rock and roll

Today was Matsumoto's turn to get the shakes.

We made the news and everything.

(No tsunami warning. That's certainly a relief considering we are a landlocked prefecture!)

It started last night really but that was just a little tremor and those aren't unknown around here.

But this morning was more than a tremor. It was a real shaker. I was in my paddy pants, t-shirt, messy bed hair and sandals drinking coffee with neighbour A in her nightie. We were leaning against a garden bed under her carport catching up.

Everything started shaking and rattling and the electricity wires were waving around wildly. We decided it was best to head home and get dressed just incase!

On the way home I ran into two neighbours. Mrs N was walking her dog and had only heard of the quake when her son called to ask if she was ok. Didn't feel a thing. Mrs K. had come out of her house to stand on the road and see what damage there was. A couple of plates and cups had fallen down but that was it.

We all went on our way thinking not much had happened. I answered lots of calls and texts from concerned family and friends (love you all!) and by the time I got inside to turn on the news it had moved on and there wasn't even a scrolling info bar so I assumed it had been nothing and fed the animals, picked some herbs, got changed and headed off to teach my cooking class. I was just about there when the boss called. The community centre's gas detector had gone off and they couldn't use the gas until it was checked. We could use the room if we wanted but no gas. Funnily enough a gas-less cooking class wasn't really going to work so we cancelled the class. As I was driving through the south of the city on my way to work I noticed some gravestones tumbled down, a concrete fence that had fallen onto the street, some facing from a couple of buildings were splattered on the ground outside the shops etc. I was feeling a bit more nervous now. The SDF helicopter flew overhead heading further south still and emergency sirens were going off all around.

But then I work just down the road from the University hospital and not that far form a fire brigade so really emergency vehicles are nothing out of the ordinary. Unless you're nervous that is. Then everything takes on extra significance!

There were three more tremors throughout the day. Not as big as the early morning one but enough to make you feel uneasy. (Who am I kidding? ALL earthquakes make me uneasy!!)

Went to pick up the girls and they both had notices about the earthquake. The kinder had also registered a gas leak and they hadn't been able to have a hot lunch. They had cold corn soup, canned tuna, the rice they bring from home and water rather than barley tea for lunch. Amy was rather impressed with the cold corn soup but the teachers were very apologetic. Oh and the note? If there is a Shindo 6 (about Magnitude 5.8??) or higher earthquake we are to automatically come and get our kids from the kinder without waiting for the phone tree. I understand them not wanting to look after 210 freaked out kids in a possibly structurally unsound building but I really doubt many of us would be able to get there. All those bridges between Matsumoto and Azusagawa... the 40 minute drive with possible cracks in the road? I smiled and said I'd do my best.

Meg's day? She had been in the morning class meeting (pre-first lesson, kind of like homeroom) when the earthquake occurred. They all dove under their desks and waited until they were given the ok to get out. How did they know when to get out? The teacher told them to. How did he know? .... Was there a PA announcement? No. Did the teacher turn the classroom tv on to check the news? No. Guess it must be some kind of Japanese DNA earthquake ESP thing then, huh?

And the note Meg brought home said don't come to school to get your kid after an earthquake, don't call the school (with 816 kids and I am guessing only one phoneline -we are only given one contact number- the school is very anti-phone. There is pretty much nothing you are asked to phone them about- sick? send a note with another kid, want to talk to the teacher? write a note, change of plans for after school? write a note etc etc) all the kids will be kept at school until a plan is organised. If they need to be sent home the phone tree will be used. Students will be kept at the school until their parents are able to get there. Please don't rush and take care. Observe parking restrictions at all times.

This will be fun. In case of a large earthquake (and they predict a 50% chance of another Shindo 5+ in the next week) I will drive right past Meg's school without even pausing on my way to pick up Amy. Bizarre.

It was a pretty unsettling day but the girls were fine with it all (those monthly evacuation drills do wonders to normalise these situations) and it was heartwarming to receive so many nice emails.

Though I'm not quite panicky enough to take up MIL's offer of coming and staying in Fukushima for a while till things calm down....

Here's to quiet living!


ducky update in pictures

The rice paddy with the reflection of the mountains in it.

The rice paddy with the duck house and inner sanctum.

Here they are!

Up close and personal. They are about three times the size they were when we got them. Still all baby fluff with just their tail feathers finally coming in. They are adorable and today I heard the first non-peep sound. It wasn't quite a proper quack but it was definitely more quack than peep. Pwack maybe?

We still haven't had a single predator issue (touch every piece of wood in Nagano!) which is a big relief and makes me quite proud of all the work we all put into all those security measures!


Things that seemed like a good idea at the time...

It was so hot I bought Meg a frozen yoghurt to eat as an afternoon snack in the car.

She loved it!

Well, what she ate of it. The bits that didn't melt and run and drip and stick everywhere....

Ms Super organised me decided to get all my stuff for the whole day organised before I left the house. So into the car went my gym clothes, my school stuff, the bucket of duck food (grains), a bag of stale bread for the ducks and spare sneakers for Amy as we were going to dance class after kinder and recently they have been doing water play so she comes home in sodden shoes. Sooooo organised.

By 3:30pm when I got back in the car I just about passed out. The combination of a hot day, sweat soaked gym clothes, gobo bread and curry bread, Amy's ripe sneakers and even the rice bran in the duck food was overwhelming! Organised but crazy, huh?

The other day when I lost my sandal in the mud in the rice paddy? And I decided to just leave it and get it when it wasn't gloamingly dark, when I wasn't completely peed off with everything, when I wasn't soaked to the knees etc etc?

Well the sandal is now AWOL. Either the ducks ate it (it was green....) it was taken by a predator (it was green?) or it is buried so deep in the mud it has become part of the landscape. darn it, darn, it, darn it!!

From now on when I have a good idea I am going to do the exact opposite!


most days

I really enjoy reading the 'somedays' posts Lulu started. Today I had a doozy so thought I'd do my own only I'm in more of a moany mood than that so I am doing a 'most days' post.

