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June 27, 2009

Fear for my Life

After the chicken incident the other day, the remaining four are reluctant to come outside even though I open the pen door when I am around. I also fear for my life (and my eyes - see 1:30 in the video).

June 26, 2009

And Then There Were Four

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Yesterday I heard some ruckus going on in the chicken run. By the time I got there, I found only three chickens in the pen, and two were missing in action. A quick search of the fields nearby found one chicken soaking wet, but otherwise OK, in our cabbage patch. As I tried to figure out how she got there, I kep searching for the other missing Lucy. It was a hot day, so after checking the obvious places (the neighbors cabbage shoots), I started looking in the bushes where chickens are likely to retreat from the heat.

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In the last bush, the furthest bush, I was relieved to see some movement. That relief quickly faded when I realized that the movement was a cat, at at its feet was Lucy. I can't figure out how the cat got the bird through/under/over the fence and as far away as that bush, but one neighbor sticks to his theory that it was an itachi (weasel) - despite me telling him that I saw the cat with the dead bird.

Now ther are four.

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Luckily I got her before the cat had had a chance to feast. Pouring hot water (about 80 celcius) over the body made the feathers quite plucakble. Our neighbor was busy so Tomoe and I decided to do the kaitai ("dividing the body") by outselves with the help of some web sites and The Self Sufficient Life.

We got as far as chopping off the wings and the legs and head, but in Japan people eat more of the inards than in the West. The book did not cover how to handle the guts, kidneys, liver, guts, sunagimo, etc.

I ran to another neighbor (80+y/o) to ask for his help, but he said "if it is a rabbit I can do it, but not a chicken". Likewise, our next-door neighbor said she remembered doing it as a kid, but doens't remmeber enough to show us. Luckily, the neighbor who was once a pro chicken butcher returned and we were able to salvage most of the meat.

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In that time, we gathered a little audiance as people of all ages stopped by to see the show.

The photo with the pliers is not torture. Actually the chickens tendons are quite strong, and I was warned that trying to pull the foot off of the leg without a towel or gloves to protect my hand could result in a lot of blood (my blood). I wrapped a towel around it, but still could not get the foot off. I had to grab a pair of pliers to gain some leverage.

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June 25, 2009

Hunting & Gathering

Worms for the chickensGumi

Worms we collected from the rice paddy after the big rain were put into the compost, and some were used to feed the Lucies.

Gumi from the tree of a neighbor. Her tree is ten times bigger than ours and still has fruit now, a week after I picked the last of about fifty gumi from our tree.

Cabbage. Much bigger than ours which was planted almost a year ago. I want to just cut our losses, but Tomoe still has hope so they remain in the soil. It doesn't really matter that much though, as we still have un-planted areas in some other fields which I suppose we should plant first before we pull the plug on the one-year-old cabbage sprouts.


Did I Miss Anything?

Being FilmedWeeding the RiceFrog

The translation is almost done. The plans for our next customer (coming in less than a week) are not set yet. The house looks worse than when we moved in. My parents, my sister, her husband, and her somewhere-between-one-and-two-year-old twins will be visiting for ten days in July. The rice fields are doing well. The hie (weeds in the rice fields) is still abundant, but a lot less than a few weeks ago. The other fields are mostly planted with lots of peanuts, potatoes, edamame, soy, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, rhubarb, popcorn, egg plant, and something else, but I forgot. (very late to plant, but late is better than never). There are Kentucky wonder beans sprouting (a gift from my parents smuggled through customs - I think they wanted to eat them when they are here, but they will not be ready). The Rhubarb is thriving. The raspberries and radishes are our first harvest. we get four eggs a day. One chicken, whom we have named Lucy Looser or Lucy Loner (they are all called Lucy) is a bit anti-social/bullied. We worry for her. I gathered a couple hundred worms from the rice paddy yesterday after the big rain, and have transplanted them into our yard/compost area. A few were eaten by the Lucies. I am waking up at 4:30 recently to beautiful views, but have not taken the camera out for about a week now. Volunteer fire brigade trumpet practice is in full swing (every other night - way past my bed time). I am making plans for my epic hike following the border of our village this summer. I am looking for anyone who wants to join me (estimated on-trail time is 7 days.)

Did I miss anything?

The photos are from about a month ago. In order:

  • Me getting my picutre taken for once - by the Fuji Television people. I will keep everyone updated when I find out the broadcast schedule.
  • Tomoe pushing the weeder through the rice field. The weeder tills the eeds under the mud where they can not grow.
  • Frogs
  • Customers having a picnic break at a shrine along the bike route.
  • Customers planting rice in our field
Picnic en routePlanting Rice

June 20, 2009

Almost July Already?

