HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Fresh from the Farm September 16, 2010Posted by Kelly in : HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , 2comments
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Fresh from the Farm
“Is this pineapple sweet?” a woman asked the vendor at the Hilo Farmers’ Market.
He smiled. “Every pineapple sweet, now!”
It’s true. The pineapples you buy today are sweeter than at any time in the past. Their flesh can be yellow or white, but careful breeding and selection have weeded out sharply acidic varieties. (Corn on the cob, too, whether yellow or white, is consistently sweeter now.)
The Hilo Farmers’ Market, on Kam Ave. and Mamo St., is the best-known: it’s open every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but hugely bigger on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The selection of produce is vast, ranging from the familiar, like lettuce and tomatoes, to the exotic: like “dragon fruit“, and warabi – the edible fern shoot that you prepare like asparagus. You can even buy awa (“kava”) – the Pacific islanders’ traditional sedative beverage, and betel (“betel nuts”), the palm seeds that Southeast Asians chew instead of smoking cigarettes. For visitors, especially on days when cruise-ships are in port, there are also souvenir vendors at the Hilo Farmers’ Market, although many of the offerings are imports, not local handicrafts.
On Saturdays in Hilo, there’s a competing market about two miles away, in a parking lot on Kinoole St. near Puainako, that’s open from 7 to noon. The organizers require all produce to be locally grown; and vendors also offer many potted plants, herbs and fruit-tree seedlings that are unavailable elsewhere.
If you have a reason to go to the Hilo Wal-Mart, pretty much any day of the week, you’ll find the Panaewa Hawaiian Homestead farmers’ stands selling fruit and vegetables under the entryway.
There is a Farmers’ Market in Honoka’a every Saturday morning. In Waimea, a Saturday market is operated by the Hawaiian Homesteaders Association; it’s at its biggest on the first Saturday of each month.
A Sunday market, however, probably offers the greatest variety on the island. It’s the Maku’u Farmers’ Market, on Hwy 130 between Kea’au and Pahoa, which is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- The Maku’u Farmers Market is a veritable flea market.
There is an abundance of local produce there, of course, but (unlike the others) it includes a veritable flea-market for new and used clothes, vintage kitchenware, books, vinyl records (remember them?), tie-dyed shirts, garden tools, and practically everything else. There is a wide selection of food, including local “smoke-meat” and sausages; you can get a massage in a chair; in election years you can meet candidates . . . there’s even a stage with local entertainers. It’s always crowded, but there’s plenty of parking. If you can get to just one market a week, make it Maku’u.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Bon Dance Season is Here June 18, 2010Posted by Kelly in : HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Bon Dance Season is Here
by Kelly Moran
In the Buddhist tradition, during the summer months, Japanese residents welcome back the spirits of departed loved ones at lively and festive dance events called o-bon (most in Hawaii shorten the word to bon). There are numerous o-bon dances at venues around the island of Hawaii set for this summer season between June and August.
In Japan, the summer o-bon festivals date back to more than 500 years. In Hawaii, Buddhist temples take turns hosting the festivals and these dances have become as much social affairs as religious observances.
Everyone is welcome at the Hawaiian festivals, regardless of religious background or ethnicity making the temple festivals well-attended.
What can I expect to see at an o-bon festival?
- Dances that participants can engage in (called bon-odori). These generally involve people circling and dancing around a high wooden scaffold called a yagura (wooden musicians’ tower). Flutes and gongs may accompany singers and taiko drums.
- A variety of foods for sale, including musubi (rice balls wrapped in dried seaweed), stir fried noodles, andagi (sweet fried dough), barbeque sticks, stew & rice, chirashi sushi, bentos, Spam musubis, shave ice cones and more.
- Some dressed in a yukata (summer cotton kimono) or a hapi coat.
- Plenty of colorful chockin hanging lights. O-bon translates to “lantern festival” and the lanterns are believed to light the way for ancestral spirits, who are then greeted with offerings of flowers, food and incense.
Here is the Big Island O-Bon Festival Schedule, (courtesy Hawai’i Magazine):
BIG ISLAND O-BON FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Honomu Henjoji Mission, 28-1658 Government Main Road, Honomu, 7 p.m.
• June 19
Papaikou Hongwanji Mission, Onomea Scenic Route, Papaikou, 6 p.m.
• June 26
Honomu Hongwanji Mission, 28-1668 Government Main Road, Honomu, 6 p.m.