Most days I think the rainy season is pretty great. Thanks to the rainy season I don't have to water my plants, everything is green and beautiful, we never have water shortages or restrictions, and unlike winter rain, wet season rain is warm and doesn't even bother me if I get wet.

Some days, like today, the rainy season bugs the hell out of me. It's rainy, then steamy then cloudy then sunny then rainy. I bake then boil then bake then slosh around drenched in a sudden downpour. You wait for a sunny patch to go out only to have the heavens open just as you step outside.

Most days I love that I live in a place where the neighbours look out for each other and stop for a chat and a comment on the weather and the crop.

Some days, like today, I am completely jack of all my neighbours. A one hour job took more than three as I had a long conversation about ducklings with Mr N, a frustrating conversation about rice varieties peppered with random English but no self-introduction with someone who farms next door to us, and another talk about weeds and how fast they grow and which ones you can eat with Mrs N. I need a 'do not disturb' sign on my ninja-granny gardening hat.

Most days I love gardening, I love watching things grow and tending to them and eating what I grow and it's all so green and beautiful and calming.

Some days, like today, the weeds get to me, the snails get to me, the caterpillars and aphids get to me, the way the weeds grow twice as fast as the plants get to me, the way nature is always just one step away from reclaiming the whole garden as a massive jungle definitely gets to me and I am over eating snow peas. I don't even want to look at another snow pea and I have no idea why I planted 20 of the bloody things!

Most days I love having animals in our life. I love the eggs and the weed eating capabilities of course but I just love having them around. They are cute and inquisitive and friendly and just fun to hang out with.

Some days, like today, the chickens escape and poop on Meg's sneakers. There are three pairs of work boots, four pairs of gumboots and three pairs of easily washed fake crocs in the genkan- and that's just K's and my shoes. So why do the bloody chickens choose Meg's pink sneakers to poop on??? Meg who acts like she is in a fatal death throw just driving past a dairy. Who squeals if a caterpillar poops on her??

And the chooks who have spent the last month happily free ranging in the garden with me without even being curious as to what's beyond our borders have a sudden and all consuming obsession with the neighbours apple orchard. The neighbour's post spray apple orchard. Equal parts worried they will annoy the neighbours and eat a literal poison apple.

And the ducklings who were so good about bedtime suddenly hit the teenage years and decide they are going to party all night. Bloody crazy, stupid, naughty, insomniac ducklings. Two freaking hours tramping around in the dark, in the rain, in the knee deep water and mud trying to convince increasingly excited ducklings that it is way past bedtime is not my idea of a great way to spend the evening. Gave up in disgust and came home and called K. You'll have to try it on the way home from work. I'm done. The girls are tired. It's past bedtime and at the moment I'm passed caring. Bon Appetit little fox. Of course when K did his drive by an hour later they were all tucked up in their crate asleep and all he had to do was waltz up and close the door. All of a two minute job. Bloody ducklings! Of course I was instantly relieved that they were safe from foxes now, too. And then that annoyed me.

Just writing it down makes me feel much less irritated already! These someday posts are great. Here's hoping tomorrow is a most days day and not a someday one!


family day out

We headed down to see K's oldest younger sister (elder younger sister?) and her family. They live between Nagoya and the sea. It was a beautiful area and their housing development is surrounded by grape farms (are they still called vineyards if they're for eating not wine?) and rice paddies, so lots of green and I'm sure Meg and Amy's little cousin will have plenty of fun finding critters in the paddies!

Cousin Kazu is just gorgeous. The girls were really excited to meet their cousin again as due to distance and lifestyles we don't meet up with the cousins very often.

How often?

Well, when we arrived and they came out to meet us Amy did a double take.

Where's Kazu?

?? That's Kazu, honey. (Who else would it be???)

But Kazu is a baby!

Oh honey, he grew up!

Poor Amy. Last time we saw Kazu he was three weeks old. He is going to be two in August..... Note to self, make more of an effort to see cousins! The kids got used to each other pretty quickly and while Meg was more interested in playing tomicars and playrail Amy was enamoured with being the big girl to Kazu's little boy. She held his hand and played really gently and helped him wash his hands and just had a ball. Kazu is going through a "no" stage and a "by myself" stage at the same time but had a ball copying Amy and Meg and expanded his vocabulary to include "yummy" and "my turn!" BIL was quite chuffed that he picked up not one but two English words in just a weekend.

On the way home they showed us their local beach. Living in landlocked Nagano the beach is pretty special for us. But at the same time when we visit my parents the beach is literally over the road. So the idea of getting in the car to go to the beach was confusing for the girls. And they moaned all the way (a whole 10 minute drive) "You said the beach was close. This isn't close. Granny's house is close to the beach. This is far!"

It was a really nice beach (despite being between the airport and a factory laden port) and I commented on the clean yellow sand.

"Oh, that's not natural- they truck it in."

Wow. I didn't know they did that- must cost a bomb and their must be a big hole in a beach somewhere but it sure made for a nice beach experience!

I hope we can see each other again before Kazu starts school!


oops- sorry!

I had my first manicure yesterday.

Always thought it was just someone else putting nail polish on you and- hey- I can do that. when i have the time... and remember where the nail polish is.... and it's not too old to be useful anymore... you know, the usual.

But one of my students is studying to be qualified as a nail artist and asked if she could practice on me.

At first I just laughed and showed her my hands.

My beat up, perma-dirted, broken-nailed, grass-stained, poor mistreated hands.

She didn't even blink and said no problem.


So, after checking for the best way to get dirt out from under my nails- a cotton wool wrapped cuticle tip (it's not that I don't wash my hands but that all that digging pushes the skin on the underside of my nails down further than it should be. Makes for artificially long nails, tender fingertips and dirt way down below where the scrubbing brush can reach.) she went ahead and did the manicure.

Wow. It was all about massages and finger baths and cuticle care and when we finally got to the polish I was feeling so glam!

