25 September 2014

2014-09-20 growing goose Cr

Graduation day for this gosling, going from a baby pen to a big goose enclosure.  Austin had to come show him off.  Even though he is quite large already, he still has baby fuzz – down –  mohawk-style.

2014-09-20 goose teeth R

Goose teeth.  And these are still adolescent choppers.

2014-09-22 patched goose egg  Cr


For those small cracks in an egg where the membrane is intact, Austin is trying something – beeswax.   The embryo will die if the shell is cracked because of dehydration and contamination, and Austin wants to see if this will work.  We will have success or great stink in a few weeks.  Any bets?

2014-09-24 Vatukoka  Cr


Vatukola is Fiji’s gold mine, and Austin and I needed to deliver cassava for a funeral there on Tuesday night.  We spent the night, and the next morning drove across the north of Viti Levu – the first time for both of us.  What a trip!   Anyway, this is a photo of Vatukola itself – peaceful river, lovely hills, and the smoke stack of the gold refinery …

2014-09-24 Vatukoka   Cr Cr

… that belches smoke day and night.  The only time it stopped was when the plant shut down during the strike.  People were surprised that it stopped smoking then.

2014-09-24 Aztec pyramid mountain  Cr


The north coast of Viti Levu is fascinating, so many mountains, so many variations of moisture.  I cannot share it all, but will share some of my favorites.   This hill reminded me of an Aztec pyramid for some reason.   It is just so strange and striated sitting right by the road.

2014-09-24 big black boulders  R

These huge black rocks were three of hundreds of black  boulders sitting on a mountain covered with downed yellow grasses.

2014-09-24 balancing act  Cr

Several miles down the road, these rocks did a balancing act..

2014-09-24 cattle grazing mtn  R

Here are cattle grazing under another mountain.  As you can see  all of this area was dry, dry, dry….

2014-09-24 home of Fiji water   Cr

… so of course it must be home to “Fiji Water”   Personally, I’m rather put out with the company, but this isn’t the place.  Just remember in Fiji, people take their showers and flush their toilets with Fiji water – just not the trademarked-bottled variety.

2014-09-24 cane truck down  R


Sugar is the big industry in this part of Viti Levu.  See how green it is.  I asked Austin if they irrigate it, and he said No – the cane finds moisture for itself somehow.  Cane can be cut down and grow up again for 3 harvests, i.e. 3 years.   While I was looking for a good shot of cane at various stages of growth, we saw this scene.   You see the little figure in the background?

2014-09-24 cane truck down   Cr1

Oops!   We don’t see that very often.

2014-09-24 cane cut on ground  R

Here is cane cut and lined up for loading

2014-09-24 cane loaded up  R

Here is a tractor with a bunch of cars for a sugar train, one car loaded and nine to go.

2014-09-24 cane crushing mill  Cr

And here is a crushing mill with trucks lined up ready to off load, and also a sugar train engine under the tree.

2014-09-24 broken road   Cr


We knew we were rounding the top and hitting the wetter eastern side of the island when even the north-facing slopes had green grass.  Also there were spathodia trees.  Ugh.    And flowers in peoples yards.  Yay.       And landslides…..    We were surprised to see a big hunk of road that was so depressed everybody was going out of their way to avoid it.   Nobody likes you when you are down in the dumps.

2014-09-24 saddle bags  R

There were lots of horses with home-made saddle bags.  This one is hauling bananas.

2014-09-24 big kai  Cr

And we were able to buy the big river clams (kai) that Monica likes so much.

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18 September 2014

2014-09-12 goose egg 3   Cr

The novelty still has not worn off:  Goose Egg!   Austin decided to eat one and had a large chicken egg at the same time.   I asked him what it tasted like, and he said, “Just like duck egg.”   So I know, but you probably don’t.  A duck egg tastes almost like a chicken egg, a very slight hint of gaminess, not unpleasant – and the odd thing is that the yolk stays liquid/creamy long after the white is cooked.

