Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Worm Farm

here we go, I got the basic designs from this website, it was nice and simple and cost effective as you can use old pieces of wood and make the size to fit accordingly. The only cost was TOP2.00 for the nails and TOP12 for the mosquito net.

Getting there!

I drilled more holes in it than suggested as our climate is hotter, it is placed out of direct sun under a mango tree.
Am wondering if I should paint it?

The worms will share my kitchen compost waste just not from acidic or citrus families! And of course nothing happens now without my little helper Nikki, who kindly carried coconuts in case I needed them.

 I could not take photos of all stages as the wind was blowing everything around, after the newspaper I added some soil and compost as well as shredded cardboard and food. The newspaper was moistened for the worms comfort!

My gorgeous helper.

Newspaper with mosquito net bottom

Just hoping with Cyclone Evan lurking it remains in place and does not get blown away.

I love trying this projects as experiments to what and how we can do things here, they are great small ways to encourage sustainability and better gardening practices without using fertilisers and chemicals.

Quite a nice little area for a worm garden!

Again, I send my thoughts to those affected by the Cyclone in Samoa and for the Niuas and Fiji in the upcoming days. At present Vava'u will not be directly affected, but we are keeping a close eye on the way it changes.

Thanks to my husband as always for his support in my trials! xx

The waiting game

Cyclone Evan is over Samoa

the weather we are all keeping an eye on, though the "cyclone" season starts at the end on November, this is the first time in 7 years that we have seen one crop up in December. February has always been the month here where we have had the majority of small cyclones appear.

Vava'u has been quite lucky since Waka hit in the 2002 Christmas period and we are definitely hoping that this does not become a repeat.

One thing to note is that in the South Pacific cyclones are categorised by wind speeds that are much lighter than those in the northern hemisphere. Here a cyclone is named at 35 knots and becomes a Tropical depression at 25 kts during this time. (During winter time here we are often out on the ocean in 25kts with the Humpback Whales)

So fingers crossed that Samoa, Niuas and Fiji do not get hit too hard, the Niuas just had their homes rebuilt after the 2009 Tsunami wiped a lot of houses out.

Right now for Vava'u we are predicted winds up to approx 35kts for the next 5-6 days and a massive swell of 5.6m to go alongside it. The outer and low lying areas will definitely be watching the tides as extreme high tides are predicted for the next few days.

We will be watching and waiting and hope that Christmas is still one of calm and happiness and not one of damage and disaster.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Quite the fad

here at the moment is to make your own fresh pineapple juice out of the leftover skins. I had not heard of this until a couple fo weeks ago, despite living on tropical islands for over 12 years!

Trish, owner of the Balcony, gave Kate (Turtle lady!) the recipe, but the information stopped there!! ha ha (sorry Kate), but a quick google search brings up lots of recipe ideas and wow its really healthy for you.

The one we liked was from the following website as we are also huge ginger fans. The first time we made it we added a little too much ginger (2 knuckles) and so in this one we halved the amount and it tastes great. We also boil it for about 20 minutes and leave it to steep for 4 hours, other sites say overnight but we dont want those pesky fruit flies to show up.
Pineapple skins and ginger on the boil

Pineapples at this time of year are in abundance though generally the season is only about 3-4 months, a pile of pineapples at the market is approx US$3.50 for 5 pineapples, and when you consider that you need this amount to make a litre of pineapple juice which would normally cost about US$4 in the shops here, you are getting a much better deal. Plus you are not wasting the great flavour of homemade juice.

The finished juice

Next years crop we hope!
The tops of the pineapples get put into our garden and we hope to have some of our own fresh pineapples next year. With the leftover skins, we crush them up and into our compost tumblers they go, adding again a great base for healthy compost.

The longer we live here, the more we learn about using every part of the vegetables and fruits we can get here.

My calender says.....

Closest Christmas colour flower I could find.
that we are past the first week of December, however here in the sunny South Pacific it never really feels like Christmas is just around the corner.

Christmas decorations are a rare sight here as are Christmas carols on the radio, though all my Northern Hemisphere friends are certainly feeling the cold and getting into the spirit. Facebook is a wonderful tool for sharing pictures over the equator.

