29 January 2015

2015-01-28 terraces  R

Yesterday morning Austin asked me to take a photo of his terraces, because the light showed them off so nicely.   I complied.

Turned out this was the first of many photos I took of those terraces yesterday, because ….  I climbed the mountain!

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 0 R

Starting from HERE.   Please note the pine trees on the top, and the grassy ridge that extends to the right.   (I hope some of you are going to be impressed.)

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 1 b cassava flower  R

Junia, two lovely guests (Sandra and Christopher) and I started by walking in the dry stream bed.  Sandra wanted to soak up the forest and I saw a flower that was new to me.   A CASSAVA flower.  Surprise.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 1 c cassava fruit  Cr

This is the cassava fruit.   Who’d have guessed?

Enough now of lollygagging – I needed to get up that hill while I still had some steam.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 2  R

Once we climbed up the ridge above the nearly-dry waterfall, I could see we this had …..t—h—i—-s … far to go.  Junia promised it was a ridge all the way.  I wasn’t going to have to go down, and then go back up.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 3 lookback 1 R

I also looked back – could not see our house.

I caught my breath and kept hiking.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 4 lookback 2   - R marked

Next time I looked back – I zoomed in and found our house.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 4 lookback 2   - R marked - Cr

See the terraces!    From now on I will have a yellow circle around our house, but won’t mention it again.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 5 lookback 3  R-marked

Here is a lookback from higher up.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 5 shade tree lookback 4  R-mk

And a lookback from what could have been my turn-back spot – a lovely leafy tree where I sat for at least 10 minutes.

Maybe 20-30 meters (60-90 feet) uphill from the tree was a fence and a gate.

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 6 GATE  R

Here’s the gate.   And guess what ….

2015-01-28 to top of mtn 6 GATE - I was first  R

I WAS FIRST!   (only because Junia and Christopher were talking something and Sandra was taking photos.)     There was still another hill between us and the top.

2015-01-28 TOP of mtn 7 in the pines R

FINALLY – the top of the mountain!   We are now in the pines.

2015-01-28 TOP of mtn 8 sunburn ginger  R

I really, really wanted to stop here – but Junia wouldn’t hear of it.   Not much farther we came upon this ginger that Junia said was good for sunburns.  I put some on, and also got the idea of taking off my shoes.   That made a world of difference.  Without them I could carry on with no complaint to the end of the ridge.

2015-01-28 TOP of mtn 9 view from top  R-m

Here was the view from the ridge.  Way in the distance you will see the little yellow circle.

2015-01-28 TOP of mtn 10 companions rest  R

Our companions had a rest in the shade.

2015-01-28 TOP of mtn 11 I rest  R

When I finally joined them in the shade, I saw I was joined by my favorite flora “frenemy” – mimosa pudica, a.k.a.  sensitive plant.  I love to hate it, and can entertain myself for hours uprooting it.  I was happy to see it on the top of the hill with me.

2015-01-28 TOP of mtn 12 celebration photo - SSpranger  R

Junia took a celebration photo of Sandra, Christopher and me at the top – TA DA.

2015-01-28 zDescent fr mtn 13 - Ju fruit 1 R

Coming down the mountain, I was happy to stop and look at flora.  Here is a fruit that Junia showed us.  When fully yellow – fully ripe – it is very delicious, like passion fruit but better.  But you have to be very fast because the birds really go for them.  He showed us many empty yellow skins.   Finally, he found a ripe one, two ripe ones!

2015-01-28 zDescent fr mtn 12 - Ju fruit 2  R

WOW!   It was small, but VERY delicious.   Like passion fruit plus mangosteen.

2015-01-28 zDescent fr mtn 14 - resting flower  R

It was so sunny and so hot and so rocky with loose sandy stretches.  I was so happy and exhausted when I got back to the shady stream bed.    This flower kept me company during one rest.

2015-01-28 zDescent fr mtn 15 - dry stream berries  R

These red berries at another.

