asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog January 2014 29 November, 2017

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 5:04 pm
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Dec.31st~Jan. 3rd

New Year’s Eve is surprisingly mild and pleasant, though by the time we get out to the house there are scraps of last week’s snow around, and it’s cold enough. We’re staying three nights this time, so the place might be able to warm up a bit. We sit in in the kotatsu and listen to “Kohaku” onthe radio over dinner.

The first is misty and drizzly. It rains all day so we sit in the kotatsu and get stiff legs.

The second is sunny and mild. Walk to the local shrine to pay our respects. Burn some old wood. By 4 it’s pretty cold again.

The morning of the third is white with frost and there’s a clear blue sky which lasts all day, though the air is cold. I clip a few of the tea bushes before we leave early – we’re off on a trip tomorrow to “Amano Hashidate”. See three big white egrets on the way home. There are several “for sale” signs – I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad.

Min. temp. -4°C, max. 7°C


12th~13th

The end of January to early February is usually the coldest part of winter, and this week has not disappointed us. Sunday starts out vaguely sunny but clouds over on our way into Gifu.

Chocolate is already appearing in the supermarkets, ready for February 14th!

See girls in kimono for “seijinshiki” – officially tomorrow.

A big grey heron flies over us in the village below the house. Is that the same one that visited us a couple of weeks ago? They’re not so common round here.

Around 5PM it starts to snow.

Monday is clear but cold with some of that snow still on the ground. A bit more blows in from the north.

I spend a couple of hours clipping the tea bushes – just to keep it in shape, T. only picks a little of it. There are still many more bushes to do, but it’s cold.

Min. temp. -5°C, max. 6°C


19th~20th

Of course this is winter and it’s supposed to be cold. Inhabitants of the U.S. Midwest or Eastern Siberia would laugh at our complaints, and at least there’s a bit of sun.

On the road out, everyone suddenly slows down – there’s one of those big white motorbikes in front of us. The police have switched their Sunday speed trapping to our side of the road. Must watch out in future.

At least at this time of year things don’t get mouldy. The kitchen sponge is frozen.

At last some of the persimmons left on the tree have been eaten. They’ve gone soggy and are probably now sweet. It was probably birds, though monkeys like them too.

I practice guitar a bit (Kyoto gig next week), dispose of the Raffles’ kitchen waste in the compost bin; it starts sprinkling snow at 4:00 and we head back to Nagoya, where it’s not quite as cold.

Min. temp. -5°C, max. 5°C

 

Farmlog December 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 4:51 pm
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1st~2nd

We didn’t come last week because of a Daihachi Ryodan concert at Sorairo Magatama.

Winter is here, it’s been a cold two weeks with frost in Nagoya, but Sunday is surprisingly mild and clear. Autumn has been short again this year, but there are some bright yellow gingko trees near town.

Brought stuff for “miso nabe”: Chinese cabbage, leeks, belly pork; and buy more in supermarket #2: tofu, oysters and miso. There’s “slime flavour” chewing gum at the checkout counter (really!) but I don’t buy any.

The house is cold and it’s getting dark – at 2:50 the sun is already behind the hill.

Monday’s nice enough except for a bit of a chilly breeze. I let the water out if the system before we leave – first time this winter.

Min. temp. -1°C, max. 12°C


8th~9th

Stay in Nagoya for a private party at Raffles’.

 


15th~16th

Winter hits. This last week has been cold and although Sunday is deceptively sunny the wind is icy. (They’re getting major snowfalls further north.) There’s nothing exciting in the supermarkets or ¥100 stand except for “mikan” which are in season and cheap. They’re good too – seedless, easily peeled and a nice size.

A solitary bird peeps somewhere near the house, there are traces of snow around, and the oil stove has a hard time warming the place up. The kotatsu and a warm bath help though. (There’s absolutely no need to put beer in the fridge.)

Installing software on a computer with no internet is long and complicated. I want to use this old machine as a music player. A big grey heron lands on our roof for a few seconds, but I don’t have time to take a photo.

Monday brings more of the same. The little snow we had in the evening has mostly melted so the road is clear. But it’s cold.

Min. temp. -2.5°C, max. 10°C


22nd~23rd

Stay in Nagoya to prepare for Raffles’ Christmas party.

