13 November 2014

2014-11-10 ylang-ylang under cottage  Cr

What a surprise – YLANG-YLANG growing on our property.  I had no idea.  Austin says he planted it when we bought the land six years ago – and here it is flowering already.  These are the flowers, the yellow-green petals hanging down.   They don’t look like much, but they smell heavenly.    This tree is growing below the cottage – so our lucky lucky guests get to smell it every evening.   I want an ylang-ylang tree up near our house!

Ylang-ylang was the primary part of the leis in Chuuk where we spent some happy years.  In Fiji this plant is called mokosoi and is the favorite scent put into coconut body oil, as well as going into garlands for traditional dances.

2014-11-13 golden spider   Cr


Akka noticed this golden spider in my sitting room yesterday.   It is quite tiny and was quite quick.  Akka finally got a clear picture of it on my index finger.

2014-11-10 toads in pond 1  R


There’s a hole, there’s a hole, there’s a hole in the bottom of the pond.  And what is in the hole in the bottom of the pond?

2014-11-10 toads in pond 2  R

Oh my!   Toads.  Tangles of toads.

2014-11-10 toads in sack 2  R

Now “toads in a sack”

2014-11-10 toads in sack 1 R

More than 25 pounds – 12+ kg – of toads.    Death by hypothermia (don’t ask).

There was talk of test cooking “frogs legs” – these same cane toads from Australia are exported to France as that delicacy.   But they’ve been buried already instead.  Whew!

2014-11-10 white plumeria  R


I did plumeria last week and bemoaned the lack of white plumeria.  SURPRISE – we do have it.   Look how small the tree is.   The difference – Austin planted the red and pink ones from last week.   Akka and Monica planted this one about two years ago along with some others.

2014-11-10 six leaf plumeria Cr

I’m looking over a four-leaf clover…. but it is a six-petal plumeria.   The one in the front has six petals ….. this is as rare as a four-leaf clover so I wanted to share it.

2014-11-11  what animal got the bananas - questioner 1A  R


Bryan Gosling is asking “What animal damaged these newly harvested bananas?”

2014-11-11  what animal got the bananas 1   R2014-11-11  what animal got the bananas 2   R

I’ll give you a hint, the critter is bipedal, very short and got hold of a knife.

2014-11-11 hatchings   R


Austin made me take a photo of this hatching in progress.  If you look closely you can see different stages of the hatching process going on, as well as the different colored eggs and different colored hatchlings.


(This is for you, Green Lizard!)

Tamarind Rice –  Vina’s recipe –   seriously DELICIOUS

For two cups of uncooked rice you need 1/2 ball of tamarind (say 1/2 cup).

Cook rice, put it aside.

Soak the tamarind in 1/2 C water for 1 hour.  Then squeeze the tamarind which will be a thick paste; strain it and set it aside.

Prepare your herbs and spices:  garlic, ginger, chilli, onion, mustard seed, cumin seed and curry leaf (if you have it).  Fry all these herbs and spices in a little oil.   Add the tamarind paste.  and add salt and a little sugar. Let this cook for 3-4 minutes until boiling a little,  then put it aside.

Now loosen up the rice.  In a larger pot fry some more onion, fry the rice and at the end, stir in the tamarind sauce.

This is so YUMMY that the thought of it makes me both happy and hungry.

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Have a happy week, everybody!

