Saturday, March 26, 2011

Using that Solar Dryer

My mother doesn't like machines.  Not a microwave.  Not a dishwasher.  Not a mechanical clothes drier.  I suspect that if mechanical washing machines had been invented post WWII, she would still be using a laundry tub and washboard.  At least once every 6 months she reminds me, "Using the clothesline saves electricity.  It is environmentally friendly."

In California's Central Valley and the surrounding foothills, where once the spring rains end there is seldom  precipitation until the autumn rains begin, the Solar Dryer is easy to use.  Find a spot, string a clothesline, find some clothespins, and hang the laundry.  Wait.  In single digit (or less than 20%) humidity, everything dries quickly, with or without wind.

In those environments where it rains more often, effective use of the solar drier is a bit trickier.  Check the weather forecast.  Check the sky.  Clear,  cloudy or partly cloudy?  Sunshine?  Check the trees.  Is there a breeze?  Marginal?  How badly do you need clean laundry?

It's been one of those days.  Start early, especially if you'll run more than a single load.  Wash.  Hang.  Wash another load.  Hang again.  Wash the next load.  By now, most of the first load should be dry -- unless it was heavy things like levis and heavy-weight knits.  Remove the dry things to make room for the newly washed items.  Keep one eye on the sky.  Will those gray rainclouds drift over YOUR yard?   What is nearly dry?  Will it fit on the little line under the shed roof at the laundry tubs?  What is dry enough to bring inside?

Laundry on a rainy day doesn't happen.  Nor does an emergency load of an evening.  If you live in snow country, you know that frozen laundry thaws to wet laundry.  Plan ahead, plan to be at home to babysit the clothesline on the next sunny day.  Or marginal breezy day.

Clotheslines are good for other things, too.  Displaying quilts -- temporarily.  Drying old fashioned photographic prints.  A mount for Spanish Moss, that silvery-gray air plant that is loved by some florists, but seen by arborists as a parasite akin to mistletoe.  A support for a plastic shower curtain liner while treating for mildew.

Give thanks for sunny days when you need to use that solar dryer.
Don't forget to pray!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I'd forgotten about the USGS earthquake monitoring websites.  Used to check them daily.  Have gotten out of the habit while in Hawaii.  If the last Japanese earthquake piqued your curiosity, consider looking here and here.  Red lines are the fault zones.  Colored squares are measurable earth movement.  Mostly they are real earthquakes.  Occasionally they are construction blasting.  Geysers apparently generate measurable movement, too.

Give thanks for our ability to adapt to and co-exist with the geological and meterological events that occur frequently in our own back yards.
Pray for those in Japan and elsewhere who are now dealing with the effects of the 11 Mar Japanese quake.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Please Visit the Elephants!

My friend and former co-worker, D, visited the elephants who live one county north of her family's home near Jamestown, Tuolumne Co., California.  The preserve has been around for a number of years and has always been on my "Someday I'll get there" list.  Just haven't made it yet.  

Here's the organization's website for an overview of their work.

D spends half her life with her father and step-mother on the family ranch in California.  Then she climbs in her mini-motorhome and treks cross-country to Austin, Texas to spend time with her daughter and granddaughter.  Except that I could never happily drive the distances involved, it is an enviable life style.

Dream big!
Give thanks for those who care.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Baby Gecko

I was waiting in the car for my mother.  
A little gecko, not much more than an inch long, landed on the windshield.  
I grabbed the camera.   

Ooops!  Auto focus found the wrong target.

Right subject, wrong focus.

There he is!  

Watching me....  

Give thanks for small things. 
Don't forget to pray.  

Friday, March 11, 2011


The TV was off.  Mother was in bed.  I was working on a genealogy research project.  Sounded like the neighbors had turned on their heating/cooling system, with a higher-pitched whine behind it.  Took me a bit to figure out it was the civil defense sirens.

On went the TV.  News of an 8.9 Mega earthquake in Japan generating a huge tidal wave.  These days we use the Japanese term, tsunami.  Video from Japan is horrendous.  It's difficult to grasp the enormity of of the catastrophe.  

Hawaii was in the direct path of the most significant wave energy.  The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center predicted surges of up to 2 meters in our islands.   Most what we have heard since 10 p.m. last night has focused on local concerns -- the need for evacuation, where to go, the difference between evacuation shelters and holding areas (no shelters, just holding areas for now), understanding the new inundation maps that define who must evacuate and who can stay put.  We are warned that while the impact would be greatest on the north- and west-facing shores, the wave energy would wrap around each island, potentially causing significant water levels everywhere.

Our own neighborhood faces southeast and is protected by a substantial reef.  The beach is just over 2 blocks away.  My mother has never evacuated.  The house has never even been seriously threatened.  I remember occasions when my father was anxious, had us kids all excited and wanting to evacuate, but Mother stood firm.  We didn't go.

