Thursday, October 3, 2013

Harvesting Bananas on Kaua'i Island

Here is a video I filmed in August. Jay and I spent a lot of time gathering food and learning about what it takes to live off the land in August and September.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Picking Mangoes & Papaya... & Learning Aquaponics



There is a lot of trial-and-error when living a new lifestyle... Especially on a tropical island. The humidity here presents a challenge with laundry and food both. Mold is rampant anywhere water is stagnant and/or air isn't moving. I've learned to point a fan on my closet for at least part of the day each day, and also to hang virtually everything on hangers. It makes the difference between clean clothing and moldy clothing.

On the mainland of the United States, especially in the North Eastern states, most fruits are absolutely not ready until they're soft. Mangoes are inedible in New York unless they're just a little soft (although most all mangoes shipped to the North Eastern states are just plain bad due to being picked way too under-ripe and/or other things done to them for "practical" reasons). 

The mangoes here, however, can be ripened from green in just a few days and are often sweet and ready while still hard and green. I made the mistake of trying what "felt" like a ripe mango time and time again in the first month here, only to discover a distinct fermenting flavor time and time again with every single mango I tried. Finally, after coming to this beautiful land in July 2013 (we arrived on the island itself back in May), I discovered what fresh mangoes from the tree are supposed to taste like... They're delicious!

Today was my first time picking papaya with a papaya-picker. Jay made it out of a plunger head (new and clean) attached to a long rod of bamboo (which he cut down himself). The soft rubber of the plunger fits around the bottom of a papaya (and doesn't puncture the papaya) and allows you to put upward pressure on the fruit, separating the papaya from the tree. If you're lucky, you can bring it down slowly. If not, the papaya falls and hopefully doesn't "splat" on the ground. They usually don't splat unless they're over-ripe anyway, so that isn't a huge concern. 

I also did some mango picking today with a mango picker, but it wasn't nearly the first time at all. The mango-picker was made by someone else and was here when we arrived. It also has a bamboo shaft. At the end it has a wire basket and a wedge-shaped piece of wood. While holding the bamboo rod up in the air, you get the wire basket around a mango. Then you get the wooden wedge around the top of the mango stem and pull. If the mango is ripe it will fall into the basket fairly easily. If it isn't very ripe you have to really put your weight on the bamboo pole to get it to come down.

There are two fig trees on this land. I believe they might be "white figs" when dried. They're still green when completely ripe, but a much more yellow-green than they are before they are ready. The birds tend to eat them a day or three before they get to the ideal ripeness. I've started bagging them with mesh-produce-bags and its been working fabulously. I put the bags on figs that will be ready in 1 to 3 days, and it keeps the birds away (but still lets in sunlight). When I open the bag, I get a ripe delicious fig or two. Then I put the bag on a different set of figs that look like they will be ready soon. The tree looks a little silly with the seven or eight white mesh bags on it, but the fruit is delicious.

I've also tried bagging some pomegranates, but it will be a long time before I know if using this method with the pomegranate tree "bears fruit" (lol).

Another challenge is learning all of the foliage from scratch. Very little of the same things grow here on Kaua'i island as they do on the mainland of America. Or at least, everything that grows here generally looks different even if we call it by the same name. Oregano on this island, for example, has these huge hand-sized leaves that are dark green in the center and white around the edges. It tastes just like oregano, but its easy to harvest and add to anything. It's also great on bug bites. It grows wild here, but it isn't invasive. Its easy to keep some in the garden alive and happy without them "getting out of control."

The "melon fly" here is a big issue. It'll lay its eggs in any ripe fruit it can get its stinger-thing into and then the fruit will be full of worms. Some fruits have really strong skin and don't often get infected, such as lilikoi. Citrus aren't as susceptible as some fruits (such as guava), but citrus sometimes do get the larve in them. As far as I can tell there aren't any adverse effects to eating the larve (as long as the fruit is still good), but they sure look disgusting. I've accidentally eaten them a bunch of times now. I guess people used to eat worms all the time and still do in many countries, but for me, growing up in the city, this is quite new to me.

