26 January 2017 – vacation edition


The day I left on vacation was Kiki’s first day of kindergarten.  How can it be?   Here he is in his school uniform.

This vacation edition is a small retrospective on Life of Kiki.  Working backwards:


I never dated the photos properly.  I’m guessing this is two years ago.


In his first pocket sulu (formal Fijian menswear).


With his  Momo Ju when we harvested all the fish out of the pond.  That was September 2013 – he was a little over a year and a half.


Here he is crawling at about one year.  Our farm staff is behind him, and way in the back is Uncle Maki.


And finally, one of the very earliest Keith pictures (he didn’t have his nickname yet) at about 2 weeks old.

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Austin and I agree we don’t know how this happened — we both feel as if we’ve been at the farm for about 6 months, or maybe a year — and we have been here nearly nine years!

I think it is the proof of my Cousin Buck’s “toilet roll theory of time” … which is that time is like a roll of toilet paper: the closer the end the faster it goes.

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The vacation editions are for while I am traveling.  Flora and Fauna will resume its regular weekly posts on 23 February 2017.

Happy week, everybody.

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19 January 2017

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Austin was going to show our Vanuatu trainees some of the products we make from coconuts, one of which is soap.  You can see here that he made it.  But he had a bright idea: why use our really nice home made coconut oil, when there is cheap, lower grade coconut oil in the store?

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Here it is.  Not VIRGIN coconut oil (VCO) that is colorless and delicate, but coconut oil made of copra (dried coconut) that is yellow and not something you want to eat.  Unlike the VCO that costs nearly $10 for 500 ml, this is $3.49 for 750 ml.  And it only took 2 cups, about half a bottle, to make the equivalent of 12 bars of soap.   That an a few cents of commercial lye – although Austin can make lye from wood ashes if needed.

A more pressing need for strong commercial lye for us right now is to make HOMINY, because we have all this dried corn.   Austin did give hominy a go.  Our lye was not strong enough – the shells did not dissolve off, and the corn never swelled up.   And it was not photogenic.  But it tasted ok and didn’t kill us, so we will probably try again.


The fate of the Pumpkins.  The pretty ones got taken to the kitchen or given away.  The rest turned into a buffet for the resident fowls.

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I’m going on vacation – and this time I will not blog from my vacation site (unless something super interesting comes up) – but am instead pre-scheduling some little “vacation edition” blogs.   In getting ready to leave on my trip to Canada (again) to see my grandkids there (again) – I went back to visit the Teddy Bear tree in Suva, knowing that my granddaughter is too big to really appreciate it any more.

On the left, the tree in 2013; on the right, the tree now.

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Ah — going a bit bald.

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Ever since I typed  Sing a Song of Sixpence last week, I’ve been thinking of “Sinker Sucker Socks Pants, Apocryphal Awry” – the Anguish Languish version of that poem.  So this morning I went to a website that has some works in  Anguish Languish, and there I read a poem that had me laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.   It has NOTHING to do with flora, fauna, Fiji or anything … and not even vacation since I don’t imbibe.   But I cannot resist.  If you ever sang this French song in school, perhaps you will like it.


Fryer Jerker, Fryer Jerker,
Dormer-view? Dormer-view?
Sunny lay martini!
Sunny lay martini!
Drink, drank, drunk.
Drink, drank, drunk.

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Happy week, everybody.

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12 January 2017


Why does Akka look so happy?   What’s that he is holding?


MYNA birds?   WHY?

Oh, herein lies a tale.   Iopil, one of our trainees from Vanuatu, mentioned to Austin that it was a surprise to see so many mynas around.  They don’t come around much in Tanna.    They are afraid of people, because people eat them.    Well, of course Austin thought that was a great idea.  He’d tried it before (Kim’s opinion of the result:  YUCKY!)


So here was the trap: just one of Austin’s mobile rearing pens, with the top propped.


My question was how do you keep them from flying out when you open it?


I could not imagine the Myna Master in Action.   Bangedy-bang-bang-bang with the stick.  In less than a minute this catch is ready to remove.

Before I go any further with this, please know that these birds have grown up on the same food as our chickens:  commercial feed, table scraps, and farm produce such as papayas.  And the population is artificially high because of all the grand food.

