The Coconut Tree Community

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 29th, 2010 by MadDog
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For a Monday morning, things went remarkably well. I took the battery and fuel tank out to Faded Glory so the the guys from the marina could come to tow her in. Reversing the battery cables on Saturday morning was a very bad idea. I was worried all weekend that I’d blown the voltage regulator on the engine. That would probably set me back a thousand Kina or so. As it turned out, I had only fried a couple of fuses on the engine. Thank heaven for fuses! I’ll be considerably more observant in the future when hooking up my battery. If we didn’t have so many thieves around, I wouldn’t have to lug it out of the house to the boat and then back to the house every time I go to sea.

Wandering around in my garden the other day, I gave my coconut trees a thorough inspection. It’s amazing the things you find on really ancient coconut trees. I don’t know how old these are. My guess is about fifty years. They are still producing coconuts despite being old and only a metre from the ocean. Look at the circus of colour here:

Not being an expert, I can only guess that the colourful organisms here are lichens. As I remember, lichens are a symbiotic conglomeration of fungi and either an algae or a cyanobacteria. So, a lichen is neither beast nor foul, so to speak, but some crazy combination of radically different organisms that somehow help each other, indeed, can’t live without each other. Funny, that. I think that I just described my marriage.

Where someone took a big chunk out of the side of the tree there is now a beautiful little cave:At the base of the tree, just above the roots, lives another type of lichen. This one looks as if it would be tasty to reindeer. It’s sort of snowy:You can’t find a tree near where people walk here in PNG that is not scarred. Everybody carries a bush knife and nobody can resist giving a passing tree a whack. Don’t ask me why. It’s probably inexplicable. My coconuts are scarred from generations of whacking by passers-by:The poor tree seems to be bleeding orange blood.

Sometime in the distant past, someone had need for a nail in the tree. It may have been me. Any such memory has long past:

The nail is as rusty as my memories and the ever growing hole around it is not so different from the empty space in my skull left as my brain slowly shrinks to the size of a peach. Call me peach brain. I like that. It’s not at all offensive.

A few metres away is the drain that carries water under our driveway from our crab hole infested front lawn to the sea. Down at the bottom of the cement catchment basin that I poured many years ago there is a little jungle growing:It is furiously producing oxygen. Good little jungle; keep it up. We need all the help we can get.

And that, as they say, is that.

Or, as we say here, em tasol.

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Watching Little Gifts Grow – The Coconut Tree Project

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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We’ve been watching with mixed feelings hundreds of people out making Madang an even more beautiful place to live. I say mixed feelings, because there is some question whether the modest pay that has been promised to them will be forthcoming.

Work crews have been out for several weeks now. They are cleaning along the roads, cutting back bush that hides little kids about to dart out in front of your car and planting hedges and trees. One of the wonderful aspects of living in Madang is what amazing things you can do for very little money.

I went up to the Coconut Research Institute today and purchased 400 dwarf coconut seedlings for K100 (that’s about US$40). We are giving them to the work crews to be planted along the roads in our neighborhood. For the price of a case of beer we can plant 400 trees. Imagine that!

The Coconut Research Institute in Madang, Papua New Guinea

I can’t take any credit for planting them, of course. I wouldn’t live through the experience.

Here is the kind of tree that I purchased. They do not grow tall enough to interfere with power lines. In fact, they are so short that you can knock down a refreshing green coconut, containing the delicious fluid locally called kulau, with nothing more than a stick:

Dwarf Coconut Trees

Here are three of the ladies who work at the Institute loading the seedlings on our rusty old truck:

Loading the coconut trees into the truck

It is going to be a genuine pleasure to watch these trees grow, provide shade for the weary (coconuts from these trees don’t have so far to fall before they knock you on your head) and provide a refreshing bit of nourishment to any passerby who desires it.

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More Nob Nob Mountain Miscellanea

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 7th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today, I have more than enough images to show you of things that caught my eye on my recent visit to Nob Nob Mountain. There’s no particular order or theme here, so be prepared for more than the usual randomness.

