Hookuaaina Rebuilding Lives From The Ground Up

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Hoʻokuaʻāina Blog

follow our journey

Hoʻokuaʻāina Blog

follow our journey

Hoʻokuaʻāina Blog

Summer Time Blues

Collage of Hookuaaina Interns
It’s that time of year again…. Dusting off backpacks, gathering supplies, haircuts, alarms, uniforms. It all begins to settle in that this short season of fun is about to end and everyone in my household walks around with their heads hanging low. I have to admit, Dean and I do it too. I often wonder why the shift?  Summer does not end here in Hawaii. No matter what our schedule, we can still run to the beach and do the things we love to do. It’s a mental thing I guess. We are conditioned to think that we are losing freedom and being forced into drudgery, homework, routine.

The blues are not just in our family. You can also sense it on the farm. The crew is definitely feeling the shift. Their routine has not changed. Every week, no matter the season, it’s the same – weeding, digging, planting, pulling. But something happened last week that triggered a sense of loss and dread that this short and sweet season has come to an end.

Hookuaaina Intern CrewAt the beginning of the summer, we already had a solid intern crew.  Over the course of the year, they had become like family. I imagine they were a little reluctant to welcome in the new summer crew with the fear that it might interrupt the nice groove they were in. When new recruits arrive, there is always a time of sizing up by the veterans to see if theyʻve got what it takes. Will they be able to handle the long, hot, grueling days of trudging in the mud? What transpired was nothing less than miraculous. Within the first week of the newbie’s arrival, I heard them exchanging numbers, adding to the group text that had been circulating and making plans for fun outside of the loʻi. Nothing is more satisfying for leaders of a program to watch this happen. Over the weeks, the 10 of them grew closer and were often planning weekly activities outside the loʻi.

The Kūkuluhou Internship is a launching pad. There are no time limits on how long an intern can stay. Itʻs up to the intern and what he or she needs at this stage in life. Our goal is that they would build the skills and the confidence needed for the next stage of their life journey.  For one intern, he needed to stay 7 years and now has a full-time job as an arborist. For another, it has been 3 years and he will be moving on to a full-time position in a nursery. The majority stay about a year but for others who are away at university, they just want to spend their summer being a part of something that feels meaningful and worthwhile. They all think they are coming to learn about kalo but walk away with something much more. The greatest assets are the life long friendships and connection to a place they can always call home. But itʻs also the unexpected breakthroughs that are the most meaningful takeaways when their internship at Hoʻokuaʻāina comes to a close.

A few reflections from the summer crew:

“My view of myself has changed because I am more aware of the ability I have to add to something greater than myself. I can accomplish little on my own, but as a part of a hui and as a component of a working unit can be a lot more productive. This internship has taught me to love the work I do and the people Iʻm with and to carry that love with me wherever I go.”

“I see myself as a pretty quiet and reserved person, and in a way that hasnʻt changed, but what has changed is that over this summer I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and work with people I didnʻt know. It was uncomfortable for me at first, to be working at a new place with new people who all already seemed to know each other and be good friends. Fortunately, I was welcomed immediately at Hoʻokuaʻāina and immediately felt like I was part of the ʻohana. Thanks to my experience here this summer, I view myself as someone who is more capable of working with others and building solid relationships with people.”

“For the first time I truly feel like I belong and am not some sort of outsider. When I am at the loʻi there is no need to hide any aspects of myself, everything flows naturally without second thought. Here I am my truest self. I used to struggle with this, particularly in my teenage years when I was silent and hid from everyone and everything. It is liberating and empowering to be so unapologetically weird and shamelessly me.”

“I came into the job shy and unsure of how I was expected to act. I have learned that I am not compared to and measured by the talents of those around me. I am a part of a task far greater than myself. By looking to support the greater purpose I find value and become connected to those around me.”

Unfortunately, the hardest part of our program is the moment we have to say goodbye. These young people have become a part of our extended ʻohana and it often feels just like sending one of our children off to school when they move on.

Last week was that moment for four of our ʻohana. Planes delivered them to Georgia, Kentucky, Utah and one remains in Hawaii to finish his degree.

One season ends, another begins. Although the future is bright and many good things lie ahead for these young people, we canʻt help feeling the blues.

By Michele Wilhelm

Kalo For Dessert


(Taro Pudding – Hawaii’s favorite dessert)

  • 3 cups raw taro, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup fresh coconut, grated
  • 1 cup coconut water (from inside the coconut)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¾ cup brown sugar

Combine and mix all ingredients. Place in a greased and foil lined pan. Cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 2 hours. Remove foil last half hour to brown.

Poi Mochi

Courtesy of Pomai Stone

  • 1 lb poi
  • 1 box mochiko (rice flour)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Coconut oil (enough to submerge poi mochi balls)

Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Make small balls the size of a golf ball. Heat the cooking oil to high. Test a small piece of batter. If oil is hot enough it will float. Deep fry poi mochi balls. Roll in sugar. Let cool and enjoy!

Kalo For Lunch & Dinner

Scoobie Snacks

Keep a bag of cubed kalo in the fridge for a quick energy pickup. (Deanʻs favorite reference to kalo paʻa)

Meatless recipes or filler

Use as a filler for meat or vegan recipes. Because kalo is so dense it can be a very satisfying and filling replacement to meat. Grate already cooked kalo and store in the freezer. Take out as needed and add to ground hamburger or turkey for a delicious filling that can be used for tacos, taco salads, hamburgers, etc. Or replace the meat altogether and sauté with your favorite spices.

Kalo Burgers

Courtesy of Kaʻala Farm

  • 2lbs Ground Turkey
  • ½ cup Onions
  • ½ cup Green Onions
  • 4 Tablespoons Oyster Sauce
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 cup Water Chestnuts
  • Cooked Kalo diced into pieces
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and mix together well. Put oil into a frying pan and heat up. Form patties and cook in a pan.

Stews, Soups, and Curries

Replace potatoes with kalo paʻa in stews, curries, and soups. It is a natural thickener so it will add a texture to your dishes without having to use a thickening agent.

Poi Stew

Courtesy of Pomai Stone

  • 3 T flour
  • 1 lb chuck roast (cubed)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2-3 T minced garlic
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 pkg onion soup mix
  • ½ lb ulu pa’a
  • ½ lb kalo pa’a
  • ½ lb of poi
  • 2 ½ cups apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 ½ cups water

Brown the meat coated with flour in a pressure cooker. Add onions, garlic and soup mix. Brown some more. Add apple cider vinegar and water. Close pressure cooker. Cook on 5 lbs pressure for 30 min. Open up and add ulu, kalo, and poi. Stir to blend well. Let sit. Enjoy!

Paʻi ʻai ideas

Paʻi ʻai is pounded kalo without water that has a very thick consistency. Add a bit of flour and salt to create a pizza dough or add an egg and make kalo gnocchi (a favorite Italian dish).

Recipes with the leaf


A traditional Hawaiian dish

In old Hawaii, laulau was assembled by taking a few luau (taro leaf) leaves and placing a few pieces of fish and pork in the center and then wrapping them in ti leaf to place in the imu (underground oven) for hours of steaming. Today, a variety of meats are used but most common is pork. You can also make vegetarian with uala (sweet potato) or ulu (breadfruit) If an imu is not readily available, the oven or a pressure cooker are the best ways to cook. Usually, they are made in large quantities since laulau takes a lot of time and effort to prepare.

