Tag Archives: Makuu

Kamahele Family, Part 4 – Tutu Meleana & the Puhi

Reposting a story I wrote several years back:

I just received a really interesting email about my Tutu Meleana. It was from my cousin Danny Labasan, and I’m copying it here with his permission:

I am the last son of Elizabeth Kamahele. I’m not sure if we met but we could have. I was so young way back then, I can’t remember who all of my cousins are. But I do remember once we went over to the chicken farm. I don’t know if Kimana or Kuuna was your dad. They were in Makuu all the time.

But how this writing came about is that I am doing some Kamahele family tree background. And while doing some Internet checks I ran across your articles via Hamakua Springs.

I just want to say that the stories you write, especially about Tutu, Uncle Sonny, the Maku‘u land, are so so so soo great. It’s like I am still there.

I wrote back that I know of him, though I don’t remember if we met either. His mom was Aunty Elizabeth, and I told Danny I have fond memories of her. I told him my dad was Kimana, which was a Hawaiianization of Kee Mun Ha, the name my dad’s Korean dad gave him.

Danny told me this great story about Tutu Meleana, who lived there at Maku‘u. Though Danny and I are near in age, Tutu was Danny’s grandmother and my great-grandmother.

The pond that you spoke of (Waikulani) where Tutu took you, and us as well, to fish as little kids – I have a story to tell about it. I will never forget it because it’s why I hate puhi (eel).

On one particular day, Tutu and my mom Elizabeth went to this pond. We swam and fished. Aunty Elizabeth caught lots of ‘opihi and Tutu caught some haukeuke. Then Tutu showed us how to clean the fish, the ‘opihi and haukeuke. We were on the rocks just feet from the ocean water. I was probably 6 years old. This will be hard to believe but a puhi came flying out of the water and grabbed hold of Tutu’s bicep. I will never forget seeing this snake-like creature attached to Tutu’s arm. I screamed until I hyperventilated.  

But Tutu was so calm. She grabbed hold of the puhi’s head, pushed it against her arm and the mouth of the puhi opened up, and Tutu was able to remove the puhi from her arm. She cut the head off. Patched up her arm and we walked back to the house. An experience I will never forget. I still hate puhi. 

My brother Allen, he was called Eloy during those days, would take us fishing in Kukuihaele where we lived and he would show us how Uncle Sonny and cousin Kalapo would catch puhi. Unreal.

Waikulani

What a story. Waikulani Pond is not exactly a pond. It was a place where the large waves outside would break on a protective ring of pahoehoe, and small swells would roll gently across what looks like a pond. One would have to jump from rock to rock to get to Waikulani. The bigger kids could do this, no problem.

The small kids would all go poke around in this tiny, protected cove, looking at ocean animals, and would sometimes see the dreaded puhi.

Great story, Danny. Thanks again.

See also:

Maku‘u Stories, Part 1: My Kamahele Family in Maku’u
Maku‘u Stories, Part 2: Frank Kamahele
Maku‘u Stories, Part 3: Uncle Sonny Kamahele

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Climbing the Bamboo Pole: Why We Formed a Co-Op Steering Committee

You know the Wayne Gretzky quote about skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it is? It refers, of course, to planning ahead.

My Pop’s story about climbing the bamboo pole taught me a lesson about planning ahead, too. He told me about fishing for aholehole with some friends at Maku‘u. They stuck a bamboo pole into the rock and hung a kerosene pole on it when, suddenly, they saw white water coming straight for them. It was going to cover the rocky point where they were fishing.

“What you going do?” my Pop asked me when he told me this story. I had no idea. He told me he climbed up the bamboo pole, hand over hand, lifted up his legs, and let the water go under him. Then he dropped back down and used the pole to fish his friends out of the water.

Before the white water arrived, he already knew what he would do. He had a plan.

NextEra is proposing to purchase the Hawaii Electric Company (HECO) grid, and this is a good time to compare alternatives. HECO has been having a tough time making necessary changes. NextEra looks like they can make the changes, but they’re not from here.

We have seen how the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) has done over the last 12 years. Each meter has one vote. KIUC has nearly $100 million in retained earnings that would have gone off island, but has stayed in the state instead. And they are flexible and can make changes in a timely manner.

The Big Island Energy Utility Cooperative steering committee we’ve created – to look into forming a Big Island Energy Co-op here on the Big Island – is our way of skating to where the puck is going to be, or climbing the bamboo pole. We are planning ahead.