Another "first" for today was cotton-picking. I picked and cleaned three little fluffs of cotton. It was pretty cool but I can't imagine cleaning enough cotton by hand to make clothing. Right now I'm pretty focused on learning about food production since I'd really prefer to eat as much as possible from the land I live on. The grocery store prices on the island are extremely expensive. Tourism is the main economy here, and so prices are high to bring in money from tourists I believe. Also, the big grocery stores import food, which is undoubtedly expensive... And who wants the imported food when so much grows so readily and beautifully right here?

I have not been able to make it to a farmer's market since we moved from the first farm to this land. Nobody here really goes to the inexpensive markets, and the bus stop is a three-mile walk. We could swing it, but it'd be an all-day adventure, and it would still cost quite a bit of cash... In the same amount of time (without spending any cash) we could be here working on gathering food, planting food and researching more about growing food.

The aquaponics project is coming along. I've gone from knowing just the bare-bone concept of aquaponics to knowing nearly enough to build and maintain my own system from scratch. Jay and I have repaired a number of problems with the aquaponics system we were provided with to work with. The previous aquaponic "engineers" never really got it running right. 

When we started with it, almost exactly a month ago now, it had only a couple little sprouts growing in it, the water pH was way too high (at 8.5), and the flood-and-drain system wasn't actually draining by itself like it is supposed to. Not to mention the water was filthy, full of snails, and that fish were getting out of the fish area into the plant-area and eating the plant-roots.

Now we've got the pH at 7.5, we have about 15 baby plants, the flood-and-drain system (bell funnel system) is working, the fish no longer can get into the area they're not supposed to, we've cleaned out the snails and the water is much clearer. We still need to build a filter for the system, but in general I'm quite pleased with our progress.

In the past month so many new things have happened its hard to keep track... 

I've learned (in the past 30 days alone!):

  • How to build and maintain an aquaponic system (for the most part)
  • A dozen new uses for herbs such as oregano, sage and comfrey
  • How to harvest bananas (that are thirty to forty feet above the ground level)
  • How to pick mangoes (that are twenty to thirty feet above the ground level)
  • How to pick papaya (that are ten to twenty feet above the ground level)
  • How to tend to kale to make healthy kale plants
  • That lima beans love the heat and lettuce doesn't seem to want to sprout in it
  • What lab-lab beans are, how to harvest them, how to cook them
  • How to harvest and eat figs
  • About cashew fruits and cashew trees
  • That is possible to build your own solar panels for a fraction of the cost of buying them already built
  • How to propagate the "ti" plant which is a pretty red and/or green bamboo-like plant (which Hawaiians believe is a sacred plant)
  • How to maintain and grow water kefir and how to use a second-ferment to make it delicious
  • How to tell apart different grasses: guinea grass (also known as "green panic grass" for good reason!), cane grass (sugarcane), lemon grass (for tea and aroma), and nut grass (edible nut-like root)
  • That fluid waste from humans is great fertilizer for banana trees
  • How to attract the "black solider fly" (a fly with beneficial larve) and nurture its growth
  • That homeopathy, when used correctly, actually does work
  • How to identify a crab spider, a huntsman spider and some other spiders and insects
  • What a praying mantis looks like... And what it is like to have one fall on you while you're preparing food
  • A handful of useful things about companion planting, like planting cucumbers, beans and lettuce together
  • How to use mylar bags to keep a seed bank for emergency food supply
  • How to hang clothing on a line in the sun so that it actually dries... (Trial and error indeed!)
  • To use apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse – leaves my hair so clean, soft and tangle-free!
  • And a gazillion other things besides!

Next stop: Learning to build solar panels!

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Couple Notes

I'm enjoying the tropical fruits here. I just ate a sour lilikoi. Also had four "mountain apples" today. "Apple" here just means "sweet", so we have "apple bananas" and "ice apples" and none of them have anything to do with apples. Also ate a bunch of acerola cherries. All fresh off of this land. It's delightful.

