Sunday, November 09, 2014

Showing off our shojis


Chris and my dad put quite a bit of work into building shoji doors to separate our master bedroom from bathroom. They used inexpensive redwood boards from Home Depot and heavy-duty hardware to make them slide easily. Kona Shoji designs sells real shoji paper from Japan. I think it really adds a touch of class to the room and it no longer feels like we have a tub in the bedroom. Once again, I am impressed by the skills of my husband and dad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hot shower, anyone?

I no longer worry about the cost and environmental impact of taking a super hot shower or washing dishes with hot water because we are now heating our water with energy from the sun. Our solar hot water system really works well and heats our water enough even on fairly cloudy days. We do have an electric timer set to heat the water at 5 a.m. if the water is not hot enough from the day before, which can happen on really rainy days, so we are always guaranteed a hot shower that rarely takes electricity to make.

The hot water system will end up costing us $1,837 after some kind of $1,000 rebate, a $1,000 discount for buying this system and photovoltaic from Poncho's Solar Service, a $1,837 state tax credit and a $1,547 federal tax credit, making this a really smart option in a place that has one of the highest electric rates in the nation and no natural gas.

The photovoltaic system is really the interesting part. Ten solar panels are supposed to produce enough electricity for our home's needs so we'll end up spending only $20 a month on our electric costs for a monthly fee to hook-up to HELCO's power grid. During the day we generate more electricity than we need and what we aren't using gets fed back into the grid and we get credit for that through a net metering agreement with HELCO. At night, we use electricity generated by HELCO and only have to pay for it if we use more than our solar panels generate. This way we don't need batteries to store the power we generate and we have reliable power even if it's cloudy or dark outside.

This was all installed, along with our new digital electric meter, about three weeks ago. Since then, we have generated 88 kilowatt hours of electricity with our 10 solar panels. We've used 94, so right now we owe the power company for six kilowatt hours. We've had hopelessly cloudy and rainy days lately, so I am optimistic that in the long run, we'll be generating enough power to accrue some credits and not have to pay for any electricity.

The photovoltaic system cost $12,100. We will also get some tax credits from this purchase, but I can't remember how much. I think we figured that if our usual bill of $140 is reduced to $20 then the system will pay for itself in about four years at the current electric rates.

So we're feeling very good about our purchase. It will save us money in the long run and is better for the environment, plus the panels were made right here in the U.S.A.
This readout shows the temperature at the solar hot water panels (117) It also shows the water temperature at the bottom our  water tank, which is 110 on the afternoon of a fairly cloudy day.

The two big panels on the left heat our water, the 10 photovoltaic panels on the right generate electricity. That small spot of panels on our carport should be enough for all our electricity needs. Crazy!

Our 10 photovoltaic panels have generated 88 kilowatts of electricity since this meter was installed about three weeks ago.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Voyage au famille

Chris and I attended a Jasper family trip to Nuevo Vallerta in February. It was my first trip to Mexico so I was excited to see a bit of that country, but the main purpose of the visit was to spend time with the other 22 Jaspers in attendance.

What stood out more than anything else to Chris and I was the level of virtue we observed among the average residents. Folks we met in local, not just touristy spots, seemed friendly, even when they were not trying to sell us something. All the areas were visited looked clean and felt safe, even places where some level of poverty was evident. In one instance, we went out on a pier and watched several people who were fishing. They left no trash on the ground, were not cussing, drinking or smoking pot. It was a compliment to the area, and a contrast to Hawaii where plenty of locals give us stink eye even though we've lived here and contributed to the community for years, pakalolo (pot) is regularly smoked openly in public areas, and there is plenty of litter that was not thrown out by visitors.

Highlights of the trip included boogie boarding with the kids, forming a giant flotilla of 24 family members in the resort's lazy river, and just getting out of the resort to see more local areas. We stayed at the Grand Mayan, a gorgeous, upscale resort. It was a treat to be there, but since we live in Hawaii, we have seen an ocean resort or two. Sitting in a pool all day and swimming up to the bar for another $12 margarita will never be our type of vacation, and I am happy we spent a lot of time away from the hotel.

One day the entire family took a boat tour to a snorkel spot, then to a remote village that is inaccessible by car, where we had lunch on the beach. There were tons or tourists taking a hike up to a waterfall, but seeing the young, local kids rent horses for the trail, and people selling coconut and pineapple and boys playing super old video games in a small arcade gave us a glimpse of this genuine, Mexican town. We also had a blast swimming by the waterfall where Johnny climbed up a cliff and hucked it. This was a great day.
We spotted a crocodile sleeping in a drainage ditch just outside the resort.

