Friday, August 24, 2012

Daily Photos: Retractable Roof for the Seedlings

Hammering away like it ain't no thing. Retractable roof in progress.
Alli's got a solid station where she keeps all her seedlings, letting the little buggers grow so they can beef up, get big, pass puberty and become ready to be planted in the ground. "Who run it" Three 6 Mafia once asked? Well at JTP, the Lady does when it comes to gardening. She noticed sometime back that seedlings in the middle of the table weren't getting enough sunshine. Unacceptable she said. The ones that received sun on an occasional basis throughout the day were bulking up faster than their shaded comrades. Solution: retractable roof!

I decided to head this up so the output is shoddy at best, but functional. I retied the roof, reorganized sticks and bamboo, slammed in a few nails and tied some loops to secure the new movable addition. The construction has yet to tumble down to the ground, which is encouraging. Wait, breaking news, as I was about to post this Alli told me very plainly: "It's broken," and then laughed. I'll get on that tomorrow. As for the seedlings, when the roof is popped back, they shinin.'

Get your shine on: the seedling table.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ular on My Mind

Oriental Whipsnake (Ahaetulla prasina) jangling and dangling on JTP's grounds.
Earlier this evening us folk here at JTP were treated to a gorgeous snake: the Oriental Whipsnake that is. Ahaetulla prasina in Latin speak, while ular is snake in Malay. This beauty reminds me very much of the elusive and prized Brown Vinesnake (Oxybelis aeneus) that could be found, but never by me, around the borderlands of Southern Arizona. Lucky for us on Tioman this serpent is quite common, even in human inhabited areas. This is the snake I've seen the most on the island since we got here four-plus months ago.
Alli and Dani are into it! You can see this one is quite lengthy.

The green color on these snakes is eye-catching, herpetological laffy taffy if you ask me. The specimen here was found lounging at eye level in a nearby coconut tree. Their impeccable camouflage also works to the advantage of my amateurish photography skills, since when spotted this species remains immobile. Hence the photos up in its grill. I've encountered only green varieties (the most common), but tan, gold, aqua-marine, yellow and orange exist, too. Rear fangs are present to deliver mildly toxic saliva (harmless to humans) to the frogs and snakes it prefers to chow down on. Notice the horizontal pupil in the close up; used to scope things directly in front of it. Most snakes have round or vertical pupils. Tip of the hat to L. Lee Grismer's field guide of the Seribuat Archipelago for the fascinating snake facts. That's all the ular news I have for the day.

Check out the horizontal pupil! I keep thinking of the song "I Hung My Head" when I look at this. The Johnny Cash version though, sorry Sting.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Urgent: Please Sign Petition for Turtle Friendly Development in Juara

Development is currently underway on Mentawak Beach that threatens the population of Green sea turtles nesting here. Mentawak beach is where JTP resides and where Alli and I have been living since we left the U.S. in April. Most of JTP's work over the last six years, plus ours since we got here, will be in vain if we don't protect this habitat. Action is needed now to make sure turtle-friendly development is put in place or the turtles of Tioman will edge closer to extinction. Please follow the link below and sign the petition. Then spread the word people. Thank you so much everyone!

Petition link:

I will be writing more about this pressing subject, as well as what the future holds for sea turtles, JTP and Juara in general, soon on the blog. Stay tuned. Below is a map of the current development plans for Mentawak, as well as photos of the vegetation being cut and habitat for nesting turtles disappearing. *** All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.***
Notice the red streaks - a lot more chalets, lights and people are being planned for Mentawak Beach. The turtles are going to be pushed out, as well as natural vegetation line along the beach.

Above two photos: vegetation being cleared directly south of JTP, between us and Lagoon. Notice the photo on the bottom that vegetation still exists right of the sign, but to the left it is gone.

Above two photos: vegetation being cleared directly north of JTP for a future resort. It used to be very hard to see the ocean from where these photos were taken. Not anymore.
New chalets going in on the north end of Mentawak Beach. Opening soon.

These two photos of nesting Green turtles on Mentawak beach could  a thing of the past if measures aren't taken for turtle-friendly development to be put in place.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Laying Down Cement for a Poop Tank

That right there is some cement mixing on up.
Right now at JTP we are quite busy. We recently overhauled our volunteer program. High tourist season is upon us so many folks are receiving our turtle talks and learning that we do much more here than keep a blind handicapped turtle in a pot. We are also in the midst of dealing with pending large scale development that could irreparably harm Mentawak beach, simply meaning turtles might not nest here anymore. If this happens, the Greens and Hawksbill females that still visit only a few Tioman beaches to lay eggs will be one step closer to extinction here on the island. More on this unprecedented situation in an upcoming blog post. *** All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.***

Check out my one-wheel motion, jealous Ice Cube?
Making it rain cement on this here septic.

While all of these issues are being diligently worked on the gears got to keep rolling at JTP, too. Leaves must be raked, beaches must be patrolled, talks must be given, and ongoing chalet construction continues, to name a few. We do everything in house. One of the two chalets currently being built here is almost complete. Hopefully when she gets back from visiting her family Izzati will be able to take up residence in the humble abode. Charlie gets a massive shout out for cranking away at this chalet for months now. He's done most of the work. I'd like to take credit for it looking so so def (this is definitely my first Jermaine Dupri reference on the blog), but I can't.

As the great philosopher Joe Dirt, circa 2001, said: shit'll buff out!

