2014年12月8日月曜日

2014年12月4日木曜日

Nothing lasts forever...

...not even cold November rain.

Remember that song? 


I used to love it. And the video. And that wild wedding dress.

I always thought the line about November rain was really deep and philosophical.

Growing up in Australia I never really got it. November rain is spring rain- it's not even cold.... And summer in Oz is really dry so there's not a lot of rain anyway.

But moving to the Northern Hemisphere I get it.

I really get it.

There is this weird rain that is half sleet half rain and it's relentless and it's COOOLLLLLLD!!

And it feels like it may never end and it makes me sing Guns'n'Roses...

But as the calendar changed from November to December this Monday I realised something.

Guns'nRoses weren't being poetic or philosophical.

Nope.

They were just showing they can read a calendar and a weather report.

You see, November raid doesn't last forever.

Just look:


November will always eventually but most definitely become December.

And relentless November rain will sure as not turn to December snow.

And that's why nothing lasts forever, not even cold November rain.

2014年11月30日日曜日

An apple a day....

Or a few dozen boxes of them!

So, I like to help people. Who doesn't?

So, when my neighbour asked me to help fill in the address labels on some boxes of apples she was sending I said sure.

(Actually I said- are you sure?? In a neighbourhood of Japanese people you want me to write all that kanji for you?)

Then I said sure.

Then I wrote out 42 address labels in kanji.

Horrific kanji.

Really complicated kanji and for about 10 of the addresses I was working from a handwritten list. this is kind of like being asked to rewrite doctor scrawl. How can you know what to write when you don't know what to copy??

Anyway, I got it done.

I delivered the address labels.


Then after she packed all the apple boxes K and I took them all down to the apples-to-be-posted-collection-area.


Our k-truck has a maximum tare of 300 kilos.

The usual apples-to-be-sent box weighs 10 kilos.

I'm not super good at maths but, even with some 5 kilo boxes thrown in the mix I'm pretty sure that 42 boxes of apples is over the tare limit.

I was the only person who was worried that this was illegal and quite possibly unsafe as well.... And sliding boards down the side of the tray and roping everything in doesn't change that fact.

The apples-to-be-posted-collection-area is a really cool place.

It's in one of the (several) warehouses at the local petrol station.

Which also doubles as the local rice dehusker/ polisher and kero delivery business.

Multi-talented, huh?

Anyway, K and I drove right into the warehouse and lo and behold there's a little table there with two guys in Japan Post uniforms (on a Sunday??) and about six guys in workwear absolutely killing it. Seriously, the productivity level here was amazing.

We were unloaded, boxes reloaded into trollies based on destination and box weight, customer copies of all the address labels removed, counted, collated, totalled and signed off on in under 5 minutes.

Which is just as well, as, after we were finished being gobsmacked by the amazingness of the process, after we got back in the car and drove through to the other side of the warehouse (of course it was drive through) we realised we had gone in the out and were now driving past a nice neat line of trucks and vans waiting patiently for their turn.

Oops.

Blurry picture of the super cool apples-to-be-posted-collection-centre:


It's just unfortunate that now we mucked that up so badly we may never be able to go back...

2014年11月20日木曜日

weekend farm kids

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

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

Sometimes they help out and sometimes they play.

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

Exhibit A:


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

Exhibit B:


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

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

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

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

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

Gotta love the thinking of the weekend farm kids.







2014年11月19日水曜日

Old skool

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

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

Well not really but almost!

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

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

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

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

The friend was asking questions:

Where do the mats plug in?

They don't.

Ahhhh is it wifi?

Nope.

How does it work?

You just dance.

...... cool!

And so they did.

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

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

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

She needs a bit more old skool education, huh?


2014年11月18日火曜日

arbourartists

Manicured trees are very popular here.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

So I came up with my own word- arbourartists!



2014年11月17日月曜日

pretty

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

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

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

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


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

2014年11月13日木曜日

Oh deer...

