Sunday Service and Aloha ‘Aina

Woke up early Sunday morning to beat the heat, but by 6am, was already sweatin. Pila was supposed to deliver a trailer full of mulch to the Kamehameha stretch, but the dump was out of shredded material, so we rescheduled for later in the week. Good thing too, cause I put out the call a day earlier for volunteers to join us in spreading the mulch, and three dedicated friends showed up, not nearly enough to make light work of the expected heavy load. Lo and behold, ke akua always provides in the strangest ways.

My mom and I, along with one of my co-workers at Kalaniana’ole and Kea’au native Jeremy instead ended up picking up rubbish, clearing out unsightly growth, planting new flowers, and spraying IMO and life sustaining natural farming solutions on the Farmers Market side of the parking island.

It looks a lot better with just a little help, but the area still desperately needs mulch. I don’t want to spend my time weeding out ugly grass, so let’s just smother it in 4 inches of green waste and then spray beneficial microbes to discourage grassy growth! Right?!?

Here’s some pictures of the action. Look forward to seeing you out there soon! Lets Grow Hilo!!!

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Bit by Bit. Constant improvement.

IMG_4016I have been really busy lately with all the action happening on the Big Island. Organizing the Farmers Union United, coordinating the next Natural Farming Hawai’i 2nd Tuesday meeting, fixing my gas guzzling car so I can bring tools and planting material from home, working with the keiki at Kalaniana’ole Elementary school, showing up and being part of community at the Aloha ‘Aina meetings, and between all that, spending time with family, friends and enjoying life.

You may start to see why I want to hang out doing stuff. Like “yes, let’s kick it while we put this huli in the ground”. Cause I ain’t got much time to spare. The earth needs all of us, full time.

22508_10100445178156639_5933519255249975648_nIt’s been nice to spend some time with my mom lately working on the stretch in front of Abundant Life. Since my car is bus, she has been giving me lifts into town, and I always insist on doubling up on the trip, permaculture ‘stacking’ so to say, of bringing a load of woodchips with us each time. We load the trunk of her little honda with woodchips I have cached at Kalaniana’ole and have been slowly mulching that section.

11393264_10100445178630689_474050289283013964_nThe plants are looking nice downtown, but the grass is starting to creep up, and if we don’t take care of it, which I would prefer to smother it with mulch than continuously weed it, the County of Hawai’i will come by and spray poison. I know, you may think, “wtf are they thinking spraying poison! really in 2015?!? our oceans are dying!!!”, so if you want to see the change toward pro-life solutions, we need you to be part of it. Wood chips or finely chopped greenwaste will provide a nice layer to stop unsightly growth, and then we will come by and spray IMO to inoculate the mulch with life so it won’t “steal the nitrogen” from our luscious edible growth.

Revitalizing Kamehameha Avenue

kalo

Where: Downtown Hilo in front of Abundant Life
When: May 4th 2015, 6pm-pau
What: Planting kalo and beautifying the Kamehameha Avenue stretch
How: Bring digging tools, flowers, kalo huli (if you get), otherwise just show up and lend a hand however you feel most comfortable.

Why…..

The time is now to grow food amongst our streets, to embrace our island heritage of self reliance and common sense intelligence.

It was back in 2011 during the Occupy Wallstreet movement that I first had the idea to spread kalo to our city streets. I had been watching interviews of occupiers on television that were wearing Old Navy sweatshirts while screaming “down with the man, down with corporations”, and it occurred to me that biting the hand that feeds and the systems that clothe are no way to move toward a more prosperous future.

What we needed to do is dig in, to ween ourselves off the systems that we don’t full heartedly agree with, and to empower ourselves with healthy food grown in conditions that are pono through and through. Growing our own food swings the pendulum of power in our favor.

20120206_170225I had been working with Chiko and together with a few volunteers done wonders to transform the triangle into a aesthetically pleasing food oasis in the middle of the street.  I thought it was time to spread the movement to mainstreet. I started to deploy Korean Natural Farming soil revitalizing microbes to the blasted soils. I made a flyer, much like the one at the top of this article, crafted up a video, called some friends who called more friends, and on July 20th, Hilo got a lot more edible.

Over 50 people showed up to Occupy Hilo with Kalo. My thinking was, instead of standing on the street and protesting adverse conditions, we could plant our older brother (according to wise traditions), the kalo plant, and let him, Haloa, stand proudly on our streets occupying in our stead. This would enable us to put our bodies and effort towards improving other parts of our community. If it rains, no matter, haloa gets stronger, if it’s sun, no matter, haloa gets stronger. Day and night, he stands ku pa’a, and if we take good enough care of him, he’s gonna feed us later too.

