I'm so happy because a cicada peed on me

I thought I was beyond being surprised by the songs they learn at kinder here: 'It's fun to be alive' and the never ending 'mixing song' were surely the nth degree in 'they're singing about what??'


At the moment we have a song about being peed on by a cicada.

For real:

Summer is really great.
I'm really happy.
The sun is shining.
The snake is crawling.
I got peed on by a cicada.
I'm really happy.
Summer is really great.
I'm really happy.

Apparently there's a second verse but they haven't got it memorised yet. Can't wait. What next? Ants ate my picnic, I'm really happy, Got heatstroke, Summer is really great...

Oh and Summer in Nagano is not that cold. M and A are just weird and insist on wearing winter PJs year round.

honest scrap

here’s how the Honest Scrap Award works:
i must thank the person who gave me the award and list their blog and link it.
i must list 10 honest things about myself.
i must put a copy of The Honest Scrap Logo on my blog.
i must select at least 7 other worthy bloggers & list their links.
i must notify the bloggers of the award and hopefully they will follow the above requirements.

Thank you Illahee


1. Dear Amy, when I say it doesn't matter that you wet the bed and not to worry about it I don't really mean it. On the third night in a row when it's raining buckets and you are all glib and 'I was too tired to get up and wee' I really don't mean it.

2. Dear Meg, when I said 'maybe she was having a bad day' when you said your classmate told you to go away and not play with her I really meant 'she's a nasty little cow with a controlling and manipulative mother who is poisoning her impressionable brain already.' but 'maybe she's having a bad day' sounded so much nicer, right?

3. Dear K, when I suggested you find a class to do to help relieve stress I really wasn't thinking you'd do two classes and be away four nights a week...

4. Dear MIL, that idea you had of us going straight from the airport on our way back from Australian Summer to your place (freezing Fukushima Winter) so we wouldn't not visit during the NY holiday? Please read my strangled 'Mmmhgrmm' response as more of a 'you have got to be kidding. No thank you and not on your life, to boot.'

5. Dear anti-social neighbour's wife, thank you for the vegetables but when I said 'No, no, I couldn't' I meant it. See I'm still not really comfortable with the humanure aspect of your gardening (I know you've supposedly stopped now but there's still years of it accumulated right?) and I feed all your offerings to my chooks. Sorry

6. Dear Dad and FIL, when I say 'mmmm who knows' when you inquire as to your prospects of getting a grandson please read that as 'sure, if you'll come and be live in Nanny for the first year.' That's a resounding no, right? Enjoy your granddaughters, buy them a baseball glove and a cricket bat respectively and do all those boy things you're dreaming about. They'd love it.

7. Dear K, The girls have actually been bathing on their own for about a year now. In about 2 inches of water. With soap and face washers in the bath. Shocking I know but they love it, they get clean and if you're not here at bathtime I think I get to make the decisions.

8. Dear Amy's teacher, when I said I wasn't sure why Amy was sneezing so much the other week? Well, while I wasn't sure, I'm pretty certain it was a dust allergy kicking in due to a rather long hiatus on vacuuming- please rest assured that the garden looks beautiful, though.

9. Dear neighbours, please interpret my 'aah, is that so?' replies to your endless advice on gardening and the growing of crops you are completely unfamiliar with as a firm 'please keep your opinionated self away from my field unless you are here to pitch in and help. Even then, more grunt, less gab would be appreciated.'

10. Dear students, I'm a fraud. Yup graduated with honours, qualified in ESL and I still haven't worked out semi colons, affect/ effect, inquire/ enquire and a whole bunch of other grammatical minutiae. That's why I come up with gems like Q.'how do you know whether to use who or whom?' A. 'If you're supping tea with the Queen or writing a letter to an unspecified representative of a company use whom. Otherwise stick with who.'

11. (A bonus!) Dear reader, my life isn't really this interesting, I just pick out the good bits to blog about. But you already guessed that, right?

Anyone who wants to do this consider yourself tagged!


play for it

We went to Christian Summer Day Camp today.

We're bringing the girls up not so much without a religion but with a dabble of this and a sniff of that as we follow each of the Japanese religious holidays- Buddhist and Shinto- and the Christian ones too. And we attend the annual events of a group of missionaries a couple of towns over. So the girls vaguely know about Jesus and the meaning of Christmas and Easter etc without really understanding it very deeply.

