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 February 2013 5 July, 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:00 pm
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Sweltering in early July, the time when we were shivering in the snow and slush of february almost has a certain nostalgic appeal…

3rd~4th

Yesterday was Setsubun, the changing of the seasons when we drive out demons and invite fortune into the house. Originally this came just before the New Year celebrations, which seems appropriate, but since the Westernization of the calendar back in the Meiji era New Year has been at 1st January and many other traditional events of the Japanese calendar have been dislocated.

On Sunday we are presented with impressive views of rows of snowy white mountains in the distance.

The supermarkets are laden with massive stocks of chocolate for the impending Valentine’s Day celebration. This is one of those synthetic Japanese “customs” dreamed up by the marketing department of some company – suddenly it became the day on which girls give presents of chocolate to the boys they are interested in. (I remember years ago receiving a heart-shaped box of chocolates soon after starting teaching here, and totally failing to follow up on the possible romantic opportunity it represented because I had no idea of this Japanese Valentine thing…) Later, in the 80’s or 90’s maybe, the “custom” expanded to include all men to whom the woman (yes the age bracket has expanded too) in question felt some kind of obligation, so “giri-choco” had to be given to people like superiors in the office, romantic feelings or not. Chocolate sales just before Valentine’s day rose to some 40~50% of the year’s total! (Presumably that chocolate salesman who invented this got a good bonus.) These days the trend has moved on to “self treats” or something, so those young women now buy chocolate to stuff into their own faces on February 14th! I’m not sure what St. Valentine would make of all this.

That evening a few people come round to help us expel the demons with the help of some beer, sake and an excellent bottle of the smoothest vodka you ever tasted, brought back from a trip to Russia by T’s nephew. Anyway, guests are avatars of the God of Good Fortune, right? Among our visitors is Snake Doctor Yamada who passes round, along with some home-brewed sake, some pieces of dried mamushi for us to munch on with the drinks. Hmm…

It’s wet and cloudy on Monday and we leave a bit early, but the misty hills are beautiful on our way back to Nagoya.

Min. temp -6°C max. 7°C


10th~11th

mystery turd on toilet roofSunday is chilly, with low, grey clouds, and there are no mountains for us this week.

Miso nabe for dinner – not bad. Later it starts snowing.

On Monday the light snow melts in the sun, but we get a bit more in the late afternoon.

The weekly batch of compostable rubbish to dispose of, and I cut some more thorns from our nasty wild citrus tree to help keep the cats out of our garden in Nagoya. There’s a turd on the roof of our outside toilet… It’s quite big, 8~9cm, definitely not a bird or mouse, or even a stoat/weasel type animal, so I have to think we must have had a visit from monkeys at some point.

Once the sun goes down it gets pretty cold. Obviously it’s still Winter, but here and there buds are starting to swell…

Min. temp -4°C max. 7°C


17th~18th

Even at mid-day in Nagoya the air has a bite. It’s been a cold week.The overcast sky clears in time for us to see some white mountains basking in the cold winter sun, till it clouds over again and snows that night. There’s yet another mouse in the chutoruman, a weekly occurrence.

Monday is white with that snow, but by the time I get up it’s turned to rain. Still cold though. I just hope the snow gets melted before it’s time to leave. The rain means no work outside, so I practice guitar a bit. (We’ve got a concert coming up in a couple of weeks.)

Min. temp -6°C max. 4°C


25th~26th

Anyway, it’s cold, with blizzards on the Sea of Japan coast, apparently. The midday clouds clear up and we arrive in bright sunshine but the wind is so bitterly cold as to take away any warmth. Turn on the oil stove and get in the kotatsu, but even the cups that had hot tea in 15 min. ago are now icy to the touch. It will take half a day for the room to warm up a bit. The old fan heater did better than that, but had the disadvantage of not working if the electricity is cut off, as we found out one cold winter when heavy snow brought down tree branches on the power lines. For dinner: Vietnamese beef stew, squid stir-fry and a salad.