Win-win. Let kalo occupy our streets.

IMAG0299What a successful gathering it was. We literally overnight transformed the streets into a verdant paradise. People from all walks of life gathering together to do good. Improving our town. Improving our diet. Honoring the past and respecting the future.

As time went by, Occupy’s leadership was undermined and the masses were placated by another sale and lower prices. It takes a lot of time and energy to sustain a focussed movement. I had moved out of Hilo to my family’s land and began building our own farm to become more resilient in the face of declining nutrition in commercially available food. And as I’ve said before, I thought the sustainable attitude of the project would catch on with more people to keep a good thing growing. But it didn’t. So alas, as of 2015, Hilo’s streets became barren again. Still improved with more color and ornamentals, but the edibles had vanished.

Which brings me here, to say “Hey, I still care!”. I remember, and I forgive, and I am better equipped than ever to ride bare back into the storm, to support the healers of Hilo, and to give our community another chance to break free from the supply chains of corporations and enter the supply cycles of community.

I hope you join me this Monday, or any time you feel ready, and get down and dirty in the revival of our streets, the return to edible beautification, and a true appreciation of life, big and small.

Lets grow Hilo!

Hilo, a rich history of growth

I met with Jeffrey Mermel and Scott, president and vice president respectively of the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association on Wednesday April 22nd to discuss the ground rules for Lets Grow Hilo.

IMG_3409Jeffrey has been involved in the improvement of downtown Hilo for years, as long time owner of the Fireplace Center and he shared some photos with me of the community involvement over the years.
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Lets Grow Hilo really has a rich history growing on a lot of dedicated volunteer’s effort. We are in the process of planning the next phase of living beautification efforts on our streets, and many people are excited for what is sprouting.

IMG_3403This map shows the areas managed by the Hilo Downtown Improvement Association, and we all agree the time is ripe for improvement so we can once again take pride in our beautiful town.

The top priorities right now are to clean up and dismantle the old nursery at the EHCC parking lot, cleaning up and remulching existing plantings, and identifying volunteer leadership to make sure all our responsibilities are met.

Happy Spring Holiday Planting!

4.20 first day.Still028On April 20th, 8 aloha ‘aina healers descended upon the streets of Downtown Hilo, and in an hour and a half transformed the median on Kamehameha Avenue in front of Abundant Life into a verdant, beautiful and edible asset producing food for all our people.

IMG_5369 (1)Near intersections where traffic visibility is a priority, we are planting sweet potatoes, flowers, and other low growing ground covers. The flowers, including marigolds, were donated as a gift of gratitude by Hilo Yoga.

We had a lot of fun planting in such a relaxed atmosphere. Olivia had heard about the gathering from Hot Yoga Hilo‘s owner Shannon Matson, and came down with her two sisters the plant and also play some beautiful ukulele. Shannon had offered a karma yoga session for those who volunteered that day. So cool to see local businesses pitching in and supporting the effort to beautify our streets.

4.20 first day.Still035Just as we finished, the sky opened up and dumped about an inch of rain. What a blessing to nurture the plants and hydrate the indigenous micro organisms we sprayed in the garden beds. It’s nice to know that when you are doing a good thing, everything seems to be in perfect alignment.

If you’d like to be involved, please sign up on volunteer form. Mahalo for keeping a good thing growing!

Lets Grow Hilo!
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2015 Seeds of Revival

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It’s been over 2 years since I have “officially” run any Let’s Grow Hilo events. Sure we have a monthly scheduled Beautification Day on the last Sunday of the month, but lately it’s been more myth than reality.

Yet, every time I venture into Hilo, I always care take the plantings in some way, whether it’s spraying IMO or cutting the lemon grass for chop and drop mulch to build rich soils in place. I thought this mode of action would catch on with more people. Really, I take my hat off to Chiko, an elderly hero, often unrecognized, that has virtually alone taken the responsibility of the plant maintenance upon himself. The Downtown Hilo Improvement Association used to compensate Chiko for his service, but as of late the funding has dried up, and now the plants are left to fend for their own. Meaning they really need our help!

