Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rainy Days and Manure Always get Plants Grown

Today was quite rainy on my side of Maui. It has been quite rainy lately, it being "winter" here, and quite cold too. As you can see from the map, I live in about the middle of the island. Pukalani is situated near the base of Haleakala. I cleared out the front, marked out the area for planting, added some nearby cuttings, and spread out some compost and conditioner. Before adding the compost I added some chicken manure. Wasn't too smart to do it in the wind. I watered it well and also let the rain do its work. It may be too soon, but I hope to be planting in the next several days.

Front Yard all cut up.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Wettin' My Feet

1. Snap Peas, 2. Marigold, 3. Tomato, 4. Onion

I put the Marigold and snap pea seeds into water on Feb. 25. I put the Yellow pear cherry tomato and Rossa di Milano Onion seeds into water on the 26th. I am not sure where I got this tactic of putting seeds into water until the roots come out from, and I'm not sure if it's actually good, but it works so I'm sticking with it. According to some texts, I think you're actually supposed to put them in wet paper napkins. Not too much of a difference. I still must prepare the ground. By this, I mean cover it with compost and water it.
I put the seeds into small yogurt containers to germinate. Please bear with my backyard assemblage of science tools.
I'm trying to follow my bible (Gaia's Garden) and do things the "natural" way. The "work with nature" method of gardening, which is to till as little as possible and add organic materials onto the soil. Compost follows, and the seeds go into this compost. This philosophy works well for me as I also like to keep it simple and easy, but this is not the reason I do it this way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Permaculture Garden in My Backyard (and frontyard)

Front section dedicated to growing stuff. As you can see, it needs some work first.

Gonna start blogging the plans I have for my parents yard. I have done a few things such as mulch a spot in the backyard and clear the portion of the front yard that I plan to use. I purchased some seeds from a local organic store.

Seeds that I bought and hope flourish

Seeds of Change sells organic heirloom and rare seeds. I purchased 9 packs at $2.69 each, for a total of $25.20 (incl tax). Online site sells a pack for $3.29. I will experiment sowing the seeds of change.
On to a more technical issue: Am I allowed to use the term "permaculture?" Is what I am doing considered permaculture? I am taking my influence in design and theory from permaculture concepts I've read about in books and online, but I haven't been trained and therefore cannot legally use the term. I'll use the term Toby Hemenway uses in his book, Gaia's Garden: A Guide to homescale Permaculture. He calls what I plan to do "ecological gardens." Hereinafter, I will use the term e-garden to make it simpler to refer to. I may not end up being an e-gardener at all, and only reach the status of organic gardener. It may be beyond my scope to include many of the aspects an e-garden entails. All said and done, there may be no difference. Either way, I hope to have healthier and fresher foods to eat.
As I mentioned, I am not trained nor have much experience in gardening (apart from owning a few house plants) so you will witness a total beginner as he goes through the ups and downs of designing, implementing, and maintaining a garden, with the additional trials of living at home. Got tips, ideas, comments, or the will to share? Bring it on. Life is too short to learn the hard way.

Feeble backyard attempt at sheet mulch. Toby Hemenway said sheet mulch was forgiving. We'll just see how much.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back Home

It feels a bit strange to be back home after almost four years in Taiwan. True, I've been back to visit, but with the mentality that it was just a visit, and would be going back to Taiwan. Now it's living here.
Spent the last week with my brother and girlfriend from Japan. They were here, along with many of his friends, for Makoa's wedding. It was a good time inspired by good friends gathering after a long time.
All day was spent with them, leaving no time to blog and update old stuff like my bike trip around Taiwan. I admit I am a procrastinator. It's been almost a month since I took off on my epic journey, and I still haven't finished writing about. Not to worry, however, the memories are still cowpie fresh in my memory. Thanks for bearing with me as I get around to tying up loose ends.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Delayed Posting

Sorry to those of you who came here expecting updates on my journey. I wasn't able to access a computer for most of my trip. I will be adding the details as I recover and get the energy to post. Please check back soon. I will retrodate the posts to coincide with the dates the events occurred.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Day 9: Hualien

Interior: Kai's House. My bike showing no signs of fatigue.

