Sunday, September 30, 2012


Sorry Mike and Bec... blogging is just not going to happen tonight.... hopefully tomorrow.....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Higanbana - red spider lily

I always know that autumn is really here when I see the rice fields become slowly surrounded by these incredibly bright red flowers.  I say slowly, but actually they seem to appear over night.  Apparently they were introduced because moles don't like them.  Moles make tunnels in the banks of rice fields.  This leads to all the water in the rice fields draining out. so anything that will help to keep the moles away has to be a good thing.  Unfortunately they are extremely hardy though and manage to spread themselves everywhere - and are quite hard to get rid of once you have them.  I'm guessing that in a few more years the desire to deter moles may have been overtaken by the desire to get rid of a few of these pretty flowers.  Until then... I'm going to enjoy them!  There is some more information about these flowers here if you are interested.
In other news - our sports day tomorrow has been postponed till next week due to the typhoon that was going to hit here, but now looks like it will head off to the east and we may miss it completely.  Gotta love making decisions concerning the weather early!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Airing futons

We have guests coming to stay at the start of next week and although I tend to put off the cleaning and organising until the very last minute I have learned that airing the futons is a job that should be done in advance if possible - especially if the weather is about to turn bad.  If you have futons you will know that they are not exactly the lightest things in the world so bringing them all down from upstairs in the cottage is often quite a task.  Fortunately the top windows in the bedrooms are the exact same width as a standard futon and therefore perfect for hanging them out of.  Unfortunately that only covers two of the futons, but better than nothing I guess..
At the moment we are watching the weather news constantly.  Sports day on Sunday looks like it may be interrupted by a typhoon.!  At least I will have fluffy futons if we are stuck inside all day!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Row by Row

I have one of those stupid work schedules which means I often go to two or three places each day to teach and then have an hour or two in between each place.  Sometimes I can't get motivated to get changed and really work hard in the garden when I know I only have about an hour of free time, so I have started doing a few jobs around the place that I can do without needing to get changed.  The latest one is to harvest the peanuts.  I can usually manage to get a row or two out in between classes and don't end up so covered in mud that I have to have a shower before heading out again.  This year's peanuts are not perfect, but I'm hoping I'll end up with enough to make a few batches of peanut butter.
Another job I decided I could do in patches in between classes was to water blast the deck again. Unfortunately I discovered pretty quickly that it isn't a job that should be done in your work clothes!  Nothing like a full layer of dirt splattered all over you.... I'm thinking that when the peanuts are finished I may just revert back to reading a book and drinking coffee to fill in the time!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Companion Pile

To the untrained eye this probably looks like a big pile of weeds.  Originally that's what it was - my dumping place for weeds from the garden.  They slowly composted down and now it has turned into the most productive part of the garden!  The whole "garden" is a tribute to companion planting, only nothing has actually been planted... it has all just sprung up from the big pile of weeds.  If you look closely you can see not only millions of mini tomatoes, but bitter gourds, pumpkin plants and even some morning glory flowers.  It may not be the most beautiful garden in the world, but until the first frost hits it will be staying exactly as it is - minus a few kgs of vegetables!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dancing practice

The children's sports day is on Sunday (I can hardly wait....) and today was the dress rehearsal for the traditional dance that the senior school does.  I have had to help Emily into her kimono-thingy for the last 3 years so I have almost got that mastered, but today was the first time to try and get Masaki into his complicated straw skirt thing with a huge banner stuffed down his back.  Any parents who were free were asked to come and help get the children into the outfits - starting at 1:35pm.  I arrived at 1:30pm to find that Masaki was fully outfitted already .... apparently the teachers decided to start putting them into the costumes from before 1pm.  So, now I am expected to have him all fitted out on the actual sports day within about 10 minutes - only I have no idea at all how to do it.  There were a number of mothers who actually took the afternoon off work so they could learn how to do it, but found themselves in the same situation as me.  Basically it turned out to be a waste of our time - although we did get a sneak preview and a photo opportunity.
Of course me being me, I had a little chat with the principal and ended up getting a phone call from Masaki's teacher tonight apologising for the fact that we didn't get a chance to put them into the costumes.  Mind you it all looks so complicated that at least I can now plead innocent and get someone else to do it for me!
By the way... the other children playing the flute with Emily - most of them are her classmates...yes, she is tall!

