Friday, July 28, 2006

Japanese Organic Farmer's Enemy....

One of the things that "organic" farmers usually battle with are bugs. As you may have noticed in the earlier blogs there are definately no shortage of them around my "farm", but we also have another problem. Our house was built in a rice field (literally) and is still surrounded by rice fields on all sides. The main problem with rice farming in this generation is that it is not profitable enough to do as your main source of income and therefore people do it as a "side job", trying to spend as little time doing it as possible.

One of the "inventions" that has helped to save time is the spraying helicopter. Within a few minutes the whole rice field is sprayed via a remote controlled helicopter..... unfortunately it is not all that is sprayed! Despite the fact that they always do it on calm evenings, the spray still goes all over the surrounding fields, making true "organic" farming impossible unless you own all the surrounding fields for miles around. Oh well, I guess I will just have to expand my farming to cover all the surrounding area.... but maybe I should get my one field under control first!

New Obsession

I have no idea how the internet works. I really don't! I don't understand how people make a lot of money out of it, but I am happy that there are so many things that you can download for free! With it being far too hot here to go outside for more than 10 minutes at a time, my latest obsession has become viewing the statistics of those who are looking at this blog. Thanks to my brother I somehow managed to install a counter to show how many people were looking at the site, but what I didn't realise was that the free software would also do a whole lot of analysing for me. I can check what country (and what city in each country) people are from, how long they are looking at the site, which site they were referred from, whether it is their first visit to the site - just about everything apart from what they ate for breakfast! It is kind of fun to keep checking it, but with only about 9 hits every day it gets a little repeditive! Anyway, if anyone is interested in installing the software onto their own blog/website the address is:

The builders/plumbers/electricians all seem to be on holiday at the moment. The toilet has arrived, but is in the living room covered in plastic. The oven etc are all in the kitchen, but are not connected to the gas. The muffin mix is ready, but there is no where to cook it. Maybe next month......

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rhubarb or Hostas?

As you may have guessed, this year there has been record rainfall here in Japan. All around the country there are stories of landslides, houses collapsing etc., so although we are feeling a little "soggy" here right now we are also feeling very lucky that nothing drastic has happened. Due to the continual rain the garden updates have been a little fewer than I had hoped, but I think the rainy season officially finished today (with a pretty dramatic thunderstorm....) so hopefully from now there should be some more progress in the garden. The rain has made it clear about one thing - hostas love rain and rhubarb doesn't - as the photos show! Last year my hostas struggled to even appear, but this year they seem to be loving the rain and multiplying all over the place. The rhubarb however is another story - two out of three plants have now rotted away and the other is on its last legs too. I'm thinking of trying it in the tunnel house next year - it can't be worse!

The best thing that happened today was that the scafolding was finally removed (sorry the photo was taken in the middle of the thunder storm). That means the steps to the front door can now be completed and the final touches made. I chose all the light fittings etc. yesterday so things really seem to be coming to an end (or a start!). The oven and kitchen benches were also put in today so now we are just waiting on the toilet and bathroom sink. The children are convinced that they will be the first into the new shower!

A different view of the lounge - the colour looks a little lighter in real life!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

More Colours

When I asked the wallpaper man today if many people used the colours we were using he said "no" and "I am happy they don't".... apparently it is taking him twice as long as it usually does as the paper I chose is different to the normal one and requires a lot more preparation of the walls. Too bad! The kitchen and bathroom and half the stairs were finished today and he is sure he will have the rest finished by lunch time tomorrow. As with yesterday's photos the colours don't really show up properly in the photos, but here is a sneak peek.
Top photo = kitchen, middle = bathroom and bottom = stairs (living room)

Friday, July 21, 2006


The thing I have been most anxious about our new "guest house" is the colours I chose for the different rooms. Here in Japan there is very little use of colours in houses - occasionally you will see some green rooms, but in general everything is cream - cream walls and cream ceilings. Anyway, in some brave (or possibly stupid....) moment I decided that I didn't want all the walls cream and opted for quite strong colours throughout the house. However, after chosing I've thought many times about calling up and changing them to the safe "cream", but never quite got around to it. So today was the first test when we waited until after 7pm (yes the paper-man is working overtime right now) and went upstairs to check out the upstairs rooms which were finished today (well there is still the carpet to be laid....). The result seems to be better than I hoped. I chose one feature wall colour for each room upstairs and they both seem to have worked out okay. Even Tom came back saying "they look really good" - I think he is as anxious as I am as he left it completely to me to chose them.
The photos were taken at dusk with no lighting so they are not the exact colours, but pretty close. Don't forget to state your colour preference when you book - keeping in mind the green room is a little bigger than the yellow one!
Check in tomorrow to hopefully see the kitchen, bathroom and living room colours - or maybe next week!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stop, start, stop, start....