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12 June 2014

Betty Cat had a good week.
This has been on my mind for ages – how I never see laundry hanging in the US anymore – even in Austin Texas in the middle of summer in poor neighborhoods!  All this free solar energy going to waste.   Anyway, I ran around the neighborhood and grabbed a few shots.   Maybe somebody else besides me finds the sight of a full clohesline cheerful.
I especially liked the last one – clothes line by the satellite dish.  You don’t have to be last millennium to still hang your clothes out.
This is what 12 hours of air drying can do.   The duckling in the middle is a new hatchling, and he is flanked by siblings who are about 12 hours old..
My neighbor needed a pumpkin, and Austin said “sure, there is one hanging in the tree.”   Hanging in the tree?  A pumpkin?    Sure enough, a pumpkin vine had crawled up a tree by the chicken pen.  Look at the funny heart shape of this pumpkin that never sat on the ground..
Yes, this is a bucket of toads.   By the rain tank.   This might be x-rated stuff in cane toad world.
Austin got excited about these millipedes he found in an old log.   The little round wood pellets are their millipede poopoo.
He thought the photo wasn’t good enough, so he put the millipede in his hands to photograph.
And about 10 minutes later, he realized he’d gotten chemical burns from the millipede secretions.   (Luckily, they did not get worse than this)
This is a pod of mahogany seeds.  They look a lot like maple seeds!
I haven’t noticed mahogany on our property, but on Valley Road there is a magnificent tunnel of mahogany trees near the agriculture station.  These beautiful trees were at the end of the pavement, and stood as gateway to the valley.   One family member was so enamored with them on her first visit that we had to stop the car so she could hug one.   When the pavement was being extended on Valley Road, two of the trees were being cut down.  Austin went and yelled at the crew, saying no one had the right to take these down.  The crew said it was only those two, and it ordered by the power company.  Maybe that was true – but we never saw a change with the power lines.
This is the River Safari landing, a couple of kilometers down stream from where we stay.  I don’t remember why Austin wanted to bring out guests here since it is a short walk to the river from our house.  Anyhow, I wasn’t getting in, because I didn’t feel like being cold and wet.  Then I thought of Double Rafters.   One recent guest – Taylor – is a working cowboy son of the Double Rafters Ranch.  To keep their genuine cattle business going, they take tourists on real week-long cattle drives and have done so for years.   Their cattle drive is now on my “bucket list” and I really, really, REALLY want to go.   I told myself, “Kim, if you can’t get in this river, you can’t go on the cattle drive.”  and I dove right in.  Wasn’t bad at all.     This is the place:   http://www.doublerafter.com/home.asp
Here’s something I’d have never guessed about cattle ranching …. a lot of cattle get “lost” – not temporarily misplaced, but permanently gone.  Taylor said in his father’s whole lifetime of cattle ranching, there was only one year that every head of cattle was accounted for.  I was raised on the Bible story of  the shepherd leaving 99 sheep while he went to find the one.  I don’t know if sheep are easier than cows, but I doubt it.   Much to think on.   How can you even lose 30-50 cows?  I asked Taylor.  He explained that the cows don’t always stay together.  Each pasture is 1500 acres or so of mountain terrain with meadows, and there are predators.  There is never a year with 100% survival, even that fully accounted year.  Ah, nature…..
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Thanks everybody who sent condolences about Tarsi.  The move went well.  Austin said it was nighttime and too dark to get a good photo of her with Michael – but he said they were very happy to see each other.

11 July 2013

Farm Late Oct 2008 001I think I see tangan-tangan growing beside our sometime creek. Tiny, lacy leaflets, brown flat seed pods.  Gee whiz, I haven’t thought about tangan-tangan for 30 years.  It was the number 1 tree on Guam where typhoons took out all the big trees.  Tangan-tangan there grew to about 8 feet tall (it seems in my memory) – and was useful only for barbeque fires.  It lived on limestone – and if horses ate it their manes and tails would fall out.  (?)  maybe.   I’m surprised I remember so much about it!  Oh – right – Austin and I were newlyweds back then and I paid more attention to what he was saying all the time.

Hey!  Maybe that explains why the horses around here all have broken off manes and tails!  (The horses up the valley look so ratty compared to the ones down on the coast with really sleek coats and healthy manes and tails – but don’t tell my son Guy I said that, he loves his ratty looking horse he left behind.)

Speaking of horse (I really shouldn’t….. ha ha)

Saturday lunch at the farm:

– “lumi” – angel-hair algae from the coast, picked clean of all little rocks and then washed to get all the sand out, dissolved in hot coconut cream, with minced onion, red chillies and shredded carrot.

– salad of local cucumbers and imported carrots

– imported rice.

– and because my Hindu housekeeper is not here, barbequed horse from our freezer.

(poor young horse drowned a few months back – and it was just as easy to butcher her as to bury her.  The plan was that she’d be dogfood, but my boys were checking out prime cuts, and keeping them from tasting it was not going to happen.  No, I don’t eat it.  And I have a kosher-inspired kitchen now, where items that touch beef or mystery meat are never used for other meals.)

If this is tangan-tangan, it is pretty tall by the creek – 14 or 16 feet tall.  Is my memory wrong ?  Is it richer soil?   Is it lack of big storms?   Is it really not tangan-tangan at all?   (Kim’s “report”:   the place you find more questions than answers)

Oh right – about those little toads.  Austin and Akka were interested about the little toads away from the house.  Their theories:   the babies may be avoiding the adults.   OR  they learned to stay away (my theory, too)   OR  it is because that is where the grass was newly mown.   In any case, Austin’s going out to do the little toads in, soon.

The family found out I’m writing this weekly report.

Akka’s comment,    “”Did you mention the grapes?”

“What grapes?”

“We just told you, we’ve got a grape plant growing down at the cottage.”

I forgot about the grape plant as soon as he and Austin said it – I don’t believe them.  It is like the strawberries a few months ago.   “Kim, we’ve got a strawberry plant!”   Yeah, THREE strawberries total.  Sorry, it is not worth getting excited about.

Walking to a neighbor’s house on another hill, I have to pass by the house with the friendly goat.  I had never interacted with goats until this one a few months ago, but I’m normally not scared of animals and he was only hip high so  I scratched his head.  The goat just got friendlier and friendlier – taking an amorous interest in me.  A Serious Amorous Interest. Oh no!!  Getting away was way more of a challenge than I expected.  So this time I gave Mr. Lover-boy a wide miss.  He was being “very friendly” to the child who was scratching his head as I passed.  Oh dear!!!  If he is typical, no wonder goats have such an unsavory reputation!