To prepare:

Figure the amount you want to prepare and then figure a ¼ pound of meat per laulau. Cut into bite size cubes. Season with Hawaiian salt.
For each laulau stack 6 large luau leaves, place ¼ of meat in the center. Fold leaves over meat. Wrap in a large cleaned ti leaf and tie with string to secure. Stack laulau tightly in a pressure cooker or pan in the oven with a layer of water on the bottom, cover with foil. Steam for 1 hour in a pressure cooker or 3 hours in a 350-degree oven. Test the leaves for doneness. There should not be an itchy sensation on the throat if cooked thoroughly.

Luau Stew

Our family favorite

  • 5 lbs Chuck Roast (cut in chunks)
  • 15 lbs of luau leaf
  • Hawaiian salt

Stew down leaves in a large pot with water adding a handful of leaves at a time. (about one hour) Once leaves have reached a cooked spinach like consistency add beef (chicken and pork will also work) and Hawaiian salt to taste. Cook at a high boil for 45 minutes. Pau.

Kalo For Breakfast


Grate already cooked kalo and prepare just like hash browns or cut into small cubes and sauté with a little coconut oil and Hawaiian salt for an energy filled dish to start your day.

Poi Smoothie

  • ½ cup poi or kalo paʻa
  • 1 cup berries of your choice
  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • ½ cup almond milk

Blend ingredients until smooth. Add juice if needed.


Wilhelm Family

Since getting married over twenty years ago, my wife Michele and I have always had some type of garden. At one point we started growing kalo in our backyard for the luau leaf to make laulau and luau stew. It felt so empowering to grow our own and not have to rely on buying it.

Shortly after, we met a man who was clearing and opening loʻi mauka of our home in Kailua. Once we visited and helped him pull, cook, clean and pound his kalo into poi. When we ate it my first thought was “I feel so deceived having grown up eating Taro Brand poi my whole life.” Not that Taro Brand poi is bad, but never had poi tasted so good. From that moment on it was like I was on a quest to grow wetland kalo for poi.

Ke Akua then sent us on a voyage to sell our house, find land and create a place to gather people together to interact and do life differently than the norm of today. We were brought to Kapalai and feel so privileged to have been given stewardship of this beautiful ʻāina. Now thousands of people from all facets of the community come to Kapalai annually for the purpose of helping to grow kalo. Ironically though, it is the kalo that is helping to grow us.

Kalo was the staple of the Hawaiian people and from the story of Hāloa, we know the reverence and high regard our ancestors had for kalo. In my journey, I soon realized that building a relationship with our ʻāina at Kapalai and caring for it were fundamental to being able to cultivate kalo well here. The one-time esoteric statements like “the land will speak to you and guide you” became real and it became apparent that the concept of mālama ʻāina is far more than a beach cleanup.

While beach clean-ups, recycling, and other such things are indeed good, the Hawaiian concept of mālama ʻāina is much deeper. I believe it is a reciprocal relationship based on Aloha Kekahi I Kekahi or love from one to another. It is an interdependent relationship based on interaction, care, giving and receiving. Caring for our planet as a whole can only take place when one is in true relationship with a specific place on the planet. Kapalai is our place and kalo has given us the opportunity to grow in this regard. Now we simply want to share this opportunity to grow with others.

Growing kalo for me is physical and helps to keep my body going. Farming this particular crop is scientific and requires much of my mental capacity. And perhaps most importantly for me, growing kalo is spiritual. I connect to the creation and my creator. I nurture the kalo and help it to grow and it in turn nurtures and gives sustenance to my whole family.

Written By: Dean Wilhelm


Where’s your data, Where’s your evidence, How do you know you are making a difference, How do you know it works, How long will it take??? – The famous questions we get asked all the time. Yes, they are very important. As we find ourselves in roundtable discussions with some of the best ʻāina based programs in the state, we find we are not the only ones struggling to answer these important questions. We wish we had a way to effectively document eye contact, body posture, self-esteem, hope, peace, security, confidence…Easy to tell you how many acres we’ve restored, how many weeds we’ve pulled, how much kalo we produce, how much poi we make. But lives changed? That’s a bit tricky.

Dean and I had a theory 15 years ago that if we created a space for the community to gather and connect, we could help challenged youth get their lives back on track and families heal broken relationships. Many funders are trusting in this theory. Does it work? Well, we see the small signs every day: The small light bulbs that go off, the rare moments of deep connection in the loʻi, the change in language, the relaxing of body posture, the eye contact, the words of respect, the joy, the dreams, the transformation. Could we prove it in a document or in a boardroom? Probably not. At least not for now. We are determined to find a way. Until then, hopefully, you can see some of the evidence in the expressions caught on camera or hear it in some of the stories we tell. Or maybe you have volunteered on a Saturday and witnessed it first hand.

We are still trying to find meaningful and relevant tools to measure impact and change. There have been many suggestions and great professional advice about validated surveys, life skills assessments, interviews, journaling…It’s all good stuff. But none of it seems to really capture the essence of our program or the amazing kids we are working with. Sometimes it feels like we are pulling teeth. Other times it feels like we are talking right out our hind end. Ask Cassie, our program coordinator. She will tell you the many ways and means we have tried to gather data and turn it into something meaningful. We have a great team and are determined to keep working until we are satisfied with the result.

One tool in development is our video voice project. We want the kids in our Kūkuluhou mentoring program to speak for themselves through a variety of expressions. They can write, draw, talk, take photos or produce videos. The sky is the limit. In December we passed out cameras and gave them the freedom to answer a question by telling their own story. Our first lesson was Nani Ke Kalo – a core value we teach to model aloha and respect for oneself and one another. Cassie has been working diligently with our youth who visit once a week teaching them the basics of photography and film. She then helps them to tie it all together in a short video. Below is an example of one of the first completed projects and we are pretty excited about the direction this new tool is taking. We continue to evolve and learn many lessons along the way. But as Dean says all the time, it’s the journey, not the destination that is important.

A Season of Momona

raw kalolots of kalo

I love this time of year. It usually happens around Halloween that we feel a distinct shift in season. The breeze feels different. It’s very ʻoluʻolu or nice on the skin. It cools down a bit and makes you want to pull out your favorite sweatshirt and snuggle up in a cozy blanket. Okay, it’s still 77 degrees but it’s the notion of the shift that brings excitement in the atmosphere. It’s time to make a favorite soup and start preparing for the holidays. My soup pot has been working overtime lately. I love this!

This shift has made me contemplate the change in seasons we are experiencing at Kapalai and as an organization. We’ve gone through many seasons since starting out on this journey 12 years ago to create a community-gathering place and restore a desolate land back to abundance. We had a long desert season as we began the arduous task to clear the land with no resources except the many generous hands that faithfully came to help us muck through the mud. For 3 years after the formation of our 501c3, we pursued foundations for support so that we could start formal programming for youth. Many doors were shut in our face. People thought we were crazy! Many times we found ourselves pondering the fact that we might have made a big mistake. The weeds in the loʻi seemed to grow faster than we could pull them out. Every obstacle that could come our way did. It became humorous and discouraging all at once. But we kept our eyes focused on the big picture and knew that we had been called to do this work for a purpose. If God called us to take on this task, then he would provide. We believed this wholeheartedly and saw little hōʻailona (signs) along the way to help encourage us to keep on the right path.

