making a Plains tipi livable on Kauai


We’re having a bit of a time preparing the tipi for Kauai’s climate- which can range from clear blue skies to torrential downpours in a matter of hours. While the utility and beauty of a Plains tipi, specifically in the Sioux style, is unmatchable for its indigenous climate…it just won’t work as well here on Kauai. The resident architect has a few ideas to waterproof the space, including sawing off the tops of those beautiful bamboo poles to accommodate a sort of rain cover- which would work. It would be such a shame because those poles are gorgeous! According to the Laubin’s book The Indian Tipi the appearance of the poles and the height of their projection over the tipi are symbolic of the woman’s reputation as a housekeeper. Poorly trimmed poles were no good for her status.
Luckily, my reputation as a housekeeper is terrible anyway- so we might go the route of trimming the poles.

Creating a comfortable living space on the interior is key. We aren’t camping in this tipi, we are living in it. A friend of Aaron’s recounted her experience in a tipi and described it as living ‘with’ the tipi rather than in it. The way the space breathes is huge. Traditionally a liner is used that ties to the inside of the poles all the way around the tipi creating a sort of draft space between the tipi cover and the liner. If rain collects on the poles and runs down into the tipi, the moisture will run behind the liner rather than into the living space. On hot days the liner pulls cool air in through the bottom and pushes hot air through the top. Also, when we have our fire going inside the tipi- the liner creates the same effect and pulls smoke out of the smoke flaps at the top.

I’ve been researching different waterproofing methods so that we can make our own liner using 8 ounce canvas dropcloth. We need something that’s both effective yet non-toxic. Something that doesn’t allow water to permeate the space yet doesn’t off-gas chemicals or give us all lung cancer. There is a database called Toxnet that is really user friendly and allows you to determine the toxicity of products. A simple search provides you with information about the ingredients in tons of products and gives you a greater sense of power over what you buy. Super resource for green building professionals.

One way to waterproof canvas effectively is to use wax mixed with turpentine. Except turpentine is listed as an agent that can cause asthma and contact dermatitis on Toxnet . So we keep looking.

Aaron suggests a waterproofing spray, one that we used on our boots during a snowboard trip to Whistler. It worked like magic! I look up the toxicity information and am blindsided by the results. This stuff is SO toxic! An article in the New York Times describes the lack of federal regulation against products like this. And so, we learn about yet another product allowed on the shelves that literally poisons us. We used it once, I wonder how badly off people are who use it on a regular basis? Or how sick the Boy Scouts are who’s parents spray it on their tents? It’s very widely used with little to no regulation.

So far everything effective is highly toxic, yet one article sparks my interest. The product developers used bio-mimicry to create a formulation that works like the leaf of lotus flower-
one of the most water repellent and stain resistant surfaces in nature. Since this product isn’t out yet here we need an alternative. The best think we can come up with is a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, both safe for the environment as well as the health of our children. By melting the wax and combining it with the mineral oil we can paint it lightly across the canvas and, with luck, it will prevent the tipi from becoming an indoor swimming pool!


harvest and treating our tipi poles

Aaron recently harvested this bamboo from a farm in Kilauea. The variety is Guoya, a structural bamboo that can be used for furniture, buildings and, in our case- tipi poles! He harvested 17 poles each roughly 25 feet long. There were thorns up to 5 inches long on each pole that he had to cut off very, very carefully!

Then, the poles were placed into a barrel of mixture containing borax and boric acid. This is a relatively environmentally friendly treatment, considering borax is water soluble and highly  saline. The treatment will protect the poles against borers, termites and rot.


It’s actually pretty neat. The poles absorb the treatment and pull it all the way up the pole vertically. As the leaves turn brown and fall off higher and higher it means that the treatment is working. We had many questions of how we would treat our bamboo once harvesting, but this technique is easy and quick. One week for treatment in the barrel and one week to dry lain flat and tied straight. Aaron built a quick rack for transport and . . .


