30 April 2015

2015-04-30 calf  R

For you folks that mostly want Eye Candy – here is a darling calf belonging to the neighbors down the hill.

2015-04-30 noni   Cr


For those of you interested in health, no matter how BAAAAAAAAAAD the medicine tastes, this week brings noni fruit right beside my house.

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2015-04-30 fog 0615  R


I may bore y’all to death here – but I’ve done another series of photos on the morning fog this time looking at the hills to the south.   The above photo is what we start with about 6:15.

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You can see the mist slowly giving way, exposing one hill at a time.  This is the fog that keeps the mango flowers from setting.

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This is the fog that is ALWAYS a harbinger of a sunny day.

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This is the near final product – around 8;30.   We go to bed on a clear night, and by 5 am this fog is upon us.  I started wondering what time the fog actually arrives, and woke up one morning at 3 – and it was foggy.  But that morning we did not have the fog – I could see it in other valleys but not ours.  Why is this?   I haven’t the foggiest!

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Another head-scratcher…. these SPIDER THREADS.   One morning I went out and there were single spider strings all over the place.  Not whole webs – just single threads – long ones – all over the place.  Up here by the house, down at the bottom of Cardiac Hill.  I don’t get it.  Spider Mardi Gras or something?

2015-04-30 skink  Cr ps


A few weeks ago I surprised a skink sunning on a rock and it took off so fast it was nearly a blur.  I was shocked.  This was the FASTEST vertebrate for its body size that I’d ever seen.  A few minutes later I walked by again and got a repeat performance.  So after that, I’ve been wanting to write about skinks, but despaired of ever managing to photograph one.   Then this delightful chap decided to take a sunbath in my bedroom!

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So then the universe gave me the perfect counterpoint to the skink with this snail.  He certainly was not going to outrun my shutter speed, but I just don’t see snails around here very often.

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Which brings me to the “Clay Play” of Grammy and Kiki

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I’ll close with this last shot of mynas on the power line above the chicken pen, waiting expectantly for Austin to bring their dinner..

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23 April 2015

2015-04-23 hanging dead leaf  Cr

I notice weird things – like the way the leaves on the living fence tree hang neck-to-neck off the living leaves once they die.

2015-04-23 hanging dead leaf  R

Like fat brown tinsel.   I notice this because I’m doing my Cardiac Hill runs again, and these are at the bottom of the hill where I am passing time while my heart slows down to normal.

2015-04-23 eggs  R

Frankly, there’s not much happening at the farm right now.  Austin is on hiatus from chicken hatching, so we are eating all the eggs.  He gathered a dozen to give to a friend and was really proud of the rainbow eggs.

2015-04-23 Muscovy ducks 1  Cr

I noticed a duck really limping in the yard, and then realized many of them are limping.  Poor things.  They’re fine in the water, and fine in the air – and yet end up spending most of their lives on land.   These are Junia’s ducks in the yard – Muscovy ducks.

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I think this is a male one of the same species.

2015-04-23 Pekin ducks and goose   R

You see the pond is full for now.  I thought these were geese swimming – but Dr. Smarty told me the white ones in the front are Pekin ducks, and only the bird in the back is a goose.

2015-04-23 geese 2  R

There are plenty of geese in the pond enclosure, though.  These are all geese, and you can’t see it from the photo, but they were all honking at me … irritated to have a human near the fence.   This is right beside the hung dead leaves, and the geese are just going to have to put up with me.

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In the neighborhood it is planting time.  I don’t know why.  Here is a plough biting into the earth.

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And here are the horses and the neighbor attached to it.

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Some farmers have tractors.

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Most do not.

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I had to walk eastward that afternoon into the field to get a decent photo of the bullocks, and had a bad feeling I would step on seedings I did not see.  Walking out of the field, into the sun, I could see the little seedlings quite brilliant in the sunlight.

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This was my big “what the heck is THAT?” sight of the week.  I know those are papaya trees behind, but what is with the humongous bundles of poles?  I asked Naholo, one of our farm hands.  She tells me they are bamboo poles that will be used for tomatoes.   Aha.   Ok!

That’s about it.

Why did the kid cross the road?

Why did the kid cross the road?

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16 April 2015

2015-04-16 Suva spare lot food 1  R

Sometimes there is a week when I don’t know what Flora and Fauna News I’m going to have, and then am happily surprised to find forgotten photos in my camera from “ages ago,”  i.e. Monday. This was one of those weeks.   I see from my camera that I was in Suva.  Oh yes, now I remember!   It hit me once again that every vacant lot is a serious food garden.   This corner lot practically in the heart of town has a big casava (a.k.a., tapioca, manioc, yuca)  plantation going.

