26 June 2014

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Austin is so proud of the green egg he has bred, and he has great plans to breed a “Fiji blue” egg if he can just import the right heritage chickens.   Anyhow, I used these very eggs in the cake for Ludi’s memorial – sort of to represent the races of humanity (uniting the races was her life’s work).   When I showed this photo to the ladies yesterday, they were very touched …. and SO happy I hadn’t used duck eggs. (I don’t know what they have against duck eggs?!  They eat duck, for crying out loud, and duck eggs make the best cake.)
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A WALK BY MYSELF
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A dear friend and amateur naturalist is here and we were going to take a walk together.  He and his 85 year old mother took the lead, and I tried to catch up – and didn’t.  Anyway, I was in this stream bed and had my camera with me.
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I noticed that this Whatever Weed is pretty cute close up.
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At normal distance it is just a mess.   I took it as a good lesson in looking more closely.
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A new mystery plant – the fruit looked like the poison peanut from living fence (bainidakai – 22 Aug 13) that made Akka sick – but it’s not living fence.
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Sweet little flower.
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Basil!   I thought it was basil there in the dry stream bed, and smelled a crushed leaf, and was right.  And around it were tiny moths!
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I tried really hard to photograph them.
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Finally with the bigger one, I found a bit of success.
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Nice looking fellow, no?   And definitely a moth – wings down.
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I didn’t have success at the end with these creatures.
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 Something very fast on the bottom of the creek bed.  I tried standing still and waiting for one to appear, but they avoided me.  Austin told me they are endemic crabs, unique to Fiji.
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 A WALK WITH KEVEN
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Keven, a dear friend for more than 3 decades, is the son of Naturegraph Publsihers and is very observant.  During a visit in Puerto Rico, he idly pointed out obvious things I’d habitually overlooked.  I felt sure I would learn stuff if I could go on a walk with him in my back yard.   So here is Keven with an old and oddly-sharpened machete of ours, planning to hack a path up our overgrown road if necessary.   His plucky 85 year old mom joined us.
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We were going to the top of the hill on our far property.  First thing Keven noticed was the faraway tree with the beautiful yellow leaves.  I’d noticed it too.   He pointed out the white bark – I had not noticed that.  Neither of us knew what it was.  I asked Austin – it is the wi (wee) tree – it gives the fruit known as Deutsch mango.
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Keven noticed a pretty fern.  Ok.  And then a different pretty fern beside it.  A different one.
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  I could see that it was lighter green, but that’s all.  Keven pointed out that in the first one, each leaf is branched, and the second one has leaves like spears.   After knowing where to look, I could see it.   Woof!
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There was discussion of animal droppings as we climbed the hill.
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There was discussion of butterflies and moths – he saw a butterfly he liked.
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At the top, Keven liked this bush.  Look familiar?  It is the one I liked in the creek bed.  I found out later that it is sonei  (so-nay), and is a weed that is related to eggplant and okra, gives a small inedible fruit and is definitely an introduced species because it has thorns.   Endemic plants do not have thorns because they did not need them.
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We were this far from our house – on the top of another hill.that we practically had to hack a path to….
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and Keven’s mother noticed this odd track.   Really that is so fun and so weird.  It looks like somebody had a bicycle up here.   Who?  How?  WHY?
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Anyway – many thanks to Keven and his dear mother for taking that walk with me.
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06-26-14 butterfly mating 4  Cr
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MATING LEPIDOPTERA
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Back at the house Akka showed up with 2 butterflies mating.
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06-26-14 butterfly mating 3  Cr 06-26-14 butterfly mating 2  Cr 06-26-14 butterfly mating 1 Cr
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Our voyeurism ended when the male flew off with his mate drooping below.
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19 June 2014

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When I saw this glove, I knew I had missed the collection of the bee boxes – sorry about that.  But I did get a lot more of the honey processing.
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Austin showed off the comb of a box of wild bees he’d caught.  He didn’t have honey trays for the box, so he just used sheets of cardboard and they built this big comb.
