24 April 2014

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I noticed a lot of animals out in the field getting put to work this week.  Farmers must be putting in their winter crops (though the daytime temperatures still feel like summer to me).   This is one of my neighbors plowing with a pair of bulls.
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Bullocks always work as a team.  One is permanently the right-hand bull,  the other permanently pulls on the left side.  Here is another neighbor using bulls to do harrowing, I think.  The implement attached to the harness is like a curry-comb, not a wedge-like plow.  You can see how the dirt the bulls have covered on the left is in smaller chunks than the less-processed ground on the right.  (Beats me why there was still vegetation under where he was harrowing!  I’m not claiming to have any understanding of this process….)
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Here is yet another neighbor with his horse harnessed up to be the living watering can, while this family plants cabbages.
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All three of these farms lie between our home and Vina’s.
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NOT AGAIN
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Last year we had a mysterious and tragic duck die-off at the pond. .. 15 or so females just weakened and died.  Austin thought it was from them eating tadpoles, or something else in the pond.  He moved the survivors to the chicken pen.  Then the pond dried out.  Then the rain came and refilled the pond and he moved the ducks home to it, and all was ducky wonderful.    Now the pond level is dropping, and this handsome fellow is looking sick.  Darn it all.  He is such a beauty – he was born at the pond – this is the first male who has been sick.   I have hope that we got him out of there on time.  He’s been up in the kitchen in a box for 3 days and is looking better, not worse.
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NEW FRUIT
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Austin got a new variety of passion fruit and it is bearing now.  You can see that the new fruit is longer and is red.
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This fruit was MUCH sweeter than the normal yellow variety.   Yum!
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NEW CRITTER
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Akka found this new moth – in our kitchen – it’s not like you have to hunt for wildlife here.   What’s interesting about this fellow is the bump he has on the back of his head.
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Humpbacked – see?   Is that normal?
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YUM YUM
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Duruka is in season again.  Duruka (ndoo-roo-ka)  is a vegetable that is the flower of a grass that is similar to sugar cane.  Duruka can grow in swampy areas, but it needs very dry weather when it starts to flower.  If the flower starts getting moisture even from dew, it starts to go bad.  So duruka is a fussy crop.
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It is sold in bundles like this in the market.  I saw it in the market selling for $8/bundle – too much! We thought our own duruka was not ready for harvest.   But we got a phone call from an honest neighbor who told us there were some boys in our field.  They were stealing duruka!.    Junia unchained our fierce dog and ran to investigate.  The boys got away unidentified with a few bundles, but there is plenty more duruka down there and it is ripe.   Oh Boy!    This is a fraction of our harvest.
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Duruka has a bland taste but a unique texture.  It is kind of crunchy, squeaky against the teeth in a way that is very satisfying.    Fijians usually boil the duruka whole and serve with coconut milk, as above.  Indians usually mash it up dry, and make it as a curry.   It is delicious both ways.
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FATSOs !
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Tarsi always has well-fed puppies, but she only had 4 in this litter and they are getting 8 puppies-worth of nutrition.
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MORE BANG FOR THE BEAN
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My sister-in-law wrote and shared this news about something called “Bullet-proof coffee”
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Coffee with a tsp of coconut oil and a tsp of ghee in the morning, helps cognition and lean muscle mass building, gets rid of fat!!!  guards against dementia and alzheimers!   Put it in a blender or a frothed, it whips up so creamy and it is satisfying!!!    woof!!!
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I can tell you – with a bit of honey it is like having coffee candy for breakfast.   Woof, indeed!
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17 April 2014

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Last week while I was in Nadi, Vina’s brother-in-law asked about the papaya seeds he’d sent Austin.  I had no idea, said I’d have to ask Austin, and wasn’t all that interested …. and then I saw the papayas in HIS yard.    WOW!   I’m Interested!   He tried to send some seedlings with me – I told him I was afraid I’d kill them.   But WOW.  Must ask Austin when he gets home.
 