Monday, September 24, 2012


The number of blog entries in the near future will be determined by how many photos of one of my nieces I receive.  I've made a deal -  a blog entry for each photo I receive -  a pretty good deal I think - especially if the photos are as cute as the one I got today!!  It may motivate me to catch up on a few entries that I have meant to post and never got around to.....
One of the questions I am often asked is what I really like about Japan and my usual answer is "the service".  You pull into a petrol station (aka gasoline stand) and there are usually a couple of people who rush out to help you, wash your windows while the fuel is going in, give you a cloth to wipe the inside of your car, remove all your rubbish, pump up your tyres, stop the traffic so you can get back onto the road safely etc. etc. 
Shops are also wonderful for service (of course there will be exceptions, but...).  They seem to go out of their way to ensure that you get what you need and of course it is always beautifully wrapped (even if they take half an hour to make sure it is that way...).  And one of my favorites... plastic bags over paper bags to ensure that your purchases get home safely on a rainy day.  Not exactly environmentally friendly, but very thoughtful.  Mind you I got this particularly bag when I was shopping with my mother and as she noted, it did seem to depend on the price of your purchase as to how much service you received - hers had no plastic in sight!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More boxes

I've finally had a chance to get into the garden over the last couple of days and my body is not thanking me for it!  I finally got around to making a few more boxes to try and keep things under control a bit more.  Flat land is great in that you can decide what size garden you want for each thing and change the different plots sizes very easily, but... it is a bit hard to keep under control and too easy to plant far more plants than you actually need.  Anyway, I spent the last couple of days hauling railway sleepers (with the aid of a wheelbarrow) and making 5 new boxes.  4 have already been filled, but I ran out of steam by the last one and only got as far as making the walls.  Hopefully tomorrow I will get some more energy and fill it with some compost, chicken poos and a bit more top soil and it will become my "salad" garden... hopefully!  If anyone if living overseas and wants to order seeds from a great company I highly recommend Kings Seeds in New Zealand.  Of course they will post to a NZ address, but they will also post overseas and you receive a 15% discount as you don't need to pay the GST.  Very fast service.
While I've been building my boxes I've been really happy that the butterfly flowers that I planted a few years ago have self seeded and have made a bit of a hedge in front of my boxes.  (The photo isn't great as the light was fading when I finally got around to taking the picture.)  I love that my neighbours love to chat, but when you have limited time available to spend in the garden it is sometimes a little bit hard to put on a smiley face when they wander past and make themselves at home and settle in for a long chat.  From experience they also like to give their opinion pretty loudly if I am trying something a bit different.  The butterfly flowers mean that I can crouch down as they pass by and am usually not noticed.  Hopefully tomorrow I will get around to  planting a big row of sweetpeas in this area to continue my screening strategy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Different levels of acceptance

I'm blaming my latest absence from the keyboard on my beautiful second niece.... well at least she was beautiful when she was born... I haven't received many photos lately and unfortunately she lives a little too far away to actually pop in to give her a cuddle, but... I'm still blaming her for my absence! 

I had a conversation the other day with a lady which highlighted how different people's levels of acceptance are.  She is the mother of 3 or 4 children and her husband is a police officer.  Her eldest daughter is the same school year as my daughter and will start junior high school in April.  Her youngest son will also start primary school in April.  There seem to be so many things that need to be done to start school here and each school has very different requirements for what is needed.  For a blast from the past you can see what Emily needed here.  
Anyway, back to my story.... I asked the lady if there was any possibility that her husband would be transferred in April (very common for anyone in any kind of public servant kind of work here) and she said that it was very likely.  I asked her when she would find out.  The answer... about 2 weeks before the transfer would occur - which would be about the time the kids were all due to start their new schools..  I questioned whether it was possible to ask them to let them know a little earlier - the fact that school uniforms will need to be purchased in advance would be sufficient reason in my mind.  But, apparently this is not possible, so they just need to go with the flow and deal with it when it happens.  I'm pretty good at going with the flow most of the time - I am famous for my smiling and bowing even at the worst of times, but for me this kind of uncertainty would be just a little over the top.  I really don't understand the transfer system here and why the notification of transfers has to be so last minute.  Even a months notice would be better than two weeks.... Unfortunately no one else seems to think that it is strange and therefore the system is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.  I guess I should just be grateful that my husband is only transferred around divisions and not around towns!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rhubarb & Beetroot link

Sorry - I forgot to put the link for the place that sells beetroot and rhubarb (and other things...) in my last post.  For those living in Japan who want a taste of "home" the link is: Kobayashi
Unfortunately they only have a Japanese website, but there are pictures!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Rearranging... again!

