Friday, September 24, 2010

September 23 moon

Let's take a moment to observe the harvest moon: the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox, typically September 22 or 23. This year the full moon and equinox nearly coincide, a truly remarkable and auspicious event.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New things, native and not

While on an island a month ago, I saw three new things. Because they were new to me, I assumed that they were native to the island, but I later learned that only one of them is.

Thing 1: I purchased this beautiful heavy fruit from a roadside stand. "Dragonfruit" came with no operating instructions so I cut it open and was amazed when I saw the beautiful seed speckles scattered in the cool white flesh. I peeled off the skin which separated easily from the fruit, then ate some, then ate it all - no one else would touch it. It's slightly sweet and tastes a little like kiwi. Later I learned that this is pitaya, the fruit of a cactus (just as prickly pear is also a cactus fruit) and originated in asia.

Thing 2: While traveling along on the east side of the island, I saw stands of tall trees with elegant top canopies. The trunks splayed from the center and were fairly straight, and looked like they would be useful as poles. Later I learned that these are albizia trees, which thrive in sub-tropical climates and can grow 15 feet in one year! They are not native to this island - indeed they could be invasive - we'd better find a use for them!

Thing 3: "What are Canadian geese doing on this island, thousands of miles away from Canada?" was the first comment we uttered when we saw these birds strolling. We soon learned that these are nene, Hawaii's endemic geese listed on the endangered species list. I am very fortunate to have seen these.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Summer - Forever

What happens when nature follows her own inclination? Rampant growth, with explosions of seed tufts that stick to nearby surfaces.

This is a horrific sight when the dandelion-type plants are nearly as tall as I am.

It's doubly horrific when the nearby patch of tomatoes growing in rich soil amended with "home-grown" compost is less than a fallen weed-stalk away. What we don't see are the weeds that were growing right next to these tomatoes; I pulled out those fluffy-seedy weeds about a month ago.

I pulled up the weeds we see in these images about two weeks ago. But the grey fuzz of sticky seed fluff is nearly impossible to hand-pick out of the soil and nearby plants. I considered using fire but could not think of an effective method that would not put the house and neighborhood at risk. I'm doomed to hyper-vigilant scrutiny for weed growth. Forever. All because I let these damn things metastasize.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nani 'a'a pulu niu

I was washed up onto an island a month ago and there were coconut palms everywhere.

Did I hear the roar of the ocean or the palm fronds rattling in the wind?

A walk along the beach yielded different parts of the plant, specifically the nuts at young and old stages, as well as fronds that fell from the tall trunks that swayed in the warm breeze.

The fibrous husks are fascinating.

These are the fibers in a young immature coconut.

These are the fibers in a large older husk that surrounds a coconut.

Layers of fibers that cross each other form a fabric that anchors the base of the palm frond to the trunk.

Hawaiians use coconut fiber. The fiber is spun and plied into cord. Thin cord is tied and knotted into nets used for fishing and nets used to carry items. Thicker cord is used to lash bamboo framework together for shelter. I need to learn more about this.

I'd love to see how this plant grows, especially how the fibers and the crossing layers develop. Slo-mo, please!