Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog 7th September 2009 10 September, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:58 pm
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Those of you who live up in the Northern latitudes know all about this, but the shadows are slowly getting longer, and the days a bit shorter. It’s nothing as extreme as in the UK, for example, though- even in the Winter we get a fair amount of sunshine. Still, the sun that blazed almost straight down a month ago has levelled off a bit, and there’s a hint of gold in it, a cool wind is blowing from the North: Autumn. It can be one of the best times of the year, as long as a typhoon isn’t messing things up, and this year looks set to be a nice one, if the long-range weather forecasts can be trusted at all. (hmm…) Well, down on the farm:

  • One dragonfly showed up; there should be more to come, and the Autumn evening insect chorus is building up nicely. Every week it’s a bit different.
  • Another voice from the evening darkness was the unholy screech of a deer in the mating season. Not a cute sound at all, and too early really. They just couldn’t wait.
  • T. found three more leeches, just when we thought the dry weather had got rid of them. One bit her, and it’s still itching.
  • Along with worrying about deer eating my chilli plants (nothing yet, touch wood) a major feature of life up here is trying to keep the weeds under control. Put in a couple of hours more slashing with a sickle, somewhat enjoying the mixed aromas that some of the more fragrant plants come out with as they’re cut down – sansho, dokudami and something that smells a bit like “curry leaves” (if you know them).
  • min 17°C max 28°C

Farmlog 10th August 2009 14 August, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:05 pm
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  • Well, here in Nagoya a couple of days later we’ve finally got a bit of Summer, but last weekend was yet more rainy, muggy, wet, slimy, mouldy, sweaty, sticky… (you get the idea)
  • Hey, enough leeches too, OK? A real plague of them this year; up to now I’d hardly ever seen one. I had no idea they could be this common in Japan. I read it could be something to do with the tendancy for wild animals like deer and wild boar to show up more around human settlements. The leeches ride into town on their backs. Anyway, both of us got bitten this week. This time I tried sprinkling salt to make them fall off, which seemed to work at the time, but by bite, although small, got itchy the next day. According to the Wikipedia you’re supposed to ease them off with your fingernail, which sounds tricky, but I’ll try it next time. I’d just as soon there wasn’t a next time to be honest.
  • Some more gaps in the net round the chillies, which the deer might have been getting in, hastily patched up. If they ever start eating the chilli leaves it’s a disaster for the plants, which are already a bit unhappy from lack of sunlight.
  • Min temp ?°C (the magnet stuck, but about 19~20) Max 25°C

Where’s our Summer? 27 July, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 8:26 pm
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Hey, come on, the Rainy Season should have ended around the 20th, and by rights we’d now be basking in day after day of blistering sunshine, with temperatures peaking in the high 30’s (°C). Hmm… well there’s been another outbreak of devastating floods in Kyushu, with people killed, houses destroyed and over 20,000 taking refuge in school halls. Meanwhile, yesterday we gave up trying to drive out to the farm as the road had been washed away in one place, and here in Nagoya it’s been rain every day, as the humidity goes up and up.

According to the weather forecast we’re in for another straight week of cloud and rain, and no particular guarantee of Summer starting even after that! There’s an “El Nino” phenomenon going on apparently, so the usual Pacific high pressure area is not doing it’s stuff.



Farmlog 20th July 2009 23 July, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:33 pm
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Not much to report this week- more of the same really, ie:

  • More sliminess, damp, wet (had to put newspaper on the porch floor to soak some of it up), humidity, lush vegetation… and more leeches! We seem to be getting a plague of them. I found one under my T-shirt just before it had got its teeth (or whatever leeches have) into me, and T found another one in the bathroom. Ugh!
  • Another, biggish, snake in the drain ditch by the road. It’s getting so it’s hard to go outside without feeling nervous about what might be about to go for you. I’ll be quite happy when this Rainy Season is finally over.
  • Usually when we head back to Nagoya on Monday evening to I hate to leave, but this week it was like escaping from a hostile jungle…
  • Minimum temp. 20°C, max. 26°C.

Farmlog 13th July 2009 18 July, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:44 pm
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  • Gets hotter and stickier all the time. This week the theme was damp. Sticky, squelchy, slippery, slimy, squishy… You get the idea. Water somehow naturally appears on surfaces, just out of the air. Mould everywhere – anyway, as long as it’s not actually raining you can see why we prefer to have dinner outside.
  • The Snake Incident!
  • The uguisu was singing away all weekend.
  • Minimum temp. 20°C, mavimum 26°C.

“Warm moist air from the South” 19 June, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 12:33 pm
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This is an example of the warm-moist/cold-dry air thing I mentioned in the last post, though it goes back to early May. We drove up to “the farm” in a typical Spring drizzle, the breeze warm and moist. Opened the door of the house and inside it was still Winter, with the cold dry air of the previous week intact. After a while it got so cold I had to put a sweater on.

An hour or two later, out to the toilet (it’s a meiji-era outside job) and I was sweating. Outside, the sweater was quite ridiculous. The contrast was amazing!


