1 January 2015

2014-12-25 Rose 1  R

I hope for a beautiful coming year, and so I spent part of this week just looking at pretty flowers.

This flower below jumped out at me as I was walking on Valley Road.  It resonated for several reasons.

2015-01-01 Glorious zinnia  R

For one, it is gloriously perfect.   For another, it is a zinnia – and I’ve been maintaining a dislike of zinnias since I first met them … not very noble I know … so this is a clear case of “get over myself.”   And then, after I took the photo, I noticed my neighbor waving to me from her porch – I was so enchanted by the flower that I was ignoring the gardener.   Oops!     (I believe there’s a metaphor here, for those of us from a religious persuasion!)

2015-01-01  bindi haul  R


Bindi (a.k.a. okra) is in abundance.   Akka got this sack load from a neighbor for less than ½ the market price (about US $10 worth).   He was so proud of his haul, he wanted it memorialized.    Some of it is in our bellies already, and the rest is in the freezer.

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That’s it for the pretty stuff.   It’s downhill from here.

Spanish moss  at farm - 3 years old

Spanish moss at farm – 3 years old

Spanish moss in Suva - 8 years old

Spanish moss in Suva – 8 years old


Spanish moss – NOT native here.   Austin has gotten it to grow on a few trees, both at the house in Suva and here on the farm.   Ick.   Makes me think of driving through unfamiliar creepy places to the far south from the mountains I was raised in.   Well, I complained about the hanging moss one time too often.    Just this week, Austin told me that Spanish moss reminds him of Wilmington, NC where all his grandparents were from.  Going to Wilmington was the best part of his childhood, and the moss always meant “welcome home” to him.

(I think that’s how some Englishmen felt about rabbits when they moved to Australia – but I’ll stop voicing my objections any more)

2015-01-01  Odd pineapple 1  R-marked


I asked daughter-in-law Monica if she’d seen anything interesting around the farm.  Yes, she had.   I was going with her to see it, but realized it was going to be hard to get where she was going.   It was down this hill, more or less where I drew the arrow.    She took my camera, but couldn’t get a good photo of the item of interest…..   so she ended up pulling it out of the ground and hauling it up for inspection.

2015-01-01 odd pineapple 3  R

It is the weirdest pineapple plant she has ever seen.  (Me, too).   Instead of leaves, topped by a pineapple, topped by a crown … it is leaves, lots of crowns, a long stalk, and a pineapple with even more crowns at its base and a skewed one on top.   A crown can be planted to make a new plant – but this pineapple went reproductive crazy.

2015-01-01 odd pineapple 4  R2015-01-01  Spanish moss close R

Double checking this week’s info with Austin, he informs me that pineapples and Spanish moss are closely related.  So I just picked my way over to the moss for a close up…. And I don’t see a relationship.   He says I’d see it if I saw a Spanish moss flower – oh, he hasn’t seen it flower – oh, it must not be able to flower here – aha! And that’s why Spanish moss is not taking over.    Well, that’s good.

2015-01-01 Look-up chick 1  R


There is an odd chick in the box.  See him?    He’s looking upside down.

2015-01-01 Look-up chick 2  R

Here he is in close up.    His brain must have been wired wrong.  He must have been seeing the world upside down, because he absolutely would not hold his head normally, even though his neck was flexible.

2015-01-01 Look-up chick 3  R

Thinking about the human experiments with wonky eyeglasses where the subjects’ brains accepted the change after a week or two, Austin put a collar on the chick in hopes that his brain will rewire itself.

Sad update:  The collar came off and the chickie drowned somehow.   Nature is not kind.

Most of the rest of my photos for the week are also on the grim-or-grisly side – not what I want to share on January 1.   So I’ll fast forward to my two happy shots.

2015-01-01  Sunrise  R

A splendid sunrise.

2015-01-01 Joy  R

And a reason to stay up.

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May 2015 be a wonderful year for each of you, all of you.

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25 December 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYBODY.  Just like last year, we are in the middle of summer in Fiji …. and everything is coming up green.

2014-12-25 Date 1  R-marked

My first little Christmas present for you is this pair of trees down near one of Austin’s construction sites:  DATE TREES (very Middle Eastern).   These grew from seeds he brought back with him from a trip to Canada almost five years ago.

2014-12-25 Date 2  Cr

The big surprise this week is that one of the trees is making flowers already!   Austin was shocked to get flowers so soon.   He was thinking about lopping off two of the flowers and leaving the best one…. but then he found out that these are male flowers.    According to Junia, the same date tree will be making female flowers later.

2014-12-25 Date 3  Cr

Anyhow, just in case you wondered why I didn’t get a better photo of the flowers – the date trees are really spiky.

2014-12-25 Rambotan 1  Cr


I asked Junia if there was anything interesting growing.  Yep – rambotan fruit!   It will get red when it ripens.  And it will be really tasty.

2014-12-25 Rambotan 2  Cr

For now we have quite a few growing on the tree down at the duck pond.