English is also definitely Meg's second language. She's pretty good but not native level. I'm the only one who speaks English to her on a regular basis afterall.

All this is the preamble to a conversation I overheard today. Meg and one of the missionaries were chatting over lunch:

Mis: Isn't it nice and sunny, today.
Meg: Amy thought it was going to rain. That's why she wore gumboots.
Mis: We thought it might rain, too. Weren't we lucky?
Meg: Mmmm.
Mis: But we prayed for sunshine.
Meg: I prayed for rain. I like praying for rain.
Mis: ...??

Me (jumping in quickly): Meg, you played in the rain. You like playing in the rain.

Phew..... this bilingual, bicultural parenting thing is hard work!


In for a shock

Meg's class are slowly starting to get ready to be schoolkids next year. Today they walked from the kinder to the school along the safe roads and checking at each intersection etc etc. This is the part of Meg going to school that worries me the most. More than bullying or rote learning of thousands of kanji or getting trampled by 800 other students or anything like that- she has to walk 4 kilometres each way to get there. Cross 5 roads, two with traffic lights, travel a kilometre along a road with no houses on either side and carved into a mountain that's home to monkeys, bears and wild boars etc etc.

Meg, however is extremely excited at the prospect of going on a walk without mummy. 'I'm not going to hold anyone's hand!'

Today's walk from kinder to school is about a kilometre, and on completely flat terrain. Meg came home raving about how easy it was, how she wasn't tired at all and thinks walking to school will be a breeze. I hope she's right but I think she's in for a shock...



れいか reika cold summer

It's a cold Summer this year. Japan has a million words for weather and climate. And they're all so pedantic. Summer day? Why that would be when the temperature tops 25 degrees. Midsummer's day? Only if it's at least 30 degrees. Ferociously hot day (for real 猛暑日) why that's when the temperature tops 35 degrees and not a tenth of a degree less.

Not that we need any of these words this summer. Ever since the rainy season ended the weather has been foul. Rain, rain, rain. Nagano has only had 59% of the sunshine of an average year so far this summer. All the people fretting about water shortages when we only got 55% of the snowfall of an average year last winter must be relieved, hey? (Did I mention that as well as assigning excruciatingly specific conditions to meteorological terms Japan is also the land of the statistic?)

I'm sure people used to sweltering through the hot humid summer months in Tokyo and Nagoya think this cool summer is a boon but around here it is not quite so welcome. The constant rain and lack of sunlight affects the growing cycles. Apples need sunlight to turn red and vegetables need a break from the rain to get a chance to throw off the mold and rot and do some growing.

With late frosts and low ground temperatures most people hold off planting their crops here until the Golden Week Holiday in May. I've always wondered what people do in parts of the country where planting season doesn't coincide with 5 days off work to call in the rellies for an all hands on deck planting fiesta... Anyway, May is warming up, June is rainy, July and August are hot, September is easing back to warm and by October we get frost and the growing season is over. So in 5 months we need to grow enough stuff to get us through the year. I'm lucky in that the garden is just a hobby for me. While I don't like to buy veggies at the supermarket I do have a job and a salary so I can just nick down to the shops if my garden is washed away. Not so a lot of my neighbours who are fulltime farmers. If the apple crop fails they enter a series of complicated deals with their contract owner (JA), their bank (JA) and their agricultural insurance agent (JA) (Does that seem scarily monopoly like to anyone else??)

A cold summer and things aren't looking good. A late frost took out a lot of the apple blossom this Spring and what's left are undersize for this time of year because of the weather. We're not getting a second crop of corn and cucumber in because the first crop isn't finished yet. My rye has fallen over and is molding away on the ground as we wait for two sunny days in a row (one to dry it and one to harvest it.) But the most worrying thing is the rice. The post rainy season deluge we're having is reminiscent of the cold summer of 15 years ago. That cold summer. The one where the rice crops failed and Japan had to import Thai rice. The shock! The horror! The digestive complaints! The whispers are gathering in momentum, volume and frequency "Cold Summer, Thai rice, shudder shudder, buy rice!"

Interestingly, the Japan Meteorological Agency doesn't like people using the term 'cold summer' as it can lead to mass panic and no rice left on the shelves. Ok, that's not quite what they said but it is interesting that cold summer is a naughty word, don't you think? Personally I'm not stressing. I quite like Thai rice, it's a great excuse to eat Thai curry and I hear the price is much cheaper than regular rice anyway.

