2010年5月31日月曜日

sick kid...

Amy is off kinder sick this week.

The whole week.

She has a nasty virus that came with a high fever and made her eyes go bright red and goopy (obviously that's the medical term...).

She can't go back to kinder until her eyes clear up.

The medicine seems to be working though....




Four more days of taking care of this invalid?

I think I'm going to need a weekend of bedrest....

2010年5月30日日曜日

making a fuss over a visitor

I was out in the front garden watching Meg ride around the lawn in hair-raising circles- it's a bumpy lawn, with wooden stepping stones up the middle, the odd tree, concrete porch, gate and pot-plant to add to the excitement factor- when the sparrows started going berserk. They have colonised the eaves all around the house and we're all kind of used to them doing their thing and being noisy at all hours of the day but this seemed a little noisy even for the sparrows.

Went around to have a look and found them all sitting in the bamboo at the corner of the house creating a cacophony. Looked at the roof and realised what was going on:


It's a shima-hebi or Japanese striped snake. Not poisonous so not that much of a worry.

I was rather disturbed to see it on the roof, though. We still don't have flyscreens on all the windows here and we don't leave the downstairs windows open too much for fear of uninvited cats coming in for a look see but I had assumed the upstairs was pretty safe and routinely leave all the bedroom windows open.

I have no problem with snakes- they eat mice, do their thing and don't bother me if I don't bother them- but I do not want to find one curled up on my pillow or among Amy's menagerie of soft toys!

2010年5月29日土曜日

the giving thing (again)

Friday I made carrot cupcakes. I'm trialing recipes for my cooking class. Have I mentioned what a tough job that is? Eating cupcake after cupcake, no end in sight... sigh..... Anyway, deciding that it really would be best to try and avoid eating all the cupcakes I bundled some up and took them to neighbour A and neighbour Y. Feeling good about having slightly lessened my karma debt in the great game of giving and being given I came home to have a coffee... and maybe just one more cupcake...

Went to my senior women's class... and came home with a big container of pickled soybeans (actually really yummy) and a bag of soy caramelised butterbur (not really my thing but the rest of the family loves it).

Got home and neighbour K dropped in 6 massive bunches of asparagus. They were all wiggly or curved or in some way not-perfect and she can't sell them. Yum. We love asparagus but 6 big bunches is a big ask so I took half over the road to neighbour Y.

Went to my afternoon class, picked up the girls and came home to find neighbour A on my doorstep. Her daughter works after school in the meat section of a fancy department store. She brings home the meat they didn't sell. It has to be used that day. neighbour A handed me a bag of three kinds of chicken. All at 3-4 times the price of the chicken I buy. Wow. And I have to cook it all tonight....

Getting ready to sit down to dinner (chicken of course) and the doorbell rings. It's Brazilian friend T. Haven't seen him for ages. He owns the broiler factory we got our last lot of chickens from. He's a friend of neighbour A and a really nice guy. He's carrying a huge crate of eggs. He hands me a layer- 40 eggs. Yup, 40. And there's no chance of offloading some on the neighbours as he's giving 40 eggs to them, too... Some mistake with his egg supplier and he has way too many eggs to turn into chickens. Give him some carrot cupcakes and cornbread (yesterday's but he lives alone so I'm sure even day old cornbread will be a treat). Call my boss whose teaching in the village tonight hoping to catch her before she heads back to the city. Does she want some eggs? Yes? Great! Carefully cut the cardboard carrier in two and send her home with 20 eggs for her and the other teachers.

This morning I woke up and was getting ready for the primary school yard cleaning event when the doorbell rang. At 6:40. That's why we don't do the electronic chime thing! It was neighbour K with not one but two dishes of butterbur. She made lots thinking her son was coming home for the weekend and he's not. Could we eat it? Hmmm does it go with eggs?

Working in the garden in the afternoon and the rock man hooned up on his scooter. The rock man lives next to the big field neighbour A and I farm. He was a Japanese style gardener/ buyer and seller of decorative rocks before he retired. He has an amazing garden. He also has an amazing ability to sound condescending when discussing gardening with mere mortals like me. On the step through of his scooter he has a bucket of seedlings.

"Oi! You can plant these out the front. They're pretty. They're easy to grow."

"Thank you."

Come inside for dinner and sit down to omelettes, asparagus, butter bur three ways and cold chicken salad. I am way back in the minuses on my giving karma balance but what a spread!

2010年5月28日金曜日

you win, you lose.

I have had a chockerblock week- worked full days Monday and Tuesday, morning, lunch and afternoon Wednesday, monthly cooking class Thursday morning followed by Thursday afternoon class and evening tutoring, Friday morning class and two afternoon classes. And somewhere in there I managed to do all the normal household stuff, buy and plant seeds, go back to plant centre for stuff on order and all the other running around as well.

So I was really looking forward to the weekend.

Until I realised it's our first primary school PTA cleanup tomorrow morning.

Great.

And of course it's bright and early tomorrow morning, too.

7:00am.

Meet at the school at 7:00am.

It's not like Meg and Amy ever let me sleep past 6:30 anyway but there's still a difference between being awake at 7:00 loafing around in your pjs making pancakes and scrambled eggs while the coffee does its thing and being fed, dressed, geared up and down in the town by 7:00....

I was giving this woe is me spiel to K while he ate his dinner.

Not even a speck of a wrinkle on his brow or the slightest hint of an 'o' for 'Ooohhh no. Poor you...'

Nope.

Nothing.

He pointed out that he will be at the neighbourhood roadside cleanup Sunday morning.

And that starts at 5:30am.

Yup 5:30am.

He wins, he loses.