 

 

Farmlog November 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 4:37 pm
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3rd~4th

We stay in Nagoya – there’s a private party at Raffles’.


10th~11th

Grey. Cloud that comes down to the ground and mixes with the misty rain. Damp. Just like the English autumn. It starts to look quite picturesque as we get into the hills though, with trails of mist draped artistically over the landscape, where the trees have turned all shades of red, brown, green, orange and yellow. The gingko trees look especially good. It soon gets dark.

The rain stops on Monday, sort of. A warm sun and chilly rain alternate, sometime simultaneous. In the two weeks we’ve been gone things have moved from the tail end of summer to autumn, going on winter. The maple trees are bright red. One or two insects are bravely chirping.

Persimmon picking begins. Our one tree carries a huge crop every other year, and this year’s another big one. In 2011 T. took around 1000, and neighbours asked why we didn’t pick our persimmon tree! Some 2/3 of the fruit were still left. These are bitter persimmons with enough tannin to turn your mouth inside out, but if you peel them and hang them up to dry for a couple of weeks they turn sweet, like dried dates.

Min. temp. 7°C, max. 15°C


17th~18th

It starts sunny, but Sunday soon clouds over and at the Gifu house it’s cold and grey. The frost last week has killed the chillies. The thermometer shows a minimum of 2° and chillies can usually survive down to 0° but this year (they have to be rotated) they’re on a slope, so might have got a frosty wind that the thermometer on the house wall missed. Leaves have fallen from the persimmon tree, better to show the huge load of fruit – T. picks some of them. There are lots of berries on the bushes – does this mean a cold winter is coming? We use the oil stove for the first time.

Around 3AM I’m woken by a dog (not a wolf, surely?) barking and howling. (It is a full moon.) Maybe it’s a lost hunting dog?

Monday is that autumn mixture of sun, cloud and rain.

Min. temp. 2°C, max. 12°C

 

Farmlog October 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 4:25 pm
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6th~7thchilli harvest

It’s October, but midday temperatures are still sometimes passing 30°, and Sunday is hot and sticky enough to bring ut a sweat just from loading the bags in the car. Are we going to get autumn at all before winter sets in?

The rice was cut weeks ago in Gifu, but golden fields of it are still standing outside Nagoya. By late afternoon at the house the temperature is just right and the insects are singing softly – maybe a bit subdued compared with a month ago. A deer cries somewhere in the woods.

There’s been no rain for the last couple of weeks and everything’s dry. There are still more delicious mini-tomatoes to be picked. There have been no bird, animal or insect attacks this year – why? Maybe because the skin is a bit tough?

I pick more chillies. The big “Malay” type have done well, but the “Ishigaki” plants are a bit smaller than usual. (Lack of rain? Not enough fertilizer?) They’ve made up for it by being extra hot. The persimmon tree’s branches are hanging down heavily laden with still-green fruit.

We drive home in the twilight, surrounded by the song of the crickets, the smell of “kinmokusei” and of woodsmoke.

Min. temp. 12°C, max. 28°C


13th~14th

We stay in Nagoya for the local matsuri. I can’t remember a thing about it now, to be honest…

 


20th~21st

Early October was like summer, but now it’s more like November: cold and wet. Last week typhoon 26 hit Izu-oshima and next Thursday or so #27 might do the same. It might also pass right through Nagoya…

The 20th is a “zero day” so the police are on special alert for traffic offences, but it’s pouring with rain so there’s no sign of them at their usual spot near Nagoya. The rice is still uncut in the fields, though bending low in the rain.

There’s whalemeat in the supermarket. This is actually quite unusual. Contrary to what some people outside Japan seem to think, and what some Japanese politicians would like everyone to believe, whalemeat is by no means a normal part of the Japanese diet. Just after the war it was sometimes all there was to eat, but that was true in the UK too, I think.

Monday is clear, fresh and beautiful! I pick what will probably be the last goya. The chillies are still doing alright, although growth is slower. There are only a few Habanero plants, but they’re looking quite healthy.

Kamemushi! The stinky insects are everywhere, looking for their winter quarters.

