Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When it rains it pours

For the last few weeks there have been sighs of disbelief from all the farmers around here as despite the rainy season arriving, there has been no rain in sight. Many rice farmers have had to delay their planting due to water shortages and in general the outlook has been glum. And then about 3 days ago the rain finally came. And came. And is still coming! Now of course there are heavy rain warnings, flooding problems, roads being washed out as hills collapse etc. I haven't even tried to get into my garden but I am guessing there is going to be a fair bit of damage - or perhaps the weeds have been protecting everything....
In an attempt to make the rain stop my son decided to make a "teru teru bozu" - which basically looks like a ghost kind of thing. A lot of children make these if they have a sports day or outing the next day and therefore really need the weather to be fine. I have made them and seen them before, but really had no idea what they were, so I finally decided to look it up. For anyone else who isn't sure...
(As kind of written in Wikipedia): The name "teru teru bozu" can be translated as "Shiny Shiny Buddhist Priest”. "Teru" is a verb that describes sunshine and "bozu" is a Buddhist monk or in modern slang "bald headed". It is a little traditional hand-made doll made of white paper or cloth that Japanese farmers began hanging outside of their windows using a string back in the ancient time, but I am wondering if I hung my father's head out the window if it would have the same effect. He is both a minister and a "little" bald! This amulet is supposed to have magical powers to bring good weather and to stop or prevent a rainy day. If you hang the doll upside down with its head pointing downward acts like a prayer for rain. Perhaps that is where my son went wrong!
Here's hoping the rain stops soon... mind you it has been nice to have a few "inside" days too.

Realizing dreams

Sunday was my husband's birthday (thanks Fi for the message.....) and although we didn't really have any plans we decided to leave the house for the day and go driving. It turned out to be a day of visiting people who had already realized their dreams or were in the first stages of doing so. Our first pit stop was at our friend Uncle Tom's new restaurant. He is opening a takeaway business (unfortunately curry and chicken, not fish and chips!) and in typical Uncle Tom style he is using the "just do it" style rather than the "let's plan and then do it style". It will be interesting to see how long it lasts... it made me think more about how much I would like to start a cafe kind of thing here too though... hopefully one day that dream will be realized without the need to win the lottery first! Any investors welcome.....
After a brief stop at the Japanese version of Hawaii for the kids to have a bit of a play we drove on and visited a cheese factory that is run by a man and his wife in the middle of nowhere and a honey shop that has recently been started by a young man near(ish) here. I really like seeing people starting "specialist" businesses and succeeding here. Japan is very much a "trend following" country where people crowd to one place to buy the "in" food etc., but then quickly lose interest in it and move onto the next fad so it was refreshing to spend time at places where people are not interested in that kind of thing, but just want to make enough money to "survive" and are doing something they love. Maybe one day......

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Oita prefecture goes green

My general image of people in Oita prefecture is that they are generally very tight with their money and not exactly environmentally friendly or very "up with the times". Things seem to be changing though. For the last few years most supermarkets have been making efforts to encourage people to bring their own bags by giving discounts or using stamp cards. This had very little impact.... but recently the majority of supermarkets have worked together and now charge 5 yen for a plastic supermarket bag. The fact that people have to pay 5 yen (rather than get a 5 yen discount) seems to have worked for the "stingy" people here and the majority of people now bring their own bags. We may not be able to save the world, but we can help!
The other "green" movement that has been gaining major momentum lately is the planting of grass. I can remember being shocked when I first saw the school grounds here in Japan - they are simply a huge dirt ground. The children play soccer there, they play baseball there, they do athletics there and they fall over there... lots of injuries that could be prevented if the grounds were grass - not to mention the cooling effect of grass in the really hot Japanese summer. People are finally starting to recognise this fact and the number of schools and kindergartens that are planting grass are increasing every week here in Oita. This is mostly due to the efforts of a New Zealander called Neil Smith. He has managed to promote the virtues of grass to many areas of Japan and this morning the kindergarten that my children used to go to planted their grass - after my husband introduced the new method etc. Although we got there a little late it was great to see all the fathers there with their trowels and working together with the children to plant the grass. We have been trying to convince the school to do it too, but things are not looking so promising there. I guess change takes a little more time in the countryside.....

Friday, June 26, 2009

10 in one day!

