Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog 26th April 2010 1 June, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:37 pm
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  • Last week it snowed in Tokyo, but Sunday was hot and sunny here, only to get quite chilly as the sun went behind the mountains at 4:00.
  • The white police bikes were out. They like to do their speed-trapping in nice weather – you never see them when it’s raining. I suppose they have a monthly quota of fines to get in.
  • Swallows have showed up in the village just down the road, but for some reason they never make it the extra few metres of altitude up to our house. We’ve certainly got enough insects for them to eat, but perhaps they’re not the right kind?
  • Bamboo shoots coming up – ¥500 in the supermarkets, but in the ¥100 stand you could buy a big one for, yes, a hundred yen. Freshly dug bamboo shoots are a treat, with a special flavour that is soon lost. The trick is to boil them as soon as possible; I suppose it stops the natural conversion of sugars to starch or something.
  • Is this kamemushi year? The smelly insects are turning up everywhere.
  • Saw my first snake of the year – sunning itself on a grassy bank. Ten minutes later it was back in the same place, so it must have been a special spot.
  • Did a bit of tree pruning and weed slashing. Nothing compared with the work coming up in a month or two.
  • Min temp 2°C, max 21°C

Farmlog 4th April 2010 7 April, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:43 pm
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  • This time the sakura were out in force. Every year it’s a surprise to see just how many cherry trees there are hiding around the country – both in gardens and growing wild in the mountains – waiting for their few days of glory. Everywhere you look it’s sakura, sakura, most of them in full bloom!
  • We stopped off in our usual supermarket and picked up a bottle of their house wine – a white made from the Chardonnay grape (imported juice I think) so might not be too bad, though you can get a fair Chilean white for the same price of ¥498. It turned out to be awful. Just not nice to drink at all. Even at this low price you can do much better with a something from Chile, Spain or Italy. I’m amazed they expect people to buy that stuff.
  • Spent an hour or so taking down the barbed wire round the chilli field. It wasn’t doing any good at all – just getting in my way, and tangling up in the net that turned out to be the only thing that would keep the deer out.
  • On the way back to Nagoya we took a different route, and saw even more sakura…
  • Coming into Nagoya at dusk, a lone bat flying around a crossroads. In the summer there’ll be lots of them – small creatures about the size of sparrows, picking up the insects drawn to the traffic lights.

Min temp -2°C. max 15°C

Cherry blossom in the Japanese countryside.

Riverbanks seem to be a popular place to plant cherries.


Farmlog 28th March 2010 6 April, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 12:06 pm
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  • The cherry blossom got off to an early start, but the last couple of weeks of chill slowed it right down and only now are trees starting to show themselves here and there.
  • A youngish couple we passed on our way out of Nagoya were obviously Walking. Not just enjoying a stroll, but striding along purposefully, elbows out, their whole bodies radiating “I am Walking”… Apparently you can take “walking” lessons in order to get the full health benefits or something. Later on we passed a whole crowd of mostly middle-aged people doing the same thing. It must have been a special Walking Day.
  • Spring means gardening and the shopping centre where we usually stop off on the way was piled with bags of potting compost, fertiliser, chicken manure, lime… Actually it’s time I sowed the chilli seeds to get some seedlings ready to plant in May or June.
  • The weather forecasts are quite often right these days! Sunday started warm, but as we were doing our shopping it clouded over, a cold wind got up and shortly after it started to rain – just as predicted.
  • We left buying “negi” (leeks) to the “¥100 stand” down the road, but there weren’t any… Luckily the lady who runs it had some in her field, so we went with her to dig a few up. The local deer had been in before us that morning and got a lot of the green part, but we still got a bundle of stalks, which turned out to be very good. I don’t think the deer had been such a problem there until recently (they’ve been plagueing us for years) so I think she’d better fix that high net that should have been keeping them out.
  • On Monday it snowed.

Min temp -2.5°C, max 16.5°C


Farmlog 7th February 2010 1 March, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 4:00 pm
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  • For once it’s clear and sunny, but freezing cold. This is supposed to be a mild winter but there’ve certainly been some cold bits too.
  • Driving out from Nagoya we had spectacular views of white mountains in the distance. Ena on the right, Norikura (I think) on the left and the holy Mount Ontake right ahead. There is a whole Ontake religion, with some dedicated temples and annual ceremonies when hundreds of white-garbed devotees climb to the summit. It’s also an active volcano, which erupted not that long ago.
  • Kids playing in an interior car park – running between the cars: incredibly dangerous but parents, if they were around, not saying a word.
  • A yowling cat turned up from somewhere and stayed under our floorboards for the evening. Lost its way in the snow?
  • While filling the bath our well ran dry. There’s an electric pump which sends the water to our taps, so it’s just like a normal water system, until it runs out, which happens sometimes if there hasn’t been much rain lately.
  • At 2:00AM, visiting our outside toilet just before I went to bed, there was a strange whooping sound, just once. I’ve never heard that sound before and have no idea what it was – some kind of owl?
  • Monday was cloudy, but a bit warmer. Still wet, mushy and basically miserable. The well refilled overnight fortunately.
  • The cat was still around in the morning.