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

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

But I'm not.

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

Anyway....

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

K's boss likes to hunt.

Good on him.

He seems rather good at it.

Good on him.

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

Good on him.

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

So she said he had to give it away.

Good on her!!!

He gave some to K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh????

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

That was last year.

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

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

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

I started googling....

I realised my problem until this point:

I had been googling venison not deer.

But they're one and the same you say.

Oh no no no my dear (deer!)

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

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

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

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

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

That's a LOT of work.

The result though?


YUM!

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

Which is lucky.

As there was LOTS more.

We ate venison stew for three meals!

There was still one portion left but I froze it.

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

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

Oh deer!

2014年11月12日水曜日

Warning- this post may offend vegetarians and hypocritical omnivores

You were warned!

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

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

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

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

Here's the newest duck plucker on the block:




2014年11月11日火曜日

Planty people

My mum's whole family are planty people.

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

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

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

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

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


(It looked a lot better two weeks ago!)

A little bit of Australia right here in Nagano.

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

2014年11月9日日曜日

sweet addiction

Sweet potato addiction that is!

It's hard to talk about these sweets in English as in Japanese the word for sweet potato is satsumaimo and the sweet snack you make from satsumaimo is called sweet potato.

But that gets complicated in English!!

Anyway- whatever you want to call them these are delicious- and EASY!

Amy and I made all these in about 30 minutes:


The "recipe" (it's more a formula or set of instructions I guess) is:

Get a sweet potato (or two or three!), wash and roughly peel.

Cut into slices about 2cm thick.

Place in a bowl with a slosh of milk (about 1/4 cup for a bowl full of potato)

Cover and microwave till soft (about 10 minutes with that big bowl full we used)

Add a chuck of butter (about 30 grams I guess), 2Tb sugar (to taste- we go low here), either cinnamon or lemon juice (we made some of each and opinion was divided on which was better) and mash all together.

When smooth form into balls and place on an oven tray (I really think the patty pans were unnecessary except we were taking these with us to a Japanese friend's place and people seem to prefer things that aren't messy to pick up.)

Then just bake them for about 10 minutes at 200 till they go a little brown on top. You can make them go browner with egg wash or milk if you want.

And that's it.

They are sooooo goooooooooood!

Be warned- we made them for the first time then two more times in less than 48 hours....

2014年11月4日火曜日

brrrrrr!

We have lived in Nagano about 11 years now.

In all that time we've done very little tourist stuff. That's what happens when you buy a fixer-upper within months of arriving then get into farming.

Anyway, there's a great place called Utsukushigahara-kogen or 'beautiful highland plain' only an hour and a half from us and as it was a beautifully sunny day we decided to take mum and dad up there to enjoy the autumn leaves and the view and the break from all the gardening and farming!

As the sign says it's 2000m above sealevel.

We lucked out with the weather and it was a beautiful sunny crisp and clear autumn day with just enough cloud to add dramatic effect to our pictures.

It was also FREEZING COLD!!

So cold that there weren't even any autumn leaves left up there, they were all done and dusted and there was ice on the decks and stairs around the lookout building instead. Brrrr! The car thermostat was showing that it was 7 degrees but that doesn't take into account wind chill factor. Despite knowing that we were going into the mountains we woefully underdressed and ended up with tingly ears and fingers.

There is a great outdoor sculpture museum up there and we spent a couple hours walking around trying to guess what the title of the sculpture would be before we got there. The sculptures ranged from abstract to very lifelike and in all kinds of mediums so even non-arty people like us could enjoy it!


Amy in K's jacket as she was only wearing a shirt. She doesn't look too cold though really... maybe it wasn't that cold afterall?


No. Trust me. It was FREEZING!

2014年11月3日月曜日

So good I forgot to take pictures. >_<

We had a very untraditional Halloween party here today.

Not only was it run by an Australian (to the amazement of many japanese people Halloween is t an Australian custom) but it was held in November.

