29 June 2017

2017-06-10 a man and his chicks Cr

A man and his chickens…..

I left Austin with his birds and left to take my Canadian grandson home.   This is how things stood when I left two weeks ago.  I’ll be interested to see if thing have changed when I get back.

2017-06-12 incubators 1 R

The small incubators he ordered on the grant from South Pacific Community (SPC) arrived.

2017-06-12 incubators 2 R

He opened one to put it to use.  (The plan actually is for these small ones to go to communities down the line.)

2017-06-12 incubators 3 R

He also put his old beat-up one from Texas back to work.

He is/was trying to get a lot of babies born before a series of Happy Chicken workshops taking place while I’m away.

2017-06-12 breeding house 1 R

And this is the status of the hatchery he is building.  It has been taking a while to get built, but now our friend Kaiyum is here, on task – working hard to get it done.  The cement floor is in.  Framing for the walls has started.  Old doors from the Suva house are getting re-purposed.  Water tanks are in place and only need gutters.

And I see one more new hen house behind it.   Chicken Villas.

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Happy week, everybody!

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22 June 2017


There is a plant we knew in Micronesia that is a magnificent medicine for fungal infections – cassia alata.   We have a friend on Valley Road in need of it,  but alas it does not grow here (says Austin).   We found some flowering on the way to Suva and got some for our friend … but then.

2017-06-07 cassia alata Cr

I found some growing on Valley Road after all!  YAY.  It is that plant with the pretty yellow flower.

In the northern hemisphere it blooms around Christmas.  So… the blooms tell us it is Christmas in July down here.  The common and pretty name for cassia alata is Candle Flower.  It also has a cheeky name in Chamorro — taki beeha — if you want to know, ask a Guamanian.

Austin has tried to grow “taki beeha” 3 times already and failed.  But he is giving it another go – this time in our greenhouse.

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And 180 degrees from “useful” is my number one despised plant: spathodia.

2016-09-07 spathodia Cr

While on the tree walk, Junia told me that a bio-gas company is cutting down spathodia trees.  Finally a use for that useless darned invasive farm-killer!

Almost immediately, Junia pointed out to me where some spathodia were freshly felled.

2017-06-11 death to spathodia Cr


Here is a copy of my rant about spathodia from 4 years ago (and I still stand by it):

Why do I hate spathodia, you may ask.  I thought it over.  Spathodia is like the bitchy trophy wife.  Not content to be just an ornamental of no other value, the spathodia throws down leaves that poison the ground below and make the soil bitter and unusable.  In Spanish it called “matar finca” (kill the farm).  The Fijians call it “peece-peece” (i.e. piss-piss) in honour of the missed-the-toilet fragrance of its flowers.   The kicker of it is that whereas “a tree without fruit is fit only for the fire” – spathodia has wet wood that doesn’t even burn well!

So now I know it is okay for bio-gas.  Great.  May they all serve as bio-gas fodder.

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I am still in Canada.  And I wish you all a very happy week.

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15 June 2017

2016-11-26 my mango tree at km 12 R


Austin and I have lived on Valley Road for 10 years this month.  For ten years I have gazed up at this beautiful mango tree at Km. 12 every single time I drive.  For ten years I have been saying, “I want to climb up to that mango tree.”  This week – finally – I did it.

2017-06-11 starting out 1 Cr

These two fellows made it possible.  You know Junia.  The young man on the right is Vilimoni.  His family lives in the house at the foot of the hill.  He showed us the best way up – the most direct route to the ridge, and accompanied us about 1/3 of the way.

2017-06-11 starting out 2  R.jpg

And we start.   Victor and Kiki start up the trail in front of me.

2017-06-11 climbing up  R.jpg

Coming out of the trees, I see what I think is “my tree” in the saddle of the hills.  (Moni says it is a different mango tree – I never know for sure who was right.)

2017-06-11 looking down - where is the bottle R

Junia makes it up to the tree ahead of the boys and me.  He takes a good view of the river and the road.  He has me holding my water bottle all the way up.  Good luck in finding it – and me.

2017-06-11 emerging 1 R

I’m starting to emerge from the tall grass.  I still am holding the water bottle high.

2017-06-11 emerging 2 R

Now Kiki, Victor and I are all emerging.

2017-06-11 I am there R

I immediately plop myself  under the tree.  How can I prove I was here?

2017-06-11 we are there R

We were here.

I drink my water and say some prayers for the well-being of everyone in the valley.

2017-06-11 tree grandson and lizard eggs Cr

The boys play with the tree and find lizard eggs.

2017-06-11 under the tree with grandsons R

One last special photo before we go.