Friday night I was so careful with my new pretty nails. Picked weeds only by their very tops so I was nowhere near anything remotely dirty, changed the chook water without using my hands to demuck the container etc etc.

Today started off the same but then I found some nice groundcover weeds the ducks like... and I picked them without thinking... then I dropped the stick I was using to transplant lettuce seedlings and automatically reverted to poking holes in the ground with my index fingers... and... and... and...

Sorry K-san!!! I feel so guilty. They were so beautiful and now..... well, they are less beautiful but they still make me feel beautiful so thank you!


something for everyone

Amy got sent home from kinder early. I got a phonecall from her teacher at 9:57.

"Amy has a rash all over her arms and starting on her face. Ringo-byo (apple sickness, sounds much nicer than the English- slapped cheek disease) is going through her class at the moment. Can you come and get her?"

"Oh no! Is she ok?"

"She has no fever and is happy."

"Ummm... my 10:00 class is already here. Can I come and get her after that?"

"Sure. We are about to go and watch a puppet play. Take your time."

eehhhhh? She is sick enough to need to come home early but well enough to go and watch a puppet play in a gym full of kids?

"Ummm, ok. Thanks."

So I taught my class and went and got Amy. Amy who was standing in the corridor with her hat and bag on and checking out the lunch trolley. Promised her she could have a bento from 7-11 and turned her frown upside down.

As we were leaving I thanked the principal for her consideration about my work.

"No problem. In fact, take her to the doctor and get a diagnosis and then you can bring her straight back if you want!"

"Ehhh? You just need a doctor's note?"

"No, no, no. Just a diagnosis."

What the??? What kind of illness is this bloody slapped apple thing?

So, after a trip home for her healthcare card we headed to the local clinic. It's an odd place. It was started with village money to provide the locals with a clinic. It's a general clinic, closest thing to a GP I've seen here. It caters to kids, adults, the elderly and everyone in between. It did so well it branched out and there's now a live in old people's home, an old peoples respite care centre, old people's day care centre and sick kids day care. Wow. A real one stop medical care shop, huh?

So, Amy and I went in with no appointment, a contagious disease, a violent red rash and her kinder hat on. The waiting room was full of people ranging in age from the merely old to the ancient. Had to nudge Amy to get her to walk past a seriously ancient woman propped at 45 degrees in a wheel chair with her eyes rolled back and her mouth permanently open. Staring was rude but not completely incomprehensible!

We checked in and were ushered into the corridor to wait. Then from there to a separate waiting room in a different arm of the all-purpose clinic altogether.

Walking in something seemed a little different. It was the bejewelled mirrors... the pink sofa... the array of fashion and celebrity magazines. Quite a change from the generic prints, beige sofas and pamphlets on hearing and mobility aids in the main waiting room.

Amy picked up a magazine and started critiquing celebrity fashion (we like JLo and the blonde from Gossip Girl, not keen on Miley Cyrus and Hilary Swank.) I had another look at the magazines and noticed how many of them were about plastic surgery.... with post-it notes sticking out the top. Curiosity and all that I opened one and it had highlighted sections with little notes 'our price from 50,000 yen'

Wow.... the entrepreneurial multi-purpose all things to all people local clinic does plastic surgery as well! Yup, botox, collagen, eyelid surgery, chemical peals, nose jobs- quite a few procedures.

So now you can drop granny off for daycare, visit grandpa in the residential unit, take your kid to sick daycare, drop the husband in to get his stomach ulcer medicine and take care of your wrinkles at the same time!

Who said you miss out on the conveniences living in the country, huh?


Meg's new boyfriend

Poor Kensuke....


He's taking it well.

Probably helps that I don't think he realised how far along the wedding plans had progressed.

But he's yesterday's news.

Kensuke who?

He's been replaced.

The new guy is Takayuki-kun.

He makes great clover chains.

He listens to her endless rambling.

She knows his birthday, where he was born and his favourite colour.

He wants to be a builder when he grows up.

Which won't be too long.

See, he's already started his apprenticeship.

Takayuki's in his early 20s.

This isn't putting Meg off at all though.

She is all Takayuki-kun this and Takayuki-kun that.



Not so much.


aghhhhh! art...

Piece of art I created on the kitchen floor tonight.

No sudden desire to draw a still life 'yoghurt container with potato'

No musings or ponderings on the beauty of the tuber.

No whimsical portrait of the play of light and shade created by hideous you-could-operate-in-here fluorescent globes on linoleum floor.


I call it aggghhhhhh! art. Or princess art.

The girls were asleep, K was still at work and I went into the kitchen to put the yoghurt container in the wash (now you know my shocking secret- I eat the last of the yoghurt straight form the tub. With cinnamon though, much classier and all that). Anyway, it's that season again and those bugs are out and about and I am really, really not a fan of those bugs.

I startled it.

It startled me.

It froze.

I froze.

We had a real standoff going. Not sure what it was thinking but I was thinking- I need K, I need ESP to call K, I need something to whack with- nooooooo, can't do that... poor yucky bug, and what if it escaped and got vengeful??? Poor me! Aghhhh, what to do, what to do.... So, I did what every hardy country woman does, the kind who faces down snakes (another one today- rat python this time), chops her own firewood, squashes caterpillars with her bare hands without blinking, manhandles chooks and de-poops the hen-house etc etc, that kind of country woman. Yup, I covered it with a yoghurt container and weighted it down with a potato to await K's return.

And I sat around waiting for its mate to come an attack me. You know, like the snake's partner did in that bloody depressing book by Bryce Courtenay... Jessica.

In between listening carefully for scurry on plastic sounds to make sure it was still inside there and searching all the corners of the kitchen for a riled up lover-bug I was actually feeling quite proud of myself.

I am getting so brave.

Last time this happened (two years ago- thank goodness I live in a relatively bug free place!) I covered it with an upended cup and duct taped it all the way around. Twice. And then spent the next three days skittishly skirting around it until K got home form his business trip.

See? Huge progress!


for mum

The dresses arrived, they are not only not too small they're even roomy and the girls love them!