Made it home in time dinner! Here he is posing with his harvest. We are so stoked to have been practically given this expensive bamboo. In trade we will be helping to clear the land where these poles were harvested.



adventures on the farm

For the most part, leaving the city behind has been a blessing. No more crowded streets or drunks pissing on the grass in front of our cottage (wait …

that was me!) No more battles for parking spaces and waking up to ambulance sirens. Of course we miss a ton of things only Honolulu can offer as well. Our friends … heyyyyyyyyy guys. The food, so MANY GREAT RESTAURANTS! And of course our little cottage, with our manageable garden and the bike-ability of our former neighborhood. That self-contained convenience and accessibility that a city offers is one of a kind. Funny thing, because I never figured myself for a city girl.

You know that saying, ‘Farmin’ aint easy’… it’s true. Hug a farmer, seriously. This permaculture concept that Kahuna Valley Farm has going really gets me going. The horse, sheep, chickens, ducks all working together and providing the farm with protein, fertilizer, cuteness. It’s all about harmony, and if we can have a system here where each element complements another or benefits the ecosystem then we are making progress. You know, aspiring to be a sustainable farm is pretty difficult.  Eliminating inputs like imported feed and fertilizer are sure bets. Here at Kahuna Valley Farm we are fortunate to have Java Kai, the local coffee shop, allow us to collect their kitchen waste and coffee grinds to use for chicken, sheep and duck feed as well as to make compost. And the compost is gold. Trade secret.

As for my role here on the farm, just figuring out the routine slowly. I have responsibilities to keep the animals fed and happy, the aquaponics system circulating (I caused a fish kill last week when the pump switched off and I didn’t notice) and run the weekly farmers market. Which, believe it or not- leaves me with very little time to write, read or go surfing. Well it should be said that I am also graduating this semester, building a tipi dwelling and planning a wedding. Always loved a full plate! Couldn’t ask for a better place for the children to learn and grow, and adapt to a more self-sufficient and minimal lifestyle. The adventure continues …

a new chapter

Guess what?! We’ve recently made the hop from Oahu to Kauai for work opportunities. Aaron is renovating the historical Kilauea Plantation Managers house using green building design principles. I have been learning more about sustainability and organic agriculture at Kahuna Valley Farm, an 11 acre permaculture and aquaponics farm that belongs to my parents. As Aaron intends to complete his architecture degree requirements after his current project, Kauai is just our temporary home. Rather than rent a home we’ve decided to undertake the adventure of building our own off-grid dwelling on the farm. We are using all the knowledge acquired during our studies at UH Manoa, and using the best practices of green building to create a sustainable home for 4. The dwelling will incorporate a photovoltaic array to provide us with energy, rain water catchment and a composting toilet. Of course, we will strive to grow most of our food on the farm rather than relying on imports. Aaron has designed the entire structure, two 10×20 ag sheds and a 20×20 tipi deck. We are so happy to have this opportunity to learn, live and challenge ourselves on the land. It has been exciting, difficult and inspiring thus far…and we plan to share the adventure as best we can. Wish us luck!

ATOLL: Aquaculture Training for On-Line Learning

ATOLL: Aquaculture Training for On-Line Learning

We were fortunate to receive a scholarship early this year to participate in the aquaculture & aquaponics course provided by UH Manoa Outreach Program. Highly recommended for both backyard aquaponics as well as aquaculture enterprise!