Frankly by this point, I was wondering if I’d be able to make it up the last little hill to our house.   I jokingly thought of telling Junia to have Austin get me at the bottom of the road with the truck.   I needed salt – badly.  “I need a sports drink,” I told Junia.

“I’ll get you a drinking coconut,” he said.

The thought of the drinking coconut really inspired me to go the last short distance to the bottom of our hill.

2015-01-28 zDescent fr mtn 16 - drinking nut - Cr

Aaaaaaahhhh!   Words cannot describe!!

And I got back up our little hill to our house with no trouble at all.

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22 January 2015

2015-01-22 Prashneel's chicks  R

I went to seen Prashneel’s family this week, and Prashneel was all excited and wanted to show me his chickens.  They’ve grown so much in just (two) weeks.

2015-01-08 happy chicken project 2  Cr

See!    (This is a close-up from the 8 January photo.)   Maybe it doesn’t show, but the chicks have nearly doubled in size.

Then Prashneel started opening little nuts and giving them to his brother and sister.

“Betel nut?” I asked, hoping very much that the answer would be “No” and that the betel nut habit was not spreading to Fiji.

“Yes!”  he replied happily, “Do you want one?”

2015-01-22 an unexpected nut 1  Cr

He held it up.  That’s no betel nut.  <sigh of relief>

“Sure, I’ll try one,” I said.

2015-01-22 an unexpected nut 2  R

2015-01-22 an unexpected nut 3  Ct

He opened it up.  There was this miniscule nut meat.  He gave it to me.  Sweet!  Really!   So small, so tasty!

2015-01-22 an unexpected nut  4  Cr

Prashneel led me to the tree, just beside his house.  He was so proud of all the nuts in this tree.  I was happy to learn of yet another wonderful local wild food …. but sad that some insect is turning all the leaves to lace.   It’s like the Garden of Eden plus pests.

2015-01-22 very blue flower  R


It’s growing here.  I’ve never seen a bluer flower and neither has Austin.

2015-01-22 hairy black seed  R


Well, black seed case.   Austin stuck some odds and ends in my hands this week.  The blue flower was one.   This thing was another.

And these were the third……

2015-01-22 malabar chestnut sprouts  R


From the “money tree” Austin planted in October 2013.   We’re gonna be RICH!

2015-01-22 sweet starfruit  1  R


It doesn’t seem like much, looking down the hill from our dining table….

2015-01-22 sweet starfruit 2  R

And it still doesn’t look like much close up – but these are SWEET starfruit!   Really really delicious.

2015-01-22 toad stools 1  R


Toadstools!   It has finally started raining a lot here.   We thought the day would never come.  The toadstools have arrived to celebrate.

2015-01-22 dragonfly 2  R


It is directly related to there being more rain, and thus standing water in our “cement pond” ….. it is the shed exoskelton of a dragonfly.

2015-01-22 dragonfly 1  Cr

We have hundreds, maybe thousands of dragonflies around now because they have been breeding there.   These dragonflies eat their body weight in other bugs – especially mosquitoes – every day, so they are always welcome.   (Sorry for this ugly photo of dragonfly and shadow on cement at high noon. )

2015-01-22 candled egg  Cr


Austin’s always “candle-ing” eggs to see if there’s a baby growing.  I never knew what he was looking for.   Here it is – and not what I’d ever have expected – a large web of blood vessels up near the shell!

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Today would have been my mom’s 101st birthday – so I dedicate today’s blog to her memory.    Happy Eternity, Mom!

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15 January 2015

2015-01-15 puppet group R

It is all “flora” this week – but my sister-in-law sent these adorable finger puppets…. the week’s honorary “fauna.”   (There is also a giraffe, but he missed the photo shoot.)

The reason it’s all vegetation is because I went to ….

2015-01-15 spice farm 1  Cr


Austin and I were driving to Suva.  He’d met the guys before and he wanted to get a baby nutmeg tree.   It wasn’t too far out of the way, just a couple of kms off Queens Highway.

