2009年9月30日水曜日

four seasons

A while ago I went to an amazing photo exhibition, all the artists had take the exact same picture but in different seasons. The pictures were identical. The amount of planning, organising, precision and time this requires is mindboggling for me. Especially as many of the pictures were up in the mountains in places you have to walk into. Phew. I was inspired to try my own with my favourite view- the view from the bottom of the mountain here looking along the flat land towards the next village. I don't have identical pictures nor all the seasons but hey, I'm not going anywhere and neither is the mountain!










No winter shots yet as I take the pictures as I'm walking up the mountain- something which somehow doesn't appeal as much in Winter.... Will have to make an effort this Winter though. Sigh, suffering for my art...


2009年9月29日火曜日

A good day

Huge day today.

Me and the it's-got-four-wheels-what-are-you-complaining-about? car headed into Matsumoto for work. First class is a women's class with a minefield of do-not-touch-with-a-barge-pole conversation topics due to some very sad circumstances a number of the women are going through. This makes even the most seemingly innocent questions potentially tearful. I have to be careful not to be over-sensitive though as that surely makes it an even bigger deal.... yep, a really draining hour there.

Then in the afternoon I have my 3 year old class. I love this class, I have been teaching them since they were 1 1/2 and they're now 3 1/2. They rock and just jump up and down with excitement when I do our greetings in my scary/ silly/ sad/ happy/ quiet/ loud voice. I know a lot of people don't like teaching preschoolers but I swear they are a real ego boost- they think you're better than Disneyland if you can growl out hello. Well, today we had a girl change in from another class (did I mention my classes are great??? Just kidding. It was probably a scheduling thing.) and a 2 1/2 year old doing a trial lesson. She was born in the US and has just moved back so her listening skills are native level but she's shy (I think the scary voice hello/ jumping squealing kids as she walked in was unfortunate timing...) and of course developmentally she's a year behind the rest of my class. My class that includes Amy..... Amy who varies between being the jumpiest, loudest responder and lying under her chair doing nothing. So much easier to teach other people's kids... Anyway trial lesson kid was understandably quiet throughout but her mum loved the class and signed up. Woohoo...

Then, because I was on a high and the girls had sat through a lot of boring stuff as I explained my teaching philosophy to the prospective student's parents (I may only teach part time kiddie classes but doesn't mean I can't use my B Ed right?) I decided we'd stop at Matsumoto Castle on the way home. The playing-with-fire way home at 5:30 with two tired kids....

Twice a year Matsumoto Castle grounds are opened for free in the evening with a flute concert and dango/ soup/ tea ceremony to celebrate hanami- cherry blossom viewing and tsukimi- moon viewing. The view of the Autumn full moon from Matsumoto Castle is so great they built a moonviewing room when they built the castle. Unfortunately last night it was completely overcast and drizzling so no moon. After remembering to pack the umbrellas both girls declined to use them as 'you can't dance when you're holding an umbrella.' As K was still at work and I, too, think the freedom to dance is worth a little dampness we headed off un-umbrellaed.

The girls had a fabulous time running and dancing and eating their moon viewing dango and as there were a total of maybe 12 people in the whole place I let them just do as they pleased. Really noone there to be annoyed by it all! Amy was very interested in the teahouse and the women in kimono organising a tea ceremony (they outnumbered visitors unfortunately...) so we talked about how quiet and serious it was and then decided to head in and have a cup of matcha. Personally I find the stuff quite invigoratingly bitter but not something I'd want to sip regularly and I wasn't sure what the girls would think and rather worried they would voice their opinion somewhat loudly so I ordered one cup. The head of the tea ceremony group (obvious not because I can read rank by the pattern and lustre of kimono or anything but because everyone was deferring to her and hovering around her murmuring 'sensei. sensei.') rushed over and ordered two cups of watered down matcha for the girls and gave Meg a one on one lesson on the tea ceremony while a subordinate did the same for Amy. They had a fabulous time and Meg asked lots of questions which sensei answered really clearly and simply for her. I was really impressed.

On the way out we met a group of salarymen milling about looking important. Amy called out hello and one of them replied and asked her if she was having fun to which she replied that there was no moon but the tea ceremony was fun. Yucky but fun. General laughter and as I hurried them away from the tea ceremony area I heard someone say 'Mr Mayor, this way please.' Aghhhhhh, Amy dissing the tea to the Mayor...

We took some pictures (I borrowed K's antique digital camera) beside a huge outdoor ikebana and we left at the same time as the mayor and his entourage- leaving about six people to enjoy the concert.

Got home, girls fell asleep on contact with their beds and I put on my PTA rep. cap and wrote up a one page letter to the mums in Amy's class asking for help with the kinder festival. In Japanese. Phew. K was impressed when he checked it for me which is always nice as I think he takes it for granted that I speak Japanese a bit. Doesn't realise how lucky he is! He did mention that using the word haze for the stands you use to dry rice in my obligatory seasonal reference was a little agri-geeky. Oh well, I can handle that.

Quite a day.





2009年9月28日月曜日

the simple life

My first day of mobile phone free life coincided with the car going in for roadworthy/ registration check. We go to the little family-run mechanic at the bottom of the street here. They're great people and I like supporting local business but their loaner cars are... hmmm... functional. So today I swapped the Delica 7 seater people mover for a 14 year old Suzuki Wagon R. I was kind of amazed to know that cars from 14 years ago are still on the roads here as one of the differences that struck me when I first visited Japan was how new all the cars seemed compared to Australia.

So anyway, 14 years ago cars had manual windows, metal interiors, AM radios (useless in this area it seems) and no air-conditioners. Oh and you can hear all the sounds of the engine and the road as though you had the windows open even when you don't. It was a real back-to-basics drive today.

I was concerned I'd be all panicky about the mobile-free life- what if the kinder/ K/ my boss/ immigration/ the police/ the UN needed to contact me urgently??? But in reality it was quite liberating. I told the kinder, the mechanic and the man delivering chook manure that if they have any questions they can call K. rather nice to pass the buck like that... for me anyway.

I told work they'd have to call before I left home or leave a message at work if anything came up.

I had so much less to think about all day- do I have my phone with me? Is it on silent for class? Did I check for missed calls after class? Turn it on to buzzer at lunch time? Remember to call people back whose call I missed? etc etc. Reminded me of the missionary from English playgroup we used to go to. She refused to own one and said people were more likely to be on time to meet her places as they couldn't ring and say they'd be late. Hmmm... don't think I'll completely give up my phone but it is interesting remembering what phone free life is like.

