asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog July 2013 17 November, 2017

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 4:25 pm
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Yes, this was four years ago! I’m making another attempt to get caught up – there are still notes for all our trips out to Gifu…

7th ~ 8th

Tokyo has exited the Rainy Season already, while here it’s been extremely hot and humid since Friday, even under a somewhat summery-looking sky. For once even I appreciate the air conditioning in the car.

We buy some beautiful shiny eggplants and crisp cucumbers at the ¥100 stand. Tomatoes are delicious too.

Get to the house and it’s still hot and sultry. The entrance and kitchen floors are wet for the first time this year, from the air moisture meeting the cold ground. I must say, though, getting rid of the funky old tatami matting was a good move. The plain wood floor that replaced it is much less disgusting at this time of year.

Pick our first zucchini from the plants we put in in the spring.

In the evening, not a single firefly (disappointed!), but fine views of the Milky Way. It’s Tanabata, whn you’re supposed to look at the Milky Way but which is usually clouded over. At 10:30 a drop of water falls on my neck. 10 seconds later another one. Rain? While we’re moving the table under the front porch the sky opens. It pours down for 20 minutes, puts the fire out, then stops.

Monday morning is clear but not exactly fresh, though the weather people say the tsuyu is over for us too. We put the futons out to air. Suddenly it clouds over and rains – a mad dash to put the futons away before they get damp – but it’s over in 15 minutes. This is what they call “unstable weather”.

A hot day, anyway.

Min. temp. 17°C, max. 30°C


14th~15th

Cloud is forecast but there’s plenty of blue sky as we leave Nagoya. However… a bit down the road, right in front of us there’s a huge black cloud with a vague grey curtain underneath. It’s probably pouring with rain just where we’re going. Sure enough, at the first supermarket it’s right overhead, but still dry below. Perhaps it’s going to pass over and drop its load elsewhere? Done shopping, and on our way again the sky is clear, but there is water everywhere. The rain was here, and plenty of it, by the looks of it.

Maybe it’s because of the heat, but goya and tomatoes are more expensive in the shops than you’d expect at this time of year. Down the road, though, the farmers are selling delicious locally-grown tomatoes and other goodies so by the time we get to the house there’s a mountain of stuff in the back of the car – shiny black aubergines for pickling, thick-skinned white ones for roasting, zucchini for curry, crisp cucumbers, green and yellow peppers, hot green chillies, okra and myoga. Summer vegetables!

The insect chorus is starting up. Around 4:00 the heat eases off a bit and a certain cicada’s chirruping fills the valley. My favourite time of day in summer.

At dinner, along with fish and chips, T. fries some of those vegetables (peppers, aubergines, okra and celery) and drops them in a bath of dashi, sake, mirin, soy sauce and vinegar. It’s very good.

Monday morning starts strangely cold, and even during the midday heat there’s sometimes a cool breeze. Over breakfast T. discovers a leech between her fingers. Freak out! We sprinkle on salt to get the leech off, then more to draw out the poison. The latter is Yamada-san’s advice – we’ll see tomorrow if it works. Half an hour later I’ve got one between my toes! These things are a really unwelcome recent addition to the community.

Min. temp. 19°C, max. 33°C


21st~22nd

But for the stifling humidity it would be a perfect summer’s day; there’s a blue sky with wispy white clouds that only close in for 1/2 an hour or so in the late afternoon without raining. The nozenkazura is in orange bloom, along with nokanzo and another red flower I don’t know the name of. The big chillies are coming on, the zucchini and goya are also trying, but there’s not yet anything to pick.

The evening insect chorus is building up nicely.

They’re talking about ghost and horror stories on the radio – a traditional summer pastime. You’re supposed to enjoy the chills…

Monday is overcast. The heat continues…

We get another glimpse of The Last Carp.

It’s doyo no ushi no hi. There are two this year, a traditional occasion to eat eel. Brushed with soy sauce and grilled over charcoal “kabayaki” eel are delicious with rice and are supposed to give you the energy to cope with this debilitating heat. Unfortunately they’re about to become extinct. The wild elvers, caught to be raised in tanks in Japan, Taiwan or China, have taken a catastrophic fall in numbers over the last few years. If there are any eel on the market at all they’ll probably be a luxury item before long, unless the technique of fish-farming eels from eggs is quickly discovered.

