Tuesday, February 23, 2010

speaking of trees...

I thought I’d share a few photos, since this ties in so well with my last blog entry.

Last night Brian and I were watching a movie as it rained outside. We had to keep turning up the volume because the rain got so loud. But then we heard something outside over the blare of our speakers. “I bet a tree just fell down,” groaned Brian. So he got a flashlight and headed outside along with half the neighbors, hoping that it wasn’t one of our trees! It turned out to be in the backyard of a neighbor’s house. It was a tree she was planning on cutting down, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Thankfully, it didn’t hit any buildings, but it did take out a power line and three houses were without electricity last night. So this morning Brian and his crew will be cleaning up that mess.

As we were standing out in the rain last night examining the damage, our neighbor from across the street said casually to Brian, “So…. what about your tree…?” casting a significant look at the giant in our front lawn that is perfectly poised to do some major damage to their house, should it fall. Problem is, we’re all in the same boat here. When a missionary happens to have a few hundred extra dollars on hand, investing it in cutting down a tree isn’t usually the highest thing on the priority list.

Anyone know a lumberjack that would be interested in coming and doing some volunteer work here at Ukarumpa?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The bougainvillea

We have a beautiful purple bougainvillea tree in the back yard, and we love having the splash of color. In fact, it’s bright enough that when I am walking down the street towards home, I can see the tree through the house if I have the curtains open on both ends of the kitchen. The problem with the bougainvillea is that it grows very rapidly, and would soon take over our whole yard if we let it. And so this afternoon, as we do every month or two, we dragged out the ladder and various sharp cutting instruments to give it a trim.

The problem with bougainvillea pruning day is that we always end up with various small wounds, because this tree grows some wicked thorns:

I’m very grateful to my mother-in-law, who sent me a few pairs of gardening gloves last year. But even those aren’t enough to completely protect against puncture wounds.

We have some other ongoing tree trimming projects at our house. Trees here grow very tall very quickly because of all the rain and the mild climate. However, because it’s so wet, they don’t need to grow their roots very deep. This means that every time there is a big storm, Brian just holds his breath and waits to hear about another tree that fell down. His employees at the Industrial department are kept very busy with cutting down trees, because every time we have a spectacular tree catastrophe during a storm, people begin to look at the trees in their own yards, and the tree trimming orders come pouring in!

Our house came with a few very large trees. And we know for sure that some of them need to come down pretty soon before they decide to come down on their own. But some of our trees are in a very tricky spot, where it’s hard to fall them without squishing some important structure like a house or rain water tank or fence. So we’re going at it piecemeal. Every time we trim the bougainvillea, Brian decides to whack another limb or two off of one of the other trees in our backyard that we want to remove. The idea is that hopefully we can get them down before they decide to fall on us.

We could hire Brian’s crew to cut them down, but that option is fairly expensive. We could save money by hiring a national from the local community to cut it down. There are plenty of guys who would happily climb up the tallest of trees and bring it down with nothing but a hatchet, but if something goes wrong and the tree falls on your house, then you’re out of luck. At least if Brian’s crew squishes your house, then they are responsible to pay for the damages!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

20-week belly

This week I hit the halfway point of my pregnancy – 20 weeks! Here’s a photo of my halfway belly, for those who insist on visual documentation.

Last night a friend suggested that I have a t-shirt printed with the answers to the most commonly asked questions, so I don’t have to repeat myself all the time. My t-shirt would read something like this:

“I feel fine.

No, we don’t know what we’re having.

Yes, I have felt the baby move.

No, we’re not going to Cairns.”

That last one is because a lot of expats here in Papua New Guinea go to Cairns, Australia, to have their babies, because it’s the closest major city. We’re going to be a little different and are planning to go somewhere else. Where exactly? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the peanut capital of Australia. Go crazy with Google and figure that one out...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

water pressure!

Today is a very happy day for me. I had to tell my husband “You were right” – but I didn’t mind.

When we bought our house 7 months ago, two things immediately went to the top of the needs-to-be-fixed list. The first was a new washing machine, and the second was a water pump and some plumbing reconfiguration. We bought a washing machine the month after we moved in, and have had nothing but problems with it. You see, our plumbing system was entirely gravity fed. Mostly that wasn’t a problem, except in two (important) areas. During the dry season, when the rain water tank would get less than half-full, we were no longer able to get drinking water out of the kitchen tap upstairs. We would have to go down to the basement in order to get water for cooking or drinking.

The second problem was with our washing machine. Because our water pressure was so low, our new washing machine (which had all sorts of electronics, because that’s how they make them these days) was never able to go through a complete wash without stopping and beeping about an “error”. This meant that I could never start a load of laundry and then leave the house, because I would need to be there to reset the machine so that it could finish the cycle. It also meant that it took two hours to wash a load of laundry. And so, unless I started the washing machine by 6am, I wouldn’t have time to finish the load and hang the clothes out on the line before I needed to get to work. I was convinced that we had bought a lemon and there was something wrong with the machine, but Brian always insisted that it was a water pressure problem.

It wasn’t until this month that we were able to afford to buy a new water pump, but thanks to a gift from one of our supporting churches, it was finally possible. Brian spent the day yesterday plumbing it in, as well as putting in a whole new set of valves and switches that will allow us to run our entire house on rain water during the rainy season.

Ruby spent the day “helping” Brian (which means that she tried to sneak off with pieces of pipe or fittings to chew on if he didn’t pay attention.)

And this morning was the big trial – the first load of laundry with the new plumbing. I’m pleased to say that it washed a load in just 45 minutes this morning, and it didn’t stop once! As my mom says, it’s easy to admit your husband is right when he’s making things easier for you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crocodile for dinner

Have you ever eaten pukpuk? Chances are that you haven’t, though you may have tasted alligator. Pukpuk is the Tok Pisin word for crocodile, and Brian and I have recently decided to add it as a staple of our diet here in PNG. No, there are no crocodiles in the Highlands, where we live, but there are plenty in some of the coastal areas of PNG. We buy our pukpuk from the freezer section at the store. Crocodile tail is a pretty lean and healthy meat. It tends to take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with, and so it goes well in many dishes as a substitute for chicken. We like to marinate it and grill it. Also, at about $2.50 per pound, it’s by far the cheapest meat that we have available here, which is helpful for those months when you need to tighten the belt a bit.

Here is the recipe we used last night, in case you get a hankering to try it. (You could also substitute chicken) We served the grilled pukpuk over salad with guacamole. Yum!

Chili-Lime Crocodile Kabobs

3 Tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1-1/2 Tbsp lime juice

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp onion powder

1 tsp minced garlic

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 lb. crocodile tail, cubed

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice and seasonings together to make the marinade. Place crocodile meat in a shallow dish, add marinade and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Thread cubed meat onto skewers. Grill for about 5 minutes, turn and grill about 5 minutes more.