Sunday, July 30, 2006

A little more rain for good measure

The past several days have been more wet than dry, with the past two all wet. In fact, we were cranking up the volume on the TV to hear it over the sound of the downpour. Today, however, is showing the promise of some blue sky peaking through the clouds. We'll have to wait until the foliage dries out a bit before we can mow.
The rain was the result of the remnants of tropical depression Daniel. The storm began as Hurricane Daniel, then became Tropical Storm Daniel as it got nearer to us, then became a tropical depression (whatever that is) then because nothing more than some rain. It wasn't very exciting. We didn't lose power or anything. Ron and I have a new thing when the power goes out. We hang out on the lanai with a giant flashlight and play scrabble.
We have too much stuff. Despite our efforts to purge in Colorado before the move, we still have more than we need, want or have room for. This is a tiny house, after all. We've been making trips to Wal-mart and Home Depot to buy shelves and plastic cabinets.
Not much else is new. Oh... the new tennis racquet play great and the new (OK pre-owned) car is zipping along nicely and 28 miles per gallon. The furballs are all well and life is pretty good here in the rainforest.
I'll write more soon. Until then, Alo-o-o-o-o-o-ha!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Busy at the farmette

Life is mellow here in the rainforest. We erected a shelter for our tractor last week so we could move the machine off the driveway to make room for stuff.
The stuff came, all the way from Colorado. We are now finding places to put the stuff, one box at a time. Despite our attempts to simplify our lives and purge a huge amount of stuff before moving here, we still find we have too much stuff. That's the American way though, right?
We converted an old dog Kennel just off the driveway into a storage shed. We were planning (and still are) to actually build a structure there, but in the meantime, we opted for tarps, a shower curtain and some 2x4s. Hey, there are people living in shelters less attractive and secure than this. Hey. It works.
We had both a bad and good car buying experience this weekend. We recently decided that, since my old purple truck is now deceased, we should buy an economical commuter car to zip to town and back when we don't need the utilitarian virtues of the SUV. We happened upon what we thought was a good deal at the Kia dealership in town. When we walked onto the lot, the salesman said he had a brand new one for 11,000. Sounded great. Then, when we were going through the process of filling out paperwork, he insisted on knowing what we could "comfortably afford" for a monthly payment. Ron refused to answer, knowing what they do with that info. I, on the other hand, was clueless. So when he asked "Can I just write down $350, I said sure. They then used that number to calculate the interest rate. Instead of giving us the best rate possible, they simply wanted us to take the rate that kept our payment at $350! They, of course, would then pocket the difference. We both have impeccable credit ratings, so qualify for the best rate out there which is right around 5.5% for a new car. They offered 7.75 %. Ron told them that if they could not beat 5.5%, we would go to the bank for financing, where we knew we could get the much lower rate. They came back matching the bank's rate. Then, after reams more paperwork was completed, the final numbers were presented. This, after about three hours at the dealership. Now, all this time, we think we're going to pay the price advertised for the car, the price the salesman told us it car cost when we walked onto the lot. Instead, the numbers sheet had the price of the car at over $14,000 - well over the quoted $11,000. When we questioned this, they brought us a copy of the newspaper ad (which I had not actually seen - I was simply going by the price the salesman quoted). In unbelievably fine print, is said something about a rebate that must be paid back tot he dealer upon purchase, and that the advertised price assumes you will be trading in a Kia as part of the down payment. What a joke. They lied about the price of the car, wore us down for three hours, got us all excited about buying the car, then just expected us to overlook the difference and sign. We walked.
The next day, we made a lowball offer on a 2005 Ford Focus. It was accepted. We'll pick it up Monday.
Lucky for me Ron is a tough negotiator when it comes to buying cars. He actually took a course on the sales tactics of car dealers and has a client who owns a dealership, so he knows how they operate and can recognize when he's being scammed. The Kia dealer tried to scam us. The Ford dealer did not. I would love to have purchased a Toyota Prius or a new Corolla, or a hybrid Civic or Honda Fit. But the prices are off the chart here for those cars. Dealers are charging premiums of several thousand dollars more than MSRP and getting it here. So, we went cheap and practical. As long as I can play CDs and my iPod in it and the trunk has enough room for groceries and my tennis junk, I'm happy. Plus, the Focus is a five speed, which I really wanted but the Kia did not offer.
My potted tomato plants have blossoms now and I was able to snip some fresh cilantro for my fish marinade last night, so things are looking up for my meager attempt at gardening.
Ooh! The biggest news is my new tennis racquet! I am so psyched! It's awesome! I love it! It's the latest and greatest from Prince. I tried several, including one that the saleslady insisted I try because it was the one she uses. It was a power racquet, which gives players with limited strength added pop on the ball. Not for me. I have all the power I need in my stroke. It is almost impossible for me to keep the ball in the court with those racquets. They just go flying! They're great for beginner or intermediated players or those with weak strokes. I play with a control-oriented racquet and found the perfect match. A little bigger sweet spot than I'm used to (which is nice on those just out of reach mis-hits) but still plenty of control. Modern technology is definitely great when it comes to sporting goods.
I discovered another potted plant the other day, hidden until now in some foliage overgrowth. I discovered it because it had sent out a long shoot and was blooming. This is it. A gorgeous yellow orchid. Pretty, huh?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Carnivorous cardinals