Wonder what the neighbours would think if I planted some?


hostesses with the mostesess

V sent me these pictures from Sunday. Don't the girls take their jobs seriously?



From top left: cucumber miso pickles, cucumber sticks (for the dip), rice salad (with wheat boiled with the rice), onion and cucumber vinegar pickles, coleslaw, corn on the cob, baked eggplant, baba ghanouj, salsa and corn chips, hot dog buns, tsatziki dip and wholemeal bread cubes. Oh, and we also had tandoori chicken skewers, Brazilian sausages, char siu pork skewers, (thanks R!) chicken drumsticks and for dessert a HUGE watermelon, very berry ice cream and a yummy chocolate cake (thanks V!).

I felt a bit bad inviting people over and feeding them all the excess produce but you know- invite a group of city slickers over and they don't even blink at a plate of cucumber dip, cucumber sticks and cucumber pickles on the side to boot. They're too busy exclaiming 'you grew this??' So it's a mutually beneficial arrangement as well as being a lot of fun!

I'm already planning my next BBQ...

a word from the moles

The moles are doing strange things.

Now, I'm not sure what normal mole behaviour looks like so I really have no idea what strange mole behaviour looks like, but apparently whatever constitutes strange mole behaviour, they're doing it.

Why are we taking time out from worrying about apple price predictions, potato bugs and tomato diseases to worry about deviant moles? Well that's because mole rebellion is a sign of an impending big earthquake.

"Nnnnnn. No. Soon."
"Here? On our mountain??!"
"Nnnnnn. No. Somewhere."

So there you have it from the mole Nostradamus:

There will be an earthquake somewhere, sometime.



じきゅうじそくjikyuu-jisoku Self sufficiency. It's the goal with the garden and this week was the first week this season I didn't buy vegetables. Well, I bought mushrooms and bananas but nothing else. Woohoo! So felt terribly justified paying a horrendous amount of money for some fresh mozzarella to go with this tomato and basil salad with olive oil and black pepper dressing.

Here's to self sufficiency!


blueberries and cucumbers ahhhh....

I asked Meg to go and find where she left her shoes as it was starting to rain and, as usual, she had unshod herself somewhere... 5 minutes later I went out to search for Meg searching for her shoes and found her eating blueberries straight off the bush.

"Meeeeegggg! What are you doing?" (yes, I know, I'm one of those bad mummies who ask stupid questions)
"I'm eating blueberries."
"What did I ask you to do?"
"Find my shoes."
"Mrs. N says their good for your eyes so I'm eating them first and then I'll look for my shoes."


The girls were picking cucumbers for our tea while I was trying to weed another row of tomatoes before they ran out of patience. Amy was explaining very clearly and for the third time which cucumbers to pick:

"Mummy, you only pick the really big ones."
"Just the big ones. Not the little ones. They're not ready, yet."
"That's right."
"This one's ok."
"Mummy?!!" (Bad mummy confession number 2: sometimes I don't pay 100% attention to the umpteenth repeat of an Amy lecture.)
(Running over to me) "This one's ok and this one's still too, too small mummy. Don't pick any like this one mummy."
"Why did you pick it then?"
"To show you."



birthday girl


32 today.

Not 45 like my 7 year old student thought. (Ouch!)

Not 16 like Meg thought. (Thanks honey, but it only seems really old when you're 5...)

I had quite a nice birthday. I worked in the morning but if you have to work then a fun cooking class is the way to go and I made the most amazingly yummy tandoori chicken with a simple salsa style salad and a rice salad on the side. Yummy. And my boss gave me a beautiful flower arrangement and a huge tira misu cake, to boot. If you have to work on your birthday not too shoddy, hey?

Came home and K had installed a screen door and was making measurements for two more. I know that is up there with the least exciting gift idea ever but it was perfect for me and I am so excited I had the doors open at 11pm last night. See, we get a beautiful cool change each summer night but opening the house to enjoy it means welcoming in creepy crawly critters by the dozen. No thank you. But now? No problem!

Pottered around picking blueberries and tomatoes and trying to use my mental powers to encourage the chooks to get out and explore their new cage. See, everyday four of them come out and have a grand time pecking and scratching and one stays in the old cage looking mournfully left out. And every day the mournful one who has forgotten how to get between the cages (walk up a ramp) is a different chook. It's driving me crazy!!

