Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kudzu vs. Bamboo- Ultimate Death match

Who will be the big winner?
Will the single shoot of madake bamboo be able to withstand the awesome growth power of the mighty kudzu?
Cast your vote now!!!

(2:1 odds on the Kudzu since bamboo puts on all its growth in the first few months of its life, but Kudzu grows forever, like credit card debt.)
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Friday, July 30, 2010


And when the next wave of figs ripens, I will somehow make fig newtons, which I crave madly but have never seen here in Japan. Ummmm....... Figs.....
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My "Kita-Murasaki" (Purple North) potatoes are in, and they are Goooooooooood!!!!
The girl and I harvested them on Wednesday, and they were in the hash browns by morning. Ummm..... Hash purples....
We also harvested a bunch of "Andes Gold" (a russet) and "Kita-Akari" (Northern Lights) all from the same keyhole bed.

Making that bed was so easy! I took the seed potatoes, and set them on the close cropped grass.... well OK, close cropped weeds. Where was I... Oh yeah, I placed them in concentric circles (except for a foot wide path) and just covered them with 10cm of my compost (which has soil in it, remember?). Then I added about 20cm of leaves I collected last fall with the boy. They had one weeding about a month ago, and that is it, aside from having the dog do some watchdog duty to keep the wild boars away. Easy and effective.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RIP Dog the Rooster

Dog the rooster, age unknown, now is residing dismembered in my freezer.

I'll miss you Dog. I hope you are delicious.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What is Kitty Doing?

What is Kitty doing in this picture?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day at the Beach

On Sunday we took a little trip to the beach.
Man, I love summer!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer in Ibaraki

Figs ripening

Raspberries too

One of my peach trees- Indian Blood Peach

Persimmon "Fuyu"

A keyhole garden bed of edamame (green soybean)
(I don't care how others tell you how to pronounce it, the proper pronunciation is flat, like "eh-da-ma-may" and NOT "eh-da-MA-may" or any foolishness like that. I know, I live here.)

Me and the boys, beating the heat in our "jin-bei" Very thin hemp cloth shorts and loose top. Wonderful things, really.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Compost just happens

My latest compost pile- Named him "Gomer"- has hit a new high! 65 degrees C.
Ok, fine, for all you Farenheads out there:

65 x 9 = 585

585 / 5 = 117

117 + 32 = 149 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Not bad. Here is the step by step.
1. I liberated 37 bags of yard waste from a local park.
2. I lashed four pallets together into a rough box
3. I dumped in a bag of yard waste, two shovels of mediocre at best dirt.
4. Repeat step three 36 more times.
5. cover and weigh down the top with a square of plywood and some old tires.

After the container was getting pretty full, the boy and I jumped up and down on it to pack it down.

Now a lot of compost purists will say:
"What about the C:N balance?"
"What about the browns?"
"What about the lack of aeration if you pack it down so tight?"
"You don't need to add soil."

To them I say
"Compost happens, and 74 shovels full of mediocre dirt will become 74 shovels of super rich soil plus compost"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Self Watering Tomato Planter

Finally, here it is- the self watering planter that I have been commenting on.

Of course, you don't need to have exactly the same materials and methods as I used. Whatever you have available. Darker colors seem to be better than lighter ones however.

Tomatoes and self watering planter

Well, here is a photo of two of my self-watering planters. They are great for tomatoes, since they can be moved inside if there is a chance of frost, and they provide a very steady moisture to the plants. I can fill the reservoir before I go home on Friday, and they will still be fine on Monday afternoon, even in the hottest weather..

And of course, here are some of the tomatoes. I have two plants in each box, one of them has beefsteaks, the other has cherry tomatoes.

Fruits of the harvest. So, let's see, today's 60g, plus July 2nd 25g equals 85g. so far...

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Berry Good Berries

Mmm.... Fresh berries!
Now which is more delicious?

Or the Boysenberry?


The black raspberries had a wonderful rich flavor, a bit tart, but bursting with flavor.

They boysenberries had a bit more sour note to them, but those big druplets are like a whole fruit by themselves!