Recently we have felt the shift. We are officially in a new season – a season of momona.

Momona – Fat, fertile, rich, abundant, sweet.

field of kalo

At Kapalai – We planted our first kalo 8 years ago with only one patch cleared. We tried 15 different varieties, different planting styles, and various organic soil preparations. The hardest part was waiting 12 months to see if your guess worked. The corms we were harvesting were tiny, barely the size of a fist. They were loli, full of pocket rot, not worthy to share with others. Our soil was clearly unhealthy after 80 years of being dormant and overgrown with weeds. It’s taken many years, many trials and lots of perseverance but today we are harvesting the most beautiful Moi Kea kalo at the moment. The corms are enormous and sweet, yielding almost 5 pounds each. We projected a yield of 1500 pounds in a 2000 square foot patch. Instead, the harvest will yield over 4000 pounds – Momona!


For Hoʻokuaʻāina – I mentioned the desert season earlier. Things began to change in 2014 when Consuelo Foundation asked us to partner with them. With their support, we were able to build capacity and gain the respect of other foundations who have watched us grow into a healthy, stable organization. We now have the support of Consuelo, Office of Youth Services, Castle Foundation, Hawaii Tourism Authority and an exciting new partnership with Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation. Last week was the kickoff. For the next 5 years, we have the privilege to work with HML and a cohort of 8 other value aligned organizations to collaborate on ways to make more of a collective impact in the lives of youth. Joining us are legends from the first cohort and some of our most treasured heroes. Eric Enos, co-founder of Kaʻala Farm in Waiʻanae, and Gigi Cocquio, founder of Hoa ʻĀina o Mākaha, David Fortes, founder of Kahua Paʻa Mua in Kohala, all pioneers who were thought to be crazy outlaws but persevered and paved the way for us to do the work we are doing today. 30 years ago there were few doing this work. Now the growing movement is gaining momentum and strength. It’s becoming momona. It is a privilege to be invited to sit at the same table with many of our peer organizations as we ride this wave of abundance together.
We know seasons change but while it’s here we are going to enjoy this sweet, fat, fertile, rich one with extreme Thanksgiving! May this season also be momona for you, your ʻohana and all that you do!

Me ka mahalo nui, (with lots of thanks),

Kaiāulu – Building Community


Community partnerships are vital to the sustainability of our programs for ‘ohana and youth. To piggyback on the blog from two weeks ago titled “Kīpuka”, we would like to share what Global Village wrote about the importance of our partnership from their perspective as a longstanding family-owned retail business and pillar of character in the Kailua community.


Global Village is committed to preserving the environment and giving back to the community, and our almost two-year partnership with Hoʻokuaʻāina is part of our efforts to do so. We view Hoʻokuaʻāina as an asset to our community.

Global Village sees the importance in Dean and Michele Wilhelm’s vision to create a gathering place for people in the community to connect with and care for the ‘āina, perpetuate Hawaiian culture through the cultivation and preparation of traditional foods, and to be a place that would ultimately bring healing to people, especially at-risk youth.

As a fixture in Kailua’s retail community for over twenty years, Global Village is happy to promote what Hoʻokauaʻāina has to offer. The Hawaiian culture-based organic farming program for families of Windward O‘ahu that emphasizes experiential learning, reflection, mentor-based instruction and direct involvement in cultivating community and the abundance of the land, is something that Global Village believes in.


Global Village facilitates our mission of awareness of Hoʻokuaʻāina throughout the customer’s shopping experience, at the time of purchase, through social media, and at an annual visit to Kapalai Farm.

We use our recyclable bag program as a way to educate customers (visitors and residents) about Hoʻokuaʻāina through our recyclable bag program. We take advantage of the opportunity to convey the environmental and health benefits of reusing and recycling bags in order to minimize pollution in our islands. In addition, we inform customers that we donate 25ȼ for each bag not taken, letting our customers know that they are also supporting Hoʻokuaʻāina and all their programs. Since 2015, Hoʻokuaʻāina has received $5000, which equates to over 20,000 bags saved.

Our customers leave Global Village in a positive light with a feeling that they have done good.


Global Village In The Loi

Global Village, celebrated their 21st anniversary by organizing a day in the loʻi at Kapalai. By giving a day of community service at Hoʻokuaʻāina, groups like Global Village are helping to sustain the mission to provide mentoring programs for youth who need hope and encouragement, education programs to inspire values of mālama ʻāina, and a budding social enterprise to get nourishing traditional foods back into homes. Global Village not only brought their whole staff, but also opened it up for anyone in the community to sign up. It was a great day filled with fun in the mud and also a perfect model of the vision we had for Kapalai.

At Hoʻokuaʻāina, our ultimate goal is to strengthen the overall health of the community. Our theory of change is that by providing kīpuka for families or individuals to gather and connect to the ʻāina, to one another and to Ke Akua, then we will we begin to see positive change in the community. Kīpuka become alternative health care centers where visitors get something so beneficial for their health –fellowship, connection with cultural values and the great outdoors, a sense of meaning and purpose, and a feeling of belonging. There are many popping up all over the islands. Places like Kokua Kalihi Valley with Hoʻoulu ʻĀina project and Roots Cafe, Paepae o Heʻeia, Papahana Kuaʻola, Kakoʻo ʻOiwi just to name a few, are providing opportunities for their surrounding communities to be part of something that is healing the land or the ocean and by participating the individual finds healing as well. You canʻt get a prescription for that.

boy in the loi

For nearly 10 years now, our staff and thousands of volunteers have worked hard to create a kīpuka for such gatherings. What a delight it is to watch the vision come to life when a group comes for a day of fun in the mud. The Global Village crew came to give back to our organization by spending a Saturday weeding. (Weeding is definitely our greatest need when it comes to maintaining the 16 taro patches we have growing kalo.) Perhaps what they the volunteers received in return was unexpected – a day filled with nourishment, fun, laughter, restoration, inspiration and a connection made that will hopefully cause the mission of Hoʻokuaʻāina to remain in their thoughts and close to their hearts.

We are so grateful to the Global Village team for their continued support throughout the years. Every time you shop in their store and bring your own bag they donate .25. You would be surprised how quickly the quarters add up. They remain one of our biggest community supporters. Please support them in return by visiting their store in Kailua.

If you would like to schedule your own day of team bonding for your business, club or organization, you can inquire here.