And I'm also camera-less. I was quite concerned I'd miss some once in a lifetime cuteness from the girls or magnificent sunset or whatever but again, actually quite freeing. The girls were playing house and giggling and laughing and having a ball and instead of putting the barrier of a camera between me and the action- and standing back to get a better shot- I got down and played with them. Participant rather than observer. Again, I don't think I'll give up my camera (my mum would kill me, anyway) but it was interesting having a camera free day.

I think the simple life was fun because it was a day. I mean I've already charged my ipod with podcasts for tomorrow's radio free drive.

Mind you, if I listen to all 54 episodes of The Survival Podcast I downloaded I may end up going off-grid, eating weeds and getting my gun license....

Hope the Delica comes home soon!


2009年9月27日日曜日

I had a bad day...

I love this video:



And it was the soundtrack to my day today.


It started early.


Really early.


Twice a year we have gomi zero days. Zero Rubbish days. One representative from each house in the neighborhood turns up at 6:30 am (because you gotta catch the rubbish before it wakes up and runs away) to pick up litter for an hour. K actually enjoys this. Not so much the litter but the community involvement and because he isn’t in the neighborhood during the week he sees everyone less often and likes catching up so he’s our nominated gomi zero representative.


No problem so far, right? Well, he also likes spending time with the girls and so told them (stupid, stupid man) that if they woke up early Sunday morning they could go with him. These are kids who have never slept past 7:00 in their lives... So today started bright, loud and early at 5:20 when they bounded into our room yelling ‘wake up! It’s gomi zero day!’ the way most kids rave about Christmas....


So, after revolting early start I got up and made muffin to take to SIL’s house in Nagoya. She had a baby in August and we were going to see him for the first time.


M and A came home and ate natto and rice for breakfast. Cue Amy’s second outfit of the day (although when I suggested she change as their was natto all down her front she looked puzzled and replied ‘I’ll eat it in the car.’) Then somehow, in an absolutely unavoidable, nobody’s fault bout of banned horseplay in the kitchen Amy ended up sitting in a basket of tomatoes. A full basket of tomatoes. Cue Amy’s third outfit of the day and it’s not even 9:00...


Got in the car and thanks to my amazing negotiation skills (I really should send a resume to the UN. I’m wasted here) we made it 4 hours, one wrong exit on the expressway and a wrong turn-we’re-not-lost-we’re-just-on-a-different-road navigational doozy from K to SIL’s house.


Phew....


Well, SIL lives in a gorgeous but very, ummm... compact.... apartment with beautiful and expensive things. Everywhere. On low benches. With a downstairs neighbour who doesn’t like noise. Perfect place for my two....


After a stressful 3 hours where the girls occupied themselves by eating, drawing and asking why the 5 week old baby wouldn’t play with them more my disaster prevention skills were finely honed (UN, I’m multi-talented), the house was still in one piece, I had convinced SIL she didn’t need to give Amy the blanket straps from the baby’s stroller just because she asked for them- woo hoo, SIL, you gotta harden your heart to the puppy dog face, I tell ya- we were back in the car for another fun-filled four hour journey home.


Stopped at a rest area for coffees and I went to the loo while the others were etill sitting on the terrace. Met K half way to the loo with the girls on my way back. Both had been sure they didn’t need to go when I went but 5 minutes later? Busting...


Somehow here we both forgot that my bag was under a chair on the terrace. Remembered 2 minutes down the road but it’s a little tricky doing a U-turn on the expressway....


No problem, we’ll just use K’s phone to call directory assistance, get the number for the rest area shop, have them check and ship the bag back C.O.D.


beep- beep- beep-


K’s phone has a dead battery.


“Why didn’t you charge it?”

“I did.”

“You haven’t even used it today?”

“Recently it doesn’t hold the charge....”

“Since when?”

“...... about a month ago.....”


AGGGHHHHHH!


Big. Deep. Breath.


OK, we’ll stop at the next rest area and call from there.


K comes back from the public phone with a fancy schmancy car phone charger.


“I didn’t have enough 10 yen coins so I bought this instead.”


Definitely came out ahead on that one, I think...


Plugged in the phone, called the place:

“It’s a greyish handbag with a book on companion planting, one on sour dough bread and a camera in a blue case.”

“..... we don’t have a greyish one but we have a blackish one with a book on companion planting etc etc”


Give me a break!


But bag is there, all is well, they will send it, let’s go home.


Amy spilled a cup of water on her dress. We’re 20 minutes from home, she has a towel to mop it up, the car isn’t cold, this is the girl who was happy to wear a dress covered in natto, no big deal, right?


Wrong.


The last amazing 20 minutes of our family fun Sunday involved Amy screaming that her dress needed to come off now (not such a biggy) and that she wanted a new dress (problem. My evacuation bag in the car runs to shorts, t-shirts and trackpants but no dresses) Then Meg started in that Amy was too noisy and it was on for young and old.


Thankfully no day lasts for ever and the girls conked out in seconds but I swear if K ever, ever tells them to wake up early again I may just run away to Tuscany- with my pillow- and the coffee maker.

2009年9月26日土曜日

time- three stories

Story 1

Neighbour Mr K was planting carrots as I took the girls for a bike ride. We've taken one of the training wheels off Meg's bike and moved Amy up to a bigger bike so bike rides are both a) in high demand at the moment and b) incredibly stressful for me what with all the 'Balance Meg!' and 'Peddle Amy! BRAKES!!!!' going on. . Anyway, saw Mr K head down bum up in the field and called out a cheery hello. He came over to exclaim at the girls 'Wow! They've got so big! Hmmm, I think it's been a whole two days since he last saw them and of course then he said 'Wow! They've got so big!' too. Anyway, this time he was holding tweezers and Meg asked him if he had a splinter. No, he raved 'I'm planting carrot seeds- so much quicker this way, I save all that time thinning them out!'

I just have a problem trying to imagine how picking out individual itty- bitty carrot seeds with tweezers and planting them carefully 10 cm apart could be quicker than yanking out a few seedlings later on...

Story 2

I was given a huge bag of chestnuts. Shopping bag size. They were all too small to sell to JA and after harvesting for a week my neighbour said she was sick of the sight of them so lucky me!

Well, lucky me I thought until I started preparing them. K requested kuri-gohan chesnut rice. K very rarely requests a dish so I readily agreed. And started peeling chestnuts

... and kept peeling chestnuts

... and kept peeling chestnuts.

After an hour and a half I had:


A pitifully small pile of chestnuts, an embarrassingly large pile of wasted chestnut attached to the thin inner shell and a nice neat pile of the outside hard shells.

