Gooood Morning SuperForest!
One of the best things about this site is that with so many of us writing so much happens and there is so much to share, which for me is also one of the most challenging things about writing for this site: so much happens, and there is so much to share.
I am happy to report that all is very very well. Teetering constantly on the brink of collapse, disaster, and mind-blowing success, my life here on Kauai gropes its way forward. We have several families living on the land with us now, and during the day we are delighted at the constant sound of children laughing. The chickens and ducks and rabbit have all made their way to new pens, bringing their animal powers under control. The animals were eating all of the sprouts and seedlings in the garden, and so we built them a nice new enclosure. Now the real planting can begin.
(photo by Joel Guy)
The land where Melissa and I live we now are calling CoconutLand, which is also the name of the “reality” show that Melissa and I are producing about our lives and the work on the land. I put reality in quotations because when the cameras are running, it’s never quite reality as I’ve known it. There is too much self-awareness to allow for the sort of warts and all life living, but it’s a vey interesting schooling in my own behaviors. I’m trying to stand up straighter, say thank you more often, and generally be a better person than the person I see on the editing computer. It’s been very interesting filming parts of my life, and a bit strange to take time away from the farm to go and edit footage of myself working on the land.
There is an amazingly well staffed and well stocked community television station here on Kauai. For a mere forty dollars and a several week course, Melissa and I are now official producers, and have access to great cameras and editing equipment. The show will be up shortly.
My pal and co-homesteader Alan pulled up to our little house one night with a dead pig in the back of his van. A friend of his had hit it with his car, and Alan had swiftly gone and retrieved the beast. It was a wild boar, between fifty (Melissa’s estimation) and eighty (my estimation) pounds. We improvised a tripod and hung the pig from it’s back legs with tie wire. Wait, wait, wait… Do I really want to go into this?
Suffice to say that one night I found myself standing in a pit in the rain, gutting a wild boar with my kitchen knife, dressed only in my nightshirt. Alan attempted to use an electric saws-all to decapitate the oinker, while I found myself laughing maniacally at the sight. From the window, my friends from the mainland who were visiting watched with a mixture of delight, awe, and horror. Melissa filmed it. It was a surreal and perfectly normal event in my life. Those two words: surreal, and normal, describe my current situation perfectly. Life feels like an amazing new hybrid. A mongrel life, a hilarious junkyard life. It’s ever so much fun, but not everyone would think so, and I thank my lucky stars that I get to live like this.
My days are filled with the day to day of running a nine acre fruit farm and interfacing with the many people and forces needed to run such a thing, while continually working to create a brand new system of living, and be the most positive and “in aloha” I possibly can be. I have so many plates spinning. The land is an amazing challenge. For instance: Melissa and I don’t have running water in our house. We haul five gallons bottles up from the spigot a short walk from the house. The bottles provide both drinking and washing up water, and the sink empties into another five gallon bucket, which I carry outside and use to water the bananas. Hauling in and out our water has given me a new appreciation for the magical gift that is running water. I haul the water out because I don’t want to cut a hole in the floor.
Things get interesting when the water stops running. Because we aren’t connected to county water lines, our water comes from a well on the land. A big pump at the base of the property pumps water up to a 2,500 gallon tank on the hill. From the tank water lines run down into the fruit orchard, and through a line of spigots near our house. But not to our house. So we don’t have plumbing. My options in this situation are: stick with the existing system, or create a new one.
Sticking with the existing system is very tempting. It works, provides great exercise, and I am very aware of the ways that Melissa and I use water. I am more connected to water than every before in my life, and my compassion levels for people who don’t have easy access to water has skyrocketed. But the ease of turning a knob and having water flow from a tap, down into a sink, and out through a pipe into a greywater system and banana patch, with no heavy lifting needed on my or Melissa’s part is very very tempting.
We arrive at Option B: create a new system.
Here is where things get interesting, because to implement something new would definitely involve effort, buying things, driving, ordering parts, assembling, collecting necessary items. To do commit to a course of action then is serious. There is much potential for waste. What to do?
1) pump water uphill from the existing tank to a new tank above the level of my house, then plumb downwards from there.
a- what kind of pump? How much do pumps cost? What powers the pump? What sort of pipe to plumb uphill? Who digs the trench for the new pipe? Do we know anyone with a digging machine?
b- what kind of water catchment tank? Where should it be sited? A big tank dug into the ground? A small rain barrel on posts near the house?
c- Where can I get all of this stuff and how cheap can I get it?
d- How much of this can I do myself? How much help can I get?
2) set up rain catchment near the house, them plumb accordingly.
a- what surface provides the rain catchment? The roof is tar paper and unfit for drinking. Reroof section of roof with metal or plastic? A tarp?
b- What container holds the water?
c- How does the water flow from the tank into the kitchen? Cut hole in screen? How does water flow out from sink?
d- Do we have the materials here to do it, or do I have to drive to town?
The options are endlessssssssssss.
The sheer number of possible solutions can be paralyzing. Back in the day I think I would have just thrown money at the problem until it was fixed. Now I tend to prototype solutions out of found materials, investigate more efficient and robust solutions, and when I feel like I’ve got a handle on the situation only then drive to town, buy the materials, and put it all together. The prototyping process allows for cheaper, more creative problem solving, and since it’s usually made out of something that someone else has thrown away, I don’t feel as bad when things break, or they don’t work and I have to tear them out. A lot of the time materials from the prototype of one thing end up being used in the next prototype.
In the case of the plumbing, I am still gathering solutions, and Prototype A (carry in and out buckets of water) is still firmly in place. I think that the cheapest and best solution is a small solar pump connected to the main tank, pumping up through half inch pipe to a 55 gallon PET barrel up on a stand made of reclaimed lumber. How long it takes me to implement Prototype B is based entirely on how much effort I feel I am devoting to the current prototype, and whether implementing option B would take more effort.
So when the water stops running entirely life gets sticky. The float switch in the tank that controls the pump is acting up, and sometimes the tank overflows, and sometimes it mysteriously empties overnight. Is it the float switch? Or is that I accidentally tagged the wiring to the float switch when I was digging a hole for a new tree? How to fix/replace either? Learning the ins and outs of the plumbing system has been amazing, but I get freaked when the water seems like it’s broken and I’m not sure how to fix it. It’s humbling coming up again and again with situations that I have no experience with, and keep my cool, and figure it out, and make it work. Luckily, I am surrounded by amazing people.
So when the pump breaks, or the tank overflows, or I go to bed still slightly sticky from the day’s sweat because I didn’t want to take a cold shower in the dark, I take it all with a grain of salt, and try to remind myself that my experience is all in my head, of my own choice and my own making, and I can make it whatever I want. When the dead pig arrives and I’m in bed I know now how to leap out the door, with my knife in my hand, and start making meat out of animal. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. Emotionally, spiritually, and certainly physically.
My time on Kauai has been an education in aloha, and how to remain in a state of constant aloha. How to grow my own food, save the world, and run a website is something I’m stumbling along at, but my development as a compassionate loving human being has been fantastic. Life here is a challenge, and I have chosen to challenge myself. This feeling of constant challenge has lead to great joy.
I hope this finds everyone well, healthy, and happy.