Sunday, February 21, 2010

Snow, and lots of it!

In the the first four years we lived on the side of the mountain, it snowed maybe 10 times. I think the deepest was about 5 cm.

This year- no wait, this February it has snowed 8 times, for a total of about 50cm! (Of course it all melted already).

But it was enough for the kids and I to go out and make a "Kamakura." Pile up snow and pack it down, until it is as high as you can make it. Then just dig it out with a garden shovel.

Good fun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Half-Built Home

I am a big fan of DIY. If only I could do it better lol. Our house for example. My lovely wife knows of my passion for working with wood, and thought we could save some money when we built our house. So we went for the "Half-Built" option. The contractors do the really important stuff, foundation, framing, roofing, plumbing and electric, and I do the non structural detail work. Sounds fun, right? Well, it was, and I would never do it again in that situation. The new house was a 40 min drive away, my wife was 6 months pregnant with our son while looking after our one and a half year old daughter, and preparing to move. I tried my best to work on the house on weekends and some weekday mornings. This is not a good way to finish your dream house. Finally we had to take a break on construction so that our daughter wouldn't forget who I was.

But there were some really good times too. When all our friends pitched in and helped us stain the siding. Two days covered in green Xyladecor. Friends came up and helped us nail said siding to the house, others helped with ceilings and floors, or brought lunch when I was stuck on site with no vehicle. And Mom and Dad flew out from the states to help us get it together.

I look at the house now and all I see are mistakes. The chipped plaster here, gaps in the moulding there, the seams of the sheetrock visible in places. I look at them all and smile, because I remember Dad and I hanging out on the scaffolding putting up siding on a perfect sunny October day. I look at a plaster stain on the ceiling and remember my English class student learning how to apply the finish coat during the rush to finish plastering before the wife and kids got back from Grandma's.

Every mistake has a story. Well, most of them at least.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Goodness gracious great balls of Seeds!

I finally did it. I cleaned out my seed collection, emptying any packet of seeds that was more than two years old into a big jar. It came to quite a collection. After that I shook up the jar to mix them around, and took one scoop of seeds, and four scoops of clay, added a little water, and began to mix it up. That was beastly cold work, since the clay was fresh off the mountain and still had some chunks of ice in it!!!

After a few minutes, when the mix felt pretty even, I pinched off some pieces and started rolling them around on my palms to make marbles. These I lined up in an old Amazon box (ironically the one that they shipped "One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka in). Now they are slowly drying out, waiting for me to toss them out in the "experiment." More on that later. It was a lot of fun playing in the mud again.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Orchard/Vinyard/Berry Patch.

I have a small orchard I started, Dave Wilson style two years ago. All my neighbors laugh at me. They tell me that the trees are too close together, and that I won't get enough fruit. And every one of them gives me advice on how to prune them. If only any two pieces of that advice matched.

I like the Dave Wilson method- it makes sense to me. In a young forest, the trees and shrubs aren't all spaced 12 feet apart, most grow in clumps. And what is my orchard but a young forest? Also the different cultivars of each fruit to give me a longer harvest sounds great. If it works, I should have apples from late August to December!

At any rate, I think I have a nice variety. Now if they ever start fruiting, I will have:
Loquat, Quince, Figs, Asian Pear, Peach, Plum, Prune, Persimmon, Pear, Apple, Cherry, Apricot, Nectarine, Pomegranate, PawPaw, Wolfberry, Raspberry (yellow, red, and black), Blackberry, Boysenberry, Gooseberry, Currants (red, white, and black), Grapes, Hascap, Blueberry, Mulberry, and Jujube. Oh, and my citrus- :) Satsuma, Lemon, Kumquat, Yuzu, Sudachi, Kabosu, and Shiquasa.

Goats Have No Reverse

Goats have no reverse. Seriously. I have two of them here on my homestead, neutered bucks named Sato and Yo, and while they are geniuses at escaping any type of enclosure, they are total morons when it comes to their leads. In the morning, they are excited and happy to be out of their pen (Actually, I am pretty sure they spend most of the night out carousing, just slipping back in at daybreak, like a certain teenager I once was). They are so excited and happy that they immediately wrap their leads around my legs, and continue to spiral ever tighter. And the dog doesn't help, alternately jumping over and ducking under their ropes. So I have to push their heads in a vain attempt to make them back up. Nope. That won't happen. They are bigger than Great Danes with a heck of a lot more traction. So I have to unwind the leads, wondering how goats managed to tie a clove hitch around my knees. Now I am able to move another ten or twenty meters before they find a nice cane of bamboo. Sato goes clockwise, the Yo counterclockwise. Round and round like a flipping maypole. The dog jumps up and down like some sort of spring loaded mud caked pogo stick. I am tempted to just leave them there, but again I untangle their leads and finally get them to their tether in the meadow. Finally the dog and I can get the walk done. Whew.