The trek was far harder than I expected.  I am in far worse shape than I thought.  If I had not wanted so badly to go, I would have quit.  If Austin had been along, he would have made me turn back.   Good thing I went with Junia instead.

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Today is my daughter Lua’s birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Sweetheart.

I probably already am in Canada with her – as grandson Victor and I are en route as I schedule this post.

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Happy week to you all.

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8 June 2017

2017-06-02 Eucheuma seaweed from Kiribati 1 Cr

I’ll catch everybody up a bit about Austin’s trip to Christmas and Fanning Islands in May.  This is a valuable seaweed he found growing there, that the folks had not been using.  It is in the eucheuma species.   It can be boiled into a jelly that is excellent for eating.  It is used commercially in diapers, paint, ice cream and toothpaste, all kinds of things.

Luckily it is not a restricted species, so Austin was able to bring some home.

2017-06-02 Eucheuma seaweed from Kiribati 2 Cr

Here he is planting a string of it at a safe place on the coral coast.

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A bit more about Kiribati – the Line Islands (that is Kiritimati – Christmas, Fanning and Washington).  Austin got to two out of three.  They are VERY far from the main part of Kiribati, and also very far from each other.   He was able to find some corals to rescue in Fanning that he was able to bring back to Christmas, and he now has a very good coral nursery there, with heat-tolerant corals that are better able to survive bleaching events.

Friends there showered him with presents to bring home.  Here are some of them:

2017-06-08 Kiribati handicrafts R

Shell necklaces,  a lovely shell basket and a Kiribati flag.

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Yesterday, Austin made me go along on a trip to the “far land.”  We have been blessed with kind neighbors who would rather have us buy land their family doesn’t need, and so we were able to buy this 20 acres several years ago.  Junia and Guy in particular are looking to fully develop it as a permaculture site (as opposed to a Chicken Playground, like the rest of our land).  Slowly, slowly.   Austin recently got the digger over there to repair the road and clear out some of the brush.

2017-06-07 going to the far land 1 R

Junia is loading up some plants to take over for planting.

2017-06-07 going to the far land 4 R

Here is a shot looking up the valley at the field of our future crops.

2017-06-07 going to the far land 2 R

Ju and Ratu unload the truck on the land – for a morning of planting.

2017-06-07 panorama Cr2017-06-07 panorama Cr2

The rest of us go up the hill in the truck, to view the world from the top.  Here is a panoramic shot from there (in two pieces)

2017-06-07 going to the far land 3 - marked

And finally, looking back at our house (circled in pink).

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Happy week, everybody!

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1 June 2017

2017-05-31 meyer lemon R

It’s JUNE (on this side of the international date line)!  And meyer lemons are in season.

It is also Duck Nesting Season.  Junia has collected hatched-out ducklings from two different nests and put them in the incubator room to keep them safe from hawks.

2017-05-31 duck nesting season R

I found this sitting duck beside the kitchen.  All these years here, this is the first time I’ve seen a duck nest.

In the “cute construction” category, Junia constructed a trellis for our Pearl Dragon Fruit cacti.

2017-05-31 pearl dragon fruit 2 R

The small pearl dragon fruit plant is at the base on the right.

Going up the hill to take the tinker toy trellis photo, I was quite surprised to see THIS:

2017-05-31 what is wrong here -- roosters Cr-marked

What’s WRONG with this photo?    I will tell you!

Whenever I told anyone in Rabi about Happy Chicken, I started off with the best ration of Roosters to Hens.  It is 8:1.  Six to ten females for every male.   In the photo above I have put a blue dot above every rooster and a pink dot beside every hen.  Twelve roosters to seven hens!  Sheesh!  That is almost 1:2 … sixteen degrees out of whack.  We are overrun with roosters!

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Okay – there was one more photo from Rabi.  My favorite actually.  I didn’t share it because I didn’t know how to.  I sent it a few very close friends, and they liked it – so here goes:

2017-05-21 outbuildings R

This was our bathroom at the home we stayed in on Rabi Island.  It was a typical pair of structures – better than many.   The photo was taken from the kitchen door.

On the left is the toilet – which was a nice water-seal type.  What an improvement over the outhouses Austin and I used when we lived in the Caroline Islands.   But the “strange” thing about i-Kiribati/Rabi custom is that they are not shy about using the toilet – so the wall only goes up shoulder high.  Your head is always visible through the window (unless you choose to double over).   At least the outhouse is well ventilated 🙂

In the middle of the photo is the “shower.”   The tin was about armpit high on me, so it’s definitely a place to squat to shower!