2010年5月27日木曜日

(another) cold summer

The long term weather forecast came out- cold summer.

fabulous.....

I'm a summer person. I live in a winter sports paradise but I'm a summer person. I make it through the snowy frozen frigid months thinking only x more months until watermelon, paddling pools, bbqs, peaches, salads three meals a day etc etc.

Last year was a cold summer. Record low number of sunlight hours. Low temperatures. My red and yellow capsicums never ripened- not warm enough.

That's ok I thought. there's always next summer- it will be bound to be twice as good.

Nope.

It's the end of May and it's a balmy (barmy more like) 8 degrees tonight. We have the fire on (and not just because I want my carpark back.)

What happened to global warming?

Seriously.

2010年5月26日水曜日

poisonous sounds

Meg has got reading homework.

It's called 音読 on-doku.

Reading aloud homework.

Meg is doing it reading ALOUD style.

ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A BEAR WHO FOUND A BAG...

I literally flinched the first time she started reading.

I stressed that reading aloud should be a pleasurable experience for the audience.

She knows about this. I read to them every single evening.

But no.... that is reading....

Apparently on-doku is READING.

Her reading chart even has a box for me to tick that she read in a loud voice...

And we read the same story 3-5 times every night.

THE SAME STORY....

I'm losing the battle...

So I have renamed on-doku.

I'm thinking of it as doku-on.

毒音

Poisonous sounds....

2010年5月25日火曜日

gephyrophobic

My friend S is desperately afraid of frogs. She can't even say the word let alone look at a picture or watch them on tv.

Me?

Gephyrophobia. Fear of bridges.

Pretty weird for someone who grew up on an island, hey?

But yep. Bridges. I'm not as bad as S. I can talk about bridges, look at them, even admire the engineering on the odd spectacular bridge. I just don't want to go over one. If I have to go over it I want to do so at full tilt- just get it over with. Just like the joke 'it's not the flying I'm afraid of but the crashing' it's not the bridge itself that worries me it's the bridge suddenly not doing it's job that has me all in a lather.

This fear was a mere unsettling niggle when I lived in Australia. I just used to hold my breath when we went over the bridge- twice a day once I started high school- and I was right. Not a long bridge so not so bad unless there was a traffic jam....

Moving here though my fear of bridges has really gained fuel from my environment.

Earthquakes.

Typhoons.

Flooding.

Landslides.

There are just so many more ways for bridges to come undone here.

And it's not a completely irrational fear. Four years ago there was that poor family rearended by a drunk driver while on a bridge who went over and lost their three young children. You can bet your bottom dollar I keep a close eye on the car behind me when we go over bridges.

And twelve years ago the village K lived in in Fukushima was completely stranded when landslides took out both bridges linking them to anything other than mountains.

Most of the time the rivers around here are quite shallow. Fast moving, uninvitingly icy cold (fed by snow melt all year round) but shallow. I have a quick glance as I drive over the bridge to reassure myself I'd be able to wade/ swim it and get on with the driving.

But at the moment it's a different story. The rivers are gushing with snow melt. And then it started raining Sunday and hasn't really stopped. The rivers are all right up. Whole trees are being washed along. The water is brown and murky and full of submerged dangers. For the gephyrophobic they really put the icing on the cake with great honking sirens blaring with ever increasing frequency to tell you that the dams upstream (providing hydro-electricity to Tokyoites) are full and letting water out. Water that will surge down the rivers and rumble under the bridges. Great.

Just when I thought I had thought of every dire consequence of driving across bridges my friend Y gave me something new to worry about. Jumpy-about-frogs S, myself and my neighbour and friend Y were out on the town for the night. (As an aside- I think it's shocking that we used to go out drinking until the wee hours and this last time we ended up staying out until 3am drinking... herbal tea.... in a chain restaurant. How un-wild can you get??? My parents have better nights out than that!) Anyway, S lives in the city and Y and I live here (obviously) and work in the city. We both have to cross two bridges each way each day. That's four bridge crossings each a day.

Wonderfully morbid bridge conversation (without the depressant effect of alcohol as an excuse even) was going on when Y pointed out that she and I absolutely cannot get home without crossing two bridges. No matter which angle we approach the village from there's two bridges to cross. And the bridges are all on the same river. So if a dam bursts, a landslide occurs, an earthquake shakes things up, there's serious flooding etc etc and that river takes out it's bridges we will be stuck in the city. Our families will be on one side of a raging river and we'll be on the other. Shudder...

S finds my fear of bridges amusing. That's good. When I knock on her door to put me up until they fix the bridge I will make sure to teach her four year old son a new song:

We all know frogs go la-di-da-di-da
We all know frogs go la-di-da-di-da
We all know frogs go la-di-da-di-da
And their eyes go gloop gloop gloop...

2010年5月24日月曜日

thud, whaaa, what??

Kids asleep, hot apple juice with cinnamon in hand, good book waiting for me and...

thud.

.....

WAHHHHH!!!!

stomp, stomp, stomp I run up the stairs imagining all sorts of terrible scenarios that could meet me.

WHAHHHH!!!!

What happened?

Whahhhhh!!!! Amy sat on me and woke me up!!!

What??? Why???

Because I wanted to sleep in her bed. It's fluffier (It's not. They have exactly the same bedding. Literally identical.)

Wahhhhhhh!!!

You can't just jump in someone's bed, honey...

I didn't. I asked her. She didn't say no!

......

Because she was asleep!

2010年5月23日日曜日

tail tales

At yesterday's kinder sport's day Amy's class did tail snatching. They had been practising by chasing each other around with plaited rope tails in the back of their pants taking turns being grabbers and grabbees.

