karen the quilter

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Karen’s Blog

Sea Dreams GravatarWhen I set up my Karenthequilter blog a year ago my intention was to express my passion for quilting and fabric design through an on-line forum.  However I’ve been incredibly busy with paid work so I wasn’t able to keep it up.  I’m now retired and ready for the next adventure. My husband and I are preparing for our move to 93 acres of rain forest in Fiji.  The house is for sale and we’ve been focused on de-junking and packing. I’m hoping that in a year or so we’ll be settled with our house built, including running water and some form of off grid power. That’s probably too ambitious but without goals its hard to accomplish anything. For now my focus for this blog is to document and share with my family, friends, and quilting community, our upcoming adventure.


Oops its been 2 months

Oops its been two months since my last post. I’d like to says I’ve been too busy to write but that would be a lie.  While we were very busy over the Christmas and New Year season with our Canadian family visiting, since they all left its been a bit slower paced.  Here’s a quick synopsis of the last 2 months (sorry that there aren’t many pictures but I lost my iphone which was my camera):

January: After celebrating New Year’s Day with friends Anna and Bob from Bua and two of their friends from Savusavu, Siana, Marc, Kinesi, Arthur and I reconnected with Ateca and Brendan in Savusavu. We enjoyed a day of snorkeling and had an absolutely fabulous dinner at the Surf and Turf Restaurant. Ateca and Brendan said goodbye to us in Savusavu before heading to Sigatoka and eventually back to Canada. We rented a twin cab pickup truck and drove back home taking the short coastal route from Savusavu to Wainunu not wanting to spend a full day on the bus. The weather had been very wet in December but we’d been told the road was ok, which it was until we encountered a flooded bridge. Rather than turn around and go back, Arthur started clearing debris blocking the flow of water under the bridge. With the help of a few other men they had the bridge cleared and after half an hour the water level had dropped to the point we could cross safely and carry on home. Siana and Marc stayed with us until mid January before heading off for 2 weeks in New Zealand. Kinesi was able to stay until February and we put her to work helping with unpacking storage bins from the sea can and weeding Cassava. Unfortunately for her and me, we were stung by hornets while weeding the cassava, very painful but at least neither of us had an allergic reaction.

February: Just about the time that Kinesi left for the Yasawas in early February, the weather changed and we had about 3 weeks of solid rain.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much rain and that’s from someone that grew up in Vancouver. At least with the new house we had plenty of dry space to escape from the rain.  As well with the two 5000l storage tanks we have no shortage of water. We’ve taken time off working on the house and focused on the farm instead. Our chickens were being attacked by mongoose so Arthur set some traps. We’ve successfully cleared the chicken pen of mongoose so the chickens are happier now.  We’re planning to build a more secure chicken coop once the wet season is over.  Arthur also set 17 traps for wild pigs and has already caught 3 pigs.  There’s a herd of about 30 wild pigs in the area that are getting into local farmers’ plantations.  So far they have not damaged any of our crops.

The biggest change for us is the hiring of a farm manager.  We’ve hired Arthur’s nephew Charlie.  Charlie, his wife Rayapi, and their 2 girls have moved to Mudrenicagi.  Right now they will be living with Arthur in the big house but the plans are for them to live in the small house that we were living in. Charlie will be a huge help to Arthur on the farm and we’re excited to have them join us.

Looking forward into March, Arthur is getting ready to start harvesting the cassava and the taro and we are hosting a Basic Bee Keeping Certification training program sponsored by the Agriculture Dept for about 25 local farmers on March 7th and 8th.

Right now I’m sitting under a Bure at the Bamboo Backpacker’s Hostel in Nadi waiting for my flight back to Canada. I will be spending about 6 weeks in Canada visiting my parents in Vancouver, Thomas in Victoria, and the girls in Whitehorse. Looking forward to seeing family and friends!


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our friends and family here in Fiji and around the world.  Arthur and I have been very fortunate this year to be able to celebrate the season with Siana, Marc, Kinesi, Ateca, Brendan and many of our Fiji family in our new house.

