asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog March 2013 5 September, 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:59 pm
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Little Buddha in the back woodsRidiculous backlog here, and I definitely have to try harder to catch up with real time (ie Autumn!)

3rd~4th

Anyway, the first week in March we had a Daihachi Ryodan concert at Tokuzo. A good time was had by us, and the audience made a good impression of it too. (Were you there? Many thanks if so!) That meant we stayed in Nagoya though, and missed a weekend in the country.


10th~11th

The last few days have been incredibly warm and Spring-like, though T and I have both caught colds – maybe they came over with the latest wave of “kosa” from China? Anyway Sunday morning is mild but cloudy, and a wind is blowing up. Some #$%&ing marathon means the streets are closed on our route north out of town and we have to use the highway, paying an extra, extortionate, ¥750. By Gifu it’s reverting to Winter chilliness, just as forecast.

At the ¥100 stand we pick up an enormous bunch of spinach. The recent warm weather must have made the plants grow up way beyond their standard size before they could be picked, but they turn out to be tender, sweet and delicious, if a little mild-tasting.

Monday is perfectly clear but the wind is freezing cold – only the sun’s higher position in the sky tells us it’s no longer Winter. Anyway I have to get some digging done for this year’s chillies. The field should have been dug over last Autumn so the frost could get in to break up the soil and kill pests.

Of course today (3/11) is the second anniversary of the terrible Tohoku earthquake. Videos of the tidal waves are still shocking. Can you imagine a wave over 20 metres high? (That’s metres not feet.) Even now some 300,000 people are displaced, and about half of them have no prospect of being able to return to their radioactive villages any time soon. The Fukushima reactors are scheduled to take some 40 years to clear up!

Still Abe seems determined to put short-term profits first and persist with the use of nuclear power, in the face of public opposition. The L.D.P. are part of the nuclear vested interests consortium. (Don’t get me started on politics again…)

Min. temp. 5°C, max. 15°C


17th~18th

Sunday is a beautiful soft spring day, with ume and peach blossom in full bloom near Nagoya, although the radio says rain is on the way. Out at the homestead there are no flowers yet, but shoots coming up everywhere and the birds are starting to sound excited. We sit in the sun in front of the house with a cup of tea and an onigiri. Once the sun goes behind the trees it cools off though, so I get up and do some digging till it gets dark a bit after 6. It’s still too cold to eat outside, but in a few weeks…

It starts raining earlier than predicted – about 1 am – and Monday is warm but unpleasantly damp, and light rain looks set in for the day. Listening to the diet debate on the TPP on the radio. It’s a complex subject, but I hope Japan doesn’t get turned into a copy of the USA, with all due respects to American readers.

Min. temp. 4°C, max. 14°C


24th~25th

It’s actually hot in Nagoya, and the cherry blossom is out early over most of the country. As we drive out of town, though, it soon reverts to normal and cherries 45 minutes away are still in bud. While it’s a nice clear spring day, there’s a bit of a chilly wind at the second supermarket on our route. At the house there are still no flowers, though daffodil shoots are up and wasabi leaves are appearing.

Monday is sunny, but there’s a cold wind. I get the first stage of the chilli field digging done, and now need to put up the 3m net to keep the deer out.

Min. temp. 0°C, max. 16°C


31st March~1st April

ojisan's deer trapIt’s a grey miserable day, except for the trees in exuberant full bloom all around Nagoya, defying anyone to let the weather get them down. They’re mostly cherries but as we get into Gifu the seasons slip back a bit and there are more ume, peach and kobushi, both cultivated in gardens and wild in the hills. Even against a grey sky it’s a grand show.

By evening the sky has cleared and it’s cold. At 1:30 am there’s a dog barking somewhere – why?

The next day the deer ojisan drops in and reports that he’s caught 14 this season! At ¥20,000 a head bounty that’s not bad pocket-money. A recent survey said there were 200 or so in this area though, so he’s still got work to do. (I’m not exactly sure what the boundaries of the area were.) Deer are really a pest round here, eating anything they can find – except the wild plants of course. However, the lady at the ¥100 stand down the road says her main problem is monkeys!

Monday’s weather is perfect, barring a bit of a chill in the wind. The ume on a south-facing slope is already blooming, filling the air with its sweet scent. On a sunny day in April this place can seem like a close approximation to paradise. I take a short walk in the woods just round the corner. Everything seems so peaceful but it’s really a bustle of activity. Back by the house, this year’s first sighting of a tiny lizard, a beautiful black and blue butterfly and a big aodaisho snake sunning itself.