2017-05-21 outbuildings Cr

(close up) Water from the nearby creek is piped in, and the tap is typically left open.  That was a first for me – leaving a shower without turning it off.  Like bathing in a waterfall.   This is also the laundry house.   Ah – hand laundry.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Austin got home last night from Christmas Island .   This certainly makes my week happy.  May you all have a happy week as well

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24 May 2017 – better late than never…

I look in my camera and I want to scream.  A full week in Rabi and only one photo worth sharing.

2017-05-24 below the spring R

This is SO inadequate for the experience.   Grandson Victor is standing under some uncaptured overflow from a mountain spring that was gushing, GUSHING above (I didn’t take my camera up for fear it would get wet as I was not sure at all that I wasn’t going to fall).  Thirty gallons a minute or more pouring out from under great boulders, running through a small cemented catchment, strained through a wire grate and directed into three large pipes that carry the water to the homes in the nearby settlement.   Water so clear as to be invisible when caught in a bottle.   The twenty minute trek to it, part of it barefoot through nearly knee deep muck, was worth every second.

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Rabi is awash in food.  For those actually interested in the flora, there are noni fruits as big as my hand.

2017-05-20 Rabi noni R

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The family we stayed with were so kind, loving and generous.  I kept planning to take a photo, and before I knew it the kids were asleep on the last night, and we had to leave at 2:30 am for the boat ride to take us to the bus that left at 4 am that got us to Savusavu at 8 am, for the 4 pm check in for the ferry that left at 7:30 pm that got us to Suva at 8 this morning, for a long typical Suva day followed by bus and truck and finally getting back to the farm at 9 pm.   Kind of hard to go back because I didn’t get that family photo.   DRAT.

So instead, I shall have to tell you a story from the family.  It is a true story.  I am giving it the title “The Clever Wife”   (The lady who told me this story is the mother of my hostess, Eriten.  Rabi names are hard for me, and so I always called her “Aunty.”  In retelling her story I will call her Lady, and her husband Gent.  And everything is basically what she told me: I only took creative license in the very beginning – because I can see that that would have been the truth, too.)


Lady was a beautiful young woman who felt very lucky to be married to Gent, the kindest man in Rabi Island.  He was thoughtful of everyone and very generous.  Gent was a local police officer and that gave him a good income.  Every payday, Gent would go see all his friends, the poorest people, and help them.  Everybody loved Gent very much.

As the years passed, they were blessed with one, two, three, FOUR sweet daughters!  How wonderful!   Except now Lady needed for Gent to bring some of his paycheck home.  She would tell him, “Husband, we have four daughters to take care of now.  I need you to bring some money home.”

She would tell Gent this, but he could not change his ways.  He would still go straight with his money to all of the poor people and buy them groceries and everything else they needed, and no money at all would make it back to the house.  Oh well.

Lady thought about it.  She had vegetables and cassava and chickens and eggs.   She could get pay on payday!   She made dinner parcels and took them down to the work place.  Other people getting off work were happy to buy some ready made dinner.  Lady was able to make as much money as Gent was giving away.  And everybody was happy.

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Wishing you all a cheerful week.

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18 May 2017

I gave my camera to 4 year old Kiki and asked him to take some photos of plants and animals for my blog.  Instead he came back with ART!

2017-05-16 Kiki ke photo 2 R

This is view of the mountains looking west across the railing.

2017-05-16 Kiki ke photo 3 R

This is view of the chickens from the walkway.

2017-05-16 Kiki ke photo 1 R

And, finally, feet on bridge.

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Recently we had some houseguests – previously unmet but related to our household.  Raijeli, wife of our buddy and resident carpenter Kaiyum, has a sister who lives in Oz and was visiting here with her daughter and THEIR nephew – son of a different sister.  The nephew is named Robin – a fairly common man’s name for Brits, so I didn’t think much about it.  I had a surprise coming.

Kiki’s actual name is Keith, and he is named for family friend Gerald Keith Robinson. Robin’s actual name is Robinson, and he is also named for Gerald Keith Robinson.  Here are these two namesakes together.

2017-05-08 Kiki & Robin R

There is a third namesake that I know of, Jerry – which is the name that our friend was always known by.  Little Jerry is the grandson of my good friend.

Alas, alas – big Jerry is no longer with us.  And oddly, I do not have a photo of him in my computer.   But I do have some of his paintings, and I just took their photo.

(oops, I think the one on the right is upside down.  or not.)    Miss you, Jerry!

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I’ve scheduled this post to come out on time, and when it is going live, Victor and I will be arriving in Rabi.  Adventures await!   I don’t know about internet coverage.  Next week’s post may be unavoidably late.

Happy week, everybody.

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