Friday, September 30, 2011

What is Permaculture? Mike Zelko's Answer

Is this permaculture? A pigeon pea hedge windbreak - kind of overgrown...requiring minimal care, and even edible?

I'm not a permaculture expert, any more than I am a gardening expert. There is some permaculture activity on Maui - like Maui Permaculture Network that organizes workshops from time to time.

But permaculture is "in," which is cool since it's been this very alternative gardening practice. If permaculture is "in," then it means "community gardening" is really "in," and that means just plain old gardening is even more "in," if you get what I mean.

Permaculture organizes a landscape into zones, like a zone for plants you'll use more often, like herbs, which should grow as close to the area you'll use it, like the kitchen. Then there are zones farther out yonder that may have areas like fruit trees or natural areas, or areas that help water drain off a certain way, or shaping the land to minimize erosion. Permaculture people will talk about "listening to the land" and helping it to "express itself" and they will also grow food.  There are various technical terms like swales or berms. Structures like trellises and fences tend to be made out of natural materials grown on that land.

Is this permaculture? Lilikoi (Hawaiian for passionfruit) and chayote squash growing on their own, i.e., without having been planted, along the shared fenceline with our neighbor.

So it sounds very romantic... Permaculture has always been kind of attractive to me... letting the land be "in balance" and working with the "natural cycle of things," which gives me permission to not be a zealous gardener.  

At the garden class at the Hali'imaile Community Garden two days ago, someone asked Mike Zelko, "What is permaculture?"  It's better to hear it from the source, and from my experience visiting various communes and eco-villages, it definitely rings of truth:

By the way, there is another class next week Tuesday at the community garden, and through October.  Sign up at the garden website.

I realized a little later, that I had trimmed off the video too much - oops - the funny answer about running through the woods with naked hippies was clipped off. Ok, I guess that means you just have to show up for class to hear the uncensored Mike Zelko.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mike Zelko's Awesome Gardening Class at Hali'imaile Community Garden

I know I'm in the presence of a master when I have 60 minutes of video footage available on my mini video camera and end up using all 60 minutes plus resort to my digital camera which takes blurry videos. If the thought occurs to me that this class would be fun for so-and-so, who isn't even into gardening, then it's definitely a class worth taking. I've attended various garden and farming presentations through the years, and was almost falling off my seat trying to not shake the camera while filming. It is that darn funny.

Mike Zelko presented the first of six classes at Hali'imaile Community Garden.yesterday. Mike is engaging, passionate, practical and highly amusing to anyone who has ever tried to "landscrape" dirt on Maui to actually produce something worth eating. He has a lot of experience, more than I can document, including being a commercial farmer, a fertilizer maker, and various other agriculture businesses.

Anyhow, I spent way too much time trying to trim video, futz with this fancy Sony video editing software to do closing credits in the size text that I need - a total failure by the way. Then spent more time uploading all this video to youtube.

Mike mentioned five key elements for plants to grow:
air, water, light, space, and homeostasis (everything else needed for plants to be healthy and balanced). He credits his daughter's biology class with this structure.

To entice more people to take the next class, here is a small clip providing an overview. I may do another blog about this tomorrow, but am thinking of keeping the majority of the clips from yesterday for people who are taking the class. So, sign up and take a class!

Because I am also feeling lazy after spending too much time at the computer, here is a breakdown of the classes, copied courtesy of Mike's ad on Craigslist:

Grow Your Own Clean, Nutrient Dense Food... Made Fun and Easy
How to Make your Garden Sustainable
Location Specific Information for Anywhere on Maui.
Includes Veggies, Fruit and More.

