Monday, June 30, 2008

Days away from the garden

A combination of lots of rain and other things to do has meant that I haven't spent very much time in the garden recently. That in turn has led to some pretty big vegetables! It is hard to give you a true indication of the size of the vegetables, but the bottom cucumber is a standard sized cucumber.... that should give you some indication of the size of the other one.
At least the rain seems to have stopped for a few days now and my "work" schedule doesn't look too busy for the next month so hopefully a few more weeds can be removed before they take over the entire garden. Any helpers welcome!
I've discovered the best time of day to get out and pull a few weeds is the end of the day. Just as the sun is going down it is nice and cool and the light is wonderful. Now if the bugs didn't also think that it was the perfect time of the day to come out it might be absolutely perfect! Thanks Tom for this photo.....

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rice field magic

I have to be very careful while I am driving at this time of the year as I become so mesmerised by the rice fields that I am likely to drive into one! I really like that fraction of a second where what looks like a jumbled field of rice plants turns magically into very orderly straight lines. It is kind of like the saying "don't blink or you'll miss it" when you are driving through small towns in New Zealand, only the length of the blink in this situation is incredibly short. It is only at this time of the year that you can experience this, as when the plants grow bigger the lines become less and less distinct. Fortunately there are plenty of rice fields around so if you blink as you pass one of them you still have plenty of chances of seeing some more straight lines!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Day two of rice planting

The rain stopped for long enough to make it reasonably pleasant in the rice fields today. The last of the rice was planted and some of the washing was dried.

Here is a short video to show anyone who is interested how the rice planting machine works. I think it is pretty incredible (even more so now that I have experienced what it is like to plant it by hand...) - 3 to 5 plants are pulled off at a time and pushed into the mud by the revolving "hand". Now if they could just design a machine that could do all the corners perfectly and not leave any gaps anywhere then all the back breaking work would be eliminated!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rice planting

Rice planting is timed to be done during the rainy season which means our family timed it absolutely perfectly this year! Today was the first of two days of planting and it poured down all day (as in torrential rain, not just showers!). This didn't stop us all from getting out into the mud to plant the parts that the machine had missed. It was my first time to really get into the fields and do it, and although it was fun for the first few rows, the novelty definitely wore off quickly and I was more than happy to retire early to throw the children into the shower at about 3:30pm!
Here's hoping the weather improves a little tomorrow so we can get some better photos and get some of today's wet clothes dried....
Oh - I also learnt a good lesson today - although the specialist "shoes" look like they will protect you a little from the sludge, the slight problem of getting them off is just not worth it! Tomorrow I will definitely be going for bare feet!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


At the moment everyone here is out and about every day preparing the fields for rice planting. One of the things I find fascinating is the water channels which are used to fill the rice fields. They have thought of very clever ways to ensure that water is not wasted and in most cases the water flows from one rice field into another and into another and into another....... Because everyone does not plant at the same time anymore there are ways to block the entrances to rice fields in order to keep them dry, while letting water flow into others when needed. They have found ways to transport the water over rivers, under roads and down steep slopes. Very clever!
Apart from the construction side of it, I also really love the channels as they are really cool in summer - a great way to cool off after working in the garden!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

There are some things which seem to be celebrated all over the world and Father's day is one of them. Although it is celebrated in September in New Zealand, here in Japan it is always the third Sunday of June - ie today. The shops go mad trying to convince everyone that all fathers need a polo-shirt, and the barbeque meat restaurants are usually packed with children trying to encourage their fathers into an early grave with all the excessively fatty meat. My husband requested sushi for tea and as it was pouring down all day I couldn't face the shops so just made do with what we had at home and made a sushi cake. My son decided that it needed to be decorated with more than just shredded egg and convinced me that crumbed shrimps didn't make it look like something just landed from Mars....
Unfortunately my husband didn't actually get to eat it with us as he was busy till dark trying to get the rice fields ready for planting, but he did get to eat it quietly by himself after the children had gone to bed. Perhaps that was the best Father's day present!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Frog lullaby

Okay, so comments such as "I'm getting sick of Kitty!" are probably quite valid. Sorry, it has been a pretty busy, but very boring week with teaching every day at either primary schools or kindergarten. Anyway, to bide you over until something interesting actually happens here, I have taken a very short "sound video" of the lovely chorus that can be heard every night here now as the rice fields are slowly filled with water and planted out. From now on there is always the dilemma of whether I would rather not be able to sleep due to the noise or whether I would rather not be able to sleep due to the heat - or in other words whether I should shut the windows at night or not! Anyway, here is a short frog lullaby for you - not very clear, but for those of you who haven't been here during that season it may give you a small indication of the sounds of the countryside of Japan in June!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hello Kitty

This weekend we managed to get away from the garden and the "guest house" business for a day and I joined the children on the annual kindergarten outing to the home of "Hello Kitty". It is a small theme park near our house called "Harmony Land" and after going there for 3 years in a row the fun is starting to wear off! But, I smiled all day, got dizzy on the silly rides and of course shook Hello Kitty's hand.
I have also included a photo of my son with some of his classmates. Yes, he is tall for his age!

