Off-Grid Gravitas: Homesteading in Hawaii (Pt. 2)

Off-Grid Gravitas: Homesteading in Hawaii (Pt. 2)

After spending two months out of the three that we plan to be here in Hawaii, we’ve found ourselves comfortably nestled into a snug Hawaiian lifestyle. The air is clean, the days are warm, and the conditions are just right for finding repose in connecting with our innermost selves. A sense of vigor floats aloft in our day to day well being.

Since we’ve been here, many things have come up that have turned into regular daily activities. We’re proudly raising baby chicks, learning the many uses of a coconut, and taking strides in acquiescing online income.

We’ve been living a lifestyle with relaxation at its highest orientation. Surely, we’ve tuned in to peaceful living, but a lot has changed since we first moved in, and one can never drop out for too long before the impulse to return comes back.

Therefore, I thought I’d write to fill our readers in who’ve been curious about what we’ve been up to. 

If you haven’t already read part 1 of our Hawaiian adventure, you might want to check it out before this article to learn how we arranged coming to Hawaii in the first place.

Sometimes it feels like a dream that we’ve set up the opportunity to live out some of our days here. Indeed, it fans the flames of travel a little more to be in a location where you never thought you’d end up. It just goes to show that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

As far as our weekly activities go, the following is a mostly comprehensive list of how we’re spending our time here. I hope that you’ll enjoy the tale.

The iconic Hawaiian hibiscus.

Our Own Aloha Alarm Clock

It seems reasonable to think that in Hawaii, people generally wake up whenever they want to. After all, when everyone is on “Aloha time,” getting around to daily chores is less of a pressing matter, and sleeping in becomes the norm.  

At least, for some time we surely thought so. But sooner or later, it was inevitable that the resident chickens were going to find out where we sleep. 

“How cute,” we thought. They would walk the trail through the jungle to the back acre of property in order to visit our tiny jungle hut. And do you know what we did? We’d praise them for making the trek by giving them crackers, bananas, and any other kind of snack that we had in the jungle hut.

But that was before we really knew Floppy, the operatic rooster. So much for sleeping in on “Aloha time.”

Because the chickens know where we sleep now, every single day, Floppy and his crony hens (Tiny, Marie, and Brenda) come to visit us at seven in the morning. Normally, this wouldn’t be too much of a disturbance, but seven in the morning is also when testosterone is coursing through a rooster like gasoline in a Maserati.

Hence, the proverbial “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo” ensues, not just once, but usually up to twenty times. 

“Good morning to you too, Floppy. We appreciate that your crows are just above a comfortable decibel level so that we don’t waste any more of our day enjoying the sweetness of sleep.”

Usually after Floppy’s performance, we’re not long behind to get up and start off our day.

Floppy and his cronies, Marie and Brenda
Floppy and his cronies, Marie and Brenda

Caffeine and Our Perky Peepers

Yes, we are hopelessly addicted to coffee in the morning. I mean, it’s one of the most delicious and invigorating things ever invented. Who isn’t addicted to coffee?

But do you know what goes great with a morning cup of joe? 

Eight baby chicks, only a few weeks old, excited as ever to leave their nightly coop and start grazing in their play pen. Every morning we sit with the baby chicks and their mother (aka Mama Hen), hand-feeding them grains and watching them hop around in the dirt.

baby chicks 2
They’ll melt your heart and then peck at your toes.

Their diets consist mainly purple flower petals, loquats from the trees nearby, mealworms from the compost pit, and of course chick feed. We’re also finding that they go crazy for hard-boiled eggs, strangely enough.

But for every cute thing in nature, it seems there’s a predator to go with it.

The biggest predators that the chicks have are hungry mongooses and feral cats that inhabit the island. In fact, the very first day we let the chicks out to graze, a mongoose was spotted hiding in the bushes. Fortunately, it was scared off after Brenda started wailing when she spotted it too.

We’ve never really raised chicks before, but it’s been a sheer pleasure learning about how to care for them in the best way possible. While each chick has a unique personality, the cuteness factor is equal between all of them.

Once they reach six weeks, we intend on letting them graze the entire property without our supervision, in order to let them be the wild chickens that they are. Hopefully by then, and with the help of the other chickens in our flock, they’ll be able to fend off hungry predators.

baby chicks living in hawaii
Purple flowers are a real delicacy around here.

