In no particular order, this is what has been going on here in Sakae Mura. I can't believe our life ROCKS so hard!
The house is coming along. We broke down and purchased some eco-unfriendly akudome to stop the stains from coming through and it worked miracles. Now the kitchen is amazingly beautiful (compare the photo above with the before shots. Everyone who saw it before we finished is amazed. The living area is next, but it is not as easy because we decided to leave the sand walls on and just paint over them. This was a mistake as the walls suck up a lot of akudome or paint (whichever we happen to put on as the first layer). In retrospect, we should have taken an extra night to scrape off all the walls in there too.
Something else that makes the kitchen amazingly beautiful is that it is filled (I mean really filled) with fresh veggies and other goodies that we have either received from the neighbors or picked wild. The photos above shows only a few of the veggies that we received (including two tomatoes that had fallen off the vine and we saved from rotting).
Yesterday we were excited to find a farmer in a nearby shuraku (cluster of houses) that, according to her website, makes chemical-free rice. We stopped by to visit and buy 10kg of genmai (brown rice), but were disappointed to find that while her veggies are chem-free, "it is impossible to make chem-free rice". It looks like we will go back to ordering our organic genmai from the same place in neighboring Nigata prefecture which we have always used.
Still, the trip was not wasted. Of course she gave us a box full of organic veggies and, better yet, we stumbled across a chestnut tree that still had not been picked over. We gathered a kilo or two or three. Tomoe is off right now with the neighbor gathering more from the neighbors private tree somewhere in the mountains.
We have a field up the mountain where we have planted some seeds (although everyone says it is too late). We also planted some baby cabbage and cauliflower which we received from the neighbor. A few days later, however, the neighbor who is using the fields immediately behind our house said we could use them. We planted all the sprouts there and scavenged all the "left over" crops that she did not want - such as shiso. The photo above shows Tomoe picking shiso leaves which will then be pickled and mixed with rice or tsukemono. We also have free reign over one of her kaki (persimmon) trees which will give us lots of great vinegar and dried persimmons! Life is awesome!
Yesterday we joined a study session about trees in Sakae. As we hiked through the mountain road in search of the elusive "Fujiki" tree, we found mukago vine after mukago vine. Mukago is a tiny potato like vegetable the size of a marble. Unlike "regular" potatoes, they grow above ground on the vine. They taste great raw, and even better boiled with a little salt. We saw a 1kg bag in a little shop in Nozawa village the other day for 850 yen. We picked at least 2kg on our hike.
Today we were supposed to go to a new natural-bread-baker friend's house (pictured above) and get some free floor-boards for our living room, but he called yesterday to say that one of the old farmers in the village had passed away. The friend used to buy organic egoma (kind of like sesame) from the farmer for use in his bread, but the farmer's widow is not able to harvest all of it by herself. We volunteered to help the friend pick it all. After a brief stop at the widow's home where we met her family that had come back for the funeral, we went to the field only to find that the egoma was not ready for harvest. Instead, we found a patch of black beans that desperately needed harvesting. In return for taking the beans back to the widow, we were free to take our pick of some of the gigantic organic carrots they had growing there. We will be back to pick the egoma some other time.
To top it all off, we have gathered 25+ people for the thatched roof restoration project (that's 22 more than they had last year), and we just got a call from our fourth customer for the Fall Bike & Hike tour.