Each day Amy came home telling us that Sota/ Takuya/ Haruka took her tail today and when it was her turn to chase she tried but she didn't get anyone's tail before the whistle blew. She didn't seem upset by this- it was just news.

Saturday it was parents with the tails on and kids chasing. As K is way more likely to take a picture of his thumb/ the wrong kid/ the lens cap than I am he was designated chasee as I captured the moment.

The teacher kept reiterating that the parents were to run fast and not give in easily.

Wasting her breath on K I'm afraid. Anything to make his kids happy.

The pursuit

The attack

The whistle's gone

Look at that face.

I think it was worth faking it, huh?

rainy reasoning

Absolutely revolting weather today.

Really pouring rain all day. Oh yeah.

I was on a real high yesterday with all that gardening and itching to get back out there this morning but no such luck. Boo shucks.

Cabin fever set in big time and when the girls wanted to go for a walk anyway I jumped at the chance. We were just finished gearing up and friend and neighbour A dropped by to talk seeds so I waved the other three off:



and came back inside for coffee and cake- gotta love friends bearing cakes! We planted up our fragile friends- the specialty cucumbers that need a germinating soil temperature of 25-30 degrees. They have their own little plastic bag hot house in the glassed in verandah so fingers crossed.

The others arrived home and were saturated. Really drippingly soaked. And laughing fit to bust. When I questioned the seeming gross malfunction of their rain gear I was informed they didn't get wet from the rain but from jumping and dancing in the huge puddles. Of course. Seriously sometimes I doubt whether K chaperoning counts as adult supervision at all... I'm not the rainy day party pooper- it's just that if they wanted to go jump in puddles I would have suggested barefeet or sandals to save the boots for tomorrow. Much harder to sell barefeet or sandals to the teachers...


2010年5月22日土曜日

big day

Started the day bright and early making cornbread to take to the neighbours, watering the flowers and watching Meg ride her bike. I mean bright and early. We'd done all that by 7:30am. It still amazes me that I can knock on my neighbour's door at 7:15 and be greeted with a friendly 'good morning' and not a gruff 'do you know what time it is??'

Then we headed off to the biannual kinder grounds clean up. This is quite the production. 200 kids play in their classrooms while their parents/ grandparents mill around designated areas (giraffe class had the North sandpit this year) with their designated tools (giraffe class had spades and hoes) and did their designated jobs (giraffe class had to turn over the sand in the sandpit and put the sun shade on the frame for the summer season.) The cleanup was officially 9-9:30. The paper informing us of the event had a nice bold sentence asking us to please observe the start times.

Because we'd all be tardy and turn up half way through, right?

Wrong.

Because everyone turns up at 8:45 and the jobs are all but done before the official start time has even rolled around.

We arrived at 8:50 and could hear the head teacher on the loudspeaker as we got out of the car:

"Please do not start work yet. Please wait until 9:00. Thank you for your co-operation."

What's wrong with finishing early you ask? Well as a bribe to turn up for cleanup there is an exhibition of each classes song and a whole kinder exercise routine. This doesn't start until 9:30. Absolutely no way it can start earlier. I don't know why either.

Anyway, this year we were treated to a veritable variety gala. Each class did not one but two performances and the entire kinder did two performances as well.

I gave each class's routines a new name based on my impressions:

0-2 class- Let's all cry together!
3 yo class- Overwhelmed and unsure we'll ignore our overly energetic teachers dancing.
4yo class- Picking your nose and scratching yourself is so much more involving than dancing
5yo class- Boys, sand and waiting for your turn- it's rumble in the dust time!

Riveting. I think I would have been less jaded if I hadn't finally got Amy to sleep at 10pm only to have Meg wake me up at 5:05 demanding to start the day.

After the dancing (finally) finished it was home for lunch and I headed off to work.

Work finished I came home, changed into my outside clothes and did field work from about 3:30. The girls had a ball running around and rolling around in the freshly ploughed field before getting out their sandpit tools and making mountains and tunnels all through the place. K was busy chopping up the wood in the woodpile in the carpark- we may finally be able to see the garden there just in time for the flowers to have finished for the season...

And friend and neighbour A and I laid the rest of the plastic mulch (still losing that fight but I do have to admit it really cuts down on weeding time and time is at a premium this year so.....) and planted out:
red capsicum
yellow capsicum
green capsicum
birds eye chilli
eagle talon chilli (don't chilli peppers have great names?)
shishito peppers
zuchinni
okra
yellow cherry tomatoes
red cherry tomatoes
large red tomatoes
mystery organic tomatoes gifted by wonderful Saitama friend
long eggplant
round eggplant
mystery organic eggplant gifted by wonderful Saitama friend (the same one- I'm not that lucky)
mini pumpkins
runner beans

phew.....

After A and I rolled out the plastic Meg and A had the job of holding it down straight and taut and I got to heave spadefuls of dirt on the sides to hold it down. This is actually only fair as Meg is 6 and A is almost 60 but man... that's a hard job to do alone. sob sob. Poor me.

Finally finished just before 7:00 and three tired girls came inside for dinner, bath and bed. K had left at 6:30 for Aikido so it was just the three of us for slap up bolognaise sauce with left over corn bread.

Phew.....

And we still have to plant corn, soy beans, bush beans, leaf lettuces, carrots, radish, beets, transplant the asparagus and dig dirt over the leeks.

Oh well, tomorrow is forecast for rain so looks like I'll get at least a day's break...

negi miso

Transplanted all the baby Japanese onions-negi- today.

