Friday, December 30, 2011

Recent Projects

Thanks to loads of help from my parents we've been in project mode...getting lots of useful projects completed to make our off-grid living easier and more enjoyable. Project #1: Phone in Back Cabin was accomplished during the brief periods of dry weather that we had before Christmas (it's been absolutely perfect weather since Christmas Eve Day).
In the above picture you can just make out the gray pipe that is running through the bush alongside of the left (as you look at the picture) side of the driveway. Also note how "duck lake" has completely dried up. I took these photos today...we haven't had but a sprinkling of rain in the last 30 hours or so! See the sweet duckies resting in the shade.
To fix the phone, my Dad and Tommy had to run 500' of new phone wire in protective gray pipe. Most of it is snaked through the bush.

Here is the start of it:

Project #2: New Water Pump & Tank I've stated before that the solar system that was in place to run the water pump and lights was undersized and not positioned correctly on the roof (the panels were shaded at noon!). The old system left a lot to be desired and with weeks on end of rainy weather we were not able to use the water pump and resorted to hand filling 5 gallon buckets with water. Showers became few and far between. Not a scenario I was looking forward to with visitors. Tom fixed it all by getting a pump that would work with our new solar array.
And a MUCH larger pressure tank. The pressure tank that was in place was soooooo small (more like for an RV than for a home with 5 people). I'm extremely grateful that we have running water!
Project #3: Lights & Ceiling Fan To help prevent mold growth and that ole musty smell that accumulates from weeks on end of rain (constantly from about the beginning of November to Christmas Eve Day) we knew we needed some ceiling fans. One has been installed in the bedroom that is currently housing most of our clothes.
 This project also upgraded the old solar system lights to new solar system lighting. Gone are the days (sniff, sniff) of the candles and oil lamp being our only source of light. It's amazing how just a few simple, low wattage lights, can really add productive hours to the day. It's much easier to do homework, dishes, etc... with lights vs. candles and oil lamps.
Project #4: Wringer Relocation and Pulley Laundry Line I wasn't complaining, but maybe I did say that it was sort of challenging to do the laundry in a poncho in the pouring rain a tenth of a mile away from where we are currently living. As a result of my mentioning this my Dad and Tommy set to work on relocating my wringer to a spot that is under cover. They also very kindly installed an awesome pulley laundry line.
It's super cool! After the rinse load I just run the clothes through the wringer and then I can hang them directly up on the line....without getting wet (from the plentiful rain showers we generally have) or moving an inch! I'm DELIGHTED!
Project #5: SHELVES! Man oh man did we need some shelves. We have a ton of books...quite possibly because we find them extremely useful AND quite possibly because they were the cheapest thing to ship from Wisconsin to Hawaii (thank you media mail!).
Tommy had put up a lot of book shelves at the Aloha Cabin (aka Front Cabin), but because we are not living in that house (no natural air circulation) and that house is surrounded by many tall Ohia Lehua trees all of our books were developing a lovely (not!) covering of Puna Cashmere (musty mold!). Puna is the district that we live in Hawaii County.
Admittedly I have not caught up to getting organized, so once I have it a bit more organized and pretty I will post more shelving photos. Again, I am delighted because they are so wonderfully useful and handy!
Project #6: New Table! We have not had a good, sturdy table in decades! Yes DECADES! Probably since we lived with our parents. We have a Storey Book on building Simple Furniture and found a great plan for a table and benches. My Dad and Tommy bought the supplies and built this table and benches in 2 days! Let me tell you, it is STURDY, durable, and DIVINE! How wonderful it was to have all 7 of us be able to sit at the table for dinner or a card game! Above My Dad is protecting the table for years of hard use to come!
The above picture shows some siding that the project gurus installed to help prevent rain splatter from getting under the sheltered open space.
Today has been the nicest day yet. So pleasant with warmth and sun! I did a full load of laundry, my Dad finished sealing the table, and my Mom & the kids planted some coffee plants (thanks Tedd & Noelle!!!) and a poinsettia plant (thanks Mom & Dad). Hard to believe there is only one more day left to this year!! Wishing you all a Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Updates

