asazuke

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Farmlog August 2012 29 November, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:17 pm
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5th~6th

  • At the farmer’s stall on the way out we get some wonderful tomatoes at ¥100 a bag!
  • Sunday starts sweltering but later clouds over just as the forecast said, and at about 5PM we get a thundershower which cools things down a bit and moistens the parched ground. It hasn’t rained for a week but still manages to be humid somehow. Anyway the mini-tomato and chilli plants seem to have been enjoying the heat.
  • A nice summer insect chorus builds up as afternoon slides into early evening.
  • On Monday the unsettled weather continues – it starts out sweltering but we get another vaguely refreshing thundershower at around 1PM. In Nagoya they’re getting torrential rain and tornado warnings! I hope our house is OK.
  • Pulling weeds among the wet tea bushes I finally encounter a leech, but escape being bitten.
  • Min. temp. 20°C, max. 33°C

12th~15th

Our Obon holiday.

A muggy start – we’re promised thunderstorms but in fact it clears up towards late afternoon in Gifu.
Yamada-san and his brother-in-law come over bringing those iwana he promised, from his pool. They’re too small to grill “shio-yaki” style so they get floured and fried instead. Really good. Later a distant cousin of Yamada’s (their grandmothers are sisters) shows up with a mamushi in a bottle! It seems he was called over to a neighbour’s because her garden was full of them. They caught five and he thought there might be more!

What you do with a mamushi:

  1. Put it in a bottle of water (alive!) for a couple of weeks, till it’s insides are clean. It will still be alive.
  2. Discard the water and pour in 40% “white liquor” (flavourless spirit for making fruit liqueurs etc).
  3. After a while you’ve got “mamushi-zake” – you can drink it as a tonic, but more often it’s rubbed onto sprained muscles etc – something like “snake oil” maybe?

One of the mamushi had got killed so Yamada decides it must be eaten. He skins it with his thumbnails(!), puts it on a grill and holds it over the fire till it’s crisp. We nervously nibble at it – it’s OK, a bit like a small dried fish. I avoid eating the head in case there’s still poison left in it.

Yamada drinks whisky these days because beer is full of purines which are bad for his gout. We thought his brother-in-law was a bit younger than us (I’m 62) but it turns out his 70th birthday is coming up in a week or two! Everybody round here looks about ten years younger than they are.

Yamada now refers to himself as the Snake Doctor.

Fireworks in the Rain.

Monday brings more of the unsettled weather. There’s a load of warm moist air coming up from the south, running into a cold air mass just about here, with the result of cloud, incredible humidity, intermittent sweltering sun and thunderstorms. Usually a Pacific high pressure area holds all this off in the summer but this year’s is a bit weak and they’re getting record rainfalls all over Japan. However, the rain sort of holds off in the afternoon, and we hear that the annual firework display down in town hasn’t been cancelled, so go down to check it out. By the main street there’s a concert with local rock bands, hula dancers and a bossa nova singer but after half an hour we go on down to the riverbank, put our mats down on the wet tarmac, open a can of happoshu and wait for the display to start at 8:00.

The fireworks are OK, though lightning on the other side of the mountain opposite is offering some competition, and there are fewer people watching than most years. Water slowly starts to come up through the mats. Around 8:30 it starts raining. The rain gets stronger, we give up and by the time we get back to the car it’s pouring. Drive back to the house in almost continual lightning, soaked. A bath and a change of clothes puts things more or less right. It was an experience, as they say.

Tuesday brings more of the same, weather-wise. In the breaks between rain there’s just time to go out and get bitten by two leeches.

Wednesday brings yet more of the same. We have to keep a can of flyspray by the kotatsu to keep the biting insects under control. (It doesn’t work though.) When the weather’s nice we hate to have to go back to Nagoya, but today will be OK. It’ll be hot back there but at least we’ll be dry and less itchy.

Min. temp. 17°C, max. 30°C


19th~20th

More of the sultry sweltering we’ve come to know and love… Intermittent cloud fails to take the edge off the heat. Rain looks imminent but we don’t actually get any, and things start to improve at the end of the day. At night there’s a skyfull of stars and it’s pleasantly cool – quite a novel feeling.

The chillies are coming on – they like the hot weather and respond in kind. I picked a couple of big green ones for a salad and even after roasting, peeling, deseeding and sitting in the dressing for half an hour they were still fiercely hot. T’s mini-tomatoes are doing well too – they’re quite easy to grow. A pumpkin seed sprouted from the compost heap and is growing huge leaves with all those nutrients – will the compost be totally depleted by the end of the season? Will there actually be some pumpkins? Will the monkeys come and steal them?

Monday morning is delightfully cool and fresh, with a few clouds dotted around the deep blue sky. As the day gets under way the sun stokes up the heat, but the humidity’s down and even at midday it’s quite comfortable if you’re in the shade. At last!! This is what summer out here is supposed to be like! (On the radio they’re saying we might have torrential thunderstorms this afternoon though.)

A bit after 12 I hear some distant thunder – odd because there aren’t that many clouds about. Five minutes later, the radio says there was a small earthquake. We felt no shaking here, but they say mountains rumble when there’s a quake…

A small wasp is building its nest in a hole in the aluminium sliding door – just by my left ear. It’s flying in and out without any concern for me, so I return the favour.

For a couple of hours in mid-afternoon the heat was becoming unpleasant… but by 4:00 it was nice and cool again. Perfect – insect voices – clear sky – this is when we hate to leave and drive back to Nagoya, but on the way home we pass rice fields golden in the late afternoon sunshine, topped with little red dragonflies. An early hint of autumn.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 32°C


26th~27th

Sunday is somewhat cloudy but when the sun peeks through the gaps it’s hot. Meanwhile a huge typhoon is bearing down on Okinawa – I hope they’re OK.