Anyway, we had 9 neighbourhood kids from 3 years old to 11 years old here for games and crafts and jack o lantern carving culminating in walking to each of their homes to trick or treat.

The kids all had a ball and got along really well, the boys made swords out of calendar paper and chased each other around while waiting to carve their pumpkins while the girls painstakingly decorated Halloween shaped cookies.

Everyone played bingo and mummy wrapping and "don't eat frank!" Which was a new game for me this year and was a blast.

I was having too much fun watching and organizing and helping the littlest ones do their craft and use the loo (memories!) that I took four photos all afternoon.

And I didn't purposely get the back of heads to save their privacy or anything- I was just that bad at taking pictures today.

Oh well, there's always next year!!



Don't eat frank!



Mummy wrapping team a

Team b

2014年11月1日土曜日

Bah humbug



Bah humbug. It's that time of the year again.

I know it's coming every year. As inevitable as death and taxes, but I'm still disappointed every year when I wake up to the first frosty morning. The first morning I have to find the window scraper and allow extra time in my schedule for warming up the car and scraping the windscreen before I go out.

It's all downhill from here- first frost, leafless trees, first frozen ground, first snow...

 Gyahhhh might as well just give up now. 

Harvest time

It was a wet old harvest this year which means slow, painful, muscle pulling, mud sucking, slimy, slippery, dirty slow progress.

Due to a number of factors beyond our control we did the cutting and hanging alone this year.

By we I mean k cut rice using a headlamp from 3-7 each morning and my mum and dad and I hung it during the day around my classes- nothing like a challenge huh??

It was the first experience for mum and dad and they rocked it!!

Serious. I offered tem references but they reckon it's not something they'll take up anytime soon.


Some rice was in areas where k couldn't even get the harvester in- think mud bath rather than straight mud so they got a chance to try cutting rice old school style!


This was the yeeeeeeehaaaaaaa moment we (they) cut the last bunch of rice- we still had another couple hours hanging work to go but seeing not a single bunch of rice standing anymore is a huge milestone!


The finished product. I stood across the road to try and get it all in to really show the size of the job.  You can see how muddy some areas are!


Bonus artistic shot of rice hanging as I think it looks really nice. Or maybe the sense of accomplishment at completing the job just makes it look beautiful to me!


Now
We just need the rain to let up and a string of sunny days and we can finish the job and get the rice in bags and in the rice stock cupboard and I can stop worrying for a bit.

Until we start readying the field for next year's crop anyway!

2014年10月27日月曜日

famous!

We were on tv for 2 seconds today.

But national tv.

At the end of a morning serial drama a lot of people watch it seems.

Apparently the NHK morning drama holds records for the highest audience percentages. It gets 20% plus.

I thought it was mostly watched by old retired couples reminiscing about a simpler time (many many of the serials revolve around a slightly rambunctious and or hotheaded young heroine who grows and matures over a series of episodes ranging from unfortunate and embarasing to downright harrowing to emerge as a mature, able, confident and reliable young/ mature/ middle aged woman at the end. Yes, I know I said they're watched by old people but my secret's out- I get hooked on them too! It's only 15 minutes a day.....

Anyway the current one is about the founder of Nikka whiskey (Japanese) and his wife (Scottish) moving to and living in Taisho era Japan. As usual the female lead is a bumbling hotheaded woman who is learning slowly and painfully by her mistakes but it has the added curiosity of her being a foreigner going for it this time.

As a tie in NHK are scouting for couples/ families in international relationships to get a 2 second spot at the end of the credits. I applied and today was our 2 seconds of fame.

And fame it was! We had a neighbour drop in, two stop their cars to mention it, many many mails and three phone calls.

After I went to work a lady dropped by and managed to gesture- struggle out word by word

'Today! Fukase- tv!!'

Bit of excitement for a Monday.