2014-12-25 Grapefruit 2  Cr


Junia pointed to this tree, expecting me to be happy.

2014-12-25 Grapefruit  R

Once I realized what it was, I was happy.   GRAPEFRUIT.   Goody!

2014-12-25 Grapefruit 3  Cr

We will have to treasure this while it lasts, because the tree was seriously undermined by flooding last year.  I don’t think we’ll be able to hold onto this tree through another flood.

2014-12-25 Laxative leaf  R

LAXATIVE LEAF, anybody?    Junia just had to point this out to me.   I wonder if the bugs who munched on these leaves are dealing with sluggish GI tracts.

2014-12-25 Foreign bananas  Cr


The Ag Guys gave Austin suckers for many overseas varieties of bananas about a year ago – and the plants are just starting to make bananas.   Our guys are really pleased with the size of this stalk!

2014-12-25  Tangantangan 1  Cr


“What’s this flower?”  I asked Junia.       “Goats eat it,” he replied.

“Huh?”  I asked.    He pointed up and across the creek bed.

2014-12-25  Tangantangan 2  R

Oh – our old friend tangan-tangan.    Yes, goat food sounds about right.   Maybe we’ll get some goats this year.

2014-12-25 Rako 1  Cr


We had some extra special guests this week at the Teitei – a Polynesian singing/ dancing/ arts group called Rako.   These are the dancers – and they were almost half of the crowd. Since our largest previous group was six people, hosting close to 30 people was quite the adventure for us.

And finally ….

2014-12-25 Alex  R


My son-in-law Nigel’s little brother – Alex – has come to join our crew for awhile !

Woo hoo !!!

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Lots of love to all of you – with hope every moment of the holiday season brings you joy.

18 December 2014

2014-12-18 orchids at Nadi Airport R

Behold the gorgeous orchids at Nadi Airport. They set a high standard for what we hope to achieve with our orchid house.  And for folks who don’t aspire to be orchid-growers they offer a small consolation to those boo-hooing as their visiting loved ones leave.

That’s how my blog-week started – saying good-bye to the last of the visiting relatives six nights ago.

2014-12-18 beggars tick 1  R


A dear one has a sore that is not healing, so we decided to try local herbs.   This is Beggar’s Tick, and we have it growing all over the property.

2014-12-18 beggars tick 2  R

Austin picked this much.

2014-12-18 beggars tick 3  R

And then rolled it in his hands and squeezed the juice out and put the juice in the wound.  The next day the wound looked much better.

But then we went to Suva, and when we came back two days later we found the sore was infected – so onward we will march, with Western antibiotics.   Yesterday afternoon a local friend saw the sore and suggested we use a really effective local leaf.  I asked which one.  She told me a name I didn’t recognize and said we had it growing all over the property.  I asked her to bring some … and what she brought was Beggar’s Tick.


Saturday night in Suva Austin and I went to a big birthday celebration for twins celebrating their 21st birthday.  Lovely party, huge spread of food.   But by the time I was going to sleep, I was starting to suspect the potato salad I’d eaten there.  I woke up feeling like I had dengue again – achy joints.

I dragged myself to the meeting I was in Suva to attend, and my friend Jone (Johnny) immediately smiled at me and said, “You’ve got fish poisoning.”  He KNEW it because we’d gone through the line together, gotten fish together, and he knew EXACTLY what the achy feeling was when he got it, because he’s had fish poisoning before.   I called Austin to let him know, since he’d been feeling achy, too.

By afternoon I was feeling lots better, but Austin was feeling worse, so he went to the ER.  We knew from Micronesia days that mannitol is a quick and complete cure for ciguatera poisoning.  Anyway, Austin sat in that ER  from 5:30 til midnight – and when he was finally seen, they would not give him mannitol (“it hasn’t been published”) – and only gave him a shot for the itching.  Gee thanks.

HERE:  I found it published!  Took me a grand total of 2 minutes on Google.  http://www.spc.int/DigitalLibrary/Doc/FAME/InfoBull/Ciguatera/2/Ciguatera2_09_Lew.pdf

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2014-12-18 first flat tyre 1  R


So driving back from Suva Austin was so tired he let me drive.  And he woke up just as I was driving into the edge of the pedestrian walkway of a bridge.   This is a fellow trying to get the jack placed well under the truck.

2014-12-18 first flat tyre 2  Cr

This is what I looked at as I waited while the tyre was being changed – bees in yellow flowers.

2014-12-18 first flat tyre  3   Cr

This is the damage I did to that tyre.  It’s a goner.

2014-12-18 second flat tyre  1  R


Within the first five miles (8 km) the spare went flat.  F…L…a…t.  And so here is Austin with a new set of guys detaching the second flat tyre in 20 minutes.

2014-12-18 second flat tyre  2  R

This is what I looked at as this tyre was being changed – beautiful coconut trees down by the coast.  I think the salt air is good for them.   But this time, of course there was no spare – so it meant Austin hitching a ride to Sigatoka to get the tyre repaired.