Min. temp. 8°C, max. 24°C


27th~28th

We’ve had a wet week with two typhoons in the neighbourhood but they both passed on Friday and since Saturday it’s been clear, sunny, cool and dry.

Just outside Nagoya they’re finally taking advantage of the sunny weather to cut the last rice. This was done weeks ago out in Gifu.

The leaves are starting to change colour. Cherry trees by the roadside have already shed theirs – they are one of the first to do so says T.

At the house it’s quite cold and soon gets dark, but the insects are still whooping it up outside. We have coconut milk nabe for dinner.

Monday is the same – the sun is warm, but as soon as it goes behind a cloud it gets quite chilly.

There are small yellow butterflies and tiny powder-blue ones.

The persimmons on the lowest-hanging branches are gone. Animals? There’s no debris on the ground, so maybe humans? Locals wouldn’t do that, so probably town people…

The chillies are nearly over. The Malay plants still look OK, but the Habaneros and Ishigakis’ leaves are pale with cold.

Min. temp. 5°C, max. 19°C

 

 

Farmlog September 2013 17 November, 2017

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 5:20 pm
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1st~2nd

Kintora Matsuri (fun festival with music food and sake, sadly now over) in Ozone so we stay in Nagoya.


8th~9th

Autumn is here. A cold front brought that interminable hot summer to an abrupt end with a torrential downpour on Wednesday (something like the Guerilla Rain that hit us on 2000/9/11!) and temperatures back in the 20’s. Sunday is more rain most of the way up, and the rice is lying flattened, but by the time we arrive it’s starting to clear up, and we have a starry sky in the evening, along with an autumn insect chorus that has to compete with the stream, swollen with all that rain, and “Tokyo Jazz” live on the radio. (I’m not a major Chick Corea fan but his new band sounded incredible that night.)

Meanwhile, we had visitors in the last two weeks. The zucchini and pumpkins are all gone, even that half-eaten one. The net is down – could it have been a joint attack by the monkeys and deer? The goya are OK though – animals have more sense than to eat anything that bitter. Monkeys hate chillies too, apparently, but the deer love to eat the leaves if they get a chance.

Monday is a glorious autumn day. I fix the net and cross fingers – though there’s nothing left to attack – and pick some goyas. Just down the road yesterday’s rain-flattened rice has already been cut.

Min. temp. 15°C, max. 28°C


15th~16th


Typhoon weekend! No. 18 seems to be heading right this way, and the radio’s talking about torrential rain – total falls of 400~500mm! We think about abandoning our weekly trip, but in Nagoya there’s not a drop as yet so we set off just before noon. There are plenty of dark clouds overhead, and a greasy sort of typhoon wind is blowing fitfully around the supermarket carparks, but we arrive OK to find the temperature just right. I pick chillies and mini-tomatoes while I can. The higanbana are out a week early.

Eating outside seems foolhardy, so we have dinner in the kotatsu, listening to rain reports of flooding and landslides. It finally starts raining about 11PM and continues all night, though not outrageously heavy.

On Monday the rain stops about midday, but somehow out here we’ve missed all the damage done elsewhere as no.18 landed at Toyohashi and moved up through Tohoku. (They’re nervous about all that rainwater in Fukushima.) Meanwhile Monday afternoon is fresh and pleasant. I see the again. I pick some more goya , and see a tiny snake with a bright yellow collar. Aound 5:00 there’s a sudden cold wind.

Min. temp. 16°C, max. 29°C


22nd~23rd

The weather has settled and Sunday is a pleasant autumn day with blue sky and a bit of light cloud. The temperature is just right – finally the summer heat has broken. Shadows are longer and the days are shorter – Monday is the Equinox.

For some reason vegetables are expensive: cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants… but at the farmers’ stand there are 100yen pumpkins. It’s a good price and pumpkins keep so we buy one. Our mini-tomato plant has done well too. They’re delicious. I don’t prune them or train them up posts – just let them do their thing.

The evening temperature is also perfect for dinner outside, serenaded by the crickets. There’s not a breath of wind.

Monday morninng is perfect again! It’s cool in the shade with a bit of breeze today, though the sun has a bite. That summer humidity is all gone. A little lizard comes out to entertain us after breakfast.