Farmlog 15th June 2009 17 June, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:25 pm
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  • Swelter to shiver to scorch to swelter was how it went; the Rainy Season is officially under way, but the rain front is still a bit off to the south and the warm moist air that it brings up from southeast Asia has been alternating with cool dry stuff from Siberia. Sunday was typically close and muggy, but that evening the wind changed and it was cold. Monday started scorching hot but with a beautiful cool breeze, but by the evening we were back to the sticky heat that’s going to be the norm for a while.
  • The habanero chilli seedlings got planted – except for two that were still too small. The habanero (the name means “from Havana” but they’re really from central America) is quite special. A freshly cut one has a wonderful aroma, like apricots or strawberries, but don’t be fooled: the habanero chili is one of the hottest in the world. They’re really hot.
  • As the humidity goes up the weeds just take off. Every week the general greenery is a foot higher than it was last visit. lushness Out with the rotary cutter and try and at least have the house visible, but it’s pretty much a hopeless task. You’ve heard about the team of men who are aupposed to be continually painting the Forth Bridge? By the time they get to the end it’s time to start again. Last Saturday a Mongolian friend was in Raffles telling us that Mongolians hate to pull up a plant because you’ll end up with desert. Here in Japan it’s the jungle.
  • Minimum temp. 13 °C, maximum 28 °C. That minimum was really a bit cold for chilli seedlings, who’d prefer 15 or 16, but they seemed OK.

Yesterday’s Papers 2 April, 2009

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 2:50 pm
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I’m usually two or three weeks behind in reading my Guardian Weekly – this doesn’t bother me all that month as I reckon that if it was worth reading three weeks ago, it’s still worth reading now (and the reverse of course). It was Autumn by the time I came across Andrew Simms’ article about the “100 months” movement so by then of course we were down to 98 months or so. That’s the time by which the game will be up unless our politicians start taking the dangers of climate change seriously. The first line of the report, which you can download from the 100 months website, says:

We calculate that 100 months from 1 August 2008, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will begin to exceed a point whereby it is no longer likely we will be able to avert potentially irreversible climate change.

That’s One Hundred Months, not years. About 8 years from now the process will get out of control, and the planet will cook, whatever we do. Unless, that is, all the countries of the world really get to work on this and drastically cut our CO2 output. Not sometime in 2050, but right now. The possible, or likely, horrific consequences of letting this slip have been well described elsewhere, but we can look forward to things like destructive storms, flooded cities, plagues of tropical diseases, destruction of productive cropland, millions of hungry refugees, wars over water, mass starvation, a drastic reduction in the human population the world is able to support, the end of civilization as we know it, or even our extinction…

I don’t know about you, but I find this all somewhat depressing. Some world leaders seem to have started to get the picture, but what chance is there of getting the whole world on board in time? It’s hard to be optimistic. Of course the current economic depression might turn out to have a silver lining if it has the same effects that the collapse of the Soviet Union did on Russia’s emissions in the 90’s. Meanwhile here in Japan wind power has hardly taken off at all because this relatively small country doesn’t have a proper national grid system for distributing electricity from where it’s produced to where it’s consumed. Among the government’s pitiful collection of economic stimuli so far was making the highway tolls a (cheap) 1000 yen to drive anywhere in the country at weekends. Starting last weekend, we got an increase in traffic of 30~40%. Great stuff. (The opposition would like to go even further and make the highways free! )

They just don’t get it.


Happy New Year! 9 January, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 2:37 pm
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Still blooming on Christmas Day, hibiscuses just need plenty of sun.

Still blooming on Christmas Day, hibiscuses just need plenty of sun.

The hibiscus flower is a sort of Okinawan emblem, but will do well here in Nagoya  – they just need a sunny spot, and a couple I had in pots in front of Raffles just kept blooming right through the summer. The recent cold weather was starting to get to them though, so after getting this shot of a Christmas Hibiscus I moved them indoors for the rest of the winter. They’re looking happier now.

Anyway, a belated Happy New Year to everyone, and all the best in 2009!


Autumn already? 27 August, 2008

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:07 am
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We drive out to our country place every weekend, pretty much. I’m feeling increasingly guilty about this for the CO2 we’re contributing and thinking we should have got a hybrid instead of the otherwise nice VW. However there’s no way to get there by public transport so the only option would be to sell up. Maybe some day we’ll live out there all the time…

Meanwhile it’s a much-needed antidote to city life. The air tastes good, about one car an hour passes by and every week you can see the seasons have moved on a little bit. The insect voices are different, the wild flowers are different, the angle and colour of the sun are different; what a difference a week makes! Two weeks ago there were hordes of small red dragonflies over a nearby rice paddy- a sign of Autumn even in the sweltering heat of mid-August. Last week the rice had turned golden – pretty much ready for harvest – and, as if someone had turned a switch, this delicious cool breeze began to blow, followed a couple of days later by rain, cloud and last Sunday evening out in the hills was quite chilly. Around 7:00 I heard a deer cry, which is something you usually get in October or November. (The mating call of the deer round here is quite eerie – more like the screech of a banshee than anything you would expect.)

Meanwhile, back in Nagoya a cricket is chirping softly outside, among the rubbish bins.


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