Min. temp. -1°C, max. 16°C

early wasabi

 

Farmlog February 2013 5 July, 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:00 pm
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Sweltering in early July, the time when we were shivering in the snow and slush of february almost has a certain nostalgic appeal…

3rd~4th

Yesterday was Setsubun, the changing of the seasons when we drive out demons and invite fortune into the house. Originally this came just before the New Year celebrations, which seems appropriate, but since the Westernization of the calendar back in the Meiji era New Year has been at 1st January and many other traditional events of the Japanese calendar have been dislocated.

On Sunday we are presented with impressive views of rows of snowy white mountains in the distance.

The supermarkets are laden with massive stocks of chocolate for the impending Valentine’s Day celebration. This is one of those synthetic Japanese “customs” dreamed up by the marketing department of some company – suddenly it became the day on which girls give presents of chocolate to the boys they are interested in. (I remember years ago receiving a heart-shaped box of chocolates soon after starting teaching here, and totally failing to follow up on the possible romantic opportunity it represented because I had no idea of this Japanese Valentine thing…) Later, in the 80’s or 90’s maybe, the “custom” expanded to include all men to whom the woman (yes the age bracket has expanded too) in question felt some kind of obligation, so “giri-choco” had to be given to people like superiors in the office, romantic feelings or not. Chocolate sales just before Valentine’s day rose to some 40~50% of the year’s total! (Presumably that chocolate salesman who invented this got a good bonus.) These days the trend has moved on to “self treats” or something, so those young women now buy chocolate to stuff into their own faces on February 14th! I’m not sure what St. Valentine would make of all this.

That evening a few people come round to help us expel the demons with the help of some beer, sake and an excellent bottle of the smoothest vodka you ever tasted, brought back from a trip to Russia by T’s nephew. Anyway, guests are avatars of the God of Good Fortune, right? Among our visitors is Snake Doctor Yamada who passes round, along with some home-brewed sake, some pieces of dried mamushi for us to munch on with the drinks. Hmm…

It’s wet and cloudy on Monday and we leave a bit early, but the misty hills are beautiful on our way back to Nagoya.

Min. temp -6°C max. 7°C


10th~11th

mystery turd on toilet roofSunday is chilly, with low, grey clouds, and there are no mountains for us this week.

Miso nabe for dinner – not bad. Later it starts snowing.

On Monday the light snow melts in the sun, but we get a bit more in the late afternoon.

The weekly batch of compostable rubbish to dispose of, and I cut some more thorns from our nasty wild citrus tree to help keep the cats out of our garden in Nagoya. There’s a turd on the roof of our outside toilet… It’s quite big, 8~9cm, definitely not a bird or mouse, or even a stoat/weasel type animal, so I have to think we must have had a visit from monkeys at some point.

Once the sun goes down it gets pretty cold. Obviously it’s still Winter, but here and there buds are starting to swell…

Min. temp -4°C max. 7°C


17th~18th

Even at mid-day in Nagoya the air has a bite. It’s been a cold week.The overcast sky clears in time for us to see some white mountains basking in the cold winter sun, till it clouds over again and snows that night. There’s yet another mouse in the chutoruman, a weekly occurrence.

Monday is white with that snow, but by the time I get up it’s turned to rain. Still cold though. I just hope the snow gets melted before it’s time to leave. The rain means no work outside, so I practice guitar a bit. (We’ve got a concert coming up in a couple of weeks.)

Min. temp -6°C max. 4°C


25th~26th

Anyway, it’s cold, with blizzards on the Sea of Japan coast, apparently. The midday clouds clear up and we arrive in bright sunshine but the wind is so bitterly cold as to take away any warmth. Turn on the oil stove and get in the kotatsu, but even the cups that had hot tea in 15 min. ago are now icy to the touch. It will take half a day for the room to warm up a bit. The old fan heater did better than that, but had the disadvantage of not working if the electricity is cut off, as we found out one cold winter when heavy snow brought down tree branches on the power lines. For dinner: Vietnamese beef stew, squid stir-fry and a salad.

It takes me 30 min. to get out of the futon on Monday. Outside it’s sunny but even at 11:00am it’s -1°C. That might not mean much to some, but it’s plenty cold enough for us. I put on working clothes but after disposing of the compost my fingers are numb. It’s too cold to get any work done. The joy of a Japanese bath! (It’s just as hard to get out of as the morning futon, though.) Back to Nagoya for the last Daihachi Ryodan practice before our gig at Tokuzo on the 3rd March.

Min. temp -7°C max. 3°C

 

Farmlog January 2013 27 March, 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 2:16 pm
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13th~14th

Our first visit of the year. The sun is hazy, but you can see the snowy mountains in the distance.

T’s nephew drives up for the day with his wife and extremely cute 1-year-old daughter. We have fun but don’t get much work done.

The next morning T wakes me with the news that it’s snowing, quite hard. The radio is talking about major snow, and those tyre chains are such a pain to put on that we gulp down breakfast, pack and get out of there before we get snowed in. Short weekend.