"Is it hot there?"

It's actually, to me, not as bad as Buffalo in terms of heat. The whether is much more consistent in terms of temperature, so you just adjust to it. It's always humid, but it doesn't vary much either, so that is easy to adjust to. (And I find that the humidity seems to keep me hydrated better.) Everything is always blooming and beautiful and green. Things go in and out of season, but the season comes back around in a few months instead of waiting all year. It's wonderful.

Similar conditions can be found on the tip of Florida.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Learning About Aquaponics

I'm excited that we're going to be building, maintaining and tweaking an aquaponics system. It's something I've been interested in for a few years now. It makes perfect sense to me to fertilize plants with fish waste.

While I eat a vegan diet, I don't deny the benefits that consuming fish can have. Of all meats, it is superior in many ways. It has healthier fat, leaner meat, more nutrition, and it is easier on the environment to raise. When feeding cattle you get something like one pound of meet out of seven pound of feed. With fish, you get one pound of fish out of one to two pounds of feed. Much better deal, right?

The Blue Zones, or Longevity Hot Spots, of the world consume a little fish in their diet. The "blue zones" are areas where people live unusually long and are unusually healthy. In these areas, they tend to be nearly vegetarian, with the exception of fish and kefir made from milk. Not that this applies to all the blue zones, but it is a general rule.

The specific rare benefit of fish is getting EPA and DHA directly from the fish. (EPA/DHA are fatty acids that are important to keeping every cell in the body healthy.) Those two components are made from omega-3. We can make the conversion in our own bodies, but sometimes we don't have everything needed or our bodies have other disruptions (like too much omega-6) that prevent the conversion from occurring. In those cases, getting the "final product" so to speak, is highly beneficial for one's health.

It's the same as getting retinal (vitamin A) from meat, as opposed to getting beta-carotene from carrots. We convert beta-carotene in our bodies to retinal. One major difference between EPA/DHA and retinal however, is that it is easy to overdose on retinal. I don't recommend ever taking it as a supplement unless proven that your body absolutely isn't making the carotene conversion. Or, unless, perhaps, you found a supplement with very little vitamin A in it so that there was very little chance of over-dose.

Anyhow, this is all to say that I'm excited to be learning about raising fish and plants together in harmony. I spent an hour and a half yesterday watching youtube videos about building aquaponic systems and I spent an hour and a half today (so far) reading a book on aquaponics. There is a lot more to it than just throwing the fish, pipes and plants together.

In the future I can see Jay and I becoming world wide experts on aquaponics. I just have this really good feeling about it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A frantic week full of prayers, and then a miracle...