Class 1 - Wednesday, September 28th, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Choosing Your Location to Grow a Wide Variety of Food.
Improving Any Soil: Take, Read and Understand a Soil Sample
What to Add to Balance and Enhance Your Soil

Class 2 - Wednesday, October 5th, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
How to Water Properly Based on What You Are Growing
What Grows Well in Each Location
Where to Find the Right Seeds and Plants

Class 3 - Wednesday, October 12th, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
How to Grow Healthy Seedlings and Planting Stock
How to Plant in Order to Harvest the Most for Your Time, Effort, and Money
Natural Control of Pests and Disease

Class 4 - Wednesday, October 19th, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
How to Rotate Plantings to Harvest Throughout the Year
How to Prepare What You Grow So It always Taste Delicious
How to be Sustainable on your Land

Class 5 - Wednesday, October 26th, 4:00 - 6:00 pm
What is an Integrated Farm System
Making a Profitable Living with Cooperative Farming

Mike Zelko has been an Agriculturist in Hawaii for over 30 years. Past President of Hawaii Sustainable Ag Association, Owner of Zelko Farms, Hawaii Agricultural Products and Services and MidPacific Nutraceuticals. He is a farmer, teacher and consultant throughout Hawaii, working with over 800 farmers, teaching elementary through college level classes and helping various communities to grow food. Mike has a practical and entertaining approach that makes class useful and fun. Bring your specific questions and have them answered about your land or crop. Mike brings farm humor into each class making it fun.

$20* Per Class ($30 for couples)
Attend all 5 and the Final Class is FREE!
*Proceeds Benefit Hali'imaile Community Garden

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Maui Farmer’s Union Meeting – Cutting a Jackfruit, Bokashi, and Other Topics

Pukalani, Maui - Several friends suggested that I check out a Maui Farmer’s Union Meeting, something that I had been interested in, but had never managed to attend.  I also don’t see myself as a farmer, unless weeds count.  The meeting was not just for farmers but for anyone interested in local produce, eating good food, learning about sustainability, and sharing gardening knowledge.  Non-members can attend as well, and one can join for a modest membership fee. There are also some gardening items, like bio-char and fertilizer, available as well as a produce/plant swap.  It was surprisingly entertaining, especially the produce presentation.

The meetings are currently held the last Tuesday of each month at the Pukalani Community Center, across Foodland, in the same building as the swimming pool.  Socializing starts at 6 pm, and there is an abundant potluck that starts at 6:30 pm. There is a suggested donation if you eat but do not bring a potluck dish to share.

I took several video clips of just a few highlights.  There may be some better videos out there, and I'll be happy to replace these with less shaky, cleaner footage later on.  

Jason Skandunas of Tribe CafĂ© in Haiku talked briefly about macrobiotics and provided suggestions for eating in a macrobiotic way on Maui.  He mentioned that Maui as an island is yang, so one can balance that energy by eating yin foods including avocados, bananas, mangoes, and various tropical fruits. Yum.

Ryan at Mana Foods gave a short presentation on how to cut a jackfruit.

A few highlights if you don’t want to watch the video:
  • Jackfruit is sticky when you cut it, so let the sap trickle down first
  • Usually requires a lot of people to eat it, they’re very large
  • Central core – several segments of fruit, inside each segment is a seed
  • Very prolific fast-growing fruit tree, resistant to diseases, low maintenance, great windbreak for Maui
  • Jackfruit is ripe when it has a good smell and slightly yields to the touch
  • Easy to open with one’s hands if it’s ripe, and a towel is helpful
  • Use a little vegetable oil to oil the knife or your hands, since they can get sticky
  • 90% carbohydrate, the rest is protein and fat
  • Jackfruit has a lot of calories and is very filling
  • Can store the rest in the fridge for a few days
  • Seeds are also edible – can soak for two days and cook in salty water
  • Seeds are like a chestnut, and can be eaten raw if you get the sheath off.
  • There are inferior jackfruit varieties, so if it doesn’t taste great, try another jackfruit.

There was also a presentation on bokashi and effective microorganisms by Jenna Tallman, school garden coordinator at Haiku Elementary School.

Vince Mina talked about strategic planning and Harriet Witt talked about the night sky in relation to farming.

Lehuahana Vander Velde shared her work on creating the Maui Farmer’s Union website. Lehua is asking for more pictures and feedback.  

The meeting was definitely worthwhile, even if you don’t consider yourself a farmer. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nontoxic Termite Treatment

When you’ve given up trying to deal with termites by yourself, then it’s time to call the professionals.