Spent the evening receiving birthday wishes and love on skype, mail, facebook and phone and feeling all loved and special and all. Ohhhhh....

K asked me what my goals are for the year. Hmmmm.... Really quite happy with the status quo at the moment but, for posterity's sake:
  • Achieve work/ life/ family balance (ha ha ha!)
  • Sell secret to work/ life/ balance and retire. Thus no longer needing said secret.
  • Get back to studying Japanese. Haven't done any formal study for ohhhh... how old's Meg? Six years?
  • Enjoy each day. Keep my worrying over the past and fretting over the future in check and just enjoy the little things that make up daily life.
Beautiful sunny day today ad I'm off out to the garden. Enjoyment awaits!



The rainy season finished last week.

Well, some official somewhere decided that the rainy season finished, apparently his (I'm sure it's a guy) hotline to the weather gods must not be getting good reception at the moment as it has been bucketing down for days now.

I know I have blogged before about my feelings about rain, here. It just seems so unfair that we can get more rain in an hour here than farmers could even hope to get in a month in some places.

But, as with all things, too much of a good thing is never good. The news coming in from Yamaguchi is so sad and frightening. 100mm of rain in an hour? Rain so loud you don't hear a 15m swathe of mountain falling down and burying three cars?

The Yamaguchi incident is really unsettling for K. An eerily similar set of circumstances - post rainy season week long deluge, flooding, soggy soil causing landslides etc took out the two bridges that linked the village we used to live in with the village to the South and the town to the North. The village of 4,500 odd people was cut off, the SDF were called in but waiting for the river to go down to bring in reinforcements, the JHS lost it's gym- ironically the designated evacuation point for part of the village, and displaced people camped out in the village offices. K was on the volunteer fire brigade for his company and right in the thick of the relief effort.

I arrived a year later, the bridges were back, the rivers reinforced with huge concrete barriers- try telling people that those things are eyesores when they've lost their house to an enraged river, temporary accommodation had been packed up and people had gone home or resettled in the Village owned apartments where I was living.

But all this rain is reminding me of the elementary school graduation I attended that year. There were seven sixth graders graduating. Six were there in person and one was represented by a picture. He'd been playing behind his house when the landslide occurred.

So, with me thinking how unfair all this rain is and K thinking how ominously de ja vu it is, it's a rather gloomy place inside and out at the moment.

Come on sunshine, we need you!


That takes the cake

I know my ILs are practical people. Pragmatic, down to earth, realists, whatever you want to call it. They already have their graves picked out, they send our birthday presents whenever they find something they think we'd like- sometimes six months early.

Their birthday's are Christmas Eve and Day and we use one cake for two birthdays and Christmas... you get the idea.

But yesterday was pretty amazing even for the ILs.

We drove up to stay the weekend and I took along a banana and blueberry cake. Nothing special, just a visiting for the weekend kinda cake.

Last night, after dinner, MIL unwrapped the cake and told the girls to sing happy birthday to me. Power to them they pointed out that A) it wasn't my birthday yet and B) "Mummy made that cake."

But we did it.

No candles.

Not even icing.

And I made the cake as a gift for them.

Doesn't that take the cake?


dear amy

Yes, 4:00am is technically morning.

But it is not a good morning.

Especially not when there are four of us in the room and your grandparents are sleeping in the room below us.

Just thought you might like to know why your (repeated) cheerful greetings weren't returned this morning.

Love mummy.


japan sea

from yoneyama rest area 6:30 pm. aagh... yup,no matter how long I live in the mountains I'll always be an island girl.


i think i just worked out how to blog from anywhere...


can my dinosaur phone do this?


Dear Amy's mum

(From the relief teacher at kinder)

Dear Amy's mum,

Today it was too windy to go in the pool and I told the children we were going to play outside but it was still a bit wet from the (torrential) rain last night. I said not to worry, if they got dirty it just meant they could practise getting changed by themselves.

Amy called two of her friends over to the hill (kinder has a big pile of dirt left over from making all the sandpits that they poetically call a hill) and next time I looked they were sliding down the muddy hill on their bottoms into a big puddle.

I washed Amy's socks, shorts, underpants and t-shirt as best I could but I'm afraid there's still sand stuck to them. Sorry for the inconvenience.