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I can't believe that its almost July! I could have sworn that it was just a few days ago that we were sitting with all of our neighbors (and customers and TV crew) for the annual bamboo shot festival, timed to coincide with the completion of the rice planting. Now the fields are full of weeds, and wven with the help of our neighbor, and two new-fangled hand powered weed tillers (last year we were just pulling by hand one-by-one), we can't keep up. I guess I know what I will be doing today, once I get that first draft of the first part of a book I am in charge of translating off to the editor. It makes my head hurt to think that that too has to be done in just a few weeks.

The photos are of some of the neighbors peeling the bamboo shoots and just having fun.

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More detailed oriented than I can ever be

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In nearby Tsunan there are several archaeological digs going on. The area had been set to rebuild a section of rice fields, so the archaeologists swooped in and borrowed some of the land to look for artifacts. They found quite a few places with hand-carved rock and they date it by taking soil samples to see where the rock is in relation to volcanic ash. Since they know when the volcanoes erupted, they know about what time people were settled in the valley. The little rectangular holes you see in the photo above is where they found something, and then took the earth samples to date it.

The rocks they find are presumed to have been collected a few kilometers deeper in the valley where there is a mountain with stones perfect for making tools.

They only have one summer to find as much as they can, as by next year this area will once again be growing rice and they will have moved on. Even with that rush, it really is amazing to see how painstakingly detailed they are. Clearing out that entire area one little spoon-full at a time, and placing it on the conveyor belt you see in one of the photos.

Just after you pass this site, riding deeper into the mountains, the scenery is spectacular with rice fields and vegetable patches wild flowers and planted flowers, great views of the mountains and rivers, eventually running into two little hamlets which still have some thatch roofs... I can't help but wonder how amazing this place would have looked before concrete and electric lines, and how peaceful without the roar of tractors and combines and the whir of weed-whackers, or how wild it would have been back when those first stone-tooled settlers arrived to settle and hunt.

I know there are ancient remains like this ALLLLLL over the place in Japan, but anyone in this area that is interested in this type of thing should definitely stop by at Najyomon, a great natural history museum with lots of activities to "keep the culture alive", such as making earthn pots as people would have in the Jyomon period, or making rice-straw crafts, working with silk, etc. The only thing I don't like is thier spooky website.

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June 16, 2009

Watch Home!

If you likes Baraka, you will love Home (If you get the "copyright" message, or would like to see a slightly larger version, click here,)

I am going to mention this film in every post I write for the next monnth - or maybe year - until EVERYONE who reads this blog sends me an email or leaves a comment telling me that they have watched it. I've watched it twice now and will watch it again with Tomoe tonight.

Many many thanks to Dave Pollard for pointing this one out!

June 14, 2009

War Photographer

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A few more photos from the big search last week (or was it two weeks ago?) We never found the lost man, despite three days of searching. Generally the fire department, police, and volunteer fire brigade spend three days, and if the family asks for more, we would spend longer. In this case, the lost man was 75, and the general belief was that he had already passed on.

While there are some steep slopes out there, this guy had been coming there to pick bamboo shoots for years, and so he knew what he was doing. It would have been difficult to get lost as well, considering that simply climbing a short mountain gives one views of obvious landmarks (an abandoned ranch) that would have led him back to his car.

In the end, it seems a bit like it was more to show the family that we were trying, than it was to actually find the lost man. Even up until the last minute, the helicopter kept circling the same area it had searched for two days with no luck and the same area that 100+ grunts were searching on the ground.

There was one point where we found what might have been a plastic bag he had brought along to gather the bamboo shoots, the bamboo shoots in that area were the fastest and juiciest I have ever seen, and there were signs of harvested shoots from a few days earlier. We all climbed up a steep slope (picking bamboo shoots all along the way) and reached a ridge where we were told "This side is too steep and dangerous, so we will not search here". I understand the idea of keeping all the searchers safe, but if I were to go search for him again, that is the first place I would look!

All the while I was searching, I wondered what to do if I found the body, and once the search had finished, my neighbor told me what to do... pretend like you didn't see it and let the guy next to you find it. Apparently, the first person to find the body will be consumed with police reports and forms to fill out.

I feel a bit bad to say that it was "fun", but it was, and I think that that is also part of the point. For those members of the volunteer fire brigade who have their own business, taking an unexpected two days off can cause stress, but for those who are employed at more monotonous jobs that are less deadline based (store clerks, etc.), this could be seen as a welcome break from daily routine (most employers allow employees a day off for any volunteer fire-dpt. activities) to hang out with the guys and climb a mountain (and pick bamboo shoots). Also, after each day, everyone got together with the other volunteer fireman from their own hamlet and drank and ate until late - and there is nothing that the wife can complain about... I mean c'mon, we spent our day doing search and rescue!

On a side note... hopefully this is the closest I will ever get to being a war-photographer.

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June 12, 2009

Just Another Gardening Blog

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At the risk of becoming on of those gardening blogs that just shows photos of whatever happened to be growing that day, here are a few shots of Tomoe with the overgrown radishes and carrots. We are way behind in terms of planting - we just planted our popcorn this afternoon, while the neighbors' corn is alreadt waist high. We planted our tomatoes a few days ago, while the neighbors' tomatoes are already climbing their trelaces.

