6 March 2014

Image
.
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.
 
Image
.
GUAVAS AGAIN
.

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.

.
Image
.
.
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.
.
Image
.
 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.
.
Image
.
MAKING COCONUT OIL
.
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.
.
Image
.
The nuts each get whacked with a cane knife, opened and drained of their water.
.
Image
.
We bought an electric grater last year because grating 24 coconuts with a scraper takes forever.  
.
Image
.
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.
.
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.).
.
Image
.
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.)
.
The “waste coconut” – the defatted flesh – can be used in cookies, but mostly Austin uses it for chicken food.   The shells are excellent firewood.
.
 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.
.
Image
.
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.   
 
.
DEAD MAN’S LUNCH
.
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.
.
Image
.
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?)
.
Image
.
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.
.
Image
.
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).
.
Image
.
Here is all the food in the thalli – even a lit cigarette.
.
Image 
.
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.
.
Image
.
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.   
.
Remember, a Sanatan Hindu funeral is thirteen days long.  So wait, there should be more.
.
.

19 December 2013

???????????????????????????????

.

Ok, so I’m not going to talk much about plants or animals this week because what was more interesting was the handicraft stuff going on.  Above is a picture of our good friend Venaisi, our smart potter friend, telling the fellows how to knead the clay with their feet.   

.
???????????????????????????????
.
Stomping grapes and clay always seems funny to me.  The footwork came after Venaisi had added water and sand to the clay.   Next they kneaded the clay with their hands and made it into little loaves.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Venaisi said the clay was not sticky enough to work with so it has to cure for a few days. Today Maki came to visit again, and he kneaded the clay some more.  He said it was like kneading bread.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Venaisi brought examples of the little figurines she’s made – lizard, turtle, frog, fish and pig, as well as tiny beads and a small pot.   These figurines have not been fired yet.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
 Next time Venaisi comes, we will make our own clay creations and will build our fire out of coconut husks or bamboo to bake them.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
While Maki was here he helped me put together a plate Austin and I bought in Jerusalem 32 years ago, that has been broken several times.  It has nothing to do with the farm – but it seems to go with clay pots.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This week one of the ladies had a big coconut frond and started removing the ribs with a sharp knife to use as a broom – the kind they call “sasa” in Fijian.   A good sasa has ribs from at least two big fronds.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This is my old sasa.  It was bought from a roadside vendor.  Here the ribs are attached to a stick with a strip of rubber.  It cost  Fj $5.   When my friend finishes her sasa, she will either braid the top or will tie it together with a piece of raffia string.    Whether on a stick or just the ribs, a new sasa is prized because of the long, pliable ends that are good for reaching into corners.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Vina decided to make a paal (pronounced with an AHHHH – written in Hindi as पाल ) – which is a mat made from feed bags.  As you can imagine, we have a LOT of feed bags after feeding all these chickens and ducks for months.  First, Vina got the bags together and washed them.  Then she started sewing them in pairs with raffia and a big needle.
.
??????????????????????
.
Here are the first dozen sacks.   When a paal is used for seating at a wedding or funeral or the like, it is used with the white side up.   When this one is finished this one will be 4 sacks wide and 6 sacks long.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
Even though the paal isn’t finished yet, it is good for a nap.  Vina doesn’t nap.  Vina is sewing more feed bags together in the background.
.
???????????????????????????????
.
This also has nothing to do with the farm – but here is a quilt that I think my great grandmother Momo made.   It has to be at least 60 years old.   It is so beautiful.
.
???????????????????????????????
..
The colors are so perfect,  The hem is perfectly scalloped on three sides, and bound with yellow bias tape on all four.
.
But what totally blows my mind is the hand quilting in the white space that perfectly duplicates the outline of the flower applique.
.
??????????????????????
.
This beautiful heirloom is just not safe in the tropics.  As much as I love it, I am sending it with my sister-in-law back to the temperate zone.
.
And I will end this week with
A SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE CHRISTMAS REWRITE
(because I’ve heard enough of “Jingle Bells” on the radio already)
.
Coconut shells, coconut shells, barbeque to-day.
Oh what fun … a picnic is… on a sultry summer day – hey!
.
Coconut shells, coconut shells, barbeque to-day.
Oh what fun … a picnic is… on a sultry summer day.
 .
Driving to the beach …. planning how to play
Picking up the kids …. laughing all the way
.
Sand between our toes ….. salt water in our hair
Oh what fun the tropics are, with a lot of love to share.
 .
Coconut shells, coconut shells, barbeque to-day.
Oh what fun … a picnic is… on a sultry summer day.
.
Merry Christmas, Everybody.
.