GROW O'ahu

Home Gardening in the 808

Leave a comment

Elevate Farmers of Color

New book on my shelf to read, good companion to Freedom Farmers by Monica White

I’d like to share today just a few of the farmers, writers and organizations I follow and learn from, especially women. Now is the time to elevate, share and promote these voices. As I read and follow these folks I learn, I grow, and I pay for to their intellectual work whenever possible.

Soul Fire Farm

Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust

National Black Farmers Association

Black Owned Food, Farms, Gardens

Freedom Farmers by Monica White

Detroit Urban Farm Movement

Follow the #indigenousfarmers so you get articles like this one

14 Women of Color Leading Food System Changes

Rise & Root Farm

Karen Washington

Heather Jo Flores, permaculture and writing that centers women of color

Leave a comment


My youngest child is one year old today, and I want to tell this story about birth, and the darkness that comes before. 

At my 20 week prenatal clinic visit, the woman who checks blood pressure handed me a clipboard. It had a laminated sheet with The Mental Health Questions and I was to mark with the dry erase “X” if I’m “depressed” or “having difficulty doing things I normally do”, or if I cry? I used the half-dried out marker and X “yes” to most. As I do, I thought about the overgrown weed patch and the garden I haven’t even looked at for weeks. She glanced at the clipboard, erased the marks for the next pregnant woman and no one ever followed up. 

At around the 32 week mark, things started to become more difficult; physically and emotionally. My hips and ligaments screamed in pain at every movement. And it was like a light switch- as if my ability to feel joy had been turned off. A test has revealed that I might have gestational diabetes (I didn’t) but the feelings of inadequacy and failure became stronger every day. At my job, a progressive feminist organization, things became very difficult. I had to prop my feet up under the desk to try and reduce swelling, but it didn’t work so if I sat too long my shoes wouldn’t fit anymore and I had to walk out in the hall barefoot. It all felt so humiliating, my enormous cumbersome body trying to get through the day with a head that was filled with fog. The tension between what I hoped for and my reality was growing as quickly as the baby within me. Even my office jade plant that needs hardly any care was looking pathetic. 

I was increasingly sad and apprehensive about the birth- but it was coupled with other, more dreamlike nuances that were just out of reach to define. A growing sense of doom was around me- I couldn’t stop watching the news and my work in anti-violence had become especially heavy. There was an overwhelming urge to run away, prepare for something- but I had no energy to do anything at all. I wanted to burn everything down, daily.  I waddled with my tree-trunk size legs over to the legislature to give testimony, attended meetings and stood for hours in front of trainees- and it all felt pointless. Who am I? What was I doing? Fear was creeping into my once fighting and fearless heart- it was getting darker. My children and husband tiptoed around me. The wave would come out of some unknown place and I would just yell and rage- and feel horrible after because there was almost no controlling it. I overreacted to a broken dish or a dog mess. My inner voices were screaming at me that things are not right. I was not alright. External me just kept plodding along: I went to work, came home, walked past the overgrown plant mess that used to be my joy.  

My due date came and went. I was so scared of having a c-section because my mom almost bled out from one thirty years ago. I had read all the books and birthed two other children quite confidently with little intervention. But this baby was transverse, then breach, then transverse again. I was watching these videos on turning babies and doing partial headstands and flipping in the pool and getting taped-up at chiropractic visits. All these, I was assured, would work to turn my baby. 

It did work. She did turn, and 8 days after my due date my water breaks at 5:30pm while I was lifting a basket of laundry in our carport. The water was green and it smelled bad. I was immediately terrified and I also had no contractions. This birth was not going to go well, all my senses had been telling me all was not well, and then it was there.    

After 17 hours of labor, she still wasn’t coming out on her own. Weak contractions, low heart rate, I was exhausted. I felt like I had lied or misrepresented myself as a capable woman who could give birth. They hauled me into the operating room and removed our baby from me. It was all I had feared, and a bit more. Husband holding my hand, reassuring me, but I was floating all alone. She was quiet for 10 minutes post birth and I was helpless, strapped to a table crucifix style, vomiting from the medications and whispering prayers to a Universe I am not sure was listening. 