Helping Out Around the House

In the previous article I explained some of what we do here for our work exchange. Basically, the premise is that we work a few hours each week in exchange for food and a place to sleep. 

The only difference now, from when we originally landed here is that there’s no one here with us. That’s right, we’re literally living alone on a property in Hawaii … for free!

What’s that catch? Well, to start, our hosts are literally some of the coolest people we’ve met. We couldn’t have asked for more gracious hosts. But all in all, it seems that we just happened to reach out at the right time to have a house to ourselves in Hawaii.

You see, when the listing was initially posted online through HelpX, Heather and I were quickly growing tired of our housekeeping jobs at the Grand Canyon

The day after the listing went up, we inquired about the opportunity.

So how are we here alone then? 

Our hosts run a number of rental houses including the property here, and a few back in the mainland. They were seeking volunteers to stay at their Hawaiian home while they headed to the mainland in order to take care of another property. 

Our weekly upkeep here is to clean the house in between bookings, and work on a few other tasks that they wanted to have accomplished.

For the occasional renters, we explain the ins-and-outs of off-grid living, and then we head to the back of the property to relax in our cabin. The rest of the time when there are no renters, we take on painting projects around the house, basic landscaping and trail maintenance, and processing the tropical fruits growing on the property.

There's also this crazy tree house along the trail.

Landing Income from Language Instruction

Perhaps one of the greatest parts about spending our days here is that we have plenty of time to work online. 

Heather and I both tutor English through a program called Cambly. I wrote an article about it here, if you think it may be something you’d like to try as well.

After we have breakfast and spend our morning coffee time with the baby chicks, we usually hop online to make some money for the day. It’s a great gig, and we’re finding that the chance to learn about other cultures has increased tenfold by tutoring on Cambly.

I truly realize what a privilege it is to not have to commute into work every day. But not only this, with English quickly becoming a universal language, I’m reminded how grateful I am to have been brought up as a native English speaker.

Usually we spend a few hours each weekday tutoring on Cambly. Heather works from the cabin and I work from the second level of the house. Just outside the window, as I work with non-native English speakers, I can look out and watch little green birds flutter in and out of the starfruit tree a few yards away.

Of course, every so often I have to explain how Floppy, the operatic rooster, is a wild chicken that hangs around the house, crowing throughout every hour of the day.

However, in addition to this work, I’ve had plenty of time to build up momentum to start an Ecommerce website, launch my freelance writing career, and research other areas of the world that might be neat to visit.

If you know anyone that needs writing or editing services performed … *wink wink*

working with floppy
Floppy is accepting bookings for his tutoring business.

The Jungle Hut

Where would we be without it? The cabin (aka The Jungle Hut) is the closest thing to feeling like we actually have our own home here in Hawaii. In fact, most people can (and do!) have homes this size in Hawaii. 

You don’t need a lot when the beach is just a few minute’s away.

Even though The Jungle Hut is built out of pallet wood, it has all of the luxuries of a modern home. There’s a solid roof above our heads, a deck which is also made of pallet wood, an area rug with comfy bean bags on it, and wireless internet. 

Essentially, we established The Jungle Hut into the clean and livable cabin it is today.

When we first arrived, the cabin was little more than a dingy shack with a tarp slung across the top for a roof. The floor was spotted with the muddy footprints of rats and other jungle dwelling critters. The only item inside was a sorry and soaking wet sleeping bag left behind by the last volunteer.

So what did we do? We got to work.

Within a few days, we had all the materials needed to build a roof. Heather and I made multiple trips carrying sixteen foot sections of two-by-fours down the trail going to the cabin. This was before the trail was weed-wacked and cleared of all its tripping hazards. 

Did I mention that a tropical storm also happened to be blowing through that day? Fond memories, for sure.

Once the roof was built, Heather and I painted the floor purple, caulked in all of the cracks between the wall boards, and painted the outside a certain kind of flavorful mint green. We also built a deck solely using the wood from pallets we picked up earlier in the week.

coconut grove
The quaint coconut grove in our backyard.

Once the basic necessities for The Jungle Hut were fulfilled, we set it up with electricity and WiFi, built shelving units along the walls, hung a clothe’s line, and created a fire pit area.