Min. temp. -4°C max. 8°C


20th~21st

It’s hazier than last week – brown hills are visible, but no white mountains. Leaving Nagoya it’s not too cold, but the house is definitely well chilled when we open the doors.

The deer-trapping ojisan drops in and we show him our Goto photos over a cup of tea.

Patches of snow on the ground turn crisp by late afternoon.

Tofu chiggae for dinner – easy but good.

Outside, everything is waiting for the spring. I need to do some pruning though.

Min. temp. -6°C max. 8°C


27th~28th

There’s too much snow again so we stay in Nagoya. On Monday we take the Tarumi line again and enjoy the snow from the train window.

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Farmlog November & December 2012 6 March, 2013

Filed under: countryside,places — johnraff @ 1:52 pm
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4th~5th

It turned pretty cold a couple of days ago, but Sunday is a beautiful autumn day with feathery clouds and vapour trails across the deep blue sky. The sun manages to bring the mid-day temperature up to 19°C in Nagoya, which isn’t bad going. Views of holy Mount Ontake magnificent in new snow.

As we get out of the car at the other end the air has a sharp bite. A flock of tits tries to cheer us up over our cup of tea. There’s just time to pick a last batch of chillies before it gets dark at 5:30 and my fingers are frozen. We won’t be coming up next week, and by the 18th the plants will probably have been killed by the frost.

We have dinner at a friend’s down the road. Almost everyone, driving or not, is drinking non-alcoholic beer, which I find deeply depressing.

Monday is cloudy and chilly, though when the sun peers through it warms things up a bit. Rain is due later. The tits are still around, and we have a brief visit from some goldcrests(?) and other small greenish-brown birds. The autumn colours are well under way, but we’ll miss the best, which will probably be next week.

Min. temp. 2°C, max. 19°C (max from last week?)


11th~12th

We stay in Nagoya. On Monday, visit Tanigumi.


18th~19th

We leave town a bit late because Saturday night at Raffles was busy. Sunday is a nice early winter’s day with an almost clear blue sky. Passing through Inuyama we pause to check out Saito Ham’s sausages and see a sign to “Jakko-in” – a Zen temple nearby famous for its maple trees, which might just now be at their peak so we decide to have a look as we’re running late anyway. About half the population of the Tokai area have decided to do the same, and the narrow road is totally jammed. We give up and escape up a side road only to happen upon a secret car park, so we stop after all and walk 5min. to Jakko-in. It is rather nice but loses out to Tanigumi maybe. (pics below)

It’s dark by the time we reach our house and it’s my turn to make dinner – Chinese-style chicken breast stir-fry with peppers, hot sour soup and tomato salad, with a simple (ie cheap) red wine from the South of France. It turns out OK.

Sunday night drops to 0°C but the chillies are just hanging on to life. I pick a few but we’ve got more-or-less all we need now. Cut some thorny citrus branches to help keep the cats off our garden in Nagoya. The mid-day sunshine is pleasantly warm but at 3:00 the sun goes behind the hill opposite and by 4:00 the BIg Chill has its teeth in us and my fingers are numb. A warm bath helps a lot, then back to Nagoya in the dark.

Min. temp. 0°C, max. 15°C


25th~26th

Sunday is another beautiful day – sunny with no wind – perfect for viewing the autumn colours and plenty of people must be doing just that, as the roads are quite crowded. Once out of town, the scenery is indeed impressive with red, brown and yellow leaves against a deep blue sky with distant white mountains to set it off. However, the weather is unsettled and the radio promises rain tomorrow.

Big “daikon” radishes are in season and cheap everywhere.

There’s another mouse in the trap (last week too) and the deer (probably) have knocked down the net round the chilli plants, but the chillies have died from the frost anyway.

Wake to the sound of rain as promised, and it looks set to continue all day…

Min. temp. -1°C, max. 11°C


December 16th~17th

We’ve missed two weekends! Two weeks ago there was a private party at Raffles and last week there was just too much snow to make the trip enjoyable. What’s more, next week we’ll be busy getting ready for Xmas and the week after getting ready for our trip to the Goto Islands, so this will be our only visit in December.

It’s a beautiful Sunday with magnificent views of snowy Ontake again.

Oshogatsu stuff is starting to appear in the supermarket. T buys mochi to decorate the farmhouse.

I make “miso nabe” for dinner – it’s OK.

Monday is wet again – this seems to be a regular pattern this autumn. Cut some more cat-thorns, dispose of the organic refuse and head back to Nagoya for an evening of blues at Otis’.

Min. temp. -5°C, max. 10°C

Jakko-in Photos:

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Farmlog October 2012 27 February, 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:58 am
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7th~8th

higanbanaWe set out from town on a beautiful Autumn day – clear, fresh and a blue sky in which the sun is a bit lower, but still strong at mid-day. I get a bit of weed-cutting done before dark, which is now about 6:00.

