Friday, April 23, 2010

Kogomi = Fiddleheads = Delicious!

It is so nice to be able to get something for nothing. And in this case, I mean Kogomi, or as they are sometimes known in English, fiddlehead fern buds. The species we enjoy the most are the Ostrich, or Shuttlecock fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

We have thousands of them all over the place, and for one or two weeks every spring, we have them for every meal.

The taste is a lot like spinach. I recommend putting some ponzu and mayonnaise them. Heavenly.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Egg!

Hot the hen has finally laid an egg!
I'm so proud of her!
of course, for some reason she laid it on the hard, wooden shelf next to the soft nest box filled with dried leaves.....

But back to the story-
It was a medium to medium small cream colored egg.
I am hoping that this is the start of an egg laying phase for her. Most chicken related information I find says that chickens go through cycles of laying and resting. Like we do with work. Five days on, two days off. I never noticed when I was a kid, since I had 12 hens back then. There were always eggs in the nest box.

Now if only I could find a way to make her broody, that would be great. Eggs are nice, but I want more chickens first!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Special Compost

Now, out of the first hundred people who read this entry, I predict that:
20 of you will stop in the middle of it, go to the sink and wash your hands obsessively,
40 of you will finish reading and say "That's nuts."
25 of you will read it and say "I couldn't do that."
10 of you will file it away in your minds in case of emergencies.
4 of you will give it serious thought but not do it.
1 of you will do it.

Yes, that is right. I make special compost. Out of rice hulls even. Although sawdust would work too. We used to use cedar sawdust, but ended up with compost that wouldn't rot and nothing would grow in. I recommend hardwood, failing that, pine.

My special compost closes a lot of the nutrient loss in our little circle of life up here. We grow vegetables, we eat vegetables, and we make the special compost to grow more vegetables.

If haven't guessed it yet, we compost our humanure (this is the cue for the first 20 to go and wash your hands obsessively) Joe Jenkins style. We got the idea from his wonderful book- The Humanure Handbook" and his excellent webpage manual.
Now it is not as disgusting as you may think. It doesn't look like you might imagine. It looks like a 5 gallon bucket of sawdust. It doesn't smell either. Think of a cat litterbox. Cats cover their "deposits" and it keeps the smell down. Same principle. Cover your deposits, and everything is fine.
Our toilet is a plywood box with a hinged lid that we put over a five gallon bucket. It has a regular toilet seat on it as well. We keep another bucket next to the toilet to provide the covering material. When the bucket is full, I open the lid, take out the bucket, and bring it outside to the composting area. Then I dump it on the pile, wash out the bucket- dumping the wash water on the pile as well. Finally, I put a layer of soil and some more clean rice hulls on the pile. It takes about two minutes all told, and we go through about four buckets a week on average. (This is the cue for the next 40 to think "That's nuts" - and indeed there are some, probably corn too! :)

We let the compost age like a fine wine for at least a year after we stop adding to it, and then it is ready to go.

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Friend Kay

I'd like to introduce you to someone special- my good friend Kay.
She's a cute little 22 year old, and she loves to get dirty working on the farm.
She loves to carry giant sacks of leaves in the fall, and in one load she can carry more firewood than we burn in a week in our stove. She never complains about the weather, and is as surefooted as a mountain goat.

She's special.

She's my truck :)

So you see, here in Japan, they call these cab forward micro-trucks "Kei-tora" lit. "Light Truck."
I just call mine "Kay" for short. They are incredibly useful, even though the old ones like mine scream if you push them past 60Km/hour (about 45 mph for the metric impaired). She gets incredibly good gas milage.. She has limited slip differential 4WD (whatever that means) and an AM radio. That is about the extent of her options. If I want to check the oil, I unbuckle the front seat and take it out to access the engine. She is so old I have to stop the truck, get out, and lock the hubs manually before I can put her in 4WD. When I drive her, I have to open the window to stick my elbow out, and I have to bow my legs to fit in the cab. But she's sturdy, clean, and looks good in white- even after Labor Day.

Yep. She's a good 'un. A keeper. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The "No More Secrets" Chicken Tractor

Well, the secret of the chickens lasted about a whole hour after I left for work before the lovely wife asked "What did you kids go and pick up at Ken's house?"

Of course, my lovely daughter told her the truth, as I had instructed her to do if asked. It went over very easy (since they were birthday gifts- all of you out there who want chickens but have spouses who are against the idea- have someone you know give them to you as a gift- it works great!).

And now the chickens have their own chicken tractor! Woo Hoo!!!
For those of you who don't know what a chicken tractor is, keep reading. If you do, just skip the next paragraph.

My chicken tractor is rectangular box 1825mm by 850mm by 850mm. The sides are 30mm plastic coated chicken wire, and the roof is a combination of netting and steel roofing panel. It has no floor, so I can drag it around my orchard to fresh grass every day. I made it in four panels, and just screwed them together with 65mm coarse thread screws. All in all, it took about an hour and a half to build and set up. Of course, the nest box is not installed yet, that should take another half hour or so. It was a lot of fun.

The chickens love the new pen- Hot, the hen, was eating tons of green weeds and scratching for ants, while Dog, the rooster was keeping a wary eye on the big guy who so rudely grabbed him and his wife by the legs and carried them upside down to the new tractor.