Reflected glory went to another Aussie Heather whose colleagues were amazed she wasn't the only Heather in the great Southern land (and way more impressed when she said we knew of each other) and my mother in law who was very chuffed to be fielding her own calls and mails all day.

Someone else's turn tomorrow and life will return to normal....

How will I ever go back to being a nobody again???


2014年10月23日木曜日

my hero

I don't give K enough credit on here I think.

He grew up in the suburbs of a regional city, never did any outside work at all. His dad had a veggie garden the size of a carpark. Literally the size of a carpark as they converted their second carpark space into a garden.

Anyway- it's a long way from there to the tractor driving, rice planting, chainsaw wielding, chook cage constructing, hoeing, tilling, harvesting, hauling, planting and watering machine that he is now.

And the most knight-in-shining-armour aspect of the whole deal is he always helps first and questions later. This may not seem like a big deal but I am prone to get into awkward and difficult situations based on following a hairbrained idea without thinking it through. At times like that- you know when you just broke the car jack trying to lift the rice hanging frame up in the mud... or you're hooked by the crotch on barbed wire while tippy-toeing over a fence holding two chooks at a time.... well at times like that someone who just helps without asking how on earth you got into that situation is more valuable than precious metals. Probably rarer too!

Anyway... on to Monday and the reason for this (first in a loooonnngggg time) post:

We have had chook apartheid going on for about 4 months with the three old chooks and the six young ones in the same cage but separated by a netting fence. This is because chooks can be evil and vile to each other as they set up a pecking order and I prefer to have everyone alive and separate than together and injured/ dead. This system had to change soon as the old chooks have rain cover in their section of the cage but inadequate shelter for a Nagano winter.  On a whim I decided to remove the fence Monday around 11:30. I was going to be around the house till about 2:30 so I could watch for any OTT bullying and reasess the situation. Our chook cage is a ramshackle affair that we keep extending. I removed the top half of the internal netting wall thinking the old chooks would come flying over and start stealing food and chasing around the young chooks. I stood ready to protect and defend in the young chooks section of the cage keeping my eye on those cunning older chooks.

Could not have been further wrong. In literally seconds the young chooks realised they could now jump up onto the roof of the former cage and walk along the rafters and get to the (unnetted) roof of the new cage. In four months the old chooks NEVER did this so it didn't even occur to me.

It started raining.

Three of the new chooks are now at various places on the roof.

Completely free.

They haven't figured this out yet but it's a matter of time.

I start using the lid of the feed container to shoo them back into the cage while making dashes for netting, clips, ties and scissors. This is a farce of me lugging a ladder hither and there trying to stay calm and avoid the chooks realising that a) they are free and b) I am trying to pen them again.

I don't want to scare them too much either as I don't want them to panic and make for freedom and I don't want them to stop thinking I'm a nice person as it's easier to look after them if I can pick them up and also just because I want everyone to think I'm a nice person- even chooks.

I was getting almost no progress made on fixing the situation, was getting increasingly panicky and really rather wet as the rain was steady.

I realised it was now 12 and K was on his lunch break. While kneeling on the unstable and ancient roof of the chook cage, uncertain of whether it was safer to go forward or back to get off the roof and hoping I wouldn't be going straight down any time soon I called and gabbled out my problem (which was pretty unintelligible I'm sure) and the amazingly wonderful K said "I'll be there in 5" and came home, rescued me, helped pen the chooks and went back to work for a meeting as though nothing had ever happened.

My hero!

2014年10月18日土曜日

rice harvest

Look at the beautiful blue sky and yellow rice.

Perfect!


Well, perfect today but not so great actually as we had two typhoons bring heavy rain and the paddy is completely waterlogged. :(

Oh well. The machines couldn't get in so we hauled all the drying poles down there, distributed them around the paddy, set everything up then harvested all the mochi rice and some (a verrryyyyy smalllllll fraction) of the regular rice by hand.

Cutting by hand is no big deal. A hand scythe easily cuts through a tuft of rice.


