Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Halloweened out!

I would have to say that Halloween is not one of my favorite times of the year. Here in Japan it is taking off as a theme for shops to sell decorations and for English schools to have parties! Yesterday was the party for the English school I work at - I forgot to take very many pictures.... it was fun, but by the end of it I was ready for bed. Unfortunately I had to get all my clown make off off (sorry not one photo to prove I was actually a clown....) and rush off to a friend's shop that was having a Halloween event where you could make Halloween flower arrangements for free before I could go home and flop. Only I couldn't actually flop because I had to make 40 cupcakes for another Halloween party that I had to partly organise for a friend today. More and more Japanese people are trying to have Halloween parties, but they are the first to admit that they have no idea what a Halloween party is. So I get called in as an "expert".... having never really celebrated it in New Zealand I have no idea what I am talking about, but I can look very confident when I am talking about things I have no idea about! Today's party was also fun, but far too long! I think it was about 4 hours in the end... it was supposed to be two and a half... Games, making "eco" bags, trick or treating, decorating cupcakes etc.
This year Emily spent a lot of time making her costume. We didn't need to buy anything to be the "fairy" that she wanted to be - just let out the armpits of the dress she wore as a 5 year old and used some coat hangers and some pantyhose to make the wings. Masaki also managed a magician's outfit, but no real photos with him in the full thing - he is definitely not a "dresser-upper"! After having Halloween lessons at school etc. for the last few weeks as well as these two parties I am definitely all Halloweened out.... Here's hoping October comes around slowly next year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Continuing theme

Continuing on from yesterday's theme of eggs and stupidity.... as I have said quite a few times we have 22 chickens. They have 8 nest boxes to choose from. They lay their eggs in the boxes 99% of the time. They are let out in the late afternoon from their relatively large run for a stroll around the garden - there are no fences to keep them in, but they never leave the property. When it starts to get dark they all find their way back to the chicken house and settle down for the night. They all follow this routine and seem more than contented. Well at least 21 of these chickens follow this routine! There is one chicken that thinks she is above the rest and has her own special nest - in a pile of rubbish beside our house. She has a mystery door which she uses daily to get out in order to lay her egg in her special nest. She is the only chicken that uses the mystery door and she will often use it 2 or 3 times a day. The only problem is that the mystery door is a one-way door and we have no idea where the door is! Every day my husband tells me he has solved the problem and secured the mystery door but every day the same chicken is wandering around the garden when I go to collect the eggs etc. Unfortunately being a one way door it means she can't get back into the chicken house where all the main food and water is so I have to let her back in at least 2 or 3 times a day. She is more than happy to go back in... only to get back out whenever she feels like it. I don't understand why all the other chickens see her going out but never follow - they love wandering around the garden. I guess I should be grateful that she lays in exactly the same place every day and I don't need to go searching in the garden each day to discover where the next egg is hiding....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dedicated or just plain stupid

Sorry to those who asked questions about the pumpkins in my last post... I always read comments, but often forget to answer - sorry! We managed to grow a total of 2 decent pumpkins this year... (apart from the zillions of butternut pumpkins) so the rest were bought from a grower in Hokkaido (maybe... my husband organised it all). The variety is Connecticut Field Pumpkin and they are just the right size for carving. You can buy the seeds at Tane no Mori in Japan. The templates are stuck onto the pumpkins then holes are poked around the lines and then the template is removed. Next you draw a line through all the holes to show you where to cut and then you cut away... it is actually pretty easy - even the small kids did a great job. Some of them were a bit off put by the scooping out, but a few really got into it and spent most of the time playing with the discarded innards!
Last night I had another of those "am I a dedicated teacher or just plain stupid" moments. I was teaching one of my kindergarten classes possession - as in "Whose is this?" "Mine". A fairly simple thing to teach.... unless you get carried away! Last week I took along mini-noodles that I had carved the top out of. They drew beautiful faces on them and we played a few games - making towers, asking whose was the first noodle on the tower, bowling them over and asking whose had fallen down etc. They wanted to take them home but I convinced them if they let me take them home I would bring them back transformed.... stupid me! I then spent hours last night printing out, laminating and cutting out little chickens... putting all the mini noodles in little bags... putting eggs onto each noodle... attaching the laminated chickens to the bags with rubber bands then finding a way to transport them to the kindergarten without them getting broken. I then handed them out today asking "Whose egg is this?" and they answered "Mine"... it took all of about 2 minutes.... a lot of work for 2 minutes! I think I earned a few extra brownie points though and the smiles on their faces made it all worthwhile.... maybe! I have no idea how many of the eggs actually made it home unbroken, but I guess I will find out next week.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Festival

