Postcard from Puna, Where Pork Might be Back on This Vegetarian’s Menu

Aloha, my daydreaming snowbound friends! Last post, I shared a bit of the reality of living in East Hawaii with you, specifically that we received (there’s that deceptively grateful word again) 17.5 FEET of rain last year. Seriously.

Well, in true contrarian fashion, our normally rainy January has been quite dry. So dry that I’ve started regularly (dysfunctionally?) laying a hand against our catchment tank to check the water level when I feed the fish in the evening.

(Don’t worry—we still have plenty of water; I just like to be reassured that we still have plenty of water.)

It has been intermittently sunny and beautiful during the day (our neighborhood experiences weird patches of socked-in overcast) and chilly at night. By chilly, I mean in the 50s Fahrenheit, inside and out. That’s brisk in your house, but we are definitely not shoveling snow in the mornings.

My husband does, however,  shovel earth.

That’s because feral pigs are assholes.

There, I said it. And I know, I’ve said it here before, but it has to be said again. Because it’s still true, and maybe our level of frustration will somehow trickle through the piggy grapevine and make them behave just a little bit better. Before they make us do something we probably won’t regret.

Except the butchering part. That would be a regrettable amount of work. 

A feral pig seen through the screen, rooting outside my window

Almost every morning, after checking the dry-as-a-bone rain gauge, my husband shovels the ground around our house into some semblance of flat so we (including our old dog) don’t break our necks. Then he often replants the poor scraggly hibiscus and any other plants outside our chainlink fenced perimeter.

(More on those plants later.)

There are big areas we don’t bother with remediating anymore. One end of the house has been snout-tilled to rocky chunk, and is re-tilled every day. Sometimes they even do it during the day—I can see the pigs snorfeling from my window through the screen.

(No pigs this morning, but there was a random rooster with a hen and chick in tow, bugling so loudly and insistently, I considered putting chicken back on the menu as well.)

Remember how I said (Tales of Turmeric) there are only two things on our property the feral pigs do not eat? A couple of months ago, the Hubs and I snuck off-island for the first time in 2 1/2 years to see our long-forgotten family. (Covid is also an asshole, by the way.)

While we were gone, the pigs changed their minds re dietary restrictions and devoured every bit of turmeric. If you see a pig with orange teeth, give it a good swift kick in the okole for us.

You know where this is going right, because of my fancy-pants foreshadowing in the previous paragraph. The part where I said two things… Yep, the pigs also ate our collard greens. 😱

The voracious jerks even ate a whole patch of pineapple plants. They. Weren’t. Fruiting. Yet. Tell me what part of this spiky shrub looks edible?? I don’t know how they didn’t lose an eye. (Note, these were inside the fence.)

It’s not just the destruction that’s stressful; it’s also the disruption.

The Hubs and I are accustomed to feeling like we’re living in an episode of Lost. Not because much of the show was filmed on nearby Oahu, but because there were always crazy roars coming from the jungle, just offscreen, when the characters least expected it.

Here we’ve been given stink-eye by boars and sows, barked and chuffed at and heard every variety of sound porcine vocal cords can produce.

Or so I thought.

One night last week at about 4 a.m., we bolted upright in the bed, hearts pounding—it’s the Smoke Monster! A cacophony of crashing, breaking, bellowing screams headed straight for our bedroom window. We held our breath, waiting for something to crash through the wall.

Thankfully it did not. But the next day we discovered that pigs had plowed through the few potted herbs that remain unprotected by fence, ripping branches and leaves off the basil without eating it.

That was not, however, the penultimate straw. (I like to think there’s one left in reserve.)

What was the act that made my decades-vegetarian husband declare that pork might be back on the menu after all?

You know how I said the pigs ate all our turmeric? Well, technically they ate everything my husband had set out, but a few plants had volunteered in our compost. We’ve been watching the leaves die off, and a couple of weeks ago my husband harvested one.

This quantity of turmeric came from a single plant.

Crazy, huh? But I’m sure you can guess what happened later…

The next day, I was dumping some coffee grounds and noticed a hole in the side of the wire compost enclosure, and a divot in the compost on that side.

No, the Hubs said, that’s not where I harvested. I’ll have to finish the rest this weekend.

And the next day, the former enclosure was a tangled wire mess, tossed atop a barely distinguishable mound of dark earth. Not a nubbin of turmeric to be found.

That’s why I might be consulting my West Virginia kinfolk soon. Processing pigs isn’t the kind of thing you can trust to YouTube videos, especially in a tropical climate. 😜