We have a lovely pair of cardinals that visit our back lanai every morning and afternoon. This timing generally coincides with the feeding of the cats outside. They swoop in and steal the cat food. When there's no cat food out there, they chirp incessantly until there is. We hung a big seed ball for them, but they prefer the kitty kibble. Oh they'll nibble at the seeds. But given the choice, they'll take tuna and salmon flavor over sesame and sunflower any day. They've become carnivorous. Yikes! Keep all the small children inside!
My friend Gail once told me about some wrens visiting a little bird house she'd put out. I asked if they were looking to buy or simply wren-t! Ha ha ha....
Tonight, I was looking for a saucepan big enough to steam some extra long green beans without cutting them. Somehow, I began singing ala Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam "She dreams of colors, she dreams in green... can't find a bigger pan.....It's too small. These beans they won't fit at all.....can't find a bigger pa-an. Can't find a bigger pa-an...." Weird Al, eat your heart out.
I'm looking forward to playing tennis this afternoon with the power girls. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and my arm will hold up to the punishment. With all the rain in Hilo, I've had surprisingly good luck with weather breaks just long enough to dry out the court and play for an hour or more before the rain comes again. The girls not only seem nice, but are a lively, fun and even a bit irreverent group. I like that. Tomorrow I will travel to the leeward side to test drive a few new tennis racquets and a couple of cars, too. My purple truck (may it rest in peace) was deemed un-seaworthy. That is to say, it had too much wrong with it to make it worth fixing and spending $1000 to ship here. Bummer. I loved that rough-ridin' contraption with the back end ripped apart by my psycho-mutt Doc. We have been living with one car since we got here and it's becoming more apparent every day that we need another. If this one breaks down somewhere, the other cannot come to the rescue. If one of us has the car, the other is trapped at home, 20 miles from town. So, it's the perfect excuse to shop for a cute, cheap little gas miser.
It's a little too squishy to drive the tractor today, so we're puttering with chores that don't require diesel power. Ron managed to get one more coffee tree into the ground yesterday. He got a little drenched in the process.
Time for a little more racquet research before the big shopping day tomorrow. Until next time, aloha!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Some bad but lucky news from Coloradee

Howdy ya'all. Oh, and alo-o-o-o-oha! I heard word this weekend that a giant double cottonwood tree in the front yard of my Colorado cabin was blown down by the wind. That is a big tree so it must have been some strong wind. It toppled over roots up, with one segment going across a portion of the driveway and one toward the road. The good news is that it didn't hit the electrical wire that runs very nearby, nor did it hit the barn or the house or anyone's car or anyone's head. Whew! My renter-buddy Mark is already on top of the situation, having begun the arduous task of cutting it up. He'll have plenty of firewood this winter.
The fourth of July festivities were pretty low-key at our house. We dosed the dogs with herbal doggie mellow-out pills, then did our best to keep them calm as the neighbor's grandkids fired off bottle rockets and other noisemakers. We also roasted a leg of lamb in our new smoker/bbq/grill. It's a very cool little contraption, and it was very inexpensive. Shoots, everything rusts out here eventually anyway. So we figured why not buy a $70 grill and replace it in a year rather than buying a $400 grill and replacing it in a year. We're enjoying the taste of real charcoal compared with gas, too.
Today, we planted five coffee trees. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll get the remaining five into the ground.
Check out the pink rose that popped open yesterday. I shot this picture about 10 minutes ago. It's pretty amazing that we live in a place where we can grow roses and citrus trees and bananas and coffee. But no cottonwoods. My allergies are actually very thankful for that.
Speaking of allergies, I must say that modern medicine is a wonderful thing. I broke down about a month ago and went to an allergy specialist. I haven't been to one since I was a kid. They tested me for a host of local allergies, tested my lung capacity (not too impressive) and prescribed several of the latest and greatest asthma and nasal medications. I gotta tell ya, they are working great. She's got me double dosing on pretty much everything, saying that I've been so inflamed and congested and clogged for so long it will take awhile for my overactive immune system to calm down. Eventually, we will back off a little on the dosages until we see exactly how much I need to remain healthy. She said that the ultimate test will be for me to catch a cold, then recover from it in the same amount of time as normal people. Whenever I get a cold, it transforms into a nasty case of bronchitis and lasts for upward of six weeks. That's been the case since I was a kid. I have never had a three-day cold. On a couple of occasions, the little cold blossomed into full-blown pneumonia. So catching a cold that lasts for a few days then goes away will be sweet indeed. I am also quite enamored with my newfound ability to breath freely. Ron tells me I am no longer waking him up at night with assorted snorts and gurgles and coughing. In fact, I'm actually doing a fair amount of sleeping through the night, something I haven't enjoyed in years. I guess I haven't really known what it's like to breath freely because I've had no real basis for comparison until now. It's really pretty amazing what I was able to do before with limited airway capacity.
I've sent a couple of story ideas, in the form of queries, to a couple of magazines and plan to send more once my clipping samples arrive with the boxes from Colorado. Some mags want a few samples of published writing to accompany a query, so I'll have to send some along. I've never written a query letter before. Guess I'll learn.
I've got a tennis date set up for this Friday afternoon and plan to join the local chapter of the American Association of University Women and their book club, so things are looking up on the social horizon. I've also added my name to the mailing list of the Big Island Tea Association and will meet a few people at their next meeting. When my bike gets here, maybe I'll consider joining the local mountain biking club, too.
It's pouring rain right now, but tomorrow's another day. Until next time, aloha and yee-haw!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A tiller, the honey

