20 November 2014

2014-11-20  hidden eggs  R

Behold another hidden clutch of chicken eggs, this one on an undeveloped part of a hill near a set of bee boxes.    Such fertility.

Speaking of fertility…..

FAMILY REUNION 2014: A QUINQUIENNIAL EVENT

Our kids live all around the Pacific rim – last time we all managed to get together was 5 years ago, and there are more of us now.   In celebration of the triumph of family over inertia and other commitments, I give you each family member with the bit of flora or fauna of choice.

2014-11-20 BEAMER and coffee Cr

Doris (“Beamer”), our beloved matriarch,   Crown of thorn flowers in her hair, and more importantly COFFEE in her cup!

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2014-11-12  AKKA and strawberry  Cr

Akka and a big fat strawberry he grew

2014-11-20 MONICA and uci  R

Monica and an uci (OO-thee) plant.  This plant is very important for traditional garlands.  It has a unique “clean” scent.

2014-11-20 KIKI and 4-petal plumeria  Cr

Kiki and a four-petal plumeria.

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2014-11-20 MAKI and jackfruit  Cr

Honorary Uncle Maki – lucky us that he is in Fiji right now – with jackfruit.

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2014-11-20 LUA and Mangoes  Cr

Lua and mangoes – she was asking for mangoes once she arrived and was surprised to hear we have them at the farm.

2014-11-20 MAX and dogs  'Cr

Max and our dogs.

2014-11-20 VICTOR and chickies  Cr

Victor and some chickies.

2014-11-20 ALICE and Teddy  R

Alice and Teddy the cat.

2014-11-20 HAZEL and bougainvillea  Cr

Hazel and bougainvillea.   We picked it out for her thinking it would be easy.  Then she started carrying it with her everywhere.

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2014-11-20 JUNIA and Flora  Cr

Junia and “Flora” margarine spread.  Austin won’t let me buy margarine, but one of the in-laws smuggled some in.

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2014-11-20 CLARA and bananas  Cr

Clara and a stalk of bananas.  She was shooing away fruit flies with her hand.

2014-11-20 NIGEL and crabs  R

Nigel and mangrove crabs.  His brother had caught these crabs (Nigel’s family lives near Nausori on the other side of Suva) and Nigel brought them to the farm for one of our dinners.  YUMMY !!

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2014-11-20 RAKESH and wild fledgling  Cr

Uncle Rakesh, one of my Raksha Bandan brothers, and a wild fledgling.  Herein lies a story.  Clara wanted to be photographed with the nest of baby birds.  Junia warned us not to get too close or the birds would jump out.  We got too close.  The dogs were too interested.  Rakesh rescued the fledgling to return it to the nest.

2014-11-20 VINA and betelnut  Cr

Auntie Vina  (she is Beamer’s personal assistant, Rakesh’s wife, Maki’s “Rakee sister” all at once) and betel nuts growing in front of the house.   Vina just told me betel nut is very important in some of the Hindu prayer ceremonies!

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2014-11-20 GUY and peppers  R

Guy and some of the beautiful bell peppers (capsicums) Austin bought at Taiwan Mission.

2014-11-20 MAMI and duranta   R

Mami with a purple flower we did not know the name of.  Junia tells us it is “duranta” – and they also had it in Haifa.  (Guy, Mami and Junia all served in Haifa together.)

2014-11-20 LEO and hibiscus  Cr

Leo, currently the youngest family member, with hibiscus.

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2014-11-20 GRANDDADDY  R

GRANDDADDY!

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13 March 2014

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Mostly this week’s Report is dedicated to covering the most detailed ritual I have ever attended, but first I’ll share a little bit of this and that around here.    I was taking the Valley Road bus and some critter banged into the side of my head, crawled down my neck, on top of my dress and sat by my knee.  A big grasshopper, photo above.  My new camera turned the freak-out moment into a fun memory (thanks, Cousin Ashley, for the camera lesson).
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GUTSY GUESTS –   We have a sweet-faced young couple here from Canada (she is a very pretty flight attendant).  They like chicken and had never had fresh organic chicken and were eager to help.  I thought they might pluck one.   When I got home, I found out they had each done a whack job!  Man!  I’m impressed. They were also impressed.   Happily the roosters were still young enough to be fairly tender.  Yum.
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WISH I’D HAD MY CAMERA –  Today there was a toad sitting on top of a coconut by the pond.   The scene was framed with leaves from the living fence.  I have no idea what that toad was thinking about.
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FEEDBACK FROM LAST WEEK
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A cousin said the “clean bucket” for fermenting the coconut oil didn’t look all that clean in my photo.  She was right, but it was clean on the inside.   She also said it sounded like a lot of work – she just doesn’t know how yummy the cheese is.
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And my Indian lady friends were all excited about seeing the photos from the Day 10 ceremony.  They have never seen it, because women don’t get to go.    Surprise, surprise.
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And with that we will go on to …
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DAY THIRTEEN of the SANATAN HINDU FUNERAL
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The pit for ceremonial fire (hawan) is dug, bordered with feedbag mats, and then decorated with powders (turmeric, flour and the red one for the married woman’s hair-part), and with flowers (marigold and hibiscus).   The pundit sits on a fine mat, on the south side, facing north.