We’re going back to town to see a film, so there isn’t a lot of time to pick chillies and bury compost…

Min. temp. 12°C, max. 25°C


29th~30th

The maximum and minimum temperatures don’t really reflect it, but this week it’s been a good bit cooler. Nagoya’s been very pleasant, and on Sunday it’s still pretty clear with just a sprinkling of autumn cloud.

The goya have slowed down – just a couple are of pickable size, and the little ones probably won’t grow much more. There are lots of red chillies though, and some more mini tomatoes. The little hot “ishigaki” chillies are very hot this year, but the plants haven’t grown as big as usual. Not enough fertiliser?

I do a bit of weed cutting – long neglected, like this blog – till it gets dark, which is now at 6:00, an hour earlier than summer.

The evening is pleasant – dinner under the stars is quite feasable with a fire.

There’s been no rain for a while so everything’s pretty dry, which is nice for us. The chillies seem to be coping OK too.

Spot another of those tiny snakes with a yellow collar.

Min. temp. 11°C, max. 27°C

 

 

Farmlog August 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 4:47 pm
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4th~5th

Another HOT summer oniyuri-130805-0002day. The car-park of the first supermarket on our way is a sea of baking asphalt, as usual.

Near the house there’s a flock of swallows gathered on on the phone lines, in the same place as last year. Are they getting ready to leave already? Have they had enough of the heat?

Arriving, welcomed by the call of the uguisu and a friendly bite from a local mosquito.

Outside the house we sit for a while, immobilized in a sort of gel composed of the sticky heat and the insidious sounds of the cicadas.

There’s a tiger-lily in bloom. A tiny baby snake, dark brown, the length of a big earthworm, but thinner, hides in the grass.

It starts raining on and off in the evening and continues on Monday. Humid. Unpleasant.

Min. temp. 22°C, max. 31°C


13th~15th

It’s too hot to work and everyone else is on summer holiday so we take three extra days off, driving up on Tuesday with a friend Linda in time to catch the Kanayama fireworks that evening, which turn out to be even better this year. Back to the house for dinner and a splendid insect chorus (which continues in the daytime too). Some autumn insects are starting to join in. The Perseid meteor shower peaked on Monday but we catch a few late that night. Stay up till 3:00.

Wednesday is a bit blurry and too hot as usual. I’m not so genki. Taking Linda back to the station we call in at the “yottsu no taki” waterfalls, which are beautiful and nice and cool. In a good year the autumn colours round there are magnificent. Back home it’s too hot to do anything. Have an early night.

Thursday morning is beautifully fresh at 9:00 but by 10:00 it’s sweltering hot. This is the daily pattern (evenings are pleasantly cool though). Myoga flowers are coming up. We see a few red dragonflies, which really belong to autumn. 15th August marks the end of WW2.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 33°C


18th~19th

It’s only three days since our last visit; we’re happy to leave the Nagoya furnace but the heat doesn’t let up out of town. In the first supermarket carpark you can feel the sun burning your face like a heatlamp.

The rice is turning golden and bending over in many fields – harvest is not far away.

There’s a little tree frog on the outside of our window. I find a little lizard climbing around an azalea bush.

The evening stays hot, it’s that “warm humid air from the south” thing though the ground is dry – there’s been no actual rain for the last two weeks or so.

The insect chorus builds towards a jubilant climax. Sometimes the cicadas make the heat feel hotter, but today they sound so happy…

Min. temp. 21°C, max. 32°C


25th~26th

Rain. The Autumn Rain Front has arrived and there’s major flooding in the west of Japan. Here it’s hot, but wet too – the garden needs it though. We stop off at Kimble on the way out and hit lucky this time – real German beer at ¥95 a can! I haven’t tasted this brand but the reinheitsgebot more or less guarantees it won’t be disgusting. Maybe Germany doesn’t have the crazy variety of Belgian beer, but you can’t brew up a mixture of rice and treacle, add a bit of hop extract and call it beer. I buy three cases – no happoshu for a month or so!

Goya are having a good year – is it the heat? Anyway they’re cheap and plentiful everywhere. Bitter and sour tastes are refreshing in the summer heat for some reason.