Our kids arrived in Fiji between the 12th and 13th of December. Siana met up with everyone in Nadi before she and Marc travelled to Sigatoka for a few days at the Tabua Sands Resort. I met up with the rest of the group  in Suva on December 15th. We had planned to do some site seeing in Suva but the weather did not cooperate.  For the entire 5 days I was in Suva it rained, and I mean torrential rains. Thank goodness we were nice and dry in Nakasi with Tomasi and family. Siana and Marc caught up with us on the 17th and we all headed over to Vanua Levu by ferry on the 18th. Although Arthur had said that the rain down home had been light, the night before we travelled the rain was really heavy and caused bridge and road washouts. We arrived in Nabouwalu after a somewhat rough ferry crossing only to discover that the road was closed and we were unable to get home. Thankfully Arthur’s niece Joanna Kean and her husband Tony opened their home to us.  Their hospitality was deeply appreciated. After two days the rain stopped and we were able to travel by boat up the coast. We met Arthur out on the ocean, transferred into our boat and made it home safely.

While we were in Suva, Arthur was hard at work installing the water tank, kitchen sink, toilet, louver windows and doors. Once we arrived we were able to move in. Siana built some rough shelves and counters in the kitchen. The fridge and stove were installed just in time for Christmas cooking. Our solar power system was finally installed on Dec 24th and this week the electrician completed the wiring. We now have lights and power points throughout the house as well as running water in the kitchen and a flush toilet – fantastic!  Arthur has mounted a white flag in preparation for the official house opening scheduled for January 8th.  Tomasi and Emosi from Suva will be our guests of honor and will have the official duty of taking down the flag and declaring the house open.

We celebrated Christmas with Arthur’s brother John and family,  as well as his cousin Zacharia and family, and cousin Charlie and family.  Everyone arrived on the 24th and stayed until the 26th. Thirty-eight people sat down to Christmas dinner. Our menu included 6 chicken put in the lovo, curried chicken, fried snapper, fish soup, dalo, and cassava. Lots of food to go around and lots of time spent laughing and talking.

The time with everyone is going very quickly. Ateca and Brendan have already left on their way to Savusavu and Taveuni. They will be spending their New Year’s eve at the international date line.  We’ll connect with them in a few days in Savusavu before they head back to Canada. I’m already missing them.

Tonight we’ll see in the New Year with a fish BBQ and a bonfire under the stars.Wishing everyone a Happy New Year.


The push is on

I can’t believe that is been well over a month since I last did an update to my blog.  What can I say but its been incredibly busy as we’ve all been working hard to get the house ready before Christmas. We’re almost there.  I would be very remise if I didn’t acknowledge all the hard work put into this project by Siana, Allan and the Fiji construction crew. They’ve put in long days and back breaking effort.

I’ve posted lots of photos of the progress on the house over the last 6 weeks below. Currently the roof is complete except for the gutters thanks to Arthur’s cousin Zacharia and nephew Mo who both worked through some blazing hot days. The exterior walls and main floor flooring is installed thanks to Siana, Allan, Titi, Dukai, and Kai, and the upper floor is more than halfway complete. The main floor veranda joists and upper floor veranda bearers are complete thanks to Vili and Tom, and the main floor veranda decking has been started. Last week we had an additional crew in to dig and cement in the posts for the platforms for the two 5000 litre water tanks which will be arriving tomorrow. As well they’ve dug the hole for the septic tank and started digging the septic field. Arthur has completed the rough in plumbing. Yesterday 4 of 8 solar panels were installed but due to some unexpected glitches the whole system will not be installed until next Sunday. The electrical team will be here by Friday to wire the house and hopefully by next Sunday the electrician will be able to connect to a live 2 Kv system and we’ll finally be able to fire up the fridge.


In the midst of all this activity we’ve had time to take a trip to Savusavu to see off Allan as he headed back to Canada. During the three months in Fiji Allan had a chance to see how life is lived away from the resort areas and I’m sure he is taking back many memories  of both good and challenging experiences.  We’ll miss the “big man” and look forward to his next visit. While in Savusavu, we spoilt ourselves with a much deserved break at the Daku Resort in Savusavu and chilled in the dipping pool just in front of our villa – it was heaven. We also had the opportunity to attend the wedding of the daughter of Arthur’s family’s longtime neighbours Suraj and Sera in Labasa. The ladies attending the wedding were dressed in amazing saris only to out done by the bride in traditional red and gold.

