We have been living in Hawai’i for about 10 days now. On about day 7 everything was crazy and I wanted to run away. Living in a one bedroom vacation house is fun, but we have had pressing things to arrange that take up our time.. it isn’t all fun and games. Being in close quarters and the stress of finding a place to live took it’s toll on our family dynamic. But we were able to access our strength and love to reconnect and keep working as a team.
Today I’ll tell you about some of the things on the island that really stand out and show you some pictures of our property!
Coqui Frogs, a Song in the Night
The sound the frog makes is just like how you say it’s name “Ko-kee”. The Coqui frog is native to Pueto Rico. In Hawai’i this frog is considered to be an invasive species. But as with the tropics, once an animal or bug takes hold, the island and it’s residents usually adapt and learn to live with it. Some people love the sound of this singing frog, while others find it makes sleeping at night difficult. Most resident Hawaiians have learned to enjoy this night time serenade. I love it and think it adds charm and presence to the dark Hawaiian nights.
Listen to what the Coqui Frog sounds like:
We went star gazing one night and a coqui frog was singing by himself near the house. The rest were all out in the tall grasses. We located him sitting on a big leaf. The kids liked watching how his chest puffed out so he could sing his song. Then we picked him up and moved him over to the tall grasses. They are really so tiny, it is incredible the volume they create!
Clear Star Gazing
Out here, just 20 minutes from the town of Hilo, star gazing is sharp. It is almost as clear as starry nights when camping far from light pollution. Hawaii is home to two major observatories – Mauna Kea Observatory on the island of Hawaii, and Haleakala Observatory on Maui. Since 1989, Hawaii has maintained a strict lighting ordinance.
Trash and No Plastic Bags
Hawai’i has banned the use of plastic bags. This helps keep non-biodegradable trash to a minimum. All the grocery and department stores do not offer plastic bags and most of them will charge you about five cents per paper bag. Everyone on the island uses reusable shopping bags. As a hippie at heart, it brings a smile to my face to see everyone entering stores with their reusable bags in hand.
Most neighborhoods do not have city trash pickup. You can hire private trash pickup services to get your trash for about $30 per month. However, you can bring your own trash and recyclables to the local transfer stations for free. Because composting works so well here, we find that the amount of trash we make each week is very minimal. The bulk of our “trash” is actually compostable. Did you get that? In Hawaii trash is free (and water is free in rainy places where catchment is practice). Neat!
There are tons of large, old mango trees on our property. There are also three small banyan trees, which we may choose to cut down (both because they are invasive and difficult to maintain. We also need to make space for our house). We have heard from locals that banyan trees can take over the canopy of an area, making it difficult to grow other things. One lady told us she spends $2000 per year having it trimmed and maintained because it drops roots from the high up in the canopy that when they reach the ground, grow into more trunks for the tree.
In the front of the property there is a lot of new, small growth, which we will cut down and replant papayas, bananas, and other fruiting trees. Just 15 feet in, the forest area begins. We found ginger and papaya growing in the front as well.
Right now we are figuring out where to put the driveway. It will need to be cleared and a few trees cut down to accommodate the driveway. There are things to be decided like who is cutting the tree down, are we burning, selling or mulching the wood, do we hire help for the clearing… there are lots of options and varying bids for how much we could spend to have someone else do this for us. I’m guessing it will end up being a combination of help and DIY.
You will get “grown in”
Everything grows like crazy here. The soil is rich, the rain is plenty and the sun shines between the showers. Fruits are giant, plants grow very fast and if you don’t keep up with it, you will get grown in. There are vines trying to climb trees, houses, stop signs. They will smother trees if you don’t cut them down. Plants grow in gutters and mosses grow on stones. If you do it right, you can work the land to your advantage and grow a majority of your own food.
We were scoping out our property and the neighbors just two houses down were driving past. They stopped to introduce themselves and chatted for a bit. When driving around town or in the neighborhood, people are patient and wave. We had to turn around once in the middle of the road and driver slowed down and stopped while we turned our car around. She waved when she drove past. People here are chill! I even saw an elderly couple cut someone off when turning into traffic from a parking lot. The guy, who looked like a local, just slowed down and waited, then drove by with a smile on his face! Had this happened in Phoenix, I would be certain to see some driving rage and maybe a certain finger.
Electricity and Solar
Hawai’i has the highest solar power use per capita, and rightly so! Electricity is expensive. Despite most houses not having air conditioning, monthly bills run about $200/month for a 1400 square foot house. The good news is that because of demand, and the close proximity to solar panel supply from Japan, Hawaii’s solar panels cost half as much as they do on the mainland. For just $6,000 you can buy a solar panel kit that will power your house and charge a battery (like the soon to be released Tesla house battery). In just 3 years a household can make up the cost of buying electricity and have free solar energy for all years after that.
Hawaii is also making life difficult for energy companies. It is not allowing them to upgrade or expand their production equipment, which makes energy more expensive. This is a way of forcing the island to move to more renewable energy sources. You see solar panels all over the place here. Because people don’t need to heat or cool, it is a more than sufficient power source. Hawaii policy also makes it very easy to sell excess energy back to the grid (in mainland states the policy is often made extremely difficult because of energy companies lobbying efforts).
Mahlo for joining me on this adventure! I’ll be writing next time about the fruit, farmers markets and a weekend trip to the other side of the island. Stick around!