I started planting the rice today. It was just an hour this evening, and I only planted seven rows, but it feels great to have finally started. I've been working on a little write-up illustrating the process of rice planting as I know it, but for now enjoy these photos of the friends who stopped by last week to help spread the manure.
One of them was a fireman back home and so really wanted to get a photo of himself wearing my volunteer fire brigade uniform, standing next to the fire truck.
Finally, I'm a bit confused. I almost didn't post this photo (below) because I didn't like it that much, I thought it was "dirty" looking. I ended up posting it simply because it showed the snow at the top of Nonomi. I was surprised to get a few comments on Flickr, and even more surprised to see it on Dave Pollard's How To Save the World when I checked my feeds this afternoon. The biggest surprise, however, came when I saw it on Tomoe's blog! She is the toughest critic of my photos, but somehow thought this one was worthy of posting on her own blog...
Tomoe has been down with a "broken" back for the past few days. Yesterday was the worst so far and she could not even get up to go to the bathroom by herself. The neighbors stop by to bring food because, apparently, men don't know how to cook in this village.
Since she was not able to enjoy the new chickens (other than savor the endless stream of eggs), I brought Lucy into the house to visit. I think Lucy enjoys being outside a bit more though.
We're getting six eggs a day now, and it feels great to have something to give to neighbors that drop by to visit Tomoe on her death-bed, or when I have to borrow a tool from someone, or when the local tofu maker gives us a huge bag of soy pulp to feed the chickens. They will also come in handy when I go appologize to one of the neighbors today because the chickens escaped into her garden. Luckily no damage was done other than a broken nozawana stalk.
They're getting much smarter (or rather braver). I think I will have to get around to building the real fence, rather than this makeshift net that has worked pretty well for the past few days. No telling when they learn to fly!
The chickens are young and we didn't expect it so soon, so yesterday morning I was surprised to find our first egg out in the chicken coop! A few hours later there were three more.
The inaugural egg went right into my tummy, and the other three went to a neighbor who seemed as happy to get them as we are to finally have some kind of gift that few people in the village make themselves.
In addition to an emergency trip to a neighbor who gave me a big bucket full of shells to help replenish the calcium lost each time a chicken lays an egg, I also got the net up around the yard so the chickens are now free to roam, and much to our surprise (and probably theirs too), roam they did. They spent the entire day outdoors scratching and pecking away at the weeds and bugs and worms. Tomorrow's task is to get some soil to cover up all the concrete in our yard, making a place to grow more weeds for them, as well as to utilize their big juicy poops.
Currently they spend the nights in our basement. The floor is covered with wood chips and sawdust form the local geta (wooden sandal) maker.
We can't tell the chickens apart, so until we get some colored leg bands, they are all named Lucy.
The main reason I don't blog much recently is that I only have small windows to write, and so much has happened in between writing that I can't figure out what to focus on. I guess this time though, the obvious story to highlight is the re-thatching of a traditional roof that we were lucky enough to be involved with.
Even as I write that, though, I feel that it was just as great having guests from Tokyo help us to shovel sh*t on our rice field - a task that would have taken me a week if I did it alone!
So, in the interest of fairness, this is what has happened since I last wrote...
Paul, if you are reading this, the customers that left us yesterday are both designers, and big fans of TAB and could not have made it around Tokyo without it! What's more, the instant I met them I thought he was French just because he looked so much like you! (yes I am a prejudiced redneck who thinks that anyone with fashionable glasses is French!)
Anyway, I also have a few photos. I think it is obvious which ones are from the re-thatch project.
Its hard to believe that less than a month ago, when I was snapping these photos, there was not a bud to be seen on the trees. I had great ambitions to get out there and document their progress and the subtle changes in green. I wanted to photograph the young leaves of some of the trees this area is known for - tochi, buna, kiri - the namesakes of our (no longer very) baby birds.
Imagine how surprised and saddened I was this morning when I took a moment to look up from my work only to find that the tender birth of spring had passed me by. (Photo below)
Above are a few photos taken in the beginning of April of a daikon tsugura - a large basket made of rice straw used for storing vegetables (usually daikon radish) through the winter. As you can see, this one housed some carrots, cabbage, and gobo (burdock) as well.
Below is a semi-aerial view of the village and our rice fields in the first week of April Click them for a larger view.