Having come to this island is a learning experience, but I doubt I'd ever come back. That is what I would have told you last week.
But now, I feel like I will come back. This new place feels like home. It feels more like home than anything has since Jay and I lived in Walnut Creek, CA... Let me back up ten days...
Things weren't working out in terms of staying with our original hosts. They're wonderful people, but the situation just wasn't working. Their farm hasn't been producing due to a series of technical breakdowns: the tractor, the mower, and the truck (multiple times).
When they kindly told us we needed to leave, move into a tent, or start paying rent in just one week (on July 8th), I panicked a bit. Jay panicked a bit too. We started by praying a lot, meditating and seeking guidance. We did some crying, some sleeping, some talking and some more praying. I messaged the few people I knew on the island, seeking a new living situation with no luck.
I tried couchsurfing.org, which I've had good luck with on the mainland during road-trips with my Dad, but despite sending around 15 inquires, I got no replies. I posted to Craigslist, as well as The Heartbeat of Kaua'i, listing our skills and what we were interested in doing.
We figured we weren't making it at farming (that really wasn't anyone's fault), so perhaps we should go back to the familiar territory of food preparation. Perhaps some well-off person or family would have a spare room for us and a desire for us to prepare healthy, cleansing meals for them. It seems likely, doesn't it? Especially here, where many well-off people live.
Wednesday (July 10th 2013), at the Farmer's Market in Kapa'a, we asked around, and we gave out our number to people in crowd who seemed like likely candidates; people who may have interested friends or family. I prayed and meditated more, not really feeling encouraged, despite the general friendliness. I got the sinking feeling that Thursday market wouldn't be any better.
Thursday, we went to the Kilauea market. Something that morning felt like a bad omen of sorts, and I thought perhaps it meant that I was going to make a mistake (like miss an opportunity), but when Jay and I got to the market, there was this lack of any draw. We didn't feel the desire to talk to anyone, to try to give out our number, to try to collect information. We just wandered about, looking, but not speaking. We didn't talk to anyone there.
We figured we needed to look in Princeville and/or Hanalei, since those are the more well-off places. That's where the mansions are. I noticed (in an online listing) a Nia dance class at the Princeville community center. Nia dance is a combination of martial arts, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, yoga and dance. It's like a yogic version of Zumba. I'd heard of Nia, but never been to a class.
Jay and I decided to go to the class, and we figured that we might meet someone or do something that would lead to us finding the right place for us. Maybe something else would be going on at the community center, for example.
So Friday we walked to the bus stop and there we met Mark. He was sitting there with his notebook, and the first thought I had was, "There is a cool guy. A guy with a notepad of paper and a pencil." We got into a conversation with him, and he gave us the number of someone he thought might have a work-trade situation available.
To Clarify: We came here expecting to exchange our labor for 40% to 90% of our food, as well as our place to stay and other needs. We didn't come here expecting to pay rent (and can't afford it right now), so seeking a "work-trade" situation was really our only option. That arrangement didn't work out with our original hosts' farm due to the aforementioned machinery breakdowns.
We got on the bus, got to the Princeville Community Center, took the Nia class (and enjoyed it), and then wandered about afterward. We didn't feel called to anything (and nothing much was going on nearby), and we bused home after a while.
Friday night we were really worried. Our last ditch effort for the week was the Saturday market in Hanalei. Jay kept asserting that he had a good feeling about the market. Our original hosts expressed their concerns that we didn't know what we were going yet. Jay stated that he felt optimistic.
Saturday morning we walked to the bus stop. We forgot about bus hours being different on the weekend, and so we were waiting for 45 minutes for a bus that wasn't coming. We walked a short way towards our destination, thinking when we got to the highway we'd stick out our thumbs and attempt to hitch-hike. We've been told that hitch-hiking on this island is safer than on the mainland.
I'd never hitch-hiked before, so the idea was really scary to me. Cars drove by, and one of them caught my eye and I said, "If I'd had my thumb out for that car, they'd have picked us up." And Jay said, "Yeah, I think they would have too."
We didn't know how we knew, we just agreed that it was the case. When we got to the corner, and were at the gas-station, pretty close to the highway, we saw that same car stopped in the gas station. As the car was pulling out of the station, Jay asked them through their open car window, "Are you guys going to Hanalei?"
The driver replied, "Hop in."
And so we did. The driver and his girlfriend were nice enough people. He was driving her to work at a pizza place in Hanalei. Since Hanalei is a small place, dropping us off there worked perfectly. We didn't have a very long walk to the market.
I didn't ask them about having a place available or knowing of a place. Something in my gut told me, "It's just a ride."
We noticed that the Hanalei market was different from the other markets immediately. Instead of just food, there was also jewelry for sale and musical instruments. We looked at prices on fruits and vegetables and noticed that the prices were doubled what we saw at the Kapa'a Wednesday market. We didn't buy anything.
I wasn't finding myself drawn to anyone or anything. I was tired of walking. I was tired of lugging things about (water canteen, bags, posters, my food photo portfolio, my home-made sun-screen, etc). I was tired, and sore, and hadn't been sleeping well due to the stress of not knowing what we'd do if we didn't find a new place to stay.