Around the second supermarket it suddenly gets cool, and at the house even hints at chilly. Overhead the sky is clear blue with wispy scraps of cloud – we’ve passed through the rain front into the cool high-pressure area to the north. Autumn Rules, for now anyway, and the autumn insects are responding with a beautiful chorus.

Sunday evening is cold so we go inside. That German beer is OK, somewhat dry and hoppy. It’s not amazing but for ¥95 quite acceptable.

There’s a monster weed growing in front of the house. I haven’t seen this one before so let it grow to see what kind of flowers it will have.

Something has been chewing on one of our pumpkins – a weasel? – a raccoon? I pick the first batch of red chillies.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 33°C

 

Farmlog July 2013

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 June 2013 23 December, 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 7:12 pm
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2nd~3rd

Before heading out of town we go to see John Williams’ excellent film “Sado Tempest“. John’s films seem to get better and better and I really enjoyed this dark extrapolation of Shakespeare’s Tempest.

The grey day gets greyer as it goes on, and it rains in the evening.

Early in the morning, briefly woken by crows and uguisu, but finally get up to a fresh Monday with only a bit of cloud. It’s officially the Rainy Season but the forecast this week is mostly sun.

The pumpkin plants have been pulled up by…  monkeys?  maybe those crows? Dig them back in and hope for the best.

See a big aodaisho, and later a mamushi under a bag of leaf mould. The snakes are still dozy from their winter sleep and a bit slow to run away when they feel approaching footsteps. You don’t see them much in the summer.

There’s a colony of “egu” trees around our house for some reason. You don’t see them much anywhere else in the area. They have lots of small white flowers in the summer and tiny hard round fruit that are very astringent and can be used to make soap apparently/

Min. temp. 12°C, max. 23°C


8th~9th

  • Listening to a Rolling Stones special on the radio from midday to 10pm! It’s hard to start work.
  • The newly planted rice is already lush and green.
  • The Ayu fishing season has opened and the river is full of anglers.
  • It’s lightly overcast, but the temperature is perfect.
  • I don’t know its name but there’s this bush that grows everywhere round here like a weed. Today it makes up with prolific sprays of white flowers.
  • Going to pay our (tiny) property tax for the year I drive past the local elementary school. It looks deserted but there are 3 or 4 kids in the playground. The average age out here is going way up, and in a few years there won’t be anybody at all…
  • Leave early on Monday – I am meeting an old friend in town for a drink. Joe’s an incredible guy – he’s now in his mid-60’s but two years ago crossed Australia from Perth to Sydney on a bicycle. This year he’s going to traverse Canada, 50% longer, and with the Rocky Mountains to cross!
  • It’s been an “empty tsuyu” so far, but rain is coming.

Min. temp. 12°C, max. 27°C


16th~17th

Funny weather. “Tsuyu” started 10 days early, in late May, but since then there’s been hardly any rain and reservoirs are low. Sunday is oppressively hot and sticky – T insists on having the the car aircon on all the way. Understandable in fact, though it costs 2km/l in extra fuel consumption.

Call in at Kimble – sell some glassware and bags, buy a guitar and scarf. I’m pleased with the guitar – a Yamaha “dreadnought” type for ¥1000!

At the supermarket, a major investment in anti-insect chemicals of various kinds and a couple of cases of “happoshu” from Vietnam at a special price of ¥52 a can.

Zucchinis are in season – I can make a curry with them, a simply-spiced Nepali recipe with tomatoes and onions that is quite refreshing at this time of year.

The humidity hits new heights and we get attacked by “buyo” even in front of the house, where they don’t usually come. T gets bitten by leeches on both ankles.

The air is heavy with the heady smell of pollen – the chestnut trees?

However, dinner outside is pleasant and smoke from our yakiniku might help to keep the insects at bay.

Monday is clear and very hot. The breeze is somewhat fresh in the morning but it doesn’t last…

Min. temp. 15°C, max. 31°C


23rd~24th

It’s close, overcast and muggy with occasional boiling sun – a typical rainy season day when it’s not actually raining. In fact, in spite of the welcome showers we had last week it’s been a “dry tsuyu” on the whole. We get out of the car to be greeted by a cool breeze. On a humid day like this it can mean rain is coming but the coolness is short-lived. It’s atmospheric instablility but the rain doesn’t come till 1am.

