Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Love Living in Hilo

Hilo town
Each weekday morning when I drive to work I pass by beautiful Hilo Bay.  On a clear day this past winter I took this photograph of snow capped Mauna Kea (13,796 ft.) from bay front.  Tonight was another clear evening that inspired me to write this post and to be grateful that I am so blessed to live here.  I passed paddlers in the bay and surfers at Alai Point.  On my return from town I witnessed a parade of color in the sky over the observatories atop Mauna Kea.  As I write this the colors are still changing from reds and purples into the night sky.  Going up to the upper garden to take a sunset shot over Mauna Kea, I was greeted by an Owl.  Too cool.

Backyard sunset tonight over Mauna Kea
I was reluctant to write this as I do not want to encourage anyone to move here.  One of the best things about living here is the uncrowded spaces.  You won't like that you are miles away and mega dollars away from your family.  You won't like that there is NOTHING to do on a Saturday night or that there are NO restaurants, and NO shopping beyond Wal-Mart.  Trust me, you don't want to move here.

But for me, who loves to stay home, loves clean air, lot's of space, doesn't mind 180 inches of rain per year, it is heaven.  I love the cultural diversity.  No body here thinks like me, looks like me or even relates to me.  Amen.  I love looking at miles of blue blue ocean.  I love the green fields.  I love that on a calm clear evening I can take off from my front lawn in my paraglider and take in the views, leaving everything and everybody below, to soak in the beauty of this paradise.

Afternoon flight above Onomea Bay
Lastly as I was about to post this, my daughter Kaitlin called me to look out from the front yard.  Puu'oo volcano is aglow, spewing lava visible from our yard.  Oh yeah, I love living in Hilo.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chop and Drop

I want to share an effective gardening technique.  Chop and drop.  I am refurbishing older gardens.  Today I removed the remaining plants from a few gardens that had run their course and I did NOT till, just weeded.  Then I topped with IMO #4 and bio char.  On top of that I took whole branches of gliricida and covered the IMO beds.  Master Cho says IMO love 60% shade.  He also wants us to emulate nature by providing inputs on the soil surface as nature would do rather than till in nutrients as man has done in modern times.  Putting whole branches provides shade but also plenty of oxygen (because of the physical space) for the aerobic microbes to grow.  In a few weeks the leaves will dry and fall off the branches providing additional organic matter.  The woody branches will break down by the action of the aerobic microbes.  While I wait for seedlings to be ready to transplant, this technique allows me to be patient.  The microbes are at work in the garden bed.  When I do transplant seedlings, they will rocket because the soil is alive.

Plant in foreground has been pruned, the bushier Gliricidia behind needs to be pruned.

Originally I dedicated a row in my garden to gliricida.  Within that row I also have some papaya as well as pineapple plants.  The idea is that the gliricida are nitrogen fixing plants, and I would use their branches and leaves as mulching material.  I don't have to transport far, just a few feet, chop and drop.

New pond for Azolla production.

I made a pond this weekend to propagate azolla.  It is a water plant that can double in volume in a single day.  Pigs will eat it, as it is high in protein. Wikipedia reports, in addition to its traditional cultivation as a bio-fertilizer for wetland paddy (due to its ability to fix nitrogen), azolla is finding increasing use for sustainable production of livestock feed Azolla is rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Studies describe feeding azolla to dairy cattle, pigs, ducks, and chickens, with reported increases in milk production, weight of broiler chickens and egg production of layers, as compared to conventional feed. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Post experiment thoughts

I have been following Andrea Dean's blog ( ) who is doing a very interesting experiment herself.  She is trying to eat food grown locally on a Food Stamp budget for a month.  I think it's about day 9 now and she is half way through her monthly budget.

It has brought up some interesting conundrums.  Isn't the goal to get folks OFF food stamps and be self-supporting with regards to food? Comments welcome.

Of course it took me years of hard work and dues paying to be able to own land to grow my own food supply.  So how do we get people who don't own land to be able to grow their own food?  Comments welcome.

Why do people purchase their food supply from Costco (you name the store) verses growing their own or buying locally produced food?  I have a few ideas.  After growing and preparing our own food for a month my wife will tell you it is a lot more work and takes a lot more time to prepare your own food.  So the convenience of store bought food is a big factor.  Eating and preparing your own food isn't for the lazy folks, which eliminates most of us.

Price is another big reason.  Local farmers cannot make a decent living selling raw agricultural products because they are competing against cheap industrial agriculture subsidized by cheap oil.  It is cheaper to grow food in a foreign country using oil based inputs and pay the transportation costs than to grow food in Hawaii.   Someone commented on Andrea's blog that foreign mangos are cheaper in the mainland than Hawaii grown mangos are in Hawaii.  Think about that.  Ask yourself why.

Variety is another factor.  Canoe crops grow easily here but people don't eat Taro.  When was the last time you at taro/poi?  Today, Last Week, Last Month, Last Year, or I can't remember????