26 December 2013

???????????????????????????????

.
There were two celebrations this week – my birthday (huzzah!) and Christmas (hallelujah!).
.
I wrote to friends, family and facebook about my terrific b’day – so the only thing I’ll say here is about the amazing bougainvillea at Raffles Hotel where I got to spend the night.
                              ** Off * The * Farm **
First a photo to demonstrate that it really is bougainvillea:
.
???????????????????????????????
.
And now a photo of the massive trunk of one of the older plants.
.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
.
Can you believe that bougainvillea can get THAT old and THAT big?   ….   Will I still be around and bearing flowers of the spirit when I am that old?
.
And now to Christmas ….
.
???????????????????????????????
.
We had good intentions of celebrating Christmas in a really Fijian manner this year.  Monica decorated the living area with foliage and fresh flowers.  Here are hibiscus on coconut ribs.  They bloom for a day and close at sunset.
.
??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
.
And here is a sweet nativity scene that Monica did.   It is not traditional in Fiji – but I had the idea, and Monica has the artistic skills.   This is based on the technology for making masi designs (see the 21 November entry to read more about masi).    Nowadays, to make masi designs, the artist makes stencils from old x-ray films.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This is the stencil Nica made.   She did this FREEHAND and in one shot.   I think she is some kind of genius.
.
Anyway, as I was saying – we were planning to do a traditional Christmas which would have been decorating with fresh foliage, bringing out all the new china, new mats, etc.,  AND having a humongous dinner together and eating for hours.   We were planning to have a duck.   It is obvious from the way I am writing that that is not what we did.   Nope.
.
Instead we did the traditional Fiji Christmas – Plan B.   We went to the BEACH.
.
All the neighbors from our end of the road decided to go, and they invited us along.  Fun, fun, fun.    We went to a beach that our family had never been to before, near Vatukarasa village.   The photo at the top of the blog is from this beach.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
We’ve been noticing the interesting orange growth on the western side of coconut trees on the Coral Coast for years.  Today Austin got a really great photo of it.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
I was thrilled to find a hermit crab.
.
??????????????????????.
Here is a close up.   Isn’t he adorable!
.
???????????????????????????????
.
And then I found a BIG one!   Sorry the photo is all blurry.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Austin got all enthusiastic about pumice floating in the water.  He remembers using pumice like this for sharpening cane knives when we lived in Micronesia.  He collected all he could. Before our neighbors climbed back into their transport, he gave a hunk to each family –  “Ho Ho Ho – here’s a rock for you.”   He didn’t say that exactly, but he did tell them many uses of pumice – most of them had no idea what it was.
.
Monica remembered we’d also brought some cake to share.   Everybody got a little something to like.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
So, bye for now!   See you next year!
.
Advertisements

19 December 2013

???????????????????????????????

.

Ok, so I’m not going to talk much about plants or animals this week because what was more interesting was the handicraft stuff going on.  Above is a picture of our good friend Venaisi, our smart potter friend, telling the fellows how to knead the clay with their feet.   

.
???????????????????????????????
.
Stomping grapes and clay always seems funny to me.  The footwork came after Venaisi had added water and sand to the clay.   Next they kneaded the clay with their hands and made it into little loaves.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Venaisi said the clay was not sticky enough to work with so it has to cure for a few days. Today Maki came to visit again, and he kneaded the clay some more.  He said it was like kneading bread.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Venaisi brought examples of the little figurines she’s made – lizard, turtle, frog, fish and pig, as well as tiny beads and a small pot.   These figurines have not been fired yet.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
 Next time Venaisi comes, we will make our own clay creations and will build our fire out of coconut husks or bamboo to bake them.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
While Maki was here he helped me put together a plate Austin and I bought in Jerusalem 32 years ago, that has been broken several times.  It has nothing to do with the farm – but it seems to go with clay pots.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This week one of the ladies had a big coconut frond and started removing the ribs with a sharp knife to use as a broom – the kind they call “sasa” in Fijian.   A good sasa has ribs from at least two big fronds.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This is my old sasa.  It was bought from a roadside vendor.  Here the ribs are attached to a stick with a strip of rubber.  It cost  Fj $5.   When my friend finishes her sasa, she will either braid the top or will tie it together with a piece of raffia string.    Whether on a stick or just the ribs, a new sasa is prized because of the long, pliable ends that are good for reaching into corners.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Vina decided to make a paal (pronounced with an AHHHH – written in Hindi as पाल ) – which is a mat made from feed bags.  As you can imagine, we have a LOT of feed bags after feeding all these chickens and ducks for months.  First, Vina got the bags together and washed them.  Then she started sewing them in pairs with raffia and a big needle.
.
??????????????????????
.
Here are the first dozen sacks.   When a paal is used for seating at a wedding or funeral or the like, it is used with the white side up.   When this one is finished this one will be 4 sacks wide and 6 sacks long.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Even though the paal isn’t finished yet, it is good for a nap.  Vina doesn’t nap.  Vina is sewing more feed bags together in the background.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This also has nothing to do with the farm – but here is a quilt that I think my great grandmother Momo made.   It has to be at least 60 years old.   It is so beautiful.
.
???????????????????????????????
..
The colors are so perfect,  The hem is perfectly scalloped on three sides, and bound with yellow bias tape on all four.
.
But what totally blows my mind is the hand quilting in the white space that perfectly duplicates the outline of the flower applique.
.
??????????????????????
.
This beautiful heirloom is just not safe in the tropics.  As much as I love it, I am sending it with my sister-in-law back to the temperate zone.
.
And I will end this week with
A SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE CHRISTMAS REWRITE
(because I’ve heard enough of “Jingle Bells” on the radio already)
.
Coconut shells, coconut shells, barbeque to-day.
Oh what fun … a picnic is… on a sultry summer day – hey!
.
Coconut shells, coconut shells, barbeque to-day.
Oh what fun … a picnic is… on a sultry summer day.
 .
Driving to the beach …. planning how to play
Picking up the kids …. laughing all the way
.
Sand between our toes ….. salt water in our hair
Oh what fun the tropics are, with a lot of love to share.
 .
Coconut shells, coconut shells, barbeque to-day.
Oh what fun … a picnic is… on a sultry summer day.
.
Merry Christmas, Everybody.
.

