The Magic of Letters

I was already a huge believer in reading and writing and the power of it all — but have a look or listen to this woman from Nepal, who was a child bride and didn’t learn to read until she was 21, and tell me it’s not magic.

The story she tells — her story — is enormous and beautiful. Now that is somehow who has learned to appreciate the power of the alphabet. Wow. Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Memoir, Content Marketing, Hawaii

It’s another This I Believe story from over at NPR. What an amazing collection of essays they are gathering, saving, sharing.  People have the most incredible stories. I think everybody probably has one. This woman’s story really struck me.

From her essay, which someone else read in English:

…Before learning how to write, my life was like the nearby Indrasarovar Lake, always stagnant. I had the pain of child marriage, my husband did not support me, abject poverty was my way of life and I didn’t have any skill or courage to do anything. But I saw that the number of people learning to read and write was growing — and their lives were improving. I then realized it was neither wealth nor beauty that I lacked, but letters…


There’s a TED talk by Isabel Allende, one of my favorite authors, in which she discusses passion and also women. Specifically, the plight of women in much of the non-privileged world — and it made me think about this one Nepalese woman’s words.

Allende’s talk is really worth a listen. It’s humorous (she says someone asked Sophia Loren how she can look so sexy in her 70s, and she replied something like, “Posture. My spine is always straight. And I don’t make old people noises”) and also poignant and important. Listen to it here.


Moving The Books: Many Hands DO Make Light Work

picture-1-22-27-24Kohala people are really a smart and capable bunch, and they always have been. Some 1500 years ago, they formed a human chain, many miles long, and passed stones from Pololu Valley, person to person, to where would be built Mo‘okini Heiau.

Archaeologists know this because Pololu is where the stones of Mo‘okini Heiau originated, and also because there is evidence of stones having been dropped along the way.

And now, their descendants and others have proven the practicality of the approach. Over the weekend, they formed a mile-long chain of people and passed more than 15,000 books and other items from the Bond Memorial Public Library to the community’s newly constructed library building, the North Kohala Public Library.

The books were passed, hand-to-hand, for over a mile and then settled into the new library building. It was all completed in a day.

I love this and wish I could have been a part of it.

Sometimes the old ways really are the best.


A Double, No Trouble, Hubbell Bubble

Today I solved Problem Chicken. Problem, “Can’t Let The New Puppy Run Around Because She Will Kill The Hens.”

I got myself a Hubbell Bubble.

This all started with Mike and Liz Hubbell, who live in Puna, building themselves a chicken enclosure. Mike figured out an economical and fairly simple way to build one, and the result so impressed someone from the College of Tropical Ag here that the college is helping them promote it for local backyard chicken farmers. They call it the Hubbell Bubble.

I half got it because of the name. Well, not really, but I do love the name.

Mike and Liz have made the plans available, for free. Or if you pay for parts, they will build you one (they do it at home, in panels) and then bring it and put it up for you a small charge. It is very generous of them, and they do amazing work.

I only first talked to them about this two or three days ago, and then this morning they drove up with all the parts (which they built at home yesterday) on a trailer. I can’t believe how fast it all happened. I love how fast it all happened.

Here is my dog saying, “Will you PLEASE get those chickens put away so I am not tempted to eat them and I can get OUT of here?” I say, “Soon, soon.”

(She is a very happy dog despite everything and wasn’t forlorn, as she seems in this photo. She never looks forlorn. She is a sweet happy puppy. Also, she does get out of there to play. And she has a very cozy sleeping area next door there for nighttime. But she will be happy to be out, free-range, with the other dogs again.)

We had an open-air coop we were using for the hens, but needed to move it. This picture below is of Mike.

Here (below) is here we were heading with it. It’s a level spot my husband made awhile back for our daughter’s swimming pool. The coop wasn’t as hard to move as we had all feared.

Here’s the coop in its new place. The chickens kept a close eye on what was going on all morning. They talked about it a lot, too. Where were we going with their coop? What was the meaning of all this?

Mike and Liz putting the already-made panels into place around the coop.

We had to sacrifice a banana tree to make room for this project, and we left it there inside the chicken enclosure because chickens like eating stuff like that. That’s what that is, on the ground, inside there. It’s kind of messy looking. You wouldn’t want a messy chicken coop.

Framework for the top. The “bubble,” as it were.

It didn’t take long at all to get to the finished product! I present to you:

The Hubbell Bubble.


It’s a Double Hubbell Bubble, actually. I decided we needed it to be 12 x 24, instead of the standard 12 x 12 they sometimes build. Our chickens need space.

We still need to put gravel down on the weed cloth along the edges. Chain link extends out from the bottom for a bit, and then there is weed cloth atop it, and then there will be gravel to hold that all down. This will keep out the mongooses and the dogs. That’s the idea.