Now we've just got to work on acting as cute as the dresses look... don't hold your breath!


the chicks- one two three

one day old:

two weeks old:

three weeks old:

I'm afraid they've hit the ugly duckling stage. They're a mess of baby fluff and over size wings and adult feathers and shrunken looking heads as their combs haven't come in yet and they're all mottled half their chick colour and half their adult colour and they spend a lot of time trying out their wings with dodgy take off, steering and landing skills but we love them anyway!


a sunday to follow saturday

Well, after a less than sunshiney Saturday mood wise I decided Sunday would be something different. The girls wanted to go to the city. Meg wanted to eat a hamburger from 'the M shop' and Amy needed some new shoes (again!) and we were on the look out for Lego people as MIL handed down K's old lego set (Out of respect for K I won't tell you how many decades she has had them in storage in her compact Japanese house but trust me the woman is amazing!) but it's all construction vehicles and only has one person in it so I thought we'd buy a booster set to add to it. Oh and they both need some new spats and I have a starbucks gift card I wanted to use so that sounded like a good outing to the city, yeah?

Well it started well, dawn again and the shops still weren't open. Told the girls to go for their lives and wear any clothes they wanted to (a gardening/ rice paddy weekend I usually veto anything new, white or dresses) and they did. Meg wore a bright yellow dress covered in rainbow dolphins. I think it's supposed to be ankle length and baggy but it didn't look that bad with a fitted bodice and just below knee length. She accessorised with a pink hair band and a yellow Hamutaro bag (hankie, tissues, hair tie, hair clip and a wet face washer in a ziplock bag- that's my girl!) and yellow crocs. She was very proud when I pointed out that she matched 'I thought about that when I chose everything!'

Amy now...... my dear sartorially challenged Amy.... she grabbed a pair of rainbow leggings she's had since she was two. Two! They have made the trip to the bin and back on numerous occasions but she loves them... I talked her out of the leggings and she swapped for yellow knicker-hider pants. No problem. Under a skirt or dress that is. On their own with a t-shirt? Ummmmmm...... After going through every pair of pants she has in her cupboard to vigorous head shaking I clicked on the one sure thing that would get her to change-

"Do you want to borrow something from Meg?"
"Sure. That's ok isn't it Meg?"
"I don't mind."

Meg is so easygoing sometimes I have to be careful I don't take advantage of her good heart.

So, dressed (finally!) we headed into the city. Well, only Matsumoto but that is city enough for me. Now, I tolerate driving. Don't hate it but definitely don't love it. Accept it as a necessary evil to live the life I do in the place I do. That's driving in the country though. Driving in the city is surely the seventh level of hell. Stop, start, stop, start. Lane changes and right hand turns and traffic lights and cyclists running the lights and all those people and all those cars and arghhhhhh!!! So I had pre-planned our route for: least congested approach, best (spacious, free) parking and planned attack on walkable shops- with appropriate rest/ refreshment/ bribery stops. This plan was pure genius! Seriously great planning. Only two small oversights:

the sun and

1000 yen.

The sun wasn't the one in the sky but the one on NHK. The morning drama. Ohisama. It's set in this area. It's watched by millions of retirees with a sacredness verging on the religious. The morning drama has a reputation for turning random spots in Japan into the latest silver set must see tourist attraction. Dang it, the roads were chokka block with cars from prefectures in every direction. At last 2/3 of them plastered with senior driver stickers. Gahhhhhh!!!! Hate senior drivers anyway but out of towner senior drivers doing drive-by tourism are the pits.

The 1000 yen? Well this Sunday just happens to be the last day of the sweet government discount deal on the toll roads. No more 1000 yen all you can drive deals. Seems a few people decided they would make one last trip. And hey honey, how about Matsumoto? We could check out the locations for ohisama and swing by the castle at the same time?

My ingenious route took us past two sides of the castle. That would be the side with the car park and the side with the secondary carpark. Both of which were full. Full with lines waiting to get in. I know I've mentioned that peculiarity of castle towns- the narrow and winding roads? Yeah, not really conducive to overtaking parked cars....

Now Amy shares my lack of passion for driving only in her case it's being driven. As soon as the car stopped despite the light being green she started telling me 'green means go'. When I pointed out that I couldn't as the car in front of me hadn't gone yet she wanted me to beep the horn. Oops. Don't think she learnt that one from daddy.....

In an effort to distract her I pointed out the Chevrolet next to us with a backseat tv monitor bigger than our home tv. Bad idea. Monumental discussion on all the things wrong with our car and why I should add a left hand drive Chevvy to the shopping list. The fact they aren't available in Matsumoto wasn't a good excuse apparently.

Finally arrived in the huge, ginormous parking lot. So big it has all 12 of the Chinese Zodiac signs there up on signs to help you find your car. I have never been there when it's more than half full.

I have never been there on a weekend either.

Now I have ticked off both!

It was full. 100% full. Full with cars trawling around looking for people who might be getting ready to leave. Oh happy day, my favourite parking environment!

Finally parked and got both girls safely across the acres of carpark to the mall. phew. Felt like I was playing frogger with two random tadpoles! We hadn't got 100m though when Amy complained her shoes hurt. She was wearing cute little strappy leather shoes. Without socks. A size too small.... dang it, forgot the Amy shoe check. Necessary on all outings to make sure Amy is wearing shoes at all (not necessarily a given) and that they are purpose and season appropriate.

Ahhhhh loving today already!

After that a break ridden walk to starbucks and losing one then the other then the first one then the other again in the attached bookshop was a breeze! Ended up forgetting to use my gift card afterall but hey- that's not a minus it's a plus. I will just have to go again. Alone next time. On a weekday!

Walked back to the mall with even more mini breaks for Amy's fetto search out Lego people. Nothing. Zilch. I guess Matsumoto kids are more into pink character goods (two rows) or hero character goods (two rows) than Lego (one row end and half duplo)

Meg was disappointed.

Amy was missing.