The traditional termite treatment, as mentioned in an earlier termite post, is to have your jungalow tented. Yes, as silly as it looks, some pest control company will put a huge tent over your jungalow and pump it full of poisonous gas, let it sit overnight, and then remove it the next day.  Even Charley's restaurant in Paia was covered with a big termite tent in August.

Yes, a big silly striped termite tent. This photo was taken of a house in Pukalani.
Tenting is definitely bad for termites, and as for humans, well, the verdict is out. Termite treatment folks will say that it’s safe for humans as long as you let your house air out the next day and wash all your dishes, pots and pans, and anything related to food use. I also seem to recall having to remove all food items out of the kitchen – pasta, cereal, fruit on the table, opened items.  I think we did leave sealed jars in the house, like unopened bottles of pasta sauce. Anyhow, it’s a big effort since you also have to find a place to stay overnight, like with friends or at a hotel, and there’s a lot of cleaning and washing the next day.  There are not just dead termites but also all sorts of other dead bugs on your floor, and in your closets, and under your bed…all the usual bug hang-outs.

Termite tenting is also terrible if a cat accidentally gets in your house.  One of my saddest childhood moments is when our little house on Oahu was tented and we found the three kittens we had been taking care of, dead. They weren’t tame yet, and had hidden in the roof rafters.

Also termite tenting doesn’t work if your jungalow is situated over a gulch. There is no way to seal it completely, so it’s a pointless exercise.

We ended up contacting the people who made the Termiticide and it turns out, they are based in Paia!  And they also do nontoxic termite treatment.  Green Mountain Resources came over for an estimate and explained their process: they spray wood with their signature cedar-oil based spray. This spray also has hydrated silica which helps to dry out the wood and make it less inviting to insects.  The estimator was very convinced of his product.

I also got a referral from a friend of mine who just had her kitchen treated. We then contacted Akamai Pest Solutions for another estimate. This company uses a citrus oil concentrate which they inject into the wood.  For plantation-style wood beams and ceilings, they poke a tiny hole at every foot and inject it with the citrus oil. The holes are very small and not visible. For furniture or fine wood, they spray the citrus oil instead.

Then we contacted the Better Business Bureau to see if there had been any complaints about either company, and as I recall, there had been one issue with the first company, but it had been resolved satisfactorily. The remaining issues were price and warranty. The cedar-based company was about $2000, for a roughly 900 square foot area, much of which was the outside deck. The second company was about $1200 and they included a one (or was it a two?) year warranty during which time they re-treat any areas that show more activity (meaning termite droppings). The first company was convinced of their work and didn’t believe a warranty was needed.

Well, simply put, money was the determining factor. Since we were not paying, but our Canadian landlord was… we went with Akamai Pest Solutions.  A team of termite treaters came out with their truck, ladders, buckets, citrus oil, and a little gadget that made clicking noises based on the level of termites around.  According to them, our jungalow was not so bad, and they had treated worse places. Or maybe they just said that to make us feel better.

Termites in my nightstand, erg.

Our house smelled like oranges for a couple of days, and one of the guys says he can no longer eat oranges. While they worked that morning, there were termite droppings falling down as they tapped beam after beam, and the ceiling boards between the beams, and tapped walls and window frames, door trim and closet doors. Also, among the termite debris, there were lots of dead ants.  One of the guys explained that the ants can live in old rotted wood along with the termites.  They also went outside and treated all the outside storage cabinets and exposed roof beams and outer house walls.

Yes, I've used this picture before..but it's so picturesque.
These are all termite droppings. and dead ants, and bits of wood.

Since then, we’ve used our warranty several times. The citrus oil doesn’t last forever, but neither does termite tenting, and when there is enough new termite activity, I call them to come back to do some more treatment. We have noticed a lot less ants. We’ve also noticed termite activity in places that were also not originally treated – like the storage trunk that holds our beach towels and a saw table. Since termites can swarm and fly around, our jungalow is still prone to wandering termites from outside or the remaining termite survivors.