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On the opposite side a banana leaf is laid out with 4 pairs of leaves –  4 piper leaves (see 12 September 2013 post) closer to the pundit  and 4 jackfruit leaves behind them.

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To the pundit’s left, on the west side, a piece of banana leaf is laid with 3 nutmeg seeds, and a “lota” (vase).    He goes through a number of steps preparing the lota, which represents the Vedas (Scriptures).

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Now you can see yellow string around the nutmegs, and ghee (clarified butter) in the lota.

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There were many steps between these pictures.  The close male relatives were given the koos grass to sit on.  A yellow string was stretched out across them.  Mango firewood was brought.   Nutmegs were put on the piper leaves.  Now the men are gathering handfuls of torn flowers and spices and even coins when the pundit tells them.  (If I understood Hindi, I might know why.)

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Each man is given a little ring of koos grass.  Later on, the eldest son is given a second one for his other hand.

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The firewood is moved and coals are brought.  The men pour ghee onto the coals.

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Here is the part of the ceremony I always noticed and never understood.  The eldest son forms a little loaf of  a rice mixture with his right hand and tips it over his thumb onto the jackfruit leaf.  He does this again for every jackfruit leaf.    According to my friend, this represents (and I quote carefully) “I don’t know!”  She finally adds,  “But it is called pind पिन्द and it is being offered for the person who died.”

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The pundit makes circles of white string and tosses them to the eldest son who put them around each nutmeg.

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One of the loaves is cut into 3 pieces, and a piece is added to each of the others.   Then the loaves are decorated with yogurt, ghee, water and honey.   Flowers are added.  Camphor pieces are added and lit.

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All of the rice offering is rolled up in the cloth, and then a basin is brought for milk, which is blessed with flowers, spices, and lots of ghee.

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The eldest son pours the milk handful by handful into another basin.  He does this facing north, west, south and east.

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The pundit puts yellow string around a mature coconut.   The coconut represents Ganesh, the elephant headed deity.

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Then slowly, slowly the ceremonial fire gets laid.  Burning squares of camphor are put in the bottom of the pit.  Pieces of dry mango wood have their ends dipped in ghee and are laid carefully inside.   (This is where my camera battery gave out,  dangnabbit,)    Finally there is a burning lattice in the pit.  The coconut is laid into the fire.    The roof of the temporary shed is opened and the ceremony, the funeral, is now complete.   The family then treats all the guests to another magnificent vegetarian meal.

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The roots of this ceremony go back nearly five thousand years, so to me, the funeral is like a little pine cone on a giant redwood of human ritual.

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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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8 August 2013

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The leaf-dropping vaivai trees went straight to flower.  Surprise!
A previous guest asked “How can you say there are no snakes in the water?  [in the 18 July post],  I snorkled over a snake during my first trip to Fiji.” 
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Answer:   I said there were no BROWN sea snakes.  The snake she snorkeled over was a black and white banded krait.   And here is a stock photo of a krait.
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Mutation of the week –  We got the weirdest egg from our chickens yet, a huge egg with a seam down the middle.  It was a siamese-twin egg – and when we candled it, we could see it had two separate yolks.  We planned to save it and try to get it hatched, but someone started cooking in the middle of the night and it ended up as part of some coconut macaroons.
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Around the yard – I can’t believe the jackfruit tree is putting out fruit this year.  In last December’s cyclone over 3/4 of the tree was knocked over and or torn off. You can see there are a bunch of fruits together and nearly touching the ground – not the usual arrangement.    I thought the tree would rest for at least a year, but the urge to reproduce is just way too strong.
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As for poultry – Austin recently bought 4 chicks, each a different local species, trying to get more diversity into his flock. The naked-necked one (named Buzzy) is by far the smartest.  He-she-it has escaped the pen two times.  The other three can’t figure out how to eat when Buzzy isn’t around (dumb clucks!), and then they get all enthusiastic about their food when Buzzy comes back and hits the feed bowl.
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You can see Buzzy’s naked neck in the photo.   This breed of local chicken is heat adapted and fares much better in our summertime than other chickens.  The adults are SO ugly, but their necks are so easy to pluck.  It is always a trade-off.
Further afield – This week, hubby and I got overnight trip to a resort in the Mamanucas!  Yay!    A morning stroll along the shore  the next morning yielded a sad surprise – no hermit crabs!   When I was here in 2009 with daughter and grandson, we found enough hermit crabs to play with them and have some races.   No hermit crabs and no unbroken shells for them to take residence in.    No lizards either, just a few ants here and there, and a few crab holes for larger crabs.
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Image       The shallow water did hold one particular old friend: a sponge we used to use in Chuuk for cleaning the black off our cooking pots.  The camera failed – so here is a stock photo of something like it. 
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CORRECTION to last week’s post:  The birds in the chirping trees were mynas after all – just a different breed.  (Who decides when a bird is the same species?  Good grief! They aren’t flirting or even hanging out together….)
Image   Finally, my favorite flowering friend.  
The ultimate items in the following list will be the answer to last week’s question.  Thunbergia alata, Black-eyed Susan, and  culo de poeta (“poet’s butt”). 
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