Panicky 5 minutes searching and calling out and looking over and under masses of people and ruing Amy changing from hot yellow hot pants to run of the mill grey spats and I found her on the floor looking at a dolls house.

"I was looking for you! I was worried!!"
"Hnnn? I was here."

Turned around and realised I'd lost Meg.

Oh happy day! I really don't enjoy shopping under any circumstances. With these two in tow? Aghhhh!

With Amy's hand in a vice grip tracked Meg down (in the pink character aisle. She was just checking Amy wasn't there. You know, hiding behind a pink pencil case or under a pink drink bottle or something you know...

Had enough shopping we headed to the M shop for a happy meal.

Good lord!!! The line was out the shop and around the corner.

"Whoa... look at all these people. They'll be waiting ages for their lunch.... Hey guys! Let's go and have an anpanman lunch at Gusto instead!"


So we joined the hoards lining up for a hamburger, fries and the latest faddy toy. Seems we had arrived on day two of the new toy and a special wifi link up, too. Hence the hoardes...

Oh well, the girls loved their hamburgers and carefully put their pokemon plastic products in their bags.

The rest of the shopping trip was supposed to be a trip to the park on the other side of the city. But I had a headache, I was tired, I wanted to go home and eat a vegetable- any vegetable- and I really wasn't up to more traffic so I did some mummy magic/ bribery and bought two water squirters and waited for them to suggest we went home to try them out. Hehehe... Cunning as a fox, eh?

Got home, changed into my gardening pants, grabbed the wading pool and filled it up and breathed in the silence, the green, the fresh air, the nature, the lack of hustle and bustle and the peace that is our front yard. Ahhhhhh Sunday is getting better already!


Saturday bloody Saturday

I was really looking forward to this weekend. It's been a big week and I was imagining a bit of a slow morning, a family clean up and then hey, why don't we even go out and get some ramen for lunch?

Instead K got a call Friday morning that his father's oldest brother had passed away. He is quite old and has been ill for a number of years so it wasn't a surprise but it is of course still sad. As the oldest son K went to represent his sisters and us and all our families. He left Friday night after work.

So Saturday dawned bright and early (you know, 5am...) with just me and the girls. And the girls were antsy and wanted to go to the park, have a picnic, make pancakes, go shopping, go for a bike ride and make something with clay and they wanted to do it all now. Me? I wanted to go back to sleep for at least a couple of hours but no-one else was into that or watching a dvd while mummy slept so up and at-em it was.

Unfortunately Amy was tired from a big week at kinder and far too many 5am starts, so by 9am she was ready for a nap. But not even going to contemplate it. On being told that the shops weren't even open yet 'But I've been up for ages!' 'That's because you woke up so early, honey.' 'No! Let's go!' And she walked out and started off down the hill to go shopping. About a 5km walk and a part of me was quite happy at the peace and quiet but you know she's an un-street-wise 5 year old and she has the determination to follow through on her wants and I have no doubt she would try and walk the whole distance so I sighed and grabbed Meg and we went to find her. She was powering down the mountain arms pumping and cursing up a storm. Delightful!

Convinced her sassy butt back up the mountain and inside the house where she proceeded to stomp around like she was in lead boots while Meg despaired at her lack of wardrobe options- the kid has mountains of clothes but apparently nothing that's just right.

I needed to finish up the rice re-planting (filling in the gaps where rice didn't do well) so I grabbed the pavement chalk, skipping ropes, water bottles, hats, teddy bears and picnic sheets and used snacks as a bribe to get the girls down to the rice paddy. Bad mummy moment but needs must. It actually worked out quite well and they drew a massive long rocket the length of the side road with different rooms including a red room that instantly warmed you and a blue room that instantly cooled you and a curry room where there was a bottomless pot of curry and rice. The rice planting went less well as the water is so deep I can't tell if the rice is there or not so had to keep doing search and recovery missions before I planted. Oh and I slipped over not once but twice. Yeah, the fun.

Manhandled the girls home for a shower, lunch (one hot ham and cheese with salad and one cold ham and cheese with soup) and got ready to take them to work with me.

We don't want to go.

I have to go.

We'll stay home.


Armed with crayons and pencils and the promise that they could draw on the chalkboard at work we set off. Amy spent the drive telling neighbour A (who comes to class with me) all the reasons why I should move out. Damn near took her up on the offer! The girls came to work with me last week too as K was busy. The students love having them there and they come seldom enough that it is usually pretty exciting for them and everything works out. Two weeks in a row was pushing it though and Meg wanted to go into the next room where they were doing songs she knew on the Ocarina while Amy kept running downstairs and outside to see the turtles in the pond down there. I'm pretty sure it's not too deep but the idea of a pond scummy, dripping wet and smelly Amy to contend with wasn't helping me keep my mind on the teaching!

It started pouring rain while I was teaching and continued all afternoon. Got the girls and my tea- spaghetti bolognaise- to find out that I had told Meg we were having pasta and apparently that means short pasta and not spaghetti so I had lied. And that is unforgivable. Amy ate her spag bog, Meg was pacified with meat sauce and cheese on top and no pasta product of any length and I bundled them into the car to go and feed the ducks. A 2 minute trip where you put the feed trays down and shut the gate. Easy peasy.

Only I decided to clear out their bedding and didn't shut the gate first and 7 ducklings escaped. Grrrrrr!!!! A 20 minute farce ensued as I tried to get the 7 runaways back in while keeping the rest of the flock from getting out and not get too wet myself in the process. Of course this is the exact moment two neighbours drop by to see the ducklings.... Oh well, in the end I had them clap their hands to shoo the ducks back my way and I got the gate closed. Certainly didn't make duck-keeping look as fun and easy as I was boasting it was....

Back in the car to peeved kids 'you promised you'd only be 5 minutes!!!' Lied again. Back home for bath and pjs and back into the car to go and shut the door on the duck house. Thankfully it really was only a 2 minute job only I lost my sandal somewhere in the mud. Stupid really as I always take them off and go in barefeet but I had a headache, was tired and stressed with the whole wonderful Saturday and just didn't think. Too dark to see anything in the muddy water so dejectedly hobbled back to the car with one sandal on.

