I bought shoes at a hardware store for about 400 yen.

That wasn't so stupid, they were serviceable and reasonably priced.

I left them on the black rubber mat in the back of the k-truck while I was in the rice paddy weeding.

That wasn't stupid, it turned out to be genius as they shrunk and fit really really well after that.

I loved them so much I wore them all summer.

And the next summer.

And the NEXT summer.

That wasn't stupid- if you have a great pair of shoes you keep wearing them, right?

The sole got really, really thin.

I stepped on a rose branch pruning and a thorn went through the sole and stuck me.

That was pretty stupid. I should have cleaned up better after pruning.

Then at summer camp I slipped on algae near the river.

That was kind of stupid, I KNOW algae is slippery, I should have avoided it.

Then I slipped on a film of ash on the ground after rain and I started wondering about my stupidity recently. How had I avoided stepping on rose thorns and slipping on algae and slipping on ash so completely until this year only to have all these problems in a couple of months???

Could it be the shoes?

No! Don't be stupid! These are GREAT shoes. My FAVOURITE shoes!

Then today I had a really stupid moment.

I was on my way into work from the carpark in torrential rain.

I slipped on a polished rock paver.

I came down HARD.

I jarred my neck, hit my shoulder, jarred my back, hit my hip and hurt my knee and ankle.

I was also covered in mud from shoulder to toe.

And I had class in 15 minutes.

I (stupidly) wasn't carrying a handkerchief so I had to steal the hand towel from work and do the best I could. I was wet, cold, miserable and embarrassed with a full day of classes ahead of me.

As the day went on the cold and miserableness got better but the aches and pains got worse and I got a headache to boot.

And I was feeling pretty stupid by now.

And as I wore my shoes home and took them off at after school care to get Amy and then appreciated their perfect fit as I drove home and took them off in the genkan I have been mourning my shoes on their last outing. Remembering the good times we've had together and forgiving them for the bad times.

And missing them already even though I haven't thrown them out just yet.

And that IS stupidity.

On both counts.


So bad at understanding...

Amy- mum, I need stuff for smashing.
Me- huh?
We're doing smashing tomorrow.
YES! Stop asking!
Why are you smashing stuff? 
For art.
Wow..... what kind of things are you smashing?
Whatever we want. Like containers and stuff we don't need any more. Can I take a sponge?
You're going to smash a sponge?????
You just put it in paint and smash it.
You smash a sponge?
What is smashing in Japanese?
Meg- (nonchalantly from the next room where she's doing hw) she means stamping.
Me- STAMPING! Oh!!!!
Amy- Smashing, stamping, whatever!!! Why are you so bad at understanding??????


dreams come true

Kids are so weird sometimes.

And sometimes I forget how the life we choose here influences the kids experiences.

Last Christmas we were in Australia and Amy was complaining that vegetables in Australia are really wilted and old compared to veggies in Japan and my mum had to explain to her that comparing veggies from your garden that were picked 20 minutes before you eat them to veggies from the supermarket (Australian, Japanese or anywhere) isn't really a fair comparison.

When she was about seven Meg went to her Japanese grandparents place and after running around in the (small, suburban) yard for a while came in and declared 'There's nothing to eat here!' which, for anyone who knows the average Japanese grandparent knows is ridiculous as you could live for a week on snacks and pickles alone but it's true that there were no blueberries, peas, cherry tomatoes or cucumbers to be picked and snacked on as you played outside.

Pretty much all year around there is something growing or in crates in the hallway that they can just eat to their heart's content and so, yeah, the girls have a different view of fruit and vegetables to most kids.

But even so there are some produce that I treasure and ration out because they're so hard to succeed with. Cool nights and a short summer mean red and yellow capsicum are really hard to get to change colour and go sweet so they are highly prized and definitely doled out in a highly controlled way!

Watermelon are pretty easy to grow here (the village next door is a famous watermelon producing region) but the monkeys love them even more than we do so they are highly prized as it's only about one in three that makes it into the house.

So I was making a big deal of cutting up the first watermelon of the season and waxing lyrical about how great it is that I beat the monkeys and how we should all savour the watermelon-ny goodness etc etc when Amy sighed and said "It's my dream to just eat a huge chunk of watermelon so big you need a spoon." Meg agreed and I thought, hey, why not? And so my precious first perfect watermelon of the season was not eked out over three to four days. Nope. I made their dreams come true and it was all gone!

(No picture of Meg? No. She was in her school uniform still and didn't want that recorded for posterity. She's really funny about being seen in her uniform. I told you- kids are weird!)


Amy went to camp and all I got is-

I went on lots of school camps as a kid, at least once a year. Add in guide camps and then scout camps, venture camps, cub scout camps (as staff- I didn't time warp!) etc etc etc and that's a LOT of camps.

Japan does not do the school camp thing. Around here at least the first camp is in grade five. Well 'camp', I mean there're no tents involved. No mystery meat stew cooked in industrial quantities and served in aluminium tableware. Oh no no no- school camp here is all JTB tours, buffet breakfasts and nights in a hotel.

So last week Amy went to camp. Most grade 5 kids in Japan seem to head to the mountains for grade 5 camp to learn bush skills like not throwing up in a bus careering up mountain roads and the like but kids who already live in the mountains head to the coast so all their parents can panic about tsunamis from the safety and ignorance of their landlocked prefecture.

