I observed. A tiny hole, a little oozy, could be seen in the middle of the strange growth. It's always better to hear the word cyst than some long, challenging word ending with "oma." Those omas are always bad. Crawford does get a little nervous at the vet, but she loves the ride there and especially the ride back. As always, the Vet and the techs fell instantly in love with her.
The weather was spectacular for two and a half days in a row. Wew-hoooo! So I fired up the tractor and cleared an itty bit more tall, thick grass from the property. Today, I wielded the push mower on the smaller sections of the yard on which the tractor would be overkill. Pushing the mower is a respectable workout; navigating the hills and under trees can result in the breaking of a serious sweat. It's actually great when you hit an old, buried lemon or tangerine with the blades while venturing under the fruit trees. The air is instantly filled with a fresh citrus scent.
Tonight, it's raining. The dogs are barking incessantly because the neighbor's dog is doing the same. It's all I can do not to dive into the jar of Jelly Bellies on the desk here in Ron's office. So I've flashed back on an image on those extra large shoppers and have decided it's time to log off and leave this room. How's that for willpower? Until next time, aloha!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Adventures on a Deere

Yesterday, I jumped on my newly repaired tractor, revved it up and proceeded out to the back 40 (OK, the back 4) to mow down more of the head high, gnarly grass overwhelming the property. I was cruising along nicely, making good progress, inch by inch, foot by foot, when --- whoa! I put it in reverse and nothing happened. The back wheels were spinning in the mud. No problem, I surmised. I'd had this happen before. Just lock the back hubs and power out. I tried it. The machine wouldn't budge. So I slammed the Deere into full four wheel drive. Still no go. Hmmmmm.... The front wheels were spinning too, but they did not seem to actually be touching anything. Turns out I had run them over a ledge, hidden well by vegetation, below which was a hole at least three feet deep. I tried a trick the tractor dude had taught us, whereby one lowers the loader to the ground and beyond, using it to lift the front wheels off the ground. When dropped all the way, the loader touched nothing. In fact, there was still at least a foot of air below it. My only recourse was to tow it out. I went to the hardware store and bought a chain adequate for pulling several thousand pounds and two bad-ass hooks, one for each end. I drove the SUV out to the site, hooked everything up and gave it a firm but gentle tug. As I looked in the rear view mirror, I saw the tractor budge, then roll. "Yay!" I said out loud to nobody. That elation quickly turned to dread when I realized that the Deere was on a slight slope, angled downward toward the SUV. I went from "yay" to "oh shit" as I saw the tractor, in neutral of course, keep on rolling toward the rear end of the Trooper. There was nothing I could do but sit there helplessly and wait for the impact. Bang! Luckily, the slope was gentle and the tractor rolled pretty slowly. The only damage was a nice scratch on the spare tire cover at the very back of the SUV. The tractor sustained no injury at all. After it was pulled from the hole, Lucy decided the Deere must be sitting out there for her amusement. She had a great time climbing all around. Here she is, sitting on top of the tiller (above).
I watched the annual Na Hoku Hanohano awards Wednesday night. They can best be described as the Hawaiian Grammies, although the real Grammies now have a Hawaiian music category. The Na Hokus recognize the best in music from the Islands. Watching the show renewed my appreciation for the music here. They often choose cheesy-but-popular over good when it comes to airplay. But there are plenty of talented artists around, making beautiful music in both Hawaiian, English and instrumental. Three of my favorites were big winners. Nathan Aweau won as both a solo artist and member of Hapa. His voice is simply beautiful and he plays a mean bass guitar. With Hapa and Barry Flanagan, the harmonies and strings are no ka oi as they say here. Da bes'. Jack Johnson, who has won national acclaim, took home a couple of awards too. Jack's awesome.
Last night I was blown away by the National Spelling Bee. Did you see it! Unbelievable! I couldn't spell half of those words. I was surprised to see that two of the words were of Hawaiian origin. I could spell those. Those kids renewed my faith in the youth of today. Those were some smart puppies with great, competitive spirit.
Earlier in the week, I scored some cheap lumber to build a raised vegetable box. My theory is that, although it rains a lot here, if I can encourage good drainage by raising everything up I can grow something besides fruit. I picked up some discarded siding boards from Home Depot's junk bin at 50 cents each. I built the box today. It's not perfect, but it's functional. Now I have to get some compost, soil, manure and sand to fill it up. The place I plan to put it is currently occupied by a big, dark toad. He was hiding under a piece of plywood that was laying there. I lifted the board and there he was. I tried to shoo him away, but he wasn't in the mood. I decided to wait and let him move on his own. Now that I've rousted him from his daytime hiding place, he will likely find the bright light and sun beating down on him a little too much to bear.
Yesterday, not long after the tractor fiasco, we (the dogs and I) saw an 'io, or Hawaiian hawk, soar overhead. It was spectacular, especially considering that the 'io, like many birds in Hawaii, is endangered. It's endemic to Hawaii and I think, to Hawaii Island.
As I type this, Crawford is lying next to my chair. I just looked down. She is fast asleep, having one of those rabbit-chasing puppy dreams. Her paws are wiggling like crazy. I think she's gonna catch him! That scwewy wabbit!
Until next time, aloha!