2015-04-16 Suva spare lot food 2  R

And also a healthy dalo (taro) patch.   And even in this city with a lot of sticky fingers, I do not hear of people’s gardens getting raided.   That’s a check mark for humanity.

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Next up was we stopped in Pacific Harbor and I remembered I’d wanted to show you pandanus trees sometime.  Pandanus trees have been on almost every tropical island that we have.  Their leaves are processed to become the excellent weaving material that is used in making mats.

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This shot, along Queens Highway,  shows some of the strange forms that pandanus takes.  With their little mops of leaves at the end of wavy branches they’ve always struck me as looking an awful lot like Dr. Seuss trees.

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This is a pandanus fruit, hanging in a tree.   Looks like a huge grenade ready to explode.

2015-04-16  pandanus fruit 2  R

And this is a ripe fruit, open on the ground.   In Chuuk and Pohnpei people always ate the fruit.  Well, ate the fruit or drank it.  Each section was called a “key” and people would take a key, chew the fibers and swallow the liquid.   It was sweet, and pungent, and distinctive, and for some reason reminded me of vomit – so I passed whenever I could do so without offending the giver.   I like this fruit on the ground – thinking how some birds might come and really enjoy it.

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Red bananas!   Showed up here from the market.

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Kiki ran into the family room all excited, yelling, “yeh-wo catapeeya”   I know yeh-wo is yellow, and I could only guess that the other word had to be caterpillar.   I was right.

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Knowing this is a toddler’s hand, you can tell how really tiny the creature is.  I am stumped as to what this yellow caterpillar will grow into, and how Kiki found it.  But I’m quite happy for his love of critters and his ability to handle small ones gently.

2015-04-16  aquarium  R


As if we didn’t have enough wild life to entertain us here – Austin came home with this aquarium.   He stocked it with gambezi – a.k.a. mosquito fish – from the drain in Suva.  Those mosquito-larvae-eating-fish have a lot of brethren now living in our pond.

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I’ll end with something I found quite funny yesterday.  I went to see an old friend for the first time in a few years.  As I walked up to her door, she noticed one small chicken poo on the step.  She apologized profusely and hurriedly grabbed water and a broom to sweep it away.  O Lordy!  What will I ever do if she comes to visit me?

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9 April 2015

2015-04-09 stream running kind of  R

Water, water, water.   The stream is running a little.   There is rumour of prawns in there – THAT will be a happy post.   Meanwhile, I’m happy enough for this trickle.

2015-04-09 welcome clouds  R

We had the latest and shortest wet season ever.   It seems we are heading into another drought already.   These dark afternoon clouds are most welcome; they sometimes give a little drizzle.  It’s better than nothing, but not the downpours we normally get this time of year.

Too bad we have this “rain-fed” pool.  Ha ha.  The sensible thing would be to DRAIN it and PAINT it during this dry season, but Austin does not want to sacrifice this water he might want to use for his chickens …. or (God knows) maybe move some of his fish stock up into it….. Would he?   Now wouldn’t that be glamorous!

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Look what finally arrived, once the rain was gone.   I guess we’ll get it all hooked up sometime this year.  Ha.

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Austin got a BIG check!      This was for the fishpond project at the school and also to get the new incubators for the chicken project.


(** Photo has been changed to one that shows Junia for perspective.)

This cheque was for a PR event that the donor was holding – the money was already in the bank.  Maybe you are wondering what chicken incubators and a fishpond at the high school have to do with Corals.   It is just that C4C (Corals for Conservation) is already an established NGO and can receive funds.  The same parties that started C4C are working on land-based sustainable rural livelihoods as well.    Austin had to bend the cheque over to fit it in the truck.  He joked about taking it to the bank  (he’s just so proud).

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BRAIN TEASER  – What do you see?

2015-04-09 bee grass 4  R2015-04-09 bee grass 1  R

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Grass?   Yeah, that’s all I saw, too.

Look closer

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Alas.    I stepped on a bee when running barefoot on Cardiac Hill in the afternoon a couple of months ago.  Yesterday morning I was thinking to myself how Smart I Am running barefoot in the morning instead.   …..   These are morning shots.   Ouch and oops.    Perhaps I have learned my lesson.

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Speaking of insects, this week was a first – one night we had enormous clouds of tiny midges around every light.  They were so numerous and so tiny that the worst thing about them was that they got sucked in with every breath.  (Or as one of the midges was saying to another, “The worst thing was this awful wind that pulled us in to a dark, smelly cave.”)  The remedy was easy enough – I just moved out from under the light.   And thank God it was only the one night.