Kai put me up in her apartment. She had two finicky dogs that always bark if you look at them wrong. The next day my girlfriend met up with me in to spend some time. I was still in a stupor. Limping and sore I drove around with her, enjoying every minute with her. I was originally supposed to meet her in Taichung, but logistically, it made more sense for her to come visit me in Hualien.I knew I would soon be returning home to Maui and our time together was short.
At this point, I was still planning to ride from Hualien to Yilan, then from Yilan to Taipei. But as things played out, I ended up taking the train back to Taipei, a move I knew I would later regret.
The weather and mood in Hualien was grand. We rented a moped. Finally riding on something other than my bike and my enpained buttocks.
Ahh, undeserved speed. You learn to detest and resent all those cars and mopeders zooming by you, carelessly going up hills with no thought as to the amount of effort it takes when self powered. A festering hatred slow-boiled into a fine point, manifest by glares at "them." I had begun to think everyone was lazy, but then I realized I was the only biker on the road and that I was the different one. But here I was riding a moped and loving the "free ride."
We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast owned by a parent of Kai's student. it looked like a small luxury suite that should have cost way more than it did. The next day, we drove around Hualien, initially intending to go to Taroko Gorge. But an unexpected incident set us back. The previous evening, Kai had taken one of her dogs to the vet and it ran away. She spent the night and morning looking for it. When we met up with her at about 12 or so, we continued to help her. With no luck, we set off to Taroko, but didnt get far when we decided it was too far. We headed to the Seven Star Beach area instead. I felt sad. In about two weeks I would be leaving her forever. I tried to saturate myself in the moment and enjoy her every smile and remark.
Kai mentioned that the road from Hualien to Yilan was quite dangerous. With my weakening strength and will, I was inclined to believe her and hang up my lycra. The back of my head said, "You will forever regret not finishing the remaining distance..." The front said, "Your ankles hurt, your ass hurts, spend time with your girl, Kai said it's dangerous, you're scared, let's not die yet." I said, "What time does the train leave?"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Day 8: ZhiBen to Hualien

Hualien: 175Km

Let's start this post with a math equation. 180km + 13hours + mountains + darkness = The worst day of my life. This was the exact formula that made the ride from Zhiben to Hualien my darkest day yet. I awoke at 9:30 in the morning to drizzling and grey skies. I was in no mood to be riding in the rain, but wasn't totally stoked about staying in this no nothing town either. I was axious to get going, but waited for the rain to stop. I sat and turned on the TV. I happened upon the Superbowl. After not watching a single game the entire season, I flip to the Superbowl in the middle of my trip around Taiwan. I sat and watched the first half while I packed and prepared for my inevitable journey. The rain slowed and stopped so I mentally got myself together and headed on the road. It was about 11:00AM; I knew it was going to be a long trip, but for some odd reason, I thought it would be easy.

A sunflower valley

The first half was easy. Flat and gradual rolling hills made it a pleasant ride. The weather was sunny but not hot. I'd stop and rest. I wasn't totally sure where I would be staying that night, so I called Kai, a friends former girlfriend and a friend to me, to see about hotels. Again, I was offered to stay at her place, which was really cool of her. I told her I would call her again as I neared Hualien. I called my parents to tell them I was okay and was in the middle of a long day. It was comforting to talk to them. I pressed on, thinking, "How much longer is it?"

A landmark restaurant

At about 5 or 6PM the sun faded to a dull glow near the horizon. The temperature dropped, but I was continually moving and so didn't feel it much. I was riding along cliffs that dropped off 50 or more feet into water or onto sand and rocks. Sometimes there was little to prevent a devastating fall except a few concrete blocks and will. Cars would drive by slowly, almost sensing my nerves.
It got dark fast, and really dark. I had a headlamp that I fastened to the back of my bike to alert cars that I existed, and I had a front light that dimly lit the way. For what I thought were the most dangerous parts, there were no lights, pure blackness. I kept on telling myself, "Just keep going. If you stop, you won't get there."
I was fatigued, hungry, beginning to get cold, and feared the mysteries of the dark. The road never ended.
At about 9PM I stopped at a 7-11 to gather myself and eat. Dinner consisted of two hot dogs, an ovaltine, and bread. I see a sign that says Hualien is about 50km away. I rested for 30 minutes and as I was readying to go, a car stops. A guy gets out and starts to talk about riding and tells me that he also has ridden around the island. I ask him if it is much further from this point to Hualien. He laughs and says I should get a room here. "But I have a friend waiting for me in Hualien," I say. I then ask him if the road is mountainous. Again he laughs. "How do you measure this?" he says. His friend says it flattens out after about 30km.
These 30km would turn out to be the worst of the entire trip, and were gyrated into my memory forever.
Up until this point, I haven't needed to go to the smallest gear on my 27-speed bike. For many parts of this last leg, I was spinning on this smallest of gears, moving my legs fast, but barely moving at all laterally. Uphills so steep I thought I would fall backwards in blinding darkness. Fortunately the moon, in her shining glory, aided my trek. My cognition was beginning to become blurry, no longer able to think clearly, but knowing to just follow the road. I thought to myself, "This is the greatest challenge I have ever faced, and with no end in sight, I must keep on going."
At about 11:30PM I stopped at a Police station to ask where I was. they told me I wasn't too far from Hualien and the remaining road was fairly flat. I called Kai to get directions to her place, and it didn't seem to hard to find. I got back on the road and looked for the landmarks she mentioned. Ocean Park: check. Long bridge: check. Turn left at Smile gas station: check. Go until I get to a 7-11: check. Look for ZhongZheng road: ? Where is it? I spent a good hour asking for directions and finally talking to a wise man that could direct me where to go. I should have known that in Kai's directions, turn left actually meant turn right. Silly me. So after the longest day of my life and getting lost, I finally met up with Kai, at 1AM. Thats 13hrs on the road. I was in such a supernatural state that although I knew I was tired, I couldn't sleep. I called Taurus and he told me that I should take a walk to ease the transition of exercise to rest. Shortly after, I passed out.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Day 7: Hengchen to Zhiben