I’m sure the other company has its followers and it’d be interesting to hear other people’s experiences with the various nontoxic pest companies, so feel free to comment below. Anyhow, short of moving our jungalow to Alaska, there will always be termites. It's just part of the fun of living here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How to Grow a Pineapple From a Pineapple Top

Let's start with the basics. You probably already know that pineapples don't grow on trees. They are bromeliads, with spiky leaves radiating from a center.  They are also very easy to grow, even in a pot, and can tolerate being in a jar filled with water for a long time.  All you need to start with is a pineapple that still has its crown.  Just go to a grocery store or a farmer's market and get one.

Update 4/14/13: It's been kind of fascinating to see the internet in action. I've seen pins from this post, and then collages of pins from this post, and then other people who have discovered this technique. If you have been inspired to try this out at home from my site and blog about it, please include a link to this source. Mahalo! (Thank you!)

A good pineapple to obtain is a Maui pineapple - they are hybridized to be really sweet, super-juicy, and low in acidity. If you are not on Maui, do your best to get a sweet variety.

Your basic pineapple top, a little dried-out.

First, grab the pineapple with one hand, and firmly twist the crown off with the other hand. It will come off fairly easily. There should be no need to cut it off unless you prefer.  You now have a pineapple without a crown, without any damage to the fruit itself. 

Take the crown and pull off the lower leaves. You don't need them and they will get in the way of rooting the pineapple. Pull enough leaves to expose about an inch or more of core/stem. You may even see little rootlets around the ridged core.

Pull off lower leaves to expose the ridged core underneath.

If you have a pineapple top that someone else has cut off and it's a bit dried out, don't despair. Just trim off the lower leaves, and cut excess portions of the core, usually the bottom where it was attached to the fruit. You'll know they are excess parts because they are juicy and softer rather than firm. You want to expose the central core that has little ridges on the surface.  You don't want fruit stuck to the core because when you put it in water, it will make everything rot. Even if the leaves are browned, if it's not more than a week, the pineapple top still has a good chance of rooting.

Notice the ridges of the core, and the exposed root nodules (little bumps).

The only top you will have no luck with is when the crown is sliced vertically in half.  This is sometimes how pineapples are displayed at luaus, since it's decorative.

Fill a jar with water and plop your crown into the jar. Place your pineapple jar in an area that gets decent light, although it can tolerate some shade. Refill the jar as needed - check every couple of days to make sure the crown is still submerged.


Within only a few days, roots will emerge. Within two weeks, some nice roots should develop.  With time, the pineapple leaves will also get longer and bigger. So make sure not to keep the jar somewhere that will poke you. Also, it's good to change the water, clean the jar occasionally, and wash off any green algae on the roots.

After a few days, baby roots are forming.

You can plant the pineapple whenever you're ready. I use basic potting mix or sometimes the heavy clay soil from the backyard with some compost added and that has worked fine. If you want fruit, you'll want to keep it in a sunny location. Otherwise, the pineapple will develop long slender leaves but will not fruit.

After a week or so, long roots are growing.

If you're not ready to plant your pineapple, because you don't have enough space or live in a place that gets cold in the winter, you could keep it in water for a long time.

How long can you keep a pineapple in a jar? At least a year, perhaps longer. I've never paid a lot of attention, but they seem pretty hardy and tolerant of my neglect.  If the pineapple has gotten a bit large, I have also moved the jar outside.

They will take about 2 years to produce fruit, but you can subtract some of the time they have spent in a jar. Unless you give your plant some good fertilizer and take care of your soil, your pineapple fruit may not taste great.  I've had good luck with some liquid fertilizers and have produced some really sweet, albeit small, pineapples.  They might have produced bigger fruits if they had been in the ground or in a larger pot.

But if you are growing them just for the novelty of growing them, that's fine too. You can have an entire collection of rooting pineapple tops in jars. Feel free to name your pet pineapples.

Meet Larry, Moe, and Curly.