We are doing all the legwork and research and information gathering now so that if there is an opportunity, we will be in position. If we don’t do this, we won’t be in the game.

The goals and benefits of a Big Island Energy Cooperative are:

  • Local, democratic control over one of the most important infrastructures and public goods on the island. This would provide more benefits to island residents, with any profits staying at home.
  • Community over off-island, corporate shareholder prioritiesas the cooperative would work for sustainable development of the island’s communities through policies approved and accepted by its members.
  • Lower electric costs through greater efforts to develop island-based energy sources, improve energy efficiency and an accelerated adoption of smart grid technologies.
  • Greater overall energy independence and sustainability through a comprehensive and integrated approach to all energy-consuming sectors on the island.
  • Development of island-produced fuels to provide an energy source for both electricity generation and transportation.

If not here, where? If not now, when? If not all of us, who?

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Maku’u Stories, Part 5: What Uncle Sonny Kamahele Taught Me About Business

Let me tell you something really interesting I learned from my Uncle Sonny Kamahele. He had 20 acres in Maku‘u, in Puna on the Big Island. There was a rare kipuka there with soil that was 10 feet deep, no rocks or anything. There was a spring in one corner of his property.

I was just out of college with an accounting degree and lots of ideas about business. So I looked at his land and wondered if he would lease me 10 acres to grow bananas. I scratched my chin and thought about how I could grow 35,000 pounds per acre on those 10 acres. Maybe 300,000 pounds a year if I took into account turn around space.

And yet on the other 10 acres, Uncle Sonny was making his living with just 10 or 20 hills of watermelons, with maybe four plants on each hill. People would come from miles around to buy his watermelons. It provided him with enough income to support himself and to send money to his wife and son in the Philippines.

Here’s the lesson I learned from him: It’s not about how big your farm is. Your business is successful if it supports your situation. I learned a lot from Uncle Sonny, but I think that’s the most important thing I learned from him.

That’s what I always look at when I visit a farm. Not how big it is, or how much money it makes, but how it operates, and whether it solves the problem it is trying to solve.

Here’s why I’m telling you this right now. We have a real energy problem looming. I think the situation with oil is very serious, and there are definitely going to be winners and losers in the world. We need to position ourselves to be winners, and it’s going to take all of us, big and small.

How are we going to feed Hawai‘i?

Every one of us is going to play a role in it – from the largest farmers to the small folks growing food in their backyard. Do you remember in the plantation camps, especially the Filipino camps, how the yards were always planted with food? Beans, eggplants, the whole thing. I don’t see it so much anymore, but we can do it again.

We are lucky on the Big Island. We’re not crowded and everybody has room to grow food. You know how you can tell we have plenty space? Everybody’s yard is too big to mow! We have the ability to do this.

It’s going to take all of us. It’s not just about any one of us, it’s about all of us, from the biggest to the smallest.

I’m lucky to have had my Uncle Sonny Kamahele to learn from when I was younger. I spent a lot of time with him and I got a real feeling for how he made decisions, which was old style.

His lifestyle was a real connection to the past, too. His lawn and the whole area were always immaculate, practically manicured. He lived pretty close to the old ways with a lot of remnants from the past. His red and green house had stones from down the beach under the pillars, and lumber over the dirt floors. He built beds on those floors and then had five or six lauhala mats on the beds instead of mattresses; old style. There was a redwood water tank.

He listened to the County extension folks, and I learned from that, too – to pay attention to the people who know something.

But one of the most important things I learned was that your business, big or small, is a success if it supports your particular situation.

See also:
Maku‘u Stories, Part 1: My Kamahele Family in Maku’u
Maku‘u Stories, Part 2: Cousin Frank Kamahele
Maku‘u Stories, Part 3: Uncle Sonny
Maku‘u Stories, Part 4: Tutu Meleana & The Puhi

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What I Learned From My Uncle Sonny Kamahele

Richard Ha writes:

I reread some of my posts about my Uncle Sonny Kamahele recently. The most important things I learned about farming, I learned from him down at Maku‘u. I thought I’d revisit some of that here.

***

Science is great, but there are kids now that go to the supermarket and think that’s where food comes from.

For me, it all goes back to Uncle Sonny and all the layers of technology that have cropped up since then. Wheelbarrow

When I first thought about farming, I spent hours and hours talking to Uncle Sonny Kamahele down the beach at Maku‘u.