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He opened up to this cell of pollen – which he then made me chew because he was sure it would be good for my allergies.  Not as tasty as honey.  Not close.  {{ gag }}
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This is a honey tray – full of honey.
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This is Akka using a “hive tool” to scrape the caps off the comb.
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The trays then go into this extractor – see how 2 trays are in and where a 3rd tray would go?   The trays are spun around by gears attached to that handle..     The honey is extracted by centrifugal force, running down to the bottom of this smooth-sided cylinder.  There is a tap at the bottom.
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This is a bee box with five trays in it that still need spinning.
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After all the spinning the wax scrapings needed to be squeezed in cheesecloth to get the honey from them.   That was done mostly by Austin’s brother Jack.  But my hands were all a’honey, too.   Then we took the basin out for the bees to clean.   Some of the poor bees stuck to the honey like flypaper and drowned.   By the time I got this photo, the clean up was nearly done.    We are “pre-cleaning” the extractor the same way, too.
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Nearby are some of the bee boxes in situ.   We have bee boxes in 4 spots on the property that I can think of.
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Our honey haul this time was 145 pounds of it – three and a half breakfast cracker tubs.
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Yumminess.
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UNDOING OVERBREDING
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I’m seeing chickens in our YARD which is unusual.  The half-jungly (half-wild) birds that Austin has bred are just a whole lot smarter than the imported hybrids.  Many have found a way over the fence and spend the day scratching for food in the grass.   Whenever I try to get a photo, they head right back to the chicken house, as if to say “all right, all right, we’ll go home”
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But they don’t go in…. they go by the fence, where their entrapped brethren can look on in envy.
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FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE INCUBATOR
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Nothing much new here – more hatching chicks.   Austin has 10 dozen babies to sell this weekend.
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FAREWELL
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Austin got my camera and was snapping sunsets like crazy one evening.   Though we had not heard yet, I wonder if it was related to the passing of our dear 92 year old friend Ludi back in Maine.   Ludi visited us 4 times at the farm.  She was just here last December, and it is hard to believe she is gone.   Here is a photo of her from her last October – getting to know a new friend .
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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We love you, Ludi – miss you like crazy – and hope to meet again.
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12 June 2014

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Betty Cat had a good week.
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THE GOOD OLD DAYS
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This has been on my mind for ages – how I never see laundry hanging in the US anymore – even in Austin Texas in the middle of summer in poor neighborhoods!  All this free solar energy going to waste.   Anyway, I ran around the neighborhood and grabbed a few shots.   Maybe somebody else besides me finds the sight of a full clohesline cheerful.
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I especially liked the last one – clothes line by the satellite dish.  You don’t have to be last millennium to still hang your clothes out.
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FLUFFY FRESHNESS
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This is what 12 hours of air drying can do.   The duckling in the middle is a new hatchling, and he is flanked by siblings who are about 12 hours old..
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ODD STUFF HANGING
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My neighbor needed a pumpkin, and Austin said “sure, there is one hanging in the tree.”   Hanging in the tree?  A pumpkin?    Sure enough, a pumpkin vine had crawled up a tree by the chicken pen.  Look at the funny heart shape of this pumpkin that never sat on the ground..
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ODD STUFF SWIMMING
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Yes, this is a bucket of toads.   By the rain tank.   This might be x-rated stuff in cane toad world.
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DON;T TRY THIS AT HOME
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Austin got excited about these millipedes he found in an old log.   The little round wood pellets are their millipede poopoo.
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He thought the photo wasn’t good enough, so he put the millipede in his hands to photograph.
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And about 10 minutes later, he realized he’d gotten chemical burns from the millipede secretions.   (Luckily, they did not get worse than this)
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MAHOGANY
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This is a pod of mahogany seeds.  They look a lot like maple seeds!
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I haven’t noticed mahogany on our property, but on Valley Road there is a magnificent tunnel of mahogany trees near the agriculture station.  These beautiful trees were at the end of the pavement, and stood as gateway to the valley.   One family member was so enamored with them on her first visit that we had to stop the car so she could hug one.   When the pavement was being extended on Valley Road, two of the trees were being cut down.  Austin went and yelled at the crew, saying no one had the right to take these down.  The crew said it was only those two, and it ordered by the power company.  Maybe that was true – but we never saw a change with the power lines.