4/15/13: Found this great comment by Dal on Pinterest:

"Pineapple best success rate if from peeling ONLY a few leaves off the lower part, NOT so many until you see some of the "air roots". Let the plant DRY couple days then pot in sandy rich loam DURING HOT, GROWING SEASON. No during cool/wintry weather! That's critital. I have had 100% success rate with this guideline. Give it several hours of full sun with some shade too. Pineapple LOVES FOOD so once rooted, fertilize it. EASIEST way to grow pineapple! off not cut!"

By the way, this pin goes to this video by Dal on Pinterest which I had no idea was out there until today:

Dal's video is from 2009. I first found out about this technique of regrowing pineapples in 2004, and it was common knowledge on Maui. If this post helped you, let me know. If you're stumbling onto this post for the first time and found it helpful and later blogged about it, I'd appreciate if your post includes a link to this site, and please also feel free to leave your link in the comments below.

Aloha and mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you) for reading.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Amateur Termite Treatment – What Not To Do

The infamous beam over the kitchen counter.

It’s very tempting to think that you can handle the termites on your own. A certain level of naivetĂ© plus excessive DIY-itis (Do-It-Yourself-itis) is not a good combination. Since our jungalow is right over a gulch, there was no way to do the traditional termite treatment: tenting the entire house. The special poisonous gas would not be contained, since the house can’t be completely sealed. So we figured we’d try a little DIY amateur termite treatment ourselves. But, this was the beginning of the road to trouble.

Case in point: the termite infested beam above the kitchen counter. This was the notorious beam under which I would find a large ring of termite droppings, on the counter, clean them up, and about 1 hour later, find an equally large circle of more droppings, sometimes on the floor or on another place on the counter. After cleaning up the same continued waterfall of termite poop, I felt like Lady MacBeth, saying “Out damn spot, Out I say!”

So, we thought we would tackle it ourselves with a bottle of Termiticide bought at Kula Hardware for about $45/bottle. Not cheap, but at least not toxic and kitchen-safe. It’s made of cedar oil, so at least it also smells good.

Locally distributed Termiticide, safe for kitchens

My DH, Dear Husband, decided to knock off any loose pieces of wood. We had read that termite droppings can continue to fall even for a month after there is no termite activity, simply because they have accumulated for a while – so a good rain or a good wind can knock some of the accumulated termite debris down below. So, we thought a good idea would be to eliminate the excessive droppings and loose wood.

Uh-oh. That was mistake #1. 


How much termite poop can you find in one beam of wood?  It’s like a mathematical equation that ends in infinity. After much tapping and later on, hacking, there was not much left of the beam. Oops. It looked like it had been chewed by a giant wood chuck. Wood pieces and slivers along with piles of termite poop were strewn all over the kitchen floor.  Even though there was a drop cloth on the floor, it must be a Murphy’s Law: “No matter where you put the drop cloth, some termite poop will still sneak underneath.”

Then we sprayed the Termiticide several times overhead, all along the beam.

This was taken before we knew to wear long-sleeved shirts.

Mistake #2: This spray is also messy.

The spray is not toxic, but it can sting a bit, so long sleeves help a lot. It got all over us, since we were under the beam. Plus it got all over the counter, the sink, the dishes. Everything had to be washed and wiped down. So, next time, we covered everything up with big plastic drop cloths and wore long-sleeve shirts.  And it still managed to get all over us and everything else.

So, the beam was sort of sprayed, and hopefully we got most of the wood, and hopefully it penetrated enough of the wood… so we were very hopeful.

But we still had a big chewed up beam overhead.  We tried using wood putty. Ha ha ha.  Wood putty is so slippery and thin, that it just drips and drools down the side of the beam and leaves big white messy puddles on the floor.  I guess that would be mistake #3.

So, my bright or not-so-bright idea was to take a slab of modeling clay, from the local crafts store, and slather it on with a putty knife.  Well, this kind of worked. It took a lot of clay, and had to be really worked into all those deep cracks and ruts. Both of us were pretty tired from applying it, and then trying to smooth it out so it didn’t look so rough and irregular.

Fastest putty knife in the West.

The modeling clay experiment.

