asazuke

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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

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Farmlog 15th November 2010 10 December, 2010

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:15 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

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 24th October 2010 28 October, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:46 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
  • News on TV the night before of a bear being seen just a few minutes up the road from our place, on the Nagoya side too! Not to happy about this- there have been a lot of reports of bears this year and a number of people have been attacked, but up to now they’ve all been further North. They’re dangerous animals and I hope none start hanging round our house…
  • Smoke everywhere on Sunday. It’s the season for clearing up and everyone’s burning dead leaves and branches in the garden. The smoke lingers in the wet rainy air.
  • A “matsutake for sale” sign. Matsutake are a wild mushroom which the Japanese love, and when T was a child you could just go out and pick them, but they’re getting scarcer and these days you pay 3000yen or more for a pack of two or three in a supermarket! Now on top of that the “matsukuimushi” (pine-eating insect) is destroying pine trees something like the Dutch Elm Disease in Britain, and the matsutake, which grow under pine trees, are being hit too. Probably the guy with the sign was selling mushrooms from North Korea.
  • Min temp 9°C, max 21°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
Tags: , , , , , , ,
  • 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 12th September 2010 16 September, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
  • A small praying mantis in the kitchen as we’re getting ready to leave Nagoya. This “exotic” insect is quite common out in the country, but you don’t often see them in town.
  • Stopped off at the bank ( a different one from the bad karma bank ) and there were little piles of salt on each side of the entry to the ATM. Salt is a purifier, like the sake at festivals, and you sometimes see it outside a bar or restaurant intended to ward off bad spirits – either to improve business or because of some incident they want to expunge. I wonder what happened at this bank?
  • Lots of brown kids at the supermarket. It’s been a long hot Summer and Japanese have lots of melanin so they tan easily. T can get a tan in an afternoon that would take me a whole Summer! Being white is more cool these days but I’m old-fashioned and still a sucker for brown skin…
  • On Sunday evening or so The Front passed through and we switched from the humid Summer air to cool dry Autumn in a few hours, with some rain in between.
  • Now being very careful about what might be in clothes that are lying on the floor!
  • Working on the chillies and heard a lot of excited bird chatter. Eventually in a nearby cedar I saw a couple of tits, a small mejiro and what looked like a finch, maybe others, flying around……a snake. Some kind of small snake had climbed up the tree, looking for eggs or chicks I suppose, and the birds were co-operating in trying to scare it away.
  • Listened to the Sumo on the radio in the car driving back to Nagoya. Sumo’s been under a cloud lately with a whole succession of scandals: dope-smoking Russians, bad-behaving yokozuna Asashoryu, sadistic death of a young apprentice and yakuza connections… NHK punished them by not broadcasting live from the last tournament, which was in Nagoya as it happened.
  • Min temp 19°C max 30°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.
 

 
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