I don't think I have ever stressed this much over a house guest.
Well two of them.
Gyahhh! I was blogging from my phone and the post deleted itself.
We are hamster-sitting grade 4's pet hamsters.
There are 20 people on hamster sitting rotation.
Somehow between Monday when Meg was 20th (Our name is at the end of the Japanese alphabet) and Friday it became Meg's turn.
I have a feeling that the girl who looked after it on Monday and ended up having to move the fridge to capture Houdini the hamster and then told her classmates might have something to do with our hastened turn.
Seems the responsibility is too much for some families.
And I get that.
No I really get that.
After picking Meg and the hamster and it's travel case and belongings up at school at 4pm I ended up staying awake until almost 2am.
Well here are yesterday's google searches:
hamster rocking back and forward
hamster in labour signs?
hamster ate toilet sand
hamster chewing metal
hamster ingested paint from cage
how long should hamster use hamster wheel without taking a break?
So, yeah, I worked myself up a bit over the whole hamster thing.
But they survived the night, they are sleeping cutely cuddled up together and I am going to try and avoid amazon shopping to bling out their cage and all....
maybe just a chewing stick....
and a wooden hidey-hole would be much better than the plastic one they keep flipping.....
and I found organic cotton wadding to use for making a nest.......
I feel a bit bad for the human guests who come here and are told to make themselves at home and then pretty much left to their own devices....
You just need to ask for the hamster treatment next time!
I wasn't planning to make pickled greens this year.
I'm just a bit pickled out.
And sick of trying to stop Amy from eating her bodyweight in salt.
And sick of throwing out the leftovers come March.
But Monday morning I got a phonecall from the woman who gives us pickling greens each year.
'Come out. Plenty of greens. Best get them before the Autumn leaves are blown into them.'
'Wow, thank you for thinking of me but I think I will not pickle any this year. Thank you so much for-'
'What a waste! Really good greens this year. Come out and get them!'
And so off I went to pick greens.
I needed the big car for storage purposes but the field is on a really narrow road with no verges and big drop offs to the fields. Oh what fun it is to drive a 7 seater around here!
I carefully eased myself into a park as far as possible from a corner without hitting the next corner remembering the driving school rule about 3m from an intersection.
There was a knock on the window.
I was far too far form the field.
At least a 5m walk.
That's 5 metres.
So I did a terribly ungraceful 37 point turn and re-parked on a slightly wider verge right on the corner of the hill and just hoped that my driving instructor wouldn't be driving past and started picking greens all the while keeping an eye on the road incase a truck or some other vehicle was unable to get past my car...
And that's how I looked up and saw this:
Not sure if you can see but there is noone in either cab of those trucks that are completely blocking the road between them.
The engines aren't even on.
The lady whose truck is facing us had been driving down the road when she noticed the lady who belongs to the other truck in her field there.
So of course she just cut the engine and got out and went over for a chat.
Quite a lengthy chat as it turned out.
And I was worrying about being badly parked on a verge on a corner, huh?
Seriously bigger than my head (and ask my brother or sister- I have a big head)
This is no lightweight airy, loosely woven, hole-y cabbage.
This is a cabbage that has presence.
I AM CABBAGE.
So what? 150 yen at the supermarket you can have one anytime you want. What's the big deal??
The big deal is that caterpillars love cabbage.
No really, LOVE them.
Stalker style, all consuming (haha) infatuated, unhealthy style love.
There's even a cabbage moth caterpillar.
There's not one cabbage moth caterpillar.
There's never just one.
There's tens, dozens, hundreds, gazillions of them!!
Every morning I go out and de-caterpillar the brassicas (aren't I fancy with my latin name for the cabbage family?) and feed the little blighters to the chooks.
And every year I overlook a couple of caterpillars.
One hid under a leaf here, one ninja-ed itself over there, One dropped to the ground and hid till I passed over there and BAM!
Hole-y cabbage batman!
I'm guessing caterpillars are not claustrophobic as they have absolutely no problem living in the centre of a cabbage with the leaves fully closed over their munching hungry little heads and living on in gluttonous heaven until harvest time.
But this year!
Berr Berr ba Berr! (that was a trumpet herald in case you missed it)
Its shiny greenness, its un-holey countenance, that saucy little leaf curl on top.
And cutting into THE CABBAGE:
Look how compact it is. How beautifully dense the foliage is.