The 4th Sector


It’s been a busy two weeks for Dean and I. Last week we presented to a room filled with 200 funders, investors, and budding social enterprises. 25 enterprises that have completed the Hawaii Investment Ready cohort shared in panel presentations how our organizations are creating a collaborative movement across the state for social impact and change. It’s been dubbed across the globe as the 4th Sector and is the fasted growing sector in the market today. Conventionally the sectors of commerce have been divided between government, the private business sector, and philanthropic NGO’s or foundations. Now, with this new movement, all sectors are converging and creating new models of doing business in a healthy, robust way. For the past 2 years, our organizations have been meeting in 5-day modules quarterly to dissect and retool our businesses. Topics included: business models, governance, policies and procedures, HR, metrics and evaluation, leveraging capital, branding, and communications. It was an intensive time for all of us to “get under the hood” and take a realistic look at where we are, where we would like to be and what strategy we will take to get there. The most beneficial aspect of our time together was the peer-to-peer mentoring that occurred. We had the opportunity to sit at the table with some of our most respected peers in the field to glean encouragement and wisdom. We have all “graduated” but the work has just begun. It has been fun to watch maturity emerge in our organizations and individually as directors. Another powerful aspect to emerge is the possibility of future collaborations with new partnering organizations like Kākoʻo ‘Ōiwi, NRDS, Holoholo Store and their new endeavor, The Red Barn Farmstand, Hoʻoulu ʻĀina, Roots Café, MAʻO Farms, ʻŌiwi TV, Oʻahu Fresh, etc.


In the meantime, if you’ve been following us lately on social media, you have probably seen a bunch of different activities going on. Let me give you a glimpse of the daily itinerary for executive directors of a mom and pop shop organization…

Monday we had presentations at 3 pm – dry run at noon. After dropping off kids at 3 different schools, Michele heads to rehearse with the cohort while Dean crawls into a bee suit and transfers a swarm of bees into a hive he just built. (a newly learned skill from our bee expert Leah Drinnen) It had to be done that day because apparently timing is everything when transferring bees! Perhaps the bees could sense that Dean was in a rush. In less than 3 hours he would be standing up on a stage not with his bee hat but with his ED hat to talk about resilience and legacy. The bees gave him just a few stings as a reminder of what resilience really means.


Wednesday was supposed to be a normal day for us to run our weekly Kūkuluhou mentoring program. I guess our plate wasn’t full enough – let’s add a visit from our favorite funding partner to observe our program, a meeting to discuss future funding possibilities, a construction crew installing 18 photovoltaic panels, runs to the hardware store and kid pick ups in the midst.

This is a perfect glimpse of our lives for the past 9 years and the many hats we wear. There is no time for taking courses or reading manuals. We just have to work as a team, get it done and learn as we go. I wish we could say we had it all planned out with the perfect model and the perfect training to implement. What we do have is the resilience to go with the flow and the openness to embrace the new as it comes.


That’s how is goes for many 4th sector enterprises. They run on lots of passion, are understaffed, over-worked and under-resourced but tough as nails and changing the world one small idea at a time.

For now, we still have the energy and the commitment to stick it through to the end – to finish the race well. But I have to admit, Dean and I both dream of the day when we can sit in our hammock swings and gaze out upon Kapalai, all projects done, reflecting on the good ‘ole days when we were on the fly.

Practitioner Day at Kalaheo


What a fantastic day we had with the kids at Kalāheo High School. Dean was invited to Practitioner Day for the 3 natural resource classes with students from grades 9-12. It was part of a month long unit on navigation. 90 students got to choose from 5 different kuleana on board a waʻa (canoe): fisherman, cook, doctor, canoe builder, and navigator. They spent the morning with their chosen practitioner and learned hands on skills that would have been necessary to voyage across the Pacific. Dean was the cook and was given the task of teaching the kids how to make poi and laulau.


Maybe the most important lesson of the day, “if you want to eat well, be the cook!” He encouraged the kids to learn the basics of cooking before heading off in their own canoe (the future). Also woven into the demonstration was a practical math lesson. Dean showed how much can be saved by preparing your own food. For the price of 3 plate lunches in Hawaii, one could make enough laulau to feed 60 people. Other students learned how to weave rope, throw net, make natural medicine, and read a star compass. It was a great outdoor, hand’s on learning experience for all the kids and they all seemed to really enjoy the day.


One student shared that it was one of the best days ever in his high school experience because he was in nature and learning the ways of his ancestors, a lesson that will last forever. He mentioned wanting to speak to the administration about having more of these opportunities. Not every class can visit the loʻi so it is very encouraging that there are teachers like Hayden Atkins out there who desire to expose their students to important Hawaiian values and provide opportunities to put those values to practice.

Meet Brandon


If you’re looking for a good laugh, make sure to find Brandon. A Kailua native, Brandon has been working with Hookuaaina for almost three years and is now our lead intern. His mom used to run a state program that brought transitional teens to the lo’i. When that program ended, his mom asked if Uncle Dean needed any help. Brandon has been a tremendous asset to the team from day one and can be relied upon for carrying out the most difficult of tasks.


Brandon enjoys working outdoors and the natural setting that Hookuaaina provides. The work in the lo’i is gratifying because when it’s time to work, everyone works hard. Brandon has a patch named after him because he has persevered in the clearing of California grass and Hau to open up many patches for production. He led a team of boys from the Kukuluhou program to pull out a 6-foot deep tree root embedded in the middle of the mud. This was no easy task because the only tools they were able to use were their own hands. It was a great lesson in teamwork and a monumental accomplishment for them all.

Through working at the lo’i, Brandon feels he has become a young man who has self-worth and value. While he is typically a private person, he loves that he can talk freely and not have to always have his guard up. He enjoys the physical nature of the work and likes to challenge himself. Since he’s been at the lo’i, he notices that he is more patient with others and looks for the good and joy in things. Before working at Hookuaaina, he felt it was ok to always be salty (or angry).

Brandon-03“My experience working with Hookuaaina at Kapalai has positively benefited me in many ways. One of the greatest benefits is that working in the lo’i has given me a positive avenue to exert any pent up stress or negativity and reroute it in a positive manner. I’ve learned not to take anger out on a specific task or object, rather to be in a positive environment where my stress can melt away and there are just weeds to pull”.


Meet Deon


If you’re ever in need of a smile, Deon will have one for you. He is funny, full of life and brings joy wherever he goes. When he first came to Hookuaaina six years ago that wasn’t the case. He was extremely shy and introverted. Now, Deon is one of our hardest working interns and loves being a part of our team. He now is a team leader and weekly hosts groups who come for Hookuaaina’s educational programs.

Deon enjoys being out in nature and doesn’t mind the hard work. Working in the lo’i is the most challenging job he has ever had but strangely enough, he finds it very relaxing. It is also very rewarding because he sees the progress of all his efforts. He has been here since the first patch was opened up and even has one lo’i named after him.

Here are some thoughts from Deon about his experience here:

Deon-02“Working at the taro farm for six years has been amazing. I’ve learned about the Hawaiian culture, people and food through planting, pulling, cleaning, cooking the taro and making poi”.

“The first thought that came to me as my toes, feet and legs dipped in to the mud was ‘well that’s interesting’. At the time I was still young and didn’t have much of a work ethic. I was not willing to put much effort into anything I did and was very shy. I had a problem talking to people and preferred to work alone. As time passed I started to work with others, helping with the groups that came to volunteer. Through this I learned how to communicate with others. It took some time but I’ve learned to be more comfortable with others and with myself. I love the outdoors. When I tell people about my work I share how peaceful and relaxing it is. It’s a place to cool your head. When I clean off the mud at the end of the day I feel at ease and refreshed.”


