30 January 2014

Today, a storm is upon us.  It has no name because the winds are nothing to brag about – but there is rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Enough that the river is rising, the road to Sigatoka is undriveable, and schools have been closed.

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At the farm this means that my solar clothes dryer is totally inoperative, and I do not have enough line space under any roof to handle all  the laundry (whine, whine).   Also of note, the power may go out soon – and with that: Internet (hence the hurry and the no photos).

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 Junia is hastily harvesting all the bananas that have the potential to ripen, before the bushes get washed into the river.  

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Austin and Akka have gone to tow Akka’s truck to higher ground.

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.With luck I’ll be back next week in a more normal fashion.

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23 January 2014

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Resident grandbaby Keith plays in a washtub with visiting grandbaby Hazel from Canada – with all my grandchildren here (there are two bigger ones, too), how can I think about anything else?
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Nonetheless, Granddaddy harvested corn and is so proud he wanted good photos this time around.
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 This photo allows for a peek at the cobs.  You can see that the yellow corn is sitting on a purple cob.  Strange, eh?
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Remember Buzzy, the naked-neck local chicken we got last August.   He became a Daddy this week !
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This was Buzzy Jr.  He was cute while he lasted.  His egg accidentally got rolled in the last 24 hours before hatching and so he was too stressed and didn’t make it.  But at least we know Old Buzzy is a virile fellow.
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STRANGE BUG OF THE WEEK
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I don’t know what it is – and I know the picture is horribly fuzzy – but this bug has a huge spray of antennae on each side of its head.  Super-sensors.  According to Akka this bug can tell if there is a suitable mate within 20 kilometers.
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RETRACTION!
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I was wrong – AGAIN.   This photo from last week I said was mud dauber grubs – well, Dr. Smarty Pants informed me that they are NOT mud dauber grubs.  They are cabbage worm grubs that the mud dauber stole and put in the nest.  This is his whole explanation:  “Those ‘grubs’ are paralyzed caterpillars.  The wasps sting them a bit and then stuff them in the mud house and lay an egg in each cell, and the developing wasp larvae eats the caterpillars alive.  The other species of mud dauber  only catches spiders for their nest.  Unlike paper wasps, the completed nests have no adults on them (the entire thing is made by a single female wasp), so they can just be removed and cracked open and the larvae fed to the chicks.”
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What a hard way to come by some chicken food!
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16 January 2014

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This is the “life is humorous, life is irritating, life is tragic, life is triumphant”  edition.
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HA HA
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When last in Suva, I tucked into a nearby cafe for a quick meal.  I saw the breakfast menu (photo above).   Would you like a  Bun of Contempt  with your tea?.
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IRRITATING
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The real reason I was getting desperate to ship my quilt to a safe location is that a blinking mud dauber started a nest on my PILLOW!   A few days later on Austin’s pillow.   Here is a one-day creation on our keyboard.
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On our bug light.   How’s that for irony?
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And on a louver in my mother-in-law’s room.
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Yes, everywhere I turn right now a new mud dauber nest in progress.   But if in some dimension the bugs have their version of a blog – then they are reporting me as an equal irritation…
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Or a disaster – I destroy the nests as I find them.   These are the grubs.   Ugh.
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TRAGIC
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This is a small shell I found under the clothes line late last month.  I found it charming.
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I put it together and took it to Austin.   He said it must be from a wild bird (DUH!).  And we went to the nearby mango tree and looked for the nest.
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It was up there.
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So I planned to watch for the parent birds, and later the babies, but I forgot.   Last week when I was hanging clothes beside a pen that had young chicks, red ants attacked my feet.  I saw them swarmed upon what I thought were 3 dead baby chickens.  I told Austin and he came running.  The bird corpses were not chicks but the hatchlings, and Austin guessed they were washed out of the nest by the heavy rains.   Who would have ever thought of the rain as being a danger to nestlings?
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TRIUMPH !
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Our heartiest congratulations to Betty Cat – who had the infinitely GOOD SENSE (finally) to find a suitable tomcat to sire her kittens.   She gave birth to four completely healthy and whole male kittens.   She is fiercely protective and ran off with one of them before I could get the photo snapped.   These lovely kittens are a source of joy to us now and will easily find very good homes when the time comes.    YAY !!
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9 January 2014