Sometimes I wonder if we didn't make our cottage too comfortable. Last night my second meeting for the day started in the cottage at 7:30pm and by midnight I had to force the people to leave... time just flies when people are having "fun"! I think I might replace the chairs with very hard ones.....
One of our biggest worries with our chickens was that they were going to be eaten by wild animals. So far we have had no real worries on that front. Last night we all forgot to lock the chickens in at night and still they stayed safe (unlike a fellow farmer in Japan, Kevin: warning pictures are graphic!). We have been having great success with eggs too. Yesterday we were all very excited to discover that all 10 hens had laid and that they had all laid in the nesting boxes. They were all mixed up too so the white and brown hens finally seem to be making friends and so we no longer have to separate food etc. The white hens are making up for their first efforts too and our now producing eggs that rival the brown ones. I think the time has come to get some more regular customers!
In other updates.. all the fish, apart from one cleaning fish, have died. We now have a huge tank with a noisy filter running for one tiny fish. Perhaps this weekend we will need to go shopping! The "we'll bring you all the happiness in the world" swallows also seem to have disappeared. I'm not sure why, but I half suspect my husband... he wasn't too impressed with them from the beginning! Fortunately there are plenty of other birds around to keep us company. I need to get the bird songs CD out to work out what some of them are.
And the update you have all been waiting for...... I have been back to the kindergarten twice since I was poked up the bottom and I am happy to report that I have had no more fingers put in inappropriate places. I did catch one of them doing it to their friends though and managed to give them such an evil look I doubt they will be doing it again soon. I think I should get a medal for "internationalisation"!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Organic farming in Japan

I just got a demanding skype message from my brother telling me (and I quote) "You're not allowed any days off blogging! Mum and I were chatting the other day and we both get irrationally grumpy when you don't put up anything for ages! How am I meant to get through my boring work afternoons if you don't!?". So despite having only 20 minutes before I need to get the kids to their grandparents so I can get to a meeting that I am not likely to get home from before midnight... I will write a quick post. I would hate to think that I am causing any additional grumpiness in our family!
I grow my vegetables organically, but I would never claim that my vegetables are organic. Confused? I never use chemicals in my garden, but the amount of chemicals used on the rice in the surrounding fields is so great that I could never claim that it didn't effect my vegetables - as much as I'd like to say it didn't! I got to be a part of the chemical movement before rice planting started this year. As my mother in law was out of action I got to sprinkle 230 trays of rice seedlings with some kind of chemical (made by THE CHEMICAL COMPANY) that is supposed to kill basically any living thing that comes within a few meters of it. I was warned to make sure I had gloves on and given the special shaker and instructions to spread the contents very evenly over 10 trays. And then repeat the process 23 times.... Just imagine a huge salt shaker and imagine the aches in the not-often-used wrist muscles after completing the task... My parents in law are pretty picky about the way things are done, but I followed a relative's advice and made sure that the corners and edges were well done (ie the bits that could actually be seen) and didn't worry too much about the middle. There were no complaints at rice planting time which means that I will probably be given the job again next year... perhaps I should have done a really bad job! Can hardly wait for the helicopter spraying to begin...

Sorry Mike... not exactly exciting reading, but I did try!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Green Tourism