Aloha all you blog fans. Sorry it's been several days since my last post. We've been busy, taking advantage of the nice weather, to mow, scoop, plant and till. Ron has continued his frenzied quest to rototill the entire island, or at our entire five acres, grinding up patches of dirt in one place to scoop up and drop into another place. His tilling has been curtailed, however, because of the huge amount of water it takes to clean the thing after each use. With the nice weather, our water catchment tank went from full to half in a very short time. So, it was either cut back on the tilling and subsequent need for massive amounts of water or resign ourselves to schlepping the dirty clothes off the the Laundromat and taking showers at the pool. Today, however, it is pouring. Mother Nature is doing her part to replenish our supply so we could be tilling again in a few days. That is, of course, weather permitting.
I have now planted all our fruit trees. Last week, we purchase 10 coffee trees. The plan is to put them in the ground and wait a couple of months. If we can manage to keep them alive, we'll buy more.
It's July 4th and there are plenty of goings on around the island today. We'll probably stay home or maybe take a short trip mid day, then be sure to be here well before dark to hang with the pooches. Hoppsy is especially nervous about loud noises. So we'll dose her heavily with some herbal calmatives and keep her quietly inside. With any luck, there won't be too many local fire crackers exploding in the neighborhood. It should be better for her here than in Gunnison, where we could actually watch and hear the Rotary Club Fireworks show from our yard. Hoppsy just does not appreciate the bombs bursting in air.
I played a few points against my young tennis coach yesterday. Shoots. I actually aced him twice. Not bad for an old broad. We played two 10-point sets (he called them super tie breaks?). I lost, but actually made a game of it. Considering he's 26, plays on the UH Hilo team and is a certified United States Tennis Association instructor (not to mention about 6'4" tall) I think I held my own pretty well. In a previous post I think I said I thought he was younger. It seems the older I get, the younger everyone else seems to be. Anyway, the kid does hit with some gnarly spin. His topspin forehand lands right at no-man's land on the court then bounces up well over my head. Sometimes, it not only bounces up, but veers left or right. Tricky. After two hours of tennis yesterday, I was bonding with a friendly ice pack in front of the tube most of last night. (At our house, it really still is the tube. The HDTV is still a few paychecks away....) Probably should have had a beer or two too, but hops and barley in liquid form are not on my diet right now.
I saw a pretty funny bumper sticker yesterday in the Leong's Chop Suey parking lot. It said, "Work harder. Millions on welfare are counting on you." Kinda funny, huh?
Today looks like a good day to write a few query letters to send to magazines to see if I can get a writing assignment. I figure, why not bombard the the editors with story ideas. Somebody out there might need a piece for their rag, right?
There is a small but vocal faction here who will not be celebrating today. They claim no allegiance to the US flag and are fighting the spirited (if futile) fight for complete Hawaiian sovereignty and secession. They want to restore the Monarchy (which, incidentally, was a democratically elected position toward the end of its reign). Meanwhile, however, Hawaii is also one of the most patriotic states in the union, what with the Pacific Fleet, US Marines and overall humungous military presence here. Plenty Hawaii citizens of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, including Native Hawaiians, have served or are serving in the US Military. So the celebration here is as big, if not bigger than anywhere.
Have a safe and festive Independence Day. And remember, if can, can. If no can, no can. Shoots! Aloha!