6 November 2014

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It’s tamarind season again.  We have mountains here to process, neighbors have carted sacks of it away, and the two trees are still full of tamairnds – which are no doubt getting black and moldy from being out in the rain.  For a start-to-finish on tamarind processing, you can look at my old posts from 10 October and 17 October 2013.

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FLOWERS  AND  FRUITS

One of the first things Austin did when we moved here was to plant trees – among them: plumeria.   TA DA !    Now in bloom.

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This lovely flower was the star of all the leis we ever received or made in our Micronesia years.  It holds up well for a few days and has a delicious perfume.  What’s odd is that the only plumeria here are pink and red.  The yellow-white ones are far more common.   Plumeria is also known as frangiapani, and in Fijian its name is senibua.

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This lovely bench, up near the plumerias, overlooks the grave of Fred Cat .   The pineapples are abundant and in many locations around our farm.

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This one is on the side of Cardiac Hill.   Note the very spiky leaves.

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This one is under the big teak tree.  Note the smooth leaves.

We ate the fatso pineapple from last week once it finished ripening.  JUICY!  SWEET!

MY CONVERSATION WITH JUNIA YESTERDAY

Me:  Is there anything going on I could put in this week’s blog?

Ju:  Chickens, geese, ducks?.         Me:   Boring – I do them all the time..

Ju:  Lots of mangoes on the tree?     Me:  Did that 2 weeks ago.

Ju:  OH!  My pocket garden.            Me:  What pocket garden?

Ju:  It has zucchini, cabbages, corn, watermelon, bok choi.

Me:  REALLY?  WHERE?

Ju points down the hill.

Ju:  Down there – I planted it myself.      Me:  Is it fruiting already?

Ju:  Yes!                                 Me:  Will you walk down with me?

Ju:   No, I’m tired right now, but don’t worry, you can’t miss it.

So…..   THIS is what we see without Junia

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It looks short.  All I can tell for sure is corn stalks to the back on the right.

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I hunt and hunt.  I don’t see any fruit of any kind.   I think this might be a watermelon flower.

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LIFE!   Two insects mating on a God-knows-what and Junia-knows-what kind of flower.

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I’ll give us a close up since it is the only fauna this week at all.

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Walking back up the hill, I take another shot of our “pond.”   You can see it is green, it is raining.   I am shocked that the water table is still so low.   Thank God our bore hole that supplies us with running water has been holding up!

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This is our dinner bell.   Just thought you might like to see it.

Have a happy week, and may the suppers you are called to all be tasty ones.

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1 May 2014

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You might remember a couple of months ago I mentioned how PROUD I am of our good paved road.  I still am.  And there is even a clear kilometer marker at our road so I can tell guests exactly where our feeder road is.  We are at Km 19.2
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I just don’t know if it is REALLY 19.2, and if it will stay that way.  Here are a couple of other kilometer markers between Sigatoka and us.
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There should be a football field between these two markers.
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And a whole half-K between these two.   Oops!
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TANOA – THE GROG BOWL
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Drinking grog (yaqona) is an ancient sacred custom in Fiji – seen at the recent funeral.   After the kava (another name for yaqona) itself, the most important thing is the tanoa – the grog bowl.   Everybody sits around the grog bowl.  Traditionally there is a notch that points to the highest ranking person present – and there is a piece of coconut fiber rope (magimagi) with a cowrie shell (buli) which is attached and points to the chief.  If there is no one of high traditional rank, the magimagi and buli are removed.    Above is a photo of a very beautiful grog bowl – available for sale at the tourist shop.
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Here is a photo of a tanoa from a few weeks ago at the funeral.  You can see that it is wooden and large.  It also has pvc pipe reinforcing the broken legs.   Informally, friends will often drink kava from a plastic basin or a bucket.
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My personal favorite – and this was at a formal event, though not with a chiefly person present – was this tanoa made from a fishing float and a sawed off traffic cone.
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BREAKNECK GROWTH
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It occurs to me that all of you living in temperate zones probably cannot imagine the speed of the growth of trees here.  My photos are kind of shabby, but this is a shot of a royal palm Austin planted in 2005 – about 9 years ago.
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Here’s a shot of another one.   These are around our house in Suva.
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Here’s our house in 2005 – no trees in the yard at all.   The little royal palm in the front had grown to about 25 feet or more a couple of years ago and the Electric Company (FEA) cut it down.  (Yes, I know – I should have tried to get a current shot of our house from this angle.   Maybe next time I go to Suva…)
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Another example is this big tree –  I remembered there was a little news story when it got planted.   Here  –  http://news.bahai.org/story/366
The trees were a spontaneous activity – a brainstorm of Austin’s – and I’d forgotten that I was quoted in the article …. but anyway.   We know from this story that that tree is exactly 9 years old.  Of the 4 that were planted in April 2005.   two died, two are still living.   This one is towering over the coconut tree.
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KIDS!
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I’ve been seeing a lot of baby goats around – snapped these two cuties on the road right below our house.   I want some!
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MORE ABUNDANCE
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After the huge tamarind crop last year, I thought the tree was going to take a season off.   I was really surprised to see it full of fruit again already.   You’ll notice that the fruits are smaller – but WOW – plenty of them!
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17 October 2013