In an attempt to catch up with happenings here (and avoid weeding in the mud - the rainy season finally seems to have arrived about 2 weeks after it "officially" started) I will try to answer a question Vicky asked me a long time ago as well as introducing our latest guests. Vicky asked about me to explain a little more about what "Green Tourism" is and how we got involved. So... in brief: Green Tourism is an organisation which has been founded in many towns here to give city folk the opportunity to experience country life. It involves people making their homes available for city people to come and stay and become a part of their family. The idea is that they do what you do every day, eat what you eat every day - rather than it being a "hotel" kind of experience where they become the "guests" they simply become an extra member of your family. In order to do be part of this organisation you have to get a permit which involves visits from the fire department, the health department, pieces of paper from the agricultural union etc. etc. Not a simple or cheap process, but this is Japan... they don't try to make anything cheap or simple!
There are 3 main types of guests that we have - the main ones at this time of the year are junior high school students who come as part of a huge group (usually over 200) and are distributed amongst the different hosting families for one or two nights. At the start of each season we are given a list of the dates that are needed and we can decide how many students we want and when we are able to host (in theory....). The second kind of guests we have are ones that find us by themselves and contact us directly - through various homepages that we have/are featured on or by word of mouth. These are often the best groups as they are usually families etc. that we end up keeping in contact with and that come back each year.
The third kind of group are "study" groups from Korea or other Asian countries. They are usually only here once or twice a year, but that is usually enough! They come as a group of about 20 and come to study the different ways of doing agriculture here. Before they arrive we are given a name list, which basically tells us if they are male or female and very little else. Guessing their ages before they arrive is always an impossible task! They usually just come to stay the night and don't actually do any agriculture etc. with us. Anyway, the latest group was a group of 5 men and although they were very nice, they were very young and most of them were the oldest son in their families and therefore very "male" - if you get what I mean. My husband had a great time though - drinking with them till 1am. I made excuses to leave at about 10pm and didn't see them again till breakfast.
One of the main reasons I don't like hosting these groups very much is breakfast.... generally when people stay here we have homemade bread, muffins, yoghurt, fruit, muesli etc. for breakfast. I find it easy to make and best of all requires only one or two plates per person. When Asian male groups come they make it quite clear that they would prefer rice.... which means preparing lots of little plates of things to go with it... which means zillions of dishes afterwards... This time I was too tired to do much though so cheated by using packet miso soup (which they raved about....) and of course as we have lots of eggs now made them fried eggs etc. What I find frustrating is the inability to go without things from your home country for 2 days.... (my family don't need to comment here... chocolate and nurofen are in a different category!) they all brought special chili sauce tube things with them and smothered them on everything they ate. They brought their bags full of Korean sake. They questioned why we didn't have any kimchi and weren't willing to even try Japanese seaweed. For me going to a new country means trying the new food and as they were only here for 2 days it wasn't as if they had to put up with it for too long.... Anyway, they seemed more than happy when they left - after having second helpings of eggs etc. they claimed they were full. Of course they managed to spill most of their soup on the cushions etc. and didn't bother to let me know, let alone apologize (apparently spilling things is very acceptable in their culture) so that was another lovely surprise waiting for me to clean up once I had taken them to their bus. It was nice for my husband to become the main entertainer for a while, but I was pretty happy to see them go.
We are in a bit of a different situation than most people who are part of the Green Tourism organisation in that we have a "guest cottage" for people to stay in. The majority of people just use a room in their house that they no longer need. For us it means that we have some time in the mornings as a family without having to tiptoe around trying not to wake up the guests. My friend Katy (who kindly described me as: "running a shelter for pregnant women and mothers of small babies") asked me how long I thought it would take to pay off the cottage and I told her I thought we already had. Of course financially we will probably never actually pay off the cottage with the money we get from Green Tourism... but to be honest that is not why we built it. We built it for family and friends to come and stay in for free and so far I think it has been really succesful for that purpose. But of course we don't have family and friends here every day of the year so we use the cottage for paying guests as well. I think as soon as we tried to make it into a business we would fail - as to be successful you need to be willing to let people into your home and be a part of your life - not just show them how to plant veges etc. It is stressful on our family and therefore having guests every day of the week is not an option. However the benefits far outweigh the stresses - my children really show pride in our area now and are so excited when they can show people around and teach them new things. They have gained confidence, an ability to make friends and an ability to work out how others are feeling and think of ways to make everyone included. These are skills that can't be taught in a classroom. My husband likes that we get proper meals.... So despite the stresses I think we will continue for a while yet.
Of course friends and family always get preference over paying guests in the cottage so just let me know when you are arriving and I'll pick you up at Usa station!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Prolonged silence

Apologies for the silence lately. We haven't fallen off the edge of the world lately, I've just been taking a break from blogging... and have been a little too busy to write! To be honest I have been assessing how much time I spend on the computer reading everyone's great blogs and have decided to have weekly catch up sessions, rather than trying to read all the blogs I am interested in every day. Although it is great to have found so many great people writing great blogs I do find it really time consuming to catch up on them all. So, please don't feel obliged to read my blog every day... I will try to post more often, but I really only began this blog as a way to inform my friends and family about what was happening in our lives here and would hate to think that anyone is reading it out of obligation because I commented on their blog at some stage.... of course I love getting comments and if you are actually interested in what I am writing then please come and visit as often as you want! I have found it amazing to discover there are so many people in similar situations to myself here in Japan etc. and enjoy laughing with them about things that are so stupid to us here (and of course all around the world!).
Okay, so having wasted a few more of your precious moments with that blurb above, I will only very briefly outline what has been happening here lately and will try to do proper posts later.
We had to say goodbye to baby Ryu, but the children REALLY loved having him here. My son keeps making comments about "Mum, I think we should get a Ryu" etc. I keep telling him we will borrow Ryu any time he feels the need for a baby cuddle! I think I will love being a grandparent - great to cuddle, but great to give back too!
We had a group of 5 Korean men come to stay... fortunately they came at 8pm and left at 8am. An "interesting" time had by all. Enough said for now.
The weekend was spent rice planting... more on that in a later post. Needless to say that because my mother in law was sick the entire time I fell into bed each night and am still feeling the effects now.
Sorry, a pretty pathetic update, but hopefully during the next week or so will see the return of my blogging enthusiasm and have some extra time to do it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