Mistake #4: We didn’t get all the termites.  The beam was still ejecting termite poop projectiles.  So, we ended up hacking a bit more at the beam, and spraying again.  After more modeling clay, we let it dry for a few days.

Then DH thought it still looked too irregular and uneven. So he sanded it. Oh lordy, take me now... White clay dust all over the kitchen.

Then it got primed and painted. Phew.

This little exercise only took it seemed like 3 or 4 days of Shakespearean torture with several days of pausing, waiting, cleaning, and drying in-between. Maybe I exaggerate, but it really felt that way. And that was only one beam. DH thought we should do all the beams that way. At that point, I put my foot down and said we really need to get professionals. At 20 beams overhead which take 3-4 days a beam plus drying time, that’s like a job that would take the rest of my life – at the speed I work, but only a day for real pros. Those beams do not even include all the other wood portions of the ceiling, walls and floor that are also termite infested.

In retrospect, I would not have even touched that beam, nor run a finger along the surface… Once it was prodded even the slightest, it just erupted into a seething Dante-style termite inferno. If there’s nothing else you remember, don’t touch that wood!  Let sleeping termite beams lie sleeping.

P.S. Blog contributions and guest bloggers are welcome. If you have an interesting story to tell about termites or some other jungalow-related experience, please comment below to contact me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Two Kinds of Roads in Rural Maui

Rough road surface in Upper Kula

There are mainly two kinds of roads in rural Maui: rough and bumpy or rougher and bumpier. There are some good patches of road that have been recently resurfaced, Kaluanui Road at the top of Maliko Gulch near Makawao, and Haiku Road coming up from Hana Highway. But mostly the roads are really bad. In some recent national roads report, Hawaii ranked high in having a large percentage of really bad roads.  And a lot of them are on Maui.

It’s not just upcountry Haiku or Kula, but even parts of South Kihei. I know someone who blew out a tire coming down Kokomo Road from Makawao. It’s easy to do, coming down hill. Hopefully, that road is next in line to get repaved.

Bumpy Kokomo Road in Haiku

With the recent roadwork, maybe Auntie Mona of Makawao has finally gotten her message across to some politicians. At last year’s Fourth of July Parade in Makawao, she jumped up every time a candidate’s parade float or banner passed by. Since 2010 was an election year, there were a lot of candidates to confront.  If she liked the person, she would give him/her a big hug and express a big mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you) loudly in front of all the spectators.  Otherwise, she would accost each candidate with the same lines: “Hey, take care of us upcountry.  Take care of our roads!” Actually, Auntie Mona was more entertaining than the parade itself, and I missed seeing her this year.

Haiku Road getting a facelift.

Now, there are some roads that are just classically rough – much of hippy Huelo, the road from Hana to Kaupo, and parts of Waihee have these rough washboard roads, best for 4 wheel drive vehicles with a high ground clearance.  The newer fuel efficient cars have a lower ground clearance, which helps with fuel economy, but not with bad roads. Damaging the underside of a car can be costly – especially the catalytic converter and the crankcase which is part of the engine. The trick is to get the wheels lined up on the raised portions of the road, and on top of the rocks.  Easier said then done.

On the flip side, sometimes it’s good to have rough roads – it keeps those areas less developed and more rural. A lot of residents like it that way, but they have 4 wheel drive trucks.

For the rest of us though, it’s better to go slowly. As they say, “Just cruise.”  And watch out for potholes and rocks.

Just a reminder: "Slow Down."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Night-blooming Cereus Blooming in Paia

Yesterday morning driving through Paia from Haiku, I noticed the night-blooming cereus was in bloom! There is a hedge of it that grows on the outskirts of Paia, on the mauka side of the road (Hawaiian for “mountainside”).  In other words, it was growing on the same side as the Paia Community Center and the Hawaiian Protestant church.  There is one long hedge that extends for about a block, and then a second, much smaller patch right by the Hawaiian church.