It takes me 30 min. to get out of the futon on Monday. Outside it’s sunny but even at 11:00am it’s -1°C. That might not mean much to some, but it’s plenty cold enough for us. I put on working clothes but after disposing of the compost my fingers are numb. It’s too cold to get any work done. The joy of a Japanese bath! (It’s just as hard to get out of as the morning futon, though.) Back to Nagoya for the last Daihachi Ryodan practice before our gig at Tokuzo on the 3rd March.

Min. temp -7°C max. 3°C

 

Farmlog January 2013 27 March, 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 2:16 pm
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13th~14th

Our first visit of the year. The sun is hazy, but you can see the snowy mountains in the distance.

T’s nephew drives up for the day with his wife and extremely cute 1-year-old daughter. We have fun but don’t get much work done.

The next morning T wakes me with the news that it’s snowing, quite hard. The radio is talking about major snow, and those tyre chains are such a pain to put on that we gulp down breakfast, pack and get out of there before we get snowed in. Short weekend.

Min. temp. -4°C max. 8°C


20th~21st

It’s hazier than last week – brown hills are visible, but no white mountains. Leaving Nagoya it’s not too cold, but the house is definitely well chilled when we open the doors.

The deer-trapping ojisan drops in and we show him our Goto photos over a cup of tea.

Patches of snow on the ground turn crisp by late afternoon.

Tofu chiggae for dinner – easy but good.

Outside, everything is waiting for the spring. I need to do some pruning though.

Min. temp. -6°C max. 8°C


27th~28th

There’s too much snow again so we stay in Nagoya. On Monday we take the Tarumi line again and enjoy the snow from the train window.

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Farmlog November & December 2012 6 March, 2013

Filed under: countryside,places — johnraff @ 1:52 pm
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4th~5th

It turned pretty cold a couple of days ago, but Sunday is a beautiful autumn day with feathery clouds and vapour trails across the deep blue sky. The sun manages to bring the mid-day temperature up to 19°C in Nagoya, which isn’t bad going. Views of holy Mount Ontake magnificent in new snow.

As we get out of the car at the other end the air has a sharp bite. A flock of tits tries to cheer us up over our cup of tea. There’s just time to pick a last batch of chillies before it gets dark at 5:30 and my fingers are frozen. We won’t be coming up next week, and by the 18th the plants will probably have been killed by the frost.

We have dinner at a friend’s down the road. Almost everyone, driving or not, is drinking non-alcoholic beer, which I find deeply depressing.

Monday is cloudy and chilly, though when the sun peers through it warms things up a bit. Rain is due later. The tits are still around, and we have a brief visit from some goldcrests(?) and other small greenish-brown birds. The autumn colours are well under way, but we’ll miss the best, which will probably be next week.

Min. temp. 2°C, max. 19°C (max from last week?)


11th~12th

We stay in Nagoya. On Monday, visit Tanigumi.


18th~19th

We leave town a bit late because Saturday night at Raffles was busy. Sunday is a nice early winter’s day with an almost clear blue sky. Passing through Inuyama we pause to check out Saito Ham’s sausages and see a sign to “Jakko-in” – a Zen temple nearby famous for its maple trees, which might just now be at their peak so we decide to have a look as we’re running late anyway. About half the population of the Tokai area have decided to do the same, and the narrow road is totally jammed. We give up and escape up a side road only to happen upon a secret car park, so we stop after all and walk 5min. to Jakko-in. It is rather nice but loses out to Tanigumi maybe. (pics below)

It’s dark by the time we reach our house and it’s my turn to make dinner – Chinese-style chicken breast stir-fry with peppers, hot sour soup and tomato salad, with a simple (ie cheap) red wine from the South of France. It turns out OK.

Sunday night drops to 0°C but the chillies are just hanging on to life. I pick a few but we’ve got more-or-less all we need now. Cut some thorny citrus branches to help keep the cats off our garden in Nagoya. The mid-day sunshine is pleasantly warm but at 3:00 the sun goes behind the hill opposite and by 4:00 the BIg Chill has its teeth in us and my fingers are numb. A warm bath helps a lot, then back to Nagoya in the dark.

Min. temp. 0°C, max. 15°C


25th~26th

Sunday is another beautiful day – sunny with no wind – perfect for viewing the autumn colours and plenty of people must be doing just that, as the roads are quite crowded. Once out of town, the scenery is indeed impressive with red, brown and yellow leaves against a deep blue sky with distant white mountains to set it off. However, the weather is unsettled and the radio promises rain tomorrow.

