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November 20, 2008

First Snow, First Stove

Drying Kaki by the Maki StoveFirst Snow

Just in time for the first snow of the season, we got our wood stove up and burning.

Of course, we still have lots of f wood to cut and split, and I realize that one point of view might see the fact that if we would have worked as many hours as we have spent cutting wood for this season, we would have been able to buy enough pre-cut wood for several years, but it sure would not have been as fun.

The only "not-so-fun" part was when I ruined our new (used) chainsaw after only three days. I asked the nice man at the hardware shop where the 2-cycle oil was (which needs to be mixed 25:1 with gasoline for use in the chainsaw), and he pointed me to a canister that, in big letters, said "2-cycle 25:1". I Guess I should have read the fine print, because it was actually already mixed with gasoline. So, when I mixed it again, it made the mix ratio about 500:1 and I ended up burning my chainsaw engine. Nothing is more annoying than realizing that you basically spent $100 a day to use a chainsaw.

My neighbor must trust me more than I trust myself, because after that fiasco, he lent me his chainsaw to finish all the wood. Of course, he *is* careful to lend me gasoline that he has pre-mixed himself.

The wood is all from an old house that was demolished this spring. Its not the best wood for burning, because it burns so quickly and is quiet dirty (lots of soot in the chimney), but it was free and close and we felt it would be a waste to just let it rot or be thrown into the dump. It also saved the owner of the house the cost of disposing of it, so we consider it a type of neighborly favor.

The photos show our neighbor helping us with the chimney, while other neighbors gather around to watch the first smoke from our famous (in the village) fire stove. They all came over to our living room door to check it out and give their advice about how to best use it. There is also a photo of us peeling persimmons. While we had decided to make mostly vinegar this year, the persimmons I dried the other day turned out quite nicely, with less mold than last year, so we are tempted to try more. It is the one thing that we can give to our neighbors that may have some value.

There is still a lot of work to make the stove situation "perfect". More wood to cut, and we have to make a drying rack to hang above it so that we can utilize the heat for drying fruits, veggies, and socks and underwear over the long humid winter.

Neighbors Checking out the StoveFirst Snow

November 18, 2008

A leg of hope

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I spent the day putting things away for the winter. I have no time to upload new photos, but I do have time to spend randomly looking through my past blog posts. I found this post which stuck me because of the photo and the post title that went along with it. At that time I had no idea that there would actually be a leg of hope in America in 2008. I must be a fortune teller. I must be a genius.

November 16, 2008

Mabiki & Kaki

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For those of you on the edge of your seat as to what is happening with my strep throat, I'm feeling much better after a shot or two of gin (I had no antibiotics to sooth my throat so I opted for the alcohol cleanse). Of course, that means no cutting wood with sharp tools today. Oh well, there is a lot of cleaning and storing to do for the winter (snow starts Thursday!).

This photo is of the carrots that Tomoe mabikied the other day. Mabiki literally means "middle pull" - or, to take the weaker sprouts from in-between the stronger ones to prevent the weaker ones from stealing all the nutrients and light from the stronger ones. In English I guess you would say "weed out", but they are not really weeds. They were delicious.

Next to her you see the kaki persimmons I am drying.

Drying kaki is one way to remove the astringents that make some varieties too bitter to eat fresh. This area is extremely humid at this time of year, so it is hard to dry them well. We hope the fire stove will help us, but just in case, we are planning to remove the astringents with booze this year. Another way is to put them in a plastic bag and let them suffocate. It helps to add an apple or banana, as both fruits release a chemical into the are which promotes ripening.

If we left these kaki on the tree long enough, they would eventually over-ripen and become edible, but only if the crows and bears did not get to them first. In fact, this morning there was an announcement on the village intercom asking everyone to pick their kaki or cut the tree down, due to an increase in the number of bears coming into the village to snack on them.

We also hope to have a lot of persimmon vinegar in a few months. Making vinegar with them is the easiest, as all you have to do is wash them and thrown them into a bucket to ferment - no peeling or other processing needed.

He Bites

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I'm down with the worst case of strep throat I can ever remember having. Although I know I will have to get up and do some work very soon here before it starts raining this afternoon, I am enjoying drooling on the keyboard (because it hurts too bad to swallow) as I play with photos. This is the crazy baker's dog. Watch out though, he bites.

November 15, 2008

Time to Relax?

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A week ago (or was it two?) We had our local harvest festival. It's actually more of a big picninc with everyone from our hamlet bringing a dish to pass around. Theoretically all the harvest is in and people have a chance to breathe. The weather was great and the beer and sake were flowing, but I was having a hard time relaxing. Unlike last year's harvest festival, where our biggest worries were to get the house cleaned up (still not done), this year my head was filled with a mile long to-do list, and knowledge that winter would be here soon.

Somehow we have managed to stay ahead of the wave, but it feels like it is crashing down soon. The snow starts in less than a week and we are still working on getting the fire stove installed. I have been spending almost every day cutting wood from a recently demolished house down the road, but we have no where to put it. Our yard is a mess because our house was not built with farming in mind and does not have that much storage space. I'm sure our neighbors are glad that we moved in. Which reminds me - I have to find someplace to store nine bikes for the winter because the bike shack I built last spring is in an avalanche path. And, oh yeah, we had hoped to get chickens this winter so I have to find someplace to build a chicken coop that will not be demolished by the snow.

On the One Life Japan front, I have to get that website updated before we are featured on a popular travel program next week.

We are making progress though. We finally got our sorghum relatively cleaned up and ready for storage, our rice is all taken care of and, and our green tomatoes and zucchini are pickled. With dad's help we have added a little lean-to to the back of our house to keep our rice-straw relatively dry through the winter. We probably have enough wood already to keep us for the winter, and may have enough time to get more (if, that is, I have not broken my neighbors chainsaw - 50% chance)

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November 11, 2008

Thatch Harvest

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What a great weekend! Saturday was spent gethering kaya (material for thatching a roof. In this area they use nemagaritake and susuki, but it is not called kaya until it is older and ready to harvest). This time we had no foreign guests, and I am kicking myself fro not getting around to inviting anyone. My apologies to anyone who might have wanted to join. We did, however, have about 12 Japanese folks come join - ranging from people who just wanted to see this village, to a father and three-son group who have a second home with a thatch roof, and wanted to be more involved in the process.

The susuki field is way up on top of a mountain, where there is an unbelievably beautiful flat area that was, until three years ago, home to several hundred free-range cattle. Now it is now an abandoned delapitated farm. Buildings don't last long here in the snow country without someone to take care of them.

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Anybody out there interested in starting a little eco-community in this area? Keep in mind that durring the winter, the only way in an out is via snow shoe.

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November 10, 2008

Happy Halloween

happy pumpkin day

Halloween is not necessarily on October 31 here - its whenever we get around to it.

I would tell you the scary story about this rat we found in our closet, but it give me the shivers. Burrururururr.

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November 05, 2008



The peanuts I had been waiting all summer for are now gone, and I have a stomach ache. Needless to say, the harvest was lacking in quantity, and even in quality, but it was a very satisfying snack.

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