Today my husband organised a "pumpkin carving workshop" as part of the first ever pumpkin festival in our town. Unfortunately he hadn't really ever carved a pumpkin so we got Chris around to carve a couple of impressive ones last night and get a few hints before today's workshop. Thanks Chris - they were much admired!
I was the "assistant" at the workshop and although I didn't get into a short skirt and wear bunny ears I managed to survive the day and actually help a few people. It was restricted to a "parents and children" event and it was great to see families out having a good time. They made some great pumpkins and all and all it was a great day out.... although I now feel the need for an early night!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Three's a crowd

My daughter has always been a bit scared of the chickens, but lately she has been very brave and has even started going out in the dark with her torch to put them away at night by herself. Last week she was rewarded for her bravery by a very kind hen who decided to lay an egg just as we were checking the nests. She was amazed by the way it stood up, basically opened its bottom and popped the egg out then toddled off to play. I have seen it a few times, but it really is pretty neat to watch.
Anyway, this morning when I went to check the eggs a chicken looked like she was about to drop again so I rushed off to get the camera hoping to capture the moment on film.... but no such luck. If I didn't have to rush off to sing a few rounds of heads, shoulders knees and toes I may have been more successful, but time was against me. So here is a picture of a hen about to lay an egg with a couple of her friends watching on. They actually have 7 boxes now that they can lay in, but they all usually choose to pile in on top of each other and lay in the same box - a different box each day mind you. Perhaps tomorrow I will have more luck before I rush off for a bit of Hi5 jumping forward and back... gotta love my day job!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cake stand

Today was my birthday and although it wasn't a very exciting day, I did manage to enjoy it at times! Thank you to those who sent birthday messages - they were all read and appreciated!
My mother owns an auction house and a while ago I asked her if she could get me a cake stand if a nice one came up. The only cake stands I had knowledge of were the metal kind with the flowery plates which I didn't particularly like, but thought it would be nice to have one when guests come. Anyway, when she came to visit earlier this year she brought a wonderful antique oak stand with her and then for my birthday she sent me another beautiful (oak?) stand which is a slightly different style. I love them both, but haven't yet had a chance to use them. I figured that needed to change so in preparation for some visitors coming tomorrow afternoon I continued on with my recipe book "from start to finish" challenge and made some melting moments, Mum's tea cake with apples, and some peppermint slice.
Unfortunately my husband is sleeping off his aches and pains after completing the 100km walk for the third year (after a slight hiccup on the way) so the photos are not particularly great. I'm sure you get the idea though. Thanks Mum!

Friday, October 08, 2010

How many eggs can one family eat?

These are two different views of today's eggs. 15 in total.... we need to make some big decisions about our older chickens soon! Either we need to find a few people who will buy eggs regularly each week (like our neighbour does) or we need to say goodbye to a few of the older chickens. As much as I'd love to keep just giving eggs away to wherever I am working each day the cost of feeding them is just a little too much and chances of us using 15 eggs a day are very low!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

More bugs...