ATOLL: Aquaculture Training for On-Line Learning

Event ID: P12043
Info: Online program • register anytime, complete by Dec 31 • instructions on accessing the course are emailed after registration is completed • $100
With: Benny Ron, ATOLL Faculty

The Aquaculture Training for On-Line Learning program consists of four courses with more than 60 videos and digital games to give you an understanding of:


    1. Aquaculture and fisheries management


    1. Aquaponics concepts and systems


    1. Basic water chemistry, water quality, fish health and nutrition


  1. Basic biology, genetics, coral farming, reef ecology, marketing and business

Course 1. Introduction to Aquaculture
Learn about aquaculture, fisheries management, aquaculture in the Pacific, and traditional Hawaiian aquaculture. Developed and taught by Dr. Benny Ron, University of Hawai‘i Aquaculture Program coordinator; Dr. Paul Bienfang, UH Oceanography Department fisheries research specialist; Ephraim Temple, University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant aquaculture extension agent to American Samoa; and Dr. Carlos Andrade, University of Hawai‘i Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies director and professor whose specialization includes indigenous geography and resources management .

Course 2: Introduction to Aquaponics
Go through the steps needed to build and maintain your own aquaponics or permaculture system. Learn aquaponics concepts and system designs to grow vegetables, fruits, and houseplants in a symbiotic relationship with your fish. Taught by Glenn Martinez, owner/operator of Olomana Gardens, a certified organic farm in Waimanalo, and avid spokesperson for local farming, organic growing, and the end of GMO.

Course 3: Fish Farm Essentials I
Learn the basic water chemistry and water quality information you need to have a successful aquaculture operation. Includes fish health and nutrition (feed, common pests & diseases), troubleshooting for problems, ornamental fish production, and basic marketing concepts for fish farmers. Taught by Dr. Allen C. Riggs, State of Hawai‘i aquaculture veterinarian, and Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan, extension officer for the Oregon SeaGrant program.

Course 4: Fish Farm Essentials II
Advanced information regarding basic biology and genetic concepts necessary for today’s fish farms. Includes modules on corals, reef ecology, coral farming for reef restoration or aquariums, and more on marketing and business. Taught by Dr. Benny Ron; Dr. Jinzeng Yang, associate professor of animal molecular biology at the University of Hawai‘i; Kelly Davidson, lecturer in aquaculture marketing and economics at the University of Tennessee Martin; and Dr. Shai Shafir, Oranim Academic College of Education (Israel) professor and internationally recognized expert in coral ecology, aquatic bio-technology and reef restoration.

What kind of equipment do I need?

    1. A fairly new computer (less than 5 years old–capable of watching internet videos).  Be aware that course materials may not work on all mobile devices.


    1. A recently updated internet browser (Firefox, Chrome or Safari work best) capable of playing .mp4 video files


    1. High-speed internet access capable of viewing online videos up to 30 minutes in length.

For more details, visit

The ATOLL online program is now approved by the State of Hawai‘i Employment and Training Fund (ETF) program for incumbent workers.  ETF may pay 50%, up to a maximum of $250 of course fees for students employed by eligible businesses and nonprofits. For information, go to and click on the Employer Referral (“micro”) program link.


Dr. Benny Ron is currently serving as the Aquaculture Program Coordinator of the University of Hawai’i. Dr. Ron joined the National Center for Mariculture of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute to serve as the Head of the Fish Physiology Department and since 2003 as the Head of the Genetics and Physiology Department. In 2004 he founded the Society of Israeli Aquaculture and Marine Biotechnology and serves as the president of the society and the board or directors’ of the Israel Journal of Aquaculture – Bamidgeh. His interest in mariculture and marine biotechnology lead him to partner with Ben Gurion University of the Negev in order to open a new Marine Biotechnology undergraduate and graduate program that includes a variety of aquaculture courses. Dr. Ron served as the Chairman of the National Organizing Committee of the 8th International Marine Biotechnology Conference 2007 and as an advisor to the European Commission. Dr. Ron has been working on fish biological clocks, stress responses, marine and brackish water aquaculture, larvae metamorphosis and biological markers in fish for the monitoring of environmental changes. Since 2003 he also works on breeding programs, population genetics, and aquaculture genomics in marine fish species. His interest in the conservation of aquaculture fish species and the biodiversity of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea lead him to work on DNA-barcoding and to serve as the Regional Chairman of the FISH-BOL Middle East Work Group. Dr. Ron holds teaching and mentoring positions at both the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