2014-09-11 Akka flowers 4  R


I have been confined to the house  taking care of a fragile relative, and so was more eager than usual to go to town.  Akka came along, and he was mindful that this was my big blog op.   Above you will see flowers that he had me drive 1/2 kilometer away from Valley Road to see.   Each one is like a bride’s bouquet – no leaves!   He said it was even more dramatic 2 weeks earlier when the ground was bare soil.

This will give you an idea of it.

2014-09-11 Akka flowers 2  R

Again, we were rolling down Valley Road and saw a dead something in the road, a bird. I thought I’d seen blue.  We talked about it.   “Go back!  Go back!”  Akka insisted.  “You won’t have another chance.”   He was right, and by then it was like a 2 kilometer backtrack ….. but here we are!

2014-09-11 kingfisher 1  Cr

A very pretty, but dead, kingfisher.   Akka put it in the back of the truck, under some cardboards – thinking he would do something with the feathers.  I forgot all about the bird until I looked at these photos last night….. I wonder whether the bird is still in the truck 5 days later or if Akka disposed of it?

Akka’s final contribution:  he knew I’d been looking for a tree with buttress roots for a different purpose – and on the way home he pointed one out to me, right on our feeder road across the plowed fields.

2014-09-11 rampart tree 2  R

Isn’t that an interesting tree base!   Seems like leprechauns could live there.

2014-09-16 moringa flower 1  R


The moringa (or saijen) tree is in flower.   This is the tree that gave the “drumsticks” I wrote about last October.   I haven’t written much about moringa, but I am learning to like it more and more.

2014-09-16 moringa flower 2  R

Some day when I am free to get around more, I will give you a experience of my favorite moringa leaf dish.

2014-09-16 Po  Cr


I will finish with two of our six pets.   This is Po, bigger now you see.  Still sweet.   I recently saw Kung Fu Panda and understand now why Junia gave her this name.  The star of that movie is named Po and looks like a fat, upright version of this pup.

2014-09-16 Betty on power box  R

And here is Betty, in her favorite spot on top of the power box.   Some locals have a belief that water bottles above the meter keep it from registering power consumption.   In that case Betty has the opposite effect.   For some reason we ran out of our pre-pay power at 2 AM today.  Surprise in the dark!

Austin hooked up the incubator to the water pump meter, and waited until 6:30 to go to the shop up the valley to buy a recharge.  It turns out the proprietor was up all night waiting for election results from Fiji’s first elections in 8 or so years.   Results still not in.


11 September 2014

2014-09-09 Sailors take warning  R

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

We were so happy and excited !!  It matched the predictions on the weather maps too !!

2014-09-08 High hopes  R

SO promising !!!

2014-09-08 High hopes dashed  R

And then we got another dad-gum “pretty” day.

We were supposed to get deluges, and instead we get the occasional mist.  Still, it really isn’t all that bad yet.   Thank you, everybody, who wrote off-blog asking if we have drinking water, and if we are doing serious water conservation.   The answers are Yes to drinking water, and No to stringent measures.   This is not nearly as bad as it was four years ago when my mother-in-law arrived, and our bore hole dried up.  We took ourselves off to Suva for 3 months or so, so that we wouldn’t be a burden on the other families in the community that year.    Now we’ve got the Suva house rented out, so I am not hoping for the bore hole to go dry again.

2014-09-07 Fiji Hawk   Cr


This fellow flew flew onto our porch and nabbed a few hatchlings, and then grabbed a dead juvenile hen that one of the dogs had played-with-to-death earler that morning.   Austin got this photo – you can see the chicken at his feet.   This species is native to Fiji.   Our former farmhand Michael found a baby one and raised it for a few months, a few years ago – the coloration was quite different: speckled.   Austin swears the speckled ones are juveniles and that this IS a goshawk.