She was strong and healthy and breastfeeds like a champ, but somehow I knew she would be; it’s me that is not ok. The second night I sat alone awake, stripped of all my strength and camouflage. Baby asleep on my chest, husband gone home to care for older kids. And the sobbing started coming in waves. At first deep sadness, then a wave of anger. This little girl, our Evelyn, was born to teach me, I knew this, but first I needed to rage. And the rage came.

I was angry at myself for my perceived failures, but also I was/am angry at our system- how my concerns about depression had been dismissed, how nothing is supportive of mothers; how we are being lied to at every turn about what motherhood will actually be like. I am dismayed at how feminist organizations talk a good talk until you need to breastfeed a baby on demand. I am most angry at how awful our world looks- climate change and violence is creating refugees, horrors taking place daily, and I had just brought another BABY into this dumpster fire. And I started this essay before a global pandemic, so, yeah.

Then she wiggles her tiny body around a bit, latches on, and there’s this little peace that falls around us. 

We waded through the ugliness together, she and I.  

After she was breathing on her own, my first glimpse of her

I am not the same woman that I was a year ago, I have met the darkness in me. Our daughter was born 12 months ago, but I’m still birthing.  A new version of me has emerged- one that is more in tune. She’s more radical, more clear, and more focused than ever on what actually matters, because she needs to be. My internal voices, once quiet because they were being drowned out by a cloud of rage and sadness are now singing a chorus of guidance to me once again. They are telling me to build what I love and to stop fighting what I hate; profoundly difficult guidance for a born fighter. 

As I stumbled through the inevitable postpartum depression, I have returned to the simple basics of self care we are taught as anti-violence advocates: eat well, take breaks, try to sleep, drink water, turn off media. I left my unsupportive job because to stay would have been a fight, not building what I love. Instead, I strapped a baby to my chest and dug out another 90 square feet of garden space. I’ve gone back to permaculture ideals, signed up for a course and wrote “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share” on my journal pages. My intuitive dreams have returned and I’ve found joy in growing food again and sweet loving moments with my children, my loving partner, and our rascal dogs. I’m writing; turning literal rage into something else entirely. 

Most importantly, I will never again ignore or try to silence the knowing inside me when all is not well. The Universe was, in fact, listening, and now I am too. 

Fueled completely by rage that day about the absurdity of all our systems. But look- new garden!

Leave a comment


Plants teach me so much. And today I’m humbled by the absolute will to live of this Desert Rose. A couple months ago I discovered it was root bound in a pot with plugged drainage and root rot had settled in. It made me so sad because it was my moms plant- she loved the gorgeous pink flowers and she had lovingly raised this one from a tiny cutting. I removed all the dead root material, put it in a new pot with proper drainage and waited. Today, there’s new life. May it be so with me as well- that when I’m feeling rotten or root bound I can be coaxed back to life if only given the right circumstances. ❤️

Leave a comment


My Mother’s Day has been spent starting a new permaculture course, puttering around the garden and researching what in the world to do with all this BASIL. I made a pesto last night (delicious!) but there’s still so much!! In permaculture, one of the goals is that each thing has multiple functions. Basil in my garden is: pollinator food (bees love it!); delicious herb, lovely in cut flower bouquets because it smells so nice, and now, it will also be a dietary supplement (seeds) and topical inspect repellent (leaves/stems).

Leggy, gone to seed, but still so productive! Love growing basil in Hawaii 🙂

I started by cutting back a plant that was twice the size of the one above, removing all the leaves and chopping up some stem. Added boiling water and will leave to steep for a couple of days. Then I’ll mix with vodka (easy cheap preservative) and use as a deck/table spray for pesky insects.

My ratios of basil to water were a little off, but this is an experiment!

Next, I’m drying all these seeds. Once dry, I’ll store in a jar and use like chia seeds. Soak them, a tablespoon or so at a time and add to oatmeal, cold drinks or smoothies. The seeds are high in iron and I struggle with anemia so it’s perfect.

Last time I dried seeds they all blew around the yard so we’ll likely have basil popping up everywhere LOL 😀

I’ll likely be making more pesto soon, it’s a favorite around here. We used almonds and half parmesan half nutritional yeast in this recipe (daughter is dairy sensitive). I’d like to try a macadamia nut pesto! Another use for this handy little plant is toner for oily or acne prone skin. Might be making some of that in the coming “teen” years. 🙂

Hope you all are having a relaxing Sunday.

