8 May 2014

5-8-14 Tunisian lamp 2  Cr

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I love having guests here!  Every one of them brings something interesting and surprising to our lives.  This week we learned to make a Tuniesian lamp.
.5-8-14 Tunisian lamp 1  Cr
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Our sweet Tunesian guest was really chowing down on half an orange one night.   Then pouring olive oil into the rind.   Then taking a match to the orange’s spongy core.  It was too thick.  He thinned it a few times and finally got it going.  Once lit, a lamp like this will burn all night long.
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5-8-14 banana mousse R
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And his lovely German wife gave a cooking suggestion to Monica that has completely revolutionized desserts here.   She suggested smashing the frozen bananas and adding cocoa powder.   Monica took it two steps further.  She stuck the bananas in the food processor with the cocoa powder – creamy delicious.  And then she thought to add coconut milk to it.  Dear God in heaven!  It is like a perfect soft serve ice cream or a lovely mousse.  And no added sugar!  Unbelievable!
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5-8-14 moth brown Cr
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MORE MOTHS
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A friend from NC identified my “humpback” moth (24 April ’14) as a tobacco moth.   Well, well.   There is a tobacco factory about 3 kiometers down the road, but I’d never though of it in insect terms.   We’re seeing a lot of different moths right now, and Akka has a thing for them – is always having me go grab my camera.  This is a brown moth with orange gussets that always seems to be around.
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5-8-14 moth green  Cr
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But this little green beauty has just come to our attention.   I’m always happy for information if somebody can tell me more about either of them.
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5-8-14 beetle grubs in chicken pen R
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CHICKEN RUGBY
 
Austin found more rhinoceros beetle grubs. (They’ll keep you from starving, but won’t kick steak off the menu.)   This batch went straight to the chickens.   If you throw anything that looks like worms to chickens, they go crazy excited, but that didn’t happen with the grubs  – too fat, I’m guessing.   Instead the chicks circled around suspiciously for a long time.
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5-8-14 beetle grubs in chicken pen  Cr
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Finally Red here got curious.  He grabbed one grub and ran for a corner.  Others pursued.  Somebody else grabbed a grub – ran for another corner.   Chicks tussled over the “prizes” and then someone realized there were still more grubs in the tray.  After 15 minutes, there was no trace left.   They play for keeps.
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5-8-14 what an egg  R
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THIS IS RIDICULOUS
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I know I’ve shown you a goose egg already, but I saw this when I walked into the kitchen this week.  What the heck?!    It was a double goose egg.
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5-8-14 red earlobe hen
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AND NOW WE KNOW
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You can’t tell what color eggs a chicken is going to lay from its feathers.  All colors of chickens can lay white eggs or brown ones.  Most of the eggs we get are brown, but we get a few white ones.  Where are they coming from?    Not from the hen above.
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5-8-14 red earlobe rooster
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Not fathered by this rooster.
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5-8-14 white earlobe rooster
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Could be fathered by this rooster.
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5-8-14 white earlobe hen
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THIS is the one!  This is the white egg mother!    You can tell by the “earlobes” – the normally red fleshy part around where you’d expect ears.  See!
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And that’s my week.   Love to all y’all.
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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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