Higanbana are still in bloom. The chillies seem OK and the net is still intact. The goya leaves are turning yellow and I pick the last three. The mini tomatoes have ripened slowly in the Autumn sun and are sweet and delicious.

Twilight now has that special autumn quality. I don’t want to say “sinister”, but maybe “mysterious” describes how the trees on the ridge opposite sway in the wind. Halloween is coming up after all. A deer cry echoes up the valley. The insect chorus is especially sweet and mellifluous but this isn’t  a balmy summer evening and we huddle near the fire. This might be our last dinner outside this year.

Monday is gorgeous and I pick lots of chillies.

Min. temp. 11°C, max. 24°C


14th~15th

Autumn came later this year but suddenly as usual. September was hot till the end, but the wind in Nagoya on Friday was a taste of the coming winter. By contrast, Sunday was overcast but mild. Arriving in late afternoon we drank a cup of tea in front of the house, enjoying the peace. There’s not a breath of wind, just the soft singing of crickets and the chirps of a few small birds.

On Monday all the clouds are gone and it’s another wonderful day with a nice combination of hot sun and cool air. The eerie voice of a deer echoes up the valley again. The place is swarming with them – the ojisan caught three last week! One was a big stag with a full set of horns.

Rice is still standing near Nagoya – I was a bit premature predicting the harvest.

Min. temp. 8°C, max. 22°C (note how the temperature goes down a couple of degrees each week)


21st~22nd

Perfect autumn weather – deep blue sky and fresh breeze.

The evening’s really a bit too cold to eat outside, but we’re promised meteors from 12:00 so so put on extra clothes, build up the last outside fire of the year and actually it’s tolerable. T gets sleepy and gives up around 10:00 but I put on a Grateful Dead record and wait it out to see a couple of shooting stars, but nothing spectacular, and am happy to finally get in a warm futon (first use of the electric blanket this year).

Monday is freezing and sweltering at the same time, depending on if you’re in the shade or not.

We don’t eat much jam – our breakfast times and menus during the week are quite different, but usually Monday morning breakfast ends with bread and marmalade. Today we’re out of marmalade. I find a jar of ume jam I made about 15 years ago. It’s mouldy (of course). No Jam Today.

Drive home in a haze of smoke. – everywhere people are burning the leftovers of summer.

Min. temp. 6°C, max. 20°C


28th~29th

It was beautiful on Saturday, and the forecast is good tomorrow too, but today a front or something is passing through and it’s a day of rain.

Driving up, an armoured car passes us going in the opposite direction.
…whaat…???

We pick up a couple of ¥25 croquettes at the supermarket for our afternoon snack.

It’s my turn to cook this evening: fish curry, squid with Thai sauce and habanero-mango salad. The mango is delicious.

By 1:00 am the clouds clear, a few brave insects are chirping and the moon is almost full.

Monday is beautifully clear as promised but there’s a chilly north wind blowing. Leaves are changing colour early this year.

(Forgot to read thermometer.)

 

Farmlog September 2012 28 December, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:04 pm
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Freezing here in late December, summer is just a vague memory, but notes from the farm in September still remained to be written up. Here goes…

9th~10thakebi - an interesting wild fruit

  • Last week we were in Nagoya for a Daihachi Ryodan gig, so a 2-week break, which always has us wondering how things are down on the farm. Have the deer broken in and eaten all the chilli plants?
  • Although heavy with swollen grains, the rice near town is still green, but as we get further into the hills most of it is yellow, and some fields have already been harvested. There must be different varieties planted in different places.
  • We get this procession of huge black clouds interspersed at 1hr intervals with patches of clear blue sky. Some of those clouds drop some water on us, but the torrential downpours the forecast talked about must be falling elsewhere. By evening it clears up and we eat under a starry sky with an insect accompaniment.
  • In the two weeks since we were here the insect voices have changed quite a bit – we’ve got a nice autumn chorus now.
  • Monday brings more of that unsettled weather, but no rain anyway.
  • The chillies seem to be doing well. One of the big red “Malay” variety has obviously picked up some odd genes somewhere and grows these extra-large, firm-fleshed chillies that would be delicious if they weren’t really hot! The seed that grew from must have got a bit of Habanero pollen last year…
  • Min. temp. 10°C, max. 31°C

16th~17th

habaneros!