Ahhh poor relief teacher. How little she knows our Amy. If there's a puddle Amy's in it. If there's mud, Amy's in it. If there's a slope, Amy's sliding down it. So a muddy slope with water at the bottom?? No chance!

I just really, really hope the two kids she dragged along have cool-about-muddy-clothes mums. Or are the kind of three year olds who don't talk much yet...


today in a picture

Yup. Just one.

32 degrees and hot hot hot today.
So what did crazy neighbour A decide we needed to do?
Work in the cool shade of the apple orchard?
Dig, elevate, widen, be-plastic, tramp and plant another seven- yes seven- rows in the garden.

I am so tired I keep falling asleep at the computer.

On the plus side we will have a bean glut come September...



The job's half done...

...not only half done...

I have a perception problem. At the end of each day, no matter how much I get done, when I think back on the day all I can recall is all the things I didn't get done.

For example, today:

  • I didn't finish the chook cage extension
  • Two bed's worth of sheets didn't get washed
  • The edges of the lawn didn't get clipped
  • The tomatoes didn't get mulched
  • The vacuum is collecting dust rather than removing it
  • I didn't do any weeding whatsoever etc etc.

But I am making a concerted effort to look on the job-half-done side of life and so an alternative list:

  • We've made great progress on the chook cage and it's worth taking the time to make it foxproof rather than a slapdash job with a very un-happy ending...
  • Two days and four bed's worth of washing were washed, dried and put away.
  • Both the front (big) and back (small) lawns were mowed- with a rotary mower so that's exercise to boot!
  • Tomatoes were picked- yeah!
  • The vacuum cleaner has moved from it's hiding place to the living room. Progress, definite progress. In about a week sitting there it may even get it's cord unwound. Either that or become a surface to place stuff on...
  • I weeded yesterday...
  • I played with the girls in the park.
  • We had a bbq for dinner- on a school night, oh my!
Wow. The second list makes me feel much better about my day!


pushing on 3 year olds

Found a new way to use up the fruit glut- take them to work.

Not just take them to work and leave them on the desk for everyone to take (done that already!) but today I took them to work and used them in my 3yo class!

First we had a look at the different ingredients and matched them to (my amazing) pictures and coloured them in the corresponding colour. Then we passed around each of the containers and tried each ingredient and talked about taste, texture and preference. Then we chose our bowls by colour and I scooped some ice-cream into everyone's bowls.

Then I asked how much of each ingredient they wanted- a big spoon (tablespoon), a little spoon (teaspoon) or none. As I spooned out their chosen amount of ingredients the kids coloured in either the big spoon, the little spoon or the cross.

Finally we mixed it all up together and ate it.

The reaction?

A resounding "yummy!"

And they each took home a bag of berries and their 'recipe' sheet to make it again for their parents.

A great idea, a great lesson and a great way to use up some more berries!

Wonder how many berry themed classes I can run...



I spent the weekend in Nagoya at an AFWJ meeting. K and the girls stayed back here and continued harvesting the wheat, organised and attended the 6:30am roadside cleanup and then at 7:30am headed off to play (K) and cheer on (M and A) the intra-village 'one-bound volleyball' tournament.

I got home and Meg cuddled me for a whole hour. Really.


K told me the girls had been great and even cheered him on at the volleyball:

"Go! Go! Okubo!"

"Daddy Ganbarre!"


And Meg had been fine without me except twice when she suddenly stopped whatever she was doing and said "Oh. Suddenly I'm getting sad. Daddy, I think I want to cry. Hic. Hic. I miss mummy... Hic. Hic."


And Amy?

She was too busy very carefully and precisely folding laundry with Daddy to cuddle me when I got home.



Is it just me?

There's a horrible something-curled-up-and-died smell in the stairwell.

Well, I think there is anyway.

No one else in the family can smell it.

Not K.

Not Meg.

Not even Amy.

I think I'm going mad.

Or I need to take the whole family to a nose doctor...


5:30am Saturday


clouds of agricultural chemicals...

Yup, come to the country for the fresh air, hey?



The wind and rain have finally stopped.

The two sheets of roofing that came off the chook cage didn't hit anything or take the rest of the cage with them.

The huge branch that came off the persimmon tree managed to miss the neighbour's shed, our shed, the grape vine and our pizza oven to land harmlessly on the lawn.