Anyway, the finally tally of birds caught was ……..  FIFTY-TWO.   “Sing a song of sixpence” …  we could have baked two pies and had birds left over.


Austin parboiled the little birds whole, and then removed only the breast meat and the legs.  That is the meat we took from one myna.   Our dogs could have had what was left of all the mynas — so that all went to the chickens (who will eat ANYthing) after being thoroughly boiled.


So here are Iopil and Joel set to work cleaning the rest of the big pile of parboiled mynas..

This time Akka is the one who did the final cooking of the harvested meat.  I don’t know what he did, but this time the mynas were DELICIOUS!   No kidding.  Those little legs tasted just like duck.   Yum yum yum.  (Some day I need to get photos of the final product.  By the time meals are ready, I’m thinking of eating, not documenting.)

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I’ve shown you this funny plant before whose leaves are edged with little cabbages that are baby plants.


Well it has been so humid here that those plants have been sending out roots.  Reminds me of an old lady’s chin.

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It’s been downpours every afternoon.


Just look at the build-up of bamboo behind the old bridge in Sigatoka!

Austin tells me that now folks from the nearby village are working on breaking up the bamboo logjam.  They’ve opened up a channel on the near side, and even started burning it in the middle of the river.

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I spent three days “shelling,” that is taking the kernels off the cob.   Thank God Eopil and especially Joel decided to help.  The joints in my hand really take a hit, and I can’t stop once I get going.

If the cobs were boring, I could probably walk away – but they aren’t.   I’ll try to convince you.    Take this cob for example.  The kernels are so close together (after drying) that it is like one solid mass.   Quite a challenge.


Here are some of the different patterns:

Straight, spiral, pine-cone end, pine-cone band.

There are also color variations and differences in the kernels’ skin – some tender, some really shell-like.   Corn is a beautiful crop.


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IMPORTANT MISSING INFORMATION — the coconut oil being made last week was being made with our own coconuts from the farm.  This was a first!

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Happy week, everybody!

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Special Edition: Patti’s traveling memorial service

Hi Everybody,

I don’t think this is flora or fauna or local custom, but Austin thinks you will all want to see it, so I am putting it out as a special edition.   This is what we did this morning in honor of our friend Patti who lived here half the year for the past two years.   Our memorial was running (more or less) concurrently with her funeral in California.

Here at the farm we cleaned and decorated the truck

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And Monica decorated the the first of 3 cakes


Then we went to pick up Vina and Indu – and to go to the nearby Fijian village.

We went to the home of the preschool that Patti had set up, and they were ready with a very clean house, and a hand-lettered message “We all miss you dear Patty.  Rest in peace.”.

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We brought the photo and carried it with us.

At this house the focus of the memorial was on Patti’s creating the school and her love for the children.  We had Christian and Baha’i prayers, and the children performed all of Patti’s favorites of their songs.  This was followed by that cake and cookies and juice that the teachers had made.   There were probably 30 or more people there, but only the ones involved with the school got in the photo.


Except my grandson Kiki – who always gets in a picture.  Besides which, he really loved his Auntie Tatty.

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Then a bunch of folks piled in the truck for the next stop for Patti’s memorial.


Next stop was the farm.   Patti sat on Mount Carmel.   The focus of this part of the memorial was Patti’s devotion to Baha’i service.   Junia read the prayer that Patti prayed every morning for the success of her preschool, and we read the letter about Patti’s passing from the Universal House of Justice.   Austin sang the famous song of Baha’i Scripture that Patti wrote the tune to, so many decades ago: Ye Are the Stars of the Heaven of Understanding.   This was followed by more cake – and tea.


There were about 12 adults and 8 children here, and were about 20 people at each further stop.   My photo taking kind of went downhill – there are more photos on Vina’s camera.  Anyway …. next stop was Vina’s house.


I took Patti straight to “her” room, and put her on the special chair that Rakesh had bought for her on her last trip.  Patti really loved the chair and the thoughtfulness behind it, and mentioned it in conversations with Vina.  “Make sure Rakesh sits on my chair!”