Here is a rather amazing shot that I got from the communications tower ridge of the main wharf in Madang.  I’m guessing that the straight line distance is in excess of ten kilometres. I got the shot with the Olympus SP-590UZ at full 26x optical zoom. It points out the good and bad points of the cheap, but impressive zoom lens on the Olympus:

Madang Wharf telephoto shot from Nob Nob Mountain

First, I should point out that it was a very hazy day. That hurt the quality of the image before it ever reached the camera. You can see some vignetting around the corners. The shot is slightly cropped, mostly vertically, so there was even more light fall-off at the corners and edges. Next, you’ll note that the shot is not very sharp. I did a bit of cleaning of noise and sharpening. The original was more blurry and noisy. I also had to increase the saturation of the colours, but that was mostly because of the haze. Still, despite the problems I think that it’s amazing that you can buy a camera for less than US$500 that has a lens equivalent to a 700mm hunk of glass on a 35mm camera. If you’re just shooting snapshots, but you always wanted that super-telephoto effect, you can get it for free on any of the new superzoom cameras. They cost no more than any of the top-of-the-line point and shoot cameras (such as the superb Canon G11) and they give you telephoto shots that will blow your socks off. You can see some other examples of the relative quality of the superzoom shots from the Olympus here, here and here.

Showing the random nature of today’s post, here is the biggest mass of coconuts that I have ever seen on one tree. I’m sure that it is nowhere near a record, but it did amaze me:

Mass of coconuts at Nob Nob Mountain

Many times on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  I have told you about the Flying Fox. It is one of my favourite critters, though if I lived under a roosting tree, I might not feel so happy about them. Anyway, here is a papaya tree showing a nice, ripe papaya that nobody is going to want to eat. It’s half gone and the rest is covered by Flying Fox slobber:

Flying Fox meal of papaya at Nob Nob Mountain

I don’t often think of male and female trees. It’s something that just doesn’t come to mind. So, whenever I see a male papaya tree, I think what probably a lot of women think. Men – they’re so much bother. How many do we actually need, anyway? Here’s a lonely male papaya tree pitifully hoping that some of its pollen will be wafted on the wind to a receptive female:

Male Papaya Tree at Nob Nob Mountain

As you can see, he does nothing useful except to produce flowers. Not a bad job, I guess, if you can get it.

Here’s another interesting plant. It’s the top of a tree fern. Many of you in temperate and cold climates may never have seen one. If you can image a fern as tall as your house with a trunk like a spiny tree, that’s a fairly good description:

Tree Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

Here is another kind of fern called a staghorn fern. They also grow to be huge. I’ve seen a few that were nearly the size of a Volkswagen. This Frangianpi tree is an unusual host. It won’t be long before the weight of the fern causes the tree to come crashing down.

Staghorn Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

Here is a coconut tree groaning under the weight of a staghorn fern. It will eventually grow so big that it will drag the tree down, destroying its host. There is no noticeable intelligence among staghorn ferns. It has that in common with the human race:

Staghorn Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

I think that this is a common house plant over much of the world. I don’t know what it’s called. It reminds me of taro. Whatever it is, it looks as if it has been too near to where the house painters have been working:

Painted leaf at Nob Nob Mountain

We must have a million colours of hibiscus here. This is one that I particularly like:

Hibiscus at Nob Nob Mountain

Finally, back to ferns one more time. There is a kind of vine with blue flowers on it that grows all over the trees around Nob Nob Mountain.  You saw it a couple of days ago on the Tree Monster. I saw this nice fern frond growing where I could get a shot of the blue flowers on the vine in the background:

Fern frond at Nob Nob Mountain

I found it frustrating that I couldn’t get an angle on the frond that showed the lacyness of it the way that I wanted. I tried twisting it around, but it wouldn’t stay. Afraid of damaging it, I left it be and shot it as it was.