I saw a man at a stand with herbs in water. It seemed like the water was free. He said, "If you're thirsty, have a drink." I enjoyed the water with the herbs. It was quite good. The man seemed nice and interesting. So we inquired; did he have, or know of a work-trade living space available?
He wanted to know if we were interested in aquaponics or had any experience with it. He and his wife had been looking for someone to get their aquaponics system going. Aquaponics is something I've written about, studied a little bit, and been an enthusiast for, even since I first heard about it. It's a system where fish waste feeds plants, and plant waste feeds fish, as well as other symbiotic animal-plant relationships. Some people use chickens in their systems. Here we'll have duck-waste as part of the system.
We said we were very interested. He gave us his wife's number and said to talk to her. We called her and she was hesitant to extend much by way of encouragement, but she said we could come and see the place.
Saturday evening we came to Shosanah's and Neal's place. They showed us a tiny cabin with little shelves. When I saw the shelves I immediately saw them filled with the little bins we'd previously bought, organized with everything easily accessible. The idea of not living out of suitcases was warming in and of itself. Laying down a heavy suitcase and unzipping it and digging around every time you want a single article of clothing is a real drag.
They showed us what would be our fridge. Small, but adequate. They showed us what would be our shower – outdoors in the sunlight. They showed us the walk from the cabin to the bathroom. We told them we loved it, and we wanted to come and stay.
Shosanah said she wanted to sleep on it.
In the morning I was restless. I felt like I had to keep "working" at finding a place. I laid down and began meditating. I asked, "What do I need to do to make this work?" And I got a clear response (not so much in words, but in feeling), "Nothing. Just wait."
I didn't need to wait long. Five minutes later Shosanah called and said we could move in. That was Sunday, July 14th 2013. It was six days after our original hosts had told us we had one week to leave or start paying rent. We just made it. Incredible, huh? Our original hosts were kind enough to drive us to our new place with our things.
It's Thursday now.
And get this... The guy, Mark, that we met at the bus-stop on Friday? He lives here! We hadn't yet followed up on the number he gave us to call when we met Neal, entirely separately. It's as though we'd have come here one way or another. A plan was in motion, and we going to follow it (even if we couldn't see how it was going to happen).
Shosanah is no longer hesitant about having us here, but rather feels enthusiastic. Today, when walking with her I saw the largest stick-bug I've ever seen today – it was three to four inches long. I saw it on an aloe plant. It was actually only the second one I've ever seen. The first one I also saw since coming to Shosanah's and Neal's land. I believe the large stick bug was reminding me of the power of the aloe, and how much aloe helps me when I consume it.
I feel like the first stick-bug, and somewhat the second one as well, is telling me, to "stick with it." They feel encouraging to me, as do lizards. Something about lizards vibes with me. Not that I need more encouragement now. I feel more at home here than I could have imagined.
Monday, Shosanah, Jay and I mucked out the pond. It had been doing beautifully for years, but it really needed a cleaning out, and so we drained it and used the foot of sludge at the bottom as fertilizer for the many wonderful fruiting trees on the land.
Tuesday we ran around Lihue on errands, getting some needed things for our little cabin – a few bins, a few hangers (both of which we should have bought more of – but I've been trying to be as frugal as possible), Witch Hazel, extension cords, and so forth. It wasn't a fun trip and I was relieved to return on Tuesday evening.
Since arriving here on Monday I've already learned much about the native tropical plants. Everything grows differently here. Rosemary grows six feet tall, some dandelions come with red spines down the center, oregano comes with leaves as big as your palm and cherries come in many shapes, sizes and colors.
I've done some weeding, pond mucking, pond-basin scrubbing (in preparation for adding fresh mortar), enjoyed fresh acerola cherries from a fruiting tree, collected lilikoi (passion fruit) off the ground, watched ducks waddle by only a foot away, been a part of planning for building a new green house, learned about growing water kefir, and been shown around several lovely garden beds bursting with herbs and kale.
This island doesn't have enough room for everyone, and this tropical place really wouldn't be right for many people, but it is right for me. I feel protective of the island already. I want to get Walmart (destructive corporate interests in general) and Monsanto-related interests off this island. This place still has its indigenous beauty... Preserving that is priceless. Bringing the land to the peak of its balance and beauty is something I can really jive with doing.
Jay says, "It's awesome that we have banana trees growing right outside our door." Bananas are one of his favorite fruits, if not his very favorite.
I have not taken any photos yet since we got to Neal's and Shosanah's, but they'll absolutely abound in the not-too-distant future, for sure.
There is more, but it is so much to write... But here is another kicker of serendipity: Shosanah has dealt with one of her children having mercury poisoning and what it takes to really detoxify from that. I bit a glass thermometer when I was three (and was poisoned with mercury – I had to have my stomach pumped and the glass picked from my teeth). That contributed to much of my illness and weakness as a child and teenager. Shosanah is willing and excited to help me heal fully. I am so thankful and feel truly blessed.
For those of you who prayed for us to find the right place – mahalo! thank you! – it worked. Our prayers have truly been answered.
Aloha, many blessings, much love,
~ Raederle
& On Behalf of Jay

