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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21 November 2013

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21 NOVEMBER 2013  
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This is masi – cloth made from the local masi bush – and this particular piece of masi was given by one of my local friends to one of our very dear visiting friends this week.  It is one of the prettiest pieces of masi I’ve seen.  Masi cloth has a nice texture, and it is used for things like traditional wedding attire, wall hangings, book covers and grave dressing.
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Traditionally the patterns all have meanings.  The black is produced from lamp soot, the brown is produced either from mud or from mangrove stain (I forget).   I feel I can put this masi in my weekly update because we actually have the masi plant growing here.  And we have friends with the expertise to make some beautiful masi cloth from it someday.  (By the way, this is called tapa cloth in some other places.)
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We also have a mulberry growing near the cottage here this week.    There is a connection.   The masi plant and the mulberry bush are floral first cousins.
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MORE WILD FOOD
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These are fiddle head ferns – called “ota” here.   We don’t have them at the farm, but we buy them from the market. They are not cultivated.  Folks just go in the woods and get them..
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 We eat the leaves and the tender part of the stem – which is only the distal 3-4 inches or so.  They are yummy when lightly cooked and served with raw coconut cream, lemon juice, onion, and chilli (all this together is called “miti”).   The yummiest part is the little fiddlehead.
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DR. DISASTER
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Austin is predicting another big hurricane.  One suggestive detail is that a wasp built its nest low in one of our closets. That also happened last year.  Another suggestive detail is that our breadfruit tree has a huge number of baby breadfruits.  That also “also happened” last year.  The breadfruit tree got totally creamed by cyclone Evan, and I’m really surprised to see all these fruits this year.    So if we do get clobbered in the next few months – remember this prognostication when my blog doesn’t come out for 4 weeks due to a power outage…..
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I wonder if the insane profusion of angel trumpet flowers is also a sign?  We’ve never seen so many on the bush at one time
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THE BIG DRAMA I MISSED
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There was a massive swarm of wild bees while I was in Suva last weekend.   Akka got some photos of the swarm on the tree.
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He didn’t get photos of Austin in the bee suit, smoking them to sleep, gathering them up somehow – he says they were the size of two large American footballs (rugby balls) – and getting them into a bee box.
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The hive is now on a wheelbarrow, sitting on the terrace where the orchid house is to go.   Austin moves the hive about a meter a night – has to move it that slowly to get it to its final destination, or the bees will get disoriented and angry.
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For now they are happy.
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TEDDY BEAR TREE
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I took my camera with me to Suva just so I could get a shot of this tree.  I fell in love with it when I saw it on my last trip.  I’ve seen lots of trees with plants growing on them, but never one so totally covered.  It reminds me of a teddy bear – and if my little granddaughter who adopted my teddy bear can come to visit, I will take her to see the teddy bear tree.
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SPIFFING UP
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Akka and Monica have been working hard to get the Teitei ready for guests.   This is the path to the cottage…. white stones to help folks aim themselves in the right direction at night.
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