Phew....

Cooked the rice and K and the girls sat down to eat it while I taught. Came back and.... gone... All those chestnuts. All that time....

Story 3

Meg had a melt down today.

Ken told her she won't be wearing makeup until she's finished high school.

And she wanted to wear it now right?

Nope.

She wants to wear it once she starts high school.

Neither of them were prepared to admit this is an argument we don't need to have yet- ten years in advance...

2009年9月25日金曜日

for Amy four Amy

For Amy who gets excited at the pretty birthday cards...


For Amy who wanted to wear her shower cap to kinder...



For Amy who sat serenely through the singing of Happy Birthday


For Amy who worked out how to blow out birthday candles- yeah!


For Amy who insisted her pink (well it was meant to be pink...) Kitty-chan star cake had a mouth. Even after Meg showed her many pictures of a mouthless kitty-chan. 'Mummy, she talks so she must have a mouth.'

For Amy whose birthday was squeezed in between an afternoon English class and an evening one- after Daddy nicked out of work early and before bathtime- on a day when mummy had had two PTA meetings, another English class, a mummy and me dance practice and a funeral to drop by. For Amy whose mummy forgot to take a picture of the cake before it was cut up. For Amy who despite all that thought she was the luckiest girl in the world and beamed and smiled and sang and was just so happy to be four.

For Amy.

Four Amy.

2009年9月24日木曜日

living dangerously

Our Autumn crops are all planted.

We have two spare beds but will use them for second and third plantings of spinach.

We planted:

Red daikon
Mouse daikon (I'm sure this has a better English name but in Japanese it's nezumi daikon so there you have it, mouse daikon)
Vitamin daikon (I want a job renaming daikon. I'm sure I could do better than this...)
Mini daikon
Turnips
Red spinach
Green spinach
Komatsuna
Chingensai
Hakusai/ Wong Bok/ Napa Cabbage
Mini hakusai
Crinkly hakusai (chigure hakusai)
Purple Cabbage
Green Cabbage
Crinkly Cabbage
Kale
Red, yellow and green Swiss Chard/ Silverbeat
Baby Carrots
Carrots
Chrysanthymum Greens
Salad Chrysanthymum Greens (a less peppery variety nice raw)
Mizuna
Romaine Lettuce

Phew.... I think we should be right for greens, hey?

But there's one major omission this year: Nozawana.

Nozawana is the local pickling vegetable. In Fukushima it was hakusai. Here it's nozawana. Every year in late Autumn each household makes enough pickles to last the winter and through to the first crops of the next Spring. I make them, too. For many people it's pretty much the only greens they eat throughout the snowy months. I prefer my greens unsalted/ un soy sauced so spend early Autumn blanching and freezing as much broccoli and beans as I can. I also plant masses of spinach and hakusai and dig them out of the snow to eat. K is from Fukushima- a pickling stronghold in Japan though and loves his salty greens so I usually make 20-30 kilos a year.

Last year I grew enough nozawana to pickle, some to eat fresh (tastes a lot like silverbeat) and some for the chooks. Should have been set, right?

No.

First, friend and neighbour A brought me over 20 kilos of nozawana she had spare and a new recipe for pickling. She had too much and knew K loved pickles so thought she'd make this new style of pickles with me. We drove down to the JA store to get the special soy sauce necessary and I just about choked- 1200 yen for soy sauce????? Ouch!

Then Mrs N across the road brought over 10 kilos of nozawana because she new K is from Fukushima and surely needs as many pickles as possible.... I stirfried some and (apologetically) fed the rest to the chooks... We already had 40 kilos of it pickling, afterall...

Then one of my students brought me over 10 kilos of pre-pickled nozawana. She had tried a new recipe and used far too much chilli pepper and it didn't suit her family's tastes but she remembered that I like spicy food and well... K is from Fukushima and they like pickles, right? We're now up to 50 kilos of pickles, I'm out of pickling stones, there's yellow pickling tubs everywhere and I was planning on eating fresh greens anyway remember?

Well, it was some winter. K had pickles of at least one variety- and usually two or three varieties- at every meal. My family came for Christmas and we tried to convert them to the salted way of life with moderate success... we sent pickles to Fukushima (not a coal to Newcastle problem because remember these are nozawana leaves packed in salt- theirs are hakusai- completely different...) and to K's relatives in Saitama, Nagoya and Osaka.

It was a warm winter. Not a good winter for pickle preservation. By March it was already too warm and the pickles were fermenting. K likes the tingly sensation of eating fermented pickles so gallantly kept on going.

By the end of March the pickles were disintegrating and even K had to admit they were past it. We still had about 20 kilos left. Too salty to give to the chooks, wash them and they turn to goop, bury them and we'd probably have a salt lick.... K ended up digging a very big, very deep hole and burying them then pouring bucket after bucket of water on top.

It was such a waste of greens and salt and sugar and time and ludicrously expensive soy sauce that I decided never again.

So this year I am living dangerously and haven't planted any nozawana.

I am the grateful recipient of a lot of produce from my neighbours (it's all you can eat apples at Casa Fukase from November to March...) but I never, ever want to take that for granted and so hate the expectation of receiving element of this plan.

But really, 50 kilos of pickles is just too much. And if by some miracle of nozawana blight/ everyone else underproducing as well/ Japan running out of salt we don't get given any nozawana this year? I reckon we probably still have enough salt in our systems from last year, anyway. And those nezumi daikon are a special variety designed for pickling. And I have planted about 200 spinach plants so far... I'm sure there's a recipe for pickled spinach out there somewhere. I'll ask K. He's from Fukushima after all...

2009年9月23日水曜日

crap toys

Today we spent the day burning off stuff at the big garden.

This is something we've never done before. I hate the acrid smoke that is the scent of Autumn around here as every pile of leaves/ branches/ rice stalks/ spent plants is given a splash of kero and a match. So until now we've dried for the bbq/ pizza oven/ stove, composted, buried and mulched in black plastic bags all our rubbish.

But after no less than four people dropped in in a 'I was just passing and thought I'd drop in to ask...' kind of way to explain to us that tomato bushes are filthy, disease bearing sitting time bombs that must be burnt or they will take out the entire neighbourhoods crops for all time to come we decided that risking not burning and anyone around us (coincidentally or not) getting some kind of plant lurgy anytime in the next 5 years was not worth it so we headed out with our matches and some kindling (no kero here) for a day of fire.