I just can't decide. I love them both.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Helping out

So yesterday, when the boy and I were picking the usual kilogram of mulberries, we heard a loud metallic scraping sound from the road. I dispatched him to see what had happened, and he ran back and reported to me that "Some old dude got his car stuck in the ditch." Now if you are not familiar with the Japanese version of a ditch, it is not a friendly place like an American ditch. It is a concrete U trench, 40cm x 40cm. Wide enough to fit your tire into and leave it hanging while the car body rests on the road.
Also, it is very attractive to Canadians walking at night, but that is another story, best told by my good friend Al.
So, back to the "old dude in the ditch." I walked down, and the flustered old guy immediately started to explain how it had happened. I assured him that "Hey, it happens." but secretly wondered how he had so completely driven the car into the ditch on a perfectly straight, wide (for Japan that is), dry road in broad daylight. At any rate, he took some blocks of wood and put them under the rear tire. Which was strange because it was a front wheel drive car. Then a few workmen driving by stopped to help, and we tried to lift the car (a subcompact) out of the ditch. That didn't work either. I never realized how much non structural sheet metal and plastic there is on a subcompact. Nothing to grab on to. So I decided to get a log, insert it under the front wheel, which was just hanging there in space, and drive a piece of firewood under the log. Thereby jacking up the car slightly, and creating a ramp out of the ditch for the drive wheel. Thank you Mr. Leiseth, MLHS Physics teacher 1990!
The car zoomed out of the ditch with a hideous scraping of steel on cement, and the workmen jumped into their cars and sped off. I had no car to jump into, since it was in front of my house. The old guy looked so embarrassed, happy, and troubled at the same time. I didn't know what to do, so I shook his hand and said goodbye. Then he gave the boy, who had been watching from the sidelines, a 500 yen coin.
My first opinion was to refuse it- I was only doing what decent people do, helping someone out when they needed it. Also, why me and not the other guys who had helped? But then I saw a bit of dignity return to the old guy. And I realized that refusing the gift would actually hurt his pride even more. He wanted desperately to do something to pay back the favor. Even though we didn't ask for it, didn't particularly want it, it felt like the right thing to take it.
We will probably give it to charity, or buy a gift for someone who has helped us. Keep the good karma going around.

What do you think? Were we right to take it?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Showa Timeslip in Iwaki- Matsugaoka Park

Last weekend, we accidentally fell backwards in time to the late 1970s/early 1980s. We were coming back from a nice hot spring in Yumoto, Iwaki, and decided to check out a park- Matsugaoka Park (the link is google translated, but the pictures are nice). We parked the car, unloaded the stroller, loaded up the baby, and then carried the stroller up the several thousand stairs to the top of the hill. Not a whole lot of handicap accessibility we thought. Arriving at the top, we found the other parking lot. D'oh!
Then it was back in time. The SkyCycle, boat ride, carousel, and mini train, complete with "Family Rand" on the locomotive. All for 60 yen/ride for kids. Yes, even the prices were from the Showa period!
Great care had been taken to keep all the signs and writing to period- even the newly repainted signs style was a throwback.
Did I mention that there were no people in the park other than ourselves and three park employees? Woo Hoo!! No lines! Here are the highlights-

Who could resist the Family Rand train?

The Sky Cycle entrance. Love that funky 80s font style.

Daughter and wife pedaling like mad.

The nautical theme- complete with Koi and live turtles!

Tsunami!!!! of Tomatoes beginning...?

Well, I harvested the first tomatoes from my self watering planter on the roof of my school today.
Man, they were good. Sweet, with just a hint of tart. Real tomato flavor. Three little yellow cherry tomatoes. 25g all told.

But it is a start!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Goumi Liqueur

We have a goumi bush in our yard, under the Paulownia tree. Every year we are innundated by gadzillions of the little red berries, which are sour and astringent before fully ripe, and just sour as lemons after they are ripe. What a bargain.  We have tried making jam out of them for a couple of years, but this year we decided to try something new.

Start with one kilogram of goumi berries. Make sure you pull off each and every one of the stems from the several hundred berries. That should keep you busy for a while. 

Ok, you have the one kilo of berries, now you need to put them in the jar. 


Cover them with one kilogram of rock sugar. Well, any kind of sugar will work.

Now pour 1.8L of "White Liquor" over the berries and sugar. White Liquor is basically a 35% grain alcohol. Japanese Shochu, Korean Soju are good, Vodka... Well, I guess it might work. Everclear- That would work pretty well.

 Now this is the hard part..... Wait three weeks before drinking.