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December 30, 2008

Making Paper

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Every week brings its own stresses. This week we were trying to write all the new-year cards to friends, family, and past customers. A few days ago we went to the local paper maker and made our own postcards. While most of them are nothing one would ever pay for, it was a lot of fun. The hard part is writing them and addressing the envelopes - something I have never had a habit to do, but figure that it is something we should start now that our "past customer" base is growing.

The photos are of us making paper. Since we had rented the place out for a half-day anyway, we invited a friend / neighbor to join in the fun and share the costs.

The paper here is famous because of the quality of the water, and bleaching effects of the snow. The water is one of the "100 cleanest" in Japan, which apparently makes it ideal for making high quality paper. The snow in this area is ideal for bleaching the bark that will eventually become pulp. snow reflects certain rays from the sun which can turn a brown bark into a white bark in just as few days. Japanese also use the snow to bleach silk and other woods and materials.

In other news, The challenge has begun. For the next five months or so I will have to find new and exciting ways to photograph snow and not have all my photos turn out just like last years.

There was about 40 cm (16 inches) already on the ground after one day, and it was supposed to snow for the next week. Unfortunately, sunny weather today left us with less than a foot still on the ground. I guess this is good as Tomoe and I will be away for a week, and if it really snowed that whole time we wound not even be able to find our house when we got back.

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December 12, 2008

I Wish I Was a Bounty Hunter

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I had an opportunity to head up to Akiyamago again yeasterday, taking a potetial business partner to show him all the glory of our area. Its sad that there is no snow except for on top of the mountains, but even without leaves on the trees it was just as awe-inspiring as with.

The monkies were also out in droves. I just kept looking at them and wishing I had my gun, as you are paid $200 for a dead monkey. (just kidding, of course. I don't have a gun, but there is a $200 bounty on monkies. I could have made a few thousand dollars yesterday!)

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December 11, 2008

Easy to Please

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Oh how easy Tomoe is pleased. Just look at that face as she prepares to use the new pasta maker. I am generally pretty stingy when it comes to buying new gadgets for things that can be done by hand, but this one is pretty nice - and it uses no electricity or gas. The thing that one me over is how easily I can roll out my bread now to various thicknesses. No more hurting my hands with that rolling pin again.

Making noodles

It also works great for making soba or udon, so we will be able to use up all that soba we will harvest next fall.

Making noodlesMaking noodles

December 06, 2008

Maggots, Butter, Kaki & Kabu

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A slow day. I found out that it costs $2,000 to fly home. I wonder what life will be like when there is no more cheap oil. No, despite prices (which have been going down here recently, but are still higher than before) I don't think oil is expensive - not if you take into account all the costs which are currently left out. So I wonder how I can ever get home in the future if I miss this chance. I suppose I should put that $2,000 toward a sailboat.

So to keep my mind off of the fact that I am effectively stranded in Japan for the rest of my life, I chopped wood. Tomoe was busy making use of the persimmons that have been getting softer and moldier by the day. The soft ones are no longer bitter, so she used them as a sauce on some of the pickled kabu (turnip) that we also snatched from the neighbor's field. The sweetness goes nicely with the salty pickled flavor of the kabu. Highly recommended. Although, the looks are deceiving. It looks like apples in some kind of nice orange sauce and it is quite shock to the tongue when you first taste the salty turnips. Scary how, even if I know what it is, my visual impression overrides my logical thought.

Speaking of persimmons, the other day I had to dump a big bucket of what was supposed to become persimmon vinegar, into the compost. It has been sitting in our hallway fermenting for over a year, but we needed the bucket for this year's batch. When we checked to see how it was doing, we found fruit-fly larvae and mold on the top, with a foot of dried up, vinegar-less persimmon pulp on the bottom. I took a swig to see if what little liquid did remain was vinegar, but no such luck. (Photo of the bad persimmons below)

But, life is not all disappointments. I made my finest batch of butter today, using a thin skin of fat that I got off of the whey left over from making cheese a few days ago. It didn't make much, but I am happy because it is the butteriest tasting butter I have made to date.

Failed Persimmon VinegarFailed Persimmon Vinegar

December 05, 2008

Chikusho!

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A couple of photos I enjoyed finding in the drawer left by the previous occupant of our house. There are a lot more where this came from, but I have not had time to scan them over the summer. The rain started today so I had a bit of free time on my hands. Tomorrow is snow in the afternoon, followed by a week of sunshine and scattered rain showers. chikusho! (that means s**t in Japanese)

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December 04, 2008

Still No Snow

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Its been an annoying few days. While we were expecting the snow to start in November, it never did. Instead, we have had many days of clear sunshine. While this may sound like a good thing, we have a lot of indoor work to do for a project that we received a grant for. The grant folks are coming in a few days to check on our progress, and we have little to show - mainly because when the weather is so nice we feel compelled to go outside and pick nozawana or cut more firewood. Or just bask in it's glory.

The photos above are of our new neighbors (in the next hamlet). a young couple that has moved in from Tokyo a few months ago. They still have some left-over work in Tokyo, so are commuting for a week or so, and when we have customers we are busy for a week or so, so despite our best efforts, we have not had an opportunity to get together until a few nights ago. What was supposed to be just a "get-to-know-you" lunch, turned into a late night drinking binge and caused my first hang-over in as long as I can remember. We are extremely happy to find that they are great fun, and have a lot in common with us in terms of desired lifestyle and values. Can't wait to meet them again.

Wood and Nozawana From the Mountain

The photo above shows our rewards for yet another afternoon in the mountain. We harvested a half-van-load of nozawana from our neighbor's field, and gathered another half-van load of wood.

The photos below are from the annual harvest festival at a neighboring hamlet. While the women (and a few men) make hand-made soba which the hamlet grows together for just this purpose, the rest of the men stay outside in the cold and pound rice into mochi. Of course, the kids like to help out as well, so they give it a few whacks before getting tired and passing it back onto the men - who are also exhausted.

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