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November 24, 2009

Life Is Good

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A night in our house. While I sometimes feel ashamed to admit little we get done in a day, on the other hand I am proud to admit that we We woke up at 9am, had breakfast and checked mail before getting to the day's chores by 10. I worked on the chicken coop (requiring an hour bike-ride to the hardware shop to buy more nails) and Tomoe did whatever she does. After a great lunch together, I went back to the construction, and Tomoe stored the daikon for the winter.

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When it was all over Tomoe enjoyed a relaxing newspaper-reading by the fire, while I tried to catch-up on my overdue homework - reading The Baby Book. interesting and gives me confidence. Most of it seems to me to be common sense, but it is nice to hear that some "expert" agrees with what we thought was natural. (there is also some good info in there).

The photos are of Tomoe chilling out in front of the fire, and one of the almost complete chicken coop.

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November 21, 2009


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Yesterday Tomoe and I went to our neighbors field in the mountain where she has lots of left-over veggies. I don't know if they grow more than they can ever use as a hedge, or just because it would look irresponsible to let a piece of land fallow for a year. Anyway, we brought back a van-load of daikon (huge radish), nozawana, and hakusai (Chinese cabbage)

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Today I woke up early to start a fire so that it would be warm when Tomoe came downstairs (more importantly so the neighbors would see smoke coming out of the chimney). I then went back to bed for a short morning nap.

Once we had properly been awakened by a breakfast of Tomoe's persimmon bread and our homemade cheese, we set about to wash and pickle the nozawana. My job was simply to ask the neighbor if we can use her outdoor sink with the clean mountain water, and to carry the bundles we picked yesterday. Tomoe washed the nozawana.

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While she was washing, I was sawing off branches of our persimmon tree. The neighbor wants to cut it down (its his tree) but we are using it so I have to keep it in shape. We already have many times more persimmon drying now than last year (about 400 at the last count) and there are still a lot on the tree.

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When I finished taking what we can handle peeling tonight, I spent an hour at the rice field finally completing the compost pile for next years rice field. We have been working on it for weeks, but with the impending snow, thought we should just wrap it up. The compost pike is made of last years rice straw, dried chicken poop, dried fish flakes, nuka (the waste product of polished rice), and a vomit-like brew Tomoe made with various things I have no clue of.

The rain started while I was at the field, and it turned cold and windy, so I was surprised to see Tomoe toughing it out when I got home. She finished the nozawana cleaning despite the almost sleet conditions.

When I got back I helped Tomoe clean up from the nozawana washing, and proceeded to cut and chop wood because much of what we had prepared for last year is ever-so-slightly too big to fit in our new stove. Once I had enough to keep Tomoe warm for at least two days, I turned my attention to preparing daikon radish leaves from yesterday for drying. I only got as far as cutting them off the daikon before being invited for tea at the neighbor's house to meet one of our daughter's young suitors. Shiyu was born a month ago or so, but has been at his mother's parents' house so this was our first time to meet him. He is one of three boys the same age as Kemoe that she will have regular contact with.

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We brought some of our newly semi-dried persimmons as a gift, which turned out well because two other neighbors were visiting as well, one of which would eat a whole bucket of persimmons - fresh, bitter, dried, sweet, rotten, whatever - if given the chance. While one neighbor leaves us her waste persimmons for the chickens (who love them), instead of the chickens, we give most of them to the other lady whenever she walks by. She has started walking by much more often recently.

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After what seemed life forever, the tea party was over and we came home to finish up whatever we had hoped to be done with two hours earlier. After a dinner of great-none-the-less leftovers (can't go wrong with leftover fresh rice and veggies), we set about cutting the nozawana for pickling. This process consisted of simply chopping them and stuffing them into a container in layers with salt and red peppers we grew for this purpose (and to make tobasco).

Then, as I sat down to edit the photos and write this write-up of our day, Tomoe started preparing the persimmons that are too soft to dry for sawashi gaki - soaking them in liquor in order to remove the astringents. I think I will have orange shoop for a year after eating this much kaki (persimmon). Fortunately, it was too finally too difficult for her to move around the room, so I was allowed to bring down the ultra-comfy office chair with wheels (the one we bought for 2,000 yen for you dad), and now, with the wood floor, she can navigate anywhere without even standing up.

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There will probably be something else I would like to take a photo of and share, but I gotta sleep sometime.

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Oh Wait!!!! We did get this freaky egg as a gift from Lucy (one of our chickens) today. Anyone know what would cause this? Until now it has only been the very tip of the egg that was wrinkled, but today was the first time the whole egg was shaped like a single-ball scrotum (sorry mom).

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November 20, 2009

Can't Wait

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Its getting cold and there is still so much to do before the snow. I think I am making progress, though. The other day I built an extension to the house. It was originally intended to be just a little wood shed, but it grew to the point where it will also allow the chickens to get some space to stretch their wings in winter and enjoy a little more sunlight. In the spring we can use it as a greenhouse.