Min temp -7°C, max 5°C


Farmlog 21st September 2009 23 September, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:49 pm
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Yes it’s Autumn for real, all the rice in nearby paddy fields is golden and some has already been harvested, and all kinds of wild nuts and berries are ripening up so the wild population can get through the coming (probably mild) winter. Not quite as cold as last week and dinner under the stars with the Milky Way visible, a bottle of wine and some Spanish guitar music softly accompanying the insect chorus was quite pleasant… (I recommend “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” by Narciso Yepes.)

  • We used to have 5 chestnut trees behind the house, but insects and a typhoon got most of them; we planted another though, and the nuts are ripening now. Last year the monkeys came and ate them, but we got some on Monday – you can cook them with milk and sugar, then mash for a nice dessert, and chestnut rice is good too.
  • higanbana coming up everywhere. A beautiful red flower that blooms exactly at the Buddhist higan period. There’s nothing to be seen through the summer – the leaves only appear briefly in the spring, I don’t know how it manages.
  • On our way back home through the village we passed a folorn tai yaki van. As it was a public holiday he must have thought children visiting from the city might get their grandparents to buy some, but didn’t seem to be doing much business.
  • Min 13°C, max: I don’t know because we left early to get back to Nagoya where Daihachi Ryodan were due to play at a festival, but at 12:00 it was 25°C.

Farmlog 14th September 2009 15 September, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:57 pm
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Autumn’s coming on so fast Winter seems to be breathing down our necks, though we don’t usually get the first frost till November. Last night however was cold. Dinner outside under the stars is still the more attractive option, but even with a jacket over a trainer over a T-shirt we were huddled up near the fire, sipping shochu with hot water and inhaling the wood smoke. I had a sore throat the next morning.

  • Now the sansho is ripening, our annual visitor pigeons are busy eating them. We don’t see those pigeons any other time of year- they must be quite tasty after eating all that sansho…
  • Last week I noticed a papaya plant had sprouted from last year’s compost heap – get it through the winter in a pot and it should grow quite big in the garden next year. But I forgot to dig it up, and this week the deer had got in first and chewed all the leaves and top shoot off. Drat.
  • I’ve been bringing the organic refuse from Raffles to make compost. It’s not as easy as it sounds: if you just leave it around the animals will come and mess with it, while an enclosed plastic container makes drainage difficult and it gets all wet and slimy. I’ve found mixing in some dry leaf mould helps, but a neighbour suggested another use- give it to the fish. He had put some carp in our pond for us a while ago and they seem to be surviving on whatever they can find there, but I tried throwing in some of the food scraps. It all disappeared in a few minutes, but the next offering was ignored so they don’t seem to want too much of it…
  • T. was busy taking advantage of the hot sun and dry breeze to dry her umeboshi pickles. About half done now. The home-made ones are definitely good, and cheap if you don’t count the labour.
Umeboshi pickles drying in the autumn sun.

Umeboshi pickles drying in the autumn sun.


Farmlog 10th August 2009 14 August, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:05 pm
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  • Well, here in Nagoya a couple of days later we’ve finally got a bit of Summer, but last weekend was yet more rainy, muggy, wet, slimy, mouldy, sweaty, sticky… (you get the idea)
  • Hey, enough leeches too, OK? A real plague of them this year; up to now I’d hardly ever seen one. I had no idea they could be this common in Japan. I read it could be something to do with the tendancy for wild animals like deer and wild boar to show up more around human settlements. The leeches ride into town on their backs. Anyway, both of us got bitten this week. This time I tried sprinkling salt to make them fall off, which seemed to work at the time, but by bite, although small, got itchy the next day. According to the Wikipedia you’re supposed to ease them off with your fingernail, which sounds tricky, but I’ll try it next time. I’d just as soon there wasn’t a next time to be honest.
  • Some more gaps in the net round the chillies, which the deer might have been getting in, hastily patched up. If they ever start eating the chilli leaves it’s a disaster for the plants, which are already a bit unhappy from lack of sunlight.
  • Min temp ?°C (the magnet stuck, but about 19~20) Max 25°C

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