2015-01-15 spice farm 3  R

This was my first sight – a woman named Kata sifting haldi powder (turmeric).  Haldi powder was all over everything and everybody, and the air smelled YUMMY.  Austin temporarily forgot his mission for a nutmeg tree, and started chatting with the fellows about the wonders of turmeric’s medicinal properties, even better with black pepper.  And he learned that the way to bring out the color in the powder is to BOIL the roots before drying and processing.  Who’d ever think that boiling would enhance color?

While Austin was talking, I wanted to see the farm, and a young man called Koli (that’s Fijian for “dog” – ha ha)  took me around.

2015-01-15 vanilla 1  R


First off, he showed me a vanilla plant.   I remember Na Noda Gauna (“Our Time” – a locally produced TV show in Fiji language with subtitles) did an episode on their farm about vanilla several years ago.  It looked like a lot of work.

2015-01-15 vanilla  2  R

Here’s a shot of many vanilla pods.   Austin had some vanilla growing at the farm, but I think it died.

2015-01-15 pepper 1 R


Koli also showed me pepper bushes.  I told him about Ponape pepper.  When we lived on Ponape (now Pohnpei) in the 80’s, it had the best pepper in the world, but now – no more.   “What happened?”  he asked.   “Jealousy,” I replied.  To which he gave a sad not of his head.

2015-01-15 pepper 2 R

Peppercorns on the bush.    For black pepper – Koli told me – you boil the mature green corns, then dry them.   For white pepper you let it ripen until it is red, then you peel the red skin off, and the peppercorn is white.

2015-01-15 pepper 3  Cr

He put a (stringer? cluster? line?  There’s gotta be a word for this!) of peppercorns in my hand.  I ate one.  After a couple of chews, sure enough!, a very rich black pepper flavor!


Mr. Ron Gatty – the handsome man of the line drawing – he’d been on that Na Noda Gauna episode I saw.  Really dedicated to getting people interested in spice farming.  I asked Koli – since I’d read a few years ago he was trying to sell the spice farm.   I was thinking, what is the future of this wonderful farm?

“Oh, he died last week,”  Koli told me.

Last WEEK!  What bizarre timing.

Koli told me he’d been sick for a long time – and he was in he was in his late 80’s.

So what about the farm?  I had to know.

He left it in trust for his workers!  Oh – I love the late Mr. Gatty!  Isn’t it terrific!   His skilled workers will continue the work he started – and they are all deeply committed to promoting spice farming and reversing urban drift.   Surely, Happy Chicken and Spices of Fiji will be working together.

Koli took me to a new tree.

2015-01-15 nutmeg 1  R

“Guess what this is.”  he says.   “Guava?”  I ask.


2015-01-15 nutmeg  2  Cr


And they wait until it splits like this on the tree to harvest it.

2015-01-15 nutmeg  3  Cr

Here you can see the red Mace on top of the nutmeg nut.

2015-01-15 nutmeg  4  Cr

Here it is opened.   This nut went to Suva with us – but for a seedling, they told Austin to stop on the return trip to Sigatoka and they’d have one ready for him.

Two days later we returned.

2015-01-15 nutmeg  II-1  Cr


Ta da!   Koli with a nutmeg seedling.   And we were invited to stay and chat, so we did.

2015-01-15 spice farm funny fruit  Cr

Joji (the boss) brought Austin this funny fruit, called a “grandila.”   We opened it up and ate some.  It was tasty, something in the passion fruit family.  Joji say his mother used to make pies from the white flesh of the grandila.  I wish I could taste it!

They loaded Austin up with cuttings of lots of stuff.

2015-01-15 pepper II-2 R

When were were finally really leaving, Joji glanced down and saw a baby pepper plant in the flowers.  Well!  Austin must have that, too.

2015-01-15 spice farm 2  Cr

Here’s a final photo from the Spice Farm.   The visionary, enterprising, magnanimous Ron Gatty with two happy owner-workers,  Kata and Koli.

