“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
Housesitting for family and friends is usually easy, you know the areas, homes & the animals so there aren’t any surprises.
When our friends in Hana asked us to come and take care of their houses and animals on their hobby farm, we figured it would be a win-win situation. We would get to live on Maui for free while taking care of the animals and they would get to take some well needed time off.
But there’s a big difference between Canada and a tropical island and situations that arose kept us on our toes and having to figure things out on our own.
When a family of wild pigs moved into the back yard it was cute and entertaining until they started digging up the yard and eating the fruit intended for the market. We told a local friend about surprising the piggies while picking lilikoi and not more than an hour later two guys showed up, bows and arrows at the ready. Pig hunting is big in Hana and since it’s such a remote location, people hunt to feed their families and friends. Acting as their guide I put them onto the pigs location and schedule of travel and that night they were able to bag a 125lb just before dark.
“It’ll save us a trip to Costco (a two hour drive)” One of the lads said as we tied it to the back of the tractor for me to haul to their truck and help hoist it in.
“It should be pretty tasty with a diet of avocados, banana, lilikoi and fallen papaya!” I said. They both smiled and said “don’t worry we’ll make sure you get some after we smoke it. So Ono!”
While house sitting on this great island we both had the unfortunate occasion to decide whether we were able to kill an animal that was suffering let alone ok a pig hunt. I won’t go into the gory details, but needless to say farming isn’t all chicken eggs and happy times. It’s extremely hard work, long hours and problem solving. When a chicken gets sick or has the misfortune of being attacked by a dog, for example, you sometimes have to make decisions that you wouldn’t normally. Can it be brought back to health or is it closer to death? If it’s closer to death, why let it suffer? (I can hear the can of worms opening)
But those occasions are fewer than most and working the land, harvesting fruit and manicuring the lawn is very rewarding and satisfying. Even when you spend three hours on a riding mower in 90 degree sunshine and burn the top of your knees so badly it hurts to stand up, in the end, looking out on a lawn prettier than any golf course fairway brings a smile to my face.
Cock a doodle do
Wild roosters cock a doodle f*#king doodling at 3:30 am outside your bedroom window is not something any city boy would enjoy but Maui has quite a few wild chickens and roosters. The little shit disturber that woke us up every morning was the farm equivalent to the apartment neighbour that we had in NYC, coming home at 3 in the morning and trouncing around in his shoes on the hardwood floors above. The solution that everyone said to me after seeing the bags hanging from under my eyes due to lack of sleep is “…do you want to borrow my gun.” But I didn’t shoot my neighbour and although I felt like it, I couldn’t shoot the damn rooster either.
Spiders and centipedes
When we first arrived in the rainforest of Hana we jumped and shouted several times a day at bugs and insects that made surprise appearances in the shower, beside the bed or at your feet while reading. Spiders big enough to shift furniture, centipedes that moved like freight trains from under the shovel you just picked up or flying beatles big enough to ride, making scratching noises moving across the floor.
One day while getting into the truck Nat opened the passenger side door and a spider as big as her hand ran from under the handle and across the door. It was carrying its huge egg sack underneath it and looked absolutely evil, but our skins had now thickened from seeing dozens like it and some bigger and we both laughed at how we may have reacted in our previous life.
And then there’s diarrhea! Not from eating a lukewarm burrito at a local food truck, but from a happy puppy that has been put in your care and lives at the house at which you sit. It’s not just the liquid brown spouting from the south end of the animal, but how you get it out of the white couch it decided to run up and down during said incident.
Early one morning Nat got up and before she could get “poopsie” out the door for his morning ablutions the sweet little dog we’re currently sitting had a terrible accident all over the couch. From one end to the other on every cushion and into the creases, that shit was everywhere! She spent a good 10 hours scrubbing, cleaning and laundering and in the end the couch looks as good as new and after some steamed rice, the little puppy is too.
Adventures in house sitting can be very fun and rewarding and what you learn may change you for the rest of your life, but the biggest lesson you better understand from the start is “shit happens!”