The girls were so tired they went to sleep quite quickly which was the only highlight of the day that was Saturday bloody Saturday. And the worst bit? You can't even really complain about a crappy day to someone who has driven 7+ hours to go to a funeral, huh?


stare-worthy shopping basket

Creature of habit that I am I shop at the same supermarket on the same day at roughly the same time each week. I take the same shopping bags and buy the same staples (7 litres of milk, three packs of soba, two of udon, yoghurt, ham, bacon, chicken breasts, fish etc etc) and even go through the same checker's register- over the last five years we've got to know each other in 15 minute a week bursts. She's Korean, married and with a JHS daughter who likes English. Her sister married an Aussie and lives in Australia.

Shopping day is Thursday.

But today K suddenly found himself with plans to go to Fukushima and see his parents. Fukushima that is still under a literal and metaphorical radiation cloud. MIL called and asked me to send her up a box of veggies. Any leaf veggie. Anything we have in the garden whatsoever and as much as we could spare.

Gardening season is underway and at the moment we have heaps of swiss chard, cos lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, snow peas, kale and parsley. This is pretty good for this time of year around here. Unfortunately MIL would only know what to do with the snow peas and even then she prefers them immature- before they get peas in them- and I like them with peas so there's not a lot to send up. Knowing that she loves butterbur and that we have plans to weedwhack the whole plot of the stuff I collected up a big armful of that and tied it up and then headed to my favourite supermarket to stock up for her.

MIL has a (albeit sometimes misdirected) heart of gold and I knew she would want enough to share with friends, neighbours, and friends of neighbours and neighbours of friends etc etc so I bought:
3 huge wong bok/ hakusai
3 bags of eggplants
7 bags of bok choy/ chingensai
3 cabbages
4 bags of komatsuna

The three hakusai alone filled to overflowing my first shopping basket. By the time I added a bag of chocolates, two bags of senbei and 4 cans of coffee for K to make his after work 6 hour dash up the highway it was a stare-worthy haul indeed. And stare people did. My usual weekly shop with a week's worth of meat and all that milk gets a couple of second glances and I just smile and nod and keep on shopping but today even I admit it looked a little odd- were we keeping 10 rabbits?

Get to my register operator and she does a double take and says how nice it is to see me twice in the one week (ooohhh love her!) and then she bats me on the arm and admonishes 'Did you have a party?'

I was a bit taken aback. Huh? A party? Why did she think that? Are we really at the stage that she would be offended if I didn't invite her to a party that I didn't even have??

A party?

Yes! You were in here yesterday and bought all that food and then you're here today with all this food more!

Oh! No. No party. My husband is going to see his parents in Fukushima tonight.


The very word "Fukushima" has the power to kill conversations at the moment.

Araa! That's tough. Your husband is a good son.

Thank you.

And I walked out with my overfilled shopping baskets to a few more stares.


the rice chronicles part 13- a day in the life of the ducks

6:00ish- wake-up. Someone opens the door to the duck hut and they run out like it's on fire. It's time to get the day underway. The door to the hut becomes a ramp for them to get in and out.

The door between the inner enclosure and the greater rice paddy is also opened. The ducks spend the day paddle-gobbling and gobble-paddling and waddle-muddling around the paddy. They eat weeds and their little legs going helter skelter around the place kicks up the mud which stops weeds from growing as well.

The ducklings in the big wide paddy. They ran to the fence when I approached so of course I threw some grass in and of course they went wild over it and then I couldn't get a good picture of them. boo hoo.

Because this is the first year this paddy has been used as a paddy for a long time (if at all) there are not many water weed seeds in the paddy. This means there isn't a lot of food there for so many hungry little quackers. Never fear, ducks will eat land weeds too and the aze- barriers around the rice paddy- are absolutely covered in fast growing weeds of all kinds- grasses, dandelions, mugwort, purple clover, white clover etc etc. We cut these down, chop them up and throw them in the paddy to be gobbled up by the ducks. It might seem weird to throw weeds into the paddy when the whole point of the ducks is to keep the weeds down but remember that just having them swim around in there is keeping weeds from even taking root at all so it's all good. They also eat chopped up rotten apples, kitchen scraps, bread scraps etc if they get them.

6:00ish in the evening. Tea time. By now I don't even need to call out 'koi koi koi' at tea time. Just the sight of me and they get excited and run after me. The Pied Piper of ducklings, that's me! I go into the small enclosure and put the feed trays out and fill them with a mix of rice bran, broken waste wheat, rye, chook food and chopped up grass. The ducklings go wild and it is a cinch to close the door between the inner enclosure and the greater rice paddy. The bedding (sawdust, rice husks and chopped up straw) gets a new top layer so it is dry and warm in there. This is a much bigger job with ducklings than with chooks as the ducks are wet each night when they go to bed so the bedding gets soaked nightly. And I thought I was past the bedwetting stage... sigh.... Then it's stamping down the mud around the gate of the inner enclosure so they don't escape and do a walk around the perimeter of the paddy checking the fences and looking for wayward ducklings. The fence checking is for peace of mind because night time is the most hazardous time for ducklings with all the nocturnal predators out there.

In the inner enclosure. These guys have scoffed their food down and are now staring forlornly through the mesh of the door to the outside. Darn it, fell for it again!

7:00- 7:30ish goodnight time. It's back to the rice paddy to close the ramp/ door and lock the ducklings up for the night. Depending on the day/ weather/ temperature/ phase of the moon or whatever the ducklings will be all waiting in the hut and I just waltz in and put the water containers down (they drink paddy water all day but need water containers at night while they're locked in the hut) push the feed trays in and close the ramp/ door and latch it or on a bad day I get to chase them around the inner enclosure cussing and explaining the delights of peking duck and san choi bow as a bedtime story until they are all safely in their hut for the night. Then it's just checking around and under the hut to make sure there is no rogue duckling sneaking around past bedtime, locking up the inner enclosure and off home for the duck keeper as well.