Well smoke anyway. Green tomato plants don't really crackle and pop and blaze so much as smoulder and smoke and hiss. But we added the plants little by little and then pulled up all that black plastic mulch and bundled it up for the special agricultural plastic recycling day next month. Between the tomato burning, the plastic pulling up and bundling and collecting seed heads from weeds for the chooks (bonus that the weeds can't drop their gazillion seeds back on our field- thanks for that idea Kevin) we were busy the whole day.

And the girls were with us the whole day.

My neighbour over the road takes her grandsons out to the field when they're not busy elsewhere. They sit in the car and play DS for hours on end. She was raving about how wonderful these "BS" machines were. I had to bite my cheek to avoid giggling but I agree with one thing- preschoolers sitting around all day with DS is BS!!

So M and A have no DS. How did they entertain themselves for a whole day? I was watching their games and they included:
  • k-truck as sweet potato seller and recycle truck. Complete with the appropriate songs.
  • using the k-truck as a ship and throwing rocks at sharks all around you
  • throwing your pants off the back of the truck, going and getting them, climbing back onto the truck and starting it all again. I didn't really get this one but it had them in stitches...
  • throwing your pants up in the air and trying to catch them.
  • painting your nails with the juice of little black berries.
  • running laps of the field pretending to be doing Sport's Day
And then they noticed the blue tarp mountain...
(With their pants on their heads...)

And they played on it for the rest of the day. For hours. Until after it got dark. We finally packed up and convinced them to come home at 6:30pm. About an hour after they're usually grumbling about teatime.

They ran up and down it, ran up and rolled down it, ran around and around it, sat on it, slid on it, played see-saw and played house and wrestled and just generally had a ball.


It would all be much less mystifying if it wasn't for the fact that that blue tarp mountain is a 4 tonne truckload of chicken manure.

Yup. They played all that time on a pile of poop. Yes, it was completely covered with the tarp but the smell is still pretty ripe... When asked if the smell bothered her Meg replied

"It stinks but it's bouncy and warm and fun mummy!"

I'll take your word for it honey...


Came home with two tired, smelly and absolutely filthy dirty girls. Meg couldn't understand why she was having her bath before dinner tonight- she's just lucky it's too cold to hose them down outside!

2009年9月22日火曜日

two chutneys


After making three batches of red tomato chutney and two of green I have lost my chutney mojo. I hate wasting food but there is a limit to what you can do. If you don't plant all your land is it a waste of production potential? And what about if you don't use all the seeds in a packet? I save them to use the next year but the the success rate plummets so is that wasteful? Then, if you do plant all your land with all your seeds, you end up with far too much produce to eat fresh, you give some away, eat some, feed some to the chooks, preserve some but still there's more waiting. The guilt kicks in- there are people in the world starving and I'm letting tomatoes rot on the vine.... So I force back tiredness and fire up the stove and make another batch of chutney... and another.... but I'm done. I still have three baskets of green tomatoes but I am feeding them to the chooks. That's a waste of potential chutney, yes. But the tomatoes are not wasted as they will feed the chooks who give me manure for next years tomato patch and then the cycle starts again.

But to assuage my guilt I am posting a picture of tomato relish and the recipes in order to inspire someone else to make relish. I feel that if I inspire someone to make relish who wouldn't normally have done so then that goes towards evening out the balance for those un-chutneyed tomatoes I have. And if it just makes you want to eat chutney rather than make it well I know someone with about 30 jars of the stuff, too....

Green tomato pickles I very loosely used this recipe with some changes:
1) I reduced the sugar to 500 grams.
2) I don't know what pickling salt is so I used regular salt
3) I didn't have any of the spices so I used 3 Tb of curry powder instead of all of them.

Ok. I guess I didn't really use that recipe at all when you write it down like that! But I did salt the ingredients separately overnight and use the stated amount of vinegar. Last year I made a relish (thickened with flour) and I prefer this one (thickened by reduction.)

Tomato chutney (from Cookery the Australian Way- my Home Ec textbook. )
1.5kg tomatoes
250grams onions
1 clove garlic
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups sultanas
6 cloves
1/8 tsp cayenne papper (I used ichimi)
1 Tb salt
1 1/2 cups sugar

Method (paraphrased as it's a textbook so it tends to go on a bit...)
1. Peel and cut up tomatoes and onions. (Whoops. Didn't read the peel tomatoes bit so didn't do it. Probably would have been nicer but if you dice them small enough the bits of skin aren't too big as to be a problem and peeling tomatoes is such a hassle anyway...)
2. Crush garlic.
3. Put all ingredients except sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking until everything is soft and mixture thickens (about 1 1/2 hours.)
4. Add sugar, stir until boiling and cook 30 minutes (stir frequently so it doesn't burn) until mixture doesn't separate.
5. ladle mixture into scalded jars and leave to cool before storing in a cool dry place.

I did all the cooking on top of the woodstove as using the gas for 1 1/2 hours would kind of negate the whole avoiding waste nature of my endeavour. You can make it in the microwave though if you don't have a woodfire. Just use a big bowl and zap, stir, zap, stir for about 10 minutes.

The taste is well worth the effort. Especially the red tomato one. Mmmm, goes with everything... I swear this is not a pyramid scheme but if you make it I'm sure good things will come your way. At the very least compliments on your chutney!

2009年9月21日月曜日

from one extreme to the other

Today is 敬老の日 けいろうのひ Respect-for-the-aged-Day. As Head of our Neighbourhood Association it's our job to pass on the city's respects to the aged in our community. Of 16 households in this block 14 of them have residents over 65 years old (when you start to earn your officially sanctioned respect from the government.) K's reaction when he heard this was 'Wow. That's a lot.' Mine was 'Whose the other house without a senior cit. in residence?' I still can't work it out.....

So bright and early this morning K (for some reason dressed in a blazer, chinos and a necktie... in a neighbourhood of overalls, gumboots and big straw hats...) and M and A set off around the neighbourhood with 16 little goodie bags. Each bag contained a bottle of sake, two celebration manju and a cheap, white, dime a dozen dish towel. This combination really intrigues me... Do sake and manju really go together? Maybe not and that's why you need the towel??

They went around to each house with the girls wishing everyone a happy Respect-for-the-Aged Day and continued good health and charming the socks off them to the tune of a sizeable haul of sembei, cookies and yakult. K is convinced the girls trail around with him on his Neighbourhood Association work out of the sheer joy of spending time with their dad, their interest in his longwinded lectures on the importance of community involvement, and the goodness of their hearts at helping out. I'm more cynical and think it has to do with the loot they inevitably come home with...

