28 August 2014

2014-08-26 plum 1  R

Monica brought these in – new fruits on the farm – mangosteens, she thought.  I was SO EXCITED!  Mangosteens are delicious.  I knew Austin had planted some mangosteen trees a few years back, but they are supposed to take twenty years before bearing fruit.  Wow!  Ours were so early!

We cut one.

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Well, the skin was not hard like a mangosteen.  And the flesh was not pearly over the seeds like a mangosteen – but what the heck:  this was 14 years premature!   (I still hadn’t clued in.)   I ran down to the pond with Monica to show off our mangosteens to Austin.  He broke the news to me – they aren’t child-prodigy mangosteens after all – they are some kind of plummy thing.  Even Austin doesn’t know what they are, even though he planted the tree. They are growing on our land and they taste pretty good.  Anyway, it is something new.

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REMEMBER THE HORN WORMS?  (31 July)

Austin was going to put them in a jar so he could see the moths emerge.    Well here is a chrysalis from one.

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And here is the dalo sphinx moth that emerged.   It had been in the jars several days before I got around to taking its photo, and it was flapping its wings, trying to figure out how they work.   The poor thing finally did manage to take off.

*   *   *

A CONVERSATION

Austin:  You don’t know what you’re talking about.

Me:  What do you mean?

Austin:   You said none of the ducks ever recovered [last week’s blog]

Me:  I thought they didn’t

Austin: No, some of them did.

The Upshot – the blue egret from last week is doing well, as did SOME of the ducks that got sick before.

*    *    *

ANOTHER CONVERSATION

Me:  Where’s Billy?  [the goat from 24 July]

Austin:   Oh he got well and went home.

Me:  (surprised)  Ha.

2014-08-27 sundried tomatoes 4  R

NO MUSS, NO FUSS

It’s the end of the tomato season and we bought a crate of tomatoes.  I refused to blanch them for freezing (photos from that in my blog almost exactly one year ago!) – huge bother!   So Akka, God bless him, decided to try sun-drying them.  This was yesterday morning.   They’re on a screen, see their cute shadows!

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This was yesterday afternoon.    Lovely.  We’ll pop them out for a few more hours of sun today and then they can be stored in much, much, much less space.

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I took shots of the grasslands being burned this week, only to find out that exactly a year ago (29 August 2013) I covered the burning grasslands as well.   This seems to be scheduled like clockwork!

a 2014-08-25 JuLin dawn at pineapple circle

THE FARM THROUGH THE EYES OF A GUEST

Ju-lin, a recent guest,  shared her 233 photos from here with me, and agreed that I could post them in my blog.  I chose a handful of my favorites and will share them briefly.   The one above is “dawn at pineapple circle.”

b 2014-08-25 JuLin dawn

Another shot of dawn (I don’t know where exactly)

c 2014-08-25 JuLin morning spider web

Dewy spider web.

d 2014-08-25 JuLin bananas

Bananas.

e 2014-08-25 JuLin papayas

Papayas.

f 2014-08-25 JuLin duck in its outhouse

Goose on a nest.  (Austin tells me that this is the goose who is determined to sit.  LONG story.  Maybe next week.)

h 2014-08-25 JuLin incubator

Austin at the incubator, with eggs hatching in the bottom tray.

j 2014-08-25 JuLin weird flower   Cr

Flower in a tree (I have no idea what it is – very pretty!  I must try to find it!)

k 2014-08-25 JuLin weird fruit

Weird fruit (I have no idea about this one either).

l 2014-08-25 JuLin digging ginger

Monica digging ginger – the observer is Austin’s namesake who was here visiting.

m 2014-08-25 JuLin Kiki & Beamer

The youngest member of our household helping the oldest one to walk around.

n 2014-08-25 JuLin bug

An impressive beetle.

o 2014-08-25 JuLin food

An impressive dinner, starring fish from our pond.

p 2014-08-25 JuLin toadlings

The porch of the cottage at night.

q 2014-08-25 JuLin toadlings   Cr

The stars of the porch stage show.

Thank you, Ju-lin.  It was fun to see our place as you saw it.

 

6 March 2014

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Thank you, Agriculture!   They sent Austin home with two big hauls of trees:  breadfruit, lemon, orange, vutu  (tropical almond) and ivi (polynesian chestnut).  And I bet they didn’t even know it was Ayyam-i-Ha.
 
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GUAVAS AGAIN
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I’m a little smarter than I was last year when I saw half-eaten guavas and first thought it was my neighbor leaving them (13 June 2013).  But the return of guava season still took me by surprise.   I found guavas on the Cardiac Hill trail and floating in the hole that will someday be a pool – I didn’t even realize we had guava trees in either of those places.