Not only did the amazingly well-endowed tomatoes survive the wind intact
Lucky! but-

They're finally ripening.

And the wheat that all fell over? Well we were able to continue harvesting when the sun came out this afternoon.

Hmmm. Nope. The putting a positive spin on everything thing isn't working. The rain sucks. The wind sucks and cleaning up after it all really sucks!


you've been warned...

On the local news we had a heavy rain and flood warning last night. I usually ignore these as we're half way up a mountain at about 950m elevation so by the time we need to worry about flooding half of you will be needing boats.

But about 8:00pm the inhouse PA system kicked in with a heavy rain and flood warning and strong winds. "Please ensure all crops are protected and all agricultural materials are secured. Remember, you will be held responsible for any damage caused by your agricultural material." While I like the idea of responsible farming I'm just not convinced city hall can tell who a uniform piece of black plastic belongs to from looking at it wrapped around someone else's car or front door. Hmmmm

The inhouse PA signals a higher level of warning though so I went out (in the rain) and checked all the tomato stakes were secure and the mini greenhouse had all its clips in place. Feeling very responsible I came in and spent the evening listening to the wild winds and pelting rain.

Woke up this morning to find:

The tomato house is a mess. Clips are broken, missing, the plastic is all twined up and the tomatoes are enjoying their freedom! (I'm not a fan of this house so I'm kind of happy the tomatoes get to soak up some fresh air and rain...)

The bush tomatoes have left the straight and narrow.

The corn is leaning drunkenly and more bush tomatoes fallen over.

The zucchinis are down and out.

The cucumbers are no longer reaching new heights...

And even the mystery boxes my neighbour has had on his roof for the last three years lost their lids. I went racing upstairs to finally see what on earth he keeps in his rooftop storage but no luck. There's another box inside there...

enough already

  • The wheat is rotting on the ground
  • I have three days worth of laundry in various stages of wetness and sourness and near dryness. Thanks to some very generous and incredibly infuriating help from K it is all mixed up and not on my incredible a dedicated hanger for each day wet season laundry survival system. Deep breath!
  • Meg and Amy can't manage the walk from the front door to the car without getting muddy, wet, saturated or all three. More washing...
  • The zucchinis are liquifying in a decidedly non zuppa di zucchine kind of way.
  • I'm the only person in the house without a weird skin disease going on. K has impetigo, M has mizuibo (Molluscum contagiosum- don't these things sound so much nastier in Latin?) A has Atopic dermatitis and an infected mosquito bite. I'm waiting to get gangrene or leprosy...
  • The weeds are taking over. Remember Day of the Triffids? I think a sequel is in the works right here...
  • There are bugs everywhere. If it crawls, flies, scurries or slimes it's decided to move in.
So yeah. Enough already. We've got enough rain. We've got more than enough rain. Bring on the sun!


Happy Tanabata

Tanabata is one of my favourite festivals here in Japan because it doesn't require driving 7 hours to spend it with the ILs or feeling guilty because we didn't drive 7 hours to spend it with the ILs, it doesn't require any fiddly fancy food, and it's just so romantic- star-crossed lovers travelling the length of the night sky to be together. Ahhhhhh. Although the chance of seeing the milky way during the rainy season? I think Nagano is onto something holding it a month later on the lunar calendar!

But, being that K is from Fukushima where they use the modern calendar, we celebrate in July. Every year we make a wish on Tanabata- hey, if two lovers can build the milky way, anyone's wish could come true! And I love the kids wishes as dictated to the teachers at kinder.

Amy's wish: 'when I grow up I want to be 6, too.' I think she mixed the word tanabata up with tanjokai (birthday celebration.) She knows Meg's turning 6 on her next birthday and wants to be 6, too. Poor kid. She hasn't quite grasped that she'll always be two years behind...

Meg's wish: 'I want to be rich.' Say what??! This one shocked the socks off her teacher and had me puzzled, too. She gets that money buys stuff and she has spent her toothfairy money and knows it's now gone but 'I want to be rich??' That's not quite what I was hoping for in instilling values... So I asked her about it:

What's your wish Meg?
I want to be rich.
Eh? What's rich mean?
It means you have lots of money.
Eh? Why do you want lots of money?
So I can go to Australia every Saturday...