Tying by hand is a hassle.

A reallllll hassle.

Not fun at all.

So I was sooo proud of the girls helping out!

Look at that cooperation!


Now if only the weather, the machines, the rice paddy and the helpers can all cooperate for another weekend so we can get it DONE!

Gratuitous shot of the helpers making clover chains with a friend:




2014年2月27日木曜日

29 dreams

Today was Meg's final parent day for grade 4.

They held a 'half-way to being an adult' day.

They did a really amazing presentation that was so smooth and really exciting to watch with spoken word, song, chanting, slideshow presentations etc etc.

Part of it was every single child holding a card they'd made with their dream job for their future written on it.

It was all set to background music of them singing a song about growing up.

Sniff sniff.

There are 29 kids in Meg's class and these are their dreams:

*****************

Patissiere

The kind of employee who is loved by his superiors.

Hunter

Patissiere

Famous fisherman and professional soccer player

Kinder teacher and pet shop employee

Very very rich marine biologist

Carpenter

Kinder teacher

Dog groomer

Member of the Japan National soccer team

CEO

Professional baseball player

Zoo attendent

Architect

Pro tennis player (and play in US Open)

Dance teacher

Pro soccer player

Animal handler

I want to take my family on an overseas holiday!

Professional baseball player

Midwife

Soccer player

Tokyo Disneyland employee

Famous chef and pro baseball player

Nutritionist

As fast as Usain Bolt

A singer

Cake shop owner

*****************

I love their dreams. So pure, so big, so naive!

May all 29 of them find their happiness wherever their lives lead them.

And may the kids contemplating not one but TWO careers learn the importance of free time somewhere along the way!

2014年2月24日月曜日

Pretty cold



For all my complaining about the cold and the snow and the ice and all that there are mornings and days and afternoons and sunsets when the views here are just so beautiful, the sky so blue, the mountains so big and white, the snow so sparkly, that I forget that it's so cold and just think how pretty the cold dry air makes things.

Those days I call "pretty cold" days.

2014年2月20日木曜日

My boots don't fit

Mummy!

Yes?

My boots don't fit anymore!!

Huh? Didn't you wear them yesterday?

Yeah, but they fit yesterday and they DON'T FIT TODAY!

Sighing I walked over to the genkan to see what the problem was. I mean Amy is growing like a weed but to outgrow your snowboots overnight seemed a little unusual...

I bent to pick up her boot sure she just had a discarded sock stuffed in there or something-

Aghhhhh grunt. ???????

They were frozen solid! Frozen to the floor AND frozen in a very weird angle- closer to 45 degrees than 90.

AMY??? These are frozen to the floor. I thought I asked you to put any wet snow gear by the fire last night? What happened???!!!!

Hands on hips she sighed and looked to the heavens before calmly explaining to me:

They're not wet.  They're frozen.


2014年2月19日水曜日

I learnt something today

I learnt something today.

I like learning stuff.

I've learnt lots of stuff about living in snow already.

I've learnt:


  • Snow is slippery- ice is worse. Walk on snow if you only have the choice between the two.



  • Even powder snow will go wet and make you soggy and miserable when it melts. Always, always brush the snow off when you go indoors.



  • Even powder snow, even slushy half thawed snow, even regular snow snow- heck- all snow- will freeze solid to your porch over night. Never put off removing the snow from your porch. Never.



  • Driving on snow and ice sucks. You're gonna slip, you're gonna slide. Your teeth will be rattled out of your head on the weird corrugated wave pattern unshoveled show inevitably freezes into on the roads.  Your wheels will spin, you'll lose traction. You won't be able to turn where you want or how you want. Driving on snow and ice sucks.


And today?

Today I learnt something new about driving in the snow.

Well parking in the snow actually.

See, they shovelled the snow to the edge of the carparks after last week's snow.

