Saturday, May 31, 2014


I think I have mentioned before that although my father-in-law doesn't live with us he comes to our house for dinner each night.  It is a good opportunity to see how he is and for him to actually have contact with people... often for the first time each day.  Recently he has been forgetting to take his medicine after he goes home so he has been bringing it here.  I have always thought that Japanese doctors overprescribe medicine and looking at his stash my fears have been confirmed - yet again! 
He currently takes 7 different kinds of medicine - some only once a day, some twice a day and others three times a day.  It is a real act for him to go through his big bag and work out which ones need to be taken when.  I offered to get him one of the pill organising boxes but he seems to actually enjoy checking all his medicines every day.  I think it gives him something to do....
When I asked him what they were all for he said he really didn't know, but that the same doctor had prescribed them all so they must be necessary - not quite sure how that logic works!  
I always see elderly people walking out of the chemist with huge bags of medicine and think that the pharmaceutical reps must be rubbing their hands in glee....

Friday, May 30, 2014

Nice end to the week

Who wouldn't want to end the week with coffee, cake and conversation?  Actually today it was coffee, cinnamon rolls and conversation, but still a nice way to end the week!  On Fridays I have a group of three adults come to the cottage who want to use the English they know while enjoying some homemade cake.  I really enjoy having to prepare food rather than English lessons - I still teach them new English when they are struggling to explain things with the language they already know, but I don't have to prepare themes, worksheets etc.  It is really interesting to see which direction the conversations will go each week.  Today's highlight was discovering that in a town close to here they serve soft-shelled turtle blood mixed with apple juice and if you drink it you get a natural high!  Not exactly something that would come up in your general English conversation textbook!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wild animals

As less and less people live in the countryside wild animals are starting to take over more and more of the land.  This year there has been a big increase in the number of deer in the mountains and many of the rice fields are now surrounded by high fences to try and keep them out.  Recently there has been a rather large deer appear in the center of town - fortunately it is just the local timber yard playing around with an interestingly shaped piece of wood.  I'm thinking the fences might need to be made a little higher if the deer population reaches this size!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hiding Holes

In the middle of the hot summer it is not unusual to find my father-in-law's shoes outside our large rice fridge and if you are brave enough to open it you will find him napping in the cool on top of big bags of rice.  My son has his own favourite place to retreat to in summer - literally underneath the floor in the cottage.  It is the perfect place - completely concreted, very cool and very dark if you put the lid back over the hole like my son tends to do.  
Unfortunately this year he is going to have to share the space with a big crate of my onions.  Every year I grow lots of onions, but every year the humidity and heat tends to make them rotten after only a few months.  I'm hoping that this year the cool, dark space in the cottage will help solve this problem.  Otherwise there may be a rather unique odour spreading through the cottage as the year goes by..... Meg and Nathan - you will probably be safe, but Dad... you may be in for a treat!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Living in harmony


Just  behind our house there is a rambling set of stairs that goes up to a tiny shrine (?).  It usually houses a few statues, a mask, some plastic flowers and the occasional offering of sake.  This year it is also home to our bees.  Apparently my husband decided that it was the perfect place to put our hives - out of the wind and rain and facing in the right direction.  
I think it is an improvement on having them in our garage (like last year), I'm just not sure that the Gods or the few people who make it up the hill to pray each year will agree..... so far the bees are loving their new home though so hopefully we will be able to leave an offering of honey and leave them there for many years to come!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Toy

Every year I spend a lot of time harvesting vegetables from the garden and trying to use them all, but I am never very successful.  I have a pretty big garden and there is always a glut of something or other and anything I can't give away I tend to put into the fridge and then wait till it goes rotten before throwing it out.   There is a limit to how many times a week you can eat huge bowls of peas, beans etc.....  
This year I invested in a new toy to help me to freeze as much produce as I can and therefore be able to use it throughout the year rather than just for a few months.  It is a vacuum pack machine and so far I have managed to keep on top of the peas, beans and broad beans by freezing any that I can't use within one day. I'm hoping that I will actually use the produce throughout the year and not find it in the bottom of the freezer 3 years later.... something that my mother is very good at!  I'm also hoping Santa has heard my pleas for a bigger freezer that I might actually be able to organise so things don't just disappear into the abyss...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Still waiting....