It's a big job and one that needs doing every day, rain or shine, no matter what other commitments we have. It's a big responsibility too as you know that if you make a mistake and a predator gets in you will be responsible for the loss of a duckling life.

But they really are cute and they stop the weeds and we aren't crazy about weeding so we'll keep 'em!

The inner enclosure, the duck hut and the wider paddy. The yellow containers are the water containers. They don't go in the hut until the door is closed at 7:00 or the ducklings drink all that water rather than the paddy water and don't have enough for the night (when they have no access to the paddy water.) The blue sheet is for rain protection where the door meets the roof. The hut is sitting on apple crates to keep it out of the water. The other crates in there are for us to walk around on. And darn it you can't even see a single piece of my 2000m of string!


Meg's observation day

'Tis the season for parental participation.

Today was Meg's school's lower classes observation day. (The school is too big to do them all at once- nowhere to park.) The class was maths which at first I was a bit of disappointed with as I like the ones where we get to watch them do a presentation (Japanese, PE) or make something (craft class) but in the end I was really impressed. Watching them do a regular bums on seats learning class was really interesting and gave us more of an idea of what a day in 2-2 is like to boot.

"Don't interrupt mummy- I'm learning!"

This was the class they were doing. An introduction to writing the reason why the answer is what it is. But really I took the picture for that t-shirt. Afro mouth?? Underneath the small print says 'I have much hope.'

After the observation the kids go outside to play while the parents hang around for a class PTA meeting. When I went out to find Meg at the end I found her:

Love that smile.


that's better honey?

Our lawn is a real hotch potch. I have lost count of how many times we have planted seed/ put down turf/ oversewn etc etc. The foundation is pretty bad. We didn't put down a lot of topsoil first and before it was a lawn it was a gravel patch for parking cars on:

Every time I get in a tizz about how much work we have to do around here I go back and look at the photos we took the first time we came to the house and see how far we've come- always makes me feel better!

So the fact that there is a perennial bare patch in the high traffic area infront of the genkan is not really a surprise, huh?

Last month I half-heartedly through some soil down there and sprinkled a four year old packet of seed I found on top. Unsurprisingly it wasn't very successful. Actually it wasn't at all successful!

K decided it was his new project. I opened the door yesterday evening and:

A big knee deep hole with a shovel and a pick sticking out of it. Fabulous. That's not a hazard now is it?

I was promised that when I woke up the next morning it would be all fixed and fine and okey-dokey no problems.

And when I opened the door this morning certainly there was no hole there. The pick was gone. The shovel, too. But was it any less hazardous?

Why yes that is three pieces of re-bar propped against each other.

Sharp, metal, spiky, dangerous re-bar.

Just outside the front door re-bar.

That's better honey?


the gangster and the high school dropout

Well not even a high school drop out because she isn't even going to high school at all.

Meg that is.

She loves school.

She wants to go on the holidays.

But she doesn't like maths.

She told K she didn't want to do maths anymore. She wants to go to school but she doesn't want to do maths. (Factual, engineer but not very in touch with a 7 year old emotionally) K told her you have to do maths at school. Allllll the way through school.

Until University? I don't want to do maths for that long.

Well, you only have to go to school until you finish JHS. After that you're there because you want to be.

So some people don't do maths after JHS?!

That's right.

That's what I'm going to do! I'm not going to go to high school then I won't have to do maths!!

Ever since that conversation I have been having long and involved conversations about what Meg intends to do after JHS while not going to HS. After explaining that legally she still wouldn't be able to open a cake shop or get married (her current future ambitions) she has decided she will just play and hang around the house and go to the park until she's 18. Fabulous!

The gangster is Amy. Well gangster in training. Her little friend with the lightening bolt hairstyle has taught her quite an impressive vocabulary. She also has enough Japanese (or rather non-me) DNA in her to be able to roll her Rs like a proper little gangster. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately!) she doesn't quite know how to use her new words and comes out with beauties like "If you don't stop teasing me I won't cut out your tongue." Poor kid needs to get some more practice before she starts her motorcycle gang. That and get the hang of riding without her training wheels as I'm pretty sure it won't be good for her street cred. to have me running along behind her pushing the back of her motorbike as she revs the engine, huh?


eleven minutes

Don't worry this is not one of those forwards about how long a minute is for a lovesick guppie waiting for a lung transplant or whatever.

Nope this is a brag.

Let me just say that again:

eleven minutes!


OK, I'm back. Was just trying to pat myself on the back but those string stringing Michelle Obama arms hurt. No idea how she does all that hand waving....

Anyway, putting the ducklings to bed.

It's actually quite a complicated process. During the day they swim freely throughout the entire paddy. Come 6:00 it's teatime. We go into the netting enclosure around their hut and call out 'koi koi koi!' (which could be love or carp but in this case is come here) and put out their food (rice bran, chopped up weeds and chook food). They swim like they're in the Olympics and throw themselves on their food with gusto. Quite literally throw themselves on it in a lot of cases! Once they are all in the netting we close off the door to the greater rice paddy. This part of the bedtime routine goes swimmingly (hehehe- sorry.)

It's the next step that is a little less like water off a ducks back (ohhh stop me!). They eat their food, and instead of getting nice and sleepy and heading into the hut they go parrrrtyyyyyyy! and head out to swim laps of the hut and under the hut and run up and down the ramp and basically do anything but settle down in the nice cosy sawdust lined crates in their hut. So they need convincing. This convincing was a 30 minute plus ordeal Saturday night that involved far too much mud and lunging around in the knee deep water encouraging excited ducklings to go to sleep- not unlike getting a toddler to sleep actually....

But tonight?

Eleven minutes baby!

Woohoo. Just call me the duckling whisperer. Honestly I think it was pushing bedtime back 15 minutes and the consequent increased darkness that did it but you've got to take your successes where you find them, hey?

Fingers crossed tonight will be just as easy as it's the first time I will be doing a post-work weekday duckling bedtime.