Rain at 1:00. Luckily this time we noticed the dark clouds and suspiciously cool breeze in time to get everything inside before it got wet. It’s sweletering again by 2:00.

Min. temp. 18°C, max. 31°C


28th~29th

Sunday is another hot day, with a baking sun on top of the humidity. It does cool off a little in the evening though, and dinner outside is quite pleasant except for the mosquitos which close in as the fire dies down and bite our feet.

Monday morning is cold, and raining. I pick two nice goya, but find that some small animal has attacked the pumpkin and zucchini. The rain goes on all day and we head back to town early.

Min. temp. 19°C, max. 31°C

 

Farmlog November 2011 31 January, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:53 pm
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Please bear with me as I try and get up to date here. I suppose these records are as much for my own future reference as anything else really. December 2011 will follow soon.

6th~7th

  • It’s amazingly warm and humid for November, but looking like rain.
  • No speedcops out in this bad weather.
  • Ikemoto san’s floor needs the sawdust and general debris cleaning off before putting down the futon, but the vacuum cleaner leaves marks. The wax, or whatever it was, is still not completely dry. How long will it take?
  • A big caterpillar on the “nozenkazura” tree. The leaves are yellow and dropping off so there can’t be too much to eat up there.
  • T picks more and more persimmons – 300 this week! We’ve got this big book on traditional medicinal plants, and apparently the green frills at the base of the fruit are good for something – high blood pressure? You ferment them for five days, strain off the juice, put it in a bottle and bury it up to its neck in the ground for several months.
  • Pick the last chillies before the frost hits. Out in the field with just the background music playing in my head. It’s 60s stuff – Cilla Black’s “Anyone who had a heart” then Shocking Blue’s “Venus” finally a bit more recent with Steely Dan’s song about grapefruit wine. “No static at all”??
  • Min. temp. 7°C max. 19°C

20th~21st

  • Last week we stayed in Town, and it’s got quite chilly in the last two weeks, but sunny on Sunday.
  • In Kimble we buy some dishes, look at the incredibly cheap second hand furniture and pick up a free DVD of the film “Lost in Translation”.
  • The supermarket is running out of “Mugi to Hoppu Black”.
  • Is the Beaujolais Nouveau boom finally petering out? They used to fly it in so the Japanese could enjoy their easternmost position to be among the first people in the world to drink the new brew – at a price of ¥1800 a bottle or more. It’s not really worth that price, but now they’ve started using lightweight plastic bottles and we got one for ¥880. It turned out to be not so bad – immature, rough, funky… but enjoyable, from a producer I hadn’t heard of. (which isn’t saying that much)
  • The frost is late, and the chilli plants are still alive.
  • Monday brings a cold wind, fast-moving clouds and a bit of sun.
  • Pick a few last chillies. There are lots of those hot “Ishigakis” left, still alive though starting to look a bit sad. The frost will kill them soon, maybe tonight.
  • Lots of birds around, but all sensible creatures are bedding down for the Winter.  (or dead)
  • As we leave the house, the temperature’s down to 6°C, which is quite cold after the Japanese Summer and Autumn.
  • On the road home two dogs in front of us – no, monkeys! They soon get out of the way.
  • Min temp 3°C max 17°C

27th~28th

  • Autumn has come to Nagoya too, though at 16 it’s a bit warmer and very pleasant. The gingko trees on the sunny side of the street have turned bright yellow. Out in the country they can grow quite big and look very impressive.
  • “Vacant” and “To Let” signs on buildings everywhere.
  • A huge semi-nude poster advertising jeans (all she’s wearing) by a bridge on the road out. After a year or two it’s faded a bit but still sort of distracting.
  • A long queue outside McDonalds, like last week.They’re giving away free hamburgers or something.
  • The first strawberries of the season in the supermarket. To me, strawberries are a late Spring/early Summer thing but here they’re an essential of “Christmas Cake”, which for some reason is a strawberry sponge cake with whipped cream, not the rich dark fruit cake with icing and marzipan that I know.
  • By the time we get to the house it’s down to 5°C and cold. The pump that refills the oil heater’s tank is broken – an insect got in and built a nest. Manage to fill the tank somehow.
  • Yes, last week’s frost got the chilli plants. Season over.
  • A gloomy cold Monday and it’s hard to get  out of the kotatsu after breakfast. It turns out to be warmer outside.
  • min temp -1.5°C, max 10°C
 