With the handful left over- it becomes a balancing act between how many onions do we need and would we like to have the space to grow and eat anything other than onions??- I made negi miso. I love this stuff. So simple and yet so amazingly yummy. So I thought I'd share:

100 grams miso (anything but that Nagoya Hacho Miso stuff should work)
1Tb sugar (I used brown)
2Tb mirin (fake stuff is fine)
2Tb water
As many negi as you like. (I used about 10 baby onions this time. I have made it with anywhere from 3-6 large negi (green bits only)

In a fry pan with a splash of oil wilt the onions. Don't brown them just wilt them down and get rid of the water in them. About 5 minute is good. They should be mushy but not wet at the end.

Premix all the other ingredients and add to the onions. Stir to combine then keep cooking on low heat until the runny mix returns to a miso like consistency.

Your finished!

Now just put it on warm rice, slather it on onigiri and pop them in the toaster, or as I found last night- it's delicious on steamed spinach too...



2010年5月20日木曜日

feeling the (free garden) love

I'm exhausted- up at 6, the usual morning rush, super cleanup for teacher home visit, drove with co-farmer A three towns up the road to get veggie seedlings (we were both too busy this year to get seeds happening on time), home via supermarket for weekly shop, eat lunch, lay two rows of plastic in the garden, home visit, teach, home, one more row of plastic down, evening routine, teach, K home so make his dinner- so I really just wanted to go to bed tonight but I have to say a huge thank you and the weight of that would keep me from sleeping well so (with even more grammatical and spelling errors than usual) here goes:

After blogging about the front garden and my wish for a low maintenance, high gain eco-system I had two lovely surprises- a box of incredibly blue/ purple primulas and ...ahhh.... something that I've already forgotten the name of... all the way from Hokkaido and some snapdragon seeds from Ibaraki. I was so happy I was almost glowing. I have never grown snapdragons (or the other things that came with the primulas) before and that is always exciting but it was just so nice that someone went to the trouble of thinking of sending out some flowers. Wow. Especially my Ibaraki flower fairy-godmother as I had no idea she even read my blog!

And I know it's kind of sappy and sentimental but I always think of where the flowers came from when I look at them in the garden.

I look at my rose border and smile as I remember 12 little kids all saying happy birthday and thank you as they gave me a mini rose at our playgroup.

I look at my eucalypt (It's still hanging in there, mum!) and think of my Nanny (the grandma type not the Mary Poppins type- although she isn't lacking in magical powers...) who sent us the seeds.

I look at the different flowers I have grown from seeds that my senior women's classes have given me and just know that they are all a foot taller and a month further along in the blooming department in their gardens....

I look at the sunflower seedlings just coming up and remember the vice-principal at kinder spending her free time harvesting and bagging them up for the kids to take home and plant...

And so now I have two new people to think about as I garden. And that's exciting. The free garden is turning into a real free love garden with all those warm thought and memories planted there popping up at different times during the year to remind me to take care of the people in my life as well as the flowers.

It's not always pleasant having these floral reminders though-

I look at my water dropwort (seri) plant and always think darn I owe Kevin 17 emails, a phone call and a carrier pigeon by now....

Just as soon as I sow the snapdragon seeds....


2010年5月19日水曜日

Reasons for being late home

Meg's walk home from school takes anywhere from one hour to over two. As you can imagine after 90 or so minutes I start to wonder.... (The one hour day they decided to run and having got that out of their system they decided against mountain running).

I usually start my walk down the mountain to meet her and walk back up with the kids. Often time I find another mum is already walking with them.

Still, thinking that 90 minutes is a good time for a 3.8km walk, three odd kilos of baggage, a 10 % gradient and six year old legs I do ask what made them so late.

So far we have:

We had to take rests.
The school has a very strict no playing on the way home rule but allows rests. So Meg and her cronies find themselves in need of a 'rest' at each pocket park, shrine and temple ground they go past. Hmmmm....

Someone had to pee.
They pee before they leave school. They are not carrying water bottles yet. There is a public toilet on the way. But they were told in an emergency they could go into any of the shops and politely ask to use the loo. Between Meg and her buddies they have had 'emergencies' at the post office (chaperoned loo experience), the JA office (cold toilet seat) and the old people's clothes shop (dark toilet.)

Someone's umbrella got stuck in a drain.
The local kinders have a (very sensible) no umbrellas rule. So 139 kids are having their first taste of the umbrella-ed life and I think sales in umbrellas are probably 200% up on last month. Yesterday Meg's friends H and A stuck their umbrellas in a drain to see how deep the water was. Both umbrellas got stuck in the grate. H pulled hers out hard and the end broke off. A pulled hers out hard and it got snagged. A shop keeper came out with scissors and freed her umbrella. Meg decided not to stick hers down there (smart girl) but tried to use the end to lever up the grate instead. Her umbrella is now bent. Nasty mean mummy has said she is using a bent umbrella or no umbrella and live with her rain jacket for the rest of the season. Cruel, I know...

We were collecting things that smell nice.
Meg and H stopped in front of each house on their way up the mountain picking off leaves and flowers and smelling them. They kept the fragrant ones and discarded the rest. Of course they waited till they reached the neighbourhood where they're known before doing this....

We were hungry so we ate some nectar.
I'm not sure the name of the plant but there's a weed around here with small purple trumpet like flowers the kids pick and suck the nectar out of. It is sweet and tasty but it takes a lot of nectar to assuage hunger!

Phew.... that's all we've got so far but I guess it could be worse- one of Meg's class mates was marched to school by an old woman farmer after she fell into the farmer's rice paddy. Ouch!

2010年5月18日火曜日

eggciting times.

We have eggs!

This is very exciting. For the last six months or so we have been a chook charity sanctuary. Faithfully tending to and caring for our chooks without receiving a single, solitary egg in return.

