2016年6月30日木曜日

She's flying!

Amy was in the All Nagano Athletics Meet on the weekend in the 80m hurdles.

She was soooooooooo nervous.

It was a looooonnnngggggg day and she did really well. She didn't place so this is the end of her grade 5 hurdles career but there's always next year.

And the best part according to Amy? The major sponsor is Nissin instant ramen and she was given not one or two but THREE bowls of instant ramen in her showbag.

"I'm definitely doing athletics again next year!"

Ahhhhhhh that's the spirit.

2016年6月28日火曜日

full service

"Do you have any more morning glory seedlings?"

No, sorry, we're out. We have rhinoceros beetles though if you want them?'

What shop would you think you were in to have that conversation?

Nursery? Pet shop? Hardware shop?

How long would it take you to guess post office?

Seriously! Our post office is the most full service shop you've ever seen.

They have little displays in the foyer throughout the year. Things just free for the taking. Beetles, bell crickets, bamboo branches for tanabata star festival, morning glories....

And in summer and leading up to New Year when people traditionally send postcards to each other they set up a desk in the corner with different stamps and ink pads and calligraphy brushes and you can buy your postcards and then sit down and decorate it, write your message and send it all right there.

And then take some beetles home!

How's that for full service?



When I picked up my free morning glory seedlings from the crate one of the postal workers came running over with a bag to put them in.

2016年6月27日月曜日

just a picture

We're harvesting the wheat and hanging it to dry that tiny bit more at the moment. Long hard days in the field and the last walk back to the car of an evening can feel miles longer than it was in the morning.

But then you realise you're walking past views like this and you stop for a moment to appreciate it. And then you think you should take a picture to share the sight.

And here you are:

2016年6月25日土曜日

first summer veggie harvest

Yeah! The first harvest of any veggie is exciting but I love summer and I love the summer veggies so the first summer veggie harvest is SUPER exciting!

I planted a packet of 'mixed zucchini' seeds. The picture showed some stripy ones, a back one, regular green, button squash and yellow. It did say in the fine print that actual contents may vary.

In my case actual contents may not vary much at all!



Nine of 12 have fruited so far and we have a lot of yellow going on! Oh well, I like yellow and really they all taste the same anyway. Still, gave me a giggle!

Look at those beautiful eggplant though, hey? They're called Angelina which seems fitting to such pretty vegetables.

Back out to it!

2016年6月23日木曜日

No ducks?

People keep asking me- no ducks?

And the short answer is no.

And the long answer is not this year. (But I think we're in year three of 'not this year'.)

The good thing about ducks is you have live-in weeders and fertilisers and at the end of the season you have something to put on your rice.

The not so good thing about ducks is you have to look after them.

Every day. This is a day in the life of the ducks. And that's when they're small and cute and (mostly) do what you want them to do.

Kind of like kids, when they hit adolescence all of a sudden they decide bedtime is not for them and they'd rather be playing with their mates at the far end of the paddy than tucked up safe and secure in their shed. It can feel like a very long journey between cute yellow fluffball and goodbye ducks. And you have to feed them. And buying/ sourcing/ collecting feed is another job/ expense as well....

We still go and help with the duck butchering day each year and I was asking around as to how other people look after their ducks to see if I could glean any tips on more efficient processes.

Well, it turns out we were the owners of some pretty pampered ducks! A number of farmers didn't even expect that their ducks would last the season and considered them tools rather than animals to be responsible for. (It's true that after ducks have eaten all the weeds in a paddy once at the start of the season there's usually not that many more weeds as all the seeds tend to germinate at the same time so their 'work' is done.) K and I are not this kind of farmer. We're the bring home a squished duckling and warm it up under the kotatsu and go and buy it some brandy kind of farmers.

Another percentage of farmers use electric fences and therefore save a lot of time and effort with fencing- of course they still HAVE fences but they aren't the main line of defence. Our paddy is waaayyyy too big to make this an economic possibility though.

So, as there's no easier way to do ducks that suits us we really would need to just tough it out with morning and evening duck checks and putting up fences and stringing 2000m of string up and down and up and down the paddy.

In non-duck years I am the weeder and it is definitely a time consuming job- at least three hours a week in the summer so I am leaning more towards ducks again..... and we have a couple of families interested in helping out so who knows..... no ducks this year but maybe yes ducks next year?