Ticklish feet:  A butterfly with wings like dead leaves lighted on a starfruit lying on the ground.  An ant was walking around the starfruit, and I wondered what would happen when it found the butterfly’s leg – would the butterfly ignore it, or take off, or what?  A few moments later the ant did touch the foot … and the butterfly just raised her foot, flamingo-like.  Cute!

4 July 2013


Austin caught a mongoose today in the trap his sister brought from Texas!  This is a big deal.  He said he was going to keep it alive – I guess maybe to show off, maybe to take to the coast and release.  But the dogs went so bonkers, he had to go ahead and kill it.  He told me he hung in in a tree by the road.  He doesn’t want to eat it and our neighbors (Indians) won’t eat it – but he thinks some Fijians think it mongoose is good eating.

I was walking on our road with a neighborhood girl, age 9.  She said, “Aunty,  something-something pay-shan fruit.”   Huh?  Ok, passion fruit.  She must be pointing toward a passion fruit vine.  I smiled and nodded.  I didn’t know which set of leaves she was pointing to, but it didn’t matter.  “They’re outside the fence, so help yourself when they’re ripe,” I said.   A few meters further, she said something about “many guavas” – we were nearly under a guava tree – I said, “they are nearly all gone now, we picked them for jam.”   A few steps further she said, “The birds eat the guavas, Aunty.”   ( I did figure that out for myself a few weeks ago.)   What struck me was how aware she was of every fruit plant along the road – and how she thought it made good conversation the way my relatives all talk about the weather.

Hello!  In the branches of the tree holding up one end of the clothesline there is a black bird with a red butt and a head that reminds me of a woodpecker.  I’ll tell you what I know about this bird.  It is not a heron, and it is not a myna.  Mynas are the multitudinous pesky black birds with yellow eye rings who go for all the chicken food, and also fly into my porch/kitchen to see what they can find on the counters.

Driving down the road later:

“Austin, you know the black bird with the red butt?”

“Yeah that’s a bulbul – eats papayas, introduced species, you didn’t know  them before?”

“No” (I did hear of them, but who cared?).

A few more clicks down the road, “Hey, what’s with all the dead trees?!” (a LOT of them now)

“Someone poisoned them.”


“Probably but it’s not effective, not systematic”

Yeah, I saw spathodia in bloom right there on the other side of the road.

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!

All the toads in the yard tonight were small ones, and all hanging at least 10 meters away from the house.  Toads are smarter creatures than you would guess.

This evening I noticed a dessicated gecko in the window by the bathroom sink.  I’m surprised.  Surprised it died there, and surprised it dried out without stinking the place up.

Austin’s pretty sure a rat has died in the ceiling of the cottage where guests from Denmark are due to return tomorrow afternoon – guess why!   Lucky them……   (The theme this week is apparently “dead critters”)

WRONG – the suspected dead rat is in the ceiling of the main house.  “Didn’t you smell it, Kim?”   No, I didn’t, but now I do.  Ugh.

Neighbor boy told Austin that they’ve seen wild pigs on our new land.   We planted cassava and the field is up against the forest.  Tales to come: pig hunting in a country where no one keeps guns.

And my last few notes on a Wednesday night:  a second mongoose – and a THIRD ! – were caught in the trap,  They are now in the smaller freezer – waiting to become dogfood or exotic barbeque.      And today Akka harvested kumquats with a chain saw.   Don’t ask.

13 June 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAustin says more duckings are starting to hatch.  Right now we have two pens of young ducklings, in one pen is a hybrid who is twice as big as his brothers.

I saw some kind of sea bird in a leafless tree about 8 km up the valley road.  Wouldn’t have seen it if I wasn’t looking at the tree wondering why it had no leaves.  If I knew the names of sea birds, I could tell you what it was.

Ants are digging deep trails across bare sandy soil on our property, I don’t remember seeing that before.  I wonder what is up.

On the trail – back way to my house – I saw a bunch of half-eaten ripe guavas.  I wondered why my neighbor was only eating half of them, and then figured out it must be birds.  Duh!

Sensitive plant is in bloom.  I HATE that plant and it has sprung up all over in spite of all my ripping out of so many plants for so many years.   Austin says the honeybees like it, and a local lady makes incontinence medicine out of it, so I guess it is not ALL bad – but I wish it were gone off our land.

In the same vein, there is a stupid spathodia tree blooming not 200 yards from the border of our land.  That tree is not going to invade our property – I will blow it up first.

There is some kind of delicious looking little yellow melon growing on the path, but it must not be edible, because no one has brought any home to cook.

I just realized – we don’t have any toads on our porch!  Austin has spent so much time being the Toad Slayer – and it is really paying off.  Surprise!   (we live on  this porch – our kitchen is out here and our living room too)