“I feel I have grown as a person and in my work ethic since I started working at Hookuaaina. I am self-motivated and focused. In groups I am more engaging and I don’t feel as shy as I used to. Working here has never been a “job” but more an experience I get to share with others. Over the years, Uncle Dean has given so many pieces of advice that have stuck with me and helped me along the way. I am so thankful to Uncle Dean and all those who have helped me become who I am today”.

An Evening with Kokua Hawaii Foundation

Jack Johnson Kokua Hawaii Foundation

What a great evening we enjoyed with the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation’s staff, board, their ‘ohana and Kim and Jack Johnson. After being rained out earlier in the year, we were so thankful that the weather cooperated with us and provided a cloudy but rain-free evening of family bonding.

We were joined by Ed (owner & chef) and Dave (corporate chef) from TOWN restaurant. Town is a farm to table establishment located in Kaimukī and they believe we should, “find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands and the mouth” (Lanza del Vasto). They brought their friends who were visiting from out of town and their families to share in our evening. Daniel Patterson, chef/owner of 3 restaurants in the bay area including Coi, Plum and Haven, along with his wife and children. Also visiting was Rene Redzepi, who is the owner/chef at Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark along with his wife, mother in law and children. All guests were willing participants in our early evening mud session.


We are currently clearing our 13th kalo patch and a bunch of the gang hiked up their shorts and jumped right in. The kids, some hesitant at first, were soon covered head to toe in mud and enjoyed themselves weeding and canon-bombing the muddy patches.

As the sunset and evening set in, we gathered together around the bonfire and cooked up some delicious fresh fish while feasting on the delectable spread of homemade salads and pūpū. With our bellies full, the instruments made their appearances and the kanikapila began. It was an evening filled with beautiful music, stories to share, and laughter that filled the air.


A great big thank you to Kim and Jack Johnson and Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation for joining us for an unforgettable evening. We look forward to the next time we can all get together. For more information on Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation please visit:

Check out Rene’s restaurant featured on the Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode 4 on Copenhagen.


One Journey Ends, Another Begins

a new journey

On New Years Eve 2014, I sat down to reflect on the year. With great anticipation, I was ready for the new year to begin but wanted to take a moment to give thanks and grab hold of the treasures that should not be forgotten. My thoughts took me back to the beginning of this journey ten years ago.


It was the birth of Devan Meakala, our third daughter that marked the beginning of this journey. Last January, I happened to flip to a page in my Bible that was dated 4/2003, the month Meakala was born. Written beside it was “Meakala’s name”. The scripture Isaiah 42:9 was given to us to name her. It reads, “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Devan’s Hawaiian name is Meakalaokeolaanuiloa. She was the announcement or the proclamation of the abundant life to come and she did that by entering the earthly realm at a whopping 11lb, 9oz! We had no idea back then what was about to unfold in our family’s lives. We contentedly lived in our cozy house on Uluʻeo Street, smack dab in the heart of suburbia. “Our” plan was to raise our kids, live a normal, happy-go-lucky life in a happy-go-lucky neighborhood, work the 9-5 and then maybe when all the kids graduated, pursue some of our dreams. Funny how we thought we had it all mapped out. That year, after Meakala’s birth, the plan suddenly changed. There were a series of undeniable events that compelled us to sell our house and begin an adventure into the unknown to follow the collective dream that had been implanted in both our hearts long ago. The dream was to go find land, create a place for the community to gather and help facilitate a place of healing and restoration. I could write a book on the last 10 years! And perhaps I will someday. It would be filled with tales of adventure, sacrifice, risk-taking, miraculous provision, backbreaking labor, sweat, tears, mind-boggling support, hope, trust, faith, and love – all the essential ingredients for following your dreams and seeing them become a reality.

Starting in 2003 until New Year’s Eve 2013, this is what has been realized:

  1. After 3 years searching, in 2007, we purchased an incredibly beautiful 7.6-acre parcel of land nestled in the heart of Maunawili on the island of Oʻahu and named it Kapunawaiolaokapalai – the Living Springs of Kapalai
  2. With the help of many hands, it has taken 7 years to clear and build 12 loʻi kalo to restore a once-thriving food basket for the community
  3. We have created an outdoor learning center or gathering place where people can connect with the land and all its abundant natural resources. It’s a puʻuhonua – a place of refuge and safety for those who have no place to go, a place of sanctuary and peace for those who are weary and need to rest. Also, Kapalai is a kīpuka, – hidden treasure, Oasis or sacred place.
  4. In 2011 we formed the nonprofit Hoʻokuaʻāina with programs targeting at-risk youth and their families to help strengthen their life effectiveness and place in the community

The land we purchased at Kapalai (the ʻili name of this area) had most of these qualities already but was lying in desolation for nearly 100 years. It just needed someone to come along and let the waters flow once again. Now Kapunawaiola o Kapalai is living, thriving, flowing and producing.

Here’s what’s new in 2014:

  1. January 2014 marks the beginning of a partnership with Consuelo Foundation who is like-minded in their mission and values to “renew hope for those who have lost it and give hope to those who have never had it.” Consuelo Zobel Alger
  2. In May, Dean left the DOE after working with at-risk youth as a teacher for 13 years. He is now full-time farmer and executive director for Hoʻokuaʻāina programs, giving us the capacity to impact many more lives.
  3. We have an incredible team working with us to strategize for the future, build a successful organization, secure funding and manage those funds effectively so that we can be sustainable as an organization and farm.
  4. October 2014 – With funding from Office of Youth Services, we started our Kūkuluhou program in the loʻi to build life effectiveness in at-risk youth

We are a small family farm and intend to stay that way. Our strength is in deep connections and one-on-one relationships. If we are able to help youth realize their self-worth and identity and give them some important skills to be effective in their future, then we have achieved success. We won’t ever pretend to be experts in farming, counseling or cultural protocol, but we do know a few things about being broken and restored. We believe we have something essential as a family to give youth for the future and that is HOPE.

Who knows what the next 10 years will hold. I can’t wait to see. You’ll have to wait for the 2024 blog to hear the next chapter. Or look for my book…

Mahalo to all of you who continue to journey alongside us. It’s been a great ride!

Core Fitness

core fitness

Where do I begin? I have been extremely remiss in my postings of late. So I guess it is appropriate to start up again with an update on the state of affairs at Kapalai Farms after the wave of storms that we experienced this past week. Hail (the size of golf balls) did not make it to Kapalai but was reported in Kailua town, a first for me in my 19 years here. I have been reminiscent of last year’s thunderstorms that hit as soon as we decided to make the move into our new dwelling. We were faced with many challenges. The cliché phrase, “When it rains, it pours” was to put it lightly. I felt like I was in an extreme test of character. How would I respond especially to display an air of peace to my children who were dependent on my reactions for their sense of security? We experienced a host of problems including leaks, mud, flooding, loss of power, a broken generator, a malfunctioning toilet, the list goes on and on. To say that we had ventured out of our comfort zone was, to put it mildly. Well, after a year I thought we had fared pretty well. Glitches come and go. We know how to problem solve most of our issues. Or so I thought. Then Sunday’s storm hit. I have to say I have not seen this amount of rain ever come down so quickly here.