It was a good lesson for me for the day – take life as it comes. There’s little that you can change without making things worse.

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Water, Water, More Water

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today it’s all about water. What’s new?  I spend more time writing about water than anything else. Okay, not just water. Sometimes there are fish too, or sun, or people. Still, I’m surrounded by water. Write about what you know, eh?

I’m always entranced when I come home in the afternoon and Madang Town is all lit up by the “winelight” of the afternoon sun. I know that winelight is not a word, but it should be:

Madang - a Winelight Panorama

It that a pretty sight or what. How would you like live across from that?  I’m so fortunate that I feel ridiculous. Why isn’t somebody more important or at least smarter than me getting all this? I live like a rich person here for peanuts. I don’t deserve it.

Here’s another example. I got this a week or so ago. It’s almost enough to inspire me to get up and go to work:

Sunrise Panorama

Almost.

This one is a little strange.I kept running across this image as I rummaged around for something interesting. It looks horrible on a white background, but put it on black and it shines a little:

Pilot boat in Astrolabe Bay at sunrise

It’s the pilot boat out in the light of the sunrise on Astrolabe Bay. It’s waiting for a big cargo ship to come in.

Here is a shot out my front door:

Out my front door

My willow tree is finally taking off. I don’t know where it came from. One day it was just stuck in the ground. I think Juli found it somewhere and liked it. I’d rather have put it elsewhere, but I’m getting attached to it now, so I think I’ll leave it alone. There was a giant willow tree in my back yard when I was a kid. We used to beat each other with willow ‘whips”. Stung like fire, but didn’t really do any harm.

Here’s another panorama. This is Kar Kar Island sticking up just to the left of the coconut tree.The jink in the shoreline looks a little odd. It’s there because the end of a small island is just behind the trunk of the tree:

Kar Kar Island panorama from my veranda

You can also see a leaf of one of the thirty or forty banana trees in our yard and a bit of the willow also.

Everywhere around me is beauty.

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In My Garden #5 – Orange Coconut Trees?

Posted in My Garden on March 22nd, 2008 by MadDog
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I recently saw a PowerPoint slide show presented by Maureen Hill. She had some very fine photos of her trek to Antarctica and South America with Val Jerram. It was a comedy of penguin and blubbery seals on an icy stage. Maureen’s sense of humor was at the boiling point.

I was, however, distracted when she displayed huge boulders that looked as if they had been nearby when Jackson Pollock suffered a conniption fit while carrying a large bucket of bright orange paint.

A sudden and unanticipated wiring alteration in my brain caused small sparks to fly out of my ears, startling the nice ladies on either side of me. The colour splashed on the boulders seemed to be suspiciously similar to the weird orange splotches so common on the flanks of our very own coconut trees! Hey, what’s going on here? Antarctica – Papua New Guinea. Hot – Cold. Rock – Tree. What’s the connection?

Having, of course, taken a picture of a coconut tree in My Garden (memory like mine? – few other choices), I arranged to have lunch with my well-informed friend Mr. Google. He cleared things up for me . . . to a point.

I don’t have Maureen’s photo, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Here’s my snap of the mysterious orange stuff on my coconut tree:

Orange lichen on my coconut tree.

As it turns out, there is a family (actually a genus, but let’s not get picky) of lichens called Xanthoria that are remarkably orange. I’ve always been intrigued by lichens. Hey, we don’t have, let’s say, dogs and chickens plotting, “Let’s mash together and make a whole new thing!” So what’s the deal with fungi and algae?

Anyway, I couldn’t find a definitive page that said, “Yeah, the coconut bilas in Madang is the same as the Pollock paintings in Antarctica”, but my suspicion is aroused that such is the case.

Curiosity now temporarily satiated, I’m musing over the serendipitous fact that if we were invaded by a herd of ravenous reindeer, we would be able to point them to our coconut trees for a good feed.

I also found out that the light green stuff that looks like dried cabbage is yet another kind of lichen. Enough, already

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