Ahhhhh! I get it now. Every Saturday morning I ask the girls one thing they want to do today and at least once a month Meg's choice is 'I want to go to Australia and see Granny and Grandpa!' to which I always say we're going at Christmas and she retorts 'I want to go at Christmas and now.' and I say 'It takes a lot of money to go to Australia. Mummy and Daddy have to work hard so we can save our money to go.' Oops. Looks like that little talk worked rather too well, hey?

K's wish is invariably 'health and happiness for my family'.

And me? Hmmmm, I can't decide. I'm really rather happy with everything at the moment and the little things I do want somehow sound odd as wishes 'Double glazing for all my windows' or 'a lawnmower that wouldn't be sold at Toys-R-Us in any other country' sounds more like a shopping list than a wish doesn't it? I think I'll go with 'time to stop and smell the roses' and mean it literally and figuratively.

Happy Tanabata!

What's your wish?


a mystery

I was rooting around* under the apricot trees looking for overripe apricots to feed the chooks. It's like avian chocolate or something. Anyway it's a forest of butterbur under there and I looked up and saw:

an egg. A big brown egg sitting in the butterbur. After a moment of wild excitement that one of our brown chooks had faked her death and was living a new life on the wild side I remembered that we are very, very sure the brown chooks are dead. Foxes don't really do ambiguous. No need to call CSI even...

So where did the brown egg come from? Well, some of our neighbours have chooks too but I can't think of anyone with brown chooks...

I'm trying to work out how old it could be. Would an egg survive under snow? Wouldn't another animal eat it? It's a mystery. But I'm so happy that the escapee/ mystery/ wonder chook spent at least a little time in a really great chooky place to hangout- completely sheltered from prying eyes, lots of soft soil to scratch in and even the odd overripe apricot!

Meanwhile, Victoria can keep the legendary reclusive wild puma legend, I've got the mystery of the brown egg!

*Aussies- not rooting- rooting around. yeah, I know we get all giggly when someone says root but really, it's the perfect word for it. If you don't say root you're left with what? scrabble? hunt?


the weekend in pictures (again)

Too tired to write properly so it's a picture says a thousand words again:

We harvested the onions (brown and red) and garlic. Then we dried them in the back of the truck because a) it has a black mat in there and it's parked in full sun so it's a good place to dry stuff, b) it's easy to cover with a tarp in case of rain (and it did rain so well thought out us) and c) that's where they were when we got them home and we couldn't be bushed moving them!

We started harvesting our wheat. It's a big job- cut, bunch, tie, dry. Then we have to remove the wheat grains from the stems, then separate the wheat from the chaff (how often do you get to say that and mean it literally??) and then have it ground into flour. Phew... And what's Meg doing? She and Amy unravelled about 50m of the giant 800m roll of jute we were using and had a ball running around each other and getting tangled up. (The games are getting sillier and sillier. Note to self- need to get a new TV!!)

Rare bloggie sighting of K. He's trying to reel in the jute next to the drying wheat.

1/3 down, 2/3 to go....

Weirdly I've always wanted to do this. Make a garlic braid. And today I did. Although I think I'm probably lucky I married a Japanese guy and not an Italian one as it's pretty rough!

Little troopers. M and A were amazing today. We were out in the field by 10:00 and we didn't come in for dinner until after 7:00pm. We stopped for lunch and drove to two different farming shops but other than that they entertained themselves in the field all day. And at 7:00 when I called them for dinner they were squished into the same side of the swingset singing together. Ohhhh man you girls rock!

Dinner- beans and onions in tomatoes, pickled cabbage and cucumber, tuna/ corn/ mayonnaise, lettuce, soy pickled cucumber and miso pickled cucumber all served with rice. Lots of summertime staples for tea around here tonight!

Also did but didn't picture: hacked a path through the jungle beside the house, picked and jammed another kilo of raspberries, picked and jammed a kilo of apricots, got the trenches built and bought the materials to extend the chook cage and split and stacked some wood. Probably not that much of a mystery that we're both exhausted, hey?


Dear future grandchildren, it's true

I know I've blogged about this before but I really think we are giving the girls the kind of upbringing they will be able to use for many years worth of 'You think you've got it hard? When I was young...' ammunition on their children.

So, future grandchildren:

Yes. It's true. You have it lucky. Your mummies really did used to spend their weekends as free child labour, weeding and hoeing and pulling garlic and onions:

in the dust and the heat- M has pulled her hat off to show off the sweat- without so much as a DS or PS or any other S to entertain them.

