Saturday, July 7, 2012

Clean, Green, Beans!

The littlest one and I spent a lovely 20 min or so picking 720g of green beans from the garden Thursday. Then we brought them into town and had them checked out, as I am methodically doing with all my produce.  
Clean Beans! No Cs 134/137 detected!
I was so excited to have beans that I ate rather too many... about 500g! Raw! Note to self, next time eat slightly fewer raw beans, or at least gently steam them. Actually the digestive distress was not that bad. And on the bright side, my insides feel very clean. The dandelion coffee helped with that too I think.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cabbageworms decreasing

Well, since the great cabbageworm harvest of the other day, I have been picking every other day or so. No fixed schedule, just whenever I feel like it.

  • 6/30   73
  • 7/2     17
  • 7/4     25
  • 7/6       2

Of course, I still see those white butterflies all over the place, so I know the war will continue.

Dandelion Coffee

Dandelion coffee. Is it just hype or is it really good for you? 
I am not sure, but I like it. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had dug up 4 good sized roots to make into dandelion coffee. 
fresh dandelion roots after washing
I washed them, and put them in a shallow woven bamboo basket to dry in the cab of my truck. After a week, the roots were brittle and snapped readily. I found out that this step is not really necessary, I could have just chopped the roots and began roasting right away. Live and learn.
dried dandelion roots
I snapped and cut the roots into pieces about 1cm long, and arranged them on a cookie sheet. Then I put them in the oven at about 150 degrees C. for about 30 minutes, stirring them up occasionally with some chopsticks. Soon the house was filled with a wonderful aroma. Who would have thought that dandelion roots roasting would smell so heavenly? 
When the roots changed color from tan to dark brown, I turned off the oven and let them cool. 
In the morning, I ground some up in my electric coffee grinder, put about one scoop of the powder in a regular coffee maker, and dripped out four cups. Smelled pretty good, but I didn't drink any. I put it in a thermos and took it to City Hall.
They looked at me pretty weird when I asked to have it tested, but they are good about this kind of stuff. 
When I came back in half an hour, they gave me the good news: My dandelion coffee came back clean!
No Cs 134/137 detected in dandelion coffee!

I do love it when I get negative results! The lab attendants and I then enjoyed some of the coffee together, and I refrigerated the rest to make iced dandelion coffee. That was amazing. The flavor is not so much like real coffee. It is earthier. Maybe a darker roast might taste more like the real thing. But the bitterness was quite pleasant.
The dandelion coffee had another thing in common with regular coffee. It is an amazing diuretic. My blood feels so clean now!

Now that I know it is clean, I can make larger batches and keep me drinking it all year round!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Some Local History of Tatara

Yesterday as the youngest and I played in the creek, he found a piece of local history.
Iron slag

Hundreds of years ago, our neighborhood was an iron sand smelting area. One way I can be sure of that is the name of our river is the "Tataraba River." A tatara is a Japanese traditional iron smelting furnace. I am not aware if we have iron sand in our area. Apparently they brought it here to smelt it. What we had was hardwood forests. The raw material is far less bulky than the charcoal. So they made charcoal, smelted the iron, and made.... nobody knows. They probably made iron ingots and transported them to the castle towns to be worked in the forges there.

Doing some internet research, I found the following.

There were two main methods of smelting the iron sand- the kera-oshi (for making steel directly) and the zuku-oshi (for making pig-iron). I am not positive which method they used in our area, but zuku-oshi seems to be more likely.

In the kera-oshi method, they add the komori iron sand in the furnace, then charcoal and heat. Then for three days, they pound and stretch the kera (molten iron sand) to forge it into steel. This steel is used for weapons and tools mainly. It took 13 tons of charcoal and 13 tons of iron sand to make 2.8 tons of kera and .8 tons of pig iron.
So our area might have smelted the iron used in Tokugawa Mitsukuni's katana.

In the zuku-oshi method, akome iron sand is added to the burning charcoal, and the entire furnace's temperature was raised, so the process took about four days, as opposed to three for the kera-oshi.
The zuku-oshi method was common outside the Chugoku region of Japan, which leads me to believe that our area was a zuku-oshi producing area. The pig iron produced in this method was high carbon and low melting iron, and was usually reforged to lower the carbon content and make knives.

The whole area around our house is full of chunks of this stuff. Our neighbor used it as gravel in his driveway.

Daikon Down The Hatch!

My daikon radish came back clean! No Cesium detected!
City Hall says that my Daikon radish are safe to eat! Hooray! That means I have to buy some "aji (Japanese horse mackerel)" or "sanma" (Pacific saury) and have some nice broiled fish with finely grated daikon and ponzu. Heavenly!

So as of July 4, my lettuce, chard, and daikon are all considered safe. Green beans, corn, beets, okra, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cabbage, broccoli and potatoes yet to be tested.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cabbageworm Pieris rapae

Pieris rapae caterpillar
Photo by Christian Bauer
Well, I think I am winning the battle with cabbageworms. On Saturday afternoon, I picked 73 cabbageworms off of about 10 plants.
Today, 17.
With constant picking, I might actually get a crop of cabbage this year! That is, if the goats don't eat these plants as well...