So after this week's snow there was nowhere for the snow to go and after they piled it up at the ends of the carparks the parking areas are good for VW Bugs, Morris Minors and anything made by Little Tikes.  Real cars? Big cars? The 7 seater people movers so popular among families? Yeah, not so much.

So, I got to after school care and inched my way between the snow pile sentinels at the entrance to the carpark in a move reminiscent of the dreaded S-bend at driving school. Phew.... I thought that was going to be the hard bit but then I had to try and park far enough back to not block through traffic between me and the people movers parked opposite. No problem! I have big wheels and I've been driving over snow banks all week. I am big car driver- hear me roar!!!

__________????

What happened to the roar?

Not even a murmur??

Our car is a diesel engine. It's not something you'd call quiet.

But now it was silent.

Turned the key and-

__________________

silence.

Aghhhhh????? Ehhhhhhh???? Whaaaaaaa?????

Started freaking out. Cut the engine. Jumped out of the car and looked under it. Nothing.

Looked for steam escaping from the bonnet- nothing.

Walked round the back- uhhhhh....

I had backed WAAYYYYY into the snowbank.

I couldn't even see my rear bumper let alone my exhaust pipe.

I had a feeling that was a kind of bad thing....

I learnt that from a kid who transferred to my high school from juvenile detention- or that was the rumour anyway- he wan't there for long.... who knows where he is now.... we didn't keep in contact for some reason..... but he was at my school long enough to get annoyed with a science teacher and plug his exhaust with mud one day. I remember that and that it was a bad thing for the car, the teacher and the kid.

Pretty sure that snow would be equally bad I decided to dig myself out. Easy- just scoop the snow away, right?

Bugger.

Bloody snow was not nice fluffy snow. It was crunchy, icy packed into rock-solid shape snow. I had no digging utensil bigger than a toothbrush.

Hmmm... I remembered that I had learnt that exhaust pipes are very hot. Learnt that from a girl at Uni whose romantic date riding pillion on her boyfriend's motorbike ended up with a trip to hospital and a really bad burn on her bare calf.

Hot exhaust pipe melts rock-solid icy snow unblocks exhaust.

Damn, I'm smart.

Well, not smart enough to not back into the snowbank in the first place but I did get the car started, re-parked and picked the girls up without anybody noticing my predicament.

And I get to add to my list of things I've learnt.


2014年2月18日火曜日

Dear Sir...

Dear Mr Nissan Patrol driver,

Your car is so shiny! You must love your car more than me.

Your car looked clean and washed and quite possibly rather new.

My car is 20 years old and covered in white markings from the salt on the roads.

Both our cars are on the bigger side aren't they?

I bet you enjoy driving around looking out on other cars and being able to see up ahead what the traffic is doing as much as I do.

How about this snow we've had, huh?  CRAZY!  Breaking records left right and centre.

The roads are a mess though aren't they? A crazy patchwork of ice, bitumen, snow, over salted gritty spots- it's like a rollercoaster out there.

Lucky I don't have dentures or they'd rattle right out just getting into town I reckon!

It took me over an hour to make a 30 minute drive yesterday.

The roads are so narrow in some places I couldn't even pass a little kei-car. Spent a lot of time backing up into driveways or waiting for someone else to do the same.

It was a little hairy at times and certainly not a relaxing drive but you know what? It was kind of heartening to feel part of a bigger community of people all doing the giving and taking thing to make sure we all get home safely.

And then I met you.

On a corner.

On a road that's narrow anyway.

The centre line was only 30cm from the edge of the road on my side so It wasn't going to happen.

I had three cars behind me (love that big car extra vision don't you?)

You had noone behind you.

But you just stopped dead still.

I know the road laws here. I'm sure you do too: whichever one of us is moving when we collide has the responsibility for the accident. The flip side being as long as you are stationary you are fault free.

So you stopped. All four wheels on black.

I inched up into a snowbank on my side figuring if I did that and then stopped you'd do the same and get by and we'd all go about our way.