After a morning of respecting the aged we spent the afternoon with Sara, Ryohei and Sakura. I love Sara's blog and once she moved next door (prefecturally speaking) I knew we had to meet. It was so much fun having them here, Ryohei is my vote for house guest of the year- he kept M and A entertained the entire time he was here and even put up with endless cuddles and tickles and requests to be turned upside down. Phew.... the girls both lovvvvve 'Ryo-chan' even if K is not sure about them calling an adult male Ryo-chan...

And in between talking non-stop with Sara and trying to save Ryohei from being smothered in preschooler love I was in heaven cuddling sweet little Sakura. She is just the cutest little warm, cuddly, soft and sweet smelling baby you've ever met... sigh.....

So a day that started with old people and manju ended with a seven week old baby and yummy souvenir cakes from Ryohei's hometown.

From one extreme to another but definitely a day that got better as it went on, hey?


2009年9月20日日曜日

this is not a paid advertisement

... and I am quite happily married.

I have heard that sometimes companies offer bloggers products to review. Unfortunately, (hint, hint chocolate companies of the world...) this has never happened to me so you know I am being honest about my day today.

And also- before I gush on and on about another man- all is well in the Fukase household. We went out today as a family. And K was just as gushy as me (well in a much less gushy K style but still gushy by K standards)

So, anyway, the gush:

This morning bright and early K, the girls, friend and neighbour A and I headed up to the top of Nagano. The very top. One more step and we'd be in Niigata kind of top... It was quite a trek (I always underestimate distances in Nagano- on the weather map on TV it looks so compact...) but it was so, so worth it. Scenery like this:

and a slow, deep, wide river with sandy bends and the clearest water. A real old man river type river. We didn't make it down there today but talking on the way home we realised that both neighbour A and I want to go back and go swimming there. It's just that kind of river. And clean, fresh air (this coming from someone who lives in the country to start with!) and the kind of peaceful hush you only get in hamlets off the beaten track. The kind of place where Meg and Amy could play on the road all day and not have to move out of the way of a car- or even a tractor or spraying machine!

But we didn't drive up the highway so the girls could play on a deserted road, they can do that much closer to home... Kevin from bastish.net invited us up to experience harvesting rice. Neighbour A and I have had several conversations about taking on a rice paddy for next year but so far we've always allowed ourselves to be talked out of it- too difficult, too fiddly, not suited to part-time farming, not suited to our near-enough-is-good- enough farming style etc etc.

But Kevin had no qualms inviting our motley crew of rice-farmer wannabes and wild children up for the day and letting us loose on one of his seven rice paddies. He and his wife run a company that organises tours. Not sit on the bus for 8 hours listening to karaoke and lining up to take the photo at each stop tours but walking tours, hiking tours, cycling tours, experience country life tours and get to know the locals tours throughout a really beautiful part of Japan.

We had a fabulous day harvesting rice by hand and talking non-stop. Kevin kept us all entertained switching between English for the girls and I and Japanese for K and neighbour A. He knows an amazing amount about his area and earth-friendly farming and is really a part of his neighbourhood. He has been accepted by the locals to the extent that he borrowed a toilet for us when Amy served up a bathroom emergency like only a 3 year old can and then borrowed a dog for the girls when he found out Meg likes them. Wow. Feeling a little miffed actually. Not sure I have a dog borrowing kind of relationship with my neighbours....

After a hard day in the rice field:

(Neighbour A would like you to believe she did that all by herself. In the interests of truthful blogging I have to say that it was already started when we arrived and that is the sum of all of us working about 4 1/2 hours. I did say we were beginner rice farmers...)

We headed to the local onsen. Really local. A prehab building in the middle of the rice paddies with an honesty box for your 200 yen. But go inside and the baths are big, beautiful and fabulously warm and onsenny on tired muscles. There were three women in the women's bath when Amy, neighbour A and I went in. Woman 1:(to Amy) Did you have fun playing in the water today? You and your big sister sure can run fast. Woman 2: (to me): You were working at Kevin's field today, yeah? I live just in front of him. He's a great guy. How's his wife? Woman 3: (to Amelia) you're up from Matsumoto to visit Kevin? He's a great guy. Tries everything and always happy when I take him some cucumbers or something. Wow, Kevin has quite a fan club in the onsen-loving silver set!


The girls were exhausted from a day of naked water and mud play. They had such a good time playing they kept themselves amused- without parental intervention or interference- for the entire 4 1/2 hours we were working. For a 6 year old and a 3 year old that's bordering on a miracle. They fell asleep almost immediately in the car leaving K and neighbour A and I planning our next trip up to Kevin's. A wants to swim in the river, K wants to do more rice farming and I want to go cycle touring, or hiking, or snow shoeing... or all three... lucky he organises custom tours, too hey?

So for a holiday with a difference and a look at a part of Japan those of us who don't live in population 2000 odd mountain villages don't usually get to see, call Kevin.

And I'm just down the highway for a coffee and a gush session on your way home.

















































































































2009年9月19日土曜日

It's just a picture....

Today was Sport's Day at the local elementary school.
The local elementary school that Meg will go to from next April.
The 6 year old nencho class at each kinder was invited along as an orientation activity.
I've driven passed it hundreds of times.
It's where we hold the Village Sport's Day so I've been there a few times, too.
But I'd never been there when all the students were there.
All the students... some 800 of them...
The place is huge.....

Got home and looked at the pictures and found this one:


All the things I'm nervous about in one picture:
The line of white ants in front of the big white building are students. There's lots of them. That building is the gym. It's huge. All that expanse of earth between me and the gym is the school oval. It's huge. And there's three other play areas.... and two pools.... aghhhhhh! Meg is going to get lost and no-one will find her- she'll probably be in with the goats or the rabbits....

The red hats are the kids from Meg's kinder. (phew. I know those kids...)
The yellow hats are the other kinder in the village (gulp- there's so many of them....)
The motley line of hats on the right are the kids who go to an out of village kinder. (gulp. City kids...)
The woman in black is Meg's teacher, Yuki-sensei. (She's not going with them- ahhhhhhh!!! I don't know if I can say goodbye to Yuki-sensei... Might have to keep turning up at 4pm just for the chats....)
The woman in the blue shirt is one of the elementary school teachers. (gulp-there' so many of them, and I don't know her, and she's leading my Meggie away....)

And then there were all the stares from people who I haven't met yet. I find it hard to believe there's anyone here who doesn't know of me in a 'did you hear there's some loud, crazy, wild-gardening, foreign woman living up in Nagasaki's old house?' kind of way so I guess they were just putting a face to the name but still, I live 95% of my life without the stares and I always forget the feeling until it happens again. Oh well, it won't be long until they get bored of me I guess...