I’ve written about Uncle Sonny here and here. He was my Pop’s cousin, and I learned the basic principles of farming from him.

I had just graduated from UH Manoa with an accounting degree. I had cost benefit volume analysis and market share on my mind.

Uncle Sonny drove to town once a week. He did not have electricity or running water, but he always had a stack of U.S. News & World Reports with the current copy on top. He made his living farming watermelon by himself.

One day he told me that he needed to open up a new plot of land because he could not stay at the same place for too long; he didn’t want to get a virus or a wilt of some sort.

Over the days and weeks, I watched him cut grass in the new plot with a sickle and pull it into a roll, and then cart the grass out of his plot in a wheelbarrow. When he wasn’t doing that, he would take a hoe and remove the roots of the grass, because he knew that otherwise it would regrow.

The other types of weed were dormant seeds of broad-leaved weeds that would germinate and pop up. Uncle Sonny would remove these with a hoe, only on dry days, without disturbing too much of the soil. After awhile the seeds would stop germinating.

Uncle Sonny knew that certain weeds could continuously regrow if the roots were not removed, and that others only grew from seed. I noticed that, after awhile, hardly any weeds grew in the new plot, and I thought about how amazing that was.

The lessons I learned from Uncle Sonny? Know what your problem is. Also: no waste time.

My grandma Leihulu lived with us for several years as I was growing up in Waiakea Uka. She grew taro and made poi, and she did the same things as Uncle Sonny. She always had a stack of California grass smoldering, even when it was raining – they were weeds she’d removed the same way he did. It was second nature to her. It was just her lifestyle.

Whenever I see a plot of ground that’s clean like that, it’s pretty obvious to me that they did that with a hoe, and that that is somebody that knows what they’re doing.

As Uncle Sonny got older, he started using pesticides, but because they cost money he was very very careful with them. It saves that part where you have to go and hoe the weeds out and go and pull the seeds out. It saved him a lot of time. It wasn’t very many years later that he started to use Roundup.

When I started farming, we were using skull & crossbones types of poisons like Paraquat. When we switched to Roundup, we didn’t have to use that anymore. It made spraying herbicides so much safer for the farmer.

When you use a chemical like Roundup in conjunction with a 100-hp tractor, you can do 1000 times more than one human can do. That means you can produce that much more food.  But now that herbicides kill everything, you start losing that knowledge; you don’t have to know what the old guys knew.

When Uncle Sonny used herbicides, he always stuck the leaf into it and saw if it worked. If not, he’d add a little more.

He followed the instructions, but he never relied on the instructions for the final result. He knew the formula, but he checked to make sure the result was what he wanted. It showed me that he knew what he was doing. He knew why that particular spreader was in there, and checked the proportions for sure. Not that he doubted, but if he wanted it to work very well, he’d check it himself.

I haven’t seen anybody, not anybody, do that. But I think it was common knowledge with the old folks.

We are so far removed from our food now that we don’t really have a connection with why we’re doing what we’re doing. But we need the basic knowledge. You’ve got to know why you’re doing what you are doing.

More about Uncle Sonny:

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Grass Roots Farming

Richard Ha writes:

Science is great, but there are kids now that go to the
supermarket and think that’s where food comes from.

For me, it all goes back to Uncle Sonny and all the layers of technology that have cropped up since then.

Wheelbarrow

 

 

 

 

 

When I first thought about farming, I spent hours and hours
talking to Uncle Sonny Kamahele down the beach at Maku‘u.

I’ve written about Uncle Sonny here and here. He was my Pop’s
cousin, and I learned the basic principles of farming from him.

I had just graduated from UH Manoa with an accounting degree.
I had cost benefit volume analysis and market share on my mind.

 

Uncle Sonny drove to town once a week. He did not have
electricity or running water, but he always had a stack of U.S. News & World Reports with the current copy on top. He made his living farming watermelon by himself.

One day he told me that he needed to open up a new plot of land because he could not stay at the same place for too long; he didn’t want to get a virus or a wilt of some sort.

Over the days and weeks, I watched him cut grass in the new plot with a sickle and pull it into a roll, and then cart the grass out of his plot in a wheelbarrow. When he wasn’t doing that, he would take a hoe and remove the roots of the grass, because he knew that otherwise it would regrow.

