Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Website

Check out my new website... I started it during the days of soft rains in Hawaii, under the guidance of my friend Bill and encouragement of Tanya. It is still very rough, and a bit lacking in focus, but it will grow into something very useful I'm sure... I'm getting an overload of my name everywhere, but I'm following advice of mentors...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Carnation Flood Report from Hjertoos House

Whew, last night was hairy. This historic farmhouse has never flooded in 102 years, and the water has only been to the other side of the drive, but not this time… the basement started filling before dark (yes, I got the wine out first!). The water was up next to the south side of the house, then surrounded the house by after dark.

Stray Kitty had to swim to the deck and was yowling with fear, I dried him off and brought him in. My ducks must have had to swim for part of the night, I opened all the doors so they could get out but they chose to stay in their pen which is the high point. They are very sleepy today, poor things.

We moved our cars three times as we watched water getting higher and higher, had to abandon the truck because the battery was dead.

The river crested around 4 AM, It flooded our utility room so no hot water or heat, but I do have water and electricity so that’s great.

Well a picture speaks a thousand words (especially with captions?) so here are a few:

Creeping up the front steps last night, we did one hour checks and were going to start moving furniture when it hit three steps down… it made it to the 4th step at my 3AM check. At 4:30 it was down half an inch so it crested around 4:00… The water was moving in a surprisingly fast current towards the Snoqualmie river, and it was just a constant roar of a raging river outside… this was definitely the Tolt River running over its banks. It is really ominous looking out at that much water surrounding you in the dark with no real idea of when it is going to stop rising… and knowing you are pretty much on your own because everyone else is dealing with it.

About 9AM this morning, down quite a bit. We moved our other cars into town, but the truck didn’t start, hopefully it’s fine.

The ducks: I think the water must have been at least a foot higher, the straw and feed bins were floating so the ducks must have been too.

Roger and Pat surveying the damage, and paddling back to the barn… this is the parking lot to the west of the barn, pea patch just beyond.

All is well now…

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Albatrosses Story

November 24th

The day before I returned from Hawaii Tanya decided it was time to see if the Layson albatrosses had returned. Before heading out she showed me a You-tube video of an albatross courting dance (see link below). Until then I had not known anything about these sea birds.

We drove to an area on Kauai which is near the sea bluffs, and entirely built over with homes. Strangely the albatross community decided that this was a good neighborhood to nest in, and a few years ago began showing up in relatively small numbers to set up their nests and raise their single chick in front yards, along the streets, and other seemingly random spots throughout the neighborhood. And they are big birds, with a wingspan of 12’ feet and they sit very calmly and unafraid. Impressive and regal.

If you’ve watched the March of the Penguins you have an idea of the commitment of these birds. First the male arrives and goes to their nest site. He pulls a few leaves and twigs and sets up a very simple nest. The site can be anywhere, not necessarily private, in fact, seemingly very public and in the open. He calmly sits there, patiently waiting for the female to arrive which can take several days. It is all the more unusual when you find out that they are a bird that does not touch lands for months, even years at a time, instead they fly the ocean air currents far at sea, landing only occasionally on water.

Within a few days the female arrives and the courtship begins. We were lucky to come upon a pair in the midst of their courtship and got a glimpse of the courtship dance which they performed after mating. It was quite a sight and Tanya said it was the first time she’d seen it. With one egg it is likely to be a fleeting event so we felt lucky.

After the female lays her single egg, the male will sit on the egg while the female returns to the sea for food. After a week or so they switch places. This goes on until the egg hatches and while they raise this single chick until maturity. If one of the parents die the whole family perishes, as they are entirely dependent on each other for food.

The chick has feathers that are long and fluffy and make it appear larger than the parents. And it is adorable. Tanya says it is funny to watch the adults as they walk to the bluffs to fly away. They actually walk down the suburban roads very deliberately and unafraid, with big floppy feet, slapping the ground as they travel, until they get to the local park to gracefully fly away.
We watched the mating pair above as they did their courtship dance, but my video is not as good as the one on youtube:
I had these birds on my mind for several days after, they are an impressive example of the adaptability of wildlife to our human culture.

Also, check out Tanya’s blog at : She is an artist and naturalist living closely with the land on Kauai, Hawaii.

Some facts I've found:
Laysan Albatross is a beautiful seabird that loves the open sea. Albatross is an open-ocean species that may not set foot on land for many years at a time, a nomad of the ocean.The Laysan albatross has a wingspan of 13 feet and weigh as much as 25 pounds. Albatross live from forty to sixty years, often remaining out at sea for five years, then returning to the same island they were born on. They remain faithful to their mate, which they rendezvous with each year at the same nest. This is the only time they stay on land - to raise their one chick.An albatross can float on the air currents and not flap its wings for hours,


I finally got a chance between other plans, flooding rivers and rainy days, to get out on a paddle board. I wish I had discovered it sooner, it is a great way to enjoy the waters there safely, although I would probably do it mostly on my knees until I got the hang of it!

