Monday, October 01, 2012

Hawaii - Week five



A mini-tragedy occurred this week; we discovered that our neighbor's refrigerator into which we'd packed the rough cuts of the second pig never got very cold, and about 25% of the meat spoiled. We had felt very tired after processing two pigs two days apart, and took a break for a day after getting the meat from the second pig into the fridge; otherwise the meat would have stayed fine. Since the meat had started to turn, we rushed through the job of cutting it off the bones (not creating the nice portion-sized cuts of meat as with the first pig) and packed it into the car for our host to drive 30 miles to store in the freezer of another friend.

I started rendering the fat, which took me two solid days and resulted in a somewhat off-tasting half a gallon of lard and a big bowl of cracklings which only I am willing to eat. (Part of the bad flavor comes, I think, from burning the fat while trying to render it; our hasty job cutting fat off the meat and bones left many meat bits with the fat, which I suspect burn more easily than lard alone.)

Meanwhile, the neighbor's freezer got plenty cold with its bags of meat from the first pig - so cold that they all froze together and we became unable to access them! So we wound up eating a lot of stew early and mid week from the two pigs, but then ran out of meat.

We had hundreds of flies descend upon us as we tried to process the spoiling meat, and even more over the next two days as I rendered the fat and cleaned out the garbage bags and scraps of clothes we'd used to store the meat in the fridge. It definitely takes a lot of personal energy to process a pig (especially when you're still learning) and if you don't stay on top of it, it can get problematic fast! All in all, I much prefer the idea of building networks of friends and neighbors who all share in a feasts when someone makes a kill: gut the pig, singe the hair off, throw it in an imu (earth oven) to cook, and then have everyone over to eat it all up. No worries about things going bad, no need for everyone to have their own fridges and freezers, a lot more building of community, and a lot more fun.


We went on an ulu (breadfruit) mission, checking four clusters of nearby trees with no success, then biking 16 miles each way to Kalapana where we found about 8 fruits weighing a total of 10+ pounds under a large tree. Unfortunately, although the fruits felt very soft and ripe, they still had green flesh near the skin, which apparently doesn't taste as good as when the flesh has turned white or yellow. We don't totally understand why these fruits didn't turn sweet and delicious; perhaps they fell prematurely from the tree? We also harvested one fruit directly from the tree; we judged it ripe because it had latex on it, but it actually has a long way to go to ripen. Probably a ripe fruit above it dripped latex onto it.

I ate a fruit of ambarella (Spondias cytherea) which tasted better than I remembered from two years ago; I always get messy when I eat these juicy fruits, but I do enjoy them! We harvested and fried a few flowers of hau, a mallow family Hibiscus whose cooked flowers and buds one of my books describes as a delicacy. We thought that description an overstatement as we find them similar to mallow flowers - fine for cooking mixed into omelettes or with other greens, but bland.

We ate a buffet lunch (including many sugary desserts for me) as part of a "day in Hilo" for Jasmine's birthday.

Learning & Exploring

I really enjoyed our 32 mile round-trip bike ride; it gave me a chance to see a large swath of road at a slower pace than in a car, and to get a human-scale feel for the stretch. I've never ridden so far in a day, and Jasmine hasn't done so in a long time. We're using very uncomfortable bikes borrowed from our host, and found that our butts, crotches, wrists, shoulders, and necks got tired and sore long before our leg muscles had any problems. So we expect we'll handle similar distances fairly easily in the future after building up more strength and purchasing better bikes.

We finally made it to the ocean, more than a month after getting here, even though we only have to travel 15 minutes to get there! I've never felt drawn to the ocean much; although I enjoy the view and the sounds and sight of the crashing waves, I don't enjoy getting wet and salty. Still, I'd like to learn more about the crabs and fish and starfish and corals and other critters in their totally different world, and I want to learn to fish, so we'll make more trips.

We helped farmer Clive weed and harvest "slips", new propagative shoots, from his pineapple bed. I really enjoyed the easter egg hunt of peering into all the spiky plants to see the clusters of fresh leaves indicating clumps we could break off from the mother plant; then we got to hurl the slips into piles at the front of the bed. Someone should invent a sport based on the skill of tossing pineapple slips into precise locations.

I couldn't sleep one night, so spent a few hours lying in bed working out a good (I think) solution to the problem of how to integrate goats into zone 2/3 orchards. I'll write up another post at some point detailing my musings.

I've continued to read Traditional Trees of Pacific Islands now and then, and to work on our plant lists; I finished entering a bunch of palms and started working on native & polynesian canoe plants.

Evil Civilized Technology

We finally got set up with an iphone (gift from Jasmine's aunt, thanks!) with a $45/month Straight Talk plan giving unlimited calls & text, and theoretically (but not really) unlimited data. I jail-broke the phone and got us set up with tethering options (both through the iphone, and through my Notion Ink Adam tablet), so now we have the use of internet in our little corner of the jungle.

I prefer being forced to go into town and stay really focused to get everything done in a few hours on the internet at the library, but Jasmine really likes our new convenience, which allows her to connect with friends and family online without having to be well organized about using limited library time in town. I don't do well limiting myself when something is available; I work best by making it inconvenient or impossible for me to access the thing in the first place. I've already found myself staying up til midnight on the internet once!

We finally exhausted the kitchen propane tank after more than a month of use, including a looong time rendering fat and cooking pig stews. It impressed me with how long it held out. We still plan to build a rocket stove to get off the propane.

We watched The Fellowship of the Ring over two days in the evening while shelling out jackfruit seeds. Part of me wants to make myself more productive and on-task by watching a permaculture video or something if we're going to watch anything at all. But part of me really enjoys having a good story fed to me in such an easy format.


I rested in the grass for a while one day, and think a grasshopper mistook me for a blade of grass and chewed open a flap of skin on my left pinky! Jasmine saw a cool 3" long stick insect in the kitchen one evening.


Rich said...

Glad it's going up, pictures! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great updates and for sharing your learnings!