It has been a sad and strange fortnight with the loss of 2 friends and it is always a hard time for their families, our thoughts are with them all.

The upcoming weeks will be spent scouring the shops for the arrival of Christmas treats, hopefully some turkeys are on their way.

I was planning on getting out for some photo taking this weekend and managed a little, however the 20 knot winds and hazy sky are not the best for shooting, so I only got a few.

Creepy crawlies with egg sac.

Not able to go anywhere without Nikki close by my side.

So many beautiful sunrises here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Traditional Hunting should back sustainability

or at least it used to before present times. This article appeared in the Daily Mail yesterday and highlights the change of the traditional sperm whale hunt in a remote village in Indonesia. (Graphic Pictures!)

The area of Lamalera on the south coast of Lembata has the right to traditionally hunt sperm whales, however due to declining numbers they have widened their species list to include dolphins, mantas and sharks. The methods are still traditional, where the fishermen used man power and spears to catch the animals, however should it still be classed as traditional when they have changed species and are now targeting a wide range of marine animals. The pictures of the sharks and dolphins being caught shows just how much more prolific the tradition may become and a wider range of species being targeted and demised.

Back when the hunts were done and tradition was in the now, they would not have had massive long liners scouring the ocean, the method of shark finning was not as it is today and there are not the population and economic challenges of the here and now.

Are these taken into consideration when the quotas and traditions are looked at in order to maintain a healthy balance?

There are many cases of traditional hunting changing through out the world, the Bowhead whales that are captured by the Inuit came under focus recently when heavy machinery was used in order to catch the whales due to weather changes.

Any method of traditional hunting or capture is regarded for the sake of maintaining tribal/cultural aspects of life, however when do we consider that it is no longer a tradition but a way of life that is trying to adapt to socio economic and demographic change rather than the cultural sustainability.

Take for example in Tonga, turtles have been hunted for years, there is a long track going back hundreds of years and it was a way of showing wealth to elders and nobility. Now regulations are in place but not enforced to allow the traditional hunt for 5 months a year. These regulations if enforced and abided by would not only protect turtles during mating and nesting periods but also to sustain a population so that traditions can continue.

 I have no problem with traditional hunting as long as it remains within the boundaries of the what the species can allow and does not change to modern methods in order to catch the specific quota. When traditional hunting turns in to economic gain, there needs to be a change in the ways the hunting is effecting on a greater demand the species being targeted.

Many years ago, tradition and sustainability worked hand in hand, however the fingers seems to have become wider apart and the sustainability maybe slipping through those wider gaps.

I am sure there would be a lot of opposition if tribes and cultures stated cannibalism as a traditional right to continue!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Composting and Gardening

has always seemed a challenge to me until we decided to move more to sustainable living and being less dependent on quick fixes. Now living on a small pacific island means that we do have to rely on a great percentage of our meals coming from processed and packaged food. You can buy local beef at certain stores but chicken and pork etc all come for New Zealand and Australia.

There is very little production of meat here, no matter how many pigs are roaming the streets and causing havoc, they are reserved for the family umu, celebrations and funerals. What a shame really but without a proper butcher and farming protocol the population would quickly dwindle should it be taken to a commercial level. I am also terrible for not wanting to know where the meat I am eating actually comes from, as a former vegetarian I still have the heeby geebies when I am cutting meat and fish is a no no for me. However trying to be healthy and eat low fat meats is impossible almost here as we lack the packaging information we are so accustomed to overseas. Its more a what you got is what you have to deal with, and draining fat three or four times off ground beef is very common.

As for vegetables, the market has improved greatly here in the 7 years we have lived here, we used to get excited when lettuce and tomato's showed up for winter, however now we have them year round as well as a wonderful array of peppers, cucumbers, squash and more. I love supporting the market and buy still 80% of my produce from them. However we have begun to grow more and more at home.

