weekend farm kids

When your parents are weekend farmers you get to be a weekend farm kid.

We have never made a big deal out of this. It's just 'Get your paddy clothes on, we're off to the rice paddy.'

Sometimes they help out and sometimes they play.

Taking your kids to the field with you is something people used to do a lot more than they do now and so it makes the retiree age farmers around us get all nostalgic. 

One of the neighbours told me how she used to tie her toddlers to an apple tree with a rug, some toys and a drink while she worked. 


Others tell me of how, pre-machination, kids were a vital part of the rice harvest as they picked up all the stray strands of rice and made them into bunches.

At last year's community meeting of the local PTA, kids' club leaders, neighbourhood leaders and neighbourhood welfare workers one of the neighbourhood leaders who just happens to farm next to us, used her 2 minutes to reveal to all present that our kids are out in the field running around and playing and everyone else should lock up their kids' DS's and send them outside too.  It was slightly squirm inducing and I felt like I should have added a disclaimer that we don't actually give the girls a choice and Meg does actually have a DS....

While I do get pangs of guilt that other kids are spending their weekends at karaoke, cheering on the city's soccer team, at festivals, shopping centres, movie theatres or Disneyland while Meg and Amy are in their gumboots making daisy chains again, all in all I think they will appreciate the freedom they had and the adventures it afforded them.

Exhibit A:

This is a set of rice rack legs. Well it was until it became a bird nest. Amy is the mother bird and the little girl at the bottom is the baby. Meg is making sure the nest doesn't fall on the baby bird.

Exhibit B:

Mum and Dad spent a looooonnng time during the rice harvest with a rake and a pitch fork spreading out the chopped up rice straw so it will become fertiliser for next year's crop.

Then Meg, Amy and the little friend built this tepee from a number of sets of rice rack legs and spent a loooong time collecting up armfuls of carefully spread rice straw to furnish their tepee.

We finished the rice harvest at 2:30. The weather was cold, the wind was colder, everyone just wanted to get out, get home and get lunch.

Well, everyone except the kids who had to be cajoled out of their tepee and home again. They are adamant the tepee should become a permanent fixture in the paddy.

The fact that that would make growing rice very difficult is beside the point.

Gotta love the thinking of the weekend farm kids.


Old skool

Last Christmas we went to Australia. Meg and I were riding around the neighbourhood chatting while Meg checked out the real estate (she doesn't want much- just a house with a wrap around verandah, a pool, a paved driveway and a basketball hoop...) when we came across a garage sale.

An old school garage sale with all the goods out on sheets in the driveway and things going for 50 cents and a dollar. We raced home and grabbed my wallet and went back and bought them out.

Well not really but almost!

Meg got a whole lot of science magazines, Amy got Where's Wally books, they both got Little Miss pyjamas, Meg picked up a bunch of her favourite Target camisole tops (shirts in Australia, underwear in Japan), I picked up some great board games and on a whim, to round our purchases up to a whopping $10 I threw in a dance dance revolution game.

I remember dance dance revolution from when I was on exchange here- game centres had huge crowds around the dance dance revolution games as players robotically moved in time to the prompts on the screen.

We are a wii/ playstation/ xbox free household so this is our first video game. 

Amy had a friend over on the weekend and they got it out.

The friend was asking questions:

Where do the mats plug in?

They don't.

Ahhhh is it wifi?


How does it work?

You just dance.

...... cool!

And so they did.

They danced and danced on their non-plugged in mats.

And I had to use the remote to change the song every 2-3 minutes as requested after I saw Amy poking at the TV screen.

Poor child usually watches TV on the i-pad and didn't realise our TV is not a touchscreen....

She needs a bit more old skool education, huh?



Manicured trees are very popular here.

Some of them look like normal trees but just rather unusually symmetrical and a little too picture perfect for nature to have done.

Others are like the toy poodle of the garden world. All bauble-like round tufts of foliage on bare branches.

One thing they all have in common is how much time, effort and money goes into the upkeep.

Now is the season for pruning and small teams (usually just 2-3) of old men (it's a traditional art so the gardeners tend to be older guys) with their two and three legged ladders, their aprons, their little scissors and bigger shears, their little brushes for shaking down the prunings and their large plastic sheets for ease of cleaning up.

The trees are usually about roof height or a little taller.

But this time we were stuck at the traffic lights watching a team working on this huge tree:

Notice the ladders are tied back with ropes so they don't touch the tree at all?

I'm sure it's all safe and stable and all but that's not my idea of fun for sure!!

I was trying to think how you'd describe this job. I mean gardener seems far too simple. They're not really arbourists as their job has a narrower scope... and it's quite an artistic endeavour getting the shape and balance jussssstttt right.

So I came up with my own word- arbourartists!



It's lucky there're no roses in bloom this time of year as, between the rice, the veggies, the darn falling leaves (could they not just all fall at once so I could rake once and be done with it???) and preparing the fields for winter there's just no time to stop and smell the roses!