Dinner with 22 people is an exciting and chaotic affair.

Several family members pose for a photo after zip lining.

Johnny hucks it off a cliff.

Too bad we couldn't translate the labels on all the containers. This fascinating store sold in bull grain, dried goods, tree bark and who knows what else. It was really fun to look at.

This booth at the market sold da kine: kitchen utensils, tools, blank video tapes. It was very random.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jaspers: 1  Mauna Loa: 1

Chris and I just returned from a 2.5 week camping and hiking trip in southwest Utah. You'd think we'd spend our first free day back catching up on chores. Instead we went hiking. But it's not just because we can't get enough of the outdoors. There was only one place left on the island that I had not seen and really wanted to - the top of Mauna Loa. At 13,679 feet above sea level the air gets a little thin. Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world, last erupted in 1984 and is considered active. I think I have heard that from the sea floor to the summit, Mauna Loa is the largest mountain in the world by volume.

We tried to do the hike once before but failed miserably. We were told it's good to camp overnight at the weather station at 11,000 feet elevation to acclimate for the hike the next day. Terrible idea for those who live at sea level. While you're awake, you can force yourself to breath extra. While you sleep, your body's involuntary instincts kick in and you wake up often gasping for air and with a nasty headache from the lack of oxygen. At least that's my layman's perspective. We got awful altitude sickness, including vomiting, and had to come down the mountain at 2 a.m., me nearly running my husband over in all the light-headed confusion and rush.

So...after having spent more than two weeks camping at around 6,000 feet elevation in Utah, Chris thought it would be our best chance to try Mauna Loa again. We think it takes a body several weeks to produce extra red blood cells to hold more oxygen. When my 67-year-old aunt, Alice, visited from Glenwood Spring, Colo. she ran circles around us on Mauna Kea's summit.

Chris and I began our second attempt at 8 a.m. Saturday after having a full night's rest at home. It was a steep, four-mile hike over a lava trail marked with rock carins to the edge of the giant caldera at the top. We made it! It was 2.5 miles more to the summit on the other side of the caldera. We didn't feel like adding an extra 5 miles to the hike just to say we made it officially to the top, so we had our lunch at a rock shelter near the caldera. For those who take the much longer trek beginning on the other side of the mountain in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I give you credit! The wind blew hard at the summit and the clouds threatened to close in on us, so we took one last look at the amazing and surreal, volcanic view, and headed down.


Yes, it's me inside all those clothes standing in the caldera at the top of Mauna Loa. It was 9 degrees C when we started the hike, and it got colder at the top.

A rock carin marks the path with a view of Mauna Kea in the background.

The shelter near the caldera where we had lunch.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

White Road Wonderland

One of my favorite hikes was officially "closed" after the earthquake of 2006. We're generally compliant and we don't condone trespassing or breaking the law so I hadn't done the hike since it closed and Chris has never done it. But we kept hearing of friends taking the White Road hike and we needed a cool place to go that wasn't too far to drive, so we finally broke down and headed to Waimea. The trail is clearly being used, we passed several people that day and the rules are obviously not being enforced. I also did not see any landslides or damage the earthquake may have caused that would make the hike more dangerous. There is a small strip of land that is leased by a private family from the state that one must cross to get to the forest reserve where the trail begins. They do not want trespassers, so I don't feel entirely right about doing this hike, but we did, and it didn't disappoint. What good is a forest reserve if it is inaccessible, anyway?

The hike winds through incredibly thick jungle beside the Hamakua ditch, which irrigates farms in the area. After about an hour, hikers find themselves standing on the top of the 2,000-foot high cliffs of Waipio Valley. We hiked at least one more hour to the very back of the valley through mud and thick kahili ginger. On our way, we saw several teens swimming in the concrete ditch and sliding down a crazy steep, slippery section of the ditch.

The jungle is green and gorgeous, and the misty clouds obscuring rugged ohia trees are downright enchanting. There really is no other hike like this, and it brought back lot of fond memories of hiking here with my dad years ago. It's truly amazing, and I just might be willing to break the law again someday.






Bathroom Take Two

I tried posting this a few months ago with before and after video walk-throughs of our bathroom remodel, but the video upload took forever and I gave up on posing this until now.
Back in March, Chris really tore into our bathroom, which needed some work. It felt small, the shower enclosure was tiny, the wall had some rot, the counter top was crummy, etc.