Today one of the last acts before we can cut the red ribbon was finished. The septic tank received a smooth cement top and luckily didn't cave in. Two days ago we gave the future poop and piss holding cell some cement walls and today we buffed out a cement roof. Charlie mixed and mashed cement. I wheelbarrowed it over, plopped it on down and smoothed it all around, like spreading oil evenly in a pan. This was the first septic tank construction I've ever been a part of. Felt real nice. Soon we'll put the lid on and then the flushing can begin.

The finished product. The message is oh so funny because it couldn't be farther opposite from the truth.
The tank with the nearly completed chalet in the background, aka Big Swiss.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Up in the Air, Amid the Dragon Horns

View from the saddle between the Dragon Horns. Beautiful.
View of the horns from the Asah Jetty, round the way to the east.
At the southern end of Pulau Tioman two massive rocks jut out up into the sky. These side-by-side slabs are known as the Dragon Horns. Maybe I'm being lazy or I just don't have my higher level writer wits about me today, but I don't feel like any of the words I can come up with do this place (and its surrounding scenery) justice. Just gawk at the photos, but I don't feel like they do it justice either. The horns are astounding; so is the dense canopy engulfed around them. At the end of July Alli, Big Teazy (aka Tom Wuebbens, you wanted your shout out boss, here it is! Shoutin' you out, blog style) and Rich holidayed down in Kampung Mukut, the village that sits at the base of the horns. Wonderful place down there. Big T and Rich were there a couple days, and Alli and I stayed on for a few more. *** All photos can be enlarged by clicking 'em. ***
Crew at the top! Soaking it up and getting our makan on.
Pure canopy.
The horns are quite steep as you can see. Some crazy climbers headed up this route awhile ago.
One day we decided to trek up to the saddle of the horns, 690 meters up. It was quite the climb and one of the most glorious treks I've ever done. You end up in the middle between the two horns. Untouched jungle, gnarly rock and views at the end that made sweating for three hours straight an act to forget about. The pitcher plants were a delight, too. Plus chowing down on nasi lemok (rice, sambal sauce, anchovies, egg and peanuts) at the top was icing on the cake, or should I say kuih since we're in Malaysia. The whole crew rocked the trail through and through. Not much wildlife though, maybe one unidentified skink blazing through the leaf litter. But I didn't care. I'd love to go back and camp up there, passing out in a hammock and probably tying myself to a tree to make sure I don't topple off a ledge.

Pitcher plants. Odd and lovely. Drink up!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Compost Queen!

Alli had quite the triumphant day in the garden. She was getting her green thumb on no doubt! The reason for her lovely smile in these following photos is well worth it. Let me explain: the soil around here just ain't that grand. All of the sand and heavy rains washing nutrients away make it a struggle to grow more than a few standard crops (banana, papaya, tapioca, okra, cucumber and coconuts do well, but not always). Throw in some ravenous bugs, snails and monkeys, and a lot of what she plants gets devoured. I've seen steam shooting out of her ears in frustration on more than a few occasions. But not today.
Compost Queen rockin' the second compost bin scene.
Since the soil is mostly sad we have a few wooden compost bins lying about the project, three to be exact. These stupendous contraptions speed up the process of turning leaves (dead and alive) and other organic matter into dirt. Check out my earlier raking post if you want more of the low down on this. And today that dirt looked incredible!
Fine soil indeed, oooooo-weeeeee lay it on me!
That's right, we celebrated having some solid dirt around here on this fine Sunday. Many high-fives were given and "Hells yeah" were spoken (well maybe only I still use that silly phrase). Whatever the form of celebration, it was a joyous moment, especially for Alli, to gaze into that wooden box and see a low pile of attractive brown soil staring back at her. It has been a long time coming. She's been churning that pile for some time now; raking, stirring and keeping it well soggy with water when needed.

What a compost bin looks like filled up (also occurring today, the morning raking scene was busy). You can see from the other photos how much all this stuff be breaking down.
She plopped some in the wheelbarrow and let it slide into a new bed she's gonna plant. Papaya, amaranth, eggplant and cilantro are soon to find a new home in there. Hopefully we'll be munching on some of these crops in the near future. If not, then I'm sure we'll be cursing those previously scorned bugs, snails and monkeys. It's funny when you live here how quickly the monkeys go from a mesmerizing mammal to stare at, to dirty rotten thieves who plunder all your hard-work and snatch that delicious looking papaya you've been eyeing for some time. But regardless of the outcome, at least our soil will be looking high class!
Moving that fine lookin' dirt!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Daily Photos: Bathroom Herpin,' Frog Edition

We've found a decent amount of frogs and toads so far on Pulau Tioman, including Banded Bullfrogs (one plump sucker of a species) and Giant River Toads (who remind me of a jungle stream version of the Sonoran Desert's venerable Bufo alvarius). This however was my first bathroom amphibian. Not my first water closet herp though, as the geckos like to run amok in there, with poop raining down from the ceilings on a regular basis. I've had many spiders, mosquitoes, moths and more in the bathroom, but no go on amphibians until I ran into this fella one morning before I headed out to go on boat patrol.

Quite the handsome species it was: the Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax). These frogs are commonly found around Tioman and on 7 other islands in the Seribuat Archipelago. Awesome species note from Grismer's field guide to the area: "This species lays its eggs in a foam nest derived from the skin secretions of amplexing frogs. Often this may be a female with one to several males on her back"

I left before 7am since I was on boat patrol, so Alli slept in a little. In amusing fashion the frog was still there when she headed to the bathroom later on in the morning. Unbeknownst to her I had already snapped a ton of photos of this specimen, so she clicked a few more. Luckily for the frog, by then it had removed that gross bathroom hair that was stuck to its porous skin.