• July 2, 3
Puna Hongwanji Mission, 16-592 Old Volcano Road, Keaau, 6:30 p.m.
• July 3
Kohala Hongwanji Mission, 53-4300 Akoni Pule Highway, Kapaau, 6 p.m.
• July 9, 10
Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, 398 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, 7 p.m.
• July 10
Daifukuji Soto Mission, 79-7241 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, 7 p.m.
Kohala Jodo Mission, Hawi, 8 p.m.
Paauilo Hongwanji Mission, 43-1477 Hauola Road, Paauilo, 6 p.m.
• July 17
Honokaa Hongwanji Mission, 45-5016 Plumeria St., Honokaa, 6 p.m.
• July 24
Hilo Hongwanji Mission, 457 Manono St. Hilo, 7:30 p.m.
Kurtistown Jodo Mission, Iwasaki Camp Road, Kurtistown, 8 p.m.
Papaaloa Hongwanji Mission, Papaaloa, 6 p.m.
Kona Hongwanji Mission, 81-6630 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, 7 p.m.
• July 31, Aug. 1
Taishoji Soto Mission, 275 Kinoole St., Hilo, 7 p.m.
• Aug. 7
Hilo Nichiren Mission, 24 Makalika St., Hilo, 7 p.m.
Hawi Jodo Mission, Hawi, 8 p.m.
Paauilo Kongoji Mission, 43-1461 Hauola Road, Paauilo, 7 p.m.
• Aug. 14
Hamakua Jodo Mission, Honokaa, 8 p.m.
Kona Koyasan Daishiji Mission, 76-5945 A Mamalahoa Hwy, Holualoa, 7 p.m.
Hilo Higashi Hongwanji, 216 Mohouli St., Hilo, 8 p.m.
• Aug. 21
Hakalau Jodo Mission, Hakalau, 8 p.m.
• Aug. 27
Honohina Hongwanji Mission, 32-896 Mamalahoa Hwy, Ninole, 6 p.m.
• Aug. 28
Kamuela Hongwanji Mission, Church Row, Kamuela, 6 p.m.
Puna Hongwanji Pahoa-Shibu, Pahoa, 7 p.m.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Honoring the Ali’i in Kona April 29, 2010Posted by Kelly in : Updates , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Honoring the Ali’i in Kona
Ever since the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898, the native royalty – ali’i – haven’t played much of a role in governance, though some did, early on: most notably Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole. Had Queen Liliuokalani not been overthrown, he was considered next in succession, and would probably have become King. As it happened, he served a year in jail for joining the putsch that failed to restore the monarchy. But in 1903 he was elected Hawaii’s first U.S. Congressional Delegate, and he’s honored now, every March 26, with a state holiday called “Prince Kuhio Day.”
I mention this because he was the last member of the ali’i to own and live in the Big Island’s only royal residence: Hulihe’e Palace, on Ali’i Drive in Kailua-Kona.
Since it was essentially a vacation-house, Hulihe’e is pretty small for a palace: it’s a simple two-story building with a footprint of only 30 X 60 feet, and just three rooms plus a lanai on each floor. A parlor and a dining room flank the center entry hall, above which the sitting-room is flanked by two bedrooms. In Kona alone, there are literally thousands of houses that are bigger; but none has such an illustrious history.
One of the very oldest surviving buildings in Hawaii, it was built in 1838 for the second governor of the Big Island. In 1844, the house passed to his daughter-in-law, Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani, who was half-sister to the last of the Kamehameha kings (IV and V). She willed the house to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, who died young; and although Pauahi’s will created the Bishop Estate, the house itself was sold to King David Kalakaua.
The “Merrie Monarch” had it extensively remodeled in high Victorian style, with stucco on the outside, plastered interior walls with gold-leaf moldings, and crystal chandeliers. The rooms are kept, today, as they were commissioned by Kalakaua, and contain many pieces of furniture that he and other royal family members owned and used, along with displays of museum-quality artifacts from pre-contact Hawaii.
Prince Kuhio and his brother, David Kawananakoa, were the last royal owners, and it went into private hands upon Kuhio’s death in 1922. The palace would probably have been torn down to make room for a hotel; but it was acquired in 1925 by the Daughters of Hawaii, a not-for-profit group originally formed in 1903 by kama’aina (locally-born) haole women who wanted “to perpetuate the memory and spirit of old Hawai’i and of historic facts, and to preserve the nomenclature and correct pronunciation of the Hawaiian language.” (The organization also maintains Queen Emma’s Summer Palace, mauka of downtown Honolulu, in Nu’uanu Valley.)