We also rounded up a bunch of coconuts and planted them outside of the cabin. Although it takes about twenty or thirty years for a coconut tree to mature, someday there will be a beautiful little grove of coconut trees right in the backyard of the cabin.

We’ve talked about building a solar shower by catching rainfall from the roof, creating an outhouse by using logs from invasive trees, and starting an aquaponics garden. But those projects will have to be fulfilled by the next volunteers. There’s only so much time in each day.

Our little Hawaiian abode.

Picking and Processing Palatable Fruits

What’s the strangest tasting fruit you’ve ever tried?

For me, it has to be soursop. It’s creamy with a hint of citrus and notes of banana flavoring. Although it doesn’t grow on our property here, there are a number of other edible delicacies that do.

A ripe guava ready for picking.

We have multiple avocado trees, starfruit, loquat, kumquat, lemon, guava, Surinam cherry, jabuticaba, cacao, cinnamon, Malabar chestnut, coconut, and mango. Unfortunately, the avocado and mango are out of season right now, but my favorite fruits have to be the jabuticabas and the guavas.

Most of the time, we’re processing the jabuticabas and the guavas, but we also make coconut milk weekly, use the loquats in oatmeal, cook with the Surinam cherries, and treat ourselves to the occasional low-hanging starfruit.

surinam cherries
The odd looking surinam cherry grows in abundance here.

The jabuticaba is a South American fruit, predominately growing in Brazil. Though, because of its short shelf-life, finding the jabuticaba in the US is a rarity. Fortunately, the climate is ideal for the fruiting tree here in Hawaii, and we have one growing right next to the front lanai. 

The fruit of the jabuticaba tree looks like a grape, but the real peculiarity of it comes from the fact that it grows right out of the bark of each branch. We refer to it as “tree acne.” Although the process is laborious to harvest the fruits, they’re a delicious and healthy snack, as they contain anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-cancerous compounds.

Preparing to harvest hundreds of jabuticaba.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever wondered the proper way to process a coconut, it’s really not too difficult. If you can harvest one still up in the tree, you’ll be treated to some incredibly sweet water inside. Those one’s are called “poppers” because you can usually pop it right open. 

Most of the coconuts we process though, have already fallen. They have the most amount of “meat” inside, therefore making them the most useful for various products.

To crack open a mature coconut, you can simply split the whole thing in half with an ax. The other method is to split it with a knife. From there, you can peel off the outer rind to gain access to the inner shell. The latter method is usually used to preserve the water inside, or if you don’t have an ax. 

Be sure to look for the “monkey’s face” on the inner shell to find the weakest side for splitting it.

Aside from the coconuts, we do have to be mindful of making sure we don’t harvest fruit that has already fallen. There’s a disease called “Rat Lung” here that can be picked up and transferred to fallen fruit from snails. The same goes for drinking untreated water … but I’ll spare the details of this disease for your own research, if you’re curious.

monkey's face
Behind the monkey's face is a pool of delicious coconut water.

What's Cookin', Good Lookin'?

Within the first week of being on our own here, Heather and I made a pact. We agreed to take turns making dinner for one another every night, with one day for grazing on Friday. We signed it, stamped it, and nailed it to the wall.

When Heather prepares a meal, I get to rest until dinner is ready, and then I clean up the rest of the dirty dishes. When I prepare a meal, Heather rests until dinner is ready, then continues resting after dinner, and I have to clean up all of the dirty dishes up … just kidding.

We’re really good about taking turns and helping each other when it’s needed. It’s a fun and exciting way to share what might otherwise be seen as a burden. Plus, we get to treat ourselves to a warm meal every night, with only half the responsibility. 

We’re getting creative too!

Before our experience living here, I could make a delicious canned soup. Now though, I don’t even need a can. It comes straight from the heart.

Heather has made quinoa black bean burgers from scratch, chickpea shakshuka stew, and lemon rice soup. Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to perfect my curry recipes. In addition, we’ve made veggie fried rice, vegan tacos with purple carrots, and even pizza with Bisquick.

I think we both have grown up a little from having cereal and mac n’ cheese for dinner by teaching ourselves to cook. It’s been highly rewarding, to say the least.

For desert, we make our own banana and coconut ice cream, which is a fantastic healthy alternative to the store-bought dairy ice cream.