  • Weather just like last week. A strangely unrefreshing wind blows greasily up from the south, where another typhoon is going over Okinawa. Again, it clears up beautifully in the evening.
  • Pick some chillies and a volunteer pumpkin that grew out of last year’s compost, then get into some weedcutting. At this time of year I always worry if I’m depriving our cricket singers of a home – we won’t be here next week (another Daihachi Ryodan gig) so we’ll see in two weeks if the chorus is still going.
  • Most of the rice on our route back, though hanging heavily, is still standing. In two weeks the fields will probably be bare.
  • Min. temp. 17°C, max. 28°C

Sept. 30th~Oct. 1st

  • Sunday is Chu Shu no Mei Getsu (link), commemorated this year with a typhoon! We move the plant pots on the balcony into the living room, batten down a bit and then flee to the countryside, hoping things will be alright. Out in Gifu it rains, there’s a bit of wind, but it clears up and by 10PM you can see a full moon beaming down on us like a searchlight.
  • Autumn has set in – chilli harvesting can start, there are akebi and mukago in the hedges, and the higanbana come up right on time as usual. It’s nice and cool – what a luxury!
  • I come across a snake warming itself on the asphalt path that leads to this year’s chilli field.
  • The deer-snaring ojisan puts in some more traps. Meanwhile a baby deer has made a small hole in the corner of the net round the chilli field, broken in and eaten most of the leaves off a paprika plant. The chillies are still OK so far. I fix the hole in the net and hope for the best.
  • There are wisps of pretty pink clouds in the sky as we leave.
  • Min. temp. 12°C, max. 28°C

red chillies

 

Farmlog August 2012 29 November, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:17 pm
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5th~6th

  • At the farmer’s stall on the way out we get some wonderful tomatoes at ¥100 a bag!
  • Sunday starts sweltering but later clouds over just as the forecast said, and at about 5PM we get a thundershower which cools things down a bit and moistens the parched ground. It hasn’t rained for a week but still manages to be humid somehow. Anyway the mini-tomato and chilli plants seem to have been enjoying the heat.
  • A nice summer insect chorus builds up as afternoon slides into early evening.
  • On Monday the unsettled weather continues – it starts out sweltering but we get another vaguely refreshing thundershower at around 1PM. In Nagoya they’re getting torrential rain and tornado warnings! I hope our house is OK.
  • Pulling weeds among the wet tea bushes I finally encounter a leech, but escape being bitten.
  • Min. temp. 20°C, max. 33°C

12th~15th

Our Obon holiday.

A muggy start – we’re promised thunderstorms but in fact it clears up towards late afternoon in Gifu.
Yamada-san and his brother-in-law come over bringing those iwana he promised, from his pool. They’re too small to grill “shio-yaki” style so they get floured and fried instead. Really good. Later a distant cousin of Yamada’s (their grandmothers are sisters) shows up with a mamushi in a bottle! It seems he was called over to a neighbour’s because her garden was full of them. They caught five and he thought there might be more!

What you do with a mamushi:

  1. Put it in a bottle of water (alive!) for a couple of weeks, till it’s insides are clean. It will still be alive.
  2. Discard the water and pour in 40% “white liquor” (flavourless spirit for making fruit liqueurs etc).
  3. After a while you’ve got “mamushi-zake” – you can drink it as a tonic, but more often it’s rubbed onto sprained muscles etc – something like “snake oil” maybe?

One of the mamushi had got killed so Yamada decides it must be eaten. He skins it with his thumbnails(!), puts it on a grill and holds it over the fire till it’s crisp. We nervously nibble at it – it’s OK, a bit like a small dried fish. I avoid eating the head in case there’s still poison left in it.

Yamada drinks whisky these days because beer is full of purines which are bad for his gout. We thought his brother-in-law was a bit younger than us (I’m 62) but it turns out his 70th birthday is coming up in a week or two! Everybody round here looks about ten years younger than they are.

Yamada now refers to himself as the Snake Doctor.

Fireworks in the Rain.

Monday brings more of the unsettled weather. There’s a load of warm moist air coming up from the south, running into a cold air mass just about here, with the result of cloud, incredible humidity, intermittent sweltering sun and thunderstorms. Usually a Pacific high pressure area holds all this off in the summer but this year’s is a bit weak and they’re getting record rainfalls all over Japan. However, the rain sort of holds off in the afternoon, and we hear that the annual firework display down in town hasn’t been cancelled, so go down to check it out. By the main street there’s a concert with local rock bands, hula dancers and a bossa nova singer but after half an hour we go on down to the riverbank, put our mats down on the wet tarmac, open a can of happoshu and wait for the display to start at 8:00.

The fireworks are OK, though lightning on the other side of the mountain opposite is offering some competition, and there are fewer people watching than most years. Water slowly starts to come up through the mats. Around 8:30 it starts raining. The rain gets stronger, we give up and by the time we get back to the car it’s pouring. Drive back to the house in almost continual lightning, soaked. A bath and a change of clothes puts things more or less right. It was an experience, as they say.