After weathering the storm for the past five days I have come to realize that this has all been core fitness training. All the buzz these days in the fitness realm is how we need to strengthen our core. That would be our abs and back in the physical, right? It has occurred to me that I also need to strengthen my core in the spiritual. What would that look like? How am I doing at my core? How is my patience, perseverance, faith, and resolve? When the storms of life hit, how do I handle it? This journey my family has been on has been extreme core fitness training. For a while, there has been a nice comfortable rhythm so I thought that I must be doing very well. This past year strengthened me to the point of feeling a bit overconfident. Then the storm arrived on Sunday. Once again we were reminded of our vulnerability to nature. We experienced about 6 months of leak free-living and thought all problematic areas were resolved. The downpour came in full force and showed us we were wrong. Water coming down at such a rate will find its way in no matter what. So we tried to deal with it with as good of an attitude as we could. We figured the lo’i will drain, the cupboards will dry out, and the mud will dry up. It’s really not a big deal. Well, I guess after about five days of getting pounded, my nerves were a little on edge and then the toilet plugged. Oh, here we go!

Whenever something goes wrong with the toilet (which is very often) I know I am in for another level of fitness training. I have learned over the course of the year how to fix almost every problem with our composting toilet. But it is not without extreme pain to my core muscles. It is normally just a light workout requiring some troubleshooting but if I can’t resolve it within 20 minutes, I know I’m in for it. The issue this time, is plugged and the air is leaking causing the vacuum pump not to work, a very important component to our wiz-bang, state-of-the-art, top of the line, electric flushing, composting toilet. I will not mention any brand names at this point but if you are ever in the market for one, and we all should be now as raw sewage continues to pour into our precious ocean, please call me first!

Some of you might say, why me. Where is my husband? Why isn’t he the one wrestling with this thing? Well as many of you might know, my husband has many gifts and talents. Dealing with technical difficulties is not one of them. If he were to handle it that thing would have been to the dump over a year ago. He is perfectly happy with his perfectly functioning, non-electric, non-flushing, just bare-bones basic composting toilet located in the outhouse down the hill where he frequents often. It has never caused us a single problem. No smells, no leaks, no plugs, it just gets the job done. But I had to have the Cadilac. For the girls and I, we had to have the refined flushing model. I can tell you it is not refined at all. It stinks, it doesn’t work, it is always out of balance and it is just a plain mess sometimes. It has taken me to places in my core I never imagined. After assessing the latest issue, I very begrudgingly was asking myself, “What now?” What part of my character needs to be worked on now? As I was pulling out poop and a roll of toilet paper my blood was about to boil over. Okay, so it is unplugged, let’s put it back together. It should be working right? Wrong. Air leak. Cannot flush with an air leak. Okay, so let’s take it back off. Now I must scrape off dried poop so that I can lubricate the phalange to hopefully resolve the leak. That should work. Put it back on. Nope, take it back off. What now? Please work, please have mercy on me and please work before I lose it. Oh, so that’s what it is, RESOLVE. How can a toilet take me to my core? I felt like Captain what’s his name in Forrest Gump who climbs to the top of the mast to curse the storm. That’s what I felt like doing. I had fantasies of a sledgehammer taking care of the whole business for me. Okay, gather myself. Last time. Try one more time. Thank God. For today I am spared a complete breakdown over a malfunctioning toilet. And I think I might have a little more resolve. Or at least self-control because the sledgehammer remained in the shed.

Why do I share these struggles with such detail? Isn’t this real life? Don’t we all have something like my toilet that takes us to our core? How we respond is our choice. Do we allow it to mold us, shape us, humble us, or do we fight it to the bitter end? These are the lessons I am learning living off the grid. I never imagined that my toilet would be a life coach. I wish I had some great wisdom to share or some tremendous breakthrough that would give all you readers some relief. The truth of the matter is that I need a lot more training. I have ways to go before I can befriend my toilet and face the next glitch with unshakable resolve. I am a work in progress and will be re-visiting my core many more times in the future. Now that I have had a few days to get my logical mind back, dry out a bit, and have a functioning toilet, I can say I am ready for the next training session. And outside it’s beginning to rain again…

Earthen Ovens 101

woodoven pizza

One of my dreams, as we were developing Kapalai and learning an old style of living, was to build and learn how to cook in a wood-fired earthen oven. We have an abundance of trees many of which are invasive species and need to be removed. Eventually, our plan is to replace them with native varieties. In the meantime, there are piles of wood all around our property that need to be used for something besides ant and termite food. Staring at these potential ant nests, I began to dream of using the wood for a greater purpose such as milling for hardwood floors, heating water, or cooking food. Since the Wilhelm’s are great lovers of food, I chose the latter and thus began my quest to research wood ovens from all over the world. In my studies, I uncovered a rich heritage of earthen oven cooking from one end of the globe to the other. It turns out that most cultures at one time used some type of earthen oven built from the natural materials available to them to cook their food. Many cultures still regularly cook in this type of oven. In Italy and Portugal, it is not uncommon to find one of these in most backyards. I researched many different styles built from a variety of materials. Overwhelmed by the complexity of construction, I even thought about having a prefabricated one shipped from Italy! (OK, I was getting a little carried away!)

One day we were visiting another farm. At the end of our tour, I spotted the most lovely adobe (or Cobb) oven. I had to inquire who was responsible for this beautiful creation. With a few phone calls, I was soon in touch with an archeologist experienced in natural cobb building. This was a new concept for me. I knew about adobe in the Southwest U.S. I guess it is all the same. Mix some mud with some straw and you have nature’s first version of concrete. Our new friend recommended reading How to Build An Earthen Oven by Kiko Denzer. So I faithfully went on Amazon, purchased my book, and thus began our adventure. Three months later after building a base, gathering all our materials, and calling some friends, we were ready to build our first earthen oven. This oven is one of my favorite features at Kapalai. We have had so much fun learning a new SLOW style of cooking. It is a whole science that requires much trial and error which means a few batches of brownies the color of charcoal and some explosions of very expensive cookware. To cook a meal it takes two hours to preheat my oven. But the results are well worth the wait. The flavors are so intense. The cooking is fast. Pizzas come out in 3 minutes (no joke). Roast chicken in 15 min with a beautifully browned crust. Homemade bread in 20. Today, we are now enjoying our second oven (after a little disaster). It is our favorite thing to fire up the oven as a family, try some new recipes, and sit by the glow of the fire. I highly recommend one in everyone’s backyard.

Here are the steps:

  1. Gather your mud (we have lots of that). The more clay content the better.
  2. Mix with mason’s sand.
  3. Get a bunch of bare feet and let the mixing begin.
  4. Prepare your base and build your first layer of insulation. (we used a layer of beer bottles.)
  5. Lay your fire brick which will retain the heat for the floor of your oven.
  6. Build your form out of beach sand or other round matter that will hold under the weight of the mud.
  7. Build your hearth.
  8. Start layering your mud.
  9. We put three layers of 3-inch thick mud. The top layer is mixed with straw. We still have not put the finishing touches on as it is awaiting the final layer of lime plaster.
  10. Enjoy the most delicious home cooked meals and make some new family memories!



Webster’s defines self-reliance as reliance on oneself or one’s own powers, resources, etc.