Legend has it that the night-blooming cereus only blooms once a year, but it blooms at least two or three times a year. Perhaps more. But only for one or two days.  The flowers are beautiful, extravagant in size, and in their queenly fashion, do not like the light of day.  They are also fragrant.  I happened to see them at 10:00 am and that was a real treat since to see them, you really have to be there at the right time.  I have seen them in their wilted state, as if are having a hangover from partying too much the night before. An artist friend of mine loves this flower so much that she makes jewelry inspired by it, and she also tries to keep tabs on their blossoming time.

The night-blooming cereus is a cactus that is not as common as coconuts or banana trees, but does grow widely through Hawaii. There is another section of night-blooming cereus on Haiku Road, coming up from Hana Highway, but the plant is growing high up in the pine trees. I have often speculated whether the Haiku cereus blooms at the same time as the Paia cereus, but have not been able to confirm this. There is also a famous hedge of night-blooming cereus encircling the Punahou School campus in Honolulu. According to local lore, all the night-blooming cereus in Hawaii came from this one hedge.  

If you are lucky, there may still be some straggler blooms to see in person. If so, traffic is pretty thick on Hana Highway, so be careful.  The most accessible flowers are the ones by the Paia Hawaiian Protestant Church, since they grow right by the sidewalk.

Also a time-lapse video on night-blooming cereus:

Here are some other posts about night blooming cereus on Maui:
Night blooming cereus up high on Haiku Road
Night blooming cereus along the ocean, above Maliko Gulch

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Flying Termites

There are certain times of the year when termites take wing and look for new places to expand their colonies. Even if you don't have any termites inside your jungalow right now, they are looking for any crevice or crack or knothole to fly or crawl inside.  The better sealed your jungalow is from the outside, the better chance you have of resisting termites and other intrusive bugs.  There are even some termites that can live in the ground. Mid-spring to mid-fall is the season for termite swarms.

They seem to like to come out at night, and are attracted to light sources and water.  At night, they will linger by the bedroom lamp or the bathroom sink. After shedding their wings, they can live for at least an hour, and are looking for their next meal. They prefer wood, but if they can't find a nice piece of wood, then they will eat any kind of natural fiber to survive. This includes: cotton, jute or sisal rugs, even wicker.  Actually, they really like wicker!  If they find your clothing, they may eat a tiny 'puka' (Hawaiian for hole) before dying.

 Silly me, I always thought termites only ate wood.

At night, the swarms can make tinkling sounds, as they alternately land, crawl around, and lift off, flickering against surfaces. As a child, I remember putting out bowls of water underneath the ceiling lamp. The flying termites would be attracted to the reflection of the light and drown. This may give you an immediate feeling of satisfaction in having killed a few termites, but in the long run is not terribly effective.

If you find wings in the morning, but not termite bodies, then it means they survived long enough to find something to eat. 

This short video shows one of our cats watching the termites.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You know you have a really bad case of termites when...

So maybe you have a little termite damage. I mean, who doesn't?  It's an exceptional house that doesn't have any signs of termites.

But, since you're in a jungalow, a little termite damage is often just a short precursor to a whole lot of termite damage. It's just a matter of time... termites don't sleep, do they?

You know you have a really bad infestation of termites when:

1. You're always having to wipe the bottoms of your feet from all the beach sand on the floor (and you don't even go to the beach!) and then realize it's not sand, it's termite droppings.. ugh.

2. You are cooking and ask yourself, "Did I just grind some pepper in that pot?" and really, it could be little termite presents.

3. You can't use the kitchen counter or the stove to prepare food because there are too many droppings falling down and everything has to be constantly covered.
Termite residue on the kitchen table

4. You can't drink from a glass of water that has been left alone for a few minutes without checking it to see if something fell in it.

5. You touch the surface of an overhead beam, and with the lightest pressure, the sides cave in as if they are rippled, and only the paint is holding the outside together. Termites don't eat paint. With a little more pressure, splinters of chewed wood fall down.

Overhead beam with termite damage

6. Your computer keyboard is not working. You are having to shake it out constantly. Eventually, you have to replace the keyboard, or worse yet, the computer. As a stop-gap measure, you tack up a sheet to the ceiling over your desk.

7. You are not even safe as you sleep, since termites as we said, don't sleep. You are thinking of setting up a tent over your bed.