Anyway, Amy went to camp, she had a great time, didn't get bus or ferry sick (one of the questions they had for the kids was 'do you get sea sick?', well, we're landlocked, the majority of kids have never been on a boat! My favourite answer was 'I went on a paddleboat on the lake and I was ok.') and two days later she brought home her souvenir that had needed some extra time to get ready.

Ooooooo! What could it be?? They went t the Toyota factory tour, the aquarium and a fishing co-op.....

a new car????


A pet penguin???



Go on!

Did you guess not one, not two, not even three but FOUR marinated dried fish?

You didn't?

Neither did I.

And they smelllllllllll!

They are all numbered so these are the actual fish that Amy smooshed marinade into and placed on a drying rack.

And then they came to school frozen and spent a few hours at after school care until I came to pick them up.

And then I suggested we have them for dinner and Amy looked horrified- they're gross and they smell!

So she gave them all to K who was THRILLED.

And he's had them for dinner and breakfast AND lunch so far.

The brekky fish


Please wash

We are one of two families out of 84 in the nieghbourhood who grow their produce chemical free.

The others run the spectrum from low chemical but gotta kill those pesky aphids to having sheds chocka block with chemicals for every season and every reason.

As long as they keep their chemicals to themselves I'm good with that and as long as I keep my weeds and bugs to myself they're good with that too.

Over the 10 years we've been here we've become quite well known for our chemical-free-ness (I don't use the word organic as we're not registered and we literally don't use any chemicals where as organic has some 'allowable' ones.)

I sometimes feel like it must be like being gay and having people inform you that their cousin's friend is gay, too. And then there's that awkward pause, right?

Because people like telling me about some friend/ distant relative in some far away place who is growing things naturally.

Makes me want to say 'Oh her? Yeah, we're good mates. Met at a hemp weaving festival over a cup of kombucha!'

The other reaction is people being uber-cautious about giving us their produce. Or insisting that it's ok for me to eat as it was grown in their 'low chemical house-use bed' as they hand it over. I do feel a bit chuffed that a number of neighbours have these low chemical areas of their garden for their own consumption after watching our field and seeing that it really is possible to grow produce without following the JA spraying regimen!

This made me smile when I got home yesterday and found it by the front door. It's a bag of peaches and another of plums with a note to please wash them.

Maybe I'll mention next time that I wash our peaches, too- to get the slug slime off.


Only in Japan...

A guy K works with was in an accident.

It was on a Sunday.

He went to his field (many people around here have a 'real' job and a farm) and on his way home flipped his car.

He is ok but was knocked around quite a bit and will be in hospital for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, the ambulance arrived quite quickly and before he lost consciousness the man was able to tell the officers his name.

And age.

And the name of his company.

Then he passed out.


On a Sunday if anything happens to me I probably won't prioritise my work when giving my details to the emergency services.

Actually, with apologies to my fabulous bosses, I probably won't relate that info on a work day either!

This being a small area the ambulance knew the company and called the company and the company called the man's wife.

How confused would she be getting a call from her husband's work that he was in a car accident when she thought he was down at the rice paddy!


it's a very very small world...

There's a really cool bakery up the road from me. Literally in the middle of nowhere on a road to nowhere in the middle of the apple orchards backing on to a mountain.  check it out

It's run by a man and wife who escaped the city to live their dream of wood-fired bread and handmade furniture.

We were there the day they opened and we've been (sporadic) customers in the ten years since. We've watched them have a baby and him start school and bring his parents to live here and help out too and renovate a second 100 year old building on the property to start a cafe as well.

The bread is quite expensive and mister realist cum fatalist K predicted they'd never make a go of it as bread itself isn't so popular here and paying 500 yen for a loaf is unheard of. But they've survived and thrived and still sell the best bread for miles (and miles!) I LOVE their fruit bread made with mountain currants and wild blueberries. Yum.

So, yesterday when I had spent the morning helping the rice guru with his potato harvest in return foe picking his brain on green manure and crop rotation and soil improvement and I knew I'd be driving home past the bakery it only took a nanosecond for me to decide it was worth the risk of being busted in my dirty work clothes by a student or someone else I knew for the sake of seriously good bread for lunch.

So I walked in and chose my bread and alllllllmost got away with it when the door opened behind me and 'sensei???!!' and it was one of the mums from my play centre class. She looked slightly dumbfounded and asked what I'd been doing (I was wearing shorts and workboots which is a very odd combination here as shorts are only worn for sports day and everyone covers up head to toe to work outside) so I explained I'd been digging potatoes. We covered which neighbourhood we both lived in and how unusual it is for a foreigner to farm rice when the register operator chimed in- where's your rice field and why I was passing the bakery on my way home from potato digging when I lived in Okubo? So then I had to explain that I wasn't digging my potatoes but helping out in Ogura.

"Oh! Tsumura-san's place?"

Now it was my turn to look dumbfounded- it's about a 25 minute drive to Ogura and I know there are definitely a fair few farmers living there so how would she guess??

Well, waddaya know- the register operator lives in Ogura and Tsumura-san is famous there as the guy with all the foreigners staying and working there (he has about 50 wwoofers a year.)

Then I had to explain I wasn't a wwooffer but yes that's where I'd been. The owner came downstairs from vacuuming and the greetings started all over again and we had to explain to her how we all knew each other and I was feeling slightly claustrophobc by the time I grabbed my change and my bread and escaped back to the anonymity of my little white k-truck. This village living can feel like a very very small world!