We had a three-day weekend this weekend and I had to go away for all of it to run an outdoor education program in Yamaguchi prefecture. I assumed that while I was away there would be no real progress on the guest house (it being a holiday and all), but when I came back the outside was completely painted, the stairs varnished and the walls half prepared for the wallpaper. From what Tom told me they were being given a hurry-along by the site manager so that it would be finished within the time that they promised us. Great I thought - at this rate it should be finished in a few weeks...... and then of course no one appeared for 3 days and progress seems to be halted again due to rain. Maybe another month and we might be finally there!
On a better note another stained glass window has been put in - the first of the NZ theme ones. This one has been made like a "sandwich" and therefore there are three layers of glass and no lead at all. It looks great from both the stairs and the inside of the bedroom.
My "peaceful place" is also taking shape. The benefit of working with a company that is small is that we can keep making changes as we go and I think this one is the best of them all. This is "my" window seat where I (or I guess I will allow others to sit there too....) can sit and read my book after a hard day slaving over the hot steaming jam jars. Speaking of which, here is my current collection. There is a local festival at the end of the month and they have asked if they can sell my jams there as a representative "local product". Now I just need to get around to making a few more and really start to promote them properly. Tom is working on a web site and hopefuly after the summer I will be able to concentrate fully on them. That's the plan anyway......

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Colourful Critters

I am not someone who spends a long time in the shower or relaxing in the tub. In fact, for me the purpose of taking a shower is so that I don't offend anyone who comes within a metre radius of me. But today, after spending a couple of hours in the garden in the Japanese heat and humidity, the shower was like heaven! If I hadn't had to go to the dentist (again) I think I could have spent all afternoon in there under the cold tap!
Something that seems to be really enjoying the heat here at the moment are the caterpillars. They are big and in a strange way very beautiful (as long as they are not eating my parsley). I'm not sure if you can tell from the photo, but the black caterpillars are currently having a feast around the rice fields. There are thousands of them and they just munch full time until all the leaves are gone and then move onto the next patch - as long as that "next patch" is not my garden I don't really care!

So far they don't seem to be effecting any of my vegetables and even the crows have been keeping away lately. Here is today's harvest - it's time to start making tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomato soup, tomato jelly...... again!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Inside the house...

Today I came to two amazing conclusions. Number One - even if the sun is finally shining after three weeks of continual rain the garden is too muddy to do more than look at from a distance (a typhoon is forecast for the weekend so chances of it drying out in the next few days are not incredibly high...).
Number two - it is very difficult to take pictures that give you any idea of what the inside of our "guest house" is really like. The flooring was put down today and one of my stained glass windows was also fitted - my friend made it for me and is also making four windows for the upstairs room - all with a NZ theme. This one can be seen from the living room and the kitchen.
Anyway, here are a couple of photos that may give you an idea of what stage things are at inside the house, or then again maybe they won't - either way it is better than writing about the weather again!

Living Room - looking towards the front door. Plenty of windows for light and ventilation - sorry no air conditioning is being planned!

The stairs - directly opposite the front door. Very easy climbing - unlike the original plans where they were more like a ladder.....

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Too hot for anything but taking photos!

The hottest months of the year here are said to be July and August.... if that is the case then I am going to die again this summer! It seems to be more than hot enough here now that the rain has stopped. The garden is responding well (despite being neglected) and as you can see the "Guest House" is also progressing well. The roof is fully on and the outside walls seem to be more or less finished too. A coat of paint, the spouting on and then I think the scaffolding can come down. It's fun to sneak in there every night after the builders go home and check out the inside progress too.
It's too hot to work in the garden, but I did force myself outside to take some photos of the garden.

Burgundy Okra - another one of those plants that I thought that I would try and grow, but have no idea how to cook!

Butternut pumpkins - growing happily in their beds of weeds....

Tomatoes are begin to ripen everywhere, which the crows are very happy about. I wonder if my black strips of plastic are going to make any difference!

After everyone else started to harvest their beans I finally got around to planting mine. They don't seem to mind their late start and are growing like rockets!