I've spent the last couple of months talking to M about school and hyping it up and focussing on all the fun and it's working. She's really looking forward to it.

But I forgot about me.

And then I saw this picture and there's M walking away from me, indistinguishable from all the hordes of other 6 year olds, leaving her beloved Yuki-sensei and I behind as she walks into the vast unknown... alone...

Gulp.

It's just a picture.

It's not real.

It's just a picture...

2009年9月18日金曜日

the end

We pulled up 249 tomato bushes today. That's it. The end. No more tomatoes this year. It's quite a job though. For small little bushes (they only grow about 50cm high and about a metre diameter) they certainly have strong root systems. We were really heaving and straining to get them out. So much so that I coined a new simile: as tenacious as a tomato. Feel free to use it.

Got home and- put my feet up and reminisced about tomatoes?

Nope.


When I said no more tomatoes I meant no more tomatoes on the vine. These are the tomatoes we picked off the vines we ripped out. So I'm only some tomato chutney, some green tomato pickles and some frozen tomatoes away from the end.

The end.

Phewwwww!

Until next year, anyway...

2009年9月17日木曜日

lying and squash

Meg is going through a very trying honest phase at the moment.

What's so difficult about that?

Well you know the saying 'everything in moderation?' Absolute and uncompromising honesty is very hard to live with. It just doesn't mesh with real life very well.

"Mummy! Watch me skip!"
"OK. I'm coming."
"Wahhhhhhhhh!!!!" Amy finds out first hand that summersaulting down the slide sounds like more fun than it is.
"MUMMY!!!! YOU SAID YOU'D WATCH!!!! YOU LIED!!!!! WAAHHHH!!!"
"Meg, I do want to watch but I'm just wiping Amy off so she can go try jumping off the swings or whatever fun mummy-stress-factor-10 activity she's going to try next..."
"BUT YOU SAID!!! YOU LIED!!!!"

And that's how it goes from morning to night. We've talked about how you can intend to be honest but unavoidably end up not being able to do it due to circumstances.

No dice.

But it's certainly expanding Meg's English vocabulary as "I'm just going over the road to give Mrs. N this mail that was mis-delivered, do you want to come or stay here?" becomes "Meg, I'm just going over the road to give Mrs. N this mail that was mis-delivered. If she doesn't see me I will be a minute. If I get caught I will have to exchange pleasantries, may have to try and refuse some produce and will definitely be longer than a minute. Would you like to come with me (on the understanding that we will not be accepting any invitations to come inside) or stay here?"

Phew.....

So I guess I should have foreseen today's problem.

But I didn't.

This Spring when I asked the girls what they wanted to grow in their garden Meg chose Spaghetti Squash. It had a great Summer colonising the rhubarb and raspberries and belatedly remembered to produce one lone squash. Never mind, one is all we need to try it out, right?

Today was the day and we picked it, brought it in, cooked it, cut it open, de-seeded it and

"WAAHHHHHH!!! YOU LIED!!!!!"

What??

"You said it was Spaghetti squash. And you told Mrs M it had somen noodles inside (the Japanese name is Somen Kabocha) and it's just normal pumpkin!!!! YOU LIED!!!"

After a very long talk and an even longer cuddle I was forgiven and we ate our not-real-spaghetti spaghetti squash and enjoyed it.


Phew.

But I'm exhausted.

And I will not be serving oyako-don, grapefruits, silverbeat, Egyptian eyes or hotdogs until we're through this phase.

2009年9月16日水曜日

three little words

We live in an old neighbourhood.

The neighbourhood is old and the people in it are old.

We're the only family on the street without grandparents in residence. Some have grandparents and even great grandparents for good measure.

A lot of the idle chatter around here (the non apple farming/ weather/ pest related chatter anyway) is health related. Who's in hospital, who's out (for now) who's going down hill, who's got a new illness etc etc.

I've watched The Lion King, I've had pets, I keep animals- I know about the cycle of life and I accept that death is going to happen to all of us, but a few too many sad stories in one summer-is-over crisp Autumn morning and I tend to get a bit melancholy.

Today it was an old couple whose children have left the area. They are tomato and grape farmers. They live in the neighbourhood's haunted house- you know the house the local kids are all equal parts enthralled by and terrified of, the one with the caving in roof and dark, gloomy outlook being as it is almost completely hidden by trees. Anyway, until four years ago they were looking after great grandmother, by all accounts a venomous woman with nothing nice to say about anyone who was bedridden and needed round the clock care. She passed away and they have been doing their own thing until last month when the old man fell over in the tomato field. Tomato farming involves very long days crouched down in the full sun of the hottest part of Summer, every year a couple of people fall over from heat stroke. Everyone thought this year it was the old man.

Rushed him to hospital and it was a heart attack. Did the surgery and he was on the mend, everyone breathing a sigh of relief and being upbeat looking forward to having him back in the neighbourhood again.

Then I heard that he had had an aneurism while in the hospital and is now in a coma. They expect him to come out of the coma but he will be bedridden and require round the clock care. No-one is holding their breath for the kids to come home so the old woman- who doesn't drive- will be looking after her husband, their farm and the house by herself. She is wandering around in a daze at the moment.

I got all teary as she told me about it and realised (as K is always saying) that our health really is our most treasured possession. Feeling all sentimental I SMSed K:

I love you

Three little words. And 2 minutes later my phone rang.

It was K.

Ohhhhh, thought I. He was touched and wanted to hear my voice. smiling I answered the phone:

"Hi."

"What's wrong?"

"Ehh???"

"You mailed me. What's wrong?"

Nope. Didn't just want to hear my voice. Seems in Japanese dramas, before you jump under a shinkansen or off a bridge you text someone to say 'sorry' or 'I love you'. So my sweet little 'hey, honey, just thinking about you' email was interpreted as something way less happy.

After we figured out the miscommunication did K thank me and return the sentiment?

"OK. Well, see you tonight. Be careful."

Nope.

But, remember in 'The Princess Bride' Wesley was always saying 'As you wish' when he meant 'I love you'? Well I am going to start hearing 'be careful' as 'I love you.' I think the underlying message is there and it will stop my hackles rising about constantly being told to be careful to boot!

makin' bacon

'Did anyone else ever play that game pass the pigs?


Yesterday I wasn't playing games that involve throwing two little plastic pigs but really making bacon. And oh wow....Sooo good!