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2015-01-15 purple hibiscus  R

Back at our place – Austin is excited that his purple hibiscus is blooming.

And that’s about it!

2015-01-15 puppet chicken R

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8 January 2015

2015-01-08 feed store 1  R

Yesterday, Austin asked me to buy feed while I was in town.   Sure I would.

2015-01-08 feed store 2  R

Never mind I’ve banged up the rear of our truck THREE TIMES backing away from the feed shop..   We “own” this place .  I was analyzing our finances for last year, and we noted that we ended up $105.65 in the hole on Austin’s chicken project (ha ha ha).  This is largely because of our addiction to commercial feed.   Oh, but when our Coconut Trees start bearing !…. 

2015-01-08 happy chicken project 1  R


I think I told you about Austin’s “happy chicken” projects.  He was crowd sourcing through Global Giving.   He raised about $1000 there, hasn’t received it yet – but a generous Teitei guest put some cash in Austin’s hands for it, and so Austin contacted the first beneficiaries.   They are actually our closest neighbors, and the oldest 2 kids were my first friends in the neighborhood.  This is their little brother.

2015-01-08 happy chicken project 2  R

Prashneel, the big brother is leaning on the cage.

Austin gave them nine chicks (older than the ones he usually sells), a cage and 3 kg of chicken food to get them started.       He gave them a lot of chicken-rearing advice.    With luck and some work, they will get eggs in five months, which can be the start of their own flock.   The best male will be their stud rooster, and the other males will be dinner or income.   Prashneel will get practice, and if he has a knack for it, he’ll probably end up with a job.   I’m really happy for our neighbors, and will be praying that this really works out for them.

2015-01-08  eye of needle  R


This is just an odd shot – an interesting burned out tree that Akka noticed on Valley Road.  He pointed it out to me several times, and we finally got a photo.

2015-01-08 choked drumstick  R


This is another gift of Akka’s keen eye:  a moringa “drumstick” squeezed in two by a passion fruit vine.

2015-01-08 rescued myna 2  Cr


Austin found this myna bird that had gotten its feet all tangled up while in his chicken pen.   I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard Austin complain about the mynas – how much he hates them – how he’s going to apply for a shotgun and fill it with birdshot to get these rotten mynas.   He hates them because they’re always stealing his chicken food.

A few years ago, Austin rigged up something and trapped seventeen mynas.  Then he skinned them and cooked the little buggers with a lot of Italian seasoning.  I remember little drumsticks – like toothpicks with a bit of gamey meat on the end, and the petite breasts – chewy little muscle nuggets.  We all agreed they were edible and we’d be willing to go to the effort to catch them …. next time there is a serious famine in progress.

2015-01-08 rescued myna 3  Cr

So now Austin had an edible enemy at his mercy.  An enemy who got caught because of trying to feed all her babies.

2015-01-08 rescued myna 4  Cr

Mercy overtook him….. because she had babies.  (Uh, that is that many MORE of your “enemies,” Dear!)

2015-01-08 rescued myna 5  Cr

So Austin untangled her and let her go.  I don’t know if Po and Torsett approved or not.

2015-01-01 Abandoned mosque 2  R


One of the two things I had that I just couldn’t put in on New Year’s Day was this photo from our Christmas picnic trip to Natadola:  an overgrown mosque.  Such a graceful, pretty building on a lovely hill, but obviously abandoned and with a broken minaret. Also, unpainted.  So curious, so bleak.   Is it finished?   Was it used?    Did a community of Muslim cane farmers lose their leases just as the mosque was nearing completion?

2015-01-08 gopi suit  R-phshpd


My brother Jeswant came to visit this week, and brought me a New Year’s present – this amazing outfit!    Vina says it is a “gopi suit”    There is no way I can fit into the top (yet), but was delighted to find out the skirt fits!  Yay.    The piece I have positioned as a sash is actually a very large shawl of thin cloth.   Next Indian wedding in the neigborhood, I will be wearing this!

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