Our morning glory "Green curtain" seems to be a wonderful place for living things to congregate. The latest visitor is a giant caterpillar. I was thinking of leaving it there so the children can watch it turn into a cocoon and then a big beautiful butterfly..... But then I looked up wikipedia and identified the caterpillar as the larvae of the moth "Acherontia lachesis" which is
a large (up to 13 cm wingspan) Sphingid moth found in India and much of the Oriental region, one of the three species of Death's-head Hawkmoth, also known as the Bee Robber. It is nocturnal, and very fond of honey; they can mimic the scent of honey bees so that they can enter a hive unharmed to get honey. Their tongue, which is stout and very strong, enables them to pierce the wax cells and suck the honey out. This species occurs throughout almost the entire Oriental region, from India, Pakistan and Nepal to the Philippines, and from southern Japan and the southern Russian Far East to Indonesia, where it attacks colonies of several different honey bee species.
Considering it is close to our beehive I think I might give it a new home in the river tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It's following me

We have one very long, very skinny snake that has decided it really likes our garden and possibly our egg boxes. Every time I go outside it seems like it is just sitting there staring at me. It usually looks for a bit and then slithers away. There was one broken egg in the chicken house today and I suspect it was the snake's doing, but a bit hard to tell. I'm not too worried though as it should go into hibernation soon... I think I have lived here far too long as they no longer make me jump and run inside anymore!
In other news I think I have builders-envy. My brother and his partner are building an enormous house on an enormous piece of land at the moment and all their stories of concrete foundations etc. are making me jealous! I have therefore continued on with my building projects and in my spare hour this afternoon whipped up another box garden.... now I just need to find something to plant in it! Not exactly a new house, but I did do it all by myself....

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Double Digits

As I said in my last post, today we celebrated my daughter's birthday a day early. She told me that she didn't want a cake, but I made her one anyway... she was not exactly sad about it! After eating cake we headed to Oita for shopping, lunch and bowling. We all had a really nice time... well most of us did. My husband used to be a pretty good bowler - has his own bowling balls (yes, plural), own shoes etc. and before we were married we often used to go and play a few games - with me losing badly each time. Until today - when miracles of miracles I won! Not that I am counting, and not that it was due to my amazing skill - just a bad day for Tom! The kids are getting pretty good now too - although I think it will be a while before we can remove the gutter protection rails!
Back to my daughter... to be honest this year hasn't been a great one in terms of our mother-daughter relationship in many ways. We have battled a lot and spent many hours trying to work out what exactly has been going on in her head. She is a wonderful child when she is at school, at anyone's house etc., but at home she has her amazingly disgusting moments - most of which have been aimed at me. I think perhaps hitting double digits has something to do with it, but it hasn't been pleasant! However over the last month or so she has gone back to her beautiful, caring, helpful self and our house has been a much nicer place to live in because of it. Here's hoping that once she gets her presents tomorrow she doesn't revert back into her monster self. Hard to believe she is already 10 years old!

New Box garden

Firstly - Heather, in theory our summer harvest is being pulled out at the same time as our autumn plantings, but... this year I just let the garden go. Under all the weeds were the zucchinis!
In an attempt to prevent too many more huge weed piles this year I have started planting a few more "permanent" crops. Yesterday I decided to haul some of our sleepers into the big garden (my husband was anti the idea, so it was a solo job... sleepers are very heavy....) and make a small box garden for some blueberries. I have never had much luck growing them in the ground here before, but this time I added heaps of peat moss so I'm hoping they will rocket away and we will all have perfect vision by next summer! The box looks better in real life than in the photo, but my husband's only comment was that he "couldn't comment on it".... Perhaps I'll keep hauling next week and build another 10 boxes just to spite him! Or perhaps not... my arms are feeling it a bit today.
The kids have decided that gardening is also fun and have been back out with me this morning - both in the same part of the garden, both sharing one packet of seeds, both chatting away, both not fighting.... I'm waiting for the bubble to burst!
Right, we're off to Oita to celebrate my daughter's birthday (which is tomorrow). She didn't want to have a party this year, just wanted to go to Toys R Us and then bowling. Fun, fun, fun!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Before and After

They are taken from a slightly different angle, but the two photos are of the same part of my garden - one taken on the 10th of September and the other on Wednesday. Can you notice anything different? With the help of the weedeater, the tractor and some grandparents sweat, the garden is finally in a state where it is ready for some autumn planting. On Wednesday my schedule and the weather finally worked together and I managed to get a few seeds and some seedlings into the ground before another day of rain on Thursday. The children took turns helping so hopefully over the next week or two their enthusiasm will continue and we will actually have some vegetables before the really cold weather sets in. That is of course if the vegetable seeds can compete with the weed seeds.....