I have decided to look for the positive in everything this year. So, despite the fact that our chicken garden still has no signs of a chicken house, let alone chickens, I decided this is a good thing as it will give me a chance to establish a few little garden bits before the chickens come in and destroy all the little seedlings. Actually I was forced into doing it by the fact that a friend who owns a flower shop dropped off lots and lots of rose bushes, hydrangeas, flowers, miniature apple trees etc. that she doesn't need the other day and they all need to find a home somewhere. Of course the rainy season is also approaching so any spare time I have I really need to get into the garden.... I managed to make two new round gardens today despite it being about 30 degrees.
The biggest excitement was that while I was doing it a big swarm of bees flew all around me. Unfortunately I couldn't work out where they went so I couldn't catch them, but I'm sure there will be more opportunities.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Arrivals

Two years ago my children took part in the Japanese tradition of goldfish scooping. If you search for "goldfish scooping" on the internet you can get the full details of what is involved, but it is a very common activity at summer festivals here and basically consists of trying to scoop baby goldfish out of a big container with a paper scoop. You can keep scooping until the paper breaks and then you get to take home the goldfish that you scooped in a plastic bag. For details on the history of this event etc. one good site is here.... wikipedia goldfish scooping
Of course most small children have trouble doing this, but you are usually given a fish even if you don't manage to scoop it, which is exactly what happened to my children a couple of years ago. Anyway, the tiny fish are now quite big fish and as it turns out there is one male and one female and the female keeps laying eggs while the male chases it around and around until it is too tired to move any further and goes and hides in the tunnel or behind the pump. We were excited at first by the prospect of showing the children how the eggs hatched etc and raising the fish, but the adult fish always ate all the eggs before they hatched. So....(sorry this story is getting longer than it needs to be!) I decided to remove a few of the marbles from the tank that had eggs stuck on to them just to see if they would hatch and low and behold when I looked in the bowl just now there are about 6 very, very tiny fish swimming around. I doubt that we will be able to keep them alive, but it will be fun trying. Any hints from experienced gold fish raisers welcome!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Good bye and hello

Not only did I ensure that the students staying tidied up their mess this time, but I also gave them the new sheets to change the bed and the vacuum cleaner to vacuum the floor! This was because while I was taking them to the official farewell ceremony my guests for tonight were letting themselves in.... a busy day! I finished the day with the junior high school girls with a trip to Usa Shrine, some picking of onions, a little garden of herbs to take home with them and another quick hoon on the little white truck. They all said they were going to hide so they didn't have to go home. I ensured they were found and delivered on time to their awaiting bus!
Tonight we have our biking friend back with 2 more guests, only this time Joe is in a bit of a bad state. He rode into a pole that was in the middle of a footpath yesterday (which is where all good poles should be!) and not only fractured two ribs and his big toe, but also dislocated and broke his collar bone. Fortunately he was conscious enough to make a phone call for help, but unfortunately he was in an area with no cell phone coverage. Being the brave boy that he is he jumped back on the bike with his 2 guests in tow and biked for about an hour to where they were staying that night. Today he spent the day at the hospital while his girl friend took over the guiding for the day.
Fortunately his guests are really great people (and are both pharmacists with medical training) and it has been a refreshing change of conversation from the giggling girls I dropped of this afternoon! Now if I could just get myself prepared for my horrible primary school classes tomorrow I might be able to get some sleep tonight.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Giggling girls

After two days with incredibly giggly girls I am starting to think that my desire to have a break from groups of boys was a little premature.... As lovely as the 4 girls that are staying now are, they all think they are going to be the next big star comedian and are always coming out with jokes that I cannot understand at all. Add to that the fact that it has rained for the last 2 days and you get a recipe for tiredness on my part! They did do a good job in the tunnel house today though and managed to prepare a very small watermelon patch. It may have taken all four of them to do so, but they even managed to get the straw in a wheelbarrow too.
The sun came out long enough this afternoon for a barbeque and tonight they couldn't stop talking about how much fun they have had and how the stay has been so short. Of course I kept smiling and nodding while thinking about how far away 1pm tomorrow seems right now!