Tuesday brings more of the same, weather-wise. In the breaks between rain there’s just time to go out and get bitten by two leeches.

Wednesday brings yet more of the same. We have to keep a can of flyspray by the kotatsu to keep the biting insects under control. (It doesn’t work though.) When the weather’s nice we hate to have to go back to Nagoya, but today will be OK. It’ll be hot back there but at least we’ll be dry and less itchy.

Min. temp. 17°C, max. 30°C


19th~20th

More of the sultry sweltering we’ve come to know and love… Intermittent cloud fails to take the edge off the heat. Rain looks imminent but we don’t actually get any, and things start to improve at the end of the day. At night there’s a skyfull of stars and it’s pleasantly cool – quite a novel feeling.

The chillies are coming on – they like the hot weather and respond in kind. I picked a couple of big green ones for a salad and even after roasting, peeling, deseeding and sitting in the dressing for half an hour they were still fiercely hot. T’s mini-tomatoes are doing well too – they’re quite easy to grow. A pumpkin seed sprouted from the compost heap and is growing huge leaves with all those nutrients – will the compost be totally depleted by the end of the season? Will there actually be some pumpkins? Will the monkeys come and steal them?

Monday morning is delightfully cool and fresh, with a few clouds dotted around the deep blue sky. As the day gets under way the sun stokes up the heat, but the humidity’s down and even at midday it’s quite comfortable if you’re in the shade. At last!! This is what summer out here is supposed to be like! (On the radio they’re saying we might have torrential thunderstorms this afternoon though.)

A bit after 12 I hear some distant thunder – odd because there aren’t that many clouds about. Five minutes later, the radio says there was a small earthquake. We felt no shaking here, but they say mountains rumble when there’s a quake…

A small wasp is building its nest in a hole in the aluminium sliding door – just by my left ear. It’s flying in and out without any concern for me, so I return the favour.

For a couple of hours in mid-afternoon the heat was becoming unpleasant… but by 4:00 it was nice and cool again. Perfect – insect voices – clear sky – this is when we hate to leave and drive back to Nagoya, but on the way home we pass rice fields golden in the late afternoon sunshine, topped with little red dragonflies. An early hint of autumn.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 32°C


26th~27th

Sunday is somewhat cloudy but when the sun peeks through the gaps it’s hot. Meanwhile a huge typhoon is bearing down on Okinawa – I hope they’re OK.

Usually we get local vegetables at a ¥100 stand near the house, but the first supermarket we pass also has a corner for local produce, and today we buy a couple of “kiiuri”. These are small yellow gourds, slightly sweet and very nice in a salad – almost like a melon. They had some last week too – someone must be growing them in the area – not something you find in Nagoya.

Rice has been going up lately and the cunning merchants have started selling it in 8Kg bags instead of the 10Kg we’re used to, in order to hide the price rises. Do they really think people will be fooled? I suppose they must have done all the market research and come to that depressing conclusion.

Wild monkeys might sound all exotic, but along with the deer and wild boar they’re getting to be more and more of a problem to people trying to grow vegetables. According to the lady at the ¥100 stand the local council is now offering a bounty of ¥40,000 for each monkey killed by hunters. That will be hard-earned money – monkeys are clever.

Monday brings blue sky dotted with fluffy summer clouds along with a fierce heat occasionally relieved by a soothing breeze. It’s still a bit more humid than usual but things are improving, and inside the house it’s quite pleasant.

The chillies are looking good – I pick a few big green ones and a couple of the first red ones, for seeds.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 31°C

 

Farmlog July 2012 2 November, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:09 pm
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1st~2nd

  • On Sunday it rains all day – it is the Rainy Season after all. There are some compensations though, like bright blue hydrangeas and misty tree-covered hills.
  • Monday starts fresh but works up into sweltering heat. In late afternoon we have a blue sky again.
  • The rice fields are beautiful in the golden sun of a late summer afternoon.
  • Min. temp. 15°C, max. 26°C

8th~9th

  • The rain stops on saturday and Sunday is hot with a bit of sun between the clouds.
  • We pick some “ume”. Every year this job comes round in the middle of the wet season and it can be thoroughly unpleasant, but today it’s quite dry. Don’t speak too soon, but are there fewer leeches this year? I haven’t seen any since May – did that hail get them?
  • Mutton curry for dinner. The light Italian red we picked up in the supermarket goes surprisingly well with it.
  • Put some of the ume in bottles with rock sugar and 35% “white liquor” to make “umeshu”. Actually there’s still some that was made in 2004 so we’re fairly well stocked.
  • Dry maybe, but sultry is the word – no rain but really humid and hot, though by late afternoon it’s pleasant. Anyway the plants – chillies, goya and turmeric – all seem to be enjoying it.
  • T finds a new way of making tea – just using the microwave! It turns out quite drinkable.
  • Min. temp. 16°C, max. 28°C

