27 February 2014

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This is a goose egg.   You know the saying, “That’s quite a goose egg you’ve got there” for a large hematoma (bleed) in your scalp?
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Hmm…. I never had a “goose egg” as big as a real one.   We had a bunch goose eggs under the geese down at the pond  – but after 30 days, Austin suspected they were all duds.  He candled them a few days ago – they WERE duds.
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So he blew them out.  Now he and Monica are planning to do some egg art with them.
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He thinks he knows why the eggs were all infertile.  Geese mate for life, and all the geese we’ve got are brothers and sisters so they are not interested in each other.  I think I like geese better than dogs.
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WHAT IN THE HECK IS THAT DEPARTMENT
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This weird stick – about 7 feet long – was leaning up against the back gate on our kitchen-porch when I got home from the States.   Turns out it is the upper part of the trunk of a “balabala,” i.e. tree fern.   I’ll pull this photo back up some time when I can do a little photo essay on tree ferns,  They are actually quite important in Fiji.
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SITTING AT THE SIGATOKA TOWN BUS STAND
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I decided to grab a photo of the bird,
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And saw something interesting just behind it.
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Bare feet in town.
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All these were snapped in the course of 5 minutes.  School kids and a few older folks.   Public barefooteness is pretty common even in Suva.  Junia’s mother, God bless her, was barefoot in town about half the times I saw her.  Once somebody walked away with my shoes (flipflops, my ONLY shoes) from a meeting on a Saturday evening, and I had to go to town barefoot myself to buy another pair.  That was probably eight years ago, and I can still feel the MHCC escalator under my feet.
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CUSTARD APPLE
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Here Junia is picking a custard apple right beside my house.   This tree was hiding in a whole bunch of foliage that Austin thinned out about a month ago.
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This fruit, also called “sweet sop” and “corazon,”  has a fresh, sweet and perfumed taste, but is unfortunately really mealy.  More than mealy – grainy.   If anyone knows any way to enjoy the taste and by-pass the texture, please let me know.
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WEIRD PLANT OF THE MONTH
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This was in the yard of one of Austin’s friends in town.  It has little flowers growing out of the plant’s blades.
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Austin was, of course, delighted by it and took some cuttings.   So by and by we’ll have the little stranger here as well.
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WEATHER NEWS:   It looks like the storm may miss us.  Hope so.
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And to all my Baha’i family and friends – HAPPY AYYAM-i-HA.
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20 February 2014

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I spent an extra two days in British Columbia, so I raced around my daughter’s neighborhood and took photos of the beautiful evergreens that are the primary component of all the landscaping here.
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Then I asked her terrific father-in-law – with a PhD in trees – what they were.  This tree, the evergreen counterpart of my tropical Cousin Itt trees, is a yellow cedar found along the Pacific Northwest coast and is very aromatic, he says.
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Here is another shot of Itt-2, I mean the cedar, with an ornamental Thuja plicata.    I had no idea there was anything called Thoo-ya.   Like a lawyer with a lisp.
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These are Austrian pines with a juniper hedge.
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In this shot I have a blue spruce (“needles like NEEDLES”) on the left, and the world-famous Douglas fir on the right.
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This poor tree – I saw this tree in several yards – is a grafted weeping birch.   Makes me think of bad haircuts.  I’d love to see a photo from summer.   Now back to evergreens.
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This was by far my favorite bit of landscaping on my daughter’s road.  The variety of evergreens side by side was astounding.   Ralph (Dr. Trees) told me there is Chamaecyparis and juniper and pine here.
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Here is a closer look.    For more on these trees – Ralph pointed me to this website.  http://oregonstate.edu/trees/      And then I flew to North Carolina.
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And found this evergreen inside my cousin’s house.  Who’d have guessed?   We enjoyed a nightly Christmas do-over of holiday movies until the wee hours.  Her husband said it was ok with him, but we weren’t getting any more presents.  ha ha ha.   This trip has been my present.   Today I am heading home.