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Lot To Learn About Sunburns

Sunday we took the bus to the beach. We've been working hard, and it was really time for a fun and sunny break.

The buses only run every two hours on Sundays, so we had a very rigid schedule. We literally ran to the bus-stop and just barely caught the bus there. The sun was shining, and we were well suited up for swimming and enjoying ourselves.

I boarded the bus and muttered under my breath immediately, realizing that of course the bus was air conditioned, making a stark contrast to the perfectly warm and balmy fresh air outside. Why would anyone want to ride on an air conditioned bus when the weather was so perfect and beautiful?

I rummaged through my backpack and pulled on pants over my shorts, which wasn't as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. It was a bit of a trick of balance though; the bus was moving at the time.

I pulled out my brush and brushed out Jay's hair and mine. This is often a task that has to wait until we're in a car or on a bus. Jay gets started slow in the mornings, and sometimes our plans are a little on the spontaneous side. That makes for "grabbing a brush and hairbands" as a last-second thought.

I proceeded to braid both of us simple braids. I think of them as "work braids" because they're there for practicality, not for decoration. (Elegant, fanciful and exotic braids are awesome, but they take 30 minutes to 3 hours, whereas the simple work-braids take me about 7 minutes, not including brushing out any tangles.)

We arrived at the beach bus stop, and it was sunny with clouds scattered across the sky. We stopped at a bench so I could take off my toe-shoes and toe-socks (which I didn't want to get sand into). I put those in my pack, drank some water, and then we set off for the beach.

As we approached the ocean the roar became louder and louder and the wind stronger and stronger. These were not the tame waves you see along most of the coast of America. These were not the placid reef-protected waters we saw at Anini beach (a different beach we've been to twice since we arrived here in May).

The waves at Kealia beach are the strongest I've ever seen personally up-close and personal.


The above photo is of Kealia beach. I didn't take my camera with me. The photo credit goes to Forest Imp.

Since we're not familiar with the beaches and the waves here, and we know they can be dangerous, we decided not to "set up" ourselves at the nearest beach area to the bus-stop because nobody was there. All the people were way down the beach. We figured they might know something we didn't about the ocean currents, so we began the trek down the length of the beach.

It took us around six minutes to walk to where the people were, fighting a strong wind coming head-on. I remarked to Jay that it was a great work-out just to walk in the sand, fighting against the headwind. In those six minutes the entire sky clouded over, and I began to get quite chilly in my bikini and overshirt, feeling rapidly under-dressed for the weather.

By the time we reached a place where we thought we might put down our towel, it had begun to sprinkle rain. Frequent sporadic rains that last two to ten minutes here are common, so I was uncertain if this was going to just blow over or not. Jay decided to walk back up to where the bus stop to figure out when exactly the leaving options were.

