15 May 2014

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Ok – here is the Suva house now.
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Compared to Suva house 8 and half years ago.   Sorry I could not get it from exactly the same angle:  there is too much foliage in my neighbor’s yard now for a clear shot.    Nobody else is impressed with the breakneck  growth here?  ….   And along the same lines – you remember the swayback horse helping water baby cabbages (24 April) – 3 weeks ago?  This afternoon all the mature cabbages from that same field were bundled for market..
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ODD MINI-CLIMATE FACT

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I was always confused about the weather when we first moved to Sigatoka Valley.  If it was a clear morning, we would have rainy weather.  If it was really socked in with fog, that was the sign that the day would be sunny and clear through sunset.  It didn’t make any sense to me, but I have learned to accept it.   The above photo was about 8 am.
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This was about 10 a.m.
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This was about 2 p,m.
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And this was about 5 p.m.   If some climatologist wants to explain the connection between dry forecast and morning fog – I’d be happy to hear it.  Fog here never shows up for rainy days.
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CREATURES CORNER
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Austin caught another mongoose.  This was number 29.  Number 28 – last week – was even bigger, but I didn’t get photos.
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I told them I’d done mongooses in the blog already.   (This is Akka showing the dead critter off.)
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But they said it’s not boring, it’s fun.    For me, not so.
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I do have a mongoose follow up story, though.   I told you before that they must be pretty bad eating if a dog won’t eat them (22 August 2013).   Well, this particular mongoose got itself skinned and barbecued when I wasn’t looking ….. and the puppies were all at it, chowing down as if they were nursing on their mother.   That was an odd sight, too nauseating for me to photograph, but something else just felt ODD about it.
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Tarsi was looking on at them eating it.   Tarsi was not in there herself, chowing down and growling the young ‘uns away.   Akka said he cut a hunk of cooked mongoose meat off the leg and threw it to Tarsi earlier.   She chewed a second and spit it out.
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Here are the little darlings now – several days later and none the worse for eating that stinky mongoose. Three of them will be going to their new homes soon.
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This is the one who is staying.
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SIGATOKA HOSPITAL
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I visited a friend at the hospital this week, and was surprised to see mosquito nets hung.   The patient wards are fully screened.   I found out that the administration had ordered the nets because of the dengue outbreaks.  No problem on that count up our way for awhile now.
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And I found the family at the neighboring bed endearing.  They have set up a little home base on the floor beside the patient bed: mat, pillows, electric kettle!    This was not allowed on the big wards at the hospital in Pohnpei, and is not necessary in the private rooms with visitor recliners in the States.  If there is such a thing as “Second World” I think that’s where Fiji is.
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The boys (Akka and Junia) thought this painted tree was neat.   Who painted it green like this?
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God did.
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22 August 2013

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Alert guest said “you didn’t write about the poison peanut last week.”  She’s right.  I forgot.  So, to make up for that lapse, here are some photos (above) and here is the story.   We have two fence post trees, a vaivai species called bainicagi (wind fence) which makes the sweet flowers I photographed a couple of weeks ago and totally different tree called bainidakai (gun fence – it reminded someone of a rack of standing rifles) which is now fruiting. Son Akka saw the covered seed of the bainidakai and tried one … and it tasted good.  Junia tells me he was skeptical about that seed because he had never seen any animal eating them.  Junia and Austin each ate one (Austin’s comment: “tastes really good – like a peanut!”) – and Akka ate about 6 and had sucked on the seed coverings.   Junia and Austin were fine after their little experiment.  Akka wasn’t.  He has a different theory for why it is named “GUN” fence – he says it’s because it “shoots things out both ends.”