15th~16th

  • The end of “Tsuyu” often brings heavy rain and they’re getting severe floods in Kyushu – 800mm in three days! That’s nearly a metre of water!
  • We set off from Nagoya in the usual humid heat with a bit of sun, but there’s a dark wall of cloud in front of us that can only mean rain ahead.
  • The rivers are full of water and decorated with mist, as the moist air meets the cold water.
  • The ¥100 stall has lots of cucumbers and eggplants – I’ll have to make some pickle.
  • We arrive to find a snakeskin hanging from the drain by the front door – 1.6m long! There were other visitors while we were away: the deer had eaten all the leaves off the “giboshi” (hosta) in front of the house. We had been looking forward to the pretty blue flowers that were due soon. Deer are becoming an increasing problem everywhere. They are even damaging fisheries in some areas! Stripping the vegetation from mountainsides they increase the run-off of mud into the rivers, and into coastal waters. An ojisan from down the road has been setting some snares – he gets a bounty from the local council but we’ll have to see how many deer he manages to get…
  • T goes to pick some more ume and comes across a faun in a snare! It looks at her with big sorrowful faun eyes that say “help me”… The ojisan says it’ll be dead tomorrow. He’ll say a prayer and bury it. He has to bury it deep so scavengers don’t dig it up, but he’s got a mechanical shovel.
  • It starts raining at about 6:00. Did I say something about “sultry” last week? I didn’t know what I was talking about. The humidity is incredible, the earth floors by the entrances are wet, and when you open a cupboard cold air comes out!
  • The ojisan comes over to pick up and bury the deer. He also, perhaps by way of thanks for letting him set traps on our land, cuts down this tree for us which had been blocking the sun and breeze from the front of the house. It was a big tree and I spend three hours clearing up all the branches and pieces of trunk afterwards.
  • Min. temp.18 °C, max. 28°C

22nd~23rd

  • Summer officially started on Tuesday but our succession of sweltering 35°C days was interrupted by a cold air mass let in by a weak high pressure area. It rained on Saturday and Sunday was still overcast and unusually cool – by the time we got to the house it was only 23° (still good and humid though).
  • We stock up on more vegetables on the way – we’re living on cucumbers, eggplants and tomatoes.
  • The drizzle holds off and allows us to eat outside, which is a major compensation for the daytime mugginess.
  • Lizards in abundance. Our local variety is a rather handsome creature with cream and dark brown stripes tapering off to a bright blue tail.
  • The clouds thin out on Monday, allowing the sun in to stew us in the humidity.
  • The chillies are coming on, though some now need staking up and some on the south side of the field have been bitten off at the base of their stem. slugs? insects?
  • It’s too hot to do much work – finish clearing up big chunks of that tree we had cut down last week, clear up last year’s chilli net and tie up some of this year’s drooping chilli plants.
  • At about 3:00PM a particularly loud insect chorus starts up with strange stroboscopic effect – a reminder that the peak heat of the day is past.
  • Min. temp. 19°C, max. 33°C

29th~30th

  • Hot!! Humid!! There was a heatstroke warning on the radio today – over 50 people have died already. Have to get enough water and salt. It’s peak Summer, but really it should be a bit dryer than this. Our farmhouse floor is still wet at the entrance.
  • By the stream at the back, a big snake is climbing up a plant stalk on the bank till it bends over towards the other side so he can get at this big fat-bodied spider. The spider notices just in time and seems to get away OK.
  • Finally get some of the rank weed growth cut down.
  • An unknown insect. Even after 25 years I still often see new ones – that snake’s spider for example. This place is full of life!
  • Yamada san drops in for the first time in a while. He’ll bring some //iwana// over at Obon and we’ll have a little barbecue. We try out T’s theory that the hail killed off the leeches, but Yamada says no, he’s seen plenty. We’ve just been lucky.
  • Monday morning starts out with a nice breeze, but soon gets stuck into the sweltering inferno we’ve come to know, even out here. What will it be like back in Nagoya? We’re leaving early today to hit a beer garden at the top of one of the tallest buildings in town.
  • On the way back, the rice is already starting to turn yellow in some fields.
  • Min. temp. 21°C, max. 33°C

 

The Last Carp 18 October, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:30 pm
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It was there again yesterday – the Last Carp.

We’ve got this pond in front of our house out in the country. I think the previous owner must have been keeping fish there, because there are some rusty poles left around it which look as if they once held netting, maybe to keep out hungry weasels. The fish, and nets, were gone when we bought the place 25 years ago, but the pond is fed by a pipe from the stream so the water has stayed fresh, and inhabited by a population of newts and smaller creatures. A few years ago they were joined by some fresh-water snails that must have arrived as eggs down that pipe. Now we had learned earlier that the larvae of the firefly could only grow in fresh clean water, because that was needed by the black shellfish they feed on. Sure enough, those were the same water snails that had settled in the pond and, sure enough, in another couple of years we had a settlement of fireflies there too. If we were lucky, we’d show up on a weekend in early July to be treated to a fantastic display in the bushes round that pond which lit them up like Christmas trees.