Farmlog July 3rd ~ 25th 2011 27 August, 2011

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:59 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Summer in Gifu continues:

3rd ~ 4th July

  • We’re late this week and arrive on a moist Sunday evening. It’s extremely humid and mouldy, even a thorough vacuuming of the tatami floor can’t get rid of the smell.
  • The insects are warming up for their summer serenade, but there’s no sign of the fireflies this year. Did the carp in the pond eat all the larvae?
  • The yams that T planted had all their leaves eaten by some animal. I found a small gap in the net round that field and fixed it. Luckily the chillies were OK.
  • Got some weed-cutting done. Lots of buyo (nasty little black flies), but no leeches, amazingly.
  • Cloudy and wet the whole weekend.
  • Min. temp. 19°C max. 32°C

10th ~ 11th July

  • Tsuyu-ake (official end of the Rainy Season) is very early this year; Sunday is hot and humid, but the clouds are summer clouds – fluffy cumulus. not the grey blanket of the tsuyu.
  • The heat persists even out in the country and our floor is still wet. Maybe it’ll dry up in a week or two.
  • A bumper ume harvest. Something like a sour plum or apricot, this was originally imported from China as a medicine apparently, but is long-established in Japan. This year the tree branches are bent down with fruit and we pick 15Kg in an hour or so. Apart from umeboshi pickles and umeshu liqueur, you can make a drink by just putting them in a jar with rock sugar for a few weeks. Mix the syrup with water – good on a summer afternoon.
  • Saw a single firefly!
  • Monday continues hot and humid, but sometimes there’s a refreshing breeze – quite different from Nagoya, where any wind will have blown over acres of sun-baked concrete and comes on like something from an open oven door. We also had a visit from the uguisu, which was thoughtful of it.
  • Min. temp. 15°C max. 33°C

17th ~ 18th July

  • Typical summer clouds and humidity – a baking supermarket car park.
  • Shiso is a herb that looks a bit like a nettle – maybe a relative of basil? It comes in green and red varieties, the green is good in salad-type things and the red is used for umeboshi pickles. They both have a clean smell and antiseptic properties, but this year apparently everyone’s had huge ume harvest so there’s a shortage of red shiso. Eventually the lady at the 100 yen stand was able to get some for us. T has a lot of work ahead and I suppose we’ll be OK for umeboshi for a while.
  • Voices: a noisy welcome from birds and cicadas. In late afternoon come waves of synchronized blips from some kind of cicada, slipping in and out of phase like an op-art painting, moving up close, sometimes down the valley. The effect is very psychedelic. The morning cicadas do a continuous stream of sound that just blends into the humid heat. Just after dark there’s a strange cry from somewhere behind the house. A deer? A dog? Different insects take over in the evening – is autumn starting early? In the morning we hear a new bird – a voice I haven’t noticed before.
  • The humidity continues unabated. There are still some wet spots on the floor. A light haze softens the sun’s heat a bit.
  • It’s been a dry week but there’s a typhoon coming so we should get some rain.
  • But… no leeches! Could they be finished? Lots of lizards though. They’re much nicer than leeches let me tell you.
  • Min. temp. 18°C max. 33°C