We use a lot of apple wood in the fire which K cuts with a chainsaw which means lots of chunky sawdust. I've been playing around with this in the pizza oven smoking things. Started off really easy with wieners- precooked sausages, can't go wrong and kill everyone that way, right?


I've moved on to chicken breasts and while it's fun and tastes good I haven't really been wowed by it.


I was talking to one of my students about it and found out she makes her own bacon.


Bacon, hmmm?? Real bacon? With flavour? That I could slice more than wafer thin? Yup, sign me up!


I had never thought about making bacon and I'm sure that even if I had I wouldn't have imagined it would have been in a gorgeous apartment on the 7th floor of Matsumoto's ritziest building- complete with fulltime front desk guy and three different security codes to get into your rooms- No unwanted salespeople for S!


Anyway, the bacon. It's so deceptively easy and tastes so amazing I have to share. It's practically a community service- saving you all from that pink, watery, pretend bacon...


Take 500 grams of pork belly (or a lot more and just multiply the recipe accordingly) oh and if you're like me nad had no idea what pork belly is it's bara-niku. Should have worked that out from the kanji but the only thing I associate with pork bellies is the American stock exchange....


Anyway, take your meat and put it in a ziplock bag. (I'm sure there are more environmentally friendly ways of doing this but I'm just passing on the recipe as it was told to me)


Add 1 heaped tablespoon of salt, same of sugar, a bay leaf, a few pepper corns, any left over onion slices or carrot or celery you have around and push all the air out and seal the bag.

Leave in the fridge for three days. (That's the hard part....)


While waiting get a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover the bottom of it with tinfoil all the way up the sides and over the lip of the pan. Then cover the inside of the lid with foil and go over the lip of the lid too. Put about a cup of smoking chips in the bottom of the pan (home centre's sell them if you live in swanky apartments without woodpiles and chainsaws...) and put a cake rack over the whole thing.

(That step's a bit fiddly but hey- you have three days to get it right...)


On day three remove the meat from the fridge, remove any herbs/ veggies stuck to your meat and place on cake rack in tinfoiled pot. Cover with tinfoiled lid and push down. The double layer of tinfoil should make an airtight seal.


On medium heat smoke for 35- 40 minutes. If you can refrain from opening the lid and 'just checking' there won't be any smoke- not even a wisp and you will be perfectly able to make your own amazing bacon even in a swanky apartment!


The finished product is unlike store bacon in that it's pretty much cooked (it also has flavour and is not watery but...) At first I was disappointed as it didn't look like how I thought bacon should look but one bite and I'm a convert! And it being cooked? Well there's so much fat on a pork belly you can still grill up your bacon anyway. And it's versatile- make's a great char sieu like topping for ramen to boot.

2009年9月15日火曜日

makin' bacon

'Did anyone else ever play that game pass the pigs?

Yesterday I wasn't playing games that involve throwing two little plastic pigs but really making bacon. And oh wow....Sooo good!

We use a lot of apple wood in the fire which K cuts with a chainsaw which means lots of chunky sawdust. I've been playing around with this in the pizza oven smoking things. Started off really easy with wieners- precooked sausages, can't go wrong and kill everyone that way, right?

I've moved on to chicken breasts and while it's fun and tastes good I haven't really been wowed by it.

I was talking to one of my students about it and found out she makes her own bacon.

Bacon, hmmm?? Real bacon? With flavour? That I could slice more than wafer thin? Yup, sign me up!

I had never thought about making bacon and I'm sure that even if I had I wouldn't have imagined it would have been in a gorgeous apartment on the 7th floor of Matsumoto's ritziest building- complete with fulltime front desk guy and three different security codes to get into your rooms- No unwanted salespeople for S!

Anyway, the bacon. It's so deceptively easy and tastes so amazing I have to share. It's practically a community service- saving you all from that pink, watery, pretend bacon...

Take 500 grams of pork belly (or a lot more and just multiply the recipe accordingly) oh and if you're like me nad had no idea what pork belly is it's bara-niku. Should have worked that out from the kanji but the only thing I associate with pork bellies is the American stock exchange....

Anyway, take your meat and put it in a ziplock bag. (I'm sure there are more environmentally friendly ways of doing this but I'm just passing on the recipe as it was told to me)

Add 1 heaped tablespoon of salt, same of sugar, a bay leaf, a few pepper corns, any left over onion slices or carrot or celery you have around and push all the air out and seal the bag.
Leave in the fridge for three days. (That's the hard part....)

While waiting get a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover the bottom of it with tinfoil all the way up the sides and over the lip of the pan. Then cover the inside of the lid with foil and go over the lip of the lid too. Put about a cup of smoking chips in the bottom of the pan (home centre's sell them if you live in swanky apartments without woodpiles and chainsaws...) and put a cake rack over the whole thing.
(That step's a bit fiddly but hey- you have three days to get it right...)

On day three remove the meat from the fridge, remove any herbs/ veggies stuck to your meat and place on cake rack in tinfoiled pot. Cover with tinfoiled lid and push down. The double layer of tinfoil should make an airtight seal.

On medium heat smoke for 35- 40 minutes. If you can refrain from opening the lid and 'just checking' there won't be any smoke- not even a wisp and you will be perfectly able to make your own amazing bacon even in a swanky apartment!

The finished product is unlike store bacon in that it's pretty much cooked (it also has flavour and is not watery but...) At first I was disappointed as it didn't look like how I thought bacon should look but one bite and I'm a convert! And it being cooked? Well there's so much fat on a pork belly you can still grill up your bacon anyway. And it's versatile- make's a great char sieu like topping for ramen to boot.


i may never get a job as photographer for the meat industry but that's ok, I'll be too busy eating bacon anyway!

2009年9月14日月曜日

Uhhhh, that makes sense, yeah...

Been a bit of excitement up the road in Nakajo Village. Someone got sick of the Village Council and decided to take matters into their own hands. Nakajo is a Village of 2,300 odd farmers. So, disgruntled person started spreading a bit of a rather nasty herbicide around. Hmmm, hey, that rice paddy has a bald patch..... and that one.... and that one..... Most of the damage was centred around the head of the Village Council's house. And just in case that was too subtle the Village Office started getting anonymous phone calls calling for the resignation of the head of the Village Council. Yup, when you think democracy has failed you try agro-terrorism.

JA went in and did some tests and decided the poison was so nasty they closed down the village's farms. All of them. Noone in the entire village was allowed to sell any agricultural produce whatsoever. JA tested every farm in the village. Last night's news had a camera following JA around as they did that. Called out to a farmer who'd just been tested 'They didn't find any poison here.' Eggplant farmer with a I'm-too-busy-for-this-crap thing going on replied 'Course they bloody didn't.' For some reason that was the end of the interview...

