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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24 April 2014

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I noticed a lot of animals out in the field getting put to work this week.  Farmers must be putting in their winter crops (though the daytime temperatures still feel like summer to me).   This is one of my neighbors plowing with a pair of bulls.
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Bullocks always work as a team.  One is permanently the right-hand bull,  the other permanently pulls on the left side.  Here is another neighbor using bulls to do harrowing, I think.  The implement attached to the harness is like a curry-comb, not a wedge-like plow.  You can see how the dirt the bulls have covered on the left is in smaller chunks than the less-processed ground on the right.  (Beats me why there was still vegetation under where he was harrowing!  I’m not claiming to have any understanding of this process….)
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Here is yet another neighbor with his horse harnessed up to be the living watering can, while this family plants cabbages.
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All three of these farms lie between our home and Vina’s.
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NOT AGAIN
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Last year we had a mysterious and tragic duck die-off at the pond. .. 15 or so females just weakened and died.  Austin thought it was from them eating tadpoles, or something else in the pond.  He moved the survivors to the chicken pen.  Then the pond dried out.  Then the rain came and refilled the pond and he moved the ducks home to it, and all was ducky wonderful.    Now the pond level is dropping, and this handsome fellow is looking sick.  Darn it all.  He is such a beauty – he was born at the pond – this is the first male who has been sick.   I have hope that we got him out of there on time.  He’s been up in the kitchen in a box for 3 days and is looking better, not worse.
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NEW FRUIT
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Austin got a new variety of passion fruit and it is bearing now.  You can see that the new fruit is longer and is red.
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This fruit was MUCH sweeter than the normal yellow variety.   Yum!
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NEW CRITTER
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Akka found this new moth – in our kitchen – it’s not like you have to hunt for wildlife here.   What’s interesting about this fellow is the bump he has on the back of his head.
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Humpbacked – see?   Is that normal?
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YUM YUM
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Duruka is in season again.  Duruka (ndoo-roo-ka)  is a vegetable that is the flower of a grass that is similar to sugar cane.  Duruka can grow in swampy areas, but it needs very dry weather when it starts to flower.  If the flower starts getting moisture even from dew, it starts to go bad.  So duruka is a fussy crop.
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It is sold in bundles like this in the market.  I saw it in the market selling for $8/bundle – too much! We thought our own duruka was not ready for harvest.   But we got a phone call from an honest neighbor who told us there were some boys in our field.  They were stealing duruka!.    Junia unchained our fierce dog and ran to investigate.  The boys got away unidentified with a few bundles, but there is plenty more duruka down there and it is ripe.   Oh Boy!    This is a fraction of our harvest.
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Duruka has a bland taste but a unique texture.  It is kind of crunchy, squeaky against the teeth in a way that is very satisfying.    Fijians usually boil the duruka whole and serve with coconut milk, as above.  Indians usually mash it up dry, and make it as a curry.   It is delicious both ways.
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FATSOs !
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Tarsi always has well-fed puppies, but she only had 4 in this litter and they are getting 8 puppies-worth of nutrition.
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MORE BANG FOR THE BEAN
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My sister-in-law wrote and shared this news about something called “Bullet-proof coffee”
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Coffee with a tsp of coconut oil and a tsp of ghee in the morning, helps cognition and lean muscle mass building, gets rid of fat!!!  guards against dementia and alzheimers!   Put it in a blender or a frothed, it whips up so creamy and it is satisfying!!!    woof!!!
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I can tell you – with a bit of honey it is like having coffee candy for breakfast.   Woof, indeed!
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24 October 2013

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The bougainvillea in front of the new house is resplendent.  We’ve been building the house for over a year now, and maybe we will move in before another year has passed….. Fiji time.
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Sometimes I get pretty tired of being on the farm (I am a nomad at heart) but the sight of the bulbul in the coconut sapling, the bee in the whatsit flower, and especially the gaze of a warm puppy eye – they make me feel ok with my moment.  Here are some of the puppies getting into a bucket of commercial chicken feed.
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The pups are the age to give away.  The age that if they aren’t gone soon, they are going to end up under the car tires entirely by accident.  We’ve had sad experience with this, both in Guam and in Suva.   New Owners – come get your puppies!
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Months ago Austin planted a big circle, 20 meters (66ft) diameter, of pineapples on a newly flattened hill.  He also put big stones for the rising and setting points of the sun on the March equinox and also for the moon.  “Pinapple-henge”   Anyway, the pineapples are growing and the plants are so red! …. and could use a bit of weeding, I notice.
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You probably already know this, but pineapples grow nestled in the leaves, and they also grow a Hat that is the next pineapple plant.   When it is ripe, you eat the body – yum, yum – and plant the hat.
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You might think this is an unremarkable looking bug.  Akka says it is a Click Beetle.  He took this photo.   See the bright yellow spots on each side of the head part.  Those are not reflections of the flash.
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They are this click beetle’s little green lights.  It’s kind of a lightning bug but less bright and less twinkling.   Still, it is a bug light and we like it.   That IS the green light – but should be two spots.  There are trailers because the beetle moved.
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We’ve got zucchini!  Hooray – I really love zucchini.  Junia took me to the field to show me the plants.   The zucchini in the close up still has the flower on its head – see?  (I didn’t see until Junia pointed it out)
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Sister-in-law from Texas pointed out teeny flying insects on one particular section of a wind chime about 3 months ago.  We’ve been trying ever since to get a close up.
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Definitely flies – but sooooooo tiny!  What do they live on?  What are they doing here?  Why do they always hang out on that one small section of fishing line?
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KITTY UPDATE –  They both died!    Rest in Peace, nameless kitties.  Better luck next time, Betty.
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MUTATION OF THE WEEK     …is so icky I’m not even taking a photo – a chick embryo without the upper half of its head.   A little bit of chicken brain, the bottom half of a beak on top of a regular chick embryo body.  EEWWW.   Something for Halloween.
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READER FEEDBACK –  “You are the only person or family I have ever known who has kept a bat as a pet, but I like the big, furry so called fruit bats of Fiji. Besides they don’t carry rabies like the bats of NC.”     EW!  I forgot about rabies!    Luckily we don’t have rabies in Fiji –  but I just googled, and there IS rabies in Puerto Rico, where we raised Radar.  Dang!
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SOMETHING HAPPY TO END WITH
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My younger son and his beautiful wife planted this red-striped lily while they were living here, and now it is blooming.   Aww….    And for those of you who prefer Fauna with your Flora, here is a shot of the lily with Inu (ee-noo), our dog with the name that means “dog” in Japanese.
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26 September 2013

