1 September 2016

Notes appeared on my dresser:  6 Aug harrowing $100, 16 Aug plowing $110, 26 Aug harrowing $120, 30 Aug plowing $150.   I remembered Austin talking about a tractor coming, but what struck me about the notes is how the price went up a bit every single time.

I finally asked him about it today, when he gleefully mentioned that the tractor was coming again.  AGAIN?!!   So I had to go look:

2016-08-31 plowed field 1  R.jpg

From the top it looked like a lot, until I realized 2/3 was not on our land.  Couldn’t get a good view from the top, so I had to go down.

The big side isn’t done yet – so here is Tractor Man.

2016-08-31 plowed field 3  R

The other side was done and was getting planted.   Ginger, eggplant (free from agriculture), tomato seeds (also free from agriculture) and peanuts.  The coconuts you see are ones that Austin planted the second or third year we were here – great trees for being just 6 or 7 years old!

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While some guests were playing at the beach, I got fascinated with the bark of (I think) mangrove trees.  Huge trees and the bark was quite different:

2016-08-29 bark at Natadola 2  R

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (because the bark is not definitive, for sure)

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Now for the STAR of this week –  really unexpected reader feedback to a post from 8 January 2015.   I had run this comment with the photo below:  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?

2015-01-01 Abandoned mosque 2  R

Well, this week I got all the answers to those questions !

This is the comment that was posted  last Thursday afternoon:

Hi, I am Abdul Abbas Karim of Masjid Al Rahim, Zion Hill, Natadola. Fiji., would like to comment on the Mosque issue of Natadola. I had many news about it . This mosque was built by my Father Late Janab Abdul Karim of Zion Hill, Natadola. This was a land issue. In 1964 Late Mr Billy Clerk of Korolevu came to Natadola and called a meeting at Shaheb Dean’s house. many land owners attended the meeting in which i was present with my father. Mr. Clerk told every one present there to buy freehold land in which all farmers were leasing. Our land was 21 acres and Mr.Clerk said it is two thousand four hundred pounds. many people agreed to buy and paid deposit. My father paid 5 shillings for his block of 21 acres and and he also paid 5 shillings for Late Mr. Latchman’s block too. it was all paid by deducting from the bank when sugarcane was cut. My father paid all and other farmers paid too and all papers was with Mohammed Ali of Tadola. When time came to get the freehold title then Mohammed Ali din’t issue the papers/receipts and he said it was all lost. My father Janab Abdul Karim fought this land case in supreme court about freehold title for 30 years and court was dragging time. It was the first longest case held in Fiji. As soon as my father passed away the Manager of Shanghrila Hotel , (Yanuca Hotel) sent some contractors to demolish this mosque in 2007, on the old and expired court order, which was ill legal to demolish someone’s property. The hindu people saved the mosque by stopping the digger drive and by calling police. Three person died who sent them and the contractor died after doing so nasty thing and being the muslim and tried to break the mosque. I have repaired the mosque and painted and people started to pray in it . It is not a abundant Mosque I live there and look after the mosque. If any one want to contact me regarding this Masjid Al Rahim please contact me on 8677671, 0416651392 or email : aakarimtadola@gmail.com please stop saying this it a “abundant mosque”. AAKARIM Natadola.

Amazing story, isn’t it!   I love this country where people defend each other’s religions and holy places.

2016-08-29 renewed mosque  Cr

So I had to go see it. Here is the same mosque as of this week.  It has paint!  It has a sign!  It is not abandoned!  Best wishes to Abdul Abbas Karim and his community.

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Finally – our friend Joe found something at the market he thought was the best thing ever:

2016-08-29 Mango Mayo  R

Mango mayonnaise.

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Happy week, y’all.

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25 August 2016

2016-08-24 Po  0r.JPG

Po wanted to say hello this week.  She is named for the star of Kung Fu panda, who is named for the White Dragon in Mah Jongg (probably), and whose name means “white” or “blank.”

Actually, I spent the whole week on a fun writing project and only walked around with the camera yesterday.    I’m just going to take you on the walk with me in the upper yard.

First off:   what do you do when it stops raining?

Cut the grass!!


2016-08-24 jackfruit  0r

It’s jackfruit season again.  Already!

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Here are the real stars of the show.  These are “kabeer” meat birds, bred in Pakistan -which Austin got from the feed company.   These birds are only 3 months old and very large already.  Unlike commercial hybrid meat birds, the kabeer birds are very smart.  They are out eating leaves and bugs on their own all day long.   Austin is very happy because these have a lot of potential for being good meat birds for Happy Chicken projects once he breeds them with the very best naked-neck rooster.   He’s planning to produce a Fiji Super-Chicken!

There were other chickens out pecking everywhere, I didn’t bother photographing.

2016-08-24 no imagination  0r

THESE are the ones that tickled me.   I could identify with them.  The door is wide open and they are still in the house, hanging out.   Perhaps writing a screenplay in their little chicken heads.

2016-08-24 Mulberry blooming  0r

The mulberry tree up by Beamer’s grave is blooming again.

