asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog 8th~9th May 2011 19 May, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 2:31 pm
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  • Opened the car boot to load in bags and noticed how much the temperature has just gone up – inside the car the air was nice and cool, without any use of the air conditioner.
  • A beautiful day for speed-trapping, and there they were with their white motobikes, in their favourite spot, hauling in a middle-aged lady.
  • The May sun can be quite fierce – there’s a lot of UV out there too, which you don’t notice because of the cool wind so you can get burnt easily.
  • Wild wisteria out in the hills, azaleas, flowers come out one after another – spring is busy. Busy for us too – trees to be pruned, weeds to be cut, and the field where the chillies will be planted has to be dug up. That last job should have been done last autumn, leaving time now for the other stuff…
  • Got some mustard greens (karashina) at the 100yen stand. These have a nice hotness when raw, or pickled in salt, but are also good stir-fried, when the mustardy taste goes.
  • More and more voices around the house – frogs, a strange mournful bird like an owl an octave higher, another one has a beautiful call with a delicate fall at the end, as if it was speaking Thai… but no uguisu yet.
  • Lots of flies.
  • Dinner outside for the first time – a bit chilly but OK if you sit near the fire.
  • There wasn’t much rain last week, but in the woods behind the house there was one bamboo shoot. I made an Indian pickle with the crunchy part, and T cooked the rest with soy sauce, fish flakes and a couple of sansho leaves. Sansho has a sharp lemony smell but has a strange affinity with freshly dug bamboo shoot. Both seem to have an oddly creamy undertone, if that makes any sense…
  • Min temp 5°C max 24°C
 

Farmlog 15th November 2010 10 December, 2010

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:15 am
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A cricket in November.

An overcast but mild Sunday; groups of migrating birds getting ready to head out of here somewhere warmer. Later on the sun started to come out – you need a bit of blue sky to show off the red Autumn leaves that are reaching their peak around now. When we arrived at the house a pheasant was standing in front of the garage. It strolled off into the bushes in its own time… A cricket outside the house: the last one of the year?

Wild boar dropping.

Wild boar dropping.

There were big holes under the tea bushes where the wild boar had been digging for fern roots or something. They left a memento on our drive too. They’re big strong animals and can toss quite large rocks around in their search for something succulent in the ground.

deer droppings

Deer droppings.

T saw a mother and a couple of young a few years ago, but they hadn’t been around much until recently, having pretty much got everything that was going. The deer, on the other hand, have been regular visitors, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and this week there were plenty of fresh droppings around. Touch wood – they haven’t got inside the net round the chilli patch this year, except for one brief break-in, and now the season’s over. Fingers crossed for next year.

half-eaten chillies

Left by our furry friend.

Monday was much colder, and later on turned into drizzle. Last week didn’t freeze after all, though it came close, and there were still a lot of chillies intact on the bushes. We won’t be here next week, so a final picking session got another kilo or so of the hot, hot little “ishigaki” chillies. A small furry animal, probably a fieldmouse, had got some of the larger, milder ones and chomped on them in a corner of the field, leaving the seeds, and some half-eaten pods. Maybe they were a bit too hot after all. Anyway, he didn’t even touch the little hot ones.

Won’t be back for two weeks, and had a last look at the red maple leaves, which will be gone next time we’re here.

Min temp. 1°C, max. 13°C

 

maple leaves in November

A maple in front of the house.

 

 

 

Farmlog 7th November 2010 22 November, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 6:03 pm
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Arrived just after two on a clear but chilly afternoon. It had been quite hot just an hour ago on the way up, but once the sun goes behind the trees opposite the house it cools right down. A quiet time sitting with a cup of tea listening to the sounds – a couple of determined crickets, a distant bird, a solitary bee – or hornet – somewhere, but mostly the stream at the bottom of the garden. At this distance it has a somewhat dry sound, but closer up it’s beautiful, mellifluous and musical, something like a bamboo gamelan.

We could well have some frost next week, so this might be the last chance to pick some chillies. There are still a lot left, especially the little hot “ishigakis”. They’re really nice, with a good heat and wonderful fresh aroma, but it would be hard to turn growing them into a commercial proposition. To pick a kilo takes the best part of an hour.