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2015-04-09 repurposing  R


Here is a case where two irritations ended in a  happy solution.  The pitter-patter of little feet at night, like a pair of puppies playing in the ceiling + a freezer whose expensive repair did not work = a much better home for the chicken food.

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MOM !!    MOM  !!

I am at home at sunset, minding my own business.    MOM !!!   Akka is yelling.

Austin finally goes out to the porch to ask Akka what he’s yelling about.

“Sunset – take a picture!”    Akka was right.

2015-04-09 spectacular sunset  R

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2 April 2015

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We finally got a bunch of kids in the pool when I was there for it.  We thought the water was too dirty, but the kids insisted that they go into water much worse than this.

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The design of the pool works amazingly well, considering the fly-by-night way  it came together.  The graded steps all the way around give the non-swimmers plenty of space to hang out in.    The number one reason for the pool was so we could give swimming lessons in an attempt to avert the drowning deaths that happen every year in Fiji – even in the nearby river.  So sad.

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But not sad this day!

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For a long time now I have wanted to share a “puri-making” experience with all of you.   I have never lived anywhere where a whole group of people is working together to make one particular food at the same time as a community effort.

PURI  are small fried flat-bread that are served at all local Indian weddings, funerals and parties.   I will share the photos in the order that I took them – it will seem haphazard, no doubt – which is exactly the experience of actually participating.

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The prep area is swept and someone starts building a fire – usually on the ground.

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Life goes on around it.

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Coals from the kitchen are brought to get the fire going.

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A big basin of white flour is brought.    There is nothing in here but just flour.

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Boiling water is poured from the kettle directly into the flour.  One of the older women usually takes over the job of the initial mixing – you have to have hands that are extremely tough against the boiling water.

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Some of the scalding-water dampened flour is put into a kneading basin, and more boiling water is put into another area of the uncooked flour.

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Finally, the fire is blazing.

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Other ladies get their basins of flour to knead.   Up to six ladies will be kneading at once.

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Not me.  I have done this before – it is HOT HOT HOT.

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Finally, it will get to the right consistency, like bread dough.  It is shaped into a temporary loaf and coated with oil.   This puri making session had three ladies kneading and about 10 of these loaves.

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They changed their mind on the fire – took out most of the burning brands and put the southernmost cement block on the north side.  This is all to show how BASIC the cooking facilities are and how constant adjustments are needed.

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A special clean cloth is laid out before the rolling begins.

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About one-fourth of the loaf is cut off and rolled into a long snake.

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It is then cut into about eight equal pieces.

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Then – MY JOB !! – someone rolls the little piece into a ball.

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And makes it FLAT …. just like Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake.   And that person flours it and tosses it to the ladies who are doing the rolling (usually the same ones who did the kneading.)

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I can’t believe I neglected to take any photos of the ladies rolling.  This is my rolling pin and roti board from home.

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Oh yes, now I remember.  It was because this was a little less organized than most. In this photo you can see some rolled out puri, some of my flattened balls, a basin with a bunch of loaves in it … and MORE HOT WATER going into MORE FLOUR.    Usually all the loaves are finished before the rolling starts.   This was slightly disjointed.   But it all worked out.  There were six roti boards and rolling pins at this working bee – and four ladies doing the rolling.   Often I have seen eight ladies rolling at the same time.

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Frying will happen soon.  Here you see a girl with a big flat pot lid that has rolled out puri on it.   Girls do not do the kneading or rolling – they have two jobs:  carrying the puri to the fire, and maybe doing the pat-a-cake task.

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This is the tray with uncooked puri on it.  It always reminds me of romano cheese slices….

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Oil is heating up in the wok on the fire.

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The puri are in the boiling oil now.   See how they puff up.

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As soon as they are golden, they are pulled out and put into a metal basin with an overturned dish in it to drain and to cool off.

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Then they are packed into their banana leaf-lined box, where they will be good for a few days.  The reason puri are such an important party food is because they can be cooked ahead and then just reheated.

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I like this final shot because it shows the frying going on in the yard, while the rolling is still proceeding on the porch.   All in all, there will be a minimum of 10 people working on making puri together even for a smaller event.   I love going for puri-making – it feels like a little barn-raising.

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2015-04-02 toad at bee box  R


Junia grabbed my camera to get this picture of a toad at a bee box.   He asked me if it turned out.

I said no.   He looked – he told me that yes it did.

2015-04-02 toad at bee box  Cr

He pointed out this corner I thought was just a leaf.   This is TOAD sitting at the entrance of the bee box….. waiting to eat the bees as they emerge.    I think the toad likes food that has a bite.

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