Anyway, you remember Ikemoto san the builder who changed our floor for us last year? We’ve been on friendly terms with him for years in fact, since he refurbished the house for us when we moved in, and he’s done a few things for us over the years. Maybe five or six years ago he fixed up the pipe that brought water to our pond, but kept getting blocked up, so now it hardly needs any attention at all. At that time he put a dozen or so small carp in the pond for us. Very kind, though we wondered what they’d live on. It used to be common in the countryside to keep carp as an extra source of protein, and people would give them left-over rice and the like, but we’re away in Nagoya for most of the week. As I had somewhat feared, they seemed to be doing OK without our help, living off those snails and firefly larvae, because the fireflies disappeared from that year. …sigh… Of course it was very kind of him to put those fish in the pond (without asking us) but we’d rather have kept the fireflies really…

However, we soon found that those nets that used to be round the pond had been necessary. One by one the carp just disappeared, presumably taken by animals or the kites that sometimes fly by. Over a year or so they went from 10 to 6 to 3… and then we didn’t see any at all. All gone – how long will it take for the fireflies to come back? But maybe six months after that I caught a glimpse of the Last Carp. Very timid, he’ll disappear under a rock or who-knows-where as soon as he sees you, but he’s still there. Every month or so I get a glimpse of this fish, quite a bit bigger than when he was put in, so he must be finding something to eat – we don’t give him anything. The Last Carp has been lurking in our pond a couple of years now, but after watching his friends being caught and eaten I suppose he’s got good reason to be timid…

 

Farmlog June 2012 16 October, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:35 am
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(btw added a few pics to March, April and May)

10th~11th

  • We missed a week because of a Daihachi Ryodan gig, but manage to get out of town on Saturday evening.
  • The Rainy Season officially started on Saturday and Sunday is typically cloudy with a HOT sun, though there’s still a bit of a fresh breeze and the house is still dry. Weeds are UP.
  • Voices: In the afternoon a strange yelp, a bit like a dog. I go to have a look and something jumps out of a tree. A monkey probably. That night I’m dozing in front of the fire and woken by a scream! Get a torch – can’t see anything but it continues a while. Deer probably. (Is this the original banshee? Do they have deer in Ireland?)
  • T discovers a small pink and black snake under some dead leaves. Don’t know what it is, but probably harmless.
  • Monday is busy: planting out the first “Malay” chillies, more digging and shopping on the way home.
  • Min. temp. 10°C, max. 26°C

17th~18th

  • It pours with rain on Saturday night and we expect more of the same at the weekend, but Sunday turns out merely cloudy, gradually clearing so by the time we get to the house the sun has come out and brought up all the moisture so it’s really humid. Our entrance floor is damp, but there’s none of that mouldy smell we used to get. It must have been coming from that old tatami we got rid of last autumn. Inside the house it’s cool and pleasant – that money we spent on re-doing the floor might not have been for nothing.
  • That evening there’s a clear sky and it cools right down. One firefly shows up, way too early – they usually come out in early July.
  • Monday is hot and humid too. A typhoon’s due on Wednesday though…
  • Gradually burning the leftover timber from last year’s work on Sunday evenings – last night I must have turned over some plank a bit suddenly because today there’s a squashed snake in the middle of the woodpile. It looks freshly killed, but its head is definitely too flat for survival.
  • I plant some “Ishigaki” small hot chilli plants, and some big mild paprikas, then get a little weedcutting done.
  • T is hard at work picking and drying tea for our consumption. It’s not bad at all actually.
  • Min. temp. 15°C, max. 25°C

24th~25th

  • A hot Sunday, and no rain.
  • The new green rice is beautiful.
  • There are a lot of anglers in the river on our way up – the “ayu” season has just opened.
  • The house is a pleasant 23° or so, and still dry!
  • At the entrance to the chilli field is a “mamushi” (kind of adder) – it moves away, twitching its tail threateningly. Are rattlesnakes related?
  • Another snake in the woodpile! This one’s probably a harmless “aodaisho” like last week’s, but not squashed at all, and makes its escape, along with a centipede and a couple of small crabs. Yes, there are small land-crabs out here, not really big enough to eat, unfortunately, unless maybe if you dipped them in flour and fried them crisp…
  • A big grey heron is joining in the ayu-fishing at the river on our way back.
  • Min. temp. 13°C, max. 26°C

 

 
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