But no.

Your precious car doesn't do snowbanks huh?

I waited.

And gestured.

All that big car extra vision wasn't working though as you couldn't see me gesturing that I was already in the snow.

So I gave up and kept edging into the snow.

I got stuck.

The cars behind me all backed up so I could reverse and try again.

I was sweating. My wheels were spinning. I needed speed to get traction but not so much speed I kept going into a concrete block fence.

You my friend looked remarkably serene.

I got passed.

No thanks to you.

You kept your spot while the cars behind me used my tracks to get around you too.

Please watch this video:



(caveat- I only watched the first 20 seconds of this. If naked women or cruelty to animals appear after that it was not my intention to publicise that.)

Look at that Nissan Patrol go!

If you are still unwilling to get a little snow on your tires please just stay home till Spring.

Yours emphatically,

The Delica driver who only just made it past you last night.




2014年2月17日月曜日

what's the worst snow removal job you can think of?

Main street of a busy town?

The roof of a two story building?

The rounded tops of the trains?

Never done any of those so I can't compare I guess but this was HARD:


The trampoline! Cursed buying such a big trampoline again!

This was my leg my first step onto the mat.


It was sea-sick inducingly boingy and bouncy.


The mat is incredibly slippery so we kept falling over which Meg found a lot more fun than I did!

It took a couple hours as we had to be careful not to poke too hard at the mat with our shovels and as the netting is really high we couldn't heave the snow out over the top and had to instead aim it at the little triangle door opening and then periodically go out and move the pile built up there out of the way and then get back in and repeat. Phew!!


Meg and I got about 2/3 of it done all by ourselves before we admitted defeat as the sun was going down quickly and we didn't want to leave any to freeze over night so we called in the big guns- K!

He muscled through the rest of it in no time. Even after a whole day of shovelling. 

I'm in awe...

neighbourhood snow removal day

After shovelling out our house and cars and making tracks to the chook cage and all that fun we had to go and help dig out the road down the mountain and the footpath the kids use to get to school.

It was a BIG job so lucky we had so many people turn out.

Of course Matsumoto city has snow ploughs but there is a priority listing of roads and we are soooooo far down the list...

And anyway, there are independent self-reliant types around here and the neighbourhood owns a hand pushed show plough, a neighbour with a LONG driveway owns another, EVERYONE has a k-truck for hauling snow, there are power shovels and tractors and plenty of active and willing people.

So... we headed down the mountain.


Amy came up with a laid back way of doing things.

The footpath- before:


Obviously the snow plough had already been down so this isn't a REAL before shot but it's a before we started shot.

After:
Ok, well technically still during but you can see what a thorough job we're all doing. And laughing and chatting and talking as we worked.

No less than FOUR of us had broken snow shovels already this week. What's the big deal? They're less than 1000 yen right?

Well, the big deal is all the stores are completely sold out of them and with the highways blocked and trucks not getting through who knows when we'll get more! There were some very creatively taped and screwed together snow shovels out there!  Me? I just gave up and used a metal one- heavier but zero chance of me falling on it and snapping it.

The tractor with a snow plough attachment widening the road. 


Taking a break to appreciate the scenery:


Still a lot of snow to go...


Look at all the people there on the mountain! Times like this I love where I live!


So proud of Meggy for doing her bit too.

Amy jumped right out of the way of the snow ploughing tractor.


You can just see a couple of heads the other side of the snowbank. That's the pile of snow between the footpath and the road. No need to worry about kids running out onto the road as they walk to school at the moment! 

Bit worried about what's going to happen when it gets a bit warmer and that pile starts to slide though....


This is the road outside our house. That's the corner of our truck on the left there.  My neighbour up the road is FASTIDIOUS about shovelling snow. See that black tarmac there? That's a whole weekend's work. She's a GUN> Us on the other hand? Ummmm, wellll.... hey, it wasn't like we were sitting around doing nothing!