- 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 24th October 2010 28 October, 2010
Farmlog 17th October 2010 21 October, 2010
- 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
- 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 19th September 2010 22 September, 2010
- Almost full moon. “Jugoya”, the 15th night of the whatever month in the old lunar calendar is the harvest moon – it seems to be early this year.
- Those pigeons back again eating the sansho – they were here last week too. Usually just two of them, but three this time. We never see them any other time of year.
- The hydrangea plant behind the house gave us a lot of flowers this year, but this week the deer came and ate all the leaves off.
- On the way back to Nagoya – some little kids kicking a ball around in a bit of empty ground. So what? Well, you never seem to see that in the city now. No kids? No parks? No footballs? No time? Or parent paranoia?
- Min temp 15°C max 27°C (note the sudden drop)
Farmlog 5th September 2010 10 September, 2010
- 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.
Bulbuls 22 July, 2010
Yesterday was a big day in our Nagoya garden, excited bulbuls flying around chirping, or screeching, at some bemused chicks. Yes, it was Nest Leaving Day. I think they’re bulbuls of some kind – a kind of scraggly-looking bird that reminds me of the starlings that used to hang around our garden in England, with a long tail and sort of curved beak, and a somewhat untuneful call. T says they’re called “hiyodori” which translates as “Brown-eared Bulbul”.
The garden in front of Raffles isn’t that big, but there’s a tree just in front of our second-floor living room window that’s grown almost as high as the house. A couple of years ago the same – well, maybe not the exact same birds, but the same kind of birds – did it the honour of building a nest just outside our window where we had a view of the construction process. They made good use of locally-available materials: twigs, leaves, discarded plastic twine, shopping bags… laid some eggs but maybe they finally decided the position was just too overlooked or something and abandoned the nest. Later that Autumn it fell out of the tree with three eggs still inside.
This year’s bulbuls had a bigger tree to work on though, and the nest they built was above the window, not below, and things seemed to go better. We tried not to be too obtrusive and the birds ( did they take turns? ) spent several weeks incubating the eggs till an excited mother bird told us they’d hatched a week or two ago. Then the hardest part must have been scouring the neighbourhood for insects to keep them fed, but suddenly yesterday the nest was empty, and the birds were being really noisy.
I wondered if they’d been got by a crow, but that night when I collected the blackboard from outside Raffles to close up, there was a dazed-looking chick clinging to it! Not knowing what to do I just left it at the bottom of the tree, but the next morning it had made its way out to the road. This was no good, so using a plastic bowl a stick and some sticky tape I made a sort of scoop and managed to drop it off back in the nest from our 2nd floor window. No, in an hour or so it was gone again, and the parent birds were flying around this creature on the ground below, trying to persuade it to fly. Didn’t seem to be working, but today that chick is gone. The bulbuls still come back to the garden, and the parents are still feeding insects to the other two, bigger, chicks, but I don’t know what happened to the little one. Hope the cats didn’t get it…
Farmlog 2nd~5th May 2010 (“Golden Week”) 15 June, 2010
Just like UK bank holidays, a few days off come up in the same week and there are 45 Km traffic jams all over the country. The weather’s often beautiful at this time too, though, so we joined the rush to get out to our place in Gifu for a long weekend – everyone else must have been going somewhere else and we got there in the same 2 hours or so as usual. 🙂
- The second day we went for a walk on the narrow road that leads on to a couple of tiny villages above our house. Very nice day out in perfect weather. (More here.)
- For some reason the wild boar don’t seem to have been round this year, and lots of bamboo shoots have been coming up in the woods behind the house. Freshly-dug shoots have a special aroma which you can keep by boiling them as soon as possible after digging them up. I suppose it stops the cells’ conversion of sugars to starch or something. You need a big pot to boil them whole with the skin still on, for about an hour, with some rice bran to take away a certain astringency. A handful of rice will do instead, and some people put in a couple of dried chillies. Then you can cook them with soy sauce and dried fish flakes, or make a nice spicy Thai salad or Indonesian curry…
- Fantastic weather – scorching hot in the daytime, but a cool breeze, and cold evenings so you want to light a fire to eat outside, which we did, listening to music from Cape Verde and some old Laotian pop.
- The wind brought down a snowstorm of cherry blossom from the wild tree behind the house.
- An old guy from the houses down the road passes by in the early evening. He goes for a daily walk to keep fit, and looks as if his health regime is working OK.
- Flowers everywhere!
- Getting the chilli field ready – digging up a row, mixing in some compost and fertilizer then covering it with black plastic mulch to warm up the soil and keep the weeds down a bit. Four rows should do it this year – 16 big red chilli plants from Malaysia, 16 little hot “Ishigaki” chillies from Okinawa (not the usual “island pepper” but something more aromatic that a Thai friend recognized as “prik kariang”), and half a dozen Habaneros, just for yuks…
- The birds and frogs are getting going, but the evenings are still fairly quiet, compared with the insects’ samba orchestra that will keep us entertained through the Summer. Those insects have a dark side though, and we both got mysterious itchy bites that stayed with us for days. Hmm.
- Min temp 2°C, max 27°C