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The picture at the top is normal bananas – a stalk of them hanging in our kitchen.
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Bananas have cousin in Fiji called “vudi”  (pronounced VOON-dee).   They are much fatter than a regular banana, and really have to be cooked to be enjoyed.   The typical dish here is fully ripe, boiled and served with coconut cream.  Yum.   
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Here is Akka holding a stalk of vudi.  Can you see the difference?
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The vudi bush is nearly twice as tall as a normal banana bush.   This is really all I’d planned to say about  vudi.   I was planning to show some photos of the geese (snooze) and some bugs (yuck) … but last night…..
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Austin brought up the heart of a vudi bush he’d cut down.   We knew that some banana hearts are edible, so he wanted to try this one.
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And then he discovered that the vudi heart has incredible fibers!
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So today, Austin kept playing with it.
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He tried wrapping his finger with it.   Lua (visiting daughter) remembered that when she was in kindergarten in Pohnpei, she cut her foot really badly once.   The teacher cut down a nearby banana bush, took the heart, beat it with a stick, took a handful of the pulp and put it on her foot.  It stopped the bleeding.  She was grateful for that – it was nicer than getting a wound beaten with a sandal, which was the village treatment she’d experienced before.
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The vudi fibers made a very good-looking bandage.
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So Austin made more that he spread into a gauze.   The gauze is soft, slightly sticky, and very absorbent.  We came up with a lot of possible uses for it.    Austin noticed how strong the fibers are, and thinks we might be able to make rope from it, if necessary.   Then came the question, can we use it for a wick?  So some old cooking oil in a small bowl – a bit of the banana fiber – TA DA!   Instant lamp!   Yes, we can use it for a wick.
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So, for all these reasons, VUDI is the star of the blog for this week.  And, with all those other benefits, it turns out that the vudi heart IS edible – it is sweet and tasty.  Surprise, surprise, surprise.
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2 January 2014

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HAPPY  2014  EVERYBODY !

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It’s been a crazy week.  I  traveled to Labasa, the big town on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s other large island.   I took my camera, but I did not use it very effectively.   So I am starting off this post with a photo of RED dirt from the moving bus.   The road cut in Vanua Levu had the reddest dirt I’ve ever seen, and this is a girl who travelled across Georgia (the Peanut state) many times.    Behind the tinted window is the REALLY red patch I was trying to capture.  Ah well.   I don’t know what good Red Dirt is, except for growing peanuts and staining white clothes – but Vanua Levu has got it.
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I took the Patterson bus and ferry service.  We got on the bus in Suva at 4:30 am.  That’s right – 0430 in military time.  It was PACKED.  We traveled up King’s Road, arriving at the Natovi landing a few hours later   As we waited for the ferry to arrive, there were ladies carrying basins of fresh-cut pineapple and watermelon.  I bought the pineapple – a taste of paradise.
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The ferry ride was about 3 hours, followed by another 4 hours of bus on Vanua Levu between Nabouwalu and Labasa.
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AROUND LABASA
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Once in Labasa, I thought about flora and fauna and getting some photos.   This is this little mountain across the road from Jone’s home.  It reminded me of Sokehs Rock in Pohnpei that I climbed with Akka when he was only 5.
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And I was happy to see this cypress in Jone’s yard.  It is the grandchild of a tree from the Baha’i cemetery in Haifa, Israel.   Austin inadvertently brought 2 cypress pinecones with him when we moved here in 1999.  They exploded with 42 seeds, of which 40 grew into trees.  Friends wanted cuttings and seedlings, and Austin shared.   Ta da!
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Jone’s wife Ana made a garden in front of her house using old tyres.  It is a festive way to recycle.
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HEADING HOME
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Again, i missed photo ops – the moving bus excuse.  I did not get the farmer in ankle-deep water plowing with oxen – what was he preparing for?   The middle-America looking farmhouses and then one that was painted purple and pink.
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On the return ferry I made a point to walk around and pay attention.   Here are some folks having a simple lunch on the deck.
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And other folks having a typical rest on the boat by spreading a mat or sulu and stretching out.
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And something educational.   Clouds will generally form over islands.  You can know where an island is by seeing the clouds piled up above it.
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Can you make out the two islands?
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See?
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HAPPY NEW YEAR – FIJI STYLE
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As I write, people are throwing baby powder and  water on each other – they just got me.
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*  MaY  eVeRy  DaY  oF  ThiS  YeaR   bRiNg   YoU   gReaT   jOy !  *
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