28 July 2016

2016-07-26 Fiji apple  Cr

This week Austin showed me this “Fiji Apple.”   I’d never heard of a Fiji apple before..

2016-07-26 Fiji apple leaf  R

He also brought a leaf, and was all enthusiastic about the Parallel Venation – which shows that it is a plant from a very primitive, old line – like cinnamon.  (Even more primitive is gingko, but I don’t understand how or why.).  In any case – the proof of the “apple” is in how it tastes.

2016-07-26 Fiji apple cross section  Cr

You can see from the cross section, it doesn’t look much like an apple.  Doesn’t taste much like one either.  Austin says that’s because it is green – it would be sweeter when it is more ripe.  Excuses, excuses…..

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My unlikely best friends:

2016-07-25  ANT friends at Toorak house  Cr

Yep, that is ANTS, just ants, crawling across the wall in our house in Suva.  We are delighted to see them.   Fact is, ants eat termites, and we had a termite problem.  We were worried last time we came because it looked like spiders had come and eaten most of the ants.  But, no, the ants are back.   YAAAY !!

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The highlight of my week.

2016-07-25 garden at Intl School   Cr

This cute little garden is on the campus of the International School in Suva.  Austin and I have a couple of friends who are teachers there.  The sixth grade teacher friend had arranged for Austin to go talk to his students about science at 10 am on Monday.  Then the third grade teacher friend arranged for me to talk to her students about WRITING – at 8:30 am the same morning.   We read my blog, and the “Cast of Characters” – and the favorite part for all of them is my nickname for Austin.   So when Austin finished his talk and we were leaving, there were a bunch of kids just waiting for him to walk by so that they could all say,  “Hi, Dr. Smarty Pants!   Bye-bye, Dr. Smarty Pants.”   (After his dignified lecture before, he really did not see THAT coming!  ha ha ha)

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21 July 2016

” Ain’t it great to be home?”  [not rhetorical]

Here’s what I came home to:

Austin in hog heaven because he has the DIGGER here.

Never mind the noise and the dust – it’s a DIGGER !!  Making changes to the LAND … specifically making a bigger terrace around the new chicken house.  But this won’t be all.

2016-07-20 digger 3  R

Five days later, here is the digger engaged in filling in the perched fish pond* that Austin had him dig two years ago.  Does anybody else think this is a bit nutty?

While we are taking this romantic walk, Austin notices the cactus.

2016-07-20 damaged cactus  R

“What happened to the cactus?  What ate it?,” he asks himself aloud.  A few seconds later he comes to his answer.  “The Geese.”**

Honestly, the digger and the geese damage is not the worst of it.  The star of my complaint-fest …. but before I get there, does anyone remember the Beverly Hillbillies – and Ellie May and the “cee-ment pond”?

stock Ellie May and cement pond

Here is a fuzzy stock photo, the best I could find.   Ellie May was frequently seen with her “critters” in this pristine pool.

And this here is OUR “cee-ment pond”

2016-07-20 cement pond  R

Good God almighty!   It not only has fish in, but baby crabs,  and Austin deliberately took the ducks to it!   This is what happens when I leave the farm for two months!  Anybody feel like taking a swim?   ICK !!!

Okay – this is supposed to be a feel good blog, so I cannot end on this.  The week actually started off very happy.

Austin took ten dozen chicks to Suva side – spreading the Happy Chicken love.  Here he is giving 67 birds to family in Naisogovau.

2016-07-15 Happy  Chicken 1  R

This is not the first time he has given chicks to the Whippy family.

2016-07-15 Happy  Chicken 2  R

You can see really nice fenced cage for the small chicks with fresh grass.

2016-07-15 Happy  Chicken 3  R

And here the fenced pen for the older birds, who are about 4 months old and are just starting to lay eggs.

2016-07-15 Happy  Chicken 4  R

Here you see the happy proprietor.  (Actually his wife does most of the work, but I failed to get her photo this time.)

2016-07-15 Happy  Chicken 5  R

Everybody is happy with the Happy Chickens.

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One other treasure.  I have been saving this one for a slow blog week.

2016-04-14 Everett's painting  R

Austin’s dear cousin Everett died last April.  Among this things was this drawing he did.  It is endearing.   Lot of fauna among the flora here if you look closely.

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Corrections Austin suggested just before I post this week.

* “perched fish pond” is more properly called “toad breeding facility”

** it was the chickens eating the cactus.  He caught them at it.

Have a happy week, everybody.

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13 July 2016


I left Hawaii yesterday, and had to do One Thing Touristy before leaving:  visiting the Iolani Palace.



This is the only royal palace on U.S. soil. The tour starts at the back door.



Voila!  The Throne Room — complete with thrones.

20160710_153021 It also served as the ballroom.  Here is a gown worn by Queen Kapiolani.

Everything in the palace is original. Though all got sold off and scattered at the overthrow of the monarchy, the pieces now in the palace were donated or bought back.   There are many gifts from foreign royalty and heads of state.


King David Kalakaua, the last king, traveled to Europe and America and he LOVED modern technology.  He met Thomas Edison and had lights installed in Iolani Palace before any other head of state.  Buckingham Palace and the White House were still using oil or kerosene lamps.



He was also an early adopter of the telephone☺  This connected to a phone in his chamberlain’s office, and a few others.


That phone was in the King’s bedroom.  Also in his bedroom this kitty cat pelt.


There was even a bed in the bedroom but “king sized” was smaller then.


The Music Room seemed to be a joyful spot.  King David was also engaged with preserving Hawaaian arts, music and dance.  Guess where the King would sit.


Across the wide hall is the room where Queen Liliuokalani Hawaii’s last monarch was held in house arrest for 8 months.   This is the quilt she made that told her story.