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Here is the trail to my neighbor’s house – yes, plenty of guavas here again, too.  What to do with all these guavas but to make jam?    Akka did the honors this time, and the jam is YUMMY – very much like a soft version of the guava paste we used to eat in Puerto Rico.
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 I will only show one photo:  Akka and Junia wringing the guavas out in strong vegetable netting attached to two sticks.   Please remember this shot.
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MAKING COCONUT OIL
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The bigger production early in the week, while it was still rainy, was making coconut oil.  Austin bought a lot of husked coconuts at $5/dozen on the road during his last trip to Suva.   We make oil from 2 dozen nuts at a time.
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The nuts each get whacked with a cane knife, opened and drained of their water.
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We bought an electric grater last year because grating 24 coconuts with a scraper takes forever.  
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Warm water is added to the scraped coconut and then it is like doing hand laundry – squeezing the water and coconut together to coax all the milk out of the flesh.
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THE MISSING PHOTO – the coconut getting wrung out in the contraption that the boys used for the guavas above.   (It was so dramatic.  I’m sorry I didn’t make them stop while I went to find my camera.).
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The coconut milk is then put into a clean biscuit bucket and water is added to just below the bottom line.  The lid is put on, and the liquid is left to ferment.  (This one was filled to a little over the bottom line – oops – and so it started overflowing, which is why it is in the aluminum basin.)
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The “waste coconut” – the defatted flesh – can be used in cookies, but mostly Austin uses it for chicken food.   The shells are excellent firewood.
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 In 24-48 hours, the fermenting liquid naturally divides into vinegar, foam and oil.   The vinegar needs a lot of work to become tasty – not worth it.  The foam – what everyone else considered a waste product – actually cooks down into a delicious vegan cheese.   And the oil – well, that’s the main purpose of the whole exercise.  The oil is skimmed off and gently cooked until all the vinegar has boiled off.
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You can see the oil we got from this batch in the olive oil bottle   – more than 3 times the commercial bottle that sells for $8.25.   
 
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DEAD MAN’S LUNCH
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Yesterday was Day 10 of my neighbor’s funeral.  The family is Sanatan Hindu, and the funeral takes 13 days.  On the 10th day from cremation,  there is a ceremony at the river where the close male relatives on the father’s side of the family shave their heads.   When they come back, there is another ceremony at the house, and then the family provides the first of 3 big meals they will serve to guests.  These are photos from the ceremony at the house.
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Some men are preparing leaves for various purposes.  Two are making a special tray (thalli) out of jackfruit leaves, sewn with coconut leaf ribs.  Another is cutting banana leaves to be used as dish covers and the ceremony ground cover.  There are mango leaves – one of which ends up in the pundit’s little brass vase (lota).  They also collected a long grass that looked a bit like lemongrass, but isn’t.  It is called koos – and I never could get a consistent story for what it was needed for.   (Did you notice that the fellows are sitting on a feedbag mat, like the one we were making recently?)
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This is the ceremonial place all staked out and set up.  You can see the pundit’s white plate with marigold flowers and the lota with the mango leaf.  He will use the leaf to sprinkle water later.  You can see a tray with a glass of juice, a glass of water and a bowl of grog (kava, yaqona), and another plate with rice and roti – all this is going to end up in the thalli.  Each man whose head has been shaved takes his turn putting some of the food into the thalli.
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Now the trays of all the foods that are being served have been uncovered.   If you look closely, you will see that the thalli has little “pockets” formed along the edge, and some of the grog is still in there as if it was a cup.   All of the dead person’s favorite vegetarian foods are served.  Balloo’s favorite foods were baigan (eggplant) and dhal (split yellow pea).
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Here is all the food in the thalli – even a lit cigarette.
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When all the food is in, marigolds are strewn around.  The camphor blocks on each corner are lit.  Incense is lit.  And all the men follow the pundit in a prayer.
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Afterwards, ladies serve the food to all the guests, starting with the shiny-headed men who carried out the ceremony.   Happily, in the case of this funeral – the deceased was a very old man who miraculously cheated death about four years ago.  He had served his family very well and was really ready to go.   
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Remember, a Sanatan Hindu funeral is thirteen days long.  So wait, there should be more.
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9 January 2014

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The picture at the top is normal bananas – a stalk of them hanging in our kitchen.
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Bananas have cousin in Fiji called “vudi”  (pronounced VOON-dee).   They are much fatter than a regular banana, and really have to be cooked to be enjoyed.   The typical dish here is fully ripe, boiled and served with coconut cream.  Yum.   
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Here is Akka holding a stalk of vudi.  Can you see the difference?
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The vudi bush is nearly twice as tall as a normal banana bush.   This is really all I’d planned to say about  vudi.   I was planning to show some photos of the geese (snooze) and some bugs (yuck) … but last night…..
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Austin brought up the heart of a vudi bush he’d cut down.   We knew that some banana hearts are edible, so he wanted to try this one.
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And then he discovered that the vudi heart has incredible fibers!
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So today, Austin kept playing with it.
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He tried wrapping his finger with it.   Lua (visiting daughter) remembered that when she was in kindergarten in Pohnpei, she cut her foot really badly once.   The teacher cut down a nearby banana bush, took the heart, beat it with a stick, took a handful of the pulp and put it on her foot.  It stopped the bleeding.  She was grateful for that – it was nicer than getting a wound beaten with a sandal, which was the village treatment she’d experienced before.
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The vudi fibers made a very good-looking bandage.
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So Austin made more that he spread into a gauze.   The gauze is soft, slightly sticky, and very absorbent.  We came up with a lot of possible uses for it.    Austin noticed how strong the fibers are, and thinks we might be able to make rope from it, if necessary.   Then came the question, can we use it for a wick?  So some old cooking oil in a small bowl – a bit of the banana fiber – TA DA!   Instant lamp!   Yes, we can use it for a wick.
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So, for all these reasons, VUDI is the star of the blog for this week.  And, with all those other benefits, it turns out that the vudi heart IS edible – it is sweet and tasty.  Surprise, surprise, surprise.
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