GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living

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New Butterfly!

The Gulf Fritillary Butterfly has found us. Passion vine, or Lilikoi, is the host plant, and we don’t have one in our yard, but perhaps we are being told to get one. 🙂

The first time this species appeared was in our dining room at dinner time. She hung out on the light while we ate.

gulf fritillary butterfly


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Little People that Care


There’s a whole lot of internet chatter on parenting. Most of it I don’t read. Sometimes an article will pop up in my inbox or newsfeed that has added some more fuel to so-called mommy wars. I don’t participate. I do like to take part in writing and activities that encourage, support, spread love and generally help humanity. Because my husband and I want to raise kids that care. And kids are watching how we grown ups are interacting with each other. Beyond all other traits, this one matters most to me.

How do you raise kids that give a shit? (About the world, and not just themselves?)

I don’t know if I have the formula or not, but our little people care about stuff. They have interests beyond what can be found on a screen. When my little guy wanted to save all the little worms we found in our cucumbers last year, I knew we were doing something right. Now he is an experienced butterfly farmer! He participates in all aspects of our little hatchery.  He helps get the caterpillars and saves the butterflies with wet wings so the geckos won’t eat them. After he is finished examining the dried up chrysalis, he smashes them, because he is 5 after all.



He grows things. Six weeks ago we mixed a bunch of flower seeds together in a cup and he sprinkled them in a spot of his choice in the garden.


This is how it looks today!


Six weeks ago this was a bare patch. My son threw some old seeds from the fridge out here 😀


Today we spent more than 3 hours just piddling around outside with bugs. We discovered a praying mantis in one garden and a new species of butterfly that is now frequenting our yard (Chinese Swallowtail.) It was really fun.

IMG_1117Now we have a very mobile 1 year old that is crawling circles around her mama! I let go of the worry of injury and mud and let her go in the garden today. She crawled, scooped, touched and covered herself in mud. And was so content, so happy and after 2 hours was so TIRED that she actually napped! 🙂


So get outside, friends. Even if it’s cold, windy or rainy wherever in this beautiful world you happen to be. Spending time outside with the kiddos fosters a sense of love and wonder for them and a whole heap of love and appreciation for me. We all win this one. ❤



Happy Butterflies

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Two butterflies hatched this morning while I was drinking my coffee. It is always amazing to watch, no matter how many times we have seen this now. But my baby was equally as fascinated, so we took the jar outside and watched them dry their wings and then eventually fly away. But one sat on my hand for the longest time, flapping and gaining her strength before circling the yard and going off.

Just a few moments after these two had gone, I checked the crownflower plant for new caterpillars and found two good sized ones, which have now been placed in our new “Ritz for Caterpillars” IKEA hamper. 😀 This new way of rescuing them, rather than jars, lets us get more at a time and also to get them smaller.  In jars, you must keep putting fresh leaves in each day, which can get rather full and stinky. In the mesh hamper, I get a large branch, stuck it in a jar of water for freshness and this will probably last the entire time they are growing.

It’s such an odd hobby this has become for me, but it’s really amazing and reminds me of the miracles of our Universe. ❤

Little chubby baby hands and butterflies make awesome photos :-)

Little chubby baby hands and butterflies make awesome photos 🙂

this beautiful creature let me photograph it for several minutes while the wings dried before flying away....

this beautiful creature let me photograph it for several minutes while the wings dried before flying away….


I couldn’t believe how long it sat on my hand, just looking at me 😀


Hey, nice eyes…


Just having a chat 🙂



In the moments just before a butterfly breaks out of the chrysalis, it’s translucency allows us to see the orange and black pattern on the wings while still inside.



IKEA mesh pop up hamper gets a new life as The Ritz for Caterpillars 🙂



Two of the three chrysalis in this jar hatched this morning, while I was feeding the baby and drinking coffee at the table. 🙂


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In a search to honor her mother, a daughter finds meaning in grief

My writing was published on a local health blog today. ❤


Blogger Carmen Golay was a mess after losing her mother to lung cancer. In reflecting on her mourning, she asked: How can I turn this grief into something that will make me a better person?

Carmen Blogger Carmen Golay (right) poses with her mother and infant. Golay wanted to find a way to turn the grief over losing her mother into something positive. Photo courtesy: Karissa Holcombe

I was annoyed at myself. I felt like all I talked about all the time was grief, and answering peoples’ “how are you?” questions with their sad eyes. To my therapist: “I just don’t want to say any more about it, you know? It’s not like grief is an uplifting topic for dinner conversation.”

He responded, “Why can’t grief be uplifting?”

I sat silent. Because grief is grief, I thought to myself. It’s sad. It’s final. It’s miserable. Everyone hates it. People die and we cry and we miss…

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Gardening is More Fun with Friends

Many years ago when I was spending a lot of time in a ceramics studio, someone made the comment to our teacher, “Why do you still commute over here? Don’t you have a studio in your home?”

I will never forget what he said.

“Yes, I do. But then I’d be that lonely guy just throwing teacups in my garage. This is more fun.”

There’s so many hobbies, pastimes and in fact occupations that can be done on your own. But I’m an extrovert and a social person and while I do occasionally love the quiet solitude of my gardening endeavors, most of the time I would love someone to chat with.

I was so pleased to find that a local Facebook group I belong to was having a “seedling swap” this morning. In my experience, there are few “online” communities which become real communities, so this seemed fun. And it was! I brought home a bunch of papaya, some varieties of basil, daikon and an unusual tree, the chermoya.