Do you ever have days where you have a clear idea about what you want to achieve, but in an attempt to achieve it you have to do a zillion other things first?  A couple of weeks ago I had a day (and late night... ) like that. 
 It all started when a friend posted that she had ordered some rhubarb (something I tried to grow here for many years, but eventually gave up on), so I decided I really better have some too and discovered that not only did they sell rhubarb, but they also sold beetroot - another thing I haven't been overly successful in growing in our climate.  So I ordered far more than I should have in a weak moment of longing for New Zealand staples.  Which meant I had to do something with them... Rhubarb was frozen as well as being made into rhubarb and yoghurt pudding, rhubarb and ginger jam, rhubarb and strawberry jam and rhubarb and orange jam.  Beetroot was pickled and made into relish.  Success!  I managed to empty the whole box of produce without leaving it too long so it rotted all over the kitchen floor.  In fact I managed to do it all in one day.  Which led to the next problem......
We live in a Japanese house and although our kitchen is not too small by Japanese standards it lacks anything even vaguely resembling a pantry, which meant there was no room to put away all these wonderful goodies.  So, I had to convert my wrapping paper cupboard into a preserves cupboard, which meant spending a whole night sorting all the wrapping paper out into piles of things I would never use and things I might use and putting them all in a big storage box.  I was in one of those "organising moods" (you have seen them on occasion Mum...) and so I went as far as wrapping all the old ribbon around strips of cardboard so that it wasn't just thrown into the big jar in a huge tangle.  Very neat and orderly!  
The result... I now have a temporary preserves cupboard that will even fit some of our flour.  It definitely motivates me to make more things - the latest is some delicious blueberry vinegar.  But if I am not careful I will need to build another shelf in there... which may lead to more changes being needed.... and more rearranging needing to be done.   Perhaps I'd better hold off on the preserving until some of the stuff we have is used! 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Finally... flour!

You may remember a number of posts over the last few years regarding wheat.  The latest one was about the harvesting of this year's wheat (you can check it out here if you are interested).  It has been three years now since our first wheat was harvested and each year I have written about the harvest etc.  But, has anyone noticed that I have never mentioned the way the wheat has been used after it has been harvested?  There is a simple explanation for that - we have never got it past the harvested stage before!  The first year I started out with two very small packets of wheat.  All the wheat that was produced was then kept for replanting the following year, when I managed to grow quite a lot more, but ended up leaving it outside too long after it had been removed from the husks and the mice had a nice feast.  Fortunately that was after I had already planted this year's crop.  
This year a friend "donated" their wheat husker thingy machine which meant separating the wheat from the stalks was a breeze!  We managed to get about 19kg of wheat and actually got around to drying it and finding a place which would mill it for us (not so easy these days as most of the mills around here are run by elderly people who have all recently given up).  In the end I brought home a big bag of about 11kg of flour, which obviously won't last for very long, but it is still pretty exciting to finally be able to make things and say that "this was made with our own flour!"  Hopefully I will be able to plant even more this year and slowly increase to at least 20kg of flour each year... hopefully!
I always thought that the difference between regular flour and bread flour was to do with the milling process, but apparently not!  From what I can tell it is to do with the variety of wheat planted.  The only wheat that we can grow in this area is not suitable for bread making - or so they told me... of course I've never been one to listen very much to what people say, so after proving that our flour would work with cupcakes and chocolate slice I tried to make our regular bread with it and.... it worked!  I did add a couple of tablespoons of gluten to the mix, which probably made all the difference, but still - it worked!  I have a feeling that planting this year's seeds won't be such a chore this year - I will just keep dipping into my homemade baking for energy!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Camping 2012 (better late than never!)

Just in case you think we didn't actually make it camping... here is a short slide show of a few of the things we did - which were very few really.  That to me is the perfect camp.  Lots of time to do very little at all.  I managed to organise the food in such a way that we didn't have to go shopping for three days and still were able to have cold milk and yoghurt with our homemade bread on the final morning.  Pretty amazing considering there was no electricity and therefore no fridge!  I worked out the most important thing is to just make sure you separate the food into chilly-bins for each day and DON'T open them until you absolutely have to.  Block ice stays solid for a very long time that way!  
Favourite activities this year were damper on bamboo sticks, books in the hammock, fishing, and games of Scotland Yard.  Roll on next summer!

Monday, September 03, 2012


Since 7:40am the house has been silent... it may even get tidy before lunch time and stay that way until at least the evening.... school holidays are over.  I love teachers!
It should mean that my blog gets a bit more attention, but for now - a cup of coffee and a book - my reward for surviving (and almost enjoying) the 40+ days of "holidays".