I stood by our things, looking out at the ocean. The waves come rapidly, I noticed, every few seconds a new wave crests near the shore. The waves that crest nearest the shore are two to five feet tall. The ones that crest about thirty feet further out are much bigger, but its hard for me to say how big since it is hard to judge distance when it comes to the open ocean.

I looked around the horizon and noticed that grey clouds now stretched as far as I could see. So much for swimming and tanning. It began to rain a little harder, and I began to wonder if I should walk toward shelter. I noticed that out at the edge of the beach where I was, I was almost on a peninsula of sand and rock, water splashing nearby on two sides. As the wind picked up further I began to get nervous.

I looked around the beach and noticed the car that had been parked on the beach nearby was leaving and the people who had been on towels nearby were gone. I hefted our pack and began stalking back, annoyed with myself for not checking the weather before hand.

I took my sunhat off and stuffed it in into my bag, as it kept threatening to blow away. Most everyone was picking up and going, although not everyone. Two people who had tents simply retreated to their tents, and one woman with a large strong umbrella simply huddled close to her umbrella while laying on her towel.

Jay ran up behind me. He had apparently run by me and had to come back again. We began to talk about going somewhere else instead. We reached the table and bench where we'd originally stopped before and passed it on by. We went to the little outdoor showers for getting sand off our feet. I got the sand off my feet and wrestled pants onto my damp legs.

After spending about ten minutes walking back from the end of the beach, a few minutes at the bench talking, and another five to ten minutes getting my feet clean and my pants on... The sky was miraculously half blue again, only spotted by clouds. The storm was retreating in the distance already. I snorted in amazement and remarked about the fickle weather on the island to Jay.

I took my pants back off and was amazed to find myself warm. Only ten minutes previously I'd been shivering and wrapping a towel about my face to protect it from the cold rain.

We got back to the beach... And it began to rain again.

This time we didn't run so far away. We backed up to the trees that are only about thirty feet from the shore (at the time, anyway). We huddled up at the edge of the trees near someone's tent. The someone who owned the tent struck up a conversation with us, and we talked until the rain let up about twenty minutes later.

Then I set off for the waves determinedly. Jay stayed at the trees to chat with our new friend Dave.

I timidly broached the waves. The undertow was very strong. Jumping a wave and letting your feet leave the ground meant being sucked down to the sand at the bottom almost immediately. There was no simple "waist deep" water. Standing at calf-deep meant being shoulder-deep when the wave hits and then waist deep just after it passes, and then back to calf-deep until the next wave hits one to seven seconds later.

And if a wave goes over your head and gets sand and salt in your eyes and possibly in your nose too? Better retreat fast because there is very little time to recover before the next wave hits.

I always thought of wave-jumping as a pretty relaxed pass-time, but not at Kealia beach. It is pretty hard-core there. Most the people in the water had surf board or body-boards. I was definitely one of the minority who was just in the water with no accessories.

Dave let me try out his body-board for a little while. I tried it for a few waves. I liked it somewhat, but the lack of control I felt made me nervous, so I returned it to him and went back to "jumping" (read: resisting) waves unequipped with anything but my swimsuit.

I applied my home-made sunscreen to my shoulders in the beginning, and a little to my forearms shortly after that, and then my entire face after I was sure I'd gotten about ten minutes of full sun on my face. My aim was to get ten minutes of full sun on each part of me and then apply sunscreen or clothes from there, that way getting a tan without a burn.

I underestimated the power of the overcast sky.

I've never gotten burned before when it was overcast. Maybe it is because the clouds in Buffalo, NY are thicker. Perhaps it is because the angle of the sun here in Kauai, HI, is different. Perhaps because it is warmer here... Whatever the reason, in all the places I didn't apply my sunscreen, I got varying degrees of burned.

I didn't even realize I was burned until after we'd gotten back. (Dave was nice enough to give us a ride, so we gave him our bus money for gasoline.)

The visible redness appeared as I showered. I think I didn't notice it previously because my skin had been cold from the wind, and therefor there wasn't as much circulation in the skin, and so my skin wasn't turning red. The warm shower, on the other hand, revealed the burn quite rapidly. Because I had changed my top a couple times and applied my sunscreen in various problem areas (like the backs of my knees), my burn looks rather rag-tag.