The neighbors just see it as a place I wasted time on in order to store all the junk they see me collecting from the houses getting torn down as they shake their heads, pointing out that we still have not picked all the persimmons on the tree and finished trimming the really high branches (doing that tomorrow), or put the snow-braces on our Gumi tree (doing that tomorrow), or finished making our rice-straw compost pile for next years rice field (doing that tomorrow), or picking the daikon, nozawana and Chinese cabbage they left in their field for us (did that today!!), or pickling the nozawana (doing that tomorrow), or hanging the cabbage to keep it fresh and away from the mice in the winter (doing that tomorrow), or putting on the snow-tires (doing that tomorrow), or....

The list goes on and on. it makes it even worse that they now know what time we wake up. In the summer, I could always say "We spend the morning working in our office on the COMPUTER." The word "computer" has magical value and we seem very diligent and smart. Now that we use the fire-stove, they can see what time the smoke starts coming out. This morning it was 10AM. Of course, they are all asleep way to early to see our lights on until 2AM, so they probably think we go to bed by 10PM. I guess that is the evolutionary reason for fights between spouses - to let the neighbors know how late you are awake.

To make it even even even worse, the neighbors think that we were sleeping almost all day for four days straight. Actually, Tomoe's dad was here helping me put in a new floor in our living room. We took out the old ratty straw tatami mats that make it almost impossible to completely clean up all the cockatiel shoop (my new "child-friendly" word for poop - but with a bit of a "shit" edge that accuratly communicates how I feel when I wake up in the morning to find a floor full of shi... er, shoop). It was great fun and I learned a lot. While there are still some places we need to touch up, the results are everything we dreamed of and makes for a great photo of drying persimmons over the fire stove. Now we are wondering what room to do next.

I never had such an urge to carpent. I wonder if this is some hormonal thing due to the impending birth. Both the house extension and the floor have special features for Kemoe (temporary name for our daughter due in January). The extension will serve as a balcony only accessible from a tiny window on the third floor. This will be Kemoe's tree house / escape from our wrath place. The new living room floor has a "hidden" compartment that Kemoe can store her valuables until she is old enough to realize that it is not so hidden.

Can't wait!

November 17, 2009

Daddy Class

Tim & Toby

I have a lot of good photos and stories about the area, but I was too busy erasing my nipples, so the only photo I have to share is one of my brother playing with his son. I think my daughter will like this game too - when she is old enough.

November 15, 2009

Fall Photos

Taking a restDaikonAutumn Compost

I just spent six days taking out the tatami (straw mats) from our living room, and replacing it with boards I snagged from an old house that is being torn down tomorrow. Tomoe's dad was here to help me install the floor. I can't imagine how long it would have taken (or how crappy it would have looked) if he wasn't here to help and teach me. More photos of that coming up, but for now, just try to enjoy some photos I took yesterday morning for the Japan Farming Newspaper. (zen-nippon-nougyou-shinbun)

Daikon TsuguraPicking BeatsWinter Preparations

The photos of are some neighbors pickling Nozawana, daikon radishes, and a daikon-tsugura, which is made out of rice straw and used to store daikon through the winter, and persimmon in the compost - a common scene in November.

November 03, 2009

Kebin! Kokkou ikkou!

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This is how we celebrated Halloween.

Tomoe made lots of pumpkin cheesecakes, using pumpkins from our garden, cheese that we made with the neighbor's fresh-from-the-cow milk, and eggs from our chickens. My biggest contribution was carving zombies out of the pumpkin peels. We are giving the cakes to the dairy farmer, and others in the neighborhood who have given us so much and we have yet to repay them.

Earlier in the day, Myu (the neighbor girl) helped me pick kaki (persimmon), and feed the chickens. She LOVES those chickens. In fact, she learned to say my name long before she could speak anything else, mostly, I think, because to her "Kebin" is synonymous with "Kokkou" (chicken). She sees me and starts yelling "Kebin! Kebin! Kokkou ikkou" (translation: Kevin, lets go see the chickens). Sometimes when she sees me though, she doesn't even say "Kebin", just goes straight to "Kokkou!".

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November 02, 2009

Hoshi Boshi Taro Stems

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Drying the stems of sato-imo (taro). Once they are dry we will soak them in hot water for 10 minutes or so to reduce the bitterness. After that it is great in salads with vinegar or with other veggies. It is very high in potassium and other minerals. Great for preggies.

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Harvest Festival

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Yesterday was my favorite festival of the year - the shukakusai, or "Harvest Festival". Its really just a big picnic with everyone from our hamlet - no costumes or carved up pumpkins, but still fun non-the-less (thanks to free flowing sake and beer). The hamlet is divided into several sub-sections, and everyone sits with their own group. As is normal here, the men and women sat separate from each other, but as the party progresses, people start to mingle a bit more.

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These are just some photos of friends that, despite living so close, we don't get to meet very often.

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The babies are just two of three little boys that will be competing for the hand of Kemoe (our daughter due in January). The one in the photos with the young couple lives in a nearby hamlet, but his grandma lives across the river from us. The one being held by the old man and woman lives in the next city, but his grandma and grandpa live across the street from us. The boy not pictured here was not at the festival, but lives next door. There are not more children to be born this year, so it will be fun to see how this all plays out.

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