Seedlings on the curb, waiting for the swapping :-)

Seedlings on the curb, waiting for the swapping 🙂

And look! They even blog about stuff!! Have I finally found my peeps? 🙂

Aloha friends, and happy gardening!

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Gardening is Cheaper Than Therapy

It’s 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning and I’m dripping with sweat. My feet are filthy already, I’m digging California grass spikes out of my fingers, and the 9 month old baby Kara is complaining that Mommy isn’t moving fast enough with the morning nurse-snack. She doesn’t care that I’m covered in dirt and grime. She just wants her milky-snuggles.


All the things I’m “supposed to be” doing are running through my head. The piles of stuff in our carport that need sorted, priced and put in neat little garage sale piles. The laundry that is already piled and calling my name. The couch covers that need washed- again. And yes, Her Room.  All of this sorting, cleaning, piling is related to the fact that I haven’t touched my mom’s room since she died.  It’s been 4 months tomorrow. I’d like to just pretend it isn’t there. But keeping the door shut makes the rest of the house that much hotter, so airflow prevails over emotions. And so I stare at it. Every time I walk down the hall, come out of the bathroom, go to our son’s room…it’s a small house. There’s no avoiding it. Just like there’s no avoiding her dog, her turtle, or the millions of crocheted items we still use in this house every day. She is here.

But this morning I have found a justifiable distraction. Plants. Gardening. Stuff I haven’t done in months. Folks who know what it’s like to battle the fog of depression know that Depression takes your spirit. It comes in and eats your ambition, steals your motivation and fills your mind with every excuse under the sun as to why you can’t/won’t/shouldn’t do the things you used to love to do. Because Depression is a life-sucker. It is a parasite on your soul and there’s no one-shot remedy to pick up at the local garden store that will get rid of this bugger. It’s case by case, and it’s a slow road back to health; more like hand-cultivator than gas powered tiller.

Today I battled with the big D by avoiding that Room for another day. And in the mean time, brought some more life back to our little yard.


Kara helped me plant seedlings on the morning-shade side of the house. We put in chard, kale, rosemary, lemongrass, bell peppers, basil, lavender and zucchini. She was a great helper 🙂


A couple days ago we put in a Red Mountain Apple tree. I’m super excited about this one because mountain apples are so delicious. They are a smallish fruit with flavor that is sort of cross between a pear and an apple.


And finally, the tomato plant. When I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s No Death, No Fear all I could see was this tomato plant and I could understand that nothing dies. Life will manifest when conditions are right and will hide when conditions are not right. The story of this tomato plant is the story of my mom’s life with us. She thought I was silly for digging up a volunteer tomato plant from our old house and moving it over here. Then it sat in a pot for MONTHS until we finally put it in the ground. Then it became plantzilla- taking over half our backyard, until we cut it down (like the tree it was). But then the same variety of tomato (which I had not planted before) popped up in our garden beds. A “volunteer” tomato that was pumping out little red beauties 5 or 6 a day which kept my mom and Ethan in backyard snacks for months.  That plant, now gone, along with the bed it was in, has now re-manifested itself on our hillside. Conditions are better there. 🙂

THE Tomato Plant. Because Nothing Dies :-)

THE Tomato Plant. Because Nothing Dies 🙂


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Home Again

“I wanna live where the green grass grows, watch my corn pop up in rows….”


For two months my kids and I watched epic sunsets while we visited Iowa. They lasted for 2 hours and always put on a show of colors, shapes and cloud formations.  I love Iowa sunsets.

IMG_1245I also love visiting my tree. It really is my tree, since I planted it as a little helicopter seed with a kitchen spoon about 30 years ago. My grandpa told me there was a tiny tree inside that little propeller that flew off our backyard maple and I didn’t believe him. He said, “Go dig a little hole, put it inside and wait. You gotta be patient though.” So I did. I even built a little fortress around it with popsicle sticks to keep my mom from running over the spot with the lawnmower. And wouldn’t  you know, he was right. There was a little tree inside, and though it has been ripped apart many times over the past 3 decades by windstorms and tornadoes, it soldiers on. 🙂

My Tree <3

My Tree ❤

…and more trees! Walnut trees that our family planted as seedlings are now a proper forrest. With so many corn fields that go on forever and heat in the Iowa sun, this little oasis was about the coolest place for miles. (I always think of that saying…”The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago. The next best time is today.”…or something like that.)


And bunnies. Who doesn’t love chasing bunnies? We don’t have little wildlife critters like this in Hawaii…mongoose don’t count. They are a nuisance! (Of course bunnies are a nuisance too to gardeners, but darn in, they are so cute.) 😀

IMG_1367But Home is also where our organic papaya trees have started pumping out fruit! Yippy! I was so happy to come back to see these beauties.


And home is where our crown flower plant doubled in size in two months and had literally dozens of caterpillars who were on their way to making their debut as butterflies.


Home is also where dear friends share organic avocado with you and your babies and let you lounge around in their backyard for hours on Sunday doing nothing at all. ❤


Our family will always have a complex understanding of Home. I’ve come to think of it more as a state of mind than a place…your heart is happy at home. Wherever that is. And this Happy Hearted Gardener has a lot of work to do to get my plants back after a 2 month hiatus! Stay tuned for more growing news. Aloha.