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I took 2 house guests for a trip to Kula Eco Park – and forgot to take a camera along. I held a crested iguana, a banded iguana (stock photo above), a snake with a bad tail – only my second or third time to touch a snake, it is getting a little easier.  We saw kula birds, lorakeets, barn owls, peacocks and pea hens. We saw some big turtles in a seawater tank.  In the small marine building there was signage naming and describing every coral but not a single reference to any of the fish – very funny to me.   And lo and behold, there were ducks and ducklings down by their creek just like the duckies back home.
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There were double-doored rooms where the birds could fly freely;  inside there were more lorakeets, and some huge pigeons.  We were hunting for a golden dove that a sign said was there and couldn’t see any.  My friend thought to look for the source of the barking sound.  There it was — the golden dove (another stock photo – above), really camouflaged in a tree whose leaves had yellow spots.   She was quite tickled, “I never knew a bird to bark before!”
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This was my first trip to Kula Eco-Park – and I give it a thumbs up.
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Mongoose kill count is now 19. Austin took some out of the freezer and cooked them up, but the dogs won’t eat them.  Memo to anyone who eats mongoose:  something’s gotta be pretty bad if a DOG won’t touch it.
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We were really happy to get a visit this week from an old friend from Micronesia. He has lived in more different Micronesian islands than anybody alive probably and we were together on Pohnpei for several years.  Anyway, “what does this have to do with flora and fauna?” you may ask.  Well, I’ll tell you: he is an amateur juggler/magician and he told me of a trick of his that I had to see, and had to share with you.   Below is a video of Brother Dave JUGGLING TOADS.
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(Dangnabbit !!   The video won’t upload – but here is a still.)   
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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I promise that all 3 toads were released unharmed back where Dave found them…. I cannot promise that Austin won’t do them in someday soon.

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25 July 2013

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Here are Austin’s hands full of rhinoceros beetle grubs that he found in a rotting coconut log from a tree we chopped down before Cyclone Evan last December. The grubs had turned the center of the log to mush/compost.   If allowed to mature, they would be a plague to our coconut trees: adult rhinoceros beetles eat the coconut crown and the young leaves.  So here are the grubs….. chicken food?  human snack? …  chicken food?  human snack? … If you really want to know – ask.
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A curious reader inquired,  “Why do you kill the mongeese?  Do they eat your chickens?”  Thank you for asking.   Mostly, they steal the eggs of the chickens and ducks.  An adult mongoose can pick eggs up like footballs and run a long way with them.  They will grab ducklings and chicks, if given the chance, and they will also go for adults.  We had a large dead duck in the pen that Austin is pretty sure was a mongoose kill.  He put more than a dozen poisoned eggs over a period of weeks and he killed two mongooses that way.  In just one week we’ve caught 9 mongooses with the trap from the States.  (PS – dictionary editors agree on “mongooses” as the correct plural form.)
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“Good God!,” I said, “what is THAT thing?” …  that piece of vegetation lying on one of the porch tables – brown, dry and about a meter long.  It reminds me of the “rain-stick” given to Jayne Cobb in one Firefly episode.   “It’s a torai,” replied my friend/housekeeper.   Torai?!  No way!  Torai is Hindi for sponge gourd, something I really like to eat when it is about 1/4 this size. I had no idea they get THAT big.  This granddaddy will be for seeds, I guess.
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This week it has gotten to 12 degrees below freezing in the early mornings – that is 60 degrees F.  (coconut oil freezes at 72).  That is painfully cold for us… but it doesn’t seem to be having much effect on the other fauna.  Well, there aren’t any houseflies, and there are hardly any mosquitoes.  And other than that the only change I’ve noticed is that the cats seem more cuddly.
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Flora-wise, I noticed the fence-post trees (vaivai) on the top of the hill have lost their leaves.  Do they think this is fall?  But the vaivai down by the road are in full leafy glory.  Then again, the vaivai way low in the neighbor’s field are bald.  What the heck?!   I gave up and asked Austin.  Answer:  it’s two different species of vaivai.
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Absolutely the worst thing about the farm for our recent guests was the dogs barking at night.  Just as they were leaving, our young bitch (technical term) Inu went into heat.  What a bother.   She finally got out of heat, and now her mother Tarsi is in heat.   IF YOU ARE A VETERINARIAN AND WANT TO COME SPAY OUR ANIMALS – WE NEED YOU !  
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Actually, last year a very sweet veterinarian did stay here for a week and was going to spay our cat. She brought everything but the ketamine and couldn’t get the pharmacy or the vet in Suva to let her get any.  Son of a gun – that was so disappointing!!!!    Now we have two darling female kittens needing a home.  Any takers?