13 February 2014

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No, I’m not in Fiji any more.   The weather here hovers a little above and a little below zero Celsius.  I’ve started adjusting, but crikey!, it is HARD to get out of bed in the mornings.
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Inside the house it is a case of Beauty and the Beast.
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 “Beauty” – actually 3 beauties are long-hair Ragdoll cats.  Two that belong to my co-suegra (fellow mother-in-law) and one that belongs to my daughter.   This one is Calista – the calico Ragdoll.
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My photos don’t do her justice.   There is Ria, a tortoise-shell Ragdoll that I didn’t photograph, and a beautiful flame point Siamese Ragdoll named Leo, but the photos were exceptionally horrible, so here is a stock photo.
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Here is the Beast,  Boris.
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Again, the photos don’t do justice.  This is a real beauty shot for Boris.   Good Lord – what a dog!    He was actually bred for this!!    Boris is a Bull Terrier, with a really rounded forehead, set back ears, tiny triangle eyes and a porcine body.  They do not hunt or bark when strangers arrive or do anything else of normal doggy use.  Bull Terriers are marketed as the “gentleman’s companion” and some famous hockey commentator has one.    I vote for letting that commentator have two of them.  (I believe all the women of the house vote the same, but I don’t want to cause any family trouble.)
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A real benefit of doing this blog is that my family all make an effort to get me out to see some interesting stuff.  My daughter took me to Mill Lake Park.  There is a wonderful mile-long nature hike around the lake!
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There were so many large birds in flight – swooping down nearby.  This was the only shot that came out at all.  The big birds were magnificent.
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There was this TREE the like of which I’d never seen before!
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Like evergreen snakes growing off it!    I’m told it is a “monkey tree” or “monkey puzzle tree” (Araucaria genus according to the resident arborist).   A local elder tells me that when she and her sibling rode together in a car, the first to see a monkey tree could yell “Monkey Tree” and punch the other one in the arm – but she did not teach this game to her children.
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I call this scene ” The Rules and the Softies” –
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Here are the rules, from the right of the scene.   Clear enough.  As an aside, I can’t help wondering about those 15 pounds of feces per week – is that per bird?  Good grief, I’d think we’d all be buried – there are hundreds of birds here.    And “pounds” – hello!  This is Canada – they are SO metric until they want to make a point.  “15 pounds” does sound so much more substantial than “6.8 kilograms.”  Anyway – enough distraction … here is the left flank of that same shot.
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A benefactor surrounded by grateful birds getting a little handout.   The softie.  I saw this happening a few times.  One gent looked quite sheepish.
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A few meters further along the trail, I met three very handsome dogs!   Like house pet-sized Great Danes.  A chat with their friendly owner turned up the information that they are Whippets  Whippets don’t shed and they don’t have doggy smell.   They look very intelligent.   They are natural athletes.  Too bad that hockey commentator didn’t have a Whippet companion……
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Finally – here is the nature bit in Canada that most reminds me of home in Fiji –  DUCKS and a POND.  Isa! Isa!    The ducks are walking on ice.
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There was one not-yet-frozen spot out in the middle of the pond and lots of ducks went out there to swim.     Cold bath, anybody?
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Austin – I know you’ll like this.  These are really pretty ducks (mallards?) – some have yellow bills and some have white.   All have bright orange feet.    Our granddaughter announced to me that the green-headed ducks are boys and the brown ducks are girls.  I told her I thought she was right.   Was she?
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6 February 2014

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Tonight I’m flying to Canada for my first trip out of Fiji in nearly 4 years.    This week I asked myself,  “What would I really  miss (besides the people) if I weren’t coming back in two weeks?”    
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I’d miss this view from our kitchen.  It’s a wall of green with some pale pink ginger flowers in the foreground – I see it every day as I wash the dishes.  The prettiest sink view I’ve ever had.
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I’d miss coconut trees.    
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I’d really miss the coconut trees.   Nothing says “tropics” to me like coconut trees on the horizon.   Many years ago, I had a friend who moved from Guam to California.  I wanted to make her homesick so I sent her a picture postcard of a silhouetted coconut palm at sunset.  She told me when she saw it, she cried.
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I’d miss the best road in Fiji.   Actually, I probably wouldn’t miss it, since Canada and the US have good paved roads everywhere – but when I was walking around with my camera, I looked at Valley Road and I was so PROUD.   In all of Fiji there is no road that is better than this.  The nation’s largest and most travelled road, Queen’s Highway, is only 2-lanes, has mostly uneven pavement, lots of speed bumps, a washed out bit that is taking a year to repair, and so on.  We must enjoy Valley Road in this state while it lasts.
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Abundant flowers – more than there are names for.   A few months ago Austin and I were disagreeing about yellow flowers, it turned out we were talking about two different flowers.  His “loop de lou’s – that grow in the drain”   are the ones above.   I have no idea what their real name is.
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Never knowing what is coming out of the garden.  Junia was very proud of these 3 plump pumpkins.   My muddy foot is at the bottom for perspective.
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MYSTERY OF THE WEEK – black geckos.  I didn’t get pictures, but we saw a black gecko one evening and a different black gecko the next evening.  (the first one had a stubby tail and short foreleg).   All the geckos we’ve ever known are a pale beige.  Black geckos are very weird.
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HARD REALITIES – a little brown dog has reportedly gotten into the duck pond and torn apart the duck and goose nests, cracking and eating even the goose eggs.  None of the neighbors own this dog, and in fact he has allegedly been equally destructive at their farms and nobody has been able to catch him.    I hear, a very very fast acting poison is being set out for him.   Horrible, isn’t it!    I debated not mentioning this in the blog – but it is part of the bigger picture of life here.   What else can all the farmers do when civilized refinements (animal control services) are not available?  This is a time when I think a shotgun could be a mercy.  
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HAPPIER THINGS – here is a little dam Austin made so the grandkids would have a swimming hole.
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Once Austin starts playing with rocks, he always ends up making cairns.   This is the tallest of three I found when I went down to look at his dam.   He used to have one by the house and tell all the visitors that it was his earthquake warning system.
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While I was by the creek, I also saw a number of trees who have lost so much soil by their roots that I know they will upturn in one of the next few floods.
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AND FINALLY …..
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This is for you, Karolyn –
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Karolyn writes a blog from London, and she was missing the sunshine from India in her post that  I read yesterday.    http://wordpress.com/read/post/id/25921417/3656/     I replied that we had plenty of sun and I’d take a shot from my bedroom window.   I did, and this is it.   We have so much sun that it takes you by the shoulders, pushes you into the ground, and laughs at your attempts to move.   Personally, I am looking forward to a few days in the polar vortex.
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