Punaculture, part III - or, My Land in Hawai'i

John Schinnerer John-Schinnerer at data-dimensions.com
Tue Apr 18 20:28:39 EDT 2000


Here we go again...of mechanized intrusion,  equipment operator culture and

A car is at present a necessity for my situation in Hawai'i, so one of my
design elements was where to put the darn little mechanized intrusion.  I
considered making space for it by hand, but the roughness of my land
precluded doing that in a reasonable (or maybe even unreasonable) amount of
time.  It didn't make sense to me to spend valuable designing and planting
time (not to mention swimming-in-the-ocean time :-) imagining that I could
support an industrial vehicle with non-industrial means.

It was important to me to minimize the space used and the disruption to
plants, terrain, etc. caused by putting in a driveway and parking pad.  It
would be just wide enough to get a typical car through and just long enough
to get comfortably back off the road to a reasonable "staging area" for
parking, storing some eventual supplies and bringing in imported materials
(for planting, building, etc.).  It would also be "close enough" to
potential locations for eventual dwelling structures.  As it turns out it
will also be the location where I build some sort of "secure storage"
structure (probably ferrocement).

During the first few weeks, as I was spending time walking the property and
learning its secrets, I found the one entry point and pathway that would
best meet these criteria.  Only one very small 'ohia (thumb-sized sapling)
would need to be removed to bring the vehicle far enough in towards and
along the south side of the aforementioned mango tree.  The terrain in this
area suggested a natural sinuous curve on the left edge, echoed by the
canopy of the mango on the right, leading to a relatively broad flat area
for the parking/staging zone.  All the vegetation would need to be cut, but
it was all stuff that there was plenty of on the property and would become
compost and/or green mulch on-site.

I did the vegetative clearing by hand in order to verify that there were no
big terrain surprises and enable potential contractors to see the terrain
they'd be working with.  I was especially careful to clear the invasive
stuff near the edge of the road by hand, thoroughly, working out towards the
road so that seeds and viable roots and bits would have minimal chance of
getting a free ride further into my forest.  The grading work would have a
high potential for shoving them in and around and all over the place...

I had to find a contractor who would do the work the way I wanted it done -
this is no mean feat when one wants careful work on a small job with minimal
disruption.  As mentioned, the status quo is to implement plan D-9.  The
only one who was up-front eager to come look and give me an estimate got the
job.  The rest (none of whom seemed eager to even come give an estimate)
started by telling me why I didn't really want what I said I wanted and
continued to do so as I explained to them why I really did.  Then they told
me why it would cost way more... <sigh>

I got some initial resistance from the first one too, but once he saw I was
in earnest he went along with it...and did an excellent job, I might add.
There are several ways to deal with rough lava; one is to rip it and grade
it flat, using a cat with a blade on front and a ripper on back.  Another,
using a loader instead, is to knock down the "easy" stuff with the loader
blade and then fill in the remaining low spots.  From my initial perspective
it made more sense to rip up all the high spots and use the material to fill
the low spots (using less imported material), but I couldn't find a cat
operator who could grok that (except with a D-8 or larger - way bigger than
I wanted).  I ended up going with the loader and fill, mainly because that
was the one person who was willing to do what I wanted instead of what they
"always did."  

If anyone needs loader work done in Puna district, I can recommend a very
good loader operator!  It took him no more than half a day (with his partner
hauling fill cinder as he worked) to do the whole bloody thing - about 60
ft. in, about 9 ft. wide, ending in a roughly 16 ft. by 18 ft. parking area
partially under the mango tree.  There was only minor damage to a few small
'ohia, some small branches mangled on the edge of the mango, and one large
limb that I had hoped to keep broken off a large 'ohia.  Had I known, I
would have cut it off cleanly so as to insure the continued health of the
tree...but I think it will heal OK.  It didn't come out exactly as I
visualized, but given the use of heavy equipment (Cat 950 loader) in a
confined area it could have been a LOT messier!

What remains to be seen is how much invasive plant matter did get dragged
in, spread around, etc. despite my precautions.  The fill cinder no doubt
has some seeds in it...most buried deeply and compacted to death, I hope.
The area where the vegetative and rock scrapings were pushed during initial
grading is a likely trouble spot as well...some sleeping grass seedlings
were popping up just before I left (they were terminated...).  It will be
interesting to see the eco-evolution...but aside from me driving the car on
and off the land on the drive, that's the end of motorized mechanized

More later on planting 'n stuff...

John Schinnerer

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