We are very happy with my new Double, No Trouble, Hubbell Bubble. We just love it.

Here’s an early adopter of the new chicken accomodations.

“The girls” are roosting in there tonight for the first time. I’m really happy with their new Hubbell Bubble and hope they are too.

You can read more about the Hubbell Bubble at Liz’s blog. Don’t panic if you read the part about dogs breaking into their own chicken yard and killing some of their chickens. That happened, they are careful to explain, because they had modified their original design in a way that, it turns out, wasn’t a good idea. They aren’t doing that anymore.

I didn’t know the Hubbells before arranging to have them build and put up my Bubble, so you can rest assured I’m telling you about this only because we’re so happy with it.

They are very generous with their know-how, energy and help for others who want to raise some of their own food, and take care of their own needs. Neat people and it was great to meet them.

If you’d like to know more, or you’d like your own, you can reach Mike and Liz at 965-8235.


Christopher Kimball & The Troll

kimballI have been on Christopher Kimball‘s email list for years, and though I don’t live in New England and I don’t have time right now to cook the wonderful foods he writes about, it’s great writing and I always take time to read it.

He is, according to Wikipedia, the bow-tie wearing founder, editor, and publisher of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, and formerly publisher of the now defunct Cook’s Magazine. I know him from Cook’s Illustrated — what a neat magazine that is. Here’s his Christopher Kimball blog. And I love reading his occasional emails, which talk about the sugar season in Vermont and relay charming small-town stories.

This is a funny, timely, small-town story that came in his email today. Could it be true? He represents it as though it is. And of course it could be — people are crazy.

Back in Vermont, here is a recent story that sounds completely made up. A resident of a nearby town is very well liked but more than a little crazy and a bit of a drinker—you never know what he will do next. His wife came home one day and noticed that he looked a bit shaken. He said, “I caught a troll!” and proceeded to lead her upstairs. When they got to the bedroom, she heard a voice from the closet shouting, “Let me out! Let me out!” Well, he had all sorts of furniture stacked up against the door to keep the troll in. Once the way was cleared, she found a very pleasant, rather short gentleman in disarray, shaken after having spent a few hours locked up inside. He was working for the U.S. Census, had rung the bell, and, as soon as the door had opened, the husband had somehow mistaken him for a troll, spiriting him upstairs. No word yet on the impending lawsuit.

My favorite sentence in this bit is: “…as soon as the door had opened, the husband had somehow mistaken him for a troll, spiriting him upstairs.”

I cannot think of anything else to say about this, except: Thanks for the good laugh!


Our Chickens Came First. And Then The Eggs.

chickensWe got chickens a week or two ago, and I am just loving the whole thing. I am a first-time chicken owner, and I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying them.

We bought six hens, and transported them home in two travel dog kennels. There we set up a coop for them, with feed and water and nest boxes, and a couple branches up high where they roost at night.

We kept them in there for a few days, so they’d know that was their laying place and night home, but now they are ranging free during the day. They are fun to watch. I can’t explain why — they are, after all, just chickens — but it is satisfying to watch them roam around and explore our place, and strut and peck and make their occasional noises and take short, noisy flights over the flume.

We save our food scraps in an old margarine tub — the bread crusts my daughter sometimes peels off her sandwiches, and all the leftovers, as well as any food the cats and dog didn’t eat the day before — and I take them out in the morning and they eat it all. (Well, there are still peels from red- and white-striped beets on the ground, but they have eaten everything else.) And we give them poultry feed twice a day, and a bit of scratch here and there, too.

They also like liliko‘i, ulu and avocados, which we have growing in abundance. They are fat and happy, I think.

eggsOur six girls had been giving us anywhere from two to five eggs a day, most often three to four. But, suddenly, we are only getting two eggs a day. And both yesterday and today, we found one egg in an unexpected place. I sent my daughter on an Easter egg hunt in case the girls have “gone rogue” and are laying in the wild, but if that’s the case we have not yet found their spots.

The guy we bought the chickens from, who has been great about letting me email him with questions — he has been conducting our instruction in Chickens 101 — said this might mean we need more nest boxes. They will wait for awhile, he said, but if they really need to lay the egg, they’ll lay it anywhere.

I will get another box tomorrow and see how that goes.

For Christmas, we gave my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and also the teacher’s assistant pretty lauhala baskets tied up with fancy red bows — and filled with our fresh, organic, free-range eggs. Is that weird? I know it is.

I told them, “This will be the quirkiest gift you get this year, but we hope you’ll like it.”


I liked giving them eggs because not only is it neat to have fresh eggs, these are consumable — no clutter — and then they can either use the basket, or wrap a gift in it and send it along. They seemed to like them.

We are having so much fun getting eggs from our own hens, and watching them strut around and live their lives.