We're ok with that. The chooks eat the kitchen scraps, help keep the weeds down and keep us company when we're in the garden.

But it is kind of nice not to be buying chook food and eggs in the same shopping trip anymore!

2010年5月17日月曜日

sometimes explaining doesn't make it clearer

"Hey Fukase-san, what happened this morning?"
"This morning?"
"I was driving past at about 7:15 and Amy was outside."
"Hmm?"
"And the poor thing was really howling?"
"??...Ahhhh! This morning! We were planting out some marigold seeds and Amy planted some acorns she found. She picked up her planter by the tray and it toppled over and everything spilt all over the porch."
"...?"



2010年5月16日日曜日

innocently giving

It's my SIL's birthday.

Every year my two SIL and I all buy presents for each other. It's kind of ridiculous as we all live so far away from each other and live such different lives that we inevitably buy something the other will not use. Complete and utter waste of time, effort and money I might say if I was feeling grinchy.

But no. It's the thought that counts, right?

Right. So last year youngest SIL (city apartment living, shopaholic bargain hunter extraordinaire with a penchant for regular belongings cullings to preserve her minimalist interior style) bought me a T-shirt. A bright green large t-shirt with a picture of a pig on the front and a little curly pig's tail on the back. It's quite a cute pig- Meg and Amy have both put dibs on it for when I grow out of it- but it's still a pig, right?

Maybe she didn't think about the imagery.

Maybe it was a totally innocent buy.

Maybe the gift I bought her is, too.

Maybe.

When we visited during Golden Week she was raving about her bread machine and how wonderful it is. Perfect. I bought her two bread machine cookbooks. One called something like 'making great bread because it's a bread machine not despite it.' And the other? The other is called 'bread recipes that won't make you fat.'

Nothing wrong with that now is there?

I mean if I was really making a point I could have just repackaged the complete set of Billy's Bootcamp DVDs elder SIL (career woman extraordinaire who shops via internet and tv, has the best of everything and all that she needs) gave me for Christmas, yeah?

2010年5月15日土曜日

blessed and disinfected

K was AWOL again today.

From 3pm until about 9:30pm.

Very important neighbourhood business.

This time he climbed a mountain and used a weed whacker around some sacred something or other.

And then came back and kicked his heals up with the other chosen men of course.

That means in the last month he has attended ceremonies at the local Shinto shrine, the Buddhist temple and the Shinto mountain god's original home. (Before he climbed down the mountain and took up residence in the shrine.) I think the only local religion he hasn't covered is the Korean Seventh Day Adventist Church. And I'm thinking they probably don't do the big piss up at the end of worship so I'm safe.

I'm thinking we must have at least a couple of years worth of good luck in the karma bank..

And, as (regardless of the religion) all blessings end in the copious consumption of alcoholic beverages .

And if that doesn't work and one of us do get ill? Well, it won't be K as he is surely alcohol disinfected enough for months!

2010年5月14日金曜日

adventures in picture lettering

I went to picture letter drawing/ writing class today. It was my first time. I think this is the perfect hobby for me.

It's held once a month.

I get to practise writing (and painting) with a Japanese brush without the horrid pressure of a calligraphy teacher brandishing red ink.

It's a little bit arty, a little bit wordy and a big bit social.

It's pay per lesson so I can cancel when life gets out of control.

But I almost gave up on the whole thing before I even got there. Bloody ridiculous, narrow, winding, edged by freaking 2m tall concrete fence roads. Grrrr.

Seriously. I was six minutes early when I found the sign to the Senior Welfare Centre I was heading to. (Yes, feeling rather old lately I've started taking classes at the Senior Citz. Centre...) I could see the building. And the carpark. But I was driving the freakishly oversized 7-seater car. The intersection was made by an engineer without a set square. Not a 90 degree angle in sight. I was approaching from the acute angle side. The neighbours on either side of the intersection are proponents of the concrete block aesthetic. There was literally no way on earth I was going to get around the corner to the centre without taking out a piece of decorative concrete wall.

No problem. I'm six minutes early after all! I will just drive up to the next U-turnable space, do my signature 94 point turn and approach from the other direction. Easy-Peasy-Japanesey, right?

Wrong.

Through some miracle of navigational genius I managed to end up at the end of a dead end gravel road (the kind of thing Australians would call a driveway...) with (another) concrete fence on one side, an irrigation ditch on the other and absolutely no room to do anything whatsoever.

Aghhhh!

After a moment getting my panic impulse out of the way I decided there was nothing to it. I was just going to have to suck it up and back out. Onto a busy (well for the back end of nowhere anyway- let's just say an un-deserted road. With (yet another!) concrete wall on the corner. Easy-Peasy-Japanesey.

Eight minutes later I was seriously considering leaving the car there, a note on the windscreen saying I was at the Seniors' Centre and then calling K to come and rescue me during his lunch break. K, my knight in shining armour- well knight in dusty working greens but I'll take that any day! Small problem with said plan- trying to explain to K where I was... k-trucks don't have power windows or aircon, let alone satnav!

Perseverance pays and all that I eventually managed to back out onto the road- facing the right direction no less- without taking out any concrete constructions and only holding up a taxi in one direction and a k-truck (not K) in the other. Gotta love Japan. Noone even tooted me. Just sat there patiently waiting for me to turn the tank.

Phew.... So I was about seven minutes late for class. Well, from the fact that everyone had come in, de-shod, settled, got out their equipment, filled their water containers and passed around last month's newsletter I have a feeling they were probably all early and actually considered me quite late. But by the clock I was only seven minutes late.