2014-09-10 Sandalwood  R-Marked


I realize I never told y’all about the sandalwood we planted a few years ago, about a hundred trees.   When the trees are full of resin – in 15-25 years – they will be very valuable.  Yasi is our “Grandkids Crop” !    In the photo above I have drawn ovals around three sandalwood trees.   Austin learned that sandalwoods grow much faster if they are attached to a host tree, done by carefully intertwining some roots.   We had a lovely orchard of mayer lemons, and he attached 4 or 5 young yasi  to each lemon tree.  The sandalwoods have grown amazingly well – and it killed the lemons!   Oh trial and error science!    The correct ratio is 1:1.

2014-09-10 Vova tree   R


You may remember that we planted  a tree in memory of “Vova” – a friend’s grandfather – three weeks ago.  The tree is doing fine, and there is a little marker now.   I thought to specially check it out, because I have something else to share from that friend’s visit.

2014-09-09 a bit of beauty  R

Anna tried her hand at acrylics for the first time while here – and I was so in love with one of her paintings that she gave it to me.    I’m calling it “Lovebirds at Twilight”

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4 September 2014

2014-09-03 Alien skull   Cr

I saw this skull sitting on a coconut log down at the pond.  What the heck?!  So I asked Dr. Smarty Pants what it is.  He replied, and I quote, “It is the skull of an alien,”  thus doubly earning his nickname.   

2014-09-01 dried road  R


It is so danged dry!   This is the clay road and my grandson’s foot.

2014-09-01 dried roots 1  R

This is the creek at the bottom of the hill.   

2014-09-01 goose attack   R


Above you see Austin’s arm after a goose attack.  He wasn’t carrying water at the time, he was checking a nest and a gander went after him.  Unlike the last injury of his I posted (“bystander in a cock fight”) this time he was the deliberate target.  Our respect for goose fierceness has risen.   …. ANYHOW, I put this in to show what I was being wary of when I went to check the pond.

2014-09-03 goose hole   Cr

Last year I showed the pond all dried out.  This year Austin and team dug a well in the bottom of it because, unlike ducks, geese HAVE to have water.   See the biscuit bucket beside the hole?  That is to carry water to fill the well.  The water table is even lower than that now.

2014-09-03 North facing Cardiac Hill  R


Behold Cardiac HIll in this drought.  So brown and crunchy – so different from the days of dewy grass spiderwebs and miniature flowers.   I kept thinking about poor Cardiac Hill as I walked back up to the house.

2014-09-03 South facing ginger terraces  Cr

Then washing dishes and looking out over the ginger terrace, I started thinking “what the heck?!”   The ginger is still all green – and we aren’t irrigating.   Why can these terraces be so green when Cardiac Hill is naught but tinder?  ….   And then I remembered something Dr. Smarty Pants has been saying ever since we moved here:

2014-09-03 North facing slope  Cr

NORTH- facing slope – what I see across the little valley as I look south from my kitchen. (Sorry there was so much smoke in the air.)   North-facing slopes here catch much more of the sun and they are much dryer.   Cardiac Hill is on a north-facing slope.

2014-09-03 South facing slope   Cr

SOUTH – facing slope – what I see across another little valley as I look north from the top of Cardiac Hill. South-facing slopes get less sun and they are much wetter.  More trees colonize them and if you want to dig a bore hole and hit water easily, you want to dig at the bottom of a south-facing slope.  The ginger terraces are on a south-facing slope.   TA DA!



Eleven months ago I took the above photo of damage to a hill at a place near here.  The cause of the damage was too many cattle on the land.

2014-09-03 cattle damage  R

Now with the foliage burned off we can see the damage even to the top of the tall hill.   Erosion of this nature sets up a chain reaction that causes problems for folks all the way downstream, including us.  I wish there were a happy solution.   

2014-09-03 thorns and barbs  R


This plant has a pretty little red flower, but yesterday I really noticed the thorns for the first time, and right beside rolls of barbed wire.   It is my “Welcome to the Desert that is My World”  photo of the week.

There are predictions of rain for next week.  Anyone want to place some bets?

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