Where we live is open to the ocean and the winds that predominantly come from the east, this means finding an area that has suitable soil and protection has been a bit of trial and error, but we think we have finally found the magic place and the right mix.
My first lettuce

We make our own compost at home which has proved so valuable in getting our vegetables to grow, we turn compost through our soil as soon as it is made to keep replenishing the nutrients and experiment with our compost. Currently we have 3 batches under way with mixes in them, one has majority shredded cardboard and green mix, one is half and half and one is all garden mix. They are all going very well, and the addition of our vegetable scraps seems to create a good and healthy mix. So much so that we are currently seeing steam coming out of our tumblers.

One of the issues with growing vegetables here is the climate, hot and humid at times and without a true spring and autumn we have to experiment with when to plant what. Also this year we had drought conditions for almost 3 months, but finally we have been having some rain.

Carrot tops

Bonnet Chili 

The back of the seed packet and advice given does not necessarily translate to what and when you should plant here. Right now we are playing around with it, but our radishes proved brilliant and spicy, our carrots have tops and all our peppers are on their way.

Radish - spicy and fresh

Its actually turned out to be a lot of fun and we are looking to expand our garden very soon, my innovation of cake tents over my seedlings has protected them from the chickens we have in our back yard. I also had to start a "seedlng database" so I can identify weeds from my vegetables, and this has also been a fun project with a few hiccups along the way. My husband ridicules me on my "Babylon style" garden with the use of plastic bottles but hey it works and he loves the cilantro in almost every dish!

So as we continue and improve our garden, we hope for others to share some of this information along the way.

Yeah for Enchilada

Upon arriving to work this morning we were alerted to a turtle that was on a local fishing boat, the fishermen allowed us to purchase the turtle for TOP30. Though we do not like paying for turtles as a means to preserve them unfortunately this is often the only way we can secure a release.

The small green turtle was in a very healthy condition luckily and only had 3 minimal scratches from possibly being in the boat. We brought it back down to the waterfront and Kate came over to take measurements and to tag the turtle with flipper tags.

The green measured 47.5cm in length of the carapace or shell and although the minimum catch size is 45 cm we are currently in the closed season for hunting. The Vava’u Turtle Monitoring Project aims to reduce the illegal catches of turtles such as this one through community assistance and education. This program is running alongside of VEPA and VEPA will continue its work to raise awareness and rescue turtles as we can.

Once the turtle had received its 2 flipper tags, it was whisked off back to the ocean and near some sea grass beds, which is the main food source for green turtles.

Discussing the release location

At 47.5cm this turtle is not yet sexually mature and sexual identification is hard to determine, turtles will disappear from the nest to the open ocean and float around until they come back to shore at approx. 20cm (dinner plate size though I hate using that term as a marker!). The estimates of sexual maturity range between 20-30 years old and this turtle had quite a way to go before reaching that stage.

Langi on the scales

The tagging of this turtle enables us to monitor if it is caught or seen again, and the information is passed along to the pacific database.

The turtles are about to begin their nesting season here and between the VTMP and VEPA we hope to successfully engage communities to recording and establishing data with us. This will work towards the goal of reducing catches and egg taking and turning towards turtles as an income source for communities through eco-tourism.

I know my turtle naming may seem a little out of whack, but keeping a sense of humour is one of the most important things to get where we need to with conservation.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Behind the scenes of an Island NGO

as many of you know I am a board member and active volunteer for Vava'u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA). We formed VEPA in 2009 to engage communities in their natural resources through education, awareness, conservation projects and sustainable development.

In the 3 short years that VEPA has run we have achieved a lot, waste management in town, education and awareness programs, coral reef rehabilitation, mangrove studies and restoration to name but a few. As all are volunteers at present, the continuance of VEPA depends on a lot of work and potential funding sources.

We are grateful to have help from overseas such as Keep Vava'u Green based in Utah and like minded people. Here on the ground in Vava'u, we rely on our friends of VEPA and volunteers to spearhead projects and create empowerment of communities to their environment.

We are continuing to move forward and have had massive help locally through donations and various fund raisers. So our goals are also moving forward and we are starting our Nature Explorers club next month to engage the youth in their environment and looking to create ambassadors. We are also currently searching for our first office, Dive Vava'u currently hosts the volunteers but we are ready to make the next step. All we need is a small, rent reasonable place for a part time worker and volunteers to create and propose our next projects.

