13 February 2014

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No, I’m not in Fiji any more.   The weather here hovers a little above and a little below zero Celsius.  I’ve started adjusting, but crikey!, it is HARD to get out of bed in the mornings.
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Inside the house it is a case of Beauty and the Beast.
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 “Beauty” – actually 3 beauties are long-hair Ragdoll cats.  Two that belong to my co-suegra (fellow mother-in-law) and one that belongs to my daughter.   This one is Calista – the calico Ragdoll.
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My photos don’t do her justice.   There is Ria, a tortoise-shell Ragdoll that I didn’t photograph, and a beautiful flame point Siamese Ragdoll named Leo, but the photos were exceptionally horrible, so here is a stock photo.
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Here is the Beast,  Boris.
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Again, the photos don’t do justice.  This is a real beauty shot for Boris.   Good Lord – what a dog!    He was actually bred for this!!    Boris is a Bull Terrier, with a really rounded forehead, set back ears, tiny triangle eyes and a porcine body.  They do not hunt or bark when strangers arrive or do anything else of normal doggy use.  Bull Terriers are marketed as the “gentleman’s companion” and some famous hockey commentator has one.    I vote for letting that commentator have two of them.  (I believe all the women of the house vote the same, but I don’t want to cause any family trouble.)
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A real benefit of doing this blog is that my family all make an effort to get me out to see some interesting stuff.  My daughter took me to Mill Lake Park.  There is a wonderful mile-long nature hike around the lake!
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There were so many large birds in flight – swooping down nearby.  This was the only shot that came out at all.  The big birds were magnificent.
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There was this TREE the like of which I’d never seen before!
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Like evergreen snakes growing off it!    I’m told it is a “monkey tree” or “monkey puzzle tree” (Araucaria genus according to the resident arborist).   A local elder tells me that when she and her sibling rode together in a car, the first to see a monkey tree could yell “Monkey Tree” and punch the other one in the arm – but she did not teach this game to her children.
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I call this scene ” The Rules and the Softies” –
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Here are the rules, from the right of the scene.   Clear enough.  As an aside, I can’t help wondering about those 15 pounds of feces per week – is that per bird?  Good grief, I’d think we’d all be buried – there are hundreds of birds here.    And “pounds” – hello!  This is Canada – they are SO metric until they want to make a point.  “15 pounds” does sound so much more substantial than “6.8 kilograms.”  Anyway – enough distraction … here is the left flank of that same shot.
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A benefactor surrounded by grateful birds getting a little handout.   The softie.  I saw this happening a few times.  One gent looked quite sheepish.
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A few meters further along the trail, I met three very handsome dogs!   Like house pet-sized Great Danes.  A chat with their friendly owner turned up the information that they are Whippets  Whippets don’t shed and they don’t have doggy smell.   They look very intelligent.   They are natural athletes.  Too bad that hockey commentator didn’t have a Whippet companion……
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Finally – here is the nature bit in Canada that most reminds me of home in Fiji –  DUCKS and a POND.  Isa! Isa!    The ducks are walking on ice.
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There was one not-yet-frozen spot out in the middle of the pond and lots of ducks went out there to swim.     Cold bath, anybody?
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Austin – I know you’ll like this.  These are really pretty ducks (mallards?) – some have yellow bills and some have white.   All have bright orange feet.    Our granddaughter announced to me that the green-headed ducks are boys and the brown ducks are girls.  I told her I thought she was right.   Was she?
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31 October 2013

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FOOD GROWING WILD
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One dish that Vina served last week was seijen “drumsticks”.   Seijen (pronounced say-jen, and I may be spelling it wrong) is a tree that just grows here.  Vina uses its leaves in her dhal soup. The English name for this is moringa.  I didn’t know there was anything else to eat from that tree.   Then Vina made the seijen drumstick curry.  When cooked, a drumstick is long tough strings that we suck the curried mush from.   Today a sweet neighbor boy came over to see if we still have some on the tree.  We did and here is a photo of his hands holding some of these things that do not look like they were meant for food.
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AT AN INDIAN CEREMONY.

I went with my neighborhood lady friends to the river where they had a ceremony to wash and bless a new Hanuman statue for their temple. We had to wait for the tour boats full of tourists to stop racing up and down our little stretch of river near the landing.  I guess we looked picturesque in our saris on the bank.  (I  can’t remember every having been a tourist attraction before.  Ugh! )    While waiting, I noticed a big thatch of light green vines mounded up growing together – no flowers.  I had a bad feeling.   Looked closer and there were thorns.     This was a weed that took over a field in Puerto Rico in one year, converting my short cut to my friend’s house into a no-man’s-land.   “Lantana?”, I asked.  The ladies were also really concerned.  “Not lantana,” one said, “Something else. It is bad.”  “Yes,” agreed another, “very bad.”  Then the ceremony started and distracted them. But because I did not understand the language, I was still thinking about the potential hell-plant just a few kilometers from our fields.
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10-31-13 stock mimosa invasive
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The actual name of the plant is mimosa invasive, and here is a stock photo.
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AT A FIJIAN CEREMONY
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We went to the 100 nights ceremony after the passing of the young man whose funeral we attended three months ago. We sat around for a few hours on woven pandanus mats in a room decorated with local greens and flowers.  As I waited to eat lots of nicely cooked local flora (various salads, eggplant, dalo, cassava, green vudi) and fauna (at least 3 chicken dishes, ocean fish, river kai),  the men conduced a lengthy traditional kava ceremony with the local root yaqona (yang-GO-na).  Some week I will dedicate the blog to yaqona as it is at the heart of Fiji culture.  Today I really just noticed how a fellow washed the grog out of the pounded roots in a cheesecloth bag, squeezing those soggy roots over and over and over … I thought, “These guys could really help their wives with the hand laundry if they ever felt like it.”   
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FEATHERED WATCHDOGS
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I have wanted geese since we had chickens stolen the first time. Habitual thieves know how to deal with dogs; geese on the other hand can be terrifying. We had a friend on Romanum in Chuuk who had tall aggressive honking geese – Whoa Nellie!   It’s taken a long time to get geese.  This week Austin  got 3 females and a male that we can keep here for breeding.  I asked him for photos.
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Phooey,  They are a lot smaller than the geese i remember in Chuuk.  Will they be scary enough?    Anyway, while Austin was taking photos, he also got some of his two species of ducks.
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MYSTERY OF THE WEEK
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Well, more of a discussion really
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Austin: What do you think ate this, Junia – myna or fruit bat?
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Junia;  Fruit bat.
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Austin:  Yeah – that’s fruit bat teeth.
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(So why didn’t you just leave it for the bat, Honey?}.
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10-31-13 honey eater KIKAU Cr
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NEW BIRD
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The honey eater has come to our property.  Its Fijian name is “kikau.”  They are native to Fiji and found only here (i.e. endemic).  They eat nectar and small insects – and they have a sweet song.
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PHOTO OF MOM
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Akka:  There is no photo of you on the blog, Mom – I’ll take one of you with the praying mantis.
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He took one with the mantis on my exceedingly scrunched up face – it would cause nightmares.   And the mantis looks better on my arm anyway.
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SHOUT OUT TO VICTOR
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This is Torsett now.   See how grown up he is!   He looks like Toto from Wizard of Oz, but nice and big.  He is a real sweetie, and his job is guarding the ducks, geese and fish at the fish pond.
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PS – Happy Halloween, everybody.