The other types of weed were dormant seeds of broad-leaved weeds that would germinate and pop up. Uncle Sonny would remove these with a hoe, only on dry days, without disturbing too much of the soil. After awhile the seeds would stop germinating.

Uncle Sonny knew that certain weeds could continuously regrow if the roots were not removed, and that others only grew from seed. I noticed that, after awhile, hardly any weeds grew in the new plot, and I thought about how amazing that was.

The lessons I learned from Uncle Sonny? Know what your problem is. Also: no waste time.

My grandma Leihulu lived with us for several years as I was growing up in Waiakea Uka. She grew taro and made poi, and she did the same things as Uncle Sonny. She always had a stack of California grass smoldering, even when it was raining – they were weeds she’d removed the same way he did. It was second nature to her. It was just her lifestyle.

Whenever I see a plot of ground that’s clean like that, it’s pretty obvious to me that they did that with a hoe, and that that is somebody that knows what they’re doing.

As Uncle Sonny got older, he started using pesticides, but because they cost money he was very very careful with them. It saves that part where you have to go and hoe the weeds out and go and pull the seeds out. It saved him a lot of time. It wasn’t very many years later that he started to use Roundup.

When I started farming, we were using skull & crossbones types of poisons like Paraquat. When we switched to Roundup, we didn’t have to use that anymore. It made spraying herbicides so much safer for the farmer.

When you use a chemical like Roundup in conjunction with a 100-hp tractor, you can do 1000 times more than one human can do. That means you can produce that much more food.  But now that herbicides kill everything, you start losing that knowledge; you don’t have to know what the old guys knew.

When Uncle Sonny used herbicides, he always stuck the leaf into it and saw if it worked. If not, he’d add a little more.

He followed the instructions, but he never relied on the instructions for the final result. He knew the formula, but he checked to make sure the result was what he wanted. It showed me that he knew what he was doing. He knew why that particular spreader was in there, and checked the proportions for sure. Not that he doubted, but if he wanted it to work very well, he’d check it himself.

I haven’t seen anybody, not anybody, do that. But I think it was common knowledge with the old folks.

We are so far removed from our food now that we don’t really have a connection with why we’re doing what we’re doing. But we need the basic knowledge. You’ve got to know why you’re doing what you are doing.

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2011: The Year in Review

What a year it’s been! Here are some 2011 highlights:

There was a lot of conversation, of course, about geothermal. The Geothermal Working Group Interim Report  – which provided lawmakers with an evaluation of using the hot water reservoir in certain locations of Big Island to provide local and renewable energy for electricity and transportation – was distributed to state legislators. I also wrote about it being a matter of leadership, about mopping the deck of the Titanic, and about how the momentum toward geothermal has shifted. Also about a Democratic Party Resolution supporting geothermal for baseload electrical power.

I attended a geothermal energy forum in Pahoa, with Hawaiian leaders speaking and every seat taken. There were more Hawaiian perspectives in supporting geothermal, this time in Hilo. And about even more Big Island support for geothermal.

Screen shot 2012-01-01 at 10.37.49 PM

I posted a link to the cloudcam, a time-lapse video taken by the Canada France Hawaii telescope’s cloud cam at night, which I thought was really neat. It’s time-lapse photography where you can watch the stars migrate across the night sky.

June and I enjoyed meeting and talking with visionary Earl Bakken at his Kiloho Bay home, and learning about his manifesto.

Screen shot 2012-01-01 at 10.42.12 PM

We participated in Alan Wong’s Farmers Series dinner for a second time, and really enjoyed it.

Screen shot 2012-01-01 at 10.40.13 PM

People seemed to enjoy the conclusion of my Maku‘u Series. I got a lot of great feedback on it. It was fun remembering the old days and the old ways of my Kamahele ‘ohana in Maku‘u.

I wrote about biofuels, and the very real problems with them. Also on biofuels and feedstock. I wrote a post about the National Research Council calling biofuels costly and their impacts questionable.

I spoke to the Kamehameha Schools First Nation Fellows about food sustainability, showed them the farm and gave them some of the best advice I could think of.

Of course I mentioned a few times about how “If the farmers make money, farmers will farm.” That link is to one of those times.

In June, seven Polynesian-style voyaging waka (canoes), representing different Pacific Islands, arrived in Hilo Bay after a two-month voyage from Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Screen shot 2012-01-01 at 8.36.33 PM

Leslie Lang, my blog editor, went for a spin around the bay on one, and we wrote about how the ancient ways are again showing us the way.