Usually we get local vegetables at a ¥100 stand near the house, but the first supermarket we pass also has a corner for local produce, and today we buy a couple of “kiiuri”. These are small yellow gourds, slightly sweet and very nice in a salad – almost like a melon. They had some last week too – someone must be growing them in the area – not something you find in Nagoya.

Rice has been going up lately and the cunning merchants have started selling it in 8Kg bags instead of the 10Kg we’re used to, in order to hide the price rises. Do they really think people will be fooled? I suppose they must have done all the market research and come to that depressing conclusion.

Wild monkeys might sound all exotic, but along with the deer and wild boar they’re getting to be more and more of a problem to people trying to grow vegetables. According to the lady at the ¥100 stand the local council is now offering a bounty of ¥40,000 for each monkey killed by hunters. That will be hard-earned money – monkeys are clever.

Monday brings blue sky dotted with fluffy summer clouds along with a fierce heat occasionally relieved by a soothing breeze. It’s still a bit more humid than usual but things are improving, and inside the house it’s quite pleasant.

The chillies are looking good – I pick a few big green ones and a couple of the first red ones, for seeds.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 31°C

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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

 

Farmlog June 2012 16 October, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:35 am
Tags: , , , ,

(btw added a few pics to March, April and May)

10th~11th

  • We missed a week because of a Daihachi Ryodan gig, but manage to get out of town on Saturday evening.
  • The Rainy Season officially started on Saturday and Sunday is typically cloudy with a HOT sun, though there’s still a bit of a fresh breeze and the house is still dry. Weeds are UP.
  • Voices: In the afternoon a strange yelp, a bit like a dog. I go to have a look and something jumps out of a tree. A monkey probably. That night I’m dozing in front of the fire and woken by a scream! Get a torch – can’t see anything but it continues a while. Deer probably. (Is this the original banshee? Do they have deer in Ireland?)
  • T discovers a small pink and black snake under some dead leaves. Don’t know what it is, but probably harmless.
  • Monday is busy: planting out the first “Malay” chillies, more digging and shopping on the way home.
  • Min. temp. 10°C, max. 26°C

17th~18th

  • It pours with rain on Saturday night and we expect more of the same at the weekend, but Sunday turns out merely cloudy, gradually clearing so by the time we get to the house the sun has come out and brought up all the moisture so it’s really humid. Our entrance floor is damp, but there’s none of that mouldy smell we used to get. It must have been coming from that old tatami we got rid of last autumn. Inside the house it’s cool and pleasant – that money we spent on re-doing the floor might not have been for nothing.
  • That evening there’s a clear sky and it cools right down. One firefly shows up, way too early – they usually come out in early July.
  • Monday is hot and humid too. A typhoon’s due on Wednesday though…
  • Gradually burning the leftover timber from last year’s work on Sunday evenings – last night I must have turned over some plank a bit suddenly because today there’s a squashed snake in the middle of the woodpile. It looks freshly killed, but its head is definitely too flat for survival.
  • I plant some “Ishigaki” small hot chilli plants, and some big mild paprikas, then get a little weedcutting done.
  • T is hard at work picking and drying tea for our consumption. It’s not bad at all actually.
  • Min. temp. 15°C, max. 25°C

24th~25th

  • A hot Sunday, and no rain.
  • The new green rice is beautiful.
  • There are a lot of anglers in the river on our way up – the “ayu” season has just opened.
  • The house is a pleasant 23° or so, and still dry!
  • At the entrance to the chilli field is a “mamushi” (kind of adder) – it moves away, twitching its tail threateningly. Are rattlesnakes related?
  • Another snake in the woodpile! This one’s probably a harmless “aodaisho” like last week’s, but not squashed at all, and makes its escape, along with a centipede and a couple of small crabs. Yes, there are small land-crabs out here, not really big enough to eat, unfortunately, unless maybe if you dipped them in flour and fried them crisp…
  • A big grey heron is joining in the ayu-fishing at the river on our way back.
  • Min. temp. 13°C, max. 26°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
 

Snakes! 17 July, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:44 pm
Tags: , , ,
Snakes making love?

Snakes making love?

There are quite a lot of snakes in Japan; mostly they keep to themselves, to our mutual relief, and only a couple are poisonous: the deadly Habu in Okinawa, and here in mainland Japan we’ve got the Mamushi, a kind of adder, which is only dangerous if you don’t go straight to a hospital after being bitten, and the Yamakakashi which was thought non-poisonous but turns out to have venom in its back teeth… The only time you might run into one is in the Spring, when they’re warming themselves in some sunny spot and still too drowsy from hibernation to get away.

A few weeks ago I lifted up the shutter of our garage in Nagoya to see a big snake was sitting on that ledge at the bottom, so had been raised right to eye level… I think (hope) it was a harmless Aodaisho. Then last week out in the country there were the two snakes in the photo coiled up in front of our back door. One larger one with dark patches, and a smaller smooth brown one. I’m presuming the larger one was a female. but they might just have been two different species. It looked as if they were having Snake Sex, with lots of writhing, biting and coiling – very passionate. When they noticed we were looking the female grabbed the male by the head, dragged him to a slightly more secluded spot and ate him. Just swallowed him whole, from the head. I was so surprised that by the time I thought of going back to get the camera again there was just an inch or so of tail sticking out of her mouth. She then raised her head, gave us a defiant look and slid off into the bushes to sleep for a few days I suppose.

Pretty kinky eh?

 

 
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