I am also moving forward with VEPA and making it a more full time role for me as we progress, this will help with the day to day running and engaging of communities. (I even have uniforms being made for meetings at the moment!!!!!!). The greatest progression we have accomplished so far is that we are still here, still chugging along, all of us that are a part of VEPA, give as much time as we can and our efforts show. Our first AYAD volunteer Elana is taking us to the next step and making us an easier recognised NGO with her work and it is greatly appreciated.

We are hoping to continue our work and strengthen our relationships with Government departments such as Ministry of Lands, Environment and Climate Change and Natural Resources (MLECCNR) and   Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries as well as others.

So really this post is to thank all those involved both behind the scenes and out the front, I am not going to say we are there but at least this feels like it is going in the right direction with a bundle of energy behind it.

Malo'aupito to all involved.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Moving forward with Turtles

as many of you know, turtles have played a big part of my time here in Vava'u, there is sadly a lot of hunting that still occurs and we have been lucky to build relationships to reduce and help rescue turtles in need of care.

Having just attended the Tonga Community Turtle Monitoring and Eco-Tourism workshop in Nuku'alofa, I am hopeful for a positive effort from all stakeholders involved. The project will be lead by MLECCNR (the new acronym for MECC) and Fisheries officers. There is also huge involvement from SPREP and NZ DOC who have secured the funding for this 4 year project to go ahead.

The project will target communities living near to the identified nesting sites to train and engage in monitoring during the nesting season. Through a proposed workshop and monitoring team that will be supporting the communities in Ha'apai and Vava'u we hope to encourage and promote the change to the current hunting. Not an easy task by any means but the goals and objectives are achievable and there are some amazing individuals that have the ability to run this project to the turtles and communities advantage.

NZ DOC and SPREP have worked on this project for quite some while and the workshop was attended by many departments and stakeholders who can all be involved in this project. The Vava'u Turtle Monitoring Program aligns itself well and means that Vava'u, through Kate and VEPA will have great constant support for their initiatives.

The big step for the Vava'u Project now is to re-establish nesting sites as there has been a data gap since 1973. However the project is well equipped and excited to be moving ahead. Kate has started up a website and you can also follow the Facebook page of either VEPA or the Turtle Page. I will also ramble along on here as I do.

The need for current data will provide the template for the program, if anyone sees a turtle in Vava'u it is great to send Kate an email on

More updates will come as our project progresses.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mangroves and mud

Professional rain taking notes!

This past week, myself and Kate, who is here to work on a turtle conservation program alongside VEPA, were invited to join the mangrove monitoring workshop with Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. This monitoring program involves placing transects in the mangrove areas and mapping the data on the QGIS software.

Sounds pretty clean until you end up to your knees in the anaerobic mud that the dense mangroves live in. Vava'u is lucky with some very healthy mangrove sites and the impacts that we have found on our first three sites have been minimal.

The project is part of the MESCAL program and Paul from SPREP was here for the training. The impacts that we see here include some bark stripping that has become unsustainable in small areas, this is when the bark is stripped completely around the mangrove tree. Sustainable stripping is where only a portion of the bark has been stripped but the tree can then continue to grow and live. Other impacts seen are caused by external factors such as the design and building of causeways which are restricting water flow and in one case where the flow has been completely cut off has prohibited regeneration due to the lack of tidal movement. Some areas are wonderfully healthy and a great show of mangroves.

Some interesting facts that we have found is increasing the distribution of a Tongan mangrove species that has now been identified here in Vava'u aswell as a potential hybrid species.

MECC and VEPA will continue to monitor the mangrove health, impacts and growth through these transects to see the effects towards climate change.

This is a great initiative funded through IUCN, and Vava'u now has a great team to keep us this good work between the Ministry and the NGO.

Our first mangrove rehabilitation from 2009 going well

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spreading the word on whales

one of the highlights to my whale seasons is the arrival of 2 amazing girls, Matilda and Bonnie from Australia. Matilda has been out with us for 2 seasons swimming with an array of whales and witnessing the mating behaviours. Bonnie aged 4 came with us for one day this year and also saw a mating group of 10 Humpbacks and got to listen to a singer.