We started with warming up exercises of trying to draw a straight line incredibly slowly- 1mm per second. My close encounter of the concrete/ ditch kind had me all on an adrenalin buzz and my hands were shaking far too much to draw straight even at regular speed so it was a wobbly line indeed that issued forth from my brush.

Never fear. Learnt my lesson, next month I'm taking the little car.

Scratch that, I'll take my bicycle- probably take less time travelling the 15 or so kilometres than I did reversing out of that road anyway!!

2010年5月13日木曜日

a fair day's pay for a fair day's work...

The new branch of the school where I work is going great guns. Lots of students, lots of classes, lots of fun.

In it's previous (less exciting) life the school was a house.

With a beautiful garden. Really beautiful. The main classroom has floor to ceiling windows on two sides and we look out on a mass of flowers and flowering shrubs. Beautiful. Very calming. Well for me anyway. My class of rambunctious 6 year old boys don't seem quite as affected....

Anyway, being that it's (finally) Spring here at the moment the beautiful garden is being taken over by opportunistic weeds.

My boss and I were looking over the garden earlier this week talking about the problem. She thought it was a lot worse than I did though- both because she thought the not-yet-flowering shasta daisies were weeds and because she's a city person who doesn't really enjoy gardening- even the fun non-weeding bits.

The garden has self seeded itself into an almost wildflower state. There are really pretty blooms popping up in the oddest nooks and crannies and taking over the entire (unused) back yard.

I had itchy fingers just looking at all those seedlings (hardy, flowering, self-propagating, prolific- perfect!) and suggested a deal: I would weed the garden and in return I could take some (out of the way- barely noticed) seedlings home.

Being the nice person she is the boss told me to just take what I wanted and not worry about the weeding. But that's not right. That feels like pilfering. Worse, I'd feel like I had to hold back. Only take a little weak looking seedling from the gravelled area (on the pretext that I was giving it a better life and all). And I wanted to be florally greedy.

So, today I headed down to work in my gardening gear and to the background music of rousing calisthenics at Amy's kinder across the road I did some weeding:


There's nothing in that picture to show scale but it's big. I had to put the back seats down in the Wagon R to get it in the boot. And it was a complete pig of a thing to get in the car. The cute tied up thing it's got going on? No, not because I'm going native but because I couldn't pick it up to walk it to the car so I tied it up so I could drag it. Then I had to heave it into the car. That's why when I got home it got no further than the carpark. Opened the boot, gave it a shove and enjoyed the satisfying thud it made as it landed on the ground. Phew....

And what did I feel I'd earnt in return?

I'm not sure but I *think* these are called granny's bonnets.


No idea of a name on this one but it is very delicate and pretty.


And when they're open these little star shaped flowers are really dainty and sweet. I didn't take any pictures but I also liberated a dozen or so deep purple violas that were growing in the carpark (right where people park- that's not pilfering it's rescuing!).

All in all I'd say that's a deal the boss and I are both going to be happy with.

And no-one is as happy as the shasta daisies!




2010年5月12日水曜日

err der moment

Walked out to the car to see K and Amy off today.

K stopped on the front porch and looked out on the rain-bejewelled garden sparkling in the morning sun.

"Wow. It looks really good. You moved all the wood and packed up the bikes and now it all looks so green and pretty."

You don't say, huh?

(And I also weeded, transplanted, planted, clipped, pruned, tied back and raked honey.)

2010年5月11日火曜日

newsworthy excursion


That's an article from the local newspaper.
An article about Meg's grade's excursion last Friday.

It's titled: Excursion in the rain "We're not going to give in!"

So, multiple choice test time:

What is the most surprising thing about this article?

a) that a group of six year olds walking to a park and back is newsworthy.
b) that an article about a group of kids getting rained on for about 3/4 of a six kilometre walk is written up as a positive news article.
c) that the school was so proud of their rained out excursion being in the newspaper that they reprinted it in the school newsletter.
d) that they even walked in the rain in the first place.

It was a pretty big day for Meg.

Walk 3.8k to school.
Walk 3k to park.
Eat lunch under any available shelter (139 kids and one park means shelter was at a premium)
Walk 3k back to school.
Walk 3.8k home.

For a grand total of 13.6 km in a day.

In the rain.

Wow.

No wonder she fell asleep before bedtime!
What is

2010年5月10日月曜日

reunited at last


Saturday was the big day. 70 odd people, the entire BBQ house rented for the day, spreading out on to the lawns, 20 kilos of meat, 13 three packs of yakisoba, enough wieners to cater a hot dog eating contest, 8 BBQ grills, two boxes of charcoal and three mini blow torches.

I'm not bragging but I could teach the locals a thing or two about barbecuing.

Seriously.

I mean the everyone-stands-around-with-a-paper-fan-blowing-on-a-smoking-pile-of-charcoal-and-no-kindling thing is one option. A novel approach if you will. But in big-time apple country you would think we'd be able to scrounge up a handful of kindling from somewhere huh? Maybe even avoid using that chemical firelighting gel minutes before we throw the meat on the very same pile of smoking chemicals?

I really think there's a book in there, somewhere. 'Darling can light a fire' or something, huh?

Anyway, it was a six hour affair, the kids had a ball running wild and unfettered throughout the park and playing in the diverted creek while the adults sat around talking and blowing on the bbqs and talking and comparing brands of non-alcoholic beer.

I thought we'd got the reunion thing out of our systems but nope- we had so much fun that talk of a June reunion is already doing the rounds.

great....

I'm bringing some firewood next time.

2010年5月9日日曜日

flowers for Mothers' Day

No bouquets around here today. Not even a single long stemmed rose.