Big “daikon” radishes are in season and cheap everywhere.

There’s another mouse in the trap (last week too) and the deer (probably) have knocked down the net round the chilli plants, but the chillies have died from the frost anyway.

Wake to the sound of rain as promised, and it looks set to continue all day…

Min. temp. -1°C, max. 11°C


December 16th~17th

We’ve missed two weekends! Two weeks ago there was a private party at Raffles and last week there was just too much snow to make the trip enjoyable. What’s more, next week we’ll be busy getting ready for Xmas and the week after getting ready for our trip to the Goto Islands, so this will be our only visit in December.

It’s a beautiful Sunday with magnificent views of snowy Ontake again.

Oshogatsu stuff is starting to appear in the supermarket. T buys mochi to decorate the farmhouse.

I make “miso nabe” for dinner – it’s OK.

Monday is wet again – this seems to be a regular pattern this autumn. Cut some more cat-thorns, dispose of the organic refuse and head back to Nagoya for an evening of blues at Otis’.

Min. temp. -5°C, max. 10°C

Jakko-in Photos:

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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.)

 

Farmlog September 2012 28 December, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

Freezing here in late December, summer is just a vague memory, but notes from the farm in September still remained to be written up. Here goes…

9th~10thakebi - an interesting wild fruit

  • Last week we were in Nagoya for a Daihachi Ryodan gig, so a 2-week break, which always has us wondering how things are down on the farm. Have the deer broken in and eaten all the chilli plants?
  • Although heavy with swollen grains, the rice near town is still green, but as we get further into the hills most of it is yellow, and some fields have already been harvested. There must be different varieties planted in different places.
  • We get this procession of huge black clouds interspersed at 1hr intervals with patches of clear blue sky. Some of those clouds drop some water on us, but the torrential downpours the forecast talked about must be falling elsewhere. By evening it clears up and we eat under a starry sky with an insect accompaniment.
  • In the two weeks since we were here the insect voices have changed quite a bit – we’ve got a nice autumn chorus now.
  • Monday brings more of that unsettled weather, but no rain anyway.
  • The chillies seem to be doing well. One of the big red “Malay” variety has obviously picked up some odd genes somewhere and grows these extra-large, firm-fleshed chillies that would be delicious if they weren’t really hot! The seed that grew from must have got a bit of Habanero pollen last year…
  • Min. temp. 10°C, max. 31°C

16th~17th

habaneros!

  • Weather just like last week. A strangely unrefreshing wind blows greasily up from the south, where another typhoon is going over Okinawa. Again, it clears up beautifully in the evening.
  • Pick some chillies and a volunteer pumpkin that grew out of last year’s compost, then get into some weedcutting. At this time of year I always worry if I’m depriving our cricket singers of a home – we won’t be here next week (another Daihachi Ryodan gig) so we’ll see in two weeks if the chorus is still going.
  • Most of the rice on our route back, though hanging heavily, is still standing. In two weeks the fields will probably be bare.
  • Min. temp. 17°C, max. 28°C

Sept. 30th~Oct. 1st

  • Sunday is Chu Shu no Mei Getsu (link), commemorated this year with a typhoon! We move the plant pots on the balcony into the living room, batten down a bit and then flee to the countryside, hoping things will be alright. Out in Gifu it rains, there’s a bit of wind, but it clears up and by 10PM you can see a full moon beaming down on us like a searchlight.
  • Autumn has set in – chilli harvesting can start, there are akebi and mukago in the hedges, and the higanbana come up right on time as usual. It’s nice and cool – what a luxury!
  • I come across a snake warming itself on the asphalt path that leads to this year’s chilli field.
  • The deer-snaring ojisan puts in some more traps. Meanwhile a baby deer has made a small hole in the corner of the net round the chilli field, broken in and eaten most of the leaves off a paprika plant. The chillies are still OK so far. I fix the hole in the net and hope for the best.
  • There are wisps of pretty pink clouds in the sky as we leave.
  • Min. temp. 12°C, max. 28°C

red chillies

 

Farmlog July 2012 2 November, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:09 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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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