Matilda last year after her return from her trip with us, held a presentation at her school and passed around a petition to protect the magnificent Blue Whale and to raise awareness about the natural gas plant that is being built.

Bonnie this year held her own presentation on her experiences with the Humpback whales, and told her class mates about how far they travel, how big the calves are and other important facts.

Here are some pictures of them, I am very proud to be their "Aunty Karen" and be included in songs on the boat, as well as animal games. Well done Matilda and Bonnie, can not wait to see you next year. ( Bonnie - "I kissed Bonnie and she liked it" x)

'Ofa'atu from me and the whales of Tonga.

Matilda, stunning!

Matilda and her classmate.

Bonnie (4).

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Weather for June

records below normal rainfall and lowest temperature of 15.6C brrr, however we are also showing warmer day time temperatures. Here is the full paper and outlook for the next 3 months.

Ocean temperatures are currently 26.2C according to my thermometer.

As mentioned in previous posts we have not had a good rainfall in over 6 weeks, most of the water collected in Vava'u is from rain both directly into tanks built under or next to houses but also to replenish the water tables located in the limestone islands. Rainfall outlook can be seen here.

The winter months here are known as the "Dry season" however normally we always get some rain during this time, October is the month where our spring/summer formally arrives and brings hotter and wetter weather. This report shows the an El Nino pattern could potentially come to Tonga as well as backed up with meteorological data from NOAA as seen here.

The trade winds have been extremely light this year which brings the cooler air temps normally. Thought this report says that night time temperature were lower in June and they were through July, however the last week has been warmer and stickier.  Lets hope that we get some cooler temperatures through and cool the air temperature down.
Deforestation and then drought is causing huge implications for islands.

Whales and August.....................

This week we saw the beginning of August and were still blessed with relatively good weather and good whales. The island is in need of some good rainfall as we are now reaching 7 weeks without  rain and our garden is dry and water tanks all over the island are echoing.

The week brought lots of surface activity with some brief swims and for now it seems the whales are still on the move, we are hoping to have some of the larger males singing as the waters have been eerily quiet so far. The couples that are here are sedate with little rowdy and competition action so far.
Female doing upside down tail slaps, on underwater viewing the female appeared to have lots of old skin

Calf decided to imitate the behaviour.
Two fluke id's were collected of which one the female seen in these pictures with her calf was identified in 2009. The other fluke id seen below was of an adult in a pair, however as if yet has not been matched in the catalog.

Fluke id of adult pair

Breaching was a major activity this week.

The surface activity was very good, and the in water encounters gave people a glimpse of a whales life underwater.

Its always hard for people to understand that we are trying to fit in with the whales behaviour and that the whales do not get excited about the fact that people have come here to swim with them. Sadly some operators do not help to create a realistic and natural encounter, forcing whales into swims and ignoring behavioural traits of the whales. 

Right now its Sunday and the island has a sleepy day, the whales have a rest and our staff get a family day.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Weather and whales

The whales are here and so is wonderful calm weather, as yet the trade winds have not come through making glorious days out on the ocean. However the calm weather makes our temperatures remain warmer than normal winters in the past 7 years.

I always worry and make notes with the weather and the whales, the Humpbacks that come to these waters for mating and calving are fasting during their time away from colder feeding grounds, though they may take an opportunistic feed, the energy expelled to feed outweighs the nutritional benefits of food found in tropical and temperate zones.

This too may be said about warmer waters, currently our temperatures are about 26C, though not as warm as summer they are staying about 1-2C warmer than the first 5 years we were here. This could mean the whales stay in the deeper cooler water.

 My question is does the water temperature effect the fat burn in the whales. To me it makes sense and whales have been both in the islands and further out, however if they are burning more energy due to the water temperature how is it effecting them on the mating grounds.

We again as always will be making notes during the season and trying to find common ground with the results from the last years. So far all our trips have been good, only one we did not swim on. This happens, interaction is never a given with wild animals and all behaviours seen are awesome and spectacular.

I will keep posting on this and and changes we see from previous years, lets hope that these climate occurrences do not make it harder for the whale populations that are still recovering from the hunting era.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Back in the garden

and clearing my head with my favourite lens. The trusty 105mm and diopters, I have always loved the different emphasis that a 105mm can bring to a photo with its shallow depth of field.