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Oh – and the fish pond is really FULL of water and the geese are having a blast.

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What a SOFT feather!   I LIKE it!   Not a chicken feather.   Oh, it must be from a duck.

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Here are some ducks (just around the corner).   But HEY, what stupid creature gets up on their cage to poop?    (I asked Dr. Smarty Pants – he said it was some roosters stayed out one night and decided to sleep there.)

Enough for this walk!

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A couple more items, though.

2016-08-24 Sandalwood blooms  Cr

The sandalwood is blooming.   Austin says there are lots of seeds and he’s just scattering them now.   Many of our neighbors have many sandalwood trees growing, just from seeds the birds carried over.


2016-08-24 doughnuts  0r

Junia made DOUGHNUTS last night.    Yum!!

(The photo is of them not yet cooked – quite a process)

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Hoping you all have a Happy Week.

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18 August 2016

Hi, Everybody

I spent half the week in Suva, uninspired to take any photos, and came home to more rain and a muddy road that reminds me of driving on an inch of snow (fun! – but not photogenic).   So I’m giving you a rare One Subject Blog.

Before I went to Suva, I went to the first night of the three day wedding.   I didn’t get photos of the ceremony – but I did document ONE of the customs:  the gift to the mother of the bride (or groom, depending on which one you are related to).  They call it DAAL – or something like that.   I made one for the mother of the bride.

It is Very Specific.  You need to put in exactly the right stuff, or …. well, it’s just not right.  Ok ….

2016-08-11 Daal 1

You start with a new basin.

2016-08-11 Daal 2

You put in some uncooked white rice.

2016-08-11 Daal 3

Then some Urdi dhal.   These two substances get all stirred together.

It does not matter the order of putting the rest of the things in there, so long as they are all in.

2016-08-11 Daal 4

You have to put in some “doob” grass, which grows wild here.

2016-08-11 Daal 5

You have to put in a knuckle of “haldi” root – which is turmeric.

2016-08-11 Daal 6

You have to put in EXACTLY twenty-five cents, in coins.

2016-08-11 Daal 7

You need to put in a sari for the mother – but it can be another dress or a salwaar kameez, nowadays.   I have to say I was REALLY happy with this sari I found for Vinita.  It is so pretty.

2016-08-11 Daal 8

You are supposed to put in a shirt for the father.  I was stoked to find this shirt that was such a good match to the sari.  The parents will look terrific together going to future functions in these clothes.   (Women collect so many saris at weddings, that quite a few are just kept and given away as other presents in the future … I wanted to insure that the one I gave would get put into service 🙂 )

At this point, you might also include gifts for the other son(s) and daughter(s) – but it is not required, and I cheaped out.

Do you think we’re done?   Oh no, we’re not done yet.

2016-08-11 Daal 9

The gift needs some sweets – meaning Indian sweets.   So here they are.   Unfortunately, I put this Daal (or whatever it’s called) together the day before I presented it.   And the next day I saw a parade of ants trying to get in……   sigh.

2016-08-11 Daal 10

Now this is not required, but it is a good idea: a card of best wishes, telling who the present is from.

2016-08-11 Daal 11

Now it is all wrapped in a YELLOW cloth.    Not content with the basic customs, most people then decorate the yellow cloth with additional sparkly garlands, etc.  But for me – enough already!!   I think the plain yellow is elegant in its simplicity!

Now the actual time for the presentation of these presents is on the second night of the wedding.  All the gift bearers line up in an intricately decorated stage of sorts, scores of guests looking on, a live band soaking the air with Indian music – but I was going to be in Suva by then, so I carried my Daal over the day before.

2016-08-11 Daal 12

Here I present it to the mother of the bride.   Note how she has a scarf on her head, and she uses the edges of the scarf to receive the basin.

Too bad I didn’t get a photo of the final step.  The mother then gives the present-giver a 20 cent coin.

Why the rice and urdi dhal?  Why the doob grass?  The turmeric?  The exactly five cent difference in coin exchange?    Mysteries beyond mysteries.

Yesterday, I was back at their house and one of the old ladies was there patiently separating the white rice from the black urdi … what a job.  And I still don’t know why.

Anyway – there is one more photo I can share.   Quite the vanity shot.  This sari was a gift from my brother Rakesh 2 years ago, and Friday was the first time I wore it.

2016-08-11 prettiest sari ever  R

Prettiest sari EVER.

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11 August 2016

2016-08-08 Fairy Ring  Cr

This is a “Fairy Ring” – that is, mushrooms popping up in a big circle.   Austin spotted this as we were travelling on Victoria Drive in Suva.    I’d never heard of a Fairy Ring before.   Austin told me (what I’d never ever heard) that mushrooms are mostly underground and the piece that comes out that we see is its reproductive structure, always from the edge.   So these mushrooms we see are on the edge of one really big mushroom underground.  And it was the first time Austin saw one around a tree.

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The sister of my best buddy here is getting married, and as you may have noticed from some of my posts ….. Wow – I haven’t done an Indian wedding yet!   Oops!