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If you only see what is in the store, you tend to forget that nature is not so uniform.   This week we got a really long duck egg (the big one), and another strange little chicken egg (the little one).
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These are Austin’s 50-egg incubators from the US.  Not so photogenic, even in good light.   But the egg shells outside are a hint that the incubators are in use, and that hatching is going on.
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Austin ordered two 1000-egg incubators from China and hopes to bring in heritage chickens from New Zealand.  because……
– the NZ hybrid meat birds sold here are really stupid and they suffer from their extreme growth spurt;
– the NZ hybrid egg birds are good for only one season and they suffer from not being able to repair their bodies (it has been bred out of them);
– the truly local birds (in Fijian “toa ni veikau’, in Hindi the “jangli murgi” ) are not so good for meat or egg production even though they are really intelligent as chickens go.
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The administrative hoops to import heritage birds are taking forever, so Austin is working on breeding local hybrids with what we’ve got here
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inside the incubator.  You can see a number of chicks have hatched.  The little partition is separating out a cohort of eggs due to hatch later.  All very low tech.   Sometimes the unexpected set is the ready one.
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Here is a close up.  Not only can you see the still wet hatchlings, but you can also see that some of the eggs are pipped.   The chick inside pecks out a breathing hole and then rests for a few hours, and then pecks at the shell more to finally get free.  It is important not to rush this process because the yolk sac finishes getting absorbed as the chick works at getting itself hatched.
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10-17-13 bat stock photo
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The bats are back in the evening.  (confession: stock photos)   Even when I wasn’t blogging I was aware the last time the bats were here. These bats are really something – quite large, not put off by humans, and not pesty at all.   I suspect they eat insects, because why would they fly at sunset in order to eat fruit?   More questions:  Where did they go for months?  Why are they back now?
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In Micronesia we had a couple of fruit bats for awhile: one we let go, and one I forgot about and it starved (oops)  In Puerto Rico we raised a tiny orphaned leaf-nosed bat to adulthood – that was a great experience.   Austin brought home another fruit bat baby about 8 years ago, and I accidentally let that one get overheated to death in the car because I didn’t want to leave it home alone when I went to a funeral.   That marked the end of my bat-keeping  – but I am quite fond of bats and am happy to see them back in the neighborhood.
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Anyway, the only other thing I have to write about this week is tamarind again.   I told you the ladies take the seeds out of the tamarinds, but I did not say that I did it.  That’s because I sliced my thumb with the knife when I tried, and so I’d given up.   But there was a bunch of tamarind still here and so I gave it another try –  this time with a 4 inch nail.  It worked!   My occasional slips were not injurious, and the activity is down-right addictive.   All my many hours watching stuff on the computer were accompanied with a bowl of tamarinds to pip.  Fun fun fun.
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Monica got the homestay registered and Akka has put up a Facebook page – “Teitei Homestay”…. and so it is time for me to put up a Cast of Characters page on my blog.   You’ll see a new tab at the top when I get it done.
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Thumbnail poet butt
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10 October 2013