The walls are made of local lava stone and coral, a full three feet thick, but they were no match for an earthquake in October 2006, which caused both cosmetic and structural damage. The Daughters of Hawaii raised the money for repairs, and were finally able to re-open the Palace this year.
So, now you can visit Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is only $5, which is quite a bargain for a chance to put yourself back in time, to get a sense of those bygone days when royalty were a living presence in Hawaii. You may also view the Calendar of Events here.HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , 1 comment so far
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Far-Seeing From Here – Part II – Imiloa, the Healing Force
Besides the summit of Mauna Kea, there are few places on earth where you can see so many stars so clearly. You’re on top of nearly every cloud, nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, and there’s essentially no smog or air pollution at that altitude. Vog from Kilauea doesn’t blow that way, either: it would first have to climb up and over Mauna Loa, which is very nearly as tall as Mauna Kea, and vog gasses are heavier than air.
There’s no “light pollution” here either: as a courtesy to the astronomical observatories, all the streetlights on the Big Island are a dull yellow color that doesn’t register on their telescopes. In fact, hardly any of them are looking for visible light. Most are searching the sky in other “wavelengths,” including infrared radiation (which is invisible but which we notice, mainly, as “heat”), and the even longer wavelength known as “sub-millimeter.” One of the telescopes – the Keck - is actually two telescopes in one, that act like binoculars, and hence give a more three-dimensional image.
Mauna Kea has been an enormously attractive platform for viewing the heavens. But that does not mean that astronomy has been popular here. Several groups of native Hawaiians and environmental activists have, for years, vigorously protested plans to construct yet another observatory – one which will contain the world’s largest mirror, thirty meters across. (Technically, it’s a cluster of small mirrors, each computer-controlled, that produce an image equivalent to what would be seen if it were one big chunk of glass ground into a parabolic mirror – but such a mirror would be impossible to transport up, and is probably impossible to fabricate, anyway).
The University of Hawaii has never been able to deflect objections to new observatories [see previous blog post], but the UH Institute for Astronomy has recently helped to cultivate a generation of children and young adults who are intrigued by astronomy. The reason is . . . Imiloa.
It means “far-seeing,” and it’s a hands-on science museum, located just mauka of the UH-Hilo campus, and centered on the science of astronomy. It houses the only planetarium on the island, and the only 3D projection system as well. Current shows include two that were locally produced: “Awesome Light 2,” which shows distant galaxies that the infrared and sub-millimeter telescopes have explored; and “3D Sun,” with three-dimensional images of solar flares taken from special satellites. The planetarium also draws in new audiences by showing 3D light-shows with rock music.
But if that were all, Imiloa would not be so popular.
The decision was made, in the planning process, to truly honor the Hawaiians’ cosmology and constellations, and to highlight the Polynesians’ remarkable skill in transoceanic navigation, which was accomplished in the main by a knowledge of the stars. These exhibits stand right alongside those about black holes, radio astronomy, globular star-clusters and space travel . . . with equal weight given to all. Moreover, like a museum in another country (and hence with a nod to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement), the exhibits are labeled in Hawaiian as well as English.
There has never before been anything like Imiloa in Hawaii. And if there is a criticism to be made it is simply that somebody should have thought of doing something like this a long time ago!
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Save the Band! March 19, 2010Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , 3comments
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Save the Band!
There’s been an official island band here, continuously, since the days when Kalakaua was king and it was called the Hilo Band. It’s been the Hawaii County Band since the turn of the last century, however, when the bandstand at Mooheau Park, on the Hilo Bayfront, was built for them. And they still play a free monthly concert there. And they still march in parades and play for many festivities.
Thirty-four of the musicians live in East Hawaii, eleven on the West side. The bandmaster, Paul Arceo, first joined in 1983, when he was a teenager – and that’s not unusual. Many of his band-mates also joined when they were young, perhaps having gained prowess in their high school bands. Others may have come to it as grown-ups. But when you consider all of the local musicians, over the last twelve decades, who have passed through its ranks, there’s a multiplier effect at work. The Hawaii County Band has inspired countless numbers of other folks, young and old – but especially young – to take up an instrument and maybe join a band themselves.
And yet, the Hawaii County Band could be out of the County budget next year.