Siana headed off on Saturday to Nadi via a stop in Nakasi to meet up with Marc, Kinesi, Ateca, and Ateca’s boyfriend Brendan. They’re all connecting at the Bamboo Backpacker’s Hotel before Siana and Marc carry on to Sigatoka and the rest carry on to Suva. I’ll be heading to Suva to meet everyone and then we’ll all head home next Sunday. Unfortunately Thomas will not be able to join us for Christmas as he is attending a Motorcycle and Small Engine Repair program at BCIT. We’ll all miss him and me especially.

And not forgetting our animals. The kittens are growing quickly and are providing hours of entertainment. Bruno is trying desperately to make friends with the kittens and can’t wait until they’re ready to play with him. For now he’s learning the meaning of  ‘gentle’. Our layer birds were producing about 18 eggs per day but the mongoose have been terrorising the birds and its taken the last several days to figure out how to mongoose proof the chicken coop.  I think we’ve finally solved the problem as the chicken have started to lay again.  We’ve decided to expand our chicken flock and put in an order for 30 more laying birds and 30 more meat birds expecting to receive the chicks in early January. But best laid plans always goes awry – we received the chicks last week just 2 weeks after placing the order.  In the past its taken up to 2 months to get the chicks.

Christmas is less than 2 weeks away. Even though our house may not be ready, we are planning to host Christmas for our extended Fijian and Canadian family. We’re not sure how many people will be coming but we’re looking forward to celebrating with whoever will make it.  For those of you overseas, we wish you peace and joy during the festive season and all the best in the New Year.

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Home Sweet Home

Yeah!!! the chickens have moved to their new home and are starting to settle in. I can’t express how much it means to be able to sleep in past 4 o’clock in the a.m. without a rooster crowing right next to the house and tent every 15 minutes. We’ve penned off an area in our cassava patch using the poultry fencing I purchased in Canada from Premier 1 Supplies and built a couple of small shelters, one for the meat birds and one for the layer birds. As the birds scratch and clear the weeds out from under the cassava we’ll be able to reconfigure the fencing give them more green stuff to eat. We haven’t energized the fence yet but will have to get on that soon as the mongoose will soon become pests. But first we need to build better nesting boxes as the temporary boxes made from 20 litre vegetable oil drums are not working out as well as we thought they would. Still the birds are now laying about 15 eggs a day, providing a steady diet of fresh eggs for breakfast as well as a small income.

Progress with building the house continues at a great rate. We celebrated the raising and cementing all the veranda posts with a chicken curry dinner for all the local guys who have been involved with the project to date. This milestone represents the mid point in the project and a hell of a lot of effort. Some of the veranda posts are about 25 feet long (similar to a telephone pole) and were lifted manually. We did have a power auger to help loosen the dirt to dig the holes and a small electric cement mixer to help mix the cement but most of the labour was pure muscle.

Arthur and I just came back from a shopping trip in Labasa where we ordered the roofing tin, siding, flooring, and window frames. We expect everything to be delivered later this week. While we were gone Siana, Allan and crew finished installing the rafters and purloins on the main house and started on the main floor veranda floor joists as well as starting on the veranda rafter bearers. Allan is with us for just another month, hopefully by the time he has to head back to Canada we’ll have the roof up and a good start on the flooring and siding.

Siana and I did find where Pepper has been hiding her kittens and brought them home. Pepper allowed us to cuddle them and enjoy them for the evening only to take them back to her den while we were sleeping. She comes back regularly for food and attention but has not brought her kittens home yet, maybe one day soon.


3 new kittens


Onto the Second Floor

Well we’re one month into construction and we’re now onto the second floor.  We had a bit of a delay a couple of weeks ago when we realized that we were short lumber for the second floor joists, walls and rafters. It seems that the quantity surveyor that drew up the material list from the plans made a significant error. He only included half of what was needed for the second floor. So off to Labasa we went for another shopping trip. It was a good break for Siana and Allan and a chance for them to see somewhere a bit different. Part of our lumber was delivered this week with more to arrive on Monday.