The focus of this part of the memorial service was her love for Indians and Indian culture.  (In fact Poova, her husband, is an Indian from Mauritius).   We had Hindu and Baha’i prayers.  Then teacher Kalara said Fijian grace over the delicious lunch:  puri, curried cowpeas, curried potato, curried pumpkin, rice, dhal and farm-fresh scrambled egg.


We ended by singing the Fijian farewell song, Isa Lei, for Patti.

Last stop was Martin’s house, a short walk up a small hill from Vina’s.


Martin is a dear friend who unfortunately is sorely afflicted with multiple sclerosis.  Patti would go pray with him every week when she was at Vina’s.    He and his parents were happy to see us – the house was all clean and juice was ready.


Here are a few of the friends at this last stop.   We all shared more memories of our sweet and lovely Patti.   We drank juice and ate chocolates.

We ended by singing the unity prayer in Fijian.   I noqu Kalou, i noqu Kalou, ni vakadua vatataka mada na utodra na nomuni tamata ….  O my God, O my God, unite the hearts of Thy servants …


This was the truck at the end of the traveling memorial — getting ready to take everyone home — drying out, but still a little festive.

None of us had ever participated a “travelling memorial” before.  So it will be a very memorable memorial, we are sure.

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5 January 2017



It is a corn week.   It started with Junia asking me, “Mom, how much corn have you eaten in your life?”    Oh, about 800 ears, I answered.   He was surprised,  thinking my answer would be thousands, but he soldiered on.   “How many rows are on each ear?” he asked.   Oh, about eighteen, I guessed.


“WRONG!”  he said.   “There are  12 rows.”   He showed me by his eating pattern, which I reproduced above.   I did not believe him – it turns out that the most common cob size for us is 14 rows – Junia is wrong, too – ha ha.

I asked Austin the same question.  He guessed 20 rows – and was as shocked as I was at mere 12 or 14 rows for corn.


Meanwhile our porch was covered, really covered with corn needing shucking.   I’d spent hours at it by the time Akka and our dear Teitei guest came to help.    Please notice the mountain of empty shucks on the far right.  I did ALL those.


So Akka started the contest approach.  Who finds the smallest intact cob?


The longest cob?


The weirdest cob?


Austin shows up, and then we find the FATTEST cob.   Twenty-two rows!


Finally shucking is all done, and the corn cobs go out in the sun.


Shelling starts and the kernels also go out in the sun.


Akka helps shell and finds this cute pattern in one corn cob.

I’ve been shelling for hours every day and still have more than a feed sack waiting to be shelled.    Even with my best tricks, it is still a slow process.  Lucky I love the corn colors and patterns and types so much, and find the process of shelling addictive.

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Less than 2 weeks left for the trainees from Vanuatu.   Austin thought – it’s time to teach them how to do coconut oil by fermentation method.


Here they are squeezing out the coconut.   Since this photo, they have made the oil and are about to work on other coconut oil  based products.  NOTE:  this is the first time we have made oil from coconuts grown on our own farm.

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Every time I go to town there are goats all around the road in one 500 meter stretch.


It’s put me to wondering why these goats don’t get stolen.  Seriously!  A goat is way more valuable than a chicken, and Valley Road is far more traveled and anonymous than our little feeder road.    Anyway, I’m taking these goats as a good omen for honesty.  May they thrive in peace.

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Yesterday was bizarre.  Standing in line at the bank, the man next to me asked me, “Did you hear about the tsunami warning?”  No, I said.   “Well there was an earthquake in Nadi an hour ago.”   I replied, if that quake caused a tsunami – we would be dead already.   But still people were talking.    M-H Supermarket had closed shop already.   My friend Venaisi saw me and asked.   I’m sure it’s not serious, I told her, because Austin hasn’t called me yet.   He called a few minutes later.  Cars were lined up getting out of town.

What had happened was not “an earthquake” in Nadi – but a whole series of them.  There were fifteen or so of them by the time we went to bed.   Action like that can end up shaking something loose.

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Isa, isa.   My friend Patti got called home to her Creator this week.


She made two trips here and was planning more.  She is the one who started the Maria School in the village that I wrote about   here

But,  man oh man – what a lovely death she got.   She had a very happy day, told her housemate that she missed her mother, went to sleep … and took her leave.

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May 2017 be gentle, kind, instructive and unifying to us all.

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