asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

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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Farmlog March 2013 5 September, 2013

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

3rd~4th

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


10th~11th

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

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

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

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

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

Min. temp. 5°C, max. 15°C


17th~18th

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

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

Min. temp. 4°C, max. 14°C


24th~25th

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

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

Min. temp. 0°C, max. 16°C


31st March~1st April

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

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

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

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

Min. temp. -1°C, max. 16°C

early wasabi

 

Farmlog October 2012 27 February, 2013

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

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

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

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

Monday is gorgeous and I pick lots of chillies.

Min. temp. 11°C, max. 24°C


14th~15th

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

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

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

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


21st~22nd

Perfect autumn weather – deep blue sky and fresh breeze.

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

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

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

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

Min. temp. 6°C, max. 20°C


28th~29th

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Forgot to read thermometer.)

 

Quail Holocaust 14 March, 2009

Filed under: food & drink,news — johnraff @ 2:57 pm
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Hmm… a couple of days ago bird flu was found on yet another quail “farm” in Toyohashi, and another hundred thousand or more birds will be gassed and buried. This started just over a week ago when 260,000 birds were killed when the same virus was found, followed soon after with a second case. The Toyohashi area is the Quail egg centre of Japan, supplying some 70% of those little eggs that appear in bentos, so the farmers are getting a bit fed up seeing all their birds destroyed like this, but seeing the TV shots of these poor creatures shut up in those long, long lines of tiny cages it’s hard not to feel sorry for them. (the quails, that is)

Of course it’s the same for ordinary chickens too, and cows, pigs or sheep don’t really have a much better time of it. I’ve no intention of becoming a vegetarian any time in the near future; I’ll just feel more guilty about eating meat for a while. Actually we don’t really eat huge quantities – a few grams in a stir-fry or something – but that’s still quite different from zero. It would be nice to have that feeling of moral superiority, but to tell you the truth some vegetarians seem to me to be indulging a certain pickyness over what they eat that they can afford because they live in a rich country. (Eventually of course the carbon-dioxide implications will force all of us to eat a lot more tofu and lentils anyway.)

Meanwhile no-one seems to know where the flu came from; those factory farms are pretty well sealed off from wild birds and mice, but it got in somehow. I’m afraid the day will come when all the wild birds will be killed off because of their potential health risk…

 

 
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