In addition to Dr. Benny Ron, ATOLL faculty include:

Dr. Paul Bienfang is a member of the research faculty of the Oceanography Department at the University of Hawai‘i and regularly teaches a course in Fisheries of the World. His research deals with the ciguatera fish poisoning component being done within the Pacific Center for Research in Marine Biomedicine, one of four U. S. Centers for Oceans and Human Health. Dr. Bienfang is an alumnus of the UH Oceanography Department, a former Sr. Vice President of a marine bio-tech company in aquaculture, and a former Sr. Vice President of a private oceanographic and aquaculture research institution. His research specialties include environmental water quality and phytoplankton ecology issues with emphasis on warm water phytoplankton dynamics and continuous culture methodologies.

Ephraim Temple has worked in American Samoa since August 2007 as a junior extension agent for the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program. His main priority is the development of aquaculture production in this US territory. As part of his responsibilities he is privileged to join the science faculty at the American Samoa Community College in developing local awareness of and skills in marine resource management. As the representative for the college on several advisory groups, he is involved with general public education programs to increase awareness of local ecosystem health and global environmental changes. He is also the American Samoa Representative for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s PacIOOS (Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System) project. Temple received a BS in zoology from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and an MS in fisheries science with a minor in marine resource management from Oregon State University. Prior to arriving in American Samoa, he was the Oregon Sea Grant Legislative Fellow for the Oregon 2007 regular legislative session.

Dr. Carlos Andrade is Associate Professor and Director of Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. He returned to university at age forty-three, and earned a master’s degree in Educational Counseling and a doctorate degree in Geography. He is a father of three, grandfather of five, has lived as a subsistence fisherman and farmer, and worked as a professional boat captain. He is also an accomplished musician and practitioner of ki‘ ho‘alu (slack key guitar). Dr. Andrade studies indigenous geography and resources management as well as Hawaiian and Polynesian boat design, navigation, and language.

Glenn Martinez has been the owner/operator of a Certified Organic farm in Waimanalo for over 15 years. He was recently elected as President of the Hawaii Farmers Union and is an avid spokesperson for local farmers, and serves on the Board of Directors for Hawaii Aquaculture and Aquaponics Association. Martinez champions the end of GMO, is pro-organic, and actively promotes “grow your own”. His farm, Olomana Gardens, serves as an educational center for aquaponics and he regularly provides clinics and workshops throughout the Pacific region to train others in organic gardening and permaculture techniques. He is an avid inventor and innovator in the field of aquaculture.

Dr. Allen Riggs is currently serving as the aquaculture veterinarian for the State of Hawai‘i . He has a BS from Mississippi State University in Animal Science and a DVM from the same school. He also got a MS from Texas A&M University in Aquatic Animal Medicine and took courses in aquaculture at the University of Rhode Island. He has directed his career towards the aquatic aspects of disease and served in private practice for aquatic animal medicine. Previous experiences have included providing extension services through the University of Florida to Florida’s diverse marine and freshwater aquaculture industry from 1999 to 2003. While performing these duties he conducted research on koi, carp, and sturgeon. He has taught courses in water chemistry, histological interpretation, and general fish and shellfish health and preventive medicine. He is an experienced aquatic health clinician, having made numerous presentations on all aspects of aquatic disease and disease management to groups throughout the U.S. and overseas.

Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan is an Assistant Professor of Aquatic Animal Health for the Hatfield Marine Science Center at the University of Oregon. He currently serves as an extension officer for the Oregon SeaGrant program. His primary focus is on providing educational programming and service to the aquarium industry in Oregon and beyond, to help wholesalers, retailers, and hobbyists succeed in the rearing, husbandry, and health care of ornamental aquatic animals in the aquarium or pond environment. He led the development of a new two-year Aquarium Science degree and one-year certification program at Oregon Coast Community College, and travels widely to educate aquatic pet owners, breeders, importers, and retailers about the proper care and handling of ornamental fish.