Alas, I love Hilo. Being born and raised in this town, it is my true home, and I take pride in our unique oasis. I remember back in the day when Liliuokalani Gardens used to look like a dirty diaper, and as a student of St. Joseph Elementary, we took one day out of the whole year for the entire student body to be of service to recondition the gardens. Within three years, the park was completely transformed and is now a shining gem of Hilo with thousands of people enjoying it’s beauty still to this day. Really, just one day for three years, children pulling mattresses and tires out of the ponds, scrubbing the statues with toothbrushes, and now it’s a world class attraction.

It’s that memory that sticks with me. A small group and not much time, and a whole area can be transformed. I applied that same ethic to our streets, and you know what, for a couple years, Hilo too was the “talk of the town”. Hundreds of people came down to volunteer their time and energy to transform our streets into a beautiful and edible landscape.

I learned a valuable lesson: Plants take a lot more upkeep than statues and ponds. I thought people would perpetuate the plantings, multiplying the kalo (taro), ‘uala (sweet potatoes) and papayas far and wide, but it turns out a project like this needs guidance, leadership, and our people need education on how to keep a good thing growing.

As I moved out of Hilo to near Papaikou in 2011, and lacking a motor vehicle, it was much harder for me to fulfill the regular leadership needed to keep the project growing. I also maintain my own gardens, as well as caretake and educate the agriculture program at Kalaniana’ole Elementary. I like to live near my work, as most farmers do.

421214_2925746031918_1508934665_32410195_172064310_nSam Robinson rose up to the challenge and merged her efforts, that began near the EHCC way before I was invited to plant ‘the triangle‘, to encompass all of Kamehameha Avenue along with the raised beds she pioneered with the Girl Scouts prior to my arrival. We worked together as best as we could, and celebrated several Harvest Festivals with the community, serving food to over 400 people grown right on the streets of Hilo. And not to forget Mikey’s leadership and the many other Americorps members that labored for a more picturesque townscape.

Unfortunately, the streets of downtown Hilo have slowly reverted back to the disparaging condition of round-uped, unsightly death as we have both been pulled in other directions.

The fame that I was able to accrue during the days of Occupy and the authority granted by Director of the Downtown Improvement Association to go ahead and beautify Hilo with edibles has ultimately left me with the kuleana of downtown’s empty spaces squarely on my shoulders. People often ask me “How’s Let’s Grow Hilo?” and express interest in getting involved, so the time is now for me to take slightly tighter grip on the reigns and guide the project toward something newsworthy once again.

To do this, I am putting in some safeguards for myself so I don’t get burnt out, and can make this a sustainable effort for everyone involved. Instead of having a regularly scheduled event (although I think as things get going again and more leaders emerge, this may be once again a possibility), I have instead created an online volunteer sign up form and will be running ‘on-demand’ beautifications. So for instance, if I notice the median in front of the Kress building really needs some help, I will go to the list and contact volunteers until I have enough people able to make a specific date and time to spring into action.

For my sake, I am also envisioning being a little less orthodox in our timing and approach, such as night events with live music or practical hands-on workshops to showcase our skilled local farmers and cultivators. The streets are lit up at night, music makes work go by in no time, and we are awash in some of the most progressive Earth care professionals in the entire world. Let’s take advantage of our assets and let our streets reflect our prowess.

IMG_5047I have already begun to re-inoculate the Kamehameha Avenue median with Indigenous Micro Organisms (IMO) as well as planting a few brave kalo and sweet potatoes near the Haili Street intersection. In it’s state of neglect, the county workers have poisoned majority of the areas, but IMO is adept at neutralizing toxins and can reverse the damage done to a nutritious advantage. We always have the upper hand by respecting nature and employing ancient life forms.

I invite you once again to join me, sign up here, and to make a positive, edible, nutritious, fun, and responsible difference to the town we all hold so dear to our hearts.

Let’s Grow Hilo!!!!

National Planting Day

National Planting Day:

Registration Available on Re-Trac National Planting Day is a call to action to plant species native to your locale. Your planting can take place any day from September 8 through November 30. Planting natives will help protect wildlife and enhance biodiversity. We encourage you to participate. Program deliverables include a downloadable poster, educational card and the first 100 to register are eligible to receive a free 3×5 outdoor banner. The banners will not carry a date on them so you may use them anytime between Sept 8 and November 30. More information is available on http://getgrowing.orgTo register for National Planting Day, log in to Re-Trac: https://connect.re-trac.com/login and look for National Planting Day registration under Annual Report & GAC selections.Questions about National Planting Day?

Please email Susanne Woods: swoods@kab.org or Cori Rotter: crotter@kab.org.