We, here on Big Island, pay close to $350,000 a year to have a band of our own (it’s in the County’s Department of Parks and Recreation). But our mayor has just proposed to strike it off the books: there’s no item for it in his new budget. Such a cut would be a hardship for the musicians, of course; but a cut would have its own – and rather unpleasant – multiplier effect.
How will we generate the next wave of musicians? Where else, here, can you experience the magic of a live concert, or of a marching band on parade? Those are educational experiences! School budgets have been short-changing music (well, all of the arts, really), for years. School bands can barely sustain themselves: or should the County Band also have to hold bake-sales and raffles, or go out and wash cars, to make it to their next gig?
There will always be more listeners than players, but a lot of people don’t even try. (Count the ear-buds around you, next time you’re on the street or in a bus.) Learning to play music is hard. It takes practice, and it takes purpose: a reason to practice, something to aspire to.
There is simply no better way to encourage musicianship than to see and hear live music being played. And even if you never attend their concerts, you can’t live here without acknowledging that it’s a good thing to have a County Band.
Indeed, the local newspapers have been running letters-to-the-editor about this, and not one has taken the side of the cut in band funding. There are several petitions going around (one is at http://www.petition.fm/petitions/savetheband/0/14/), and the band has a Facebook page with more than 1,300 “fans” (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hawaii-County-Band/336187876716?v=wall). Dozens of folks have been waving hand-made “save-the-band” signs along Kam Avenue, for the past two weekends.
So the County Council will take up the issue on March 22. There is reason to hope that the Councilors and the Mayor can find the money, somewhere, and save the band. I, for one, certainly hope – and frankly, I expect – that they will, in the end, do so. It’s not about saving a piece of our local history. It’s about saving something immeasurably important for our future.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – It Doesn’t Taste Good, But . . . March 15, 2010Posted by Kelly in : HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
It Doesn’t Taste Good, But . . .
Kava comes to you in a cup that’s half of a coconut shell. You take a sip. It’s both watery and gritty. The taste is earthy, with hints of tree-bark and . . . oh, gosh – soap!? But a few moments later, your mouth is rather pleasantly numb. You barely taste the second cup, and by then you feel quite relaxed.
“It doesn’t taste good,” Dave Stevenson admits, “but it makes you feel good.” And he should know. His kava bar on the Bayfront in Hilo is one of a handful on the Big Island serving this ancient Polynesian beverage.
We call it kava (KAH-vah), probably because the Samoans call it “kava-kava.” The Hawaiians have always called it ‘awa (ah-vah), while the Fijians call it yagona (yahn-GO-nah), and the Micronesians of Pohnpei call it sakau (sa-kow). The different names reflect only geographic and linguistic – not botanical – differences. All around the Pacific, it’s the same plant: Piper Methysticum, so-named because it’s a member of the pepper family that produces intoxication.
Missionaries didn’t approve of it, but neither did they get it outlawed; so it’s never been illegal. Extracts and tinctures (infusions in alcohol) have been sold by herbalists and pharmacists for well over a century. Yet kava was never very popular as a “drug,” not even among the countercultural population, because – unlike marijuana or LSD – it is not hallucinogenic. It’s a mild tranquilizer, a bit like beer in that it relaxes you, although some people also find that it also relieves minor pains. The day I visited Stevenson’s Bayfront Coffee, Kava & Tea Co. two women from Iceland were sipping kava to help overcome their ten-hour jet-lag.
Historically, kava was a ceremonial beverage, and in many Pacific island groups it’s still prepared under strict rituals, dipped from a communal calabash bowl, and served in a cup that’s passed from hand to hand, while legends and stories are told around the circle. (In ancient times, Hawaiian boys and girls chewed the roots and spat them into the bowl before the water was added. This is no longer done, anywhere, at least not in public.).
Like the sharing of a tobacco-pipe among Native Americans, kava ceremonies in some societies of Oceania were also held to cement a peace or truce after a conflict, both for the symbolism of the rituals and for kava’s relaxing effect on the participants.
In today’s kava bars, a cup costs about $5: what you’d pay for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer in a tavern. In local farmers’ markets, or online, dry powdered kava comes in zip-lock baggies and costs about $30 a pound.
The basic preparation is simply a cold-water infusion. Mix half a cup of kava in two cups of water, let it stand for about half an hour, and then strain it or squeeze the juice out through cheesecloth. The liquid can be plain water or coconut juice (Stevenson calls the latter “ali’i style,” after the Hawaiian word for royalty).