Kelly Davidson is currently serving as a lecturer in aquaculture marketing and economics at the University of Tennessee Martin. She recently completed her M.S. degree in economics at the University of Kentucky and served as a member of the NOAA fisheries economic task force in Honolulu, HI.

Dr. Jinzeng Yang received his BS and MS training in animal science and genetics. In 1994, he entered the University of Alberta in Canada, where he was awarded the degree of Ph.D. in 2000. Dr. Yang spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at USDA-ARS (Beltsville, MD) at Dr. Robert Wall’s animal biotechnology facility. As an associate professor of animal molecular biology at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Dr. Yang has developed and taught undergraduate courses in animal science and genetics. He is also actively mentoring graduate students and research associates through his genetic research programs.

Dr. Shai Shafir is an internationally recognized expert in coral ecology, aquatic bio-technology and reef restoration. He currently serves as a professor in the Oranim Academic College of Education in Israel. His articles have appeared in major biology and environmental journals around the world. He is an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer.



Cost: $100.00

dumpster pizza

This is Honolulu’s 11th straight day of rain, which would make one think there would be more time for writing. Instead (computer-ing during a lightning storm is sort of sketchy) we have been cooking, eating and acting like cooped up fowls (no offense to our lovely ladies outside, who really ARE cooped up in this awful weather, much respect). Netflix has been amazing, there are so many awesome documentaries in our queue… Dive was fantastic and led to a late night jaunt to our Beretania Foodland where, lo and behold, we found four garbage cans full of very mildy bruised zuchinni, tomato, Kabocha squash, spinach, papaya, and bok choy. It was quite a success. We went back the next day during some light and noted that the cans were labeled “Hog Farm”, which gave us some sort of relief over the mass of wasted food. There happen to be three house-less citizens just down the ave….we do wonder why good food is thrown out and not sent to the shelter. Well, of course we don’t really wonder anymore… . On a delicious note- we made a wonderful pie out of our ‘found’ food. 

mozzarella, dumpster spinach and tomatoes, and a whole wheat crust.

spring selections


urban farm fresh eggs!

The one on the left is a store-bought mainland egg, the right from our little Bushy hen. Note the richer yolk and thicker white on the right. P.S.- thanks for the stainless steel pots & pans mom!

paper making

We had a very large trash bag full of used recyclable paper glaring at me for the better part of the year. For last minute holiday tags, the kids and I put it to great use by following the recipe on Pioneer Thinking. We added echinacea seeds to the pulp mixture in order to make the tags plantable once dried. It was a fun project, seemed very water intensive our first go at it- something to improve upon. Aaron says the big paper plants recycle their water to conserve it, the best we could do was pour it and the stranded seed mulch around the avocado tree. There are now little echinacea plants growing around the base of it. Pretty neat. 


The resulting paper was a shade of light grey/violet. This may have been because of the newspaper in the pulp mix. After it dried it was cut in quarters, some rough edges still left- and we glued old snowflakes from a gorgeous broken tree garland to the tags and wrote “Happy New Year, re-use the snowflake, plant the tag” on each one.

ECOhana opens our home to children!

As an experienced nanny, I’ve decided to open our home to children!
Openings for ages 1-5 at our home-based playschool….

Located between bustling Downtown and Manoa Valley, our urban homestead is the perfect place for your little sprout to learn and play in a creative, holistic setting. As a mother of two, I am offering this unique opportunity to fellow parents who believe that teaching our children about sustainability is one of our prime responsibilities. Fortunately, learning about sustainability is inherently fun!

Experience includes 7+ years of private nanny services for visitors and home-based childcare for local families. References are available upon request.

Rates are $10 per hour with a 3 hour minimum. Playschool open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7am to 7pm.

To schedule a visit with your child, please call Robyn at (808) 936-5572

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