Now with everything ground to a halt in peak harvest time there's a lot of pressure on the head of the Village Council. He went from 'I will not give in to terrorists' to 'I am not in the wrong, the perpetrator is in the wrong but I have to do whatever I can to help the Village so I will step down.' All very exciting times for a little village...

So, the head of the village council resigns and Village office gets another phonecall (there were about 10 in all) ever modest terrorist asks the guy who answers the phone "Have you heard about the poisonings?" Ahhhh, so self depreciating... Anyway he promises that with the retirement of the head of the Village Council there will be no more poisonings. The farmers are one final JA check away from being back in business.

All this had me shaking my head in disbelief but it was the very last interview that really made me wonder. They were talking to an eggplant farmer (a different, less surly one) and asked him if he was looking forward to being able to sell his produce again. (Does that win stupid question of the year or what?)

"We've been harvesting all along and have refrigerated as much as possible so as soon as we get the OK we'll be back in business."

What the....? So what was the point of shutting down the farms?


2009年9月13日日曜日

today in pictures- featuring sickle feathers

Yup. I'm still milking my new word. And for your viewing pleasure I present....

a chook's bum:


Actually 1 1/2 bums, a back and a well camouflaged ko-shamo for good measure.

Those pointy out feathers at the bottom left of screen- those are sickle feathers. Girly-chooks don't have'em. I'm thinking this chook does...

Today we spent the whole day in the garden. After heavy rain yesterday washed out our chances of trying our hand at rice harvesting today we decided to get stuck into changing over the garden from Summer to Autumn. I always leave this too late trying to wring the last drops of sunshine out of Summer. It turns out my co-farmer A is the perfect antidote to this problem as she works on the calendar system- "Hey, it's September, it's Autumn. Let's pull everything up and replant!" We found a happy medium though and today we:


Weeded around all the garden borders, planted (in the ubiquitous black plastic mulch and hey- this one's pre punched!) daikon, carrots, turnips, komatsuma and raddishes, in the (unmulched- yeah!!) bed next door we have one row each of spinach, salad chrysanthymum greens, regular chrysanthymum greens and salad mizuna. In front of the coriander plant being kept for the seeds is red onions, golden onions and white onions being raised before replanting in the big garden.

Back left under the cute mozzie net is green cabbage, purple cabbage and crinkly cabbage.


And because we really didn't have enough to do we dug another row- reclaimed some more land from the myoga and butterbur. We have mini napa cabbage at the back and- after going to all the effort and time of making that huge, straight, fertilised, mulched, and tamped row- we couldn't think of anything to plant there- aghhhh!!!!!


The Autumn cucumbers- grown horizontally over straw. Goya in the foreground- still picking them by the bucket load- middle ground are regular sized napa cabbage, and in front of the black beans Meg meticulously planted three vitamin daikon seeds in each of the prepunched holes in the mulch. At the back is pumpkin mountain.

So, that was what A and I were doing all day. K spent the morning running the plough over the wheat and rye fields readying it for next years crops. In the afternoon he was adjusting something on his woodpile (we have his and hers woodpiles as we can't agree on a way of stackng wood...) and BANG- it all came crashing down.


Poor K.... *sigh* if only he would just admit that he needs to follow my far superior wood stacking system...

And the girls?


Meg somehow convinced Amy to push her, on Amy's bike, up hill


and keep on pushing...


And then let go so Meg could ride down the other side of the neighbour's equipment shed.

And Amy did this not one or twice, not taking turns pushing with Meg, but constantly and without a break for about half an hour. When, sweaty and puffing, she stopped she was bawled out by her sister for being a piker and worse- lying- because 'you said you would push!' and ran away to the safety of:


Sitting inside the back door, screen closed, with an extra 'baby' to look after and keeping up a running commentary with K. Along the lines of "When I finish kinder and I'm at school and I'm married, then can I drink coffee and climb the stairs on the opposite side (outside) of the banister?"

And that was our day. Finished with a 10 veg ratatoullie, rice and four types of Japanese pickles my neighbour dropped in. Because that just goes together so well, yeah?

2009年9月12日土曜日

just can't win...

Last Christmas I wrote about our ongoing chook saga.

Then in June we got four new pullets.

They were young, healthy, came from a good home, we extended their cage to give them more room to run and try to deal with their weight issues- they're broilers so they have been through generations of special breeding to make them get very big very quickly. But with limited access to grain feed they are encouraged to forage and we should avoid the heart attacks, knee problems and circulatory issues that can plague broilers that are allowed to live longer than the factory 12 weeks.

Then we were given the two ugly Thai fighting cockerels. I am rather proud to say they are happily and peacefully enjoying life. Still bloody ugly and raucous but quite placid. The girls still think they're a hoot and I've grown quite fond of them. They probably do something nasty to make them fight and this niceness is their natural temperament but I prefer to think it is my amazing animal husbandry skills and am taking full credit.

(Knock on wood) we also seem to have solved our predator problem. I've seen various droppings around the pen so I know the animals are still there but.... they're not getting in anymore. Yeah!

So, we've got everything covered, right? We should be up to our ears in eggs, yeah?

Nope.

Friend and neighbour A and I were out there watching the chooks today. That sounds like the most boring thing you can imagine I'm sure but they really are quite interesting in a kind of hypnotic way. You go out to feed them and realise you've been out there staring at them for 10 minutes before you know it. Well, OK. I do anyway. And I have to confess I actually liked watching the live aquarium-cam when Channel 31 shut down for the night... Anyway, A and I were out there discussing the lack of eggs when she suddenly said:

"They're growing sickle feathers*. They're all roosters."

.....

As soon as she mentioned it it was obvious. But I hadn't even considered it as Mr egg farmer told me they were pullets so I just assumed they were. Somehow over looked those rather sticky-uppy tail feathers...

Aghhhhhhh!!! So not only are my chooks not laying, they're not going to lay. I'm back to square one- buying feed, buying eggs and can't really add too many more chooks unless we extend the cage (again) or go completely free range which one neighbour has already vetoed.

I swear this whole chook business is turning out way more complicated than it should be. Certainly not for the chicken hearted....

*OK, she didn't say sickle feather and I wouldn't have understood her even if she did but after spending two hours tonight staring at chook butts on the internet I had to show off my new word somehow.

Sickle feather, sickle feather, sickle feather.