for all your superpower needs

Bit of drama around here yesterday.

Finished work three villages away and was cruising home along a pretty straightforward and easy road when I heard the dam sirens going off. These are the big WOOOOOO WOOOOOOO WOOOOOOO sounding sirens that go off when they are letting water out of the dams up the mountain.

Ahhhh the dam sirens....




It hasn't rained in over a week.

It's not snowmelt season.

And come to think of it I wasn't actually driving anywhere near the river so why on earth would I be able to hear the sirens??

I closed my window to see if it was something environmental or mechanical....

The noise was just as loud....


I checked for warning lights on the dash.


Checked the completely-mysterious-to-me second gear stick thing that goes into weird gears like 4L or something in case I had knocked it out of its correct position and into something called 'dam siren gear'.

Small problem.

I had no recollection whatsoever what the normal setting for mysterious-to-me second gearstick is.


Checked the dash for the umpteenth time. K had warned me gravely that running out of petrol in a diesel engine would be catastrophic to journey, engine and bank balance.

Nope. Still had a 1/4 tank.


Sheesh!! The car was hot.

Really hot.

As in the temperature needle was not near H.

Not even on H.

It was beyond H.

Pulled over immediately into an unnamed gravel patch/ carpark. (Yeah for country roads with random carparks!)

Called K.

Fabulous white night K left work, picked the girls up form afterschool care and met me at the gravel patch.

(I had put my hazard lights on and raised the bonnet while waiting for K just to make sure people realised I wasn't setting up camp.)

It is a little known fact that I took automotive technology in Grade 10.

It was a rather pitiful attempt at educational rebellion when the student advisor told me I couldn't study all Arts subjects and suggested Chemistry or Biology as a science requirement.

Automotive technology seemed far less likely to distract me from English Literature and Japanese.

Anyway, all that is to say that I have six months of formal study in all things automotive under my belt.

Well, almost. The Auto tech teacher was not actually all that pleased to have me in the class full of farm boys building cars in their sheds and wannabe revheads.

I spent a lot of time cleaning sparkplugs and drawing and labeling pictures of engines from different makes of car the school owned while my classmates excelled at speaking in an impenatrable automotive language with the teacher, speaking knowledgably about mysterious mechanical whatnots they removed and replaced from a variety of engines (without my inevitable bunch of extra parts) and drooled over pictures of hotted up cars.

Nevertheless, glossing over the details of my undeniable formal automotive training I took the opportunity while waiting for K to peer under the bonnet.



No obvious missing parts...

I remembered being a really little kid and watching my dad taking the kettle out and using a towel to open an overheated radiator cap and ducking the steam to refill the radiator.

Found the radiator cap.

(In a different place than I remember from my diagrams. Bloody useless automotive tech training.)

Big warning on it: DO NOT OPEN WHEN HOT.

(Stupidly) touched radiator cap.

Pondered stupidity while sucking on burnt fingers. Well, I was ale to conclude one thing anyway. Whatever was wrong with the car it wasn't the temperature gauge.

K arrived eventually and told me we (21st century? double income?) Fukases don't put water in our radiators.

Oh no...

(and after I'd found an ancient bottle of water in the back of the car and all.)

We use some evil looking fluoro green coolant stuff.

Unfortunately (for the car anyway!) I don't drink that so there was none in the car and we inched to the neighbouring village gym carpark where we left the car and headed home (in the other car.)

And today, before we headed out to the car supermarket (in the other car) to buy evil green stuff to pump into (the sick) car to get it to the mechanic I was talking to Dad on skype and telling him about our woes.

"It was making this really weird dam siren noise."

"Water pump."


"That's your water pump."

And what do you know, a few hours later (after we had driven about 2 kilometres through town with an evil green trail literally pouring out behind us.) the mechanic took one look inside the bonnet and pronounced:

"Water pump."


Not only is my dad not a mechanic he lives on a mountainless, damless island. I think, if he's heard dam sirens before it was in Japan two years ago.

Freaky car ESP or what, huh?

So, I'd like to introduce my new business venture- "Heather's dad's skype car consultations." I think it's a goer, hey?


wow... that was a hiatus, hey?

Life got on top of me there for a while but due to some gentle hints (hi Boss K!) and some not so subtle demands (hi Dad!) I'm back!

The reason for the hiatus? Nothing and everything... no illness or amazing overseas holiday to internet-unconnected land just masses of gardening.

We have really bitten off a lot this year garden-wise and maintenance is pretty much a fulltime job. As it is I should be out staking ohhh you know 45 eggplant bushes and about the same of capsicums... not much right?

After having massive success with my Aussie seedraising (Queensland Blue, Golden nugget and button squash which I found out North Americans call pattypan squash- that plant gets the cutest name wherever it goes!) and having about 30 seedlings to do something with we were given the leftover seedlings from a seedling grower/ wholesaler here. Neighbour, friend, co-farmer and occasional fiend A swore to me that she was going to give away heaps to friends and neighbours.

Sucker that I am I believed her.

I think we gave away 10 seedlings.


Not being able to let the rest die of neglect (I know way too softhearted for this gardening lark) I decided we had the space- it just needed weeding

and hoeing

and shaping into rows

and mulching

and watering

and you know what with extra hours at work and all I have so much free time this season so why not?

And thus we now have a garden that will be forcing me to push veggies on everyone in about a month.

Because my softheartedness to veggies means that I hate seeing them rot on the bush almost as much as I hate seeing the seedlings wither.


And just so you don't think I'm making all this up, some pictures:

From the back door:

Row 1 of the back half of the garden. Snowpeas with blueberries on the left and for those with good eyesight the frame of our greenhouse and a row of pumpkin mounds at the back.