It was unsafe to swim in Hanalei Bay while I was there, with the high surf and undertow (and big warning signs saying so) coupled with murky waters from swollen rivers, which made it hard for the sharks to tell if you are human or not (they generally avoid us). In fact, there was a ‘shark alert’ for the better part of my stay as one was seen milling around the surfers. My first innocent days there it was a full moon and I suggested that we go out swimming in the full moon, and got a strong look and suggestion that I shouldn’t do that, night time is when the sharks are out hunting in force. That took away that romantic notion!

Best to be on the safety of a board, it appears. Next time there I will find me a board to borrow so I can float about on the warm waters of Hanalei Bay. I started out on the calm waters of the Waipa' river outlet (dammed up again by a sand bar, so it's like a lake), then tried the waters of the bay. Bill said I wouldn't last 10 seconds on the open waves. He was right, I guess I made it 5 seconds. After falling down a few more times, (I didn't put those photos in!) I just tooled around on my knees, that was fun enough...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Surfing on a River

Surfing (and paddling) on Waipa' River
(See the surfing video below)
Waipa' River runs placidly by Bill and Tanya's house. From their house you can look over the river and see Hanalei Bay just beyond. Bill loves that he can just hop on his paddle board and in a few moments be in one of the finest bays in the world.

Neighbors come by on their paddle boards and they visit with each other (mostly talk about the waves for surfing I think). In this photo it was pouring rain, but that doesn't stop anyone (but me I guess).
Oddly though, where the river hits the bay it is stopped by the sandy beach and looks like a lake. This is a bit uncommon, the other nearby rivers all run straight out to the sea, making beach walking sometimes river wading too.

However, as the water builds up especially after heavy rain it will eventually cut a path through the sand and outflow to the bay. And if you help it along by creating a small ditch you can predict the time. After heavy rainfall had the river overflowing the bank into the yard, Bill decided to go down and help it along.

And the young locals love to do that, because as the water begins to pour out you can actually ride the waves pouring out from the river. Just another fun activity in Hanalei.

Check out this video... sorry I put the cap on at the end and thought I'd stopped it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hawaiian Hau Fiber Nets

Fishnet from Hau Fiber

We went to Waipa' Poi pounding today (though scraping and grinding is a more accurate description). Every Thursday at Waipa' they do this gathering, and people come from all over. It’s the only cultural center like this on the island, and it’s at the foot of Bill and Tanya’s driveway. They have a library of cultural books, offices, native plant garden and nursery, a farmers market on Tuesdays, and they are restoring the whole upper valley, an ahapua’a to native. And I was encouraged to bring cedar bark and do some weaving with them, and maybe work with some of the fibers here. I became interested in hau fiber, it seemed to be an ancient fiber source but not much used today. Today I got to make a start of a net bag from the bark of the hau tree, along with some Hawaiians who were very interested in watching it unfold.

Hau is a yellow flowered hibiscus tree that grows rampantly here. It can be incredibly invasive in wetland valleys as we saw at a neighbor’s property. It also drops its yellow flowers to the ground where they land upright and turn different shades of oranges and reds, very lovely.

The bark can be pulled in strips from the tree and, as ‘uncle Sam’ told us today, can also be used to pull trucks out of the ditch, instead of calling a tow truck like people do today. Another person told me of islanders pulling strip off, and fashioning it into a figure-8 strap to climb coconut trees. In other words it is incredibly strong fiber. When the bark is removed from a 3” diameter trunk and soaked for a few days to ‘ret’ (or rot) it can be separated into very fine, almost plasticy textured layers which can be spun into cordage.

On Thursdays a man we think is called Charlie comes and works on nylon fiber nets which he sells to fisherman who commission nets from him. He’s a Portuguese man married to a Hawaiian woman. He makes the throw nets which are funnel shaped and thrown out along the shoreline and pulled back in. I could see his technique is similar to what I’ve done for dipnets so I thought that would be good project, making a hau fiber net sample.

Last week I started thigh spinning some fine twine to use and people were interested, so I made more during the week. ‘Charlie’ let me borrow a smaller net needle he had and I used my finger as a gauge (a spacer used to keep the net loops the same size). He makes his net needles from bamboo, I’d like to try that, very lightweight and strong. His gauge is just linoleum but it could be anything hard and flat (I prefer wood or bone).

So I made a little net sample from hau fiber, which I am turning into a net bag. ‘Charlie’ was clearly not interested in showing me how to do it as I struggled with the starting though he didn’t mind me looking at his as a model. Another elder was there who makes nets, and all he said as I worked on my start was that starting nets is the hardest part. He didn’t seem interested in showing me how either. But I surprised them by pulling it off. That drew in a few more people, and I got pretty far along on a little net which I decided to make into a net bag. Uncle Sam came over and was very supportive of what we were doing, and he told us many stories as we worked. He had a saying about keeping busy with your hands while sitting around, something like ‘lazy work’.