To increase the sense of space, Chris ripped out part of a wall so that it would be a half wall. He removed the small shower and a tiny vanity next to it, removed another portion of wall that was doing nothing besides filling space, then he made a gigantic shower finished in travertine with super nice fixtures and a made in Germany rain shower head. It's really sweet!

Instead of fixing the vanity, he painted the old one, added drawer handles and finished the top in large granite tile and put a vessel sink on top. A lot of work and expense went into the project, but the bathroom is amazing now. We turned one of the home's eye sores into a real selling point, and every time I take a shower it feels like I'm vacationing in a fancy resort.

My husband's skills continue to impress me. My dad and Christoph were also a huge help.
Before
 
After
 
Our old shower enclosure was small, the shower head was broken, and the adjacent wall was rotten.
 
My dad helps install the shower bladder.

We're really happy with the linear drain.


Three shower heads to choose from, all made in Germany. Christoph helped install them using the German language instructions.


A bizarre blessing

Chis came across an unusual find while doing yard work yesterday. A poor turkey had run into a little trouble while flying through or roosting in our banana trees and it hanged itself. It was hard for me to believe, but there I was staring at this turkey hanging from the tree. It was pretty injured but still alive, so Chris cleaned it and we had a nice turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans from our garden. Money doesn't grow on trees, but apparently, sometimes, free groceries do. I was also struck by how colorful the features were up close.

I never realized how gorgeous turkey feathers are.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

For the birds

The federal government continued this week their efforts to eradicate or at least control the feral sheep population on Mauna Kea. The sheep eat native mamane trees, which the endemic and endangered palila bird rely on for food.

Hunters don't like this destruction of their game, so as a consolation, the government makes the meat available to those who sign up in advance and take the trek up the mountain to salvage the carcasses. Chris and I went up Thursday and got three nice sheep! We could have had at least one or two more, but we knew three would max out our freezer space.

Fifteen trucks showed up Thursday to receive the free sheep and I counted that at least 60 sheep were given out, but we left early, so the number may have been even higher. They shot 44 sheep the previous day. A helicopter rounds up the sheep and shoots them, then drops them off in a sling in batches of 10-15. Then people take turns choosing a sheep.

Chris has done this before, and our fabulous meat grinder was featured in this previous blog post. For the first time I went with Chris just for the experience. I learned a few things about butchering an animal, different cuts of meat and criteria for choosing a good sheep.

If anything struck me, it was how comfortable all the attendees were in the presence of animal carcasses and how they knew just what to do. Some folks I know probably thought it was strange I would take the day off to skin dead animals, but the people there saw the practicality of not letting this perfectly good meat go to waste. After all, it's organic, local, free-range, grass-fed meat. People were planning to make smoke meat, jerky, and one lady saved all of the hoofs to make musical rattles and drumsticks. We packaged ours into steaks, roasts and ground meat. We've enjoyed the meat in the past, and two of the animals we got were young ewes so we're hoping for some good, tender eating.



The helicopter brings a sling of sheep.

These guys brought a wheelbarrow.

Leg of lamb and some sheep steaks.
We are blessed with a full freezer!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

video

This temporary life

Chris and I recently listened to an excellent sermon by our favorite Bible teacher, Jack Crabtree, in which he discussed this parable from the 12th chapter of Luke:

     "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'
     But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
     "This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Jack's sermon said the man's mistake was not in storing up grain, but in making the things of this world important instead on focusing on God and life in His eternal kingdom. When the man's life ends unexpectedly, he is prepared to live many years on earth in comfort, but he is not ready for heaven. Scripture also reminds us to be ready to meet our maker because he will come unexpectedly, "like a thief in the night."

Last week, Chris and I sat behind Willy at church. This week we attended his memorial service. No one knew he would die suddenly from a heart attack, but we all know he believed in the promises of God and was sold out for Jesus. He was ready to die at any time. Chris also lost his aunt, Mary, this week. She died after a short battle with cancer. And yesterday, we rode our dirtbikes up Mauna Kea and explored wreckage of a military fighter jet that, years ago, crashed into the mountain. I doubt the pilot expected the plane to crash before take off. We need to be ready. Everyone dies so this seems pretty obvious, yet it's easy, at least for me, to get distracted by the here and now instead of laying up treasure in heaven. The Bible says, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. God has so many awesome things in store for those who belong to Christ, I hope this post encourages you to chase after God and His kingdom.
Chris inspects wreckage of some sort of military fighter jet we found at approx. 11,500 feet elevation on Mauna Kea.

Chris and Christoph examine the evidence and try to piece together what happened when the plane went down.