End of a busy week

Thursday was one of those days when you don't care what kind of a pillow you have - even those filled with beans!
My day started off with me running a program for 37 mothers and their toddlers... in other words chaos! I can't understand why I say I will do the program, but every year.... I find myself in the same room with different mothers and different children, but exactly the same chaos! Unfortunately this year they think I will be doing the program three times....
At about the same time that I arrived home my husband was collecting our latest group of six boys. As much as I was really dreading their arrival they turned out to be a really nice group and it was almost sad to say goodbye to them today. They timed in nicely with Jichan allowing them to play in the muddy rice fields and drive the tractor. A little break from the regular potato digging, chicken feeding, muffin making, pizza making, cultivating, firefly watching, wood chopping etc.
Today I dropped them off and went to collect a different kind of "guest". Our one week old friend, Ryu, has come to stay for a couple of nights. His mother was due to leave hospital today, but her two younger children have been throwing up for the last two days and rather than risking the newborn catching the same thing she has come to relax here for a bit. My daughter in particular is very impressed, but despite her pleas and how nice and cuddly he is we are not planning on increasing our family in the near or far future!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

New family members

A few weeks ago we had a pair of swallows come and check out our house. They checked every different eave we have and finally decided on the perfect place to build their nest.... right above our front door! In Japan swallows are supposed to bring you good luck and prosperity so most business people are very happy if a swallow makes its nest in their premises. Me... I'm happy that it gives me something extra to show visitors, but the mess they make while building their nest is more than a little annoying. It also means I can't leave the front door open for long - unless I want some uninvited visitors... has happened more than once already! It was actually really interesting watching them make the nest - quite a feat really. They basically just slowly collect mud and straw and stick it onto the wall - making their required shape. It took them a couple of weeks, but it seems like they have finished it now. My children are looking forward to them laying some eggs so we can watch the rest of their life cycle.
I had another wonderful class at kindergarten today. Actually it was fine till the very end when I picked up my heavy bag (you can never have enough props) in one hand and my CD player in the other hand and went to waddle out of the classroom. It was then that a 4 year old gave me a "kancho". Now for anyone living in Japan that has taught small children I am sure you know what I am talking about, but for those that don't know a "kancho" is literally an enema. Now don't worry - he didn't get his hands up that far! The act of small children giving people a "kancho" is now so common that I discovered that it is now described in some dictionaries as "prank where the anal region of another person is poked with index fingers". Now to me this behaviour is totally unacceptable, but here in Japan it is surprisingly common and I have even seen teachers at kindergartens encouraging it and most people will just laugh if they see a child doing it to someone else. Of course I told the little boy concerned that it was far from appropriate and may have lost him as a friend for life, but it is one thing that I really can't stand! I can put up with being hit, kicked and called an old witch, but I won't put up with being poked up the bum - especially when both my hands are full so I can't defend myself! I wonder sometimes if this is just a Japanese thing or if it is actually common in other countries and that it just us "kiwis" who find it offensive. I doubt it, but I would be interested in hearing opinions from people from other countries on this so when I lash out at the teachers next time I can quote from other perspectives too.
Hope you are all having a "non poking up the bottom" day.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Trying to sort the system out