So it was another good day in paradise. We also got to talk to a ‘lau hala’ basket weaver about harvesting hala leaves for baskets, and ways to prepare them. She wants to make a ‘lau hala’ hat in the northwest coast style, which she saw at an airport, and liked in the one I brought, and may come over to work with us on that. It’s fun to share knowledge about fibers and techniques, and our deeper connections with the plants and culture while doing this work. It’s a bond we can all share.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Guests on an Outrigger Adventure

An Outrigger Adventure

On this trip to Kauai the only thing I thought I might want to do, as a tourist, was to perhaps go out on an outrigger, I had not done that the last time here. I was thinking I would go do one of those tourist guided tours I see around. Maybe see some sea turtles, maybe even whales.

On my first morning, Tanya and Bill wanted to show me the fish ponds they are reconstructing in the Waipa’ ahupua’a; places where fish were reared for food. This is located on private native lands down near the beach, and as we walked we passed a camp with a carving and a sink for preparing fish and foods, familiar to me of native fish camps along the Columbia I’ve visited, nothing fancy, but all you need. It is so nice to be seeing this part of Hanalei, it is really all I’ve seen this trip, of the native lands and the simple way of being on this island.

We came upon a group of outriggers pulled on shore and I stopped to photograph them, thinking of the Canoe Family at home. I wondered out loud if we’d see any on the bay, I’d love to take some photos. As we walked away a truck pulled up next to them, so we walked back and I asked if they were planning to take one out. The young (and handsome) man said no. I told him about the Canoe Family a bit, said I’d love to share this with them, and then he asked us if we’d like to go out with him. It was a surprise turn around in the conversation! His name is Trevor, and later he told us that he had no intention of taking the outrigger out, he thought he had pulled it ashore for the last time for the season, normal for November. But as we spoke, the wind had come up, in just the right direction, and he saw that he could. By the time we had returned at the end of our trip the wind had changed course and he would not have gone out. It was meant to be.

He said to come back in about 20 minutes, in the meantime we could go down the beach a ways and look at the wooden, traditional, outrigger the Waipa’ community had just finished carving. It was beautiful. It is carved from two types of wood, albizzia and kamani, in lieu of the native koa which was the traditional canoe wood. They are now planting hundreds of koa trees in the ahupua’a but they are still little. Someday….We came to find out that it had just been brought into the water for the first time a week or so ago, in ceremony of course. The ti leaf tied to its center is a reminder of that.

We returned to the outrigger, and a new person joined us, Amanda, who writes for the ‘Lonely Planet’ guidebooks and she asked if we minded if she took photos, she might include them in her next version. And it turns out that Trevor could not have gone out without all of us, we are ballast, and help to keep the outrigger upright. Trevor made this double outrigger himself, 12 years ago, when he was 19, over a winter. In summer he takes out visitors as his primary income.

We helped set the sail, and pushed it out to the water with some help from passers-by. And off we went. The sail was full of wind and we did not need to paddle, Trevor just steered with his oar, and guided the sail, something we learned later is somewhat difficult to do physically. He talked about coming out surfing in the full moon the night before. He talked about how he came to name his boat, ‘standing proudly upright in the open spaces’ is the literal meaning, but he was told it also means something about the wisdom and strength of gods.

Mostly we reveled in the moment. It was a beautiful day, with the wind and warm water splashing us occasionally, and we passed easily across the reef and into the ocean swells. They seemed large, swelling up 6-8 feet on each side but our canoe with its outriggers just floated over them. We really found the wind out there and Trevor guided us parallel with the swells and we just flew across the waves. It was exhilarating. (see video below).

We turned in back towards the bay and just then we saw shapes in the water and passed a small group of sea turtles, just floating on the waves, heading out to sea. Surreal really, these amazing large, primitive looking creatures, just bobbing along.

As soon as we passed the bluff of the bay the wind suddenly died, and we brought out the paddles to get us ashore. At the last moment we hit a new wind and strong waves and we raced ashore, people running towards us to watch us, it was striking.

Tanya and Bill could not believe our luck, they had never been out on an outrigger, and to be asked as a guest in this way, unbelievable. Tanya is terrified of water, but she resolved to go, it seemed too much like destiny for her to do so. Bill could not get over that later, he said that any other way, she would not have gone. Here she is getting used to the idea of it all...

We invited Trevor to the house to see Tanya’s paintings, he had told us about the owls that ride the wind over their valley, so I knew he’d like to see her bird paintings. We had food from the night before and he brought his girlfriend. Bill brought out his guitars and they played music and visited. He has built himself a simple house in the forest across the valley, so they are neighbors. It was a good way to connect.

It was a wonderful moment.

This is Waipa foundation website... perhaps the Canoe Family can come and visit the Waipa people and share knowledge about ocean going travel, navigation by the stars and more.