The morning started with K leaving to go and fix the damage non-cooperative/ adventurous monkeys had made in the monkey fence at some unmentionable hour. He got back and we had brekkie and he coached the girls to say Happy Mother's Day. Well actually he coaxed them to say いつもありがとうございます。これからもよろしくお願いします。 Which is more like 'thank you for your patronage and we look forward to continued good relations with you'. Oh well, it's the thought that counts right?

I gave my self time off veggie propagation to work on the flower garden today. I am rather particular about my flower garden- it needs to be hardy, self seeding/ perennial, colourful, low maintenance and long flowering. Oh and free. So my garden is made up of divided, transplanted, self sown, gifted and snaffled plants. (Can I help it if I am just out walking, minding my own business and holding my pocket open and I brush up against a cosmos and the seeds accidentally fall in my pocket?). Today I transplanted some wild viola and daisies that were eking out an existence on the path, divided and replanted primulas, took my neighbour up on her offer of daffodil bulbs from her scrap heap, collected all the self sewn parsley from here there and everywhere and planted it in a pot at the front door, found exciting places to hide the sunflower seeds we were given at kinder last summer, started our Morning Glory 'green curtain' and the girls and I got out seed trays and started our herb patch for the year. Phew!

So, no bunch of flowers but come summer I should have a whole garden full instead. And that's worth a bunch of flowers any day!

2010年5月8日土曜日

No easy money in tomatoes

No such thing as a free lunch- or easy money in tomatoes it seems.

The local JA was out here over winter pumping up interest in commercial tomato farming.

Seems they have a big contract with one of the national tomato juice companies and need more farmers to ensure the quotas are met.

Tomato farming is a shorter period of work than the year long slog that is apple farming- sow in May and harvest in August. The price is not determined by the market but rather set by JA so it's a guaranteed income.

My friend and neighbour A has the land and thanks to the crap economy she has the time and could do with the money so she signed on the dotted line.

Last week she spent an entire day (an entire farmer day- 5:00am- 6:00pm) tilling, laying down plastic 'mulch' and then covering the edges with soil to keep it grounded.

The very next day we had strong winds and a good half of the rows of mulch lifted partially. Two lifted entirely. So she and her husband spent another half day re-grounding the rows of mulch.

Two days ago they planted the tomato seedlings. About 800 of them. A's husband went out in the morning and had planted about 300 seedlings before A went and joined him. Being a man of a certain age he had ignored all planting advice given to him by his wife- his wife with the amazing garden- and had been de-potting the seedlings by yanking them out by the stalks.

So yesterday when they woke up to a mass outbreak of the tomato flopsies they re-planted 300 seedlings.

Today one of the local tomato experts (second generation tomato farmer) came to check out the newbie's fields and pointed out that the mulch holes weren't big enough and the wind had slightly shifted the mulch which was now completely covering some of the seedlings.

So this afternoon I went out and helped A cut 30cm diameter holes around each plant. We did about 250 of them.

Crouch, pierce, cut, lift, remove, stuff plastic scrap in bag, slide left, start again repeat times 250. When I finally stood up at the end I was stiff and shoulder sore and aching all over.

Poor A. And this is just the start. They still have to water them until they're established, spray them a total of 13 times and finally harvest their quota (hopefully more) in the dog days of Summer.

Nope.

No easy money in tomatoes it seems.

2010年5月7日金曜日

R.A.I.N

Lots of rain today. But also some R.A.I.N. That's:

Rather
Anxiety
Inducing
News

We are right in the middle of the cycling bug at the moment. Despite leaving for school at the ungodly time of 6:40 Meg has been getting ready super quick and finding time for a ride around the block before school. Erghhhhhh you can bet your morning cup of coffee I am loving chaperoning that particular outing....

And the cycling bug hasn't just hit the Fukase house. 'Tis the season for 1st graders to shed their training wheels. Meg's classmate, a boy who lives near here, went to kinder with her, walks to school along the same route with her etc etc started his training wheel free life during Golden Week, too.

And yesterday he was riding around near his house when he came off his bike.

Hit the ground head first and his bike- with him on it- landed on his hand.

He is in hospital.

He's going to be there for a while.

His hand needs surgery.

Even though it is very unlikely Meg would have the same accident- he was riding helmetless, down a steep road, round a corner, hadn't got the hang of braking yet etc etc- I am all anxious and terrified about Meg riding a two wheeler..

I don't feel like I want to put her training wheels on again or take her bike away altogether- not that I realistically could anyway- but I'm thinking full body motorbike leathers sounds good. I hears there are some that tie onto your bike and self inflate into a personal airbag type suit when you fall off.

Hmmm, wonder if they have them in a size 6?

2010年5月6日木曜日

exercises in futility....

Part 1

Today we planted potatoes. Dejima, Mayqueen, Andes and Kitahikari. We now have mashing, curry, frying, baking and potato salad covered.

To plant the potatoes we followed our book- 賢い野菜作り intelligent vegetable growing- who could resist a title like that, huh? Anyway we weighed the potatoes, cut them into 30-50 gram segments, dabbed the cut ends in ash, dried them out over night, dug our valleys to 15 odd centimetres, placed a potato every 20cm, kicked 10cm of soil o top of each one and finally stretched the kinks out of our backs. Phew. Hard work but a job well done, right?

Then this afternoon I was teaching one of my senior women's classes and mentioned (ok- bragged about) my morning.

Eh? 50 grams? Ash? Valleys? Eh??

How do my students plant potatoes? My students who have been self-sufficient farming for decades?

Dig over a patch of dirt till it's fluffy. Scrape off the top layer. Fling potatoes around. Cover with reserved dirt. Wipe hands of dirt and walk away.