2014-12-18 second flat tyre  3  Cr

So I entertained myself with my laptop until the battery was out of juice – and then was fascinated by this little bug.     No idea what it is.

2014-12-18 peachy mango 1  R


The week has ended well.  Yesterday Akka and Monica hiked over to the far property to get mangoes from a tree over there.  It is a different variety – utterly delicious, creamy, and with no fiber.    When I was a small child in Miami, we had a mango tree and the fruits were my very favorite – I called them “peachy bananas.”   This is the first time I’ve had a mango that made me think “peachy banana” since I was seven years old.

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My high school classmate “Shoddy Wrenn” grew up to be a magnificent artist – Charlotte Hutson-Wrenn.  I’ve been waiting for the right time to link to her page of strange and evocative paintings from the low country of South Carolina.  She has a series of small paintings she is doing right now for Christmas and I am waiting for the one that sings to me.   Here is her link and a sample of her work:


Charlotte Hutson-Wrenn Red House at Edisto

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11 December 2014 (corrected)

2014-12-11 used - old Farm Oct 2008

We photographed this bizarre flower growing straight out of the ground in October 2008.  Austin said it was a plant from dinosaur times.   Well, the blooming thing grew!

2014-12-11 dinosaur tree 2  Cr

Here is Austin with the uprooted tree of it.  (No, I have no idea why they uprooted it.)

2014-12-11 dinosaur tree 1  R

The trunk and stems have a really odd texture.

2014-12-11 dinosaur tree 3  R

And the tree has a funny branching pattern, too.   Strange, strange bit of flora.

2014-12-11 dog-killed  mongoose 2  Cr


One of our dogs caught and killed a mongoose!  This is no easy task.  If dogs could easily get mongooses, we would not have had to get the trap from Texas.  Anyway….

2014-12-11 dog-killed  mongoose 3  R

Torsett Dog is saying,  “yep, it was ME!”

2014-12-11 first orchid bloom 1  R


Yay!  The orchids are starting to bloom!

2014-12-11 first orchid bloom 2  R

So now Akka needs to start looking for a market for them.

2014-12-11 red mango  R


Akka brought this mango – the prettiest one he had seen.

Two days later I took my Canadian grandkids out to get photos of their own – with their parents’ smartphones, and here is my 4-year-old granddaughter ….

2014-12-11 Red mango Alice photo  R

taking pictures of the same mangoes on the tree.

While that was going on, I was showing the other ones these CATERPILLARS –

2014-12-11 caterpillar stripping plant 0  R

Austin says they are Monarchs –

2014-12-11 caterpillar stripping plant 2  R

totally stripping the chosen plant!   Good Lord.

The next day ….

2014-12-11 caterpillar Alice photo  R

my little granddaughter came to my house to show me the beautiful caterpillars she had found.    She is definitely her Granddaddy’s granddaughter!

Love, love.

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PS –  I hate it that I accidentally published the draft in progress.  It was bound to happen sooner or later – but UGH.   Apologies to those who got the half-done blog in their inboxes……

4 December 2014

Fam reunion 2014 Everybody  R

THIS is why there is not much of a blog this week.  EVERYBODY, even Uncle Richard, got here.  And then half of them started leaving.   Ah well.

(For those who know us and are doing a head count, Junia is behind Nigel, and Akka is behind the camera.)

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I gave my camera to daughter Clara – kind of a guest blogger thing – and then didn’t ask her what or why before she left.  The two photos I easily Identify are….

2014-12-04 bele  R

… BELE – Fijian “tree spinach.”   Easy to cook, tasty.   Slippery like okra.

2014-12-04 ducks  Cr

…JUVENILE DUCKS in a mobile cage.  These are almost ready to graduate to the  big ducks pens.

2014-12-04 ambrosia  R

.. I’m calling this one AMBROSIA – I’m pretty sure it is grated fresh coconut, but are those oranges?    Surely Nigel wasn’t  putting lemon chunks in there.   I missed that dish, whatever it was.

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I helped Austin “deliver” baby chicks this week for the first time and learned a few things.

There is an air pocket in the wide end of the egg.  The chickie has to keep its beak at that end.

The chickie has to pierce the membrane between it and the air pocket, breathe that air and rest.

Next it has to pip the shell to get more air.  It rests quite a bit while breathing outside air.    At that point the last of the yolk sac is finally getting absorbed.

If it manages to pip the shell, and is not making progress – Austin will help it out. Absorption of the yolk sac is a process that involves a lot of blood, so if Austin helps remove some shell too early, it is a bloody mess.   (I won’t even mention the ones he “helps” that are actually duds …. ick.)

Ducks have such hard shells that mother ducks routinely help their ducklings crack the shell.   Hens don’t help much – so if Austin were to keep this up for a few generations the chicken’s genetic line might end up less hardy.

Anyway, here are some photos of ducklings at different stages of hatching.

2014-12-04 hatching 1  R2014-12-04 hatching 2  R

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Until next week, I bid you adieu.