Minimum temp. 0.5°C, max. 18°C

 

Farmlog 17th October 2010 21 October, 2010

Filed under: city,countryside — johnraff @ 2:22 am
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  • A late start out of Nagoya because I took in a tap dance (!) performance in the afternoon. Came out into the last red glow of a city twilight – quite poetic with run-down showa-era bars and noodle shops, acres of neon lights taking over and lots of small bats harvesting the insects attracted to the street lights.
  • Sushi for dinner. Mackeral pickled in vinegar is good just now – in the Autumn as the sea gets colder the fish get oilier, and tastier. They used to be a real bargain at ¥100 each or so for a big fish; these days it’s more like ¥400 but still one is enough for two people.
  • Final trip out to the outhouse at 2am and the crickets are still going strong – a last fling before the cold sets in…
  • Next morning a nervous inspection of the deer net round our chillies, and this week it’s OK 🙂 Have they finally given up?
  • Picked a basketful of the hot “Ishigaki” chillies. They’ve done quite well in this year’s hot Summer although I should have planted them earlier. Growing’s not so hard, but it takes an hour or so to pick a kilo because they’re so small. Hardly a commercial proposition.
  • An endless procession of concrete mixers pass the house on their way to connect two small villages up the road with an 8-lane highway.
  • There’s something about the air on Autumn evenings that carries smells long distances so there always seems to be a hint of woodsmoke. The other day closing up Raffles I was sure I could smell the yeast of a brewery, though the local one closed up several years ago…
  • Min temp. 8°C max 23°C
 

Farmlog 10th October 2010 13 October, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:09 pm
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  • Three little kids carrying a lion-dance costume around a Nagoya street corner. A local festival I guess. Some Japanese “matsuri” are thriving, but many have deteriorated to this. No-one was watching. Maybe at the end they’ll get some sweets paid for by the local residents’ association. That’s about it.
  • Interspersed among the buildings on the outskirts of town some small rice paddies turning gold in the Autumn sun. I wonder what that rice tastes like, though, marinated in car exhaust fumes?
  • Arrived at 3 to be greeted by a chilly wind that didn’t suggest eating out that evening at all. By evening, though, the wind had dropped and the insect chorus had started up and the whole thing felt much more welcoming so we had probably our last dinner under the stars for 2010. Spectacular clear skyful of stars it was too.
  • The deer had knocked the net down again. They’ve made a home in the uncut grass just outside, so I got out the cutter and cleared it down a bit, went to the wood for a bit of bamboo and grimly patched up the deer-barrier yet again.
  • A lone bumble bee going round the chilli flowers, and a big hornet in the tea bushes. Both seemed quite peaceful though.
  • Min temp 10°C max 23°C
 

Farmlog 5th September 2010 10 September, 2010

Filed under: countryside,incidents — johnraff @ 2:23 pm
Tags: , , , , ,
  • The Heat Goes On. This is a long, hot, sticky, sweaty, sweltering Summer and the weather forecast people say we’re good for another week of it at least.
  • The chilli plants enjoy heat though, and seem to be doing well although there’s been no rain for two weeks. The field they’re in this year is close to the stream that runs in front of our house, and you only have to dig down a metre or so to hit groundwater, so their roots seem to be finding water OK. Lots of hot sun makes the chillies hot too – the habaneros might be dangerous this year…
  • You sometimes hear strange voices out here at night. About a month ago, T was already asleep and I was just paying a last visit to our outside toilet when I heard a single squawk/squeal/scream from the other side of the road. Just one, like a banshee trying her voice out, but loud enough to echo round our small valley. I didn’t like it much, but there was no more, so I went to bed. The deer’s scream in the mating season in Autumn can be eerie too, but usually lasts a bit longer. Then this Sunday earlier in the evening, again alone because T was in the bath, there was a strange hissy growling sort of sound, again from the other side of the road. Went out to the road and realized it was echoing from the slope and the real sound seemed to be behind the house. Sort of like a very large angry cat, or anextremely large snake or something. Again, loud enough to echo from the hills… Went in to grab a torch and see if I could find anything but by then it had stopped. The next day there were no suspicious droppings or clawmarks so I’ve no idea what it was.
  • Min temp 20°C max 35°C
  • A quick bath before heading back to Nagoya, and came out to dry off when there was a stabbing pain in my foot. Looked down to see a big centipede scuttling off to hide in my clothes. The pain gets worse and worse, and insect bit ointment has no effect at all. Meanwhile I need to get dressed, but my shorts still seem to have that centipede in, and there’s no easy way for it out of that little dressing room, so picked them up with a big pair of tongs and took them outside. Hung on a clothesline, beaten with the tongs (shorts that is) and then, get this, T puts her hand in the pockets to check there’s no centipede in there… No, she didn’t get bitten (she wouldn’t have liked it at all) and reported the shorts centipede-free. I was still in something approaching agony and had no intention of checking what a second bite might be like, so had a careful look myself. While I was doing that the thing fell out onto the road, so it was in there somewhere! I shudder to imagine if T had found it, and I’d just rather not imagine putting those shorts on with the centipede still inside… We called in at a local doctor’s on our way back to Nagoya and got an injection and some painkillers. All the way back to town my foot hurt, but after a few beers that evening the pain had subsided enough that I could sleep. The next day it was fine. 🙂 Just try not to get bitten by a centipede, especially the big ones with black bodies and red legs.
 

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

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:55 pm
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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 6th June 2010 10 July, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 12:14 am
Tags: , , , ,

Another of those beautiful soft Spring days, and the police were out enjoying it in their usual spot on the road out of town. There’s a section of straight dual-carriageway that just invites you to put your foot down a bit and there’s usually some poor soul who’s just been caught in a speed trap.