Adding fruit flavors helps to improve the taste, and baking kava into cookies or brownies can also make it more palatable. (There’s a YouTube video showing how to make the beverage, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkWU93hMPrA)
Stevenson has been tracking kava for many years. “My background is in food-preparation,” he said. “I grew up in Florida, and worked in the citrus-processing industry. When I got to Hawaii, I became the test-customer for a local kava bar, and that’s what got me interested in starting my own,” which he eventually did. His bar at 116 Kamehameha Ave. opened in 2007.
“Kava is best in the afternoon or evening,” he explained, “when its social aspects can kick in. It does promote social interaction, but unlike pot or beer, there’s no loss of mental clarity. And ladies will find that there are no belligerent drunks in a kava bar.
“Kava has been in use here as long as there have been people here,” he went on. “I have an image in my mind, of the day when the first Polynesian voyagers reached Hawaii, after months at sea. They rode the waves onto a beach, and when they had hauled up safely on land, the captain said “Break out the kawa, boys. We’ll unload the canoes later!”
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Sherlock Holmes at the Volcano February 22, 2010Posted by Kelly in : HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Sherlock Holmes at the Volcano
Sherlock Holmes once visited the Big Island – and now he’s coming back!
Holmes was an early crime-scene investigator. Keen-eyed and sharp-witted, this most famous of fictional detectives solved murders that baffled the police of the Victorian era by focusing on seemingly insignificant clues. Would we have “C.S.I.” on TV today without having first seen Holmes tracing footprints, or examining threads, pebbles and fingerprints with a magnifying glass?
Though based in London, he visited the Kingdom of Hawaii in November of 1890 with his friend and biographer Dr. John Watson. It was supposed to be a restful vacation at the Volcano House, but they found themselves confronted by a mysterious calamity of madness and murder with supernatural overtones, that came to be known as “The Volcano Horror.” To discover the cause, and to identify the killer, they had to take a dangerous plunge into a realm of terror and death, right there on the edge of the crater!
This all happens in a stage play written, produced and directed by my friend Hal Glatzer, referencing one of the short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“Sherlock Holmes & The Volcano Horror” will be performed in the Theater at the East Hawaii Cultural Center, in downtown Hilo, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday March 4, 5 and 6; and at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday March 12 and 13. Tickets are $10 (EHCC members $8), and are available now from the EHCC Box Office: 935-9085.
Several of the actors also appeared in “The House Without A Key,” Glatzer’s Charlie Chan mystery, which was presented at EHCC a year ago, including Jake McPherson (as Holmes), and Steve Peyton (as Watson).
In Sherlock Holmes’s day, the Volcano House was a one-story log cabin, built in 1877, with a lanai on its long side and a big fireplace in the parlor.
It could accommodate 35 guests, and was owned by Wilder’s Steamship Company, an inter-island line. Since there was only a trail to Kilauea from Hilo – not even a road – most visitors were tendered ashore at Honuapo, in Ka’u, and driven uphill in horse-drawn carriages. When a new Volcano House was built next door, in 1891, the old log cabin became an extra guest-wing.
In 1921, a grand 100-room hotel replaced them both on the rim of Halema’uma’u crater, and the 1877 building was moved a few hundred feet back from the edge, to be used only for storage. That was fortunate because, when a fire in 1940 destroyed the big Volcano House, the old building was spared, and was pressed into service as a lodge once more, until the current Volcano House was completed in 1941.
After that, the old building sat unused and deteriorating until the 1970s, when it was rescued by a team of historically-minded carpenters. They restored it to its original appearance, and made it into what it is today: the Volcano Art Center, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Go there now, and you can almost see Holmes and Watson talking and smoking by the fireplace, or sitting on their lanai, gazing out over the crater . . . .
I learned “The Story of the Volcano House” from a book of that name by Gunder E. Olson, that’s available in the Park’s gift-shop and at Basically Books, on the Bayfront in Hilo.
For more information about “Sherlock Holmes & The Volcano Horror,” phone Hal at 808-895-4816 or email him at email@example.com.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – A Historic Home Has Closed February 18, 2010Posted by Kelly in : Hawaii Travel, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND, Updates , 3comments
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
A Historic Home Has Closed
Most “historic” homes here are merely old, and not especially significant in local history. Fewer still are also visitor attractions. But among those that can rightly be considered of historical value, and well worth a tour, none is more important than the Parker family seat, Puuopelu. Unfortunately, it’s now closed.
