Homesteading in Paradise from Attainable Sustainable

Food Supply & Food Politics

Oct 03

In 2005, Kris Bordessa and her family traded in a 10-acre homestead in California for life in paradise. She found my questions for the Homesteading feature I ran last year and wrote up this interesting post about her gorgeous homestead in Hawaii! Who wouldn’t want to live there!

I’ve been gardening and raising chickens and growing fruit trees and composting pretty much my entire adult life. I’ve always liked the idea of growing and preserving my own food, but as our food system becomes more convoluted, it has become even more important to me to know where our food is coming from.

These days, I primarily fit the suburban homesteader descriptor. Currently, our home is situated within city limits on a 1/3 acre lot, though we’re actively searching for a larger piece of property.

What do you love about your homestead? What would you change?

Hawai‘i sunrise

Hawai‘i sunrise

 

I love the view. I get up every morning and say hello to the big blue Pacific Ocean. Who could complain about that? I love the mild weather. I love watching pineapples grow. I love that the growing season is pretty much year round, and that there’s always some sort of fruit ripe. Even if I’m not growing it myself, local food is always abundant at our farmers markets.

One thing I would change? The topography! Our lot is very steep, leaving us little room to grow a traditional garden. We utilize it the best we can, but it’s frustrating. On top of that our soil here is terrible. I’m working to improve it with compost, but I’m impatient. It’s not happening fast enough for me!

The view from the lowest part of our property. See our house up at the top? It's a STEEP lot.

The view from the lowest part of our property. See our house up at the top? It’s a STEEP lot.

 

What new skills have you learned and how have you applied them?

Before we moved here, I certainly didn’t know how to harvest bananas! The steepest part of our property descends into a gulch, and that’s where our bananas grow. (Image above) I’ve learned how to tell when the bunches are ready to harvest, how to chop down the stalk, and that we should wear junk clothes when harvesting. The banana sap stains terribly! (Curious? Check out this video of my son harvesting a bunch of bananas.)

driveway garden

The driveway garden.

 

Our poor soil and steep terrain has led me to try raised bed gardening. I’ve installed some smart pots right at the bottom of our driveway, where we get prime sunshine, and even added a few beds made from banana stumps. I’m also learning to deal with pest and disease issues that we never faced on the mainland!

What skills would you like to learn? What animals or plants do you have?

Soap making is high on my list of “things to learn” that I never quite get to. And I’d love to have bees and a dairy animal eventually.

We grow a variety of tropical fruit: Bananas, avocados, papaya, pineapple, surinam cherry, oranges, guava, mango, and liliko‘i. I’ve had moderate success with eggplant, peppers, beets, daikon, radishes, greens, and beans in my raised garden beds. I struggle with squash and tomatoes. Yes, that’s right: I can’t grow zucchini.

chicken

One of the girls.

 

I have a small flock of eight hens that keep us in eggs and one cat that insists on bringing live mice into the house. We have a tilapia tank, too, with about a dozen fish ready to harvest, and another dozen fry.

Tilapia tank.

Tilapia tank.

 

What makes you happy with your life as a homesteader?

Personally, I love that I’ve got the know-how to turn some of our abundance into pantry items. (Thanks mom!) It’s easy for me to harvest liliko‘i and turn it into jelly in just an hour or so. And I love that I’m able to pass along some of these skills—the gardening, animal raising, canning—to my boys and share information with friends.

In fact, that sharing of information is how I started writing Attainable Sustainable in the first place. A conversation I had with a friend about making a more self-reliant life doable turned into a plan: What if we could each do one thing a day to move us toward that goal? So I started writing, sharing ideas that could be implemented by folks who were really just didn’t know how to begin. Knowing that even just one person has felt empowered by reading the site makes me so happy.

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In 2005, Kris Bordessa and her family traded in a 10-acre homestead in California for life in paradise. A job offer for her husband left them saying, “If we don’t try it, we’ll always wonder.” Turns out, they love it so much they made Hawai‘i their permanent home. She blogs about her efforts toward self-sufficient living at Attainable Sustainable.

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