“It’s all about taking the knowledge and wisdom of the past and using it in the present to make a stronger future. It’s exactly what the old Polynesians did when they sailed out into the Pacific to find new land.”

It’s a strong metaphor. I wrote my impressions of the vaka here.

More vaka posts: The Canoes are Coming: Te Mana o Te MoanaThey’re Here! and What’s the Big Deal about Voyaging Canoes?

In July, CEO of Ku‘oko‘a Ro Marth and I went to Iceland, in order to see for ourselves how Iceland went from being a developing country in the 1970s to one of the most productive countries in the world today. (Here’s a hint: GEOTHERMAL.)

Screen shot 2012-01-01 at 10.35.46 PM

Read about our very interesting trip (I wore shorts) at Heading to IcelandHeading to Iceland 2Power Plant Earth and Iceland, In Conclusion.

The online news organization Civil Beat published my three-part series on energy and food security in September.

Civil Beat article

And I attended my fourth Peak Oil conference, this one in Washington, D.C. I wrote about it here: Part 1: As the ASPO Conference Gears UpPart 2: Impressions from the ConferencePart 3: Energy Return on Energy Invested and Part 4: The Answer is Geothermal.

It has been a busy, productive and interesting year, and I look forward to having another of the same. My best wishes to everybody out there reading for a happy, healthy and successful 2012!

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Maku’u Stories, Part 4: Tutu Meleana & The Puhi

I just received a really interesting email about my Tutu Meleana. It was from my cousin Danny Labasan, and I’m copying it here with his permission:

I am the last son of Elizabeth Kamahele. I’m not sure if we met but we could have. I was so young way back then, I can’t remember who all of my cousins are. But I do remember once we went over to the chicken farm. I don’t know if Kimana or Kuuna was your dad. They were in Makuu all the time.

But how this writing came about is that I am doing some Kamahele family tree background. And while doing some Internet checks I ran across your articles via Hamakua Springs.

I just want to say that the stories you write, especially about Tutu, Uncle Sonny, the Maku‘u land, are so so so soo great. It’s like I am still there.

I wrote back that I know of him, though I don’t remember if we met either. His mom was Aunty Elizabeth, and I told Danny I have fond memories of her. I told him my dad was Kimana, which was a Hawaiianization of Kee Mun Ha, the name my dad’s Korean dad gave him.

Danny told me this great story about Tutu Meleana, who lived there at Maku‘u. Though Danny and I are near in age, Tutu was Danny’s grandmother and my great-grandmother.

The pond that you spoke of (Waikulani) where Tutu took you, and us as well, to fish as little kids – I have a story to tell about it. I will never forget it because it’s why I hate puhi (eel).

On one particular day, Tutu and my mom Elizabeth went to this pond. We swam and fished. Aunty Elizabeth caught lots of ‘opihi and Tutu caught some haukeuke. Then Tutu showed us how to clean the fish, the ‘opihi and haukeuke. We were on the rocks just feet from the ocean water. I was probably 6 years old. This will be hard to believe but a puhi came flying out of the water and grabbed hold of Tutu’s bicep. I will never forget seeing this snake-like creature attached to Tutu’s arm. I screamed until I hyperventilated. 

But Tutu was so calm. She grabbed hold of the puhi’s head, pushed it against her arm and the mouth of the puhi opened up, and Tutu was able to remove the puhi from her arm. She cut the head off. Patched up her arm and we walked back to the house. An experience I will never forget. I still hate puhi. 

My brother Allen, he was called Eloy during those days, would take us fishing in Kukuihaele where we lived and he would show us how Uncle Sonny and cousin Kalapo would catch puhi. Unreal.

Waikulani

What a story. Waikulani Pond is not exactly a pond. It was a place where the large waves outside would break on a protective ring of pahoehoe, and small swells would roll gently across what looks like a pond. One would have to jump from rock to rock to get to Waikulani. The bigger kids could do this, no problem.

The small kids would all go poke around in this tiny, protected cove, looking at ocean animals, and would sometimes see the dreaded puhi.

Great story, Danny. Thanks again.

Next:
Part 5: What Uncle Sonny Taught Me About Successful Businesses

See also:
Maku‘u Stories, Part 1: My Kamahele Family in Maku’u
Maku‘u Stories, Part 2: Cousin Frank Kamahele
Maku‘u Stories, Part 3: Uncle Sonny

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