It stands a hundred yards or so off Hwy 190, on the dry side of Waimea – also called Kamuela, the Hawaiian rendition of “Samuel,” and specifically Samuel Parker, next to whose ranchland the town itself grew up.
Samuel’s father, John Palmer Parker II, created the eponymous Parker Ranch in the early 1800s, under a grant from King Kamehameha I himself, to round up and fence in feral cattle that had become a nuisance.
His original home, a few miles away, was a cottage in the New England “saltbox” style, but whose entire interior – walls, ceilings and floors – were paneled in wide koa boards. In 1879, Samuel acquired a Victorian mansion called Puuopelu (literally a “pile of stones” but figuratively the “folding hills” of Kohala, which border the property). It has been the family seat ever since. Several generations have remodeled and expanded the house, and in 1986 John Parker’s cottage was dismantled, moved, reassembled and erected right next door.
That was a favorite project of Richard Smart, the home’s most colorful Parker heir, and the last of his family to have owned the ranch outright.
Though an expert horseman, and a serious collector of European art, especially fond of paintings of Venice, Smart was not a rancher by profession. Mainly, he was a singer, actor and theatrical producer, and in that capacity was largely responsible for the creation of the Kahilu Theater, a marvelous performance venue, which now stands in the Waimea shopping center that’s also named after the Parker Ranch.
Since Smart’s death in 1992, ownership and operation of the ranch and of Puuopelu have been the responsibility of the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust. But the Trust has lost money in recent years, forcing it to sell some 3,500 (of its 130,000) acres of ranchland for residential development. And this past January, it announced that the historic home would be closed to visitors. An exception was made, though, for the weekend of the Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival, during which admission was free!
A Trust spokeswoman told the West Hawaii Today newspaper in January that the Ranch will continue to offer visitors horseback and all-terrain vehicle tours, and hunting excursions, on the land. (Go to www.parkerranch.com for details.) It’s only the house-tours that will no longer be available.
So, what will be missed? Plenty. The estate includes John Parker II’s old koa-paneled cottage, a carriage-house with two of the family’s own buggies, and an Italian-style parterre garden that sits above a lake-size pond. The main house has Victorian and early 20th century furnishings, as well as Richard Smart’s important art collection. Inside Puuopelu, too, are some museum-worthy historical documents, such as the formal commission making Richard’s father, John Parker III, a cabinet minister to Queen Liliuokalani; and a handwritten letter of thanks to him from a grateful visitor: the Queen’s predecessor, her brother, King Kalakaua.
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Could You Live Off-the-Grid? Part VIII – Surfing (the Web) in Hawaii November 19, 2009Posted by Kelly in : Could You Live Off-the-Grid?, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Could You Live Off-the-Grid? Part VIII – Surfing (the Web) in Hawaii
Internet access is the biggest challenge for an off-the-grid user. Without telephone “land-lines” for DSL, or CATV cables for high-speed connectivity, you will have to accept a somewhat slower service. And when you’re off the grid, speed is very much a function of money.
The least expensive option is to get internet access from a cell-phone provider, which will sell you a small modem to plug into your computer’s USB port, and a “plan” that’s scaled by hours of usage. If you go with the same carrier as for your phone, there may be a discount; but in general, adding internet access will approximately double your monthly cell-phone bill. Internet speed over a cellular network is faster than dial-up; but unless your land is close to multiple cell-phone towers, that speed will not be much faster than dial-up.
If you don’t need to be on-line frequently or for long stretches of time, cell phone connectivity is a bargain – and there’s a big bonus in going this route: When you travel, you’ll never have to look for – or pay for – a “wi-fi hotspot.” This is very convenient in airports, and will save you money in hotels where high-speed internet, whether wired or wireless, is a pricy extra on your bill.
In short, wherever you can get cell phone service, anywhere in the country, you can also do your emailing, and browse the Web. But for your home-based computer, away from urban centers, you may find it frustratingly slow. And only one computer at a time can get on line that way: you can’t connect a “router” (see below) to a cell phone modem.
For that, you need something different. There are local companies on the Big Island that offer internet access through microwave antennas. Their monthly fees are higher than for cell phone connectivity, and you may have to buy (rather than lease) the antenna. But microwave speeds are higher than cell phone speeds. To get microwave services, however, your house must be on a direct line-of-sight with one of their antenna towers. A technician will have to go out to your place to verify that you can, in fact, get on their network.
