Monday, September 03, 2012

Hawaii - Week One

Our kitchen
First full week! Jasmine and I learned a lot, foraged a lot, relaxed a bit, explored a bit, and spent a lot of time figuring out how to charge electronics and get online.


We harvested and gathered lots of food: coconuts, avocados, bananas, mangos, strawberry guavas, limes, surinam cherry, lilikoi (passionfruit), koster's curse, green papaya (cooked like a squash), honohono, chaya, ginger flowers, and edible hibiscus. I feel very impressed by how easily we've found major staple foods, though most of the coconuts and all the surinam cherries, bananas, limes, and greens have come from the land on which we're staying, not from roadsides or other semi-wild public places. (If needed we could probably find enough coconuts out and about, and honohono grows as a weed all over the place; but I have yet to see any harvestable bananas or other greens I recognize in public places.) We've gotten nearly four eggs a day from the four chickens on the land.

Sprouting coconut with sweet fatty "King's meat"
On average, between the two of us, we seem to naturally eat on a daily basis something like: 1.5 small sprouting coconuts, 3/4 of a coconut for water, 3 bananas, 2 medium to large avocados, 8 mangos, 2-3 ounces of other fruits, 3.5 eggs, 8-12 ounces of greens, four tablespoons of butter, and a small handful of other nuts.

We brought from the mainland two pounds of butter, half a pound of cheese, some dried meat, nuts, and dried fruit , and still have 3/4 pound of butter and most of the nuts and dried fruit left. We're using the butter quickly and haven't figured out locally sourced cooking oils yet , but definitely haven't needed the nuts and dried fruit! We've experimented a little with extracting coconut oil, but still need to learn more to make it work.

We tried eating hala keys, but found them barely edible - consistent with reports of Hawaiians using them only as famine food. We'll try to get varieties grown on other Pacific islands with flesh larger, less fibrous, and free of oxalate crystals.

We've seen pigs several times, once as close as 40' away. With a gun and a little bit of skill, it should be very easy to shoot one and get a lot of meat. Since we haven't acquired that tool or those skills yet, we're starting to buy some island raised grass fed ground beef at the local natural food store, for less money than similar meat cost us back in Portland.


Passion vine butterfly
Besides food plants, we've learned a lot of the common trees such as gunpowder tree, octopus tree, melochia, autograph tree, noni, and bingabing. We've seen/identified a few birds, like the Hawaiian hawk, Japanese white-eye, Northern cardinal, Myna, house sparrow, and spotted & zebra doves (and probably mourning dove). We identified the Passion Vine Butterfly. We've seen plenty of the common gold dust day geckos, and a couple of smaller gecko looking reptiles.

I read through a book on organic gardening in Hawaii and added to my species list, and started reading Bill Mollison's classic Introduction to Permaculture.

Lifestyle adjustments

View from our hut -
ti, banana, mango, jackfruit, coconut, & albizia
We're going to bed shortly after dark and waking up at dawn, with much less computer use than usual. I'm experimenting with a eucalyptus toothstick instead of toothbrush. We've hardly gotten online at all, which I haven't really missed but Jasmine has.

Ironically, on our initial push of going primitive, we've probably spent as much time trying to get online and trying to charge electronics as we have foraging food. I've learned a lot about solar systems, DC power, adapters and tips - some of it the hard way - and hopefully have gotten past the worst of the learning curve! This probably merits its own write-up, as I'm sure sharing some of the mistakes I've made and learning I've done could save some other people some trouble.


We haven't talked much with people yet, but did chat a little with two locals involved in growing food and running a weekly market. We will probably talk with them more about the possibility of using some land in something akin to a community garden. We don't yet know where we'll settle long-term, but the location seems reasonably central to our most likely options. So if we start planting things now, we can harvest them in the future as food crops, and/or for propagation material for our actual land. And if our purchased land doesn't suit itself to teaching and showing permaculture food systems to others (because of our community wanting to keep its privacy, or too isolated for the public to access easily) then perhaps the community garden area could serve as a demonstration site.

We've talked on the phone with two other folks in the area, one of whom gave us permission to harvest his excess avocados but whom we haven't met. The other fellow has biweekly work parties where we can probably learn a lot about lowland tropical farming (and maybe take home some food or starts?) so we look forward to joining him in that later this week.


edwin holmes said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Norris, I was somewhat amazed that you could eat 3 bananas a day. Here in portland we avoid bananas as a food with high embodied energy - but there it is like a common local item. Impressive how food self-sufficient you can be rather fast.

Norris said...

You're welcome; thanks for reading! Edwin: yes, it makes so much sense to eat what's local and avoid the high energy sink of transportation. Strangely enough, people here crave apples and plums imported from the mainland!