24th ~ 25th July

  • Pleasantly cloudy on Sunday so the supermarket car park on the way out is less bakingly hot. That sun can hit you like a hammer.
  • Vegetables: lots of eggplants – I’ve already made a (very nice) eggplant pickle though. Some tomatoes. One place on our route has especially nice tomatoes from a local grower but they’re often sold out. No cucumbers. Why? They’re expensive in the supermarkets too. (We now have two supermarkets to check out on our route. )
  • The big Malaysian chillies aren’t doing well at all. Maybe the soil in this year’s field doesn’t suit them. Maybe I let them grow too big in their pots before planting? They looked so vigorous in Nagoya… The small hot varieties are doing OK though.
  • The house is slowly drying out, but there are still damp patches. Not wet though.
  • The insect chorus is building up.
  • The nozenkazura (Chinese trumpet vine) is in full bloom and looking good.
  • Lorry-loads of timber coming down from the hills. Are they building a road somewhere?
  • Pampas grass is a weed! People grow it in their gardens in Europe, but here it’s almost impossible to control. Keep hitting it with the weed-cutter: three times a year for three years they say. Or try glyphosate – that seems to work.
  • Next week Daihachi Ryodan play at the Ichinomiya Festival which might be fun, but means we miss a weekend here.
  • Min. temp. 18°C max. 29°C
 

Farmlog 20th June ~ 23rd August 2010 27 August, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:55 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Whew – a monster update to try and get back in line with the real date, so I can post other stuff without feeling guilty about not doing the farm stuff. Just for the record anyway:

20th June

  • HUMIDITY is the theme now. Dark clouds hang overhead and water just seems to exude from the air in big drops every so often. In fact when it’s like this a bit of rain can be quite a relief.
  • It’s the Longest Day and even in Japan, with no Summer Time, the evening is light till after 7:00. I wonder when they’ll get it about the electricity savings, to name just one thing…
  • There’s a Toyota subcontractor’s factory we drive past, and usually even though it’s Sunday a bunch of guys are gathered round the forklifts having some kind of Important Meeting. Meaningless ritual, unpaid overtime, or an important social bonding?
  • No police at their favourite speed trap when the weather’s as bad as this.
  • Planted out the last of the chilli seedlings – some habaneros. Too late really, but we’ll see how they get on in the Summer. Habaneros like heat…
  • Weeds just grow and grow, and managed to get in a bit of cutting, sweat filling my eyes, before heading back to Nagoya to meet a friend at a favourite izakaya.
  • Min temp 15°C max 29°C

27th June

  • This is the kind of day that gives the Rainy Season a bad name. Even just after taking a shower your eyelids are stuck together with sweat. A bit of rain would be nice…
  • Stopped off in Kimble on the way out. A fascinating place with second-hand goods, factory surplus stock and the like where you can pick up a china candlestick or Christmas tree decorations for 10 yen… Sometimes they have imported Korean beer-surrogate at 70yen a can which isn’t too bad.
  • The house out in Gifu was still quite cool inside as the hot sticky air hadn’t yet got in. Opening a cupboard door was like opening the fridge!
  • Monday was even hotter, with some big drops of rain for 10 min or so.
  • The first dragonflies showed up – several different kinds. Maybe we’ll see some fireflies next week?
  • Min temp 12°C max 28°C

4th July

  • Funny weather. Half-cloudy, slightly less humid at first, slightly cool breeze, scorching hot sun later…
  • Swollen rivers from the recent rain.
  • The lady at the ¥100 stand heard monkeys nearby, and said the fruit harvest wasn’t looking good this year.
  • Stars and a few fireflies.
  • Unexpected blue skies on Monday.
  • Mostly weed-cutting. Who was it that said about sculpture the secret was to remove the undesirable part, and leave the desirable part? That’s my weeding policy. If you just cut down everything it’ll all just grow back, so I try to leave some plants that I think are preferable in the hope that they’ll prosper and suppress the baddies. Well it sort of works to some limited extent. There are so many kinds of grass growing out here, including “susuki” the pampas grass that people grow in parks and gardens in Europe. Here it’s a virulent weed – a member of the bamboo family so it’s really tough.
  • Min temp 18°C max 31°C

12th July

  • Drizzley start to the day, torrential rain later.
  • Tiny field mice are trying to take over the house.
  • No fireflies… 😦
  • Min temp 18°C max 29°C

18th July

The Rainy Season is officially over!