Extreme termite droppings
8. Your roof is leaking more and more every month. The termites are eating the roof so much, that the wood has too many holes, especially along joints and areas where there are nails. There is no wood for the nail to hold on to.

At this point, you really ought to take some action.  The war is on: you vs. termites!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Initial Signs of Termite Infestation AKA "What Is This Pile of Dark Sand?"

Termites love Hawaii. In fact, they love all warm weather places, like Texas and Florida. There is no harsh winter to freeze the little buggers, so they live here happily all year round keeping you company.  Unless you happen to be one of those rare people who lives high up on Haleakala Crater, where it is very cold. Or if you live in a specially built house.

The Spanish hospitality greeting, “Mi Casa Es Su Casa” (My Home is Your Home) is beloved by termite guests.  Hospitality to termites means Your Home is also Their Food. It’s not just the wood in your Maui Jungalow that entices termites, but also any furniture you may have. If you’re lucky, your Maui Jungalow was built using termite-treated wood, subject to a special chemical process that makes the wood look greenish with crystal residues on the exposed saw cuts.  Or your Maui Jungalow was built using concrete or a super hard wood like koa. If you’re not lucky, then your Maui Jungalow was slapped together by smokin’ tokin’ surfer hippy dudes (and dudettes) using untreated wood plus some odds and ends and might as well have a big flashing neon sign on it saying “EAT ME.”

It may take a while to realize that your Maui Jungalow is in fact infested by termites. Initially, termites are very discrete and hardly noticeable. As times goes by, they start leaving very distinct marks of their presence.

Termite signs include:

1.  Little pukas (Hawaiian for “holes”). Holes in the wood of your window frame, your furniture, the ceiling, your bed frame.

Termite pukas (holes) in the window sill.

More termite holes and some "tracks" or "burrows."

2.  Bigger troughs and furrows, as the holes get larger and larger:

Extended burrows through this section of wood tile in the floor. For some reason, only this particular square of wood has a lot of termite damage.

3.  Little piles of termite poop. The color will vary depending on the kind of wood they’ve been eating. The poop is very firm like little grains of evenly uniform sand. It does not feel gross, since it’s basically leftover constituents of chewed up wood that couldn’t be digested. I usually see used dark or reddish termite poop but have also seen very pale yellow termite poop under pale yellow furniture.

A few termite droppings on the counter.

More termite droppings, both black and light, on the rug. It looks like ground pepper.

4.  Little translucent wings along the bathroom sink, bathtub or shower, kitchen sink, window frames, door ways, and random other places like underneath light fixtures. These are the wings of termite adolescents who have dropped their wings and are now somewhere inside a piece of yummy wood. 

Some termite wings on the window sill.

Don't you love Maui?  Enjoy your pet termites.

P.S. If you've enjoyed this post, you will LOL reading
about amateur termite treatment.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Daddy Long Legs in the Washing Machine

Even the most ordinary household task can be far from mundane in a Maui Jungalow.  As I opened the washing machine to load some clothes, there was a daddy long legs inside. Just minding its own business.

One never knows where a bug will want to make its home.  I used the machine a couple of days before, and that two day gap was enough time for a spider to move in.
The real question is, how did a spider get into a closed washing machine?  It can't just lift up the top.  I explored around the ring, and to my surprise, discovered that the machine is not completely sealed.  One rule of the Maui Jungalow: If there is a way, bugs will find it.

After trying to scare the spider out of the machine by running some water, and watching it wobble up the wall a few inches, and fall down, I gave up.  Watching it climb up and fall down over and over again was like watching paint dry.  I threw a shirt over it and shook it outside, where it ran away in the grass.  Then a month later, there was a daddy long legs inside the washing machine, maybe even the same one!  People whose washing machines and dryers are inside their houses may not experience this problem.

Perhaps I have been washing spiders all this time, and perhaps these were the two times that I actually looked closely at the inside of the machine as I was loading the clothes.  Maybe I have been the great washer executioner of spiders all along. Shudder.... Anyhow, I've been checking the washing machine a lot lately.