Dreaming of okra!

okra seedling, who's for gumbo?
As part of my new sustainability drive I've caught the gardening bug. I've been playing around with the garden a bit for the last 18 months or so (well frankly it needed it). We've been planting anything and everything we can think of, including fruit seeds and grains from the store,  just because you can. But now I've gone a bit further. I cajoled Viriamu (and it took some doing) into installing a raised bed outside our back door, it's studded with a few stunted looking plants at the moment (OK you can't learn everything in a few weeks), there are also a whole variety of seedlings newly put out into my ever expanding garden patch and others poking up from newspaper plant pots (an excellent recycling idea from LHITS).
climbing spinach
 I suspect I'm being a bit too ambitious, but I've been able to get hold of some exciting  fruit and veggie seeds, from climbing spinach and okra, to kiwis and passion fruit, as well as some odd things like cape gooseberries and luffas.

Passion fruit and papayas
I'm trying to stay realistic, as I really know zip about gardening, but I have high hopes that we will be able to eat a homegrown cherry tomato or two in the months that come........and who knows, maybe even get a rub-down with our homegrown bath sponges!
Luffa seedling, loving a good horse-manure mulch


I've recently got really hooked on green living ideas, OK I was already feeling rather pleased with myself over my jams and soap-making, but now I'm getting completely sucked in, making it yourself is so much fun! This is all since I stumbled on a pattern for rag rugs on a great website the Little House in the Suburbs(LHITS), they have a huge array of easy home sustainability tips, and just recently they've published a great book. Last week I made my own home-made deodorant stick (beats stuffing aluminium in your pores) and talc, now I'm thinking a bit more about making my own cleaning products rather buying the seriously toxic stuff from the store - our septic system drains into the garden just meters from the sea, so it's worth considering. I made cream-cheese over the week-end and have a host of other interesting projects to mull over like bee-keeping and goat milking, and why not a mud-brick home with lime rendering while we're at it!


Seeing Red!

Almost two weeks have slipped by since my last post, and it's been eventful enough. The rain is back, after a few days of sun. Mato's strawberries are fruiting, though we're not quite there with the big juicy fruits I was hoping for. I've got the gardening bug (more about that soon). Heimana is now enrolled in school for next year, and can't wait (or maybe she can, the reality is a bit more intimidating).

The big excitement for us has been the French legislative elections, with tweet scandals and surprise defeats for some major players like Segolene Royale, Marine Le Pen (a close call) and Francois Bayrou. The uplifting result is that not only does Hollande have an unprecedented majority (since Mitterand in 1981) 89 seats more than the UMP, there are also 17 green representatives, and more disturbingly 3 from the Front National. Sadly here in Polynesia we narrowly voted in all three Tahoeraa candidates (far right, in a step back to the bad-old days), but the DOM-TOM vote still remains firmly socialist with 19 out of the 27 overseas territory seats going to the majority. This might actually allow Hollande to advance a bit, he's already given himself and his ministers a wage-cut and is putting a cap on big business salaries and looks set to mean business, gone is the Sarko glitz and glam. How refreshing to have a president with integrity!



Here in Rurutu Venus transited mostly in obscurity, hidden by our grey skies. We did get a couple of quick breaks in the clouds later in the afternoon, but not long enough for me to manage to get our telescope projecting properly! I'm happy to believe that it looked something like this,

.....and to take a minute or two to muse over what Captain Cook must have made of the whole thing, at Point Venus (Tahiti, near our house in Mahina) back in 1769.......

The excitement continued as I entertained 38 students and 5 teachers from Tubuai on wednesday afternoon, here on a quick visit. They had asked if I could do a quick soap-making demo, and come and buy a few souvenirs, my home-made smellies are getting to be know throughout the arcipelago!


June Beginnings

June has started out eventful:
Yesterday was granddad's birthday as well as the first round of our local legislative elections (which actually weren't much to get excited about, inspiring a record poor voter turnout, <40% in all three of our Polynesian constituencies).
Today was french mother's day (not the same day as in the UK or the US, just to keep you on your toes); this year Matotea was unable to contain her excitement at having prepared a mothers day card at school, she couldn't even wait 'til the day itself to give me the card!
It was also the day of the Queen's diamond jubilee party on the Thames (Lord bless 'er Majesty). Tomorrow we welcome Tuati back here for the long holidays, he will be defending his horse-riding title this july. On tuesday there's the transit of Venus to enjoy, don't forget because the next one will be in 2117! To add to all this Viriamu's re-doing our septic system, so we're up to our necks in cement and rubble. This afternoon, with the cement-mixer rumbling in our ears it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get out of the house, and given that we actually saw the sun for a few hours, we girls decided to take a hike along the beach up to Matotea's cliff.

The girls were absolute champions, they must have hiked a good 6km in total, and all without too much grumbling, though we did make a lot of stops.
blue rats tail, a common weed, with an edible blue flower
We collected all kinds of interesting things on the way: two types of edible flowers (squash blooms and blue rat's tail), pebbles, water from the source, some fresh vanilla vine, hibiscus cuttings, candle-nuts for planting and a whole heap of Tropical Almonds (Terminalia catappa, autara'a) that we didn't manage to crack open, yet but we'll work on it as I'm told that they're good.
squash flower
Squash flower

We ate the blue rat's tail flowers with our sandwiches, they taste slightly like raw mushroom, and Matotea loves the idea of eating flowers! For dinner we had our squash flowers....they are really, really tasty battered and deep fried.......you can also use courgette flowers in the same way.
deep fried squash flowers



May's end

May left, as it arrived, in the rain! It's been amazingly wet this year, and while rain is good for the garden, you can have too much of a good thing, having previously rejoiced with the rain I'm now feeling less happy as my poor seedlings are getting a real battering from the torrential downpours that have been passing over every couple of days.
It's also left Viriamu frustrated as he's just received a shiny new cement mixer and he's itching to mix cement! But with all the rain, even the best laid plans have to be changed! Guest-wise it was also a busy old month, for the down season, with a steady trickle of guests and so many holidays that we spent most of the time stuck at home with the kids (there were 5 bank holidays, a week of official school holidays and a teacher training day, so Matotea spent just 13 days at school).
 We also had the annual Protestant 'mei' celebrations around Ascension, here it's a three week long celebration, another display of village pride, each sunday one of our three village hosts a marathon of religious fervor with services throughout the weekend and a midnight vigil on the sunday, the singing and hats are truly impressive. It's also the time to spruce up the village, everyone gets busy white-washing walls and cleaning the house, and most importantly (for the church) it's the time where everyone digs deep to in their pockets to subsidize the local church.