Coming from Australia with its eucalypts and banksias and ti-trees and all the other grey-green all year round trees there really is something enchanting about the way the leaves change colour here though.

Well, there was the first time until I realised that changing leaves is a surefire sign that winter and all its bleak chilly cold, freezingness is coming.

So I don't enjoy the beautiful red and yellow leaves quite as much as that first winter but I do still have to admit that they are pretty:

It would just be nice if they could be a precursor to Spring rather than winter!


Oh deer...

This is one of those super helpful posts that honestly you will never need to have read.

The kind that if I was any good at all at journalling or diary-ing or even updating my recipe folder I would just do that.

But I'm not.

And I worked out what blogger's labels are and I've fallen a little bit in love with them so you get to be party to me remembering this recipe or rather cooking tip.


Oh deer.... deery me..... dear deer.....

K's boss likes to hunt.

Good on him.

He seems rather good at it.

Good on him.

He doesn't like to "sport hunt" and waste the quarry.

Good on him.

His wife is sick of dealing with kilo after kilo after 10 kilo of deer meat.

So she said he had to give it away.

Good on her!!!

He gave some to K.

K brought it home and we got the stray pine needles and hair off and whacked it in the oven.

It was.... hmmmmm..... half way to beef jerky?

It was VERY tough and had sinewy bits and hard bits and a VERY gamey smell and taste.

It was very lean meat and we talked about how it was definitely good for us- and look at this jaw muscle workout we were getting for free!

But to be honest I was happy to never see the stuff again.

So you can imagine my feelings when K came home with not one but two HUGE bags of deer. One that contained an entire, not-broken-down deer leg.


Turns out K was the only deer beneficiary who went with the socially acceptable 'It was delicious, thank you' rather than the more honest 'Oh my god- it's like eating your sneaker!' and was therefore the sole beneficiary of his boss's subsequent kill.

That was last year.

We tried marinading it, frying it, stewing it, uber thin slicing and bbqing it....

All methods were better than that first attempt but none of the versions were anything you'd write home about. Nothing you'd write anywhere about in fact!

And so when K got out a huge bag of deer meat from the freezer to share with my parents I was groaning on the inside..... my dad has dentures- would deer meat consumption induced dental care even be covered on his travel insurance? 

I started googling....

I realised my problem until this point:

I had been googling venison not deer.

But they're one and the same you say.

Oh no no no my dear (deer!)

Venison is some mythical tender rendering of the deer meat that is incredibly versatile, cooperative and all round lovely.

Deer on the other hand is musclebound and a lean mean denture fighting machine.

I found this site. And then after reading it all I decided to ignore the advice.  Or rather make my own style!

So, I spent about an hour cutting away all the silver skin, fat and sinewy gristle and stuff.  Then I crushed a whole bulb of garlic and added it to the meat in a bowl along with a jar of tomato sauce, a slog of balsalmic, one of oil, some salt, pepper, cayenne pepper.

I left that in a tupperware for 24 hours then browned the meat in batches, added onion and more garlic and more tomato sauce and water and lots of green capsicum and some pumpkin and sweet potato and cooked it low and slow in the shuttle chef for 12 hours.

That's a LOT of work.

The result though?


Seriously, really good. And not in a 'well, if you have to eat deer I guess this is ok.' kind of way but in a 'wow- this is yummy- is there any more?' kind of way.

Which is lucky.

As there was LOTS more.

We ate venison stew for three meals!

There was still one portion left but I froze it.

And you know, I'm actually looking forward to eating it some lunchtime when it's just me for lunch.

I do have my fingers and toes crossed that the hunting season is over, though!

Oh deer!


Warning- this post may offend vegetarians and hypocritical omnivores

You were warned!

We helped out at the annual duck butchering this last weekend.

It was miserable weather and we came in at the tail end helping on day 5 so there weren't as many people there to chat with as there usually are.

But, we did our bit and mum got to try her hand at plucking a duck (hey hey it's Saturday reference for Aussies) and we were part of finishing the cycle of the rice farm year.

And that night I made duck and confit potatoes for dinner and felt very masterchef with our farm to table dinner.

Here's the newest duck plucker on the block:


Planty people

My mum's whole family are planty people.

Really planty people. The kind who drop latin names into conversation and converse knowledgably about alkalinity and zones and tip pruning and striking cuttings and unusual cultivars etc etc.

The giving and receiving of plants, cuttings, flowers and seeds is something I grew up with.  Every Christmas, birthday, family get together, my mum, grandma and my uncles would be showing off and sharing out their new finds and latest successes.

Moving to Japan I'm a bit out of the loop now but I'm still sharing the generosity.

I grow beans from seeds my uncle gave me when we met at my sister's wedding in a completely different state.

And when my parents flew over to visit this time my mum was carrying this flower:

(It looked a lot better two weeks ago!)

A little bit of Australia right here in Nagano.

I'm happy to surrounded by all these planty people and hope to be one when I grow up...