In my last installment, I wrote about our family’s attempt towards self-reliance. Writing about it stirred many thoughts that kept tugging at me. In my greatest intentions, I planned to sit down within a few weeks and share these thoughts. Here we are 4 weeks into the new homeschool year and I am stealing a fast fleeting moment to myself to get back to the subject.

After much contemplation and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that we are far from self-reliant. In fact, I wonder how anyone can label himself as such. When we began this adventure over eight years ago, we knew the only way it was possible was to rely on a higher power beyond ourselves to provide all the resources, connections, finances, wisdom, direction, etc. needed to fulfill the dream that had been implanted in our hearts. We were completely RELIANT on the Lord above or Ke Akua as he is referred to here in this land. If we relied on SELF we would be in a completely different place not fulfilling any dreams but just striving to survive.

Now we have a story, without an ending, that shares what happens when you lie down self and trust that all your needs will be provided for to bring a God-given dream to fruition.

After three years of searching for land from Kaʻaʻawa to Waimānalo, never did we dare consider looking in Maunawili, one of the most expensive neighborhoods on our side of the island. I do remember one time driving around the looking for Ag land and Dean saying “If I could choose the ideal place to farm kalo it would be Maunawili.” Once considered to be the breadbasket of the windward side, it is lush, green, ideal for farming, abundant in resources, and conveniently located. We both chuckled at the notion that we would be able to afford land there. Fast forward to August 2007 when we signed the deed to 7.6 acres in Maunawili. Owning that much land on this island is unheard of especially in that neighborhood. We went from 7,000 square feet at our previous property to 7.6 acres!!! This still blows my mind, especially when during this time period prices of land were soaring to new levels of outlandishness.

There is much more to that story but we are focusing on reliance…. back on track. So there we were, with signed papers in hand, not really being able to fathom it all, starring at a 7.6-acre weed patch that as far as we could tell had not been touched in decades. It might be hard to imagine if you don’t live in Hawaiʻi the nature of a tropical rain forest. Things grow unbelievably large, abundant, and fast. I was completely overwhelmed and had no idea where we would begin. I would pull one weed and by the time I got to the next, I would swear I saw the other one growing right back. How could Dean and I manage this with 3 young children, (little did we know a fourth was on the way) no experience in farming and little finances left to build basic infrastructure? Even if we had the resources and experience we had little time. Dean was working full time as a teacher, we were caretaking a church and he was playing music in the evenings. What were we thinking? Did we make a big mistake? Once again we had to lay it all down. If Ke Akua deposited the dream, He knew the way and would provide.

We started on the pile that had been dumping grounds for contractors to leave their leftovers instead of paying at the dump. We knew we had to reach out for support. Who do you call first… your family. They showed up in droves with their tools and trucks ready to get down and dirty. It was our first sign of encouragement that led to a flood of support coming from every unexpected place imaginable. First, our surrounding neighbors came. Once they heard our vision and our intent they jumped in full support giving up their precious Saturdays to lend a helping hand, take a dump run, take down some invasive trees, whatever we needed they were there. As we began to share our story with others in the community it would touch certain individuals and they would show up to help pull weeds or dig a ditch or move some mud. On one workday a kupuna, Poki, came to help. He hasn’t stopped coming since and that was 3 years ago. He is almost 80 years old and loves to be in the loʻi. It is his place of refuge. If it weren’t for him the weeds would have overtaken us by now. There is also Kevin our faithful bank builder. He meticulously and tirelessly builds the banks as if he was a trained engineer and then thoughtfully covers them in a carpet of lush grass to keep the weeds at bay. I wonder if he contemplates that one day the work of his hands will be referred to as the ancient walls, signs of Hawaiian life, and sustenance. Uncle Earl is another kupuna, a very well respected and sought after Hawaiian cultural practitioner who just showed up one day for a workday. We had no idea how he heard about it. Since that day he has taken Kapalai and our family under his wing teaching us ancient ways of farming and life of our ancestors.

These are only a few examples. We continue to be humbled by the generosity of others to help us fulfill the mission of Kapalai. The point is every time we hit a point of discouragement, feeling just flat out exhausted and wanting to give up, these angels just drop out of nowhere and we are once again reminded this is not about us. There is a bigger picture, a greater cause, and we will receive all that we need to ensure that what is developing at Kapalai will perpetuate through the community and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

If we return back to the definition of self-reliance it is almost appalling and seemingly arrogant. Reliance on oneself or one’s own powers, resources, etc. Okay, so maybe we are less reliant on man-made resources. But we are completely reliant on those resources that cannot be measured or manufactured. I haven’t even mentioned the sun, the rain, the springs bubbling from underground, the soil, or the kalo. Without these natural resources, we would have nothing to talk about. But more importantly, I’m talking about those resources that we all need and depend on to fulfill dreams. It is the generosity of family, friends, and neighbors that have sustained us. We purchased Kapalai to build a center for the community. For the past 4 years, it is the community that has given to us. The community is our provision that we are completely reliant upon. Perhaps it would have been easier to have a million dollars, hire a contracting firm and just bang this thing out. But what a boring story. If this is a place of future inspiration then the foundation for inspiration is being built right now. We have no power, no resources, to accomplish what we are doing and yet it is being done. That is the story. This is the inspiration: Complete reliance on the gifts, provisions, and resources that come from the Creator.

Now I just need a word to describe what I am talking about so we can teach it to our children. Present-day homesteading is not working towards self-reliance but returning back to reliance on those resources that have been given to us so that we may prosper. Is there a word for this?

Self Reliance

self reliance

In my last blog, I shared an article on homesteading. It described, in a nutshell, the adventure that my family has embarked upon. This stirred many questions and I promised that I would elaborate. The goal for many homesteaders today I guess is to become more self-reliant. This was never our mission but in many ways, we are doing just that. Let me explain…

We are operating a small 7.6 family farm in Hawaii and these are ways we are learning to use and appreciate the abundant resources that have been given to us.


Nearly all of our power comes from the sun. We have a small but sufficient photovoltaic system with a bank of batteries and a backup generator. Our family has learned how to conserve energy in many ways to make our system work for our needs. I never used to pay attention to the amount of kilowatts we were using. Now I pay very close attention. As a family of six, we were on average using 9-13kw of energy per day. Now we are down to 2-4kw. How is that possible…? We have given up a dryer. Now all our clothes get line dried. We no longer have an electric water heater. Instead, we opted for the Rinnai tankless gas-operated water heater. Gone are the days of pushing a button to preheat an oven. Now we must light a fire and burn it for two hours to get our homemade wood oven up to temperature. Instead of adding to our electric bill we are using a renewable resource of fuel grown right on our land – wood. All of our light bulbs are LED. All of them together add up to less than a 100w light bulb. We have all our chargers on power strips so that when they are not in use we are not burning power. Our kids turn off the lights now because they know what it means if they don’t – no power in the morning until the sun comes out. Watching a video on the TV is a luxury. If the indicator light on our inverter reads green we know we have enough power for such luxuries. When there is little sun we fire up our backup generator for about an hour and that will recharge our batteries and give us enough power to last through the day. The cost – a few inconvenient mornings with defrosted food in the freezer. The benefit – no electric bill and limitless power when the rest of the island is down.