The typical wedding for Sanatan Hindus, the religion of most of my neighbors, is three days of ceremonies, following many days of preparation.  I’ll try to get some of the ceremonies documented, but for now I can tell you about one little piece of the preparation – making one special sweet called  Laddoo.   

2016-08-09 Laddoo 1  R

It starts with wheat flour being lightly browned in a little bit of ghee (clarified butter) over the fire.

2016-08-09 Laddoo 2   R

All the wheat flour is put aside, then the same process is carried out with rice flour.  They end up putting 5 or 6 bags of rice flour into the wok.   Vina says in the old days the women had to soak rice and then mill it themselves into flour before starting!

2016-08-09 Laddoo 3  R

Here’s how much rice flour – plus the next metal basin was getting completely dried out at the fire.   (I know, so far b-o-r-i-n-g)

“Why the wheat flour?”  I ask Vina.   “To keep it soft,” she tells me.  “Without the wheat flour, the laddoos are really hard.”

2016-08-09 Laddoo 4  R

Somewhere else, someone toasted sesame seeds and brought them.

2016-08-09 Laddoo 5  R

Then both flours are added together, and then powdered milk …. and a handful of ground black pepper!

2016-08-09 Laddoo 6  R

And half a bag of icing sugar.

Off in the kitchen someone has made a simple syrup of sugar and boiling water.  One woman is in charge of preparing the little basins of the ladies who will squeeze the laddoos.    Each basin gets about 2 cups of the flour and hardly enough syrup.

You put ghee on your hands and then you take a handful and you squeeze, squeeze, squeeze – and lots of crumbly bits fall off.   And if you are good at it, you end up with a little laddoo that looks like this:

2016-08-09 Laddoo 7   R

My laddoos mostly don’t look so good as this one of Vina’s.

“Vina,” I asked, “when did you learn to make laddoos?”

“When I was a little girl, I would sit by my mum and we would make them together.”

What sweet Together-Time that must have been.

2016-08-09 Laddoo 8  R

All of a sudden I see some MONSTER laddoos on the tray.   What’s this?  (I’ve been looking at my hands trying to get some laddoos squeezed.)    Unseen by me, someone came with 6 washed coins.  The coins are pressed into special laddoos that will go to the groom’s family.

2016-08-09 Laddoo 9  R and marked


As a last few laddoos are pressed, here is the almost final result of an hour of work by about 6 ladies.   But what is that OTHER big laddoo?   Why is it alone?

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It’s been raining like crazy – four days non-stop after months and months of dry weather. Luckily the rain was gentle and steady, and all soaked in and did not cause erosion or flooding.   And now it has passed us.

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Fourteen people here for Austin’s second Happy Chicken Workshop – this time coming from two islands very badly affected by Hurricane Winston:  Koro and Moturiki.   Yay for the workshops!   The project is spreading!

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2016-08-11 PTC sign by Joe  R.jpg

A sign painter stayed awhile with us.  Whee!

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Answer – the other big laddoo is one that the bride carries in one of the ceremonies (don’t ask anything else, because I don’t know!)

Happy week, Everybody!

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4 August 2016

2016-07-30 starfruit etching of floor  R

What the heck?!   Austin called me over to get this “good photo” for my blog.  Austin and Kiki smashing fruit on the dining room floor in their bare feet.  WHY?   Actually, there was an answer:   this is starfruit, which is highly acidic, and which Austin was using to “etch” the floor before he repaints it.  He thinks it will cause the paint to stick better and longer this time.  We’ll see….

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A few days later Kiki comes running over to my house to show me This.  WHAT?

2016-07-30 praying mantis 2  Cr

THIS!   A little praying mantis.   (It took a lot of tries to get this clear picture … that insect crawled all over Kiki, who somehow was managing not to flinch, even when it crawled over his eye!)

Now for something Austin found fascinating, and I found just plain gross.

2016-08-01 very funky chicken 1  Cr

A very funky chicken that Nigel’s mother and brother had with them during their visit.   That is not a normal rooster comb.

2016-08-01 very funky chicken 2  Cr

It reminds me of Austin’s cultured coral colonies.   Fine on a coral, gaggy on a bird.

Finally, a conversation with a neighbor:

2016-08-02 round up 1  Cr

I was taking a morning walk and met the new person who has moved into a neighboring house.  His name is Praveen, and he is from Ba (a province where they do a lot of cane farming).  Praveen was taking advantage of the windless morning to spray herbicide on the weeds.

He told me how good the spray is because it is quick and gets the job done.  Before they had it, they would spend hours weeding between the cane and then just a few weeks later, they’d have to be weeding, weeding, weeding again.

2016-08-02 round up 2  R

It’s clearly effective, but  Austin doesn’t use it.  There have to be some non-poison ways that are not too labour intensive.  Junia will be going to a permaculture certificate course in Australia next month.   Maybe he’ll come back with some good solutions.

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Austin got a GREAT birthday present yesterday.  Some government official came by about the feeder road.  The government is going to take over maintenance of it!   We’ll be getting grating and gravel!    YAY!!

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Happy week, Everybody.

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