Part 2

My nectarine has leaf curl. Badly. The year before last I thought- how cute, crinkly leaves. Last year I thought- hmmm, all the nectarines are deformed and dripping sap. Should check that out. This last Christmas I bought a copper powder (that is ok for organic farming and not so nasty etc etc). Since we got back from Australia the poison has been sitting on the gardening shelf waiting for me to get a sprayer. Then K brought home a sprayer and I was just waiting for a sunny/ not windy day. Today I finally got the sprayer, the powder, the weather, the ladder and the time to do it all together and spent a good thirty minutes going up ladder and down, up ladder and down trying to get the spray on the tree and not on me. Feeling revoltingly dirty and poisoned and un-organic I trudged inside and washed down.

And it started to rain. Hmmm.... decided to google what would happen if it rained after you sprayed.

Oh yeah. Rain within 24 hours of spraying renders it ineffective.

But that's ok. I'm about a month late spraying anyway and late spraying? Ineffective. Great.

Part 3

Last week when we dug over the garden there were little bulbs everywhere. They smelt oniony but weren't onions, shallots, rakkyo or wakinegi which are the only alliums I know. Thinking they were more likely purposely planted than weeds I carefully collected them all in a bucket as we went feeling guilty everytime I pulled one up and it appeared sans bulb. Today I finally caught up with friend and neighbour A and told her about the bucket.

Eh?
Little oniony like things, all over the far end of the garden?
Eh? Ahhh! Those things? Pain in the butt. You have to peel, wash, de-beard, soak then pickle in miso to eat them and they're not even that tasty. Spread like wildfire, I've been trying to dig them out for years!

Great.

So that's it. I know when I'm beat. Gave up on gardening for today before I waste any more time and effort!

2010年5月5日水曜日

positively unlucky day

Today was a real comedy of errors.

We went to Nagoya to visit friends.

It was supposed to be quite the party with a big group of friends getting together.

So far so good.

Then....

One of the party got food poisoning- and her car broke down.

Meg came over all itchy just being in a house that dogs live in- not even playing with the dogs. A new escalation in her allergic history.

It was a lot hotter in Nagaoya than we northerners had imagined and we were broiling away in jeans and long shirts.

Our host's daughter came don with a horrible migraine.

We got caught up in a massive traffic jam on the way home when there was a fire on the highway. Stuck in a hot car, unmoving on the highway at the tail end of a long day.

Amy got a blood nose in the car, while sleeping, and didn't notice until it had spread quite considerably.

Got home and freaked out racing around getting ready for my tutorees- only to realise an hour later that it was Wednesday- not Thursday when my students come over.

Oh well. We made it through the day and it was really a bit of a laugh in the end, yeah?

You've just got to stay positive, don't you? Even when you're positively unlucky!

2010年5月4日火曜日

pushing your luck

So.

Day two of being able to really ride a two wheeler.

M was desperate to get out and try it again.

K decided it was time he did something fun with the girls.

So, a little ride around the block? Maybe a ride to the shop to buy some yummy bread?

Nahhhhh.... That's not very fun now is it?

How about a 10km (yes, 10 kilometres) trek around the bike path at the local airport? Why not, huh?

And so today K and the girls headed out with their bentos and the bikes in the back of the car and Amy did a good whack of the course on her three wheeler before hitching a ride with daddy but Meg rode the whole way round.

Wow.

So, I'm thinking Tour de France next weekend, yeah?

2010年5月3日月曜日

easy rider

Meg has been wobbling about without training wheels for a while now but never quite getting the hang of the smooth ride.

A 5 minute bike ride with the friends who came to stay where she saw her friend N cruising along with the wind in her hair and she suddenly got what she was aiming at.

An hour later she was easy riding.


And so proud of herself!

And I'm ecstatic. I love riding and have really been suffering through the too-big-for-a-child-seat-too-small-to-ride-alone years.

The end is in sight though and this evening all four of us headed off on our bikes for a ride across the mountain. Amy is still using training wheels but one parent has to monitor each child for safety reasons, right? And so I put my hand up to watch Meg who went from training wheel to Evil Knevil in one short afternoon and we flew along.

YEAH!!!!

I don't know who had a bigger grin on her face...

2010年5月2日日曜日

friends to stay




And oh what fun it was!



2010年5月1日土曜日

first garden before and after of the season

Yeah!!!

I have been looking forward to writing this post for so long. But rain and snow and rain and work and frost and festivals and just life in general has got in the way.

But today the stars aligned, the weather co-operated, the festival is finally over (and the post-festival festivities) we are between neighbourhood association events, we are strangely free of kid-oriented commitments, and the antiquated tiller was in a good mood so we headed out for a day of fun in the sun (and the sand and the soil and the slops and the sludge...):

Before, South.

Before, North. (Yes. There's an overlap. Unfortunately there's not two K's working out there...)

After, South. Tiller machine cameo.


After North.

Phew....

We pulled up hundreds of weeds, carefully pulled up roll after roll of last year's nasty black plastic, K tilled it, I transplanted about 30 selfsewn poppies from the veggie garden to the front flower beds (always good to have your opium crop on display, right?) dug up a whole lot of fiddlehead fern corms growing where we don't want them, dug in leaf mulch and chicken manure and finally planted the first 20 cabbages and 10 rainbow silverbeet seedlings of the season.

Yeah!! It really felt like we got the season off to a great start and it's only day one of the holidays.

And the girls?


That's them running inside for dinner at 7:00. A bit late for dinner but hey, it was the first day playing outside all day of the season.

And it's only day one of the holidays, right?