From most places on the island, however, it is much easier to see the sky than to see a tower. So, a satellite internet service, such as StarBand, may be easier to obtain. The speed of satellite connectivity does not equal but it does approach that of DSL or cable, close enough that most users will not feel frustrated. Monthly fees are comparable to those for microwave service: but the initial cost may be higher, since you will probably have to buy the antenna. And that antenna will be bigger than the antenna for satellite TV, because it not only has to receive signals, it has to transmit them too. The dish and its installation may cost as much as $2,000.
Besides higher speeds, though, the big advantage of going with either a microwave or a satellite connection is that you can use a wireless router to set up a private “local-area network” (LAN), through which anyone in a 50-100-foot radius can log on, do email or surf the Web. That is, you can get on line not only from your desk but from your lanai, bedroom, back yard . . . from pretty much wherever you wish.
There is a great sense of satisfaction in knowing, as you browse the Web, talk on your cell phone, contemplate your solar panels, and drink your rainwater . . . that you are unfettered, bound by no wires to the matrix of utilities in which everyone else resides. Off-the-grid you are, as nearly as possible, independent and free.
This concludes my eight-part series about living off-the-grid. With all of these options for water, electricity and telecommunications, there is no need to give up any modern conveniences. You can live off-the-grid here.
But the question I originally posed was “Could you . . . ?” And the answer boils down to this: You certainly could – but only if you are willing to do for yourself what others have always done for you, and will accept responsibility for things you have previously taken for granted.Could You Live Off-the-Grid?, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Could You Live Off-the-Grid? Part VII: Staying In Touch
Once you have secured water and electricity, and can keep the temperature comfortable in your off-the-grid house, you can start thinking about what most people also consider key ingredients of civilized life: telephone, television and internet.
Obviously, you can not have a “land-line” if you are off the grid. But you may already have a cellular phone, and market research shows that more and more people – in younger demographics, especially – are now using their cell phone as their only phone.
All the major carriers (e.g. Verizon, AT&T, etc.) are here on the Big Island. Their coverage areas overlap, and reception is generally very good. If you are contemplating buying a particular piece of land, you will want to make and receive a cell-phone call while you’re checking the place out. There are only a few “dead” zones on the island, most noticeably at the bottom of the three gulches along the Hamakua Coast; but it’s not likely that you’ll be living down there.
Cell phones are very reliable, and there are many (some folks would say “too many”) choices of equipment. You can have anything from a simple voice-only phone to a phone with a camera – even a video camera – to something like a Blackberry that gives you almost as much power as a laptop computer, to do email and browse the Web (about which, more next time). A client of mine, who needs to constantly hack down ginger and other weeds around his stream, found it necessary – after a little mishap – to get a cell phone that is waterproof!
The only disadvantage to having a cell phone as your only phone is that you don’t get listed in local telephone directories – they are published by the land-line phone companies – though you could, if your business needs the exposure, buy a listing in one of the “yellow-pages” directories and include your cell phone number there. Otherwise, if someone wants to phone you, they will need to know your number already, or acquire it some other way – perhaps by a “Google” search.
Satellite TV is very popular in Hawaii, even where cable TV is available and convenient. Both Dish Network and DirecTV are offered here, and their rates are competitive. The only technical requirement is that the bowl-shaped antenna must be able to “see” its affiliated satellite(s) in the southeastern sky, with no hills or trees blocking the way. Typically, it’s about two feet in diameter, and doesn’t weigh much, so it is usually mounted right on the house (or can be pole mounted, cemented in the ground).
Like cable services, most satellite services include a digital video recorder (DVR) for recording programs to watch at your convenience. This is especially useful in Hawaii, because we are two hours behind the West Coast and five hours behind the East Coast (three and six, respectively, in the months when the Mainland observes Daylight Saving Time – which Hawaii does not).
Time-specific programs, like sports events, may have ended by the time you are ready to see them, and local broadcasts of national programming, such as PBS documentaries, may not be shown on the same day and time as on Mainland stations.
There are some downsides to satellite TV. Your choice of channels may be limited, compared to cable programming; and although light rain won’t interfere, a really big storm can interrupt your TV reception. Also, since any electronic equipment may fail unexpectedly, you may want to consider getting a DVR that allows you to back up recorded programs on an external hard-disk drive.
TV is passive; the Internet is interactive. I’ll cover internet options next time.