This week the posts for the veranda will be going up and then we’ll really get a good idea of what the house will look like. For now I’m really excited about the space and size of the rooms.  It’s one thing to envision the house on paper and then a completely different thing to see the house take shape.  Not only will the space inside be awesome the views are incredible, especially the view from the second floor.

Aside from the construction, Siana and Allan have been able to participate in some local Fijian experiences. Arthur took them out on a Bilibili (bamboo raft) to set out the fishing net, unfortunately they didn’t catch any fish that day. They’ve also had the opportunity to plant Kasava, help with the vegetable garden, swimming in the local watering holes, attending a nephew’s wedding, star gazing in the southern sky, and enjoy the local beer.

On top of all this, work on the farm is progressing. Our layer chickens have started to lay eggs this week and we get about 4 to 5 eggs per day. We’re in the process of setting up a larger area for the chickens using the electric poultry fencing that I brought from Canada. The goal is move them to an area that has more natural food so we can decrease the use of commercial feed as well as move the roosters a bit farther from our house. The early morning wake up calls at 4am are a bit much.

Not forgetting, our cat Pepper has just had kittens. We don’t know how many as she hasn’t brought them home yet. Pictures coming soon.


House construction well underway

I’m sitting here in my ATV writing this blog, enjoying the sea breeze and sunshine while the work crew is hard at work on the house.  Siana and Allan arrived in Fiji about a week and a half ago and then arrived home to Mudrenicagi Estate a week ago ready to get started.


The Fiji work crew lead by Arthur’s nephew Vilikasa were able to get all the posts up and cemented in while we were in Suva. This was no small task as these posts are BIG and were lifted manually. We did have a small electric cement mixer to help but much of the cement was mixed in wheelbarrows. The wet weather in August delayed some of the work but due the hard work of the crew we are right on schedule.

This week the bearers and the joists for the main floor are going up. Siana and Allan got to use a water level in the absence of the laser level or transat that they usually use. They’ve never had to use one before and only learned about them in books.  Thanks to my Dad for describing how to use a hose as a level during my last visit we were able to check and adjust the level of the first floor bearers before setting them in.

While all the construction is happening, we all had a new solar system with four 150 watt panels installed in our little house which give us enough power to run a fridge, 6 lights, and charge all our electronic devices. Unfortunately after just 2 days the inverter blew a fuse so Arthur is off to Labasa to have it fixed. Having a fridge will revolutionize our diet. I’ll be able to store vegetables for longer and be able to buy meats when I going to Nabouwalu or Labasa and freeze them for later. As well we’ll all enjoy a cold beer at the end of a long day.


Posts, plants, and plucked chickens

Another month has gone by and life continues to be as busy as ever. We started the construction of our house with the post holes being dug for the main part of the house.  Arthur brought a power auger from Canada which really helped with the digging. The digging crew appreciated the assistance.  Footings were poured in each of the holes in preparation for raising the poles. But before we could raise the poles the weather changed and we had two and a half weeks of steady rain. It’s not called a tropical rainforest for nothing. In one evening our 2000 litre water tank filled to overflowing.  The weather has now improved and hopefully our posts will be up within the week.

Arthur and I have been here in Suva for a couple of days checking out solar systems, appliances, boats and generators and anxiously awaiting the arrival of our daughter Siana and her business partner Allan. They arrived in Nadi early this morning and will be here in Suva tomorrow.  I’m very excited and can’t wait to see them.


Siana and Allan at Bamboo Backpackers in Nadi

Aside from the house the farming has progressed. We’ve started a kitchen and market garden with tomatoes, beans, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, squash, zucchini, basil, and watermelon. The wet weather has been great for the seedlings and hopefully with the better weather everything will grow quickly.

Our chickens are doing really well. The meat birds are huge, more like small turkeys than chickens. We’ve slaughtered most of our roosters, but kept 2 roosters and 5 hens. We are lucky that our good friends and neighbours, Lizzy and Ronny Steiner, have allowed us to use the freezer to store our chickens. We’ll have some chicken to feed our construction crews over the next couple of months. We also have 29 more meat bird chicks to raise for the crowd that will be here for Christmas. In the meantime our laying birds are getting bigger and really enjoy hunting and scratching in our chicken run.  I’ve imported solar powered chicken fencing which I’m looking forward to using to free range my chickens.