Row two. the cucumber frame. Plenty of red shiso growing wild and those cool white flowers that flower at night and then turn pink by morning in there so it's not really all weeds even though it appears to be! I bought 4 incredibly extravagant grafted cucumbers for the horrifying price of 258 yen each as that's all the shop had (the wholesaler lost her cucumber crop this year so none to be had there) and then bought 10 more when I found them at the local hardware for 58 yen each. I have been really shocked (and kind of pleased!) to see that the expensive ones are at least 5 times as big and tall as the cheap ones. Still horrified at the price though! There are two bitter gourd plants at the end as I love the stuff.

Row three the tomatoes. Under the shelter are six mini/cherry tomato plants of different varieties- orange, black, yellow, red, grape and something else I've forgotten. At the front without a cover are two groundcover tomatoes. These are regular sized and apparently inedible raw and only good for sauce and juice as they are too 'savoury' and not sweet enough. Which is of course exactly why I like them! The fact they are groundcovers and don't require staking or covering is a bonus, too!

Row 4, 5, 6, 7- silverbeat/ swiss chard, more tomatoes, three types of chilli peppers and the first of the eggplants. These are 'salad' eggplants which means they can be eaten raw. Because you've always wanted to chomp into a raw eggplant, right?

Row 8 then 9-10-11-12-13 and 14-15-16-17-18

row eight is green capsicums. Two varieties but I got confused so they're all muddled up.
row 9-13 is five holed mulch in which I planted a row each of daikon (shot to seed) chingensai/ bokchoy (retarded by shading out from daikon but coming along well as we eat through the daikon), carrots, beetroot and parsnips. Row 14-18 is the same 5 holed stuff and we have turnips, komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach according to google) and radishes so far with a few cauliflower sown along the edge.

Rows 19-23, two rows of corn, more capsicum, cabbages and stick broccoli (got confused again so it's al a bit mixed up in there!) and more eggplants. Staked this time... ooo errr!

Row 24 snake beans on this side and black beans, soy beans, red beans and some purple flowering broad beans on the otherside. Behind that is mizuna, lettuce, spinach in a non plasticced bed and then the herb bed overflowing with coriander and parsley and occasionally deigning to grow a basil plant.

Row whatever- I've lost count! From the left we have pumpkin mounds with Meg's melon plant at the far end, I can't stand the smell of melon let alone the flavour but she watered the wholesalers entire stock while we were there and was given a melon seedling so I could hardly say no... then four more rows of something in the pepper family and some kind of peppers... I got less careful about planning the more I planted and the more I realised I still had to plant! The otherside of the greenhouse frame- did I mention K and I finally put up the greenhouse frame? Did I? I have only wanted one for six years and had all the materials for four afterall... anyway, the otherside of the greenhouse frame is swet potatoes then zuchinnis then pumpkins (get all the viney things in there together and sorry zucchinis!) then more beeping green pepper/ chilli pepper plants then in the far corner nine more pumpkin mounds. Two of which look suspiciously like they are button squash plants... oh well!

Phew.... That's about it I think. We have potatoes and leeks planted in a field elsewhere (long term, low maintenance foods get planted further away from the house) and I'm cofarming wheat at neighbour W's place and of course the rice paddy and that is about all my spare time between now and Winter!

Boss K and Dad hope that's enough of an excuse for my absence!



Full days down at the rice paddy.

Up early, get the girls ready for school.

See them off.

Make K's bento.

See him off.

Take my bento and 'paddy pants' and gloves and water and head down to the paddy.]





Muscle ache.

Looking over our work.


Eating last year's rice- fragrant and delicious- with negi miso and chicken salad.

Life is good.

Life is full.



Rice field June 3

The water's in.

The duck house is in.

The fence is up.

The string is getting there.

The ducks are coming.

And yes, my gloved finger is there, too. Hey, I was tired!


cool tool

Stringing the top of the rice paddy is a big job.

It's a big and important job.

The safety- the life- of the ducks depends on it.

Last year I did it like this.

This year?

This year co-farmer K, the carpenter, mechanic, farmer, procurer and now inventor, made us a cool tool.

A really cool tool.

It's cool because we can string four lines at once.

And it's really cool because we can do all that without trudging up and down the rice paddy.

If you've never done that you're probably thinking- so what?

So what is that walking up and down the rice paddy is akin to a blindfolded obstacle course- with a muddy ending and plenty of opportunity to injure the precious rice-babies. The paddy is not flat. It is cratered with footprints and soft mud sink spots and harder mud islets etc etc. And of course it is peppered with baby rice....

So yeah- the new tool is really cool.

Co-farmer W stringing the really cool tool. She's smiling coz it's so cool and coz he's married to cool-tool-creating co-farmer K.



ode to onions (in pictures)

An ode in pictures?

Not sure if that even exists but hey.

Left over onions from last year's crop:

Stripped off the outer leaves and brought them inside:

The bits I didn't use:

Separated the greens from the whites:

Cut the greens very finely:

and sweated them down batch by batch by batch by batch:

then they get all sad looking:

And I added miso and sugar and mirin and got this:
Negi-miso. This stuff rocks! I use it on onigiri, in cooking, on cucumber sticks and just on rice:


Then it was onto the whites of the onions and it was masses of slicing again and then into the pickling bucket with soy sauce and chillies:

Overnight it looked like this:

And it just gets better and better as it ages. Yeah.

K's lunch with the products of all this productivity:

negi-miso, soy preserved leeks, two kids of butterbur and the last of the nozawana pickles with some salmon and pumpkin that someone else made. If he survives the salt bomb it should be a pretty yummy lunch.