This week it was warm enough, with a bit of a fire, to eat outside under the stars. This is a real treat and almost enough in itself to justify the effort of driving out. That evening there was a strange “chirping” noise – some kind of bird I suppose, though loud enough to echo through our little valley.

Monday was a work day – late with the chillies, but I managed to plant out the first batch: “Malay” chillies from seeds I bought in Malaysia – big red ones with a medium hotness, good for salads and stir-fries. That afternoon Yamada san dropped in on his way back from a bit of forestry work – the first time we’d seen him for a while. He lives in the next valley, was a friend of the previous occupants of our house and one of the first people we got to know round these parts. His cousin plays bass guitar and we had a band going for a couple of years, till the drummer moved away. Anyway, remembering the “taruzake” we’d been given at T’s nephews wedding we agreed to take it over to Yamada san’s place the next week, as there was too much for the two of us to drink alone and it wouldn’t keep that long. (read on…)

It’s been nice and dry lately, but the Rainy Season will be here soon enough…

Min temp 7°C, max 26°C

 

Farmlog 2nd~5th May 2010 (“Golden Week”) 15 June, 2010

Just like UK bank holidays, a few days off come up in the same week and there are 45 Km traffic jams all over the country. The weather’s often beautiful at this time too, though, so we joined the rush to get out to our place in Gifu for a long weekend – everyone else must have been going somewhere else and we got there in the same 2 hours or so as usual. 🙂

  • The second day we went for a walk on the narrow road that leads on to a couple of tiny villages above our house. Very nice day out in perfect weather. (More here.)
  • For some reason the wild boar don’t seem to have been round this year, and lots of bamboo shoots have been coming up in the woods behind the house. Freshly-dug shoots have a special aroma which you can keep by boiling them as soon as possible after digging them up. I suppose it stops the cells’ conversion of sugars to starch or something. You need a big pot to boil them whole with the skin still on, for about an hour, with some rice bran to take away a certain astringency. A handful of rice will do instead, and some people put in a couple of dried chillies. Then you can cook them with soy sauce and dried fish flakes, or make a nice spicy Thai salad or Indonesian curry…
  • Fantastic weather – scorching hot in the daytime, but a cool breeze, and cold evenings so you want to light a fire to eat outside, which we did, listening to music from Cape Verde and some old Laotian pop.
  • The wind brought down a snowstorm of cherry blossom from the wild tree behind the house.
  • An old guy from the houses down the road passes by in the early evening. He goes for a daily walk to keep fit, and looks as if his health regime is working OK.
  • Flowers everywhere!
  • Getting the chilli field ready – digging up a row, mixing in some compost and fertilizer then covering it with black plastic mulch to warm up the soil and keep the weeds down a bit. Four rows should do it this year – 16 big red chilli plants from Malaysia, 16 little hot “Ishigaki” chillies from Okinawa (not the usual “island pepper” but something more aromatic that a Thai friend recognized as “prik kariang”), and half a dozen Habaneros, just for yuks…
  • The birds and frogs are getting going, but the evenings are still fairly quiet, compared with the insects’ samba orchestra that will keep us entertained through the Summer. Those insects have a dark side though, and we both got mysterious itchy bites that stayed with us for days. Hmm.
  • Min temp 2°C, max 27°C
 

Farmlog 28th March 2010 6 April, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 12:06 pm
Tags: , , , ,
  • The cherry blossom got off to an early start, but the last couple of weeks of chill slowed it right down and only now are trees starting to show themselves here and there.
  • A youngish couple we passed on our way out of Nagoya were obviously Walking. Not just enjoying a stroll, but striding along purposefully, elbows out, their whole bodies radiating “I am Walking”… Apparently you can take “walking” lessons in order to get the full health benefits or something. Later on we passed a whole crowd of mostly middle-aged people doing the same thing. It must have been a special Walking Day.
  • Spring means gardening and the shopping centre where we usually stop off on the way was piled with bags of potting compost, fertiliser, chicken manure, lime… Actually it’s time I sowed the chilli seeds to get some seedlings ready to plant in May or June.
  • The weather forecasts are quite often right these days! Sunday started warm, but as we were doing our shopping it clouded over, a cold wind got up and shortly after it started to rain – just as predicted.
  • We left buying “negi” (leeks) to the “¥100 stand” down the road, but there weren’t any… Luckily the lady who runs it had some in her field, so we went with her to dig a few up. The local deer had been in before us that morning and got a lot of the green part, but we still got a bundle of stalks, which turned out to be very good. I don’t think the deer had been such a problem there until recently (they’ve been plagueing us for years) so I think she’d better fix that high net that should have been keeping them out.
  • On Monday it snowed.

Min temp -2.5°C, max 16.5°C

 

 
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