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That’s not water – it is a dried green-black algae or something.  We have had three good rains, and this is what the pond still looks like.  You may wonder  why am I still writing about the pond since we harvested all the fish. Why does it matter?   I’ll tell you why: the level of the pond is indicative of the water table that affects the finicky bore hole that supplies water to us and to six other families. Three years ago the pond went dry and a few weeks later we had no running water in our house for 3 months.

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Sadly, our bore hole is at the bottom of a north facing slope.   Because of the sun angles, the north-facing slopes hold less moisture than the south-facing ones.    The good news for the area is that all of our neighbors have bore holes in better locations – so if ours dries out it is only a 7- household inconvenience, not a regional disaster.

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Austin is taking advantage of the dry weather to hire a digger do some work.   Here he was digging in the dry creek – making a better channel for rainy season.  A curious cow came to watch.
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And then her baby came to see the action, too.
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Nearby I noticed that the papaya trees are full of fruit again.   We love our pawpaws.  We went through a real papaya glut about a year ago, and then a papaya drought.  And now we have papayas again.   Yay.   Most Americans just eat them ripe as fruit, but Indians use green ones and still firm orange ones in curries.  I LOVE Vina’s papaya curry!
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Junia called me out to get a photo of this pigeon.  It is a native pigeon – distinctive because of its long neck.   Maybe an ornithologist will have some information to add.
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9-25-13 STOCK PHOTO flower visitors
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A concerned reader asked regarding the hospital stay,  “Nobody sent you flora?”   NOPE (maybe that’s why flowers around the hospital are both extra nice to see and are not stolen 🙂
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In Fiji flowers are taken to funerals, but not for “get well soon.”  For “get well soon,” the ONLY thing that counts is a personal visit.  Three beautiful human flowers did make a get well call to the patient who told them “I’m so glad you came.”  .
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Another concerned reader asked, “What in the world are you going to do with all of those puppies?”   Are you kidding?   It is so easy to find homes for our big, healthy, gorgeous puppies – even the females.  Somebody has already given Austin the feeding money for this handsome little fellow.   Of course it will be about 5 more weeks before he goes to his new home
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Getting rid of KITTENS is an entirely different matter.
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19 September 2013

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Lautoka is a beautiful city, especially if you love trees.  There are rows of palms, of mango trees, of huge vaivai, of “Itt”s.  There is mahogany and teak and date palm.  We ended up spending most of the week in Lautoka at the large regional hospital.   Above is a shot of the corner where Hospital Road meets the main road.

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I’m shocked that on-line resources do not mention Lautoka’s many parks and stately avenues.   Lautoka has been a prosperous little city because of the sugar industry, and some farsighted people invested in making it beautiful.  Here are a few shots I got of some of the magnificent trees.
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Even the main street is lined with palms.   Maybe we can read history of bad weather from their bent trunks.

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This was the view from the hospital room.
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 Beautiful, eh?   I kept thinking about how none of the coconut trees were “decapitated” from the recent fierce hurricane: so many of the coconut trees in Guam are headless because of the storms.   Then later, Austin and I noticed this group of headless royal palms.
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That is weird because royal palms throw off their leaves during storms, and almost never lose their crowns or get blown over.  That’s why Austin always plants royal palms near any house we live in.   Anyway, he’s thinking maybe a piece of flying tin got them, since it is 3 trees in a row.
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Just a little more around the hospital.  Beautiful hibiscus.  I envy the healthiness of this plant – as you recall I often bemoan the plight of my hibiscus bush at home.
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This beauty was blooming in the parking lot.  I asked Austin what it is – he doesn’t know.  Says we have it at home.  He was quite dismissive, but I found the flower charming.
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And I can’t leave the hospital without showing off the TALLEST Cousin Itt trees I’ve ever seen – standing there against the hospital. …  And finally we could go home.   This is part of what met us.
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More ducklings – these are a couple of days old and going to their new owner today.
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Austin wanted to make sure EVERYBODY notices that there are some with pink bills and some with blue.  He thinks the pink-billed duck is a hybrid.  (Sometimes he goes on about their feet – some are yellow and some are black.  Big deal.)
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And finally – this is the happiest thing that met all of us on our happy, healthy return from our sojourn in the west.   Tarsi’s puppies – 5 females and 3 males.
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PS – I feel the report is not complete without mentioning that  I did not notice any flora or fauna inside the hospital.   I actually LOOKED for vermin for my report, and there was none.  For the tropics this is incredible.  The other thing is that we did not have to “shell” out any money for the 6 day hospital stay.  It was paid for by our tax dollars.  The care was beautiful, and I think it deserves a mention.