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I am reluctant to post any of my own photos now after having spent hours going through the photos I found in this house. But I will anyway, because I took a bunch more today and they gotta go somewhere.

Tomoe and I joined the local haiku club again. This time I was suffering from writer's block (as I have been for the past three months). I didn't complete any poems. I think it all has to do with the pressure from having one of my last poems published in the regional newspaper. It may not sound like much, but just today, after the Haiku meeting, Tomoe and I stopped by at one of the inns where we had our guests stay in nearby Nozawa Onsen Village to say thank-you. While we did not mention that we had just come from haiku, the owner of the inn congratulated me on my poem that was in the paper. Everyone reads it. Everyone is expecting big things from me now.

Our fields are now ready to be planted. We have also borrowed a HUGE rice field. I actually want to get more, and plant rice for wara - the straw. Nowadays, finding wara to make shoes or rope or anything is hard because everyone uses the combine to harvest, which destroys the straw. In fact, it seems that some people used to plant a special kind of rice that was not so tasty, but made good straw. Often, they didn't even harvest the rice. If anyone wants to help till a rice field by hand, and plant the rice, give me a holler.

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We are also looking forward to our other adventures in farming. We have a grape tree lying flat on the ground after a winter of heavy snow. We just planted it in the fall, so are anxious to see if it will fruit. I am planning to plant some mukago (tiny potatoes) wherever Tomoe will let me, and of course we have the "regular" veggies. We have carrots that we planted last fall. They seem to have survived the snow, though are still smaller than my pinky (way smaller). The photo above shoes people picking normal sized yuki-no-shita carrots (carrots from under the snow) - having spent the winter under the snow results in them being extremely sweet. They even make jam out of them. We have nozawana, which is a winter veggie that is usually planted before the snow comes so that we people can have early spring greens.

The photos above and below are from when we had a visitor from Malaysia. It was not the best season - the snow was melting but not gone. It was in-between, but there was plenty to do. She tried her hand at making rice-straw ropes, but even with instruction from a master she (nor we) could make anything usable in the short time we had. Akiyamago was brilliant then, with a beautiful blue sky. If only all the town's people had not been out cutting wood that day...

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