There was so much more that we saw but I’ll end with 3 more flora-faunaish shots:


The queen’s tiger claw necklace.


A be-diamoned butterfly.  (I’ve never seen such bling !)

And Hawaaian war clubs – theirs have shark teeth.  Yeowch!

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Before I took this tour, I read “The Last Aloha” by Gaellen Quinn – a work of historical fiction that took right into this palace and the court of Queen Liliuokalani.  Easy, wonderful way to learn this history…  I hope it gets made into a movie someday.

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I’m back on the Fiji side of the dateline.  Happy week, everybody.

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7 July 2016


2016-06-29 eco dairy 1

This is the Eco-Dairy, as promised from last week.   This was from the Day We Arrived (last week Wednesday) and it was the SECOND dairy we went to that day.  The first dairy had good ice cream, but this  one had a  Spectacular program.

2016-06-29 eco dairy 2

Look, Mom: goats on the roof !!   Inside we paid our Tour Fees.  We  saw an  entertaining 7 minute video, then had to kill about 20 minutes waiting for the next tour.  This was easy because of  the 20 or so fun and interactive items in the foyer, such as the stick-your- finger-in-a-milking-machine machine,  the who-poos-what game, and the build-your-own-cowshed table.   These guys have entertainment down to a science.

2016-06-29 eco dairy 3

The barn tour totally amazed me.  There are 60 cows in here and every one has a name.  They feed whenever they want to, drink whenever they want to,  lay down on a comfy cushion with special sawdust when they want to.  They know to poo in the aisle.  And – this is the most amazing thing to me of all – they go to get milked whenever they want to.

2016-06-29 eco dairy 4

This is “Robbie” the milk robot – I deeply ap0ologize that the photo is not clearer.  We saw Robbie at work from the observer deck behind interrogation glass.  The cows actually line up to let Robbie do his thing.  First he reads Bessie’s ear tag.  Then he cleans her teats.  Takes a sample from each teat.  If no problem, he just milks her and she walks away.  But if there are any impurities or fever, he sends a text to the farmer.  He also milks the cow but sends the milk to the Reject Container.  If the cow is too difficult to milk, he texts the farmer.

Cows normally get milked twice a day, so if the cow fails to show up for milking for about 18 hours, Robbie texts the farmer.   It’s not magic.  It took Robbie a good 10 minutes to find all four teats of one cow, using his laser light “eyes.”  But I cannot imagine a healthier herd, getting a twice daily monitoring every single day.

As for the poo, they’ve got a squatty  poo-zamboni that pushes the poo into some conveyance that takes it to a methane digester and produces 30% (or was it 60%?) of all the power used at the dairy.  I was impressed, but not inspired to photograph it.   On the other hand

there was cuteness.   Young calves and a bit of a petting zoo.

2016-06-30 petunias before Dory


Petunias  (best flowers with the worst name ever)  at the McDonalds drive through on the way to see  the acquatic movie “Finding Dory” in the morning.

2016-06-30 waterpark

Afternoon – Cultus Lake Water Park.  This was terrific!.   There were at least 10 huge water slides here.   I went down the less insane of these two slides and a bunch of others.  I probably met an abundance of microflora and microfauna, but don’t have any proof or uncomfortable reminders.

2016-07-01 tunnels 1


Stay home and recover?  Ha!   Lua decides we are going to hike the Othello Tunnels, about an hour’s drive away.

2016-07-01 tunnels 2

First thing I notice is an alpine meadow.   The hills are alive.

2016-07-01 tunnels 3

We walk more than a kilometer and finally get to the first tunnel.

2016-07-01 tunnels 5

Information for the intellectually inclined.

2016-07-01 tunnels 4

A beautiful creek runs here.

2016-07-01 tunnels 6

Why do people leave little padlocks, etc. on the fencing 2 kms down this trail?   Junk! However this little macrame owl catches Austin’s eye, and I find it charming.

2016-07-01 tunnels 7

Here is some foliage I liked:  very mossy trees,

wild raspberries and blackberries,

and flowers with and without bees.

2016-07-01 tunnels 12

Finally,  “you can only take that rock home if you carry it yourself.”

2016-07-02 picking mulberries 1


Picking mulberries.

2016-07-02 picking mulberries2

Big juicy mulberries.

2016-07-02 picking mulberries3

Yummy mulberries.

Now, you’d think it would be time to, like, you know, REST a bit.   But the (wonderful) problem was that some fans of the Happy Chicken project  lived an hour or so away, and they wanted to meet Austin…. so the solution was that we would all meet in Sumas, WA, just south of the Canada border, for dinner.   This was also a good time to tank up the car with cheaper American fuel; we needed to do that sometime before Monday.

There is a very good Mexican restaurant in Sumas called El Nopal (The Cactus).   This is the first time I ever photographed my food just because it looked SO delicious.

2016-07-02 South of the Border

Oh man!  It tasted even better than it looks.  This was flora and fauna cooked to perfection.  (A friend of Clara’s here in Hawaii who is from Guadalajara looked at this photo today and knew exactly what it was:  enchaladas with mole sauce.)

2016-07-02 South of the Border 2

After dinner, we all went to hang out in the nearby park as Austin and his friends kept on talking.

On crossing the border back into Canada my son-in-law had to declare what all of us had bought in the US and were bringing back.  He declared with full honesty, “We had dinner at El Nopal and got gas.”

DAY 5 –    We cleaned the house and about 30 people came to hear Austin give a talk about Coral Gardening and Happy Chickens,  including our new friends from the night before.

DAY 6 ….   Leaving at last.    Was I REALLY in Canada?   REALLY?   I can prove it:


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See you next week, folks, if I recover…

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