On many evenings there’s something with a bubbling sort of call that echoes round our valley “chupchupchupchupchup…” I thought it was a frog, but last week saw this small bird in the dusk half-light, making that sound. A bit smaller than a pigeon, with slender wings like a hawk and agile flight like a bat. It was here again this week.

It’s a super-moon tonight but we only get a glimpse through the clouds. A single firefly tries to make up – maybe we’l get more next week?

On Monday the first dragonfly of the season – a big black one.

Min. temp. 15°C, max. 29°C


June 30th~July 1st

It’s hot and cloudy with bits of sun, but inside the house you’d think someone had left the air-conditioner on, it was so deliciously cool. That’s how much the temperature had gone up outside while it was closed up for the week.

The chillies are looking well – standing up straight and holding their leaves out to catch every bit of sun.

Flowers here seem to co-ordinate colours. Last week it was white, before that yellow and this week the small purple flower that announces the fireflies is matched by thistle blossoms.

Yet again the rain holds off so we have dinner outside. This week it’s “katsuo tataki” which I’m very fond of. The traditional way to make it is to take a piece of katsuo (tuna relative) on skewers and hold it in the flames from burning rice straw for a few seconds. The outside is just cooked – almost charred – for a millimetre or two but inside it’s still raw. Then you slice it like sashimi but mix it with a spicy dressing of things like sliced garlic, sliced ginger, grated radish, chilli, chopped leek, “shiso” leaves, soy sauce and citrus juice. Delicious, and somehow un-japanese – or maybe my concept of “Japanese” is too narrow…

Disappointed to see only one firefly. Maybe next week?

Next morning there’s blood on the sheets! I must have picked up a leech between my toes without noticing. Ugh!!

Put some new strings on that ¥1000 guitar and it sounds really quite good.

Get some more grass-cutting done before it’s time to head back to Nagoya.

Min. temp. 17°C, max. 27°C

small tree frog

 

Farmlog May 2013 25 November, 2013

Filed under: countryside,Uncategorized — johnraff @ 7:32 pm
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3rd~6th

  • A four-day break as it’s Golden Week.
  • Fantastic weather! Cold wind! There’s a winter-grade cold air mass passing over or something.
  • Outside town, more rice fields are being planted.
  • The uguisu welcomes us! The first of the season.
  • The sun already has a kick to it. In fact, despite that cool breeze there is as much ultra-violet coming down as in August.
  • Every day is a scorcher! We’re lucky this time.
  • Small black long-legged flies – mayflies?
  • Repair the big net round this year’s chilli field and plant some zucchinis. Fingers crossed…
  • Write notes for an Abe diatribe.
  • Frog voices starting up.
  • Yamada san and three others come over and we grill iwana fish. A big fire just manages to hold back the evening chill.
  • We leave early on Monday – the last day of Golden Week – expecting traffic jams, but it’s not that bad. (Another gorgeous day, and we hate to have to get back to Nagoya.)
  • Min. temp. 2°C, max. 20°C

12th~13th

peony in the garden

It rained on Saturday, but now a high pressure area is back with more fantastic weather – not a cloud. The village down the road looks beautiful in the late afternoon sun. The rice planting is finished here and the frogs are in voice.

At the house we get another welcome from uguisu and friends. That evening is a bit cold but we light a fire and barbecue some beef and vegetables. Shiitake mushrooms are good with butter and soy sauce. That odd-sounding combination of seasonings is quite good in fact. The Japanese are quite inventive with food – the other day on the radio someone was talking about coriander leaves + olive oil + udon noodles!

T goes to bed early leaving me to enjoy the spring night. Sipping awamori under the stars I have a few moments of alcoholic bliss. Have you ever felt so happy you could die right there? Sorry if it sounds silly, but it left enough of an impression that I made a note of it next day.

On Monday we enjoy yet more gorgeous weather. That chilly wind of last week is now just deliciously refreshing. This won’t last – another month and we’ll be in the rainy season. The weeds have flourished after Saturday’s rain – I must get the weed cutter out before they get tough and fibrous. Bamboo shoots are coming up too – I can make a bamboo shoot curry for Raffles.