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A FIJIAN FUNERAL
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My friend Mary’s mother died in the neighboring village last week.  I went to the funeral, because I love Mary – and I was very happy that the family allowed me to take photos, so that I could share the beautiful Fiji customs with all of you.
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Every funeral starts with a reguregu, a traditional ceremony where family and friends come to offer gifts to the family to help with the funeral expenses.  
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A family member accepts the reguregu gifts with a speech, usually given while the speaker stands on his knees.
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Then the visitors are invited for tea.  We were in one of 3 “sheds” (temporary posts holding loose roofing irons) that were erected for this funeral.   Villagers had gathered grass for the ground to make it comfortable.  Tarps had been spread and then cloth runners as “tablecloths”
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Later, in the home where the viewing takes place, the floor is prepared with mats.
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Lots of mats.
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I learned that there are 3 major types of Fijian mats – NAI ONI – the very large mats.  VAKABAUTI  – the mats with colorful yarn.  and  DAVODAVO – the small every day mats.  All three kinds are used in a funeral.
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The ones I know are at a funeral are a kind of vakabauti – they always have a very wide decorated part along one side.
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Kava is another essential element of a Fijian funeral.  Here is  kava (also known as yaqona or grog) being presented in the house.
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And kava being taken outside in one of the sheds.
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No Fijian funeral takes place without masi, the cloth made of pounded plant fibers.  At this funeral I learned about the piece of masi called “kumi” (beard)!   I’ve been to a lot of funerals before and either did not notice it or they did not have it.   These are HUGE pieces of masi that are hung up on either side of where the casket is brought.
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When the casket arrives, the kumi is lowered, and the mourners have privacy while they cry and weep.   
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The casket is carried to the church, where there is a loving and dignified Christian service.  The acapella choir was magnificent.
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The pall bearers are traditionally from the extended family-of-birth, not -of-marriage.  The casket is carried around the village square, led by the ministers who preached at the church service.
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The spokesman for the family-by-marriage presents a tabua (whale’s tooth) to the family-of-birth.  I take it they are saying something like “thank you for loaning us your relative” and how much the relative was appreciated.
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The spokesman of the family-of-birth accepts the tabua and also gives a speech.  At another time there is a lot more exchange of gifts – drums of kerosene, mats and so forth.  These customs all reaffirm the ties of affection between the two families.   After this, while the pall bearers hold the casket aloft, everyone walks underneath the casket to say their last goodbye.
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The casket is carried to the graveyard – a bit of a trek in this case, blessedly above the flood plain.
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Gravediggers had dug a clean hole about four feet deep.  They respectfully received the coffin and secured the mats around it.
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A choir of angels sang as mourners threw in handfuls of dirt, and the gravediggers started shoveling the soil back into the hole, on top of the coffin.  (Normally the ladies are wearing black – but my daughter-in-law and I both think the white is really terrific and hope it becomes the custom)
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In this village they build a little wall with stones around the grave.  It was my first time to see this.  The reason is that they do not have the resources to finish graves with cement blocks the way families do in urban areas.
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As with all Fijian funerals the grave is finished with masi cloth being spread out and staked down, and then flowers put on top.
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Every Fijian funeral ends with a wonderful, huge meal fed to everyone who is there.  I asked a young man beside me what is the significance of the meal.   He thought a bit and then said, “It is so you will be happy.”
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10 April 2014

