Saturday, September 21, 2013

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Gee, how many times have I gotten involved with a project, or made a decision, that in hindsight was a poor choice, to say the least. If my foresight was as good as my hindsight, I'd be doing a lot better! But in each of my flops and failures there is a common denominator --- I start out totally optimistic and convinced that I'm making a good choice. 

When we first moved here I bought various bits of equipment to clear the overgrown brush that couldn't do the job. Then there's the time I chose a paint color that turned the bedroom into a nightmare. I recall the time I bought several cases of canned soup that was on sale only to discover we didn't like it. The propane fired "woodstove" was a total and expensive flop. 

Now that I'm thinking about it, there are a few flops that we still talk about ...............

Grow My Own Bananas .... When I first moved here I was entralled by the idea of growing tropical fruits. The most accessible one was bananas. Everybody, but everybody, offered me baby banana trees to plant in my yard. Ah, that should have been a clue. Now, if they had been offering zucchini plants, I would have known what to do -- close the drapes, lock the doors, and hide in the house until they left. But being newly intoxicated on the tropical warmth, I greedily accepted all banana gifts. In the beginning, it was great. Baby banana trees here, there, everywhere. 

Now I've got so many bananas that I feed them to the chickens because I can't even give them away. 

Why in the world do I have so many clumps of bananas? Dang things are everywhere!

Grow All Our Own Food -part 1 .... I truly believed that in Hawaii I would be growing all our own food. I'd garden every morning and reap plenty. I'd can the veggies and fill a pantry. We'd be fat and happy. Based upon my little gardening adventures back in NJ, I calculated that I'd need a rototiller, a cultivator (for weed control), a garden cart, some shovels and forks, a rake, lime, fertilizer, and a couple of truckloads of straw for mulching. I even purchased lots of vegetable and flower seeds in anticipation.
          First problem: head high grass and brush. That stuff was tough as rope and a lot of it had spines and prickles. After struggling to open a small 10x10 area, I was dismayed to see it was loaded with big rocks. I tried another spot that looked lush. More rocks! I checked multiple locations. All rocky! Extremely discouraged, I saw my dream garden melting away.
           Second problem: rocks. I finally concluded that the rocks had to be dug out. Hey, all those beautiful rock walls that I was so familiar with back in New England were built from rocks removed from farm fields. So sure, I could do it too. So I spent many an hour digging out and moving rocks. Being an optimist,  wasn't going to let wall to wall lava defeat me. I'd have my garden yet, though smaller than I had originally dreamed. After much work I finally came up with a nice garden plot about 50' x 100', derocked and well dug. No need for a rototiller yet. Time to plant!!! Not a flop, but it took lots of sweat and sore muscles to make a sliver of the dream come true. 

Grow All our own Food - part 2 ..... NOW the idea of growing food would become a reality! I added lime, fertilizer, planted seeds. Things started to grow. I was so happy. Now I needed the straw mulch. What? $35 a bale? Are you nuts!!!!! I was use to paying $1.50 a small bale, $3 for the big ones. But $35? Well, maybe straw wasn't such a good idea after all. I'd have to do without. Which of course allowed the weeds to grow. I was spending way too much time cultivating each day. And combining the use of the cultivator with the tradewinds resulted in the soil drying out. Which now meant that I needed water for irrigation. Luckily I had a 12,000 gallon tank full of water, but alas no pump or electricity. How to get the water to the garden?  I made do with a garden hose slowly siphoning that water to the garden. But things grew! But not everything. I soon discovered what root knot nematode was. Hadn't a clue before. Then the bugs arrived. Aphids. Whitefly. Stink bug. Scale. Mealy bug. Cabbageworm. Squash borer. Sweet potato maggot. Pickleworm. Fruit flies. My dream garden was a bug buffet! While I was losing the bug battles, in snuck mildew, wilt, anthracnose, scab, to name the few that I could recognize. Plenty more diseaes took their turn hacking apart my dream, chopping me down to size. Um, this wasn't going to be so easy. I finally conceded that I hadn't a clue about how to garden successfully in Hawaii.

Ship Over The Rototiller ..... Pre-arrival, I had dreams of large gardens neatly rototilled. I had one of those hugh Troybilt tillers that was a real workhorse which easily handled my 1/4 acre garden back on the mainland. Surely it could handle a lot more. I also purchased a brand new Mantis tiller thinking it would do nicely to cultivate my dream garden. I was moving to 20 acres that everyone assured me had deep soil and the perfect climate for growing. Well, "deep soil" needed a bit more explanation. Deep yeah, but all that soil was located between lava rocks ranging from the size of golf balls to bigger than basketballs. There wasn't one square foot where a rototiller could be used. Not even a shovel! Maybe a fork, but a pick or o-o bar was a better choice. So the rototiller had been a bad idea and it got sold to help recoup the expense of shipping it here. It took many years of derocking before I dared to purchase another.

Ditch The Cold Weather Gear..... Hey, I'm moving to Hawaii! Land of balmy breezes, beaches, coconut trees. Who needs to ship over sweatshirts, fuzzy socks, warm coats, long pants? We arrived December 15th and promptly froze! I hadn't given it a thought, but when it's 56 degrees outside in the morning, it's also 56 degrees inside the bedroom, livingroom, and worst of all, the bathroom! We instantly drove to Kona and bought a bunch of warm clothing. Leaving warm clothing behind wasn't a good idea. 

Save Money by Raising my Own Eggs .... Looking back, I must have been crazy. Even though eggs cost $3 a dozen in the store, there's no way I could save money by growing my own. But I didn't let reality cross my mind as I ordered chicks (minimum order 24), purchased a feeder and waterer, bought a heat lamp and bulbs, ordered plywood and 2x4s to make a chick pen and the wire fencing for the sides. Adding a bag of chick starter, I now had more financially invested than I'd ever spend buying eggs at the store. But I consoled myself by saying that these eggs would taste better. 
           First problem- electricity. I quickly discovered that a 100 watt lightbulb gobbled up most the power from our feeble fledgling solar system. Now I had to spend more money to rebuild the chick pen to accommodate the newly purchased oil lamp to be used as the heat source. Add two giant bottles of lamp oil to the bill, too. 
           I lost a few chicks to drowning. Go buy different waterer. Lost a few to crowding when the lamp blew out. Go buy a second lamp for insurance. 
           By now the chicks were 8 weeks old and ready for outdoors. Buy 2x4s and chicken wire for a chicken tractor. Yes, I'd wheel their pen around, taking advantage of the grass as feed, and so
recoup some of my expenses so far. Buy a piece of metal roofing for the top because the rains have gotten awfully heavy and frequent. What happened to the sun? Anyway, chicks installed in brand new chicken tractor. One week later, 100% dead chicks and one bloodied happy mongoose. Evidence showed that the mongoose snagged some through the wire sides. The rest he got by digging under the pen and snagging them through the flooring. He only ate one which he pulled through the chicken wire, but killed them all. 

Sigh. Not every idea has been an instant success. 

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