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“Austin, what kind of tree is it, above the pond, that has lost its leaves?”
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“That’s a teak, a white teak”
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So, ok, gang – this is a white teak.  I noticed it when two all-black mynas were having a chat in it.  Then I noticed no leaves – not the norm here.   Then I notice the flowers –  voila!
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It seems trees here lose their leaves when they are about to flower.  I like these flowers because they look like brown orchids with bright yellow beards.
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Photographing the tree, I noticed words carved in the trunk – oh the things I never notice on my property!   Showed this to Junia –
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and he recognized the names of two of the farm workers!   Ha ha – BUSTED!
(The old Pacific island custom was to carve your name on a coconut leaf.  Like a calling card and not so permanent.)
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We didn’t know Betty Cat was pregnant.  We’d been putting essential oil on her fur and thought we had kept the suitors away when she was in heat.  But on Thursday Akka noticed that Betty was pregnant again.  And on Friday she delivered a kitten.  And Friday night she delivered another
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MUTATION OF THE WEEK-
Baby boy kitty – orange.  Because he is a boy, we can find him a home.
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Baby girl kitty – gray.  Amazingly her paws are all straight.  Maybe we can even find her a home, we think… then we discover that she has a knot in her spine.  And she has an extremely hard time finding a teat.  Only 2 kittens and she can’t find a teat?
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At four days old the boy is nearly twice the size of the girl.   I like the little girl kitty, but will not give her a name.  I think she may not make it.
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REAL FARM STUFF
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Remember the abundant tamarind tree?  Well the last two weeks have been harvest week.  The photo above is from last week – we were taking the shell skins  off the fruits.  Four of us were shelling the pods for about 4 hours.
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This is some of the tamarind drying on sheets of roofing iron.
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Then we have to take the seeds out, the strings off, and roll the fruit up into balls to be stored until needed.   I normally share the tamarind with the ladies who help – but this is such a bumper crop year.  One of the ladies got her own huge sack to take home to process.  Three other neighbors have come over to get huge sacks.  There is at least one sack still on the tree.   The big hurry is to get it off the tree, now that it is ripe, before it starts raining.  Whatever gets rained on now will go moldy.
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LIFE WITH MY NATURALIST DEPT
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I overheard Austin on the phone   “No you can’t, a mongoose will eat it….. no, I told you a mongoose will eat it….  NO, don’t kill it!  It is endemic to Fiji and is a rare species….”

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I didn’t like the sound of this and yelled from the other room, “a WHAT, Austin?”
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He didn’t answer me.  He talked into the phone.   “I’ll come over now and get it.”
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“Get what, Austin?”  I asked.   Fifteen minutes later he was home with this.

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“Maybe I’ll put it in the roof to get the rat,” he says.
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We are not amused.
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Thumbnail poet butt

 

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PS –   HAPPY  FIJI   DAY

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5 September 2013

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The pond got so low we had no choice but to go and harvest all the fish.  Here is the biggest fish with my grandson and “Uncle Junia”.   That fish (talapia, malea in Fijian) was almost 3 years old.   Here the same fish is pictured with a baby, to show what 3 years can accomplish.
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Below is a photo of our haul – it was about 40 kgs of fish in all.   It would have been much much larger  if we hadn’t had a massive theft a year and a half ago – but that’s why we have the fence and the dog down there now.
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Regarding the recent grass fires, a Facebook friend asked me:  is someone burning the grass intentionally or does it just catch fire because it is dry?   Does that cause a threat to your property?    I  replied:  people intentionally burn the grass each year.  the grass comes back very healthy, and it keeps trees from colonizing the grasslands.

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Since then our resident arsonist decided to make his own little grass fire.  It went downhill (usually that doesn’t happen) and it got a couple of his dad’s lemon trees.  Oops.

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LOOK WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN DEPARTMENT – yes, our mutant cat Turtle brought this gecko into the house the other night.   Look normal?    Look again.
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 This gecko has a forked tail – not normal.    Geckos can regenerate a lost tail, and this one must have had a partly severed tail that regenerated on the torn side.   Creepy, isn’t it!    (would have been “mutation of the week” – but I just loved the new category of “look what the cat dragged in’)
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This is a photo of a tamarind tree by the cottage bathroom.  Those plump tan pods hold the tamarind fruit.   It is abundant this year.   Tamarind is the base for many beautiful sauces and chutneys.
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The other trees are less fruitful.  This tree is only about 30 feet away – and this is the only branch that has any tamarind – 2 pods.   Why is one tree so loaded, and the other tree so sparse?    Location, location, location.
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MYSTERY OF THE WEEK – it might not strike you as weird, but I really don’t get it.  Of all the banana leaves there is one that is perforated – has lines of holes on it.   I actually saw it two days earlier, and when I finally got back with the camera, the end of the leaf had torn off along one of the perforated lines.   What is eating a series of holes in several  lines on one leaf?   Why only the one leaf?
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Anyway – that was a nature mystery and I’ll end with a human mystery.  When my Indian neighbors bring us fresh cow’s milk, it always has at least one chilli floating in it.   Yep, they put a fresh hot chilli pepper in it before delivery.   I have never made sense of the story of why, something to do with bad spirits not following them home?   In any event the flavor of the chilli never gets into the milk.
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