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LATE EDITION THIS WEEK, BECAUSE …….
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THE CATS GOT DE-SEXED TODAY!
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Above is a photo of Vina’s husband holding the feed sacks that contained Betty and Turtle.   We got there when the wonderful Animals Fiji clinic in Nadi opened.   The staff told me another inexpensive (and better) way to transport cats.
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Here the cats are in laundry baskets with the lids zip-tied on.  Who’da thunk?   Betty and Turtle were much happier on the ride back (but also sleepy) – and they are doing fine now that they’re home.  The people at the Animal Clinic are great.   I’ll give them a plug at the end of this post.
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GUESS WHAT
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This is a tamarind flower.  I’d never noticed them before.  
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If they hadn’t been inside the tree, I might have though they were some kind of orchid.
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LAST WEEK – one person mentioned not having any idea of what a mangrove crab looked like from my photo – so here is a stock photo.  That’s what our mangrove crabs look like before they are put in a basket …. or cooked..
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THEY’RE BACK
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Little spider webs in the grass – got a photo this time.   I snapped this on Monday: actually the webs in the grass are gone again already.   I actually don’t understand this – I didn’t think spiders had seasons.  I need to start paying more attention.
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FROM BUSH TO CUP
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Akka showed up with a bunch of red berries – “Guess what, Mom.”   I had no clue.  It was coffee berries.   I asked him to take a shot of the coffee bush for me and he told me that was LAME, I had to come get the photos myself.   Above is a bush – so you’ll recognize one if you see it.
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And that’s how they grow.
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And then WOWSER – so many berries!
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And more!   YES!   By the way, the berries themselves are edible – or at least not toxic.  They are a little sweet, a little astringent.  But who’d eat berries when the goodies are in the seeds?
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So here are the production steps.   
I – pop the seed out of the berry if you have strong hands – or peel it off if you are a weakling.
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2- soak the seeds in water for a hour or two so the slimy stuff around the seed washes off.  Dry them.
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3 – pull the dried inner shell off the seed.
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4 – slow roast the seeds.   Akka did this in a frying pan on low heat with a tiny bit of coconut oil.  (Oh, I  wish cocoa were this easy!)
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5 – grind, brew, enjoy.   
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Truthfully, this was not the best coffee I ever had, but it was much better than some.  It’s definitely coffee – I’m glad we have it here on the farm.
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OLD MYSTERY – MAYBE SOLVED
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There is a line of holes in one or two bananas leaves at the bottom of Cardiac Hill again.  It’s been months since I saw that.
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I found this hitchhiker on my sleeve at the top of Cardiac Hill moments later, after my run up.   My first time to notice a fuzzy caterpillar like this.   There are lots of holes in lots of other leaves – but I like thinking that this is the banana leaf culprit. 
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PLEASE CHIP IN AND SPREAD THE WORD
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The guys at Animals Fiji are great.  When I arrived – actually 10 minutes before they were supposed to open – there were already at least six people on site, sweeping, cleaning cages, getting ready for the day.  They were warm and friendly.  The animals are obviously loved and very well taken care of.  Casey (the lady who seemed like the manager) said that all the money that is given is used for the animals, and I believe her.   I wish now I had taken a photograph of the cats and kittens in their cages with blankets and stuffed toys.  It was all so sweet – and so basic.   The staff are determined to soldier on and keep this place going.  I pray they get all the help they need and then some.  Here is their website:  http://www.animalsfiji.org/
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3 April 2014

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I’m often surprised on Wednesday nights when I look at photos I’ve taken all week.  By then I have totally forgotten what I’d been looking at.  Here are fish being sold in the public market – they looked quite fresh.  There usually aren’t a whole lot of fish available right in the market – most days there aren’t any. Fish are brought in on the weekends, when customers are more likely to have money in their pockets. Same time Austin takes his baby chicks in to sell them.
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These are “kai” – river clams.   They can taste good when cooked by someone who is meticulous about cleaning them and who uses a lot of garlic.   A few weeks ago Junia was telling us how you find kai when he took the girls and me to the river – you dig in the river sand with your toes.  We are too far inland to get them, but in principle, about 10 kilometers down river, that is how the women are harvesting these guys.   Austin remembers when he was in Fiji in the 70s, the kai were double the current size or bigger.   He says they are also moving up river – because of sea level rise, there is a bit of salt in the water further inland now.
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In the same spot of the market, there was this bundle of yumminess – mangrove crabs.   Just the one bundle and it got sold pretty quickly.
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ON THE ROAD TO SUVA
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I forgot all about it…..  I was in the bus, and it was raining like crazy , again.  Not such a big deal, until we approached the coastal town of Navua.    Son-of-a-gun – Nauva was flooded out!
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We could not go into town, but had to stop and let the passengers for Navua out on Queen’s Highway at the intersection.    
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IN SUVA
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I forgot all about this, too.   Walking from where I was staying to where I had a meeting, I decided to make friends with the beautiful bougainvillea that some loving gardener had planted.
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One of the nicest qualities of bougainvillea is the variety of colors of the flowers .
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But another wonderful quality is how easily they become pressed flowers and how long they hold their color after a week inside a book.    I resisted the temptation to demonstrate it with these.  Suva needs all the color it can get.
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ON THE ROAD BACK FROM SUVA
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This is the only thing I did remember.  This funny, funny pine tree that I have seen so many times.   Driving back it is right in your face at one spot of the road.
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Pine needles grow straight off the trunk, so the tree itself looks like a bottle brush …. or a man with a really hairy neck that needs shaving.
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Thanks to Austin for coming to Suva and giving me a ride home.  My out-the-bus-window skills would never have sufficed.
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