If only convincing Amy to go to bed took 11 minutes the living would be easy!


2000m of string

2000m of string. That's what I did today. I zigzagged my way back and forth and up and down the rice paddy winding and tying and weaving and intertwining string to make a protective net over the entire rice paddy against airborne predators. It's quite a job trudging through the rice paddy holding fishing line above your head and stopping when you coincide with another string and weaving and then continuing on your journey to the next stop. I'm going to have Michelle Obama arms for sure!

The responsibility for their safety being in my hands made me feel a little ill and I was sooo thorough with my stringing that I used 2000m of the stuff.

And then I went and bought another roll to use tomorrow.

Just to be sure.


beauty and the farmer

(I have upgraded myself from "gardener" to "farmer" now that we are growing rice. This promotion is completely of my own arbitrary judging and the neighbours would roll their eyes and shake their heads but I feel like I deserve it so live with it.)

So, we have been putting in a lot of hours in the garden/ paddy these last few weeks. 10 hours last Sunday, four hours (eked out from around my classes) each weekday (starting at 7:30 so we could get the work in) for the last week and yeah, just lots and lots of time out there.

Going from gardenwear farmwear to workwear and then sometimes back again and then occasionally back again again really does my head in and means many many showers so you think I'd be the squeaky cleanest person around.

But no.

Farming comes with a whole cornucopia of challenges to mind and body but the body really cops it.

First up there's perma-dirt. This is a word neighbour and co-farmer W and I coined to describe the inground grime that takes up residence in your heals, elbows, where your cuffs have been rubbing, and around you finger and toe nails. This dirt is resistant to soap, loofahs, hot water, soaking, scrubbing brushes- everything!! I thought nail polish might hide it but it just draws attention to the area....

Then there's cracks. Cracks in your heals, in your toe pads, on your knuckles... Rice paddies are wet. Well they're underwater so derrr... You spend a lot of time getting in and out of the rice paddy and it's not good on the poor feetsies. I have quite the collection of creams and potions and magic polyurethane socks but I am still fighting to keep on top of this painful problem.

Sunburn. Slip, slop, slap I know. I know and I do. But the sun reflects up off the water in the rice paddy and when you're out for four, five, seven, eight, 10 hours you get burnt. Or tanned. Normally I am naughty and quite like a tan but a rice paddy tan is uneven to say the least. All the splotches of mud act as sunscreen and you end up quite dappled. Mottled, really. Last year I gardened in a t-shirt that rode up a bit when I bent double to weed or whatever. I ended up with a dark tanned strip across my lower back. This year I have along sleeved shirt for gardening that comes all the way down to my butt to be safe. I also admitted defeat and traded in my baseball hat for a ninja-obaachan wrap around hat. The thing about being a red-neck? Noone tells you how much it hurts! The collar on your shirts, the strap on your bag, even your hair- everything hurts your poor sunburnt neck. So yup, joined the dark side and I look like a scarecrow but feel much better. And I am holding onto my pride by claiming that my black ninja hat is really rather cool and ironic compared to the usual floral ones which are undeniably naff. Right? Right???

Injuries. Sore muscles are a given. If your muscles don't hurt you were probably slacking off I reckon! Just walking in a rice paddy is a trial as you are fighting the forces of mud and water at every step. But hidden in the mud are little pointy pebbles and sticks and all sorts of scratchy unfriendly things. W and I have both had toenails lift when something poked between the nail and the toe. I have three broken toe nails, cuts underneath two toes and a divet out of the arch of my left foot. Ouch....

So, every night when we get home we spend quite a time slathering on creams and lotions and wrapping up sore places in soft cotton.

But I wouldn't swap it for anything- even if I am walking around with a white patch on the cheek of my tanned face and hands noone would shake without a second thought!


little quackers

They're here!!!!!

All 45 of them. And they are just the cutest things you've ever seen. And they waddle and quack and paddle and putter and you can lose masses of time just watching their antics!

Heading to their new home:

Free at last!

Some are eaters, some explorers and some like to stand back and watch. Just like people, huh?

Going for a swim. They still just have fluff- no real wings at all and yet they can swim. Pretty impressive.

And a close up for maximum oooohhhhhh factor!

They will stay in the little enclosure until the weekend when we will (hopefully!) finally get the rest of the cage predator proof and then they will be let out to do their job- eating weeds and puddle paddling around churning up the mud.


day camping

The chickens have been day camping in the front yard. They have a ball running around chasing ants and each other and their shadows and scratching at the dirt and generally being chickens.

Meg and Amy made them a sign for their day camp area. So if visitors come they will know who lives there:

At the top is a picture and hyoko- chicken
Then (delineated by ownership- Chocora, Sharley (Amy), Satsuki, Miho (Meg), Boris.(Heather)

And then the chickens looked like they were having so much fun the girls decided to get involved, as well:

And so it was day camping all around and a fun day was had by all!


no problem then

We are millimetres away from getting the ducklings in the rice paddy. Since my WALAH! post there has been daily tinkering and fiddling and fixing and re-jigging but we are set. Well almost, need to get a feed tray in there, a water container, the cardboard box they will sleep in while small and an old futon. Oh and continue stringing over the field and stamping the net around it but they are all jobs for later.

We had one other worry. There are a lot of dogs in the neighbourhood. No problem. There is one dog in the neighbourhood that gets to go around off leash. Not roaming freely so much as being taken out to the tomato fields and let run loose. And that dog's owner's tomato field is the one we flooded. The one right next to our field.

So co-farmer W and I thought it might be an idea to have a friendly chat with neighbour N. not a warning or anything like that (he is a local bogwig, senior to us in age and most of all a man afterall...) but just to let him know we would have ducks in there.

He's also my houe neighbour so just as I was going up to see neighbour W I saw him washing his car (again- lucky he has any paint left!) and approached:

Hey, nice weather- getting hotter, huh?
Yeah...hehehe. That rice field is working for you!
Yeah, thanks be. It's been quite a job. Sorry about the tomato flooding...