We are enjoying a holiday visit from my parents, and thankfully accomplishing a lot while they are here. I will take pictures of the projects tomorrow. First project was to encase 500' of phone wire in pipe so that we could have a phone in the back cabin (where we are living).
Between projects one day we went to the "end of the road" in Kalapana to see if we could see the lava flowing into the ocean. We arrived too early to go to the viewing site (only open from 2pm to 10pm), but we were able to escape some rain and visit the Black Sand Beach (now covered by lava from the 80's) that was Kalapana Black Sand Beach. Above is my Dad & Kyle (looking through the binoculars) and below is my Mom & Reeve.
The rooms in the back cabin are fairly small, so we decided that hammocks would be ideal vs. beds. We'll see how they work out. Reeve and Kyle are already sleeping in their hammocks, and loving them. After the first night in his hammock Reeve said he had the best night of sleep he's had in his whole life! I'd say that was an endorsement for hammock sleeping. I told him he looked like a baby in a sling.
Stella and Reeve snuggling. Please ignore the messy actually has been cleaned (today!).
Christmas morning, Stella finding her new push-bike (no pedals) and Elmo helmet.

She loves riding it around. Luckily we've been enjoying drier weather and our lakes are subsiding.

Our happy duckies in their puddle.

More pictures of recent projects to come!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A little Soggy...Behind on the Holidays

We've seen some rain lately...broke some records I believe with two feet of rain falling within ten days! That's a lot of rain. However, right now I see some blue sky and I'm hopeful that it will be enough sunlight to power the water pump.
First off I thought I'd share a picture of Stella in her new favorite shoes. She wears them everywhere.
We're all amazed at how well she can walk in them! She can actually run in them.
She has definitely worn them more times than I ever have. I'm glad they can be put to good use :)
Here are some rain pictures. We have 3 separate lakes forming in our yard. Duck Lake is the one one the driveway that the ducks absolutely love to swim in. Muddy Lake is the one where the duck enclosure used to be located, and Banana Lake is the lake that is forming around the Banana trees (as seen in the picture below).

With the move to the back cabin, school, start-up business woes, and a 2.5yr old I am dreadfully behind on all things Holiday. I managed to hang 3 Stockings...just about the only Holiday decorations I packed and moved to Hawaii. I have not even started a Holiday card, but I have started to receive them, which makes me feel loved and horrible all at the same time. Horrible because I don't think I'll be sending out Holiday cards this year.
Calvin, Alice, Mr. Drake, and Jemima swimming in Duck Lake.
Our new solar array...kicking out the power. We did see that the batteries went down to 80% of charge with the lack of sun.
Tommy is moving the old solar array that still runs the water pump. We can't run the water pump on the new array because it is the wrong voltage. We'll be upgrading the pump in the near future, but we needed a temporary boost to the system so that we could flush the toilet, have showers, etc... The old array was in the shade at noon...just laying flat on the Tommy set to work on setting them at the correct angle for maximum winter sun...soltice is soon approaching.
Here he is with his handy angle finder. Even though he got finished well past the afternoon hours the panels were still able to collect enough sun energy so that he could have a shower, we could flush the toilet, and I could do a sink full of dishes before we ran out of juice. I'm hopeful today we can gain some momentum...come on sun, break through those clouds!
Can you see Stella at the edge of Duck Lake? I took this picture from the roof.
There she is running.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Looking For Some Blue Holes

We've had our fair share of rain here. I don't mind it at all, other than the fact that my laundry set up is not under cover and it makes drying the clothes a longer. I just add extra vinegar in the rinse water and it seems to help keep the mustiness at bay. So, with all the rain Stella and I usually search the sky for "blue holes"
The parts of the sky you can see the beautiful blue peaking through the white and often grey clouds. Hasn't been a lot of blue holes lately, but we saw some this morning. Stella was so excited, "Oh! There's a blue hole Mama! There it is!"
The ducks are quite cute these days and follow us everywhere. Have you ever had a troop of ducks following you around?

(above: Calvin, Jemima, Alice, and Mr. Drake)
I need to weed...really, really, really need to weed, but I just haven't seemed to have found the time between shuttling the kids to and from school, helping Tommy with the business, cooking/cleaning, and all the time involved with raising 3 of whom is 2.5 and quite a joyful time/energy drain. That being said, you'll forgive me the weedy pineapple picture below.
Two cute little pineapples growing despite the weeds.
Below is Reeve doing his laundry this morning. Good thing he got it done (2 loads) when he did because now it is raining.
Reeve using the wringer. I'm starting to update our business blog/website. It's hard keeping everything up to date. I love my washer and wringer so much that I'm selling them and you can read about it here:
So we'll keep our eyes peeled for those blue holes. Now, back to my Holiday card project...I can't believe how the end of the year is so quickly approaching!