Unfortunately my Mac is giving me problems at the moment and making photo blogging hard as it crashes when graphics are needed! Hoping to send it to the Mac Doc soon, but tough to let go and not see it for 4-6 weeks.

My garden has a wonderful array of hibiscus colours and today I just spent time changing focus points and positions. The sun angles are always good for flowers in the afternoon and I love the morning light when the flowers are just opening up with the dew on them.

Its great to have the 105mm back. We also planted lot more rocket and seeds today, our little vegetable patch is coming along and by the end of this year we aim to be 50% sustainable on vegetables and fruits. We will never push to have it all as we also support the local growers around Vava'u.

Well I hope everyone had a good weekend, its such beautiful weather here at the moment thats it has been a pleasant outdoor day and only now have I gotten onto my computer as the sun dips behind the house.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Borrow Lenses

I had never heard of this site until a competition came up this morning. However it is a great idea for photographers who may not know the lens or camera equipment they want to use. Through Borrow lenses you can both photographic and video equipment to suit any shoot or need.

This is a great way to immerse yourself in new styles of photography without the initial costs, if you like the lens or body you can then choose to buy it.

So enjoy your photography, mix it up, its about what you see through your camera that creates a photo.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No more waiting........

its time to make more direct action, to push the limits and widen the boundaries that specify conservation and protection issues of the oceans and lands.

Small countries such as Tonga can not sit by and wait for other nations to start or even to decide what the levels of commitment should be. Here we help run a small NGO called VEPA, one of our commitments is to the communities to support and raise awareness that they can make the difference cheaply, easily through each other and simple conservation. It only takes one person to create a ripple and we can make a wave of change.

This though takes a lot of hard work from all of us that volunteer, however the sad thing is that if people had more pride, more confidence then they would not wait until it became a dire mess to clean up and conserve. Polynesians for years were known for their sustainability, but through generations and a loss of Polynesian identity;  care for the land and the ocean has been hidden and lost by a lack of ownership.

How do we get this back? Action can always bring about change, decision making can then meet the action from the top. Though easier and less work to sit by and wait for others, the benefits and personal rewards are so much greater when you make a change yourself. Getting the communities here to not only to rediscover nature for ecological value but also as a future for food, families, protection and economy is one of the only ways to move forward.

Aid money is heavily relied upon in Tonga, but there are opportunities that exist if there was a small amount of financial backing from communities. We have to get the ball rolling.

 TOP1.00 per adult here per month would create almost 10 times the amount that Ministry of Health has set aside in their budget for waste management in Vava'u.

The current census of 2011 shows that there are 14,936 people in Vava'u. Taking an approximate number of adults would be 9,000, again these figures would need to be verified through the census. This would give TOP9,000 per month for a waste collection service, it would create employment, health benefits and more sustainable tourism opportunities. So can we get this started, lets hope so. Recent studies have shown certain villages have talked about paying TOP3 per week for rubbish collection, so TOP1 per month would be better for families that do not have regular income.

The cost to hire a truck per week and a driver could also be done on a district basis so each district can offer a part time opportunity within the village as done in Toula. Here bins and emptying are paid for by the Palangi and some Tongan houses in the community. It is also much cheaper to act as a community than to deal with waste individually.

However there is now a move to tax tourists, this can be done but what are the locals doing to improve, are they again just going to wait for someone else, and lose more of their pride! If the communities are seen putting something in, then the tourists will be more than happy to help, however they will be pushed away if they are paying for something when nothing is being done from within.

I for one have no problem in aiding with environmental issues and conservation areas and do so frequently with my time, experience and available money. However I do expect to see commitment from the communities, if they are not committed financially and with time, then there will be no difference made. The money will get spent on other areas which have nothing to do with improving and conserving the natural environment.

There are so many wider issues that need to be addressed here in Tonga and yet still there is no waste management that has been consistent. This is needing to be finalised and each village working on their own management systems, to reduce the waste amounts and especially to stop the illegal dumping in the bushes. So, fingers crossed with the right attitude our project and proposal will come together and we can focus on other pressing environmental issues.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tuku Fonua

This is a video about the giving of Tonga to God from King George Tupou I. Fonua is a word that means land but also the connection of the people of Tonga to its land.