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COLDISH RIVER
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This is the River Safari landing, a couple of kilometers down stream from where we stay.  I don’t remember why Austin wanted to bring out guests here since it is a short walk to the river from our house.  Anyhow, I wasn’t getting in, because I didn’t feel like being cold and wet.  Then I thought of Double Rafters.   One recent guest – Taylor – is a working cowboy son of the Double Rafters Ranch.  To keep their genuine cattle business going, they take tourists on real week-long cattle drives and have done so for years.   Their cattle drive is now on my “bucket list” and I really, really, REALLY want to go.   I told myself, “Kim, if you can’t get in this river, you can’t go on the cattle drive.”  and I dove right in.  Wasn’t bad at all.     This is the place:   http://www.doublerafter.com/home.asp
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Here’s something I’d have never guessed about cattle ranching …. a lot of cattle get “lost” – not temporarily misplaced, but permanently gone.  Taylor said in his father’s whole lifetime of cattle ranching, there was only one year that every head of cattle was accounted for.  I was raised on the Bible story of  the shepherd leaving 99 sheep while he went to find the one.  I don’t know if sheep are easier than cows, but I doubt it.   Much to think on.   How can you even lose 30-50 cows?  I asked Taylor.  He explained that the cows don’t always stay together.  Each pasture is 1500 acres or so of mountain terrain with meadows, and there are predators.  There is never a year with 100% survival, even that fully accounted year.  Ah, nature…..
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Thanks everybody who sent condolences about Tarsi.  The move went well.  Austin said it was nighttime and too dark to get a good photo of her with Michael – but he said they were very happy to see each other.
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5 June 2014

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Move over, Grumpy Cat – here is  GRUMPY CHICK.
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Grumpy Chick is a good fit for this week’s blog.
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For example, I finally saw an owl here …. and it was dead on the side of the road.   When I told Austin I saw it, he was incensed that some neighbor boys might have been shooting it (I guess he thought slingshots since there aren’t any guns).   He felt abashed when I told him that right near it was a dead rat:  we had just put out rat poison the day before.
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I got a bee sting on my hand this week – guess which finger.
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By morning it looked like this.   Talk about “old lady hands” – UGH!    Lucky I’m a quick healer, and it’s all well now.
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POP QUIZ – guess what this is.   The big “kumi” masi (bark cloth), and the mats with the wide decorated edges will tip you off if you read the blog from 17 April.   This was a funeral.  We were paying respects to a wonderful old woman who was ready to depart, but it’s still not the happiest of subjects.
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I thought you might like to see how they cooked for this funeral.   Some folks on the coast grabbed lengths of train track on the east side of the river after the bridge was destroyed in a flood and the sugar train would no longer be running there.   The track pieces are used as the prop for pots over the cooking fires.   
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Here was the bright spot of my week: a new insect on the floor of my porch.   When it opens its wings it looks like a tiger-colored, leopard-spotted moth.   But I could not get it to open its wings again for me.
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I thought maybe it was some kind of moth, but NO, moths rest with wings out and down.
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This one has its wings rolled around like a cigar.
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I have no idea what class or family of insect does that.  
(Do you get the idea that I’m spending an awfully long time on one bug and maybe dragging my feet here?)
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Finally, the crappiest news of my grumpy-chick, dead owl, bee stung week.   Tarsi bit my friend Venaisi while Eseta and I were walking beside her up the driveway – no warning, no puppies near, no excuse.   (no excuse THIS time, Tarsi has bitten before)    It is possible she ate some chillies that affected her, but still, she cannot stay.
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She is en route now to her new home …. a very good home.    Our old farmhand Michael is taking her, and is so excited that he had his wife call to confirm that we are really letting him have her, and asking how much we wanted him to pay for her  )   A good home (where she won’t have so many tempting targets to bite) is all we want for her.    Austin took his camera along with instructions to get a photo of Michael and Tarsi’s reunion.
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