It got my hips, part of my chest, part of my neck, part of my back, parts of my arms... I'm somewhat like a checkerboard.

On the brightside, I now know I did make an effective home-made sunscreen! It's unfortunate that I had to learn that the hard way, but it is great to know.

For my burn I've been treating it with lavender oil, coconut oil, and some of Thayer's blend of Aloe and Witch Hazel. The lavender oil is particularly helpful with the pain. I'm using the coconut oil mainly to restore moisture. While I'm not certain witch hazel is even a good idea at all, the blend is mostly aloe and it is all I have right now that contains aloe. I use that blend primarily as a facial toner and mild disinfectant for small scrapes.

In my sun-burned stupor on Monday I started thinking about making a raw pizza with a rich tomato sauce with basil and cashew cheese. Then my mind went on to daydream about watermelons. Then I started thinking about tomatoes. Then I thought, "I really want lycopene." The odd thing about this was that I was not consciously thinking that watermelons and tomatoes have lycopene. In fact, I wasn't even aware that watermelons had it, only tomatoes.

Now, never previously have I ever read anything connecting lycopene to sunburns until today. I just went with my craving and demanded tomatoes. Jay and I talked about it and realized there was no way to acquire tomatoes or watermelon. Then I suggested finding a salsa. Salsas are often sold raw at grocery stores, and even if I could only find a cooked one, I should at least be able to find a sugar-free salsa somewhere.

Jay was kind enough to walk to the store in search of salsa for me. He found a great one with tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions and a hint of avocado.

The salsa hit the spot and the cravings subsided. This morning the burn had made a ton of progress towards healing, much more progress than it had made overnight on Sunday.

I remember when I lived in Walnut Creek I never seemed to burn in the sun. I was amazed, because I burned so easily before raw food. When I lived in Walnut Creek I was eating all raw, and in addition, I was eating a lot of tomatoes and occasionally watermelon as well. I wonder how many anti-burn foods I might have been consuming then that I am rarely consuming now?

I used to think that raw food was all about getting more enzymes and more vitamins. Now I begin to suspect that many, if not most, of the benefits of a raw food diet come from eating a wide variety of antioxidants in significant quantity.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Things To Love... And Challenges Too

I've discovered a few dozen things to love here – beaches, humidity, tropical fruits, friendly people, beautiful skies, frequent rains, fresh air, panoramic views, and lots of opportunities for discovery.

Yet for everything I've found that I adore, I've found two or three challenges. The humid warm environment fosters very large insects. I've seen foot-long centipedes bigger around than my finger. I've seen cockroaches as long as my hand. I've seen spiders with bodies nearly the size of my fist. These fascinating little creatures give me nightmarish creeps, causing my heart to race and my body to lock up. When asked if I'm alright, my voice comes out in a quavering squeak.

Yeah, I know insects and other little creatures are important to the ecosystem, and I know that most of them are harmless... But I have a long way to go when it comes to overcoming my gut reaction to these over-sized exoskeleton-bearing beings.

Another challenge is my unfamiliarity with all the fruits and vegetables here. What feels "ripe" here can be too gone to eat or too astringent yet to eat. For example, the bananas are best here when they're as much black as yellow. The mangoes, on the other hand, are too ripe for me by the time they're soft. And then there are all the fruits I've only just been introduced to. Chikoo is another new fruit to me, which I tried for the first time today. It's kinda like a pear, but softer and less sweet. It's not sour at all, just mildly sweet and juicy. It's quite good.

Navigating the price of food is also strange as well. Berries, for example, are imported, so their cost is inflated to $10 for a couple ounces. Whereas the local produce is fairly comparable to what you'd expect to pay anywhere else in the United States.

I'm learning a tremendous amount about what I want out of life. Time will tell how many of these challenges I will be able to overcome during my time here.