Friday, December 2, 2011

Community Help Day at Onipa'a Sustainability Center + Jerry's Solar Dehydrator

"Look for a red swing attached to a tree." 



The red swing at Onipa'a Sustainability Center.


So far, we had made the correct turn towards Onipa'a Sustainability Center in Huelo. Thankfully, the directions were not too complicated, as they sometimes can be on Maui.  We didn't have to count mailboxes or driveways or watch for road numbers that reset to zero halfway down a road.


We also weren't sure if there was going to be a help day on Sunday, since the AMIC event had been postponed from the previous Sunday due to a bad weather forecast. We tried to reach Home and the other organizer that morning, and ended up leaving voicemails. So, DH and I decided to have an adventure and see if anything was going on Sunday, November 13th.  We trekked out to Huelo in the big truck, a good sized rugged 4 wheel drive truck, although not jacked up the way the local trucks are. 


After arriving, the first thing we encountered was a muddy driveway and parking lot.

Ah the lovely rainy season on the wet side of Maui!

Huelo without mud in the rainy season is like a Maui jungalow without geckos!  Stalks of recently cut cane grass lay partly submerged in the mud, gasping for air. This was someone's attempt to create traction in the parking lot. We ended up parking outside along the road because even mud is a bit tricky for a heavy weight truck. Our little car would have done fine here, even though it didn't have four wheel drive.

The other thing we noticed was that it was very quiet. If there was a community help day going on, it was undercover.  We got out and heard some voices by a big storage structure that reminded me of a barn without walls. Then we met Sharon and Heaven Le'amoloha.  They seemed happy to have more volunteers since Sharon had been the only one to show up so far. When we met Home later, he said that because of the schedule change, a lot of people couldn't make it and no one had confirmed by rsvp the day before, so they weren't sure if anyone would show up, but they were going to hold the space for the event to happen anyhow.

DH and I went to work. He was going to help sort tools and supplies and I trekked over to the garden with Heaven to see the weedy pineapple patch. I brought gloves but regretted not bringing my cobra headed garden tool, which would have been perfect for snaking under the poky pineapple leaves and hooking unto weeds. It's a great tool that a friend bought for me, and I have seen them at Eco Island Supply in Haiku.


Pineapple hanging out with guava and other weeds.

I pulled weeds with gloved hands, avoiding the poky pineapple leaf tips, as Heaven warned me.  She demonstrated grabbing weeds with her bare hands, like an Amazon warrior gardener. The pineapples were healthy and fruiting like crazy, but there were plenty of weeds, especially the tenacious Desmodium.

Desmodium, a weedy legume with a three leaf cluster.


Eventually I started looking for tools. I went to the potting shed and looked for tools, then looked behind the potting shed, and all around the garden. It seemed odd to have a shed without tools.


Garden shed at Onipa'a.
I finally managed to find a small child's red shovel, and prodded at the ground with that. It was a little helpful but not much better than gloved hands.

The child's shovel.

After weeding for a while - was it an hour, two hours, I don't know? - time elapsed in a languid hazy way, I joined up with Heaven and Sharon again. Heaven laughed because there was another garden shed that actually did have tools. Ah, so they hadn't created the garden and dug the soil out with their bare hands in a kind of rugged "back to the land" kind of way.

On the way back, I noticed a solar dehydrator and was very curious about it. Heaven went to get Jerry who had built it, and I ended up taking some video of Jerry talking about his creation.




Then we ended up back at the outdoor kitchen where Heaven was cooking some food for the afternoon, including simmering a whole breadfruit in a covered pot of water.  Jerry was still there, and mentioned the water filter that he put together for the outdoor kitchen. This video and another of Jerry will be posted tomorrow.

By this time, DH found the kitchen and Jerry was talking about the solar charger, used to power the kitchen lights and all sorts of power tools.  Sharon and Heaven went to the swimming hole ahead of us, and we'd catch up with them later.


We did find the waterfall, which turned out to be across the street, and very beautiful.

Swimming hole and waterfall in Huelo.



After a quick dip, we headed back to the kitchen to share food and talk story with Heaven and Jerry while the kitty cats ran all over the kitchen.   Heaven quickly cut up the breadfruit, as if she had done this many times before, and the kittens kept trying to eat the breadfruit pieces, and we ended up feeding them. I brought a big vegan green papaya salad to share along with the breadfruit and quinoa that Heaven had made.


Heaven and her son, with breadfruit.

So the first community help day had a small turn out of just three volunteers but the weather was cooperative and it was a beautiful experience.

Sidenote: Heaven and Home did mention that they listed Onipa'a with the Intentional Communities directory, but I just checked and didn't see them listed. Maybe they are only in the paper directory, not the online directory. Oh, I just found them... they are listed as Optimum Living Alliance.  They are now 501c3, and donations of tools and even parts of tools or other items are tax deductible.

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