As some of you may remember my son began school this year. He liked his teacher and although his class was (still is) a bit out of control he really enjoys his time there and has made some great friends. On May 7th the teacher came to our house for her annual visit and then on May 8th she was absent from school (hopefully there was no relation!). From that day onwards we have been getting weekly letters from the principal saying that due to illness the teacher will be away for another week..... Unfortunately in Japan they do not have a relieving teacher system so the vice principal did his best to teach the class while also juggling his other duties. Then on Friday we were informed that the teacher would need 3 months bed rest and therefore wouldn't be returning till the second term. They had somehow found a replacement for her and she had already started teaching the class. We were all summoned to school at 7pm tonight to meet her.
What I find really confusing about the Japanese teaching system is their qualifications for teachers. As far as I can work out there are two kinds of teachers - those who are fully qualified and those who are not... To become fully qualified as a primary school teacher you seem to have to have a university degree with a major in education (although this seems to vary a bit too) and then pass two different tests. The first is a written test set by the prefecture you are applying to that people spend months and months and months studying for and that has very little to do with teaching, classroom management etc. and a lot to do with your ability to retain useless facts. If you live in Oita prefecture and took the test in the past few years you could also pass by slipping a few hundred thousand yen worth of vouchers to the markers to increase your chances, but that practice seems to have been stamped out for now! The second is a "demonstration lesson" test with an interview where the applicants are expected to do a demonstration lesson in front of the examiners. Problem... there are no actual children in the classroom but the prospective teachers have to pretend there are and therefore ask them questions, pretend to hear their answers and then respond etc. Why they don't get them to do it in an actual classroom I have no idea... but I digress! The thing I have trouble with is that approximately 30% (a figure I was told yesterday and cannot vouch for the accuracy of) of all teachers have not actually passed the tests fully, but are employed by the schools as "instructors". Their duties are the same as a regular teacher in that they are in full control of a class all day every day, but they have no actual responsibilities beyond that and if anything goes wrong they can't actually be held liable for it. My daughter's teacher is one of these teachers. Now my son's teacher is also the same.... I'm not saying that they are bad teachers - in many cases they are actually better than a lot of the stupid teachers who have passed the tests. I just don't understand how they can be teachers full time without having passed the tests. I guess I should be grateful that my son actually has a teacher at all (my daughter had "self study" all day Friday as the teacher was away for the day... a class of 8 year olds, a whole day with no teacher... fun!) but sometimes it makes me question the equity of education that children get here. Not that any Japanese parents would question it.....

Saturday, June 06, 2009

You can never have enough kumara, right?

Friday started off like most of my Fridays are likely to start off from now... with 4 year olds kicking me, calling me a "silly of witch", saying the word for male genitals at random intervals and sitting all over me (while I am getting paranoid that they are peeing on me) while I am trying to teach. Welcome to the world of kindergarten English teaching! Of course after about a month I will have them all under control, but the first month is always a fun packed time! I really wonder what kind of home life a lot of these kids come from....
After that exciting start to the day I went straight to pick up our latest batch of recruits. Although we don't specify if we want boys or girls we seem to have had mostly girls lately so my son was very happy to have some boys to play with for a change. I enjoyed the change too in terms of the lack of "cat fighting" between the students, however the traditional Japanese male attitude is always very evident. They looked strangely at me the first night when I suggested that I wasn't their slave and that perhaps they could bring their own plates into the kitchen for me to wash.... Anyway, as usual we managed to fill in the time okay - the main problem being that right now I don't have anything that really needs planting so ended up getting them to plant some MORE kumara (sweet potatoes) after they dug up some potatoes. etc Here's hoping half of them will die or we are going to need to be taking orders for deliveries in autumn! Next group of 6 boys (can hardly wait...) arrives on Thursday so I need to find something different for them to do. Perhaps some soy bean planting.....
I'm off to Kitakyushu all day again tomorrow to do an outdoor education program indoors for a group of mothers... all I really want to do is go to bed (something I must admit I did on Thursday afternoon... don't tell anyone!) but I'll put on my smiley face and pretend to know far more than I do - one of the advantages of being a "foreigner" here is that you are not often questioned on your accuracy of facts etc......

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

I am in avoidance mode... I have so much to do on my "day off" today in preparation for tomorrow's group arriving etc (I have to teach two classes at the kindergarten before going to pick them up at 1pm), but I just can't be bothered. As usual I can see that I will be doing the cleaning etc. after the kids go to bed tonight or getting up early tomorrow rather than just getting on with it today.
When each group of junior high school students come we are expected to do three main things (I quote from the information we are given).
  1. Give them an agricultural experience in which they will sweat and appreciate the difficult, harsh, fun nature of farming.
  2. Show them some things which are unique to the countryside, such as mountains and rivers.
  3. Do some cooking using ingredients that they have harvested in order for them to fully appreciate the value of food....
This season is a little difficult to do number 3, but as I wrote yesterday we made a cake using the zucchinis that are now starting to take over the garden - and the girls definitely appreciated it! Of course at first the girls weren't too sure about it, but after tasting it they changed their mind - if you have never tried zucchini chocolate cake then you really should! You can't even tell that there are zucchinis in it and it is very moist etc. (perhaps I should become a food writer!). Anyway, yesterday "Anchan" asked if I would share the recipe and I will gladly do so as it will help me avoid my preparations for a little longer! It is a recipe from a New Zealand cook, Alison Holst, and uses New Zealand measurements (1 cup = 250cc). It makes quite a big cake so if you have a small oven you may want to halve it....