We also prepare lemonade from a frozen puree of the lemons that grow outside. For a little bonus, we found that the lemonade is even more incredible by filling up half the jar with coconut milk. It’s like a liquid lemon sorbet!

gecko living in hawaii
He's not on the menu, but this Gold Dust Day gecko likes to eat morsels from all our meals.

Getting Around the Town

Another reason we’re beyond thankful to have such amazing hosts is that they’ve allowed us to use their truck while they’re away. This has opened up a huge area for us to explore, as the only place within walking distance is a gas station/supermarket.

On Sundays, we visit the local Maku’u market to buy farm fresh produce, take in the many different types of art, and spend a little of our earnings on some handmade crepes.

sea turtle
Appreciating the sea turtles at Haena.

We also like to visit Haena Beach (aka Shipman Beach) to swim in a cove where the sea turtles regularly take sanctuary. Haena is also a great beach to find a multitude of freshly fallen coconuts just waiting to be cracked open for a delectable refreshment. 

There’s also a free zoo and botanical garden down the road with some spectacular sights to be had. Our favorite animal there is probably the golden pheasant. The zoo also feeds the alligators every day at 1:30 PM.

lava tube
Hiking into the Kaumana lava tube is as frightening as it looks.

We’ve hiked inside of a lava tube just outside of Hilo, the main city on this side of the island, after stopping for some drinks and opakapaka tacos.

There’s plenty of places to explore here, and within the next few weeks I plan on writing an article about some of the best things to do here on the Big Island.

The truck is honestly a bit of a jalopy, so we try to be careful about staying near the house just in case anything happens. Fortunately, even though it smells of mildew and it’s a bit rickety, it has given us a major sense of joy by being able to use it.

Prior to taking the truck out, we spent a few weeks seeing the same things every day. Just us and the chickens living in our tiny haven here in Hawaii. It doesn’t sound like an entirely bad deal, but we were definitely starting to get a little stir crazy. 

We knew it was time to get out and see new things once we started fantasizing about the chickens going out on dates to the local starfruit tree together.

golden pheasant
Behold, the beautiful golden pheasant.

All Things Considered

I’m unable to say how grateful I am that we’ve had the opportunity to live here and experience everything that we have. It has been the most refreshing experience we’ve had in our lives to date, and all of this came at a much needed time after spending years dealing with the feeling of being overworked.

The ginger is in full bloom right now, and the birds sing songs of jubilee revealing that every day they too are happy to be alive. We’re gorging ourselves on sensory experience like royalty, and we’re not spending a single cent most days.

At night, the coqui frogs chirp all around us in the lush jungle, and up above, the stars shine bright when there’s no cloud cover.

We’ve adopted a genuine Hawaiian lifestyle just in time for us to start preparing to leave this place. But I guess that’s just the nature of nomadic living: you never stay too long in any one place.

We’ve been reveling in a sense of living in close proximity to the sacred. Our spirits have undoubtedly been refreshed and renewed. In everything, a divine emanation seems to nurture us and guide us with its gentle persuasions.

When you simplify your life to its utmost, your intentions and purpose in this world become a little more clear.

In all earnest though, I’m ready to return home to see my family for the summer. There’s nothing else I’ve missed more dearly than the faces of family members, and the sumptuous times of talking and laughing with them.

And I must say, Hawaii isn’t all that great, you know.

I’ve grown pretty tired of the bug bites on my ankles, the persistently sticky mud everywhere, the boisterous and hormonal roosters trying to sound macho, and the risk of the humidity destroying our electronics. Not to mention, the constant threat of an exploding volcano spewing molten rock and noxious gases down onto our tiny bodies, subsequently extinguishing our existence and sealing our remains in meek cavities of volcanic ash … yeah, that’s a little spooky.

hawaii pose
Thank you, Hawaii, for all of the wonderful adventures you had in store.

Who am I kidding though? 

Hawaii has been an absolute blast. We’re so utterly grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to live lavishly here in the Aloha State. When the time has come, it will be a bittersweet goodbye, for sure.

But before I conclude, I wanted to give a very special shaka to both of you, Jody and Patrick. None of this would have been possible without your generosity. Here’s to good vibes, dank art, and long lasting friendships.

We’ll miss you both. I hope that our stay was as beneficial for you as it was for us. Please take good care of the resident chickens for us.

And to everyone else, as always, thank you for reading.

If you haven’t already seen our Hawaii video, check it out below.


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