26 September 2013

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That’s not water – it is a dried green-black algae or something.  We have had three good rains, and this is what the pond still looks like.  You may wonder  why am I still writing about the pond since we harvested all the fish. Why does it matter?   I’ll tell you why: the level of the pond is indicative of the water table that affects the finicky bore hole that supplies water to us and to six other families. Three years ago the pond went dry and a few weeks later we had no running water in our house for 3 months.

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Sadly, our bore hole is at the bottom of a north facing slope.   Because of the sun angles, the north-facing slopes hold less moisture than the south-facing ones.    The good news for the area is that all of our neighbors have bore holes in better locations – so if ours dries out it is only a 7- household inconvenience, not a regional disaster.

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Austin is taking advantage of the dry weather to hire a digger do some work.   Here he was digging in the dry creek – making a better channel for rainy season.  A curious cow came to watch.
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And then her baby came to see the action, too.
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Nearby I noticed that the papaya trees are full of fruit again.   We love our pawpaws.  We went through a real papaya glut about a year ago, and then a papaya drought.  And now we have papayas again.   Yay.   Most Americans just eat them ripe as fruit, but Indians use green ones and still firm orange ones in curries.  I LOVE Vina’s papaya curry!
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Junia called me out to get a photo of this pigeon.  It is a native pigeon – distinctive because of its long neck.   Maybe an ornithologist will have some information to add.
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9-25-13 STOCK PHOTO flower visitors
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A concerned reader asked regarding the hospital stay,  “Nobody sent you flora?”   NOPE (maybe that’s why flowers around the hospital are both extra nice to see and are not stolen 🙂
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In Fiji flowers are taken to funerals, but not for “get well soon.”  For “get well soon,” the ONLY thing that counts is a personal visit.  Three beautiful human flowers did make a get well call to the patient who told them “I’m so glad you came.”  .
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Another concerned reader asked, “What in the world are you going to do with all of those puppies?”   Are you kidding?   It is so easy to find homes for our big, healthy, gorgeous puppies – even the females.  Somebody has already given Austin the feeding money for this handsome little fellow.   Of course it will be about 5 more weeks before he goes to his new home
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Getting rid of KITTENS is an entirely different matter.
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19 September 2013

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Lautoka is a beautiful city, especially if you love trees.  There are rows of palms, of mango trees, of huge vaivai, of “Itt”s.  There is mahogany and teak and date palm.  We ended up spending most of the week in Lautoka at the large regional hospital.   Above is a shot of the corner where Hospital Road meets the main road.

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I’m shocked that on-line resources do not mention Lautoka’s many parks and stately avenues.   Lautoka has been a prosperous little city because of the sugar industry, and some farsighted people invested in making it beautiful.  Here are a few shots I got of some of the magnificent trees.
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Even the main street is lined with palms.   Maybe we can read history of bad weather from their bent trunks.

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This was the view from the hospital room.
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 Beautiful, eh?   I kept thinking about how none of the coconut trees were “decapitated” from the recent fierce hurricane: so many of the coconut trees in Guam are headless because of the storms.   Then later, Austin and I noticed this group of headless royal palms.
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That is weird because royal palms throw off their leaves during storms, and almost never lose their crowns or get blown over.  That’s why Austin always plants royal palms near any house we live in.   Anyway, he’s thinking maybe a piece of flying tin got them, since it is 3 trees in a row.
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Just a little more around the hospital.  Beautiful hibiscus.  I envy the healthiness of this plant – as you recall I often bemoan the plight of my hibiscus bush at home.
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This beauty was blooming in the parking lot.  I asked Austin what it is – he doesn’t know.  Says we have it at home.  He was quite dismissive, but I found the flower charming.
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And I can’t leave the hospital without showing off the TALLEST Cousin Itt trees I’ve ever seen – standing there against the hospital. …  And finally we could go home.   This is part of what met us.
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More ducklings – these are a couple of days old and going to their new owner today.
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Austin wanted to make sure EVERYBODY notices that there are some with pink bills and some with blue.  He thinks the pink-billed duck is a hybrid.  (Sometimes he goes on about their feet – some are yellow and some are black.  Big deal.)
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And finally – this is the happiest thing that met all of us on our happy, healthy return from our sojourn in the west.   Tarsi’s puppies – 5 females and 3 males.
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PS – I feel the report is not complete without mentioning that  I did not notice any flora or fauna inside the hospital.   I actually LOOKED for vermin for my report, and there was none.  For the tropics this is incredible.  The other thing is that we did not have to “shell” out any money for the 6 day hospital stay.  It was paid for by our tax dollars.  The care was beautiful, and I think it deserves a mention.