One of the things we as an NGO are always looking for is a way to better reconnect people to their land, environment and this has brought me to watch this video. In this video and how it is told, the connection between the people and their and is apparent, however over the generations and economic challenges this has been lost.

His reasons for giving the land to God was to protect it from colonisation by Britain, New Zealand, Australia and other countries. However the religion that is here in Tonga follows that which the missionaries brought here years before King Tupou I.

Tonga is one of the most religious countries I have worked in, and I always wondered why? This video gives a better description of the history than the answers I have received here. I personally do not come from a religious family and have sometimes struggled with the depth of others religions. This act by King Tupou I shows that when he gave the land to God he wanted it to be for the benefit of his people, animals, ocean and all that existed here and to be looked after and protected. The end speech by the Matapule or "talking chief" is something that shows the older ways, and though new ways are needed there is also a need to retain old traditions to continue the strength of people.

Tonga should be proud that they were never colonised but they also need to protect and be proud of their land and environment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ramble: Time

not something I seem to do well with at the moment, piling again too many projects on and not spending the time I would like to give each one in an effort to get them all done.

So I am slowing down, sorry to those projects that did not make my list for now, you will be in on the next round!! It seems so easy to say, yet hard to do, I see so much that I want to do and that needs to be done I try and take them all at once, however it has meant some of my other passions have failed and faltered and those I need to pick back up and concentrate on because without them the other projects are just not so much fun.

So, I wont be quite going all the way to Tonga time, but somewhere in between, I am just lengthening my shutter speed and enabling myself the time to put more detail into the projects that are on at the present.

Not normally a rambler, but there we go.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Family time

Tonga is very committed to all the family helping with the chores, each member of the family plays their role in the day to day life and settings here. It is nice to see families working together, I grew up with my brother always being with my mum and dad and at their work. It was nice, I think today its too easy to forget that just time together is as important as fun and exciting times.

One Saturday I was at the beach and witness to one family as they were bringing in their pandanus leaves which they use for the weaving of the mats. They place the dried leaves into the shallow ocean waters to naturally bleach them before again drying them and then creating the mats.

These mats are either sold in the local market or sent to a family member for funerals, birthdays and celebrations. Traditionally the sails of the canoes and vessels would also have been woven this way however there are different pandanus trees for these.

It was thoroughly enjoyable watching them separate and string the pandanus leaves, the littlest one of the right became a huge fan of having his photo taken and to much amusement of his sister would just wave at me no matter what.

New pandanus being set for seven days.

I hope her family cooked her a nice mothers day lunch yesterday, its a huge day here as is family day and fathers day, yet to come.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For real

I did the recycling vegetable garden today, many of us on Facebook share posts and ideas about ways to improve our sustainability and conservation for our gardens, homes, lives and careers, but I am actually trying to do several of them.

Generally, we are pretty good, we are active in conservation around the islands through VEPA and through our business, but the one place that seems lacking in our time and care has been our house. Its a wonderful place and now we are turning it from a "house" to a "home".

ha ha, how are we doing this and what does it mean? Simply before we lived here we came, we went, but what we did not do was spend time and enjoy it. What we are doing now is putting up art, unpacking all the boxes, and finally getting the place looking and running like it should.

So before I blabber on, I built three planting/seeding areas today - my plastic bottle recyclable attached to plywood - my small growing garden and my seedlings trays.

One of the issues with growing vegetables for where we are is finding a place that has the right amount of shade and sun but is protected for the salt air. So we have to do small testing sites to see what works.

We are also clearing land to have access down to the water and chipping the offcuts to fill holes in our garden - all in all not a small project but a fun one at present!!!!

Here are some pics of the recycle garden and my cuttings of sandalwood, citrus and bougainvillea shoots. The mini garden will be finished tomorrow and my rocket will be going in there.

Enjoy, it was easy and will be doing lots more if it works......

Sandalwood- an illegally and over-harvested species

Citrus and bougainvillea plants

My recyclable vege patch on generator shed

Yes, we like apple juice!!!!!