Because we are not tapped into the sewage system all our greywater flows out to irrigate the surrounding trees. Now it is essential not to put anything toxic down our drains. This includes anything from the toilet. So instead we have three composting toilets used by our family and all the groups who visit the farm. Two are Sunmar self-contained non-electric models and one is a whiz-bang, top of the line flushing system (that I absolutely had to have!) from Environlet. You might not know the difference. But believe me, I DO!! I know every little last detail about these two different systems. WAY MORE THAN I EVER WANTED TOO! I am now a self-proclaimed certified composting toilet engineer. I can fix the fan, fix the leaks, troubleshoot the flusher, unplug, unsmell, unload….. you name it, I’ve done it! This has been the single most challenging obstacle for me in the development of Kapalai and has taken me to the core of my character (a subject for a future blog). Don’t get me wrong, now that I am trained and certified I think it is pretty cool that we are not adding waste to the overflowing city sewer system. Instead, our waste turns to beautiful, rich soil adding back many depleted nutrients to the land. Don’t worry all of you who are eating our kalo. We are not using this to fertilize our crops!! Anyway, it is a whole new aspect of nature that we are learning a lot about and it is very interesting. Stay tuned for more on that subject…


Did you know that 17% of the waste in landfills is food? I was shocked. And 20% is paper. We have reduced what goes into our garbage cans by about 75%. All food waste either goes to feed the worms for vermicast or to the grubs for chicken food. All our paper scraps go into the bins to light our fires to cook our food. We do not have garbage pick up so we are more conservative as to what goes into the can. Anything green gets thrown down on the bank and the land takes care of the rest.

Building Materials

Whenever possible if we have to buy building materials our first stop is Reuse Hawaii. It is my favorite place to shop now. Not only is there a staff of incredibly helpful people, but you can also find a mountain of treasure for all your building needs. If you have the time and the creativity, you can turn things that would have been taken to the dump into your own personal creative expressions, not to mention saving a whole bundle of money. We also have an incredible resource in an uncle who builds custom homes. Before he sends a load to the dump he gives the Wilhelm’s a call. “Could you use this or that”? “Of course” is always my answer. It is my secret outlet to challenge myself in creating something beautiful or useful out of something that would have been wasted.

So, I have given you just a few examples. Did we set out on a mission to become resource conscience conservationists? NO. But through the whole process of developing our land, we have been forced to become just that. It has been a great education for all of us. We all have a new sense of appreciation for our resources. Even Max (3 years old) reminds us all to turn off the lights. There is so much to learn, we have just begun to tap the abundant resources of our land. Continue the journey with us as we learn new technologies and face new challenges. And if you have any suggestions please feel free to share.

That is enough for now. In my next installment, I will explain how this is not about self-reliance at all…

Why We Homestead

why we homestead

The other night hanging out with friends, the conversation led to our recent change in lifestyle. After explaining how we compost our human waste and cook our food in a wood oven, one of Dean’s friends asked with a look of complete confusion, “How did you get into this?” As if to say, “You used to be so normal!” I am sure many of my close childhood friends are asking the same. Never would they have guessed that I would have chosen an off-the-grid lifestyle, especially on a farm!! There are some days that I wake up and find myself asking the same question. It is wild to recall the events of the past 8 years and to see where we have arrived. I would have to say we have been guided here. Never in my wildest imagination could I have come up with something so far removed from the lifestyle we were living. But we had a dream and sometimes you just have to jump in and take the risk not knowing where the journey might lead. Had I known where it was going to take us I might have turned and run in the other direction. Sometimes it is better that you don’t know the outcome of the dream. Fear would have caused me to miss out on the most exciting adventure of a lifetime. We have by no means “arrived” but it is the journey that is so satisfying. As a family, we have learned so much, grown tremendously, and experienced the satisfaction of working hard towards and seeing the fulfillment of our own dream. The best part now is that we have the opportunity to share it with others. Some will be inspired. Some will think we have completely lost our minds. What I have come to learn is that we are modern-day Homesteaders. Below I am including an article from Mother Earth News that really hit it on the nose for Dean and I. We are just part of a movement that is happening all over the globe as people long to simplify, return to the land and grow some good food. Enjoy!

Why We Homestead

In today’s parlance, what does it mean to be a “homesteader”? Modern homesteaders, to us, are folks who choose to focus significant portions of their time and energy on the things that matter most in life — self-reliance, homegrown and nutritious food, secure shelter, as much freedom as possible from financial worry, and leisure time to do whatever they enjoy most. Historically, homesteading has been a rural enterprise, but the version that is emerging in the 21st century is not exclusive to the country. Can you live in an urban apartment and still call yourself a homesteader? You bet!

In the old days, homesteading meant a life of backbreaking work as people carved farms out of the wilderness without the modern tools and conveniences we take for granted. Today, going “back to the land” (hoʻokuaʻāina) is an entirely different experience, thanks to the many electric-, gas- and solar-powered tools at our disposal. Growing a big garden is still work, for sure, but it’s nothing like it was in the days when homesteaders had to plow with horses. Today, often, the work is its own reward.

Some of us choose to be homesteaders simply because we get satisfaction out of doing for ourselves— growing and cooking great food, building furniture or even our own homes, (or tree houses) and learning and perfecting new skills. In past generations, homesteading was about survival. Today, homesteading is often an art.

Some of us have discovered that homesteading can be a less expensive way to live, leaving us with more money for things that matter and more time to relax and pursue hobbies or adventures. And some homesteaders are seeking a greater degree of security than the contemporary American lifestyle provides. They find security in independence — from debt, from declining and polluting fossil fuels, and from the industrial food machine.

Whether you are an optimist who thinks the world will somehow solve the problems we’re facing, or a pessimist who is deeply worried about climate change, Wall Street shenanigans, energy issues, and/or political unrest across the world, choosing to orient your life around your homestead is a wise decision. We are seeing a new surge of interest in homesteading as people recognize the security and satisfaction of becoming more self-reliant, and as they also discover the joy of a deep connection to nature, to the land, and to the food and shelter it provides.

Mother Earth News, June/July 2011 pg. 8

Hookuaaina Rebuilding Lives From The Ground Up

Hoʻokuaʻāina is located in the ahupuaʻa of Kailua at Kapalai in Maunawili on the island of Oʻahu.

For more information about our programs or how you can get involved please contact us.

visit us

916E Auloa Rd.

Kailua, HI 96734


P.O. Box 342146

Kailua, HI 96734

follow us

Hookuaaina Rebuilding Lives From The Ground Up

Hoʻokuaʻāina is located in the ahupuaʻa of Kailua at Kapalai in Maunawili on the island of Oʻahu.

For more information about our programs or how you can get involved please contact us.

visit us

916E Auloa Rd.

Kailua, HI 96734

mail us

P.O. Box 342146

Kailua, HI 96734

email us

Reach Us At:

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Hoʻokuaʻāina is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization

© Hoʻokuaʻāina 2020 All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions | Privacy | Site By Created By Kaui

Hoʻokuaʻāina is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization

© Hoʻokuaʻāina 2020 All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions | Privacy | Site By Created By Kaui

Hoʻokuaʻāina is a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization

© Hoʻokuaʻāina 2020 All Rights Reserved | Terms & Conditions | Privacy

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