Living off-grid will teach you a lot. You’ll begin to appreciate the sun and find ways to utilize its sheer power of making things live (and run), to collect the rain in barrels from all gutters that you can install, even take a moment to enjoy the wind chimes in a breeze and watch a mongoose popping its ugly head from the old pile of coconuts.
I thought that living in communist Poland taught me enough about sustainability, but I sure learned a lot more about it when I lived in Hawaii.
To anyone who is not familiar with WWOOF, it’s a network of permaculture and sustainable living projects. The acronym is confusing since it can be World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms OR Willing Workers on Organic Farms.
Hungry for an experience you must be.
Let’s just say I tired of being a stellar property manager in Seattle, WA and decided to manage a territory with coconuts, timber bamboo, and the amazing breadfruit trees instead.
It changed my existence forever.
I got there with gardening gloves, a spade to till some dirt…
Many folks were amused by the tools I had.
Any lands I lived on prior to Hawaii had good old terrain below the crust. It was a surprise to me that I could not even scratch more than the surface of it with the spade I had. For a while, I kept on looking for some earth. There is none, as in there is no soil. None. The entire island is pure rock!
It should not be a surprise, I know what a volcano is, I’ve seen Etna when I was a kid and Mt Rainier and St Helens prior to my venture. Outside the voluminous volcanoes, you had prime black dirt, so I expected the ground to be rich in minerals and…I was so wrong. This place WAS and IS a bunch of volcanos. I saw it when I took a ride through Saddle Road, the least traveled road and one that rent-a-car agencies tell you not to go through. That’s where the permaculture came in.
Getting water tanks, a shithouse and a battery was not the big deal there. Heck, on the Big Island a company called Hawaii Jon will deliver a portable toilet to your property that is serviced every week. That was an amazing offer, I never needed to clean the toilet room or worry about the paper. So even if you only had a tent on the land, you had a toilet, the dept. of health won’t be questioning you or the landlord. Pretty cool, no?
Looking back at it I wonder how they disposed of the liquids within…
There are many gaps here, besides the goo that Hawaii Jon would dispose of.
As you ride around the island- from West to East- Hilo to Kona, it’s wonderful that the buses are free. They don’t even charge you for luggage (just don’t go there with five big trunks like in the movie “Joe and the Volcano”).
I departed SEATAC. Little did I know but this was my second to the last departure from WA.
Building Manager, Property Manager, Leasing Agent and an avid gardener for all properties.
My plane landed in Kona, on the west side of the Big Island and it was “voggy” that day.
Take my advice, if you want to go to Pahoa, just take a plane directly to Hilo, the extra cost will serve you well in the long run.
After a few loops around the spews of Mauna Loa, or Kilauea, or Hualalai (frightful as I am on planes, I didn’t even ask, I just wanted to land), and we eventually did. WHEW.
It was hotter than I expected! Not many times I’ve been in tropical climates anyhow, so I wore a sweater and jeans covering me to my ankles.
I’m not a fashion freak and perhaps I had a pair of shorts in my suitcase, but putting them on would show how little sun I’ve had from living in Seattle for 17 years. Folks still knew I just got there, silly of me to think otherwise.
It was nice to hear a different version of English language; folks called each other Bradda, Sista, and around the property I lived on there were many signs that said “DON’T PIK COCOS FAKA”
I lived there long enough, that when I talked to a friend in Seattle I was told I sound like The Nanny. Mind you, I am of Polish descent and never had a Brooklyn accent, never looked to obtain one, but there it was.
My mom loved Hawaii. It’s not clear which island she visited but she sent me colorful postcards every time she went there. Taking a ride from the Kona airport was something I never expected- drab, dry and dreary at most. Nothing a postcard would feature.
In the black rocks sometimes you’d see signs made with white rocks- Amy loves Jimmy, Ken and Barbie, etc.
The extra expensive taxi takes you to the town where you take the free bus to go to the other side of the island. That’s where I saw the land my mom fell in love with- the cascades and luscious jungle, it’s absolutely magnificent. Then you get to Hilo. People gave up on reconstructing it after a hurricane in the 60’s. That was it, You have to take another bus going further South for four hours to get to Pahoa.
Pahoa is a very fine town, it scared me at first when I arrived at night, but like many places in the world, it’s better to see it in the daylight.
I skipped the town and opted for a tent in the Ahalanui Park as I waited for instructions from my WWOOF host.
It was great, I had an entire two-story house which was close to the ocean, it was amazing!
The abundance of fresh fruits and veggies- all around neighbors had cartons of freebies, there was so much love there, so much ALOHA…
Yet, when I walked outside with my spade to plant something in the yard…
“Oh, there’s a rock here, let’s scoot it over a bit. NO, another rock. And eventually the shining “Oh this entire land is a rock!”
It really is, so you have to elevate your gardens. Soon enough I met folks who have lived there long enough and made amazing projects. One of them is a little distance from the first streetlight in town. I only say this because by now there might be another. That’s when I really learned about permaculture, I was ashamed of my lack of knowledge.
So, to learn more, I volunteered my skills as a researcher to Paul Wheaton and spent a few months in a cabin by the sea in Hawaii. It was a fantastic experience and a great introduction to WWOOF that I still maintain at 52.
Oh, and besides getting eye to eye with nature, watching the devil-like mongoose staring at you, giving names to the geckos that surround you or watching the parasitical leaf-cutting ants working relentlessly day and night (so long there is some light they’ll keep on moving).
It seems everything needs more explanations, I would not know where to start, so without you, my dear reader, I am only obliged to hear your opine or answer your questions.
Living in this off-grid world, I could rest easier, you had the coqui frogs singing and I am glad the house I lived in wasn’t close to their colonies. It’s a tiny frog, but you can hear it for miles. It’s a hundred times worse than having a cricket inside your house, believe me. The cricket will fly where the light is, so just shut them and let it go away.
(check out the decibel level of a coqui frog here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZUOiZG84c0)
I felt rather safe walking on the street at night in my neighborhood, but then someone told me about the wild pigs running about at night. Boars so to speak and their talons ripped many legs and destroyed some lands.
The WWOOF place I stayed at was their former territory! But it was leveled and filled with stuff (mostly the trees that were torn down). I say “stuff” because one day walking about that land my foot sunk into a hole. The owner told me there are a lot of these holes and she had no idea how deep they are. Well, a hole that seems deep and going back to the level of the ocean, I imagined myself falling into one and being stuck in it until…I have no idea what but was glad to know there are no snakes in Hawaii. Just the rats that play at night and the devilish mongoose that taunts every day.
a face only a mother would love
Truly, not one night passed that a boar entered the property, but seeing the injuries of others made me leary to go outside after the dark.
Many problems we can find at night, and I lived in many cities, but never wanted to bump into a wild pack of pigs with razor-sharp teeth with long canine dentures on their side.
Needless to say, I still go to bed very early (with the chickens) and wake when the roosters call. My mom always said it’s the best way to run your day.