Behold. Admire. Respect.
It was almost a pity to eat it!
Sometimes I wonder at this gardening lark. How invested I was and how proud I am of a single vegetable that you could buy just about anywhere for pocket change without thinking about it at all and certainly without getting this excited about something so boring!
We grew Halloween pumpkins for the first time this year.
It was all a bit of a kerfaffle really as the man who lent us the field was one of Ken's bosses and when he said we could use it for the year I - silly me- assumed that meant we would be the ones looking after it.
I was kind of right.
But the gentleman in question- who had thought he wanted to retire from the gardening thing- turned out to not like having so much free time afterall and kept 'helping' us.
When he 'helped' with the weeding and the slashing and there was some collateral damage to some leeks and cucumbers I thought hmmmm, oh well, I guess he has higher weeding standards than I do (not hard!) but when I turned up to find every pumpkin in the whole field missing and most of the vines ripped up I was a little less than pleased.
Got K to enquire (to stop me from inquiring!) and turned out the farmer/ boss had decided it was time to harvest.
All's well that ends well and we got our pumpkins back but I think that this is one free field that is a little too much work than it's worth.
Pity though as it's great soil and a really nice field. Sigh.
Anyway, even after their premature end we had enough pumpkins for me to take one to each of the schools for display, to give to friends to carve up and then for our own Halloween party as well!
I forgot to get a picture of them all together but here's the ones that were here at the end:
Meg and Amy carved the two orange ones, then Amy found an unripe green pumpkin and carved that while Meg carved an apple.
And the scary zombie two-tone one?
Kevin from Bastish net brought his daughter down from wayyyy up north for Halloween.
And he found this reject pumpkin and made this scary zombie pumpkin.
The end of the rice growing year is a really social time.
All the farmers who have had ducks working in their rice field during the year get together and we 'finish' them. The first year I was REALLY nervous about this- I imagined a gruesome bloodbath of panicked and traumatised ducks squealing in pain.
Thank GOODNESS the reality is nothing like that and three years in I am quite the amateur butcher.
Who woulda thought???
Seriously, I don't think I ever even gutted a fish in Australia!
The last two years I was put to work on the plucking tables. A pretty mind-numbing job- not much thinking involved really: see feather, pluck. Repeat. But lots of opportunity to chat as you work.
This year I was promoted.
I moved into the butchering building:
This is the first room in the butchering building- ducks are placed in the cones head down and their necks are cut in just the right place so that the artery is severed and they die in seconds. They are left there to drain.
Then they go to the guy on the left who swishes them around in the cauldron of boiling water. This is a highly technical job as leave them in too long and the subcutaneous fat starts to melt but too short a time and the feathers won't come out easily. The guy in the white apron is at the next station- the plucker. This is the coolest machine- it's like a washing machine with hundreds of rubber nodules on the inside. The ducks are swished around in there and water/ centrifugal force plucks them for you- SOOO much easier than doing it from scratch by hand!
This room is the 'dirty' room. From here (around the corner out of sight) are sinks and stainless steet tables where the boss (a qualified butcher) breaks the carcus down into a head (thrown out) two breasts, two legs (minus feet), two sasami strips, two wings and a ribcage.
I was working the next table taking the carcus, removing the big glob of fat at the tail, the backfat releasing and removing the neck skin and fat, finding and separating out the esophagus and trachea then using my knife like a mallet to remove the neck. The fat and neck are kept for making soup and the duck moves to the next station where the heart and liver are removed for eating (shudder but K loves them) and then passed to the NEXT station where the gizzard is removed and kept (shudder) and the remaining parts (bones and lungs and spleen and stuff)are thrown out.
By separating the butchering into so many stations each piece of meat is kept clean and hygenic. There is even a closed clean room for bagging and chilling the finished product.
After a full day of working on the ducks I went home and.....
Rendered all those necks and bottom fat globules (wow that sounds enticing doesn't it???) into duck fat and made confit.
But the before shot is pretty gruesome!
And what were the girls doing while K and I were busy butchering?
Well, Amy tried her hand at plucking for a while and then deemed it boring and left and joined Meg in running wild all over the farm and pretending to drive the tractor and playing quoits with frisbees in the post-harvest rice paddies ect etc.
They were having so much fun none of the kids even came in for afternoon tea the second day!