  • Beautiful cotton-wool summer clouds.
  • When we opened the door there was a pool of water in the entrance. Not a roof leak, but condensation! The floor surface is kept cold by groundwater a couple of metres below.
  • A nice cool Sunday evening – Monday was hot though with an occasional cool breeze.
  • We drove back to Nagoya in the golden light of a late summer afternoon. There were anglers in the river – after ayu maybe.
  • min temp 18°C max 30°C

25th July

  • ATSU~I! must be the first word foreign summer visitors to Japan learn. It means hot. Sometimes being outside in the sun feels just like standing a few centimetres away from one of those heat lamps.
  • The mint growing outside always seems to get a kind of disease in the summer – the leaves turn black and wither away. It recovers in the autumn fortunately, and meanwhile we can use the stuff growing on the veranda in Nagoya, which is OK for some reason.
  • A cool evening – almost cold in fact! Nearly full moon.
  • A clear Monday morning: the kind of day which gets hot later, and this one did.
  • The 15th July is a special day on the old calendar (doyou no ushi) when you’re supposed to eat eel to maintain your strength to cope with the heat. Maybe it would work… grilled eel tastes good anyway, a bit rich perhaps.
  • min temp 20°C max 33°C

1st August

  • Hot and humid again. 😐
  • This hot weather has been hitting the vegetables, especially leafy things like lettuce and cabbage which have been going up in the supermarkets. At the 100 yen stand too there aren’t the huge piles of cucumbers and eggplants we usually find at this time of year. What there is, though, is good. Tomatoes, chillies, eggplants, cucumber and the mysterious myoga have been soaking up all this sun and have a wonderful Summer fragrance!
  • An amazing bumper crop of mini tomatoes. They’re really easy to grow – just put a couple of plants in the ground and they’ll spread out all over the place. The skin can be a little tough, but they taste good – the crows and various small rodents enjoy them too, but so far don’t seem to have found these, maybe because they’re almost hidden among the weeds.
  • Some beautiful big black butterflies visiting the nozenkazura flowers.
  • I’ve learnt the purpose of eyebrows. They’re to keep the sweat from dripping down into your eyes. Not quite up to the sort of sweat generated by this heat though…
  • min temp 20°C max 32°C

8th August

This was just a quick drop in with our friends visiting from the Netherlands, before going on to Shirakawa village.

The plants seem to be doing OK, but I forgot to check the temperature. Sorry.


15th August

  • Drove out in the continuing intolerable sticky heat past an undertakers advertising discounts for advance bookings…
  • There’s something wrong with the Pacific high pressure area this year. Usually it sits right on top of the country and brings a month or so of hot, but clear and somewhat less humid weather. This year it’s more off to the east, and moist, no wet air is coming round the edge from the south. Something to do with a La Niña effect in Peru apparently, but the humidity is extreme – the floors are wet with condensation, we get attacked by leeches each week…
  • This week some small animal found the mini tomatoes and ate the red ones. Just made a hole in the side and ate the contents, so it was quite a small animal.
  • A bumper crop of myoga this year – maybe it likes the rain.
  • min temp 22°C max 30°C

22nd August

  • Yes, more heat and humidity, even at this altitude of some 430m.
  • Sato imo (taro) plants growing everywhere on the way here, looking well in spite of the heat. I wonder why they’re so expensive in the shops?
  • Maybe we can live on myoga instead?
  • A mysterious hole just in front of the house, started a couple of centimetres across but seems to have got bigger this year. I wonder what lives there?
  • First red chillies of the season!
  • min temp 20°C max 33°C

The first red chillies of the season.

 

Farmlog 3rd August 2009 4 August, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:46 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week we couldn’t even get up to the farm because torrential rain had caused a landslip and blocked the road. Sunday started out the same way; the rain followed us most of the way, rivers were swollen and brown with mud, but we got through OK.

Chinese Trumpet Vine or "nozenkazura".

Chinese Trumpet Vine or "nozenkazura", typical summer flower in full bloom in front of the house.

  • Hey! No leech encounters this time! (relief)
  • Monday turned out to be the first day of Summer – hot and sweltering. The weather bureau got tired of answering “when will the Rainy Season end?” and officially announced it was over, although we’re due more rain on Wednesday and Thursday…
  • Sinister footprints inside the Green Zone netted off and supposedly deer-free where the chillies are trying to grow. Hmm, no damage to the plants yet, so I closed off any gaps I could see in the net, but I’m not sure how they got in, if they were deer footprints. Fingers crossed…
  • Min temp unknown (I forgot to check) max 25°C
 

 
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