I've tried growing a few different things up this arch, but they all seem to give up in the end.  My latest attempt to get some greenery and shade is kiwifruit vines.  After a few years they are growing really well and this year are covered in flowers.  Unfortunately on closer examination the flowers are all coming from the male plant and therefore there won't be any kiwifruit produced this year, but there is hope for the future.  I wonder how many years we have to wait until we get to sample some of our own homegrown kiwifruit... and if the vines will survive that long!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wild strawberries

There are times when I think it is really sad that there are less and less people living in our area.  Other times I am grateful that there are not enough people to keep all the weeds under control.... today was one of those days when I went on my first wild strawberry hunt for the season.  I only had about an hour between taxi runs, but managed to pick almost 1.5kg from one overgrown area.  I'm thinking I need to ask Santa for a bigger freezer!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Taxi service

When I am having a really bad day I can be found screaming insane things like "I didn't go to university so I could become a taxi driver"....... but sometimes it really feels that way.  
Living in the countryside we are surrounded by nature, meaning other things are further away.  We chose to send our children to a school that is too far away to walk to and therefore I need to pick them up after school every day.  I agreed to let my son become involved in an athletics club that it is a long drive away in order for him to become an Olympic champion in the future (cough, cough).  My daughter continues to play the piano and her volleyball club at school requires transportation to all different parts of the prefecture for tournaments and practice games. We have a lot of visitors who I really enjoy taking to different parts of our prefecture.  My work is scattered around the place, none within walking distance.
I don't regret any of these decisions, but I do sometimes feel like we should invest in a petrol company.... yesterday this need was confirmed as my car ticked over to 100,000 kms.  I traded my old car in for a new one in February 2010 which means that I have driven an average of 64 kms every single day since I got it.  The last year or so has been much, much more so I'm guessing the 200,000 mark will arrive even sooner.... look forward to an update in about 2016!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Slug traps

There are a lot of strawberries grown in our area. 
Unfortunately they are grown in tunnel houses and sprayed with enormous quantities of chemicals to keep them in perfect condition for the consumer.  I know that most commercial growers here have a separate patch for their own consumption that they do not use excessive sprays must mean something when the growers are not even willing to eat their own product!
Anyway, I started off with a few strawberry plants which have multiplied each year and this year I am harvesting about 1kg a day of strawberries in this season.  Not too bad considering I use no sprays, very little fertilizer and some old net that was lying around to keep the birds out.   I was having a fantastic run this year with very little insect damage - mainly because we had a really, really dry spell.  Unfortunately that dry spell has turned into what it beginning to feel like the rainy season, so the slugs have started to come out and enjoy my wonderful strawberries.  
My solution for now is cornmeal.  I read somewhere that you could put jars with a bit of cornmeal in them on their side and the slugs will be attracted by the smell and go in for a feast, but then be unable to get out again due to the coarseness of the cornmeal.  I was a little skeptical, but I tried it yesterday and it seems to work - and the chickens love the feast they get of the mixture of cornmeal and delicious slugs! 
The raspberries are now starting to flower like crazy and although they don't get bothered by slugs the rain tends to rot them before I can pick them so I'm thinking my next job may be to create a roof for the raspberry patch..... the jobs never end!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tunnel house update for May

You may remember that this year I have tried to utilize our tunnel house a little more and built up some vegetable beds, filled them with horse poo and leaf mulch and planted some vegetables.  The first round of lettuces, radishes and spinach was fantastic.  Now I am into round two.... here are a few pictures of the produce that is coming on.....

Beans with cucumbers

Beans - picking every day



Onion harvest (from outside garden) - drying for a few days

Passionfruit vines

Peas, gherkins, eggplant and lettuce

Tomatoes in pots

Tomatoes in beds

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stress relief

Life has been pretty busy lately, but one thing I have enjoyed doing is wandering around the garden and picking random bunches of wild and not-so-wild flowers.  In the past I have always hated cutting flowers from the garden because it left the garden bare, but this year I think I have planted enough to enjoy them both inside and out.  There is something nice about wandering into the house and having some flowers to greet you.
We have had weeks without any rain at all, but today it really poured down so as long as the strong winds haven't blown everything to bits then I'm hoping to need some huge vases soon!  I may even get around to taking some photos of the garden too....although I'm making no promises!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Starting small

Today my nephew sent me a photo of himself asking where the blog entries were..... oops.... yet again they seem to have stopped, but with a photo like that I couldn't resist!  We had a great time in New Zealand, although it was far too short.  Back in Japan things have been ultra busy, mainly because I am trying to juggle getting the garden under control before the hot summer arrives as well as starting to play around with a few new business ideas.  And of course there are the endless trips ferrying children to and from sporting events. 
There has been a new produce shop open close to us so I have started taking cookies and muffins to sell a couple of times a week and have mostly been selling them all.  There was also a big festival in our town over Golden Week so I tried out a few ideas and managed to sell all 45 jars of jam and close to 100 bags of cookies.  It was a good chance to get some feedback as well as work out just how much work is involved in producing cookies etc.  I am starting small and enjoying the challenge at the moment.  Next stage... add a few more outlets.....