12 September 2013

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A family drama yesterday upset the apple-cart and made this week’s regular Flora and Fauna Weekly impossible.   Instead this post is dedicated to one wonder plant – piper betel, stock photo above.

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We got to know this plant when we lived in Palau.  Nearly everyone there chews the betel nut, and everyone who chews betel nut, opens it, taps in some powdered lime (from burned coral), and wraps it in a betel nut leaf.  All betel nut chewers carry around a little woven bag with the supplies, including the betel nut leaf.   This leaf has a secondary function – it stops bleeding.
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If anyone has a bleeding wound, someone will take a leaf (without nut or lime), chew it up, and pack it into the wound – even if the wound is large and gaping.  Bleeding stops immediately, and these wounds never get infected.   In Palau, the betel nut leaf is the first “medicine” in the traditional first aid kit.
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So why am I telling you?   Last night a dear relative took a face dive onto the cement.  Blood was pouring from the wounds.  As we organized ice and hospital bag and transport, one person ran for the betel nut leaf.   He crushed it in a mortar and pestle that was handy – and slapped it on the lacerations.    There was instant clotting – that stayed clotted for an hour.
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Then the medical staff at the “this-is-not-Palau-and-I-don’t-really-believe-you” hospital cleaned the leaf from the wound, and the bleeding started back up at 1/4 strength.   After sutures were put in, the bleeding was down to a steady trickle (instead of a steady NOTHING).
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The doctor in the referral hospital looked at the wounds and guessed that the patient had probably lost about 500 cc of blood from it.  I was happy to be able to say, “no – only about 200cc”   I told him about the leaf and his one word response was “vasoconstriction.”
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 God willing, some day this magnificent leaf will get the proper clinical trials that it deserves.
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(With any luck I’ll be back to my no-drama narratives next week.)
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5 September 2013

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The pond got so low we had no choice but to go and harvest all the fish.  Here is the biggest fish with my grandson and “Uncle Junia”.   That fish (talapia, malea in Fijian) was almost 3 years old.   Here the same fish is pictured with a baby, to show what 3 years can accomplish.
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Below is a photo of our haul – it was about 40 kgs of fish in all.   It would have been much much larger  if we hadn’t had a massive theft a year and a half ago – but that’s why we have the fence and the dog down there now.
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Regarding the recent grass fires, a Facebook friend asked me:  is someone burning the grass intentionally or does it just catch fire because it is dry?   Does that cause a threat to your property?    I  replied:  people intentionally burn the grass each year.  the grass comes back very healthy, and it keeps trees from colonizing the grasslands.

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Since then our resident arsonist decided to make his own little grass fire.  It went downhill (usually that doesn’t happen) and it got a couple of his dad’s lemon trees.  Oops.

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LOOK WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN DEPARTMENT – yes, our mutant cat Turtle brought this gecko into the house the other night.   Look normal?    Look again.
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 This gecko has a forked tail – not normal.    Geckos can regenerate a lost tail, and this one must have had a partly severed tail that regenerated on the torn side.   Creepy, isn’t it!    (would have been “mutation of the week” – but I just loved the new category of “look what the cat dragged in’)
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This is a photo of a tamarind tree by the cottage bathroom.  Those plump tan pods hold the tamarind fruit.   It is abundant this year.   Tamarind is the base for many beautiful sauces and chutneys.
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The other trees are less fruitful.  This tree is only about 30 feet away – and this is the only branch that has any tamarind – 2 pods.   Why is one tree so loaded, and the other tree so sparse?    Location, location, location.
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MYSTERY OF THE WEEK – it might not strike you as weird, but I really don’t get it.  Of all the banana leaves there is one that is perforated – has lines of holes on it.   I actually saw it two days earlier, and when I finally got back with the camera, the end of the leaf had torn off along one of the perforated lines.   What is eating a series of holes in several  lines on one leaf?   Why only the one leaf?
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Anyway – that was a nature mystery and I’ll end with a human mystery.  When my Indian neighbors bring us fresh cow’s milk, it always has at least one chilli floating in it.   Yep, they put a fresh hot chilli pepper in it before delivery.   I have never made sense of the story of why, something to do with bad spirits not following them home?   In any event the flavor of the chilli never gets into the milk.
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