125g butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup yoghurt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups (350g) grated zucchini
1/2 - 1 cup small pieces of chocolate (optional)

Beat butter and sugars until light and creamy (don't rush this stage!). Add eggs one at a time, with a spoonful of the measured flour to prevent curdling - beat after each addition. Add the vanilla and yoghurt and mix well. Sift the dry ingredients together. Stir in with the grated zucchini. Turn into a lined and greased 25cm square pan (or whatever shape you want to use!). Sprinkle the top with chocolate pieces if desired. Bake at 170 degrees Celsius for approximately 45 minutes. Eat!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tearful farewells

I try so hard not to generalise about Japanese people, but... one thing that I really find hard to deal with is the lack of ability of a lot of Japanese people to show how they are feeling. A lot of the junior high school students that come here are so hard to get any response out of, but go home and write wonderful letters about the great time they have had here. I usually spend half my time worrying if they are really enjoying themselves, have had enough to eat, are about to jump off a cliff etc. simply because they are not good at telling you how they are feeling. The latest group wasn't too bad at this, in fact they were one of the nicest groups we have had. But the time was so short that I thought that they had had fun, but due to rain etc. it hadn't been an amazing visit... until they went to get on the bus and I spent 5 minutes in the pouring rain trying to get them to stop crying and assuring them that they could always come back if they wanted to! I guess we had more of an impact on them than I had realised.
With every group it seems to get a little easier as I get a little more organised. This time we did some potato digging, met some of the locals - the old lady in the group photo is 95 years old and is still going into her garden up the hill every day, spent a lot of time with the chickens, picked lots of zucchinis and made them into delicious chocolate zucchini cake, chopped some more wood, looked at the fireflies etc, etc. Small things like working out how to open an old Japanese style door also became entertainment for them. I also seemed to spend forever taking photos... with their cameras.... each of them had a camera as well as the school camera and they all insisted of photos on their own camera....... To see any of the photos here a little better just click on them and hopefully they will come up a little bigger.
After farewelling them at 1pm I raced back home, picked up my teaching things, picked up my children then went and taught my lovely class of 23 three to ten year olds... only ended up with one child throwing a tantrum under a chair for basically the whole class so not too bad after a busy day! Next group arrives on Friday... boys for a change!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Quick update

Sorry about the lack of posts lately - not a lack of things to write about, just a lack of time to write about them! In brief... on Saturday I spent half the day pulling broad beans and peas, podding them and freezing them (bet you are wishing you had been here for that Mike!) and the other half of the day adding a nesting box onto the white chicken's house - only to discover that 4 of the 5 chickens were happy to sleep in the brown chicken's house....(confused???). I got up at 4:30am on Sunday to make sure the chickens weren't killing each other after they woke up all refreshed and then spent most of the day pulling garlic, weeding etc. etc. until I got a call from a friend who had gone into labour and was at the hospital about 20 minutes from here (11 minutes if it is 4am and your baby is about to push his head out into the world... I know this from the birth of my son!). Anyway, she lives a long way from the hospital and it turns out her contractions were false ones, but just to be on the safe side she stayed here the night and shared our roast chicken (don't worry it wasn't one of ours.. yet!).
Monday morning was spent at the hospital to check if the contractions were doing anything more and then I took her home and came home myself for a short sleep before piano lessons.... well that was the plan, but the phone went 5 times, the doorbell twice and the fax machine tried its best to keep me awake too so I ended up giving up on sleep and went to bed at 9pm instead (after already sleeping on the couch for an hour... shhhh don't tell Tom!).
Today we have another group of girls arriving - by the time I get them back here it will be close to 4pm and then we have to leave by 11:30am tomorrow morning (having already fed them lunch) so I'm not sure how much of an "agricultural experience" they will get, but it means there is not so much preparation on my part.
The photos are of (if you haven't guessed!) the rice seedlings that we planted last week. They definitely grow fast! Rice planting in a few weeks time if anyone is interested....