Leave a comment

On Patterns

This month I’m participating in a Women’s Permaculture Writing Challenge. Follow along for plant musings, or visit to sign up.

Find a pattern in nature and study it. What does it remind you of? How might you apply this pattern either literally or as a metaphor to your life? 

Resilience in the Vein Pattern

I went looking for a pattern that was relevant to my life and was at first coming up short. Spirals are common in nature, like in shells and the way a cucumber tendril grabs on to the trellis for support. Star patterns, also quite common, one of my favorite being the 5-point star pattern of the purple crownflower. I also considered feather patterns, like those found in ferns and elongated leaves or scales on fish or lizards- but none of those seemed very relevant to me. Stars are too tidy, feathers are too symmetrical- the layered nature of scales was interesting to consider but also not quite right. 

Human or plant?

Then I saw the plant vein patterns- their forking, spreading, nonsense way of being perfectly what the plant needs; the small little segments between the thicker pathways, the thin lines coming out of the thicker ones. I thought, “That looks just like a placenta.” My body has created three placentas, all unique and functional, but messy and perfect for the small humans they supported. The pattern is like roots, veins in the human body and veins in a plant- all the same. Supplying water, nutrients and blood to every last cell. In a plant, if the veins are cut or leaf severed, the rest of the plant will usually recover, the complicated forking system creates a resiliency to damage. 

The placenta, inside the mothers body is resilient also- it’s also the only organ that is grown, lives and then leaves the body. My second child’s placenta was encapsulated for me. The midwife who did this took photos and told me the story of my placenta, as she could “read” the patterns and lines from years of experience. She read my early months of pregnancy as stressful and having a poor diet- but that sometime in the second trimester I cleaned up my act, reduced stress and the placenta told her all of this. It was all true of course, that was exactly how it was! But resilience is built into the design- and our child was born very healthy and without intervention. 

So today I give homage to the veins- of plants and placentas. They have both nourished me, held me, protected me, and grown new life that I love. 

Leave a comment

What if C.G. could talk?

This month I’m participating in a Women’s Permaculture Writing Challenge. Follow along for plant musings.

Aloha, my name is Calotropis Gigantea, but you can call me Hawaiian Crownflower for short, even though I’m not Hawaiian at all actually. I come from Asia mostly, places like Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and India, but also tropical parts of Africa. Humans who have studied me say I can get to be 13 feet tall, but when I’m happy, I can get much bigger than that. I came to be settled quite comfortably in Hawaii hundreds of years ago. A very famous person, a Queen Liliuokalani as I recall, had a particular fondness for my purple flowers shaped like crowns. When Queens like things that makes other people like them too and so I was allowed to stay and proliferate despite my not being “native” to these parts. 

Monarch butterflies that do not migrate out of Hawaii came to me to lay their teeny tiny eggs and their caterpillar children munch on my leaves day and night, but I don’t really mind. I’m glad to be of good use, since some humans have used the sap from my branches to poison darts when warring against one another. I didn’t like that. I value peace among all things. Still others have harvested bark or leaves to make teas, tinctures and other remedies. But the most promising thing yet is that I might actually kill cancer cells- only I know that secret and humans are still working out whether it’s really true or not, because I’m not telling just yet. 

My life here on this little corner, where sidewalk meets driveway and where one road meets another has been a wild and interesting one for the past 7 years. I came to live here after being picked out from all the rest at a cozy plant nursery. At that time I was just a small one. My roots only filled a small 1 gallon bucket. But the clay soil and the constant attention and kindness has made me grow so large! Sometimes, I do admit, I get a bit overwhelming and out of control. If I had it my way, I would simply take over the entire yard and house. My friend the citrus tree, right next to me, poor thing, sometimes has to reach and reach for sun. Until the humans come and lovingly give me a massive haircut. They have shared many of my branches with others who have come along and they are always so careful to save any caterpillars that are hiding on my leaves. They really do love me. That is why even after a storm blew me completely over, roots out of the ground and everything, I rallied all my strength, reached back into the ground and stood tall again. It was a bit traumatic, but they looked after me everyday and for that I’m grateful. 