And some days, when they were finished hoeing and digging and tramping and harvesting, they were given a cup and told they could collect all the somethings they could find.

Not blueberries

or strawberries

or blackberries, or raspberries or mulberries.

Not peas or beans or okra or baby carrots.

Look closely.....:

That's right- caterpillars!

So, future grandchildren, mind you do as you're asked or you might be sent to stay at Granny Heather's for a 'holiday'. Plenty more caterpillars where they came from!

We collected all the cabbage moth caterpillars off the cabbages and brought them home and fed them to the chooks. You know, cycle of life and all that...*

Don't you think Amy looks like she is trying out for Oliver Twist?

"Please sir, can I have some more? All m'lady gives me is caterpillars, and scant few at that."

*Attention WWF/ RSPCA/Save the Children/ Matsumoto Child Welfare Centre: Amy lets at least half her caterpillars run away so it's pretty much the same odds as being eaten by a bird I think. And STC/ MCWC? We don't really use them as child labour- we just don't have a working TV and we told them gardening was fun...


RIP crook chook

Two days ago one of the hens got depressed. (Yes, I can tell, it's a chick thing. punny?)

Yesterday she was lethargic.

Today she was lopsided and getting walked all over. Literally.

So she came inside and spent the day in a box:

Next to my babysitting charge:

Yup, I'm babysitting the chick neighbour A found on the road and rescued. With my luck I spent the day feeding on peeping demand a baby crow or something. Who knows. I tried telling neighbour A that I don't think fancy department store bread soaked in milk is typical baby bird food and don't get her hopes up.

But totally crappy luck the bloody bird is still peeping away, is practising flying and entertaining the girls 'Mummy! it HOPPED!!!' and has eaten an entire slice of fancy bread.

And my poor beautiful chook? She didn't make it. I spent all my free time today (in between three classes in three different towns) mixing up magic chooky potion: hard boiled egg yolk, yoghurt, grated apple, oatmeal and a drop of honey and she was really looking better and then after dinner Amy was talking to her, well actually yelling at her 'Get better NOW please!' when she had a convulsion and just died. I think I get amazingly truthful mummy points for not telling A it was the yelling that did it. Passed up the opportunity for a quiet life in the name of honesty... Saint me now...

I have been reading about chook diseases all evening and it could be half a dozen dire diseases and then it could be nothing at all- just one of those things....

It's times like these I know I'm not a real farmer 'cause this stuff makes me sad...

RIP crook chook. Hope you're top of the pecking order and surrounded by all the scratchable weed filled ground your little heart could desire.


I'm as blue as a girl can be

Sorry, I love Cher and especially Walking in Memphis.

I've got about as much chance of ever being able to sing like that as I have of ever getting into the ribbons and fishnet "turn back time" outfit so this is about a different kind of blue:

Blueberries of course!

I'm kind of over jam at the moment, and I've bought so much sugar in the last month I'm sure the local supermarket is spreading the word that it's true- foreigners really do eat truckloads of sugar. Pah, whatever! Anyway, we are eating the blueberries fresh at the moment and I think I'll do blueberry muffins tomorrow.

The girls made berry rainbows in their drink bottles and were quite chuffed with themselves.

And just to prove that we don't just eat jam- cucumber pickles 5 ways: from the front: in miso, in soy sauce, in sweet vinegar with onion and pickling spices (thanks K!), in instant asatsuke pickling salt and in pickled plum juice. I am trying out a whole variety of pickle recipes as I love the sweet vinegar pickles but Ken is a salt or nothing kind of guy so we're trying to find common ground. Today's results? Hmmmm, maybe we agree on the soy pickles but back to the drawing board tomorrow. Lucky we're getting 6 or 7 cucumbers a day, hey?


in the red

We have a terrible problem at the moment.

We're really struggling.

It's not the economy.

Not the rainy season- although that is pretty gloom inducing.

Not our health- well not yet anyway.

We're drowning in raspberries.

The girls are loving it:
I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture but they're out there picking raspberries in the rain- and eating them straight off the vine.

When they do make it inside:
it's raspberries (and a few pilfered blueberries Amy...) for snack time.

raspberry jam (of course!)

And still more raspberries!

Meg and Amy don't weigh their loot but I've picked over 2 kilos so far and there's still so many more to pick...

So spare a thought for us in these hard times....