The wind blew hard, pushing me back as I started out at 10AM from Max's house. Every crank of the pedals took great effort, to combat the gusty onslaught. "It's gonna be another long day," I thought. Nothing to do, but keep going. The ride, I knew, was going to be a hard one. I had gotten advice from Max about which route to take. I had two options: long route with hills, or short route with hills. Wasn't too hard a decision.
The journey up to Chechang was mainly flat, but with the aforementioned headwinds, made my pace much slower. Once on the 199, however, the breeze slacked off, but I was now in hilly terrain. Crossing the mountainous terrain was fun at times, exhausting at others, but overall, it was scenic and cool. I passed quite a few other fellow "trekkers" along the way. We exchanged the now common nod or wave.
The shade was a welcome break from the beating sun, the wind no longer a adverse factor. Riding through the mountains was a beautiful experience. The serenity of moving on bike, climbing and cruising, in and out of shadows, past forests and fields made this area quite magical. When the 199 turned into the 9, I took a break at what appeared to be a common meeting place. I saw other riders, and a building that people signed to say, "I was here." From there, it was downhill, some of the best I've ever ridden. Coasting, passing cars, such a thrilling ride after a grueling morning and early afternoon. It flattened out after about 30 minutes and then I was riding along the eastern shore of Taiwan. This part was a bit depressing. No buildings, just a long lonely road, a vast grey ocean adjacent. No where to go but forward, I pedaled on in hopes of getting somewhere soon. My plan was to make it to Taidong, which at this point was still 4 hours away.
Then I ran into more of what the east is famous for, mountains. Slow going, it was looking more and more like I wasn't making it to Taidong. Somewhere in a no name town, I ran into a group of college students making their way on bikes also. There was about 10 of them, one on moped in back. We played leap frog for a bit, me passing them, then they passing me as I rested. I finally stopped with them and talked to them for a while. They had started that morning at 7AM from Pingdong and were also heading around the island. They told me they were going to stop at Zhiben, for some hot spring action. I said that sounded nice. I wanted to get into a hot spring, and felt I would deserve it that night. It began getting dark, which always give me a sense of urgency and nacent fear welling up inside, causing me to pedal faster. I don't like riding up (or down) in the dark. I finally got to Zhiben at about 8 or 9PM and haggled a room for USD$15. It was a decent sized room, brightly lit, with a nice bath to soak my strangely un aching body. After bathing, I decided to walk about and see what this town had to offer. Not much I found, and ended up buying some stuff from ubiquitous 7-11, and some fried chicken from a street vendor. I headed back home, ate and watched a bit of TV. I headed to bed, in the expectation of another long early day.

Day 5 &6: Kending (HengChun)

I left GaoXiung at a fairly early 11AM, this being due to the fact that I had no company and was able to move unadulterated. Once again I was blessed with sunny weather, sparsely-trafficked roads, and long stretches of flat land. The weather would hold out, but the flat part turned hilly as I got closer to HengChun. I am always stupidly deceived by maps. The map always shows the road as being flat, but I as I found many a time, was far from. Even if I had a contour map, it wouldn’t have properly displayed the magnitude of riding up the smallest mountain or hill. Then again, accompanying every up is a down, which is rewarding but never seems long or fulfilling enough as the uphill part would make you believe. "Georgia","serif";">I was headed to my friend Max’s place, the Ipanema Beach House. I had stayed at his place two years ago while hitchhiking around the island. I had met up with a friend George on that trip and we had met some of his friends and stayed at the beach house. It is in HengChun, often confused (also by myself) with KenDing. Max was a surfer who had lived in Brazil and other places before he decided to settle down in HengChun and open a bed and breakfast (they are called so in Taiwan, but there is no breakfast). He had long dread-like locks and spoke with the energy of the waves he rides, playful and full of joy. Upon returning this time, he had a military cut, and an expecting wife, along with his surf-inspired personality. He said with the recent release of the movie, Cape No. 7, a Taiwanese film shot in the vicinity, business has been good. This area had been popular with the beach going crowds and surfers looking to get away from the smog-filled cities. The movie opened the area to many other kinds of people wanting to see some of the places in the movie.
My plan was to stay in HengChun for two days, this being the most southern part and a marker as the half-way point of my trip. I also wanted time for rest and relaxation on my trip. As I mentioned before, during this trip, I always felt rushed to get somewhere, meet someone, stay out of the dark, or get started. Now would be the time to forget about the schedule for a while and just chill on the beach. It was so nice to have a break. A whole day of rest was all, but it was enough.