There is still lots of time to plant, so we are not worried, but we can't help comparing ourselves with the Nagumos.

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June 11, 2009


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This is what I wer to the rice field. Once there I take them off. I only get flack for going barefoot around here. In the rice field they tell me that I will be stung by a bug that once stung someone a few years ago, and there is chance that it could kill me, but there is just as much likelihood of getting my hand stuck in the combine if I were to use one. In the bamboo field they say I will get bitten by a snake. In the street they say I will step on glass. In the house they say I will make the floor dirty... Women got their freedom from bras thirty years ago, why can't a guy just enjoy freedom from shoes?

June 10, 2009

Naeba & TV

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Just a bit of a jump back in time to a few weeks ago...

These are some photos of our trip to the Naeba opening cermony, and a climb of Naeba with customers, and the camera crew that followed. The TV crew was just here again today, and we had to make sure to wear the same clothes we wore two weeks ago so as not to disturb the time space continueum. At the end of a day's worth of interviews and watching us eat luch, however, we were asked to change into something different for the parting interview.

We were worried about our customers being able to make it up Naeba, but in the end the people we really had to worry about were the TV crew. They had two young ladies who had never hiked before, and the camera men had to carry all that gear to the summit - believe me, this is no easy matter.

Maybe I will have more time to write about it later.

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June 09, 2009

Snake in the compost!

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As I was turning the compost pile today, I accidentally impaled an aoudaisho snake on my pitch fork. I thought about eating him myself, but they do have a bit of a scent, and Tomoe is especially sensitive to bad smells these days, so I decided to eat him later on in the form of eggs. (chicken eggs)

A little funeral ceremony, some firewood, a grill, a lot of chopping, and it was done. The chickens loved it. Tomoe did not, however, love the way the head and body kept moving for five minutes after being severed.

While this time I killed the snake by accident (actually impaled it by accident and then cut its head off to spare it the long death), I am on the lookout for this kind of snake, as they love chicken eggs. They also eat mice, which we would love to have them help with, but we can't have them hanging around. If they eat some eggs it is no big deal, but last year we found one in our house and we fear for our cockatiels.

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June 07, 2009

Lucy's in the sky

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Lucy's in the sky now - in chiken heaven. I had a minute before rushing off to search for the lost man in the mountains again, so decided to let the chickens out. I found the door open and only five playing in the yard. Tomoe had forgotten to close the dor the night before while I was out, and so I angrily called her to tell her that we now have only five, assuming that one of the Lucies was taken by a fox or raccoon.

As it turns out, the missing chicken was floating in the pond. She had fallen in at some time (no knowing when) and was unable to get out. Tomoe called our neighbor to do the honors of chopping Lucy up. She was delicious.

In the photo you can see all the would-be eggs of various sizes.

I repeat...

She was delicious.

June 04, 2009

I COULD have been a hero

Search Team ReturnsReenforcements

The most important take-away you can get from today's post is: don't get lost in our village while searching for wild vegetables.

Just after the customers left from the most exhauting one-week trip we have ever had yesterday (I ran up a 2,000 mter mountain in 1.5 hours that usually takes 3+ hours to hike - but that is a story for another time.) (And the story about the TV crew that followed us everywhere is also for another time but even more exhausting).

So, anyway, I thought I would have a day of rest (means working in the rice field or cleaning up around the house), but just before I passed our from exhaustion that night, there was an announcement on the intercom that someone has been reported missing in the mountains. As a volunteer fireman I was on call to go and search. At first I was thinking to beg out (I did have *some* real work and appointments that day), but the whole point of volunteering is to be there when someones life is in danger.

To make a long and fascinating story short (you will have to come visit us to hear the whole story) I spent the day bushwhacking through mountains with 200+ volunteers and professionals.

Search and PickSearch TeamDiscussing the options

The highlight of the day was when about 100 of us were lost in a river valley with an injured volunteer fireman who needed an ankle sprint. I was kicking myself for that instant in the morning when I was throwing on my uniform and grabbing my bag filled with camera, lunch, and water. I almost took a moment to search for my topo-map of the area, but, as I was late, figured that they *must* have maps of the area.

I COULD have been a hero if I had brought that map, because I would have been the only one there with one! There were two instances where it would have saved huge amounts of time, and one was as night was closing in and 100 of us were treading down a river wondering if we were going in the wrong direction. In the end it all worked out, and we were in the right direction, but I will have daydreams about if *I* had been the one that saved us from the forty minute discussion about where we "might" be.

We did not find the lost person, so the search continues tomorrow. My section is off duty for that day (although I would go if I didn't have another appointment). If they don't find him again, I get to go climb more mountains the day after.

I leave you with a photo from nearby Yudanaka, taken early in the morning nearby our tent, as I waited for our customers to awake at their nearby inn.

Monkey mom and kid
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