The new inundation maps put us 1/2 block inside the inundation zone.

Remembered my experience with forest fire evacuations.  Officials can tell you to go, but they cannot  drag you out of your own home.  You stay at your own peril.  Once out, they CAN refuse to let you back in until the danger is past.  Those were the days I was driving an official car that could go anywhere, even into the fire zone.

Did wake my mother and ask her if she wanted to evacuate or stay put.  I had visions of this 96-year-old person, tired and confused, barely able to hear or understand what was happening, trying to get comfortable on a bench in a school cafeteria or a folding metal chair in the recreation room of the neighborhood park, or in her walker-with-a-seat.  For at least another 7 hours.  No place to sleep or even lie down, no hot coffee.  No friends I know well enough to call and ask, "Can we come camp at your house until this is over?"  I was willing to argue with the police if Mother wanted to stay put.  We stayed.  I prayed.

The first surges came as predicted, just after 3 a.m..  At Waikiki and at Diamond Head, where TV cameras were monitoring, the surges were small but readily visible.  Flow up, cover the beach, ebb out, repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  The ebb and flow was still happening at 7 a.m.

Most boat owners in Waikiki took their boats to sea where they could more safely ride the surges.  (California boat owners apparently don't know this trick.)  At one small boat harbor, the floating docks broke apart.  The boats attached to them smashed into buildings and other boats.  Damage was worse on Maui and in Kona, where the surges came up onto land, flooded buildings, causing structural damage.  Still haven't heard from Oahu's North Shore, from the Lahaina side of Maui, or from Hilo, the most tsunami-vulnerable city in the State.  Three major airports are closed, but Honolulu Airport is opened.  County officials on each island are out assessing the damage.

Meanwhile, we are warm, dry, fed, and safe.  We have water and power.  I'm going to take a nap.

Give thanks for the relatively minimal damage through most of the Pacific.  Do what you can for those who are most heavily impacted.
Don't forget to pray.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Good Book

Let it be clearly understood that I am an insatiable reader.  My best friends are books, or in books.  I will read almost anything.  These days, I multi-task, performing mindless chores like ironing or weeding or housekeeping while listening to an audio-book.  

I have a friend who is not satisfied with simply telling me about books he's read. Every so often an unexpected box arrives from Amazon.  It's a book from G, one he decided it is important for me to read. 

The most recent arrival is entitled "Fifty Miles from Tomorrow" by  William L. Iggiagruk Hensley.  It's cover photo shows 3 men, 3 boats, 3 American flags.  The scene is stereotypically Alaskan, the men are stereotypically Eskimo.  It looks cold, desolate. 

"You should appreciate this."  my friend said via e-mail.  

Hensley and I are about the same age.  He grew up in Alaska, I grew up in Hawaii.  He grew up on the fringes of civilization, I grew up in a city.  He was raised in a very traditional native family, one that in Hawaii we would call hanai.  I was raised in a bi-cultural home where one parent had no respect for my traditional roots, the other 2 generations removed from her native heritage.  Nevertheless, you'd think Hensley's and my life experiences would be roughly similar.  

Hensley grew up with dirt floors, one-room houses, kerosene lamps, few educational opportunities.  My mother grew up in the country with kerosene lamps and outhouses as a way of life.  I grew up in an affluent neighborhood, in a comfortable but not necessarily affluent home, had lots of educational opportunities.  That's not as unusual in Hawaii as it might be elsewhere.  By the 1880's, Hawaii was the most literate nation in the world.  An independent nation where every citizen was encouraged to read, write, and vote.  

Hensley was sent away to school, removed from all influence of his own culture, forced to speak English, punished when he lapsed back into his own tongue even occasionally and with his native schoolmates.  I am reminded of the Indian Schools of the Lower 48  one, two, even three generations ahead of Hensley and me.   In my mother's era, at a school now known for preserving Hawaiian culture, students were not allowed to speak Hawaiian or dance hula.  They were not taught Hawaiian history.  But my mother is of the generation of Hensley's parents.  

Hensley became an activist for the rights of the Native Alaskans.  His first focus was on retaining native rights to their traditional land).  He did not fight the battle alone, never claims to, but is credited with giving it a voice and a heart.  

I am reminded of my grandmother's response when, literally on her deathbed, she was told that statehood papers had been signed and Hawaii was officially the 50th of the United States.  "First they took my flag, then they took my queen.   Now they have taken my land."  

Hensley realized that while land ownership and control was important, there was a larger battle to be won.  
 “It wasn’t enough to claim our lands,” he writes. “We had to claim our ways of thinking, acting, and living.”   

It is a lesson native peoples across North America, across the planet, are learning.  It is a truth we  are struggling to retain.   It is what makes us who we are.  

Give thanks for all of those who step into the political arena to defend the beliefs, lifestyle and values of native peoples. 

Don't forget to pray.