12 December 2013

???????????????????????????????

.
Going to the airport yesterday evening, a friend and I had our eyes peeled for pretty trees. He had spotted what he thought was a jacaranda tree in bloom on Valley Road and I didn’t get a photo.   What I did stop for was my favorite flame tree in bloom by a village school on Valley Road.  Austin and I both love the tabletop shape of it .

.
Here is a close up.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
And we saw scads of this pink flowering bush.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
GONE TO TOWN – AGAIN
.
I took the camera with me and got that jacaranda tree this morning.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
… but Dr. Smarty Pants says it is “Queen of Flowers” (related to crepe myrtle) – not jacaranda at all.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Still – I had my camera in hand in town for a change and I got a few photos.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Here is a little strip of the local market – actually the sidewalk outside.  There is always an abundance of fresh produce for sale in piles and bundles.  I forget that people might consider it unusual or exotic.   I came home with bags of okra, long bean, eggplant, cucumbers, cabbage and “spinach.”
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This sign caught my eye.  The other end of this bridge got washed out by a major storm about 4 years ago.   After that, people used to be able to walk out on the half of a bridge.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Here is a keyhole shot from the new bridge (Melrose Bridge, in honour of the Melrose Cup – a big rugby prize)  – showing a brighter though less shapely flame tree, and a corner of the huge Hindu temple.
.
BACK  HOME
.
Two more swarms of bees were caught today and 2 of Junia’s visiting nephews got stung.  Luckily our daughter in Canada taught is a GREAT home remedy for bee stings – juice from a fresh cut onion.  It helps.
.
The big deal of the week was getting the two 1000 egg incubators from China that Austin ordered months ago.   Both of them got so banged up in transit !   We hope they work…..
.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA???????????????????????????????
.
God willing, they will work (or be repairable) – AND – Austin will be able to do the chicken breeding he wants to do – AND – he will be able to get good birds into the hands of multitudes of local farmers.
.
To end on a note of current pleasure, not just future hopes – here is Tarsi – the mother of all our beautiful dogs.
.
???????????????????????????????
.

5 December 2013

???????????????????????????????

.
FIJI TIME  does not mean “never happen” – it just means “be patient.”   Our new house was built on Fiji time: 4 months meant 12 months, and we are in it now.  I sit on the porch only about 20 yards (meters) from the old house – and things are almost the same, but not quite.  I’ve noticed a new bird – a little black and white bugger with a red blush on its chest – and a piercing one-note call.   Above is the best photo I could get of it so far.
.
12-6-13 stock lightning (stock photo)
.
The incredible drama has been the thunderstorms every afternoon this week.  I have never been so close to the center of lightning’s activity.  Dear God in heaven!   Incredible!  One day  electric bolts were strong enough to knock out a circuit breaker and thunderclaps shook the whole frame of this wooden house.  Dogs knocked down the gate to get onto the porch and as close to me as possible.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Oddly enough, I found it energizing instead of scary and was able to soothe the dogs.  I sat serenely on the porch with one set of windows not blocked and looked out in wonder.  A butterfly fluttered, looking for safe haven, but would not come into the dry porch.  A tree trembled in a curious manner: no movement of wind  could do that.   I finally figured out it was the leaves responding to rain drops.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
The pond is full again and the geese and ducks are happy.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
S’MORE ON CASHEWS
.
Austin wanted more documentation of his cashews, so he took a few more photos.   This is one of the trees.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Here is a close up of of a cashew fruit and a young cashew fruit.  So the nut grows first and then the fruit balloons out above it.  Who’d have guessed?
.
???????????????????????????????
.
And, for a bit of perspective, here is a fruit with Austin’s hand alongside.
.
And here is another fruit….
,
???????????????????????????????
.
OH BOY !
.
Austin also snapped this photo.  I didn’t remember that he said we had this growing  This is CACAO – cocoa beans.    Inside this thick yellow skin will be a bunch of seeds with a tender whitish jelly that we can suck off.  Inside the jelly is a white seedcase that holds a small tender seed that somehow can get roasted and turned into cocoa.   We’ve eaten the fruit, bought from the market, but no success at the cocoa roasting.  However, we have had cocoa from Samoa from this same fruit, and it was really great, so we KNOW it can be done.   Whee !!!
.
And that’s about it for around the farm for me this week, except for one very strange, very pretty sunset.  These are the hills to our south – instead of the normal beautiful sunset to the west.  The last of the lit up sky was just peeking under heavy clouds that did not blanket the notch.
.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
.