Meanwhile, I completely wilt from working under this hot sun.

Min. temp. 3°C, max. 24°C


19th~20th

Of course that gorgeous weather couldn’t last, and now we’re getting a foretaste of the rainy season, our annual monsoon. The rain front has already engulfed Okinawa, and a corner of it licked round here bringing a day’s rain. By the time we get to the house it’s decidedly chilly too.

Vegetables in the supermarkets have got cheaper – cucumbers, eggplants and big early onions which are delicious in salads.

Monday is sunny again, but some clouds remain and it’s starting to get a bit sticky – more like the summer to come than the beautiful fresh weather we had the last two weeks. Sunday’s rain brought up a load more bamboo shoots so we dig up a couple – I can make a jar of crunchy spicy bamboo pickle. See a leech in the moist backwoods. The weeds have also put on good growth – some 1/2m in the last week – time to have a first go with the weed-cutter.

On our way back to Nagoya the sun is now going down well to the right of its winter path.

Min. temp. 10°C, max. 27°C


26th~27th

What a difference a week makes. Last week we still had the kotatsu switched on, but now we’re sweating. Sunday is sultry – even the breeze as we arrive doesn’t really take the edge off it, though it’s definitely nicer than Nagoya.

There’s been no rain all week and though the weeds are totally unfazed and have grown another 1/2m, the pumpkins, zucchini and goya don’t look much bigger than last week. I’ve brought out the first four chilli seedlings to plant, so have to fix the deer net and dig and plastic-mulch the first row of the field.

On Monday morning I’m woken by the uguisu just outside. It’s cloudy and cooler – actually quite pleasant. We’ve rain due tomorrow; Kyushu has already “entered tsuyu“. Plant the chillies, arrange the net (fingers crossed), cut more weeds and get my first leech bite.

Min. temp. 9°C, max. 27°C

sunset on the way back to town

 

Farmlog April 2013 9 November, 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:10 am
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As we head into Winter, a moment to remember what Spring was like…

7th~8th

Spring storm! Elsewhere in the country there is serious damage being done by the wind and rain, but we’re being let off lightly and the cherry blossom round Nagoya still looks beautiful. Let’s look forward to the blue skies promised for tomorrow. Our own ume trees out in Gifu are starting to bloom and the weeping cherry’s buds are swelling. Next week should be nice, but I won’t be here because Daihachi Ryodan have a gig in Kyoto.

Monday is sunny but cold – at midday it’s only 10°C and the wind’s chill wipes off most of the sun’s warmth. The ume and forsythia are pretty though. If the weather’s good next week it should be fantastic. (drat! I won’t be here.) T’s bringing a couple of friends out for san sai soba and the Takemi Zakura should be in full bloom. (Ah well, Kyoto should be fun too.) The first warabi of the season are coming up.

On the way home we take an alternative back road and see Spring flowers everywhere. On the radio: “Northern Bar” by Shigeru Kajiwara. This is a truly awful English rendition of a famous Enka song. The original is OK but this makes your toes curl. Really.

Min. temp. 1.5°C, max. 20°C


14th~15th

I’m in Kyoto.


21st~22ndThe mysterious hole

The cold rain that started on Saturday evening has cleared up by Sunday afternoon and the sky that shows between the clouds is a beautiful washed pastel blue. There are new green leaves but the wind is icy cold, more like March. They’re having snow in Takayama! There’s already water in a lot of the rice fields on our way out. The mysterious hole in the ground in front of our house has got bigger – what could be living there?

Monday is a beautiful clear day, but still cold. The weeping cherry is in full bloom, as are quinces, forsythia, azaelias and yuki-yanagi
Min. temp. -1°C, max. 22°C


28th~29th

We leave Nagoya late on Sunday because Daihachi Ryodan were at an Earth Day event in the afternoon. It’s beautifully sunny with a fresh breeze that turns to cold as we get out to the hills, which look good in the late afternoon sunshine, today coming from a different angle from usual. The wild cherries at the house are in full bloom. (Sunday evening is cold.)

On Monday the weather is fantastic, sunny but fresh, and there are flowers everywhere. We feel like charging admission. On the way back to Nagoya the hills are covered in wysteria.

Min. temp. 0°C, max. 19°C

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