I’ve seen some things though. Humans are strange creatures to share the planet with. So complicated and confusing sometimes. I’ve seen children cry when they fall out of my branches and I’ve seen the female human become sad when too much of me was removed. She didn’t need to! I grew back extra fast so she wouldn’t cry anymore. It worked! She was happy with my size again in just a weeks time. The small girl at this house especially likes me, and I love her too. She brings her small stuffie animals, hides them in my branches and plays in my shade for many hours. It is a peaceful and loving time. 

I enjoy my life here and don’t need much. The soil holds me tight, humans talk to me daily and the butterflies keep coming. After the pandemic I wonder if that nice lady from up the road will come and take all my purple flowers again to make lei? She was nice too and I was sure to sprout more very quickly. In the meantime, I will enjoy these gorgeous breezes, the dozens of mama butterflies and all the stuffed animals that can fit on my branches.

Leave a comment

Mama Mantis

Our citrus tree needed a good haircut yesterday and while pruning we found lots of hidden fruit and a praying mantis nest! So we relocated Mama Mantis to our eggplant area that’s filled with bugs!

Praying Mantis nest
Moved Mama to a new spot!
Citrus has struggled to produce fruit for 5 years but maybe this year! 🤞🏼

Leave a comment

Hatching Monarchs

I’ve been at this for years now- maybe one of the few “hobbies” that has stuck with me through all the good and bad times! I really should keep track how many caterpillars we rescue and keep safe, feed daily and the watch in wonder as they turn to goo, rearrange themselves and emerge as a monarch. Hundreds? Probably!

It never gets old. ❤️

Leave a comment

A Few of Our Favs

Fellow local gardener Kristi and I did a Zoom session this morning on food growing. It was fun and only had small tech problems! Look for it under the video tab- it will be posted soon. We discussed growing several vegetables that we’ve both had success with including: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, eggplant, melon, carrots, beans and kale.

Seed varieties that work in Hawaii!

We also talked about composting- there’s so much we could address on just these topics! Our little composting system is super simple. We just bury our food scraps (minus meat/bones) in a corner of the garden. We also add “browns” or carbon such as paper towels, toilet rolls and dried leaves. The 6 year old is in charge of emptying the counter top compost pot everyday.

Ceramic pot with a lid, dump, bury

What are your favorite seed varieties? Do you have a composting system?

Leave a comment

A blog comeback?!

It’s been a minute! So many things have changed since I was working on this blog regularly. Do people even read blogs anymore? Most of my gardening adventures have been posted on my personal facebook page.

I’m going to rewind about 6 months, back to September 2019. I was just in the clear to do physical things again, post c-section. I had also realized that my full time job wasn’t for me anymore, due to so many things. I was frustrated, sad and battling a serious case of postpartum depression. So I went outside and dug up my side yard with a baby strapped to the front of me.

I wrote this as a caption on Instagram:

Not new information here for folks who talk to me regularly but digging and sweating are like meditation. Things become clear in the garden. I’ve been committed to my own growth and to seeking justice and changing systems and making this planet livable for my grandchildren’s children. I’m not bothering with humans who don’t believe me, trust me or respect me anymore. Goodbye. ✌🏼My people have always been those I’ve found at the edges; outliers who question things, shine light into dark places and bring people up with them, and there’s no time for anything else. A radical shift has occurred and if you are not feeling it, stop. Quiet yourself and get in touch with God or Ancestors or Mother Earth. Because things are changing and our human “systems” are not going to save us. Who are my people who know this?! ✊🏼Raise your hands! It is our collective nature that will save us; our love. Not government. Not politics. Not courts. Love. ❤️ And we need food so: Go dig. Grow stuff. 

I had no idea how prophetic that would seem, given where we are now in our world pandemic crisis and seemingly complete meltdown. Who are we anymore? And still, the answer is, go, grow stuff. In that effort I’m going to do a “socially distanced” gardening info session with a local gardening group tomorrow morning. It will probably be really messy and unprofessional and something will break or a child will be screeching in the background- but oh well. I have a history of being paralyzed by the fear of imperfection so doing this is good for me. In my professional life I would agonize over the symmetry of the slides in a presentation or want to make sure I had 3+ sources of information at the ready to field questions. This won’t be like that. 🙂 LOL