And here's a gratuitous picture of this year's ducks that are going to someone else's paddy:



Ohhhhhhhh they're so cuuuuuutttteeee!!

2016年6月21日火曜日

It started with good morning

Last Sunday was our turn to clean the neighbourhood community centre. This activity causes massive eye-rolling on my part as a9 it's cleaned after every use so there is really no need for each sub-group of the neighbourhood to clean it AGAIN each weekend. There is literally nothing to clean!

And also, the arranged start time is 8:00. But I have never been in over 10 years here where we weren't FINISHED by 8:00.

Huh? How is that possible you ask?

Well, everyone is in a race to be early. not just early, the earliest. So when I arrived at 7:45 half the team were already there. Ridiculous!

Anyway this time there was a rather surprising outcome of neighbourhood community centre cleaning and it started with good morning:

Good morning!

Good morning. You have been very busy lately! (this is my immediate downhill neighbour. The one who used to tell me that I had such incredibly energetic children, truly the picture of vitality and good health. Pretty sure the subtext was they were unbearably loud but she always smiles when she talks and I made a conscious decision to take everything at face value. If she wants to complain I reserve the right to make her do it straight up! So there's probably some subtext here but who knows what it is so let's just smile and keep the conversation going.)

Yes, we finally finished rice planting so now it's just weeding, seeding and keeping the frass trimmed around the edges of the fields.

And you have wheat, too.

Yes, as soon as wet season is over we'll be harvesting.

Wow! You're really into farming! 

Yes, I keep having more ideas of what I want to grow. I think I'm lucky I we've run out of field or I'd be out there with a headlamp. haha!

There's plenty of land available if you want to expand you know. (This is the head of our neighbourhood sub-committee, head of the local JA and the head son of one of the big clans in the neighbourhood. He is also 6 feet tall and speaks in a cool baritone. I'm kind of in awe of him.)

Really? In Okubo?

Yes! (the next few minutes consisted of a number of neighbours discussing unused fields around us in a horrible code that I have yet to be able to crack- the childhood nicknames of the patriarchs of each family- Tecchan, Yoshi, Tatsu etc. so I just kind of stood there but it ended up with the neighbours coming to an agreement on a field that would be perfect for our needs.)

We finished cleaning and I went home and K innocently asked

How was cleaning?

I'm sure he was expecting me to say same as usual or probably 'guess what time we finished? No go on, guess!)

I don't think he was expecting

What do you think about taking on another 2500 m2 of field?

But, after some courtesy visits (chaperoned by the bigwig) that's what we've done!

Say hello to the new field:


Every bit of brown in that picture is ours to use. Wow!! Look at the possibilities!!

And I will stop complaining (at least for a while) at the pointlessness of neighbourhood community centre cleaning!



oops!

I'm sure many people in Japan complain about lack of storage.

Here?

Not so much.

Actually, kind of the opposite.

We have so much storage things get lost.

Like a whole box of potatoes.

To be fair to ourselves we harvested over 100 kilos of potatoes last year in three varieties, one that needs immediate eating (inca gold) one that was fabulous for baked potatoes (danshaku and one that lasts a long time (May queen). There were waaaayyyyy too many boxes of potatoes to just line them up in the hallway where I usually keep stuff (doesn't everyone have a hallway lined with boxes of apples, daikon, onions and pickled plums?) so I wrapped some in newspaper and put them in boxes with holes punched in them for air circulation and wrapped them in a blanket and put them in one of the sheds. And we got a box out when we ran out inside. Rinse and repeat.

And the last box left in there we planted up as seed potatoes for the new season about a month ago.

All good. We are just so darn resourceful and self sufficient!

Or so we thought until Sunday when K was organising the recycling for the JHS recycling drive when he uncovered another whole box of potatoes.

With great trepidation I opened it (forgotten food is rarely forgiving!)

And loe and behold not only not a revolting rotten mess but look closely:


Baby potatoes are growing in there!!

Gosh. How could I possibly boil them up for the chooks now they have proven to be such persevering against all odds battlers?

We'll just have to plant them!

I mean look at this:


All those babies!

And sure, we already planted about 12 kilos of potatoes for this year.

And there really IS a limit to how many potatoes we can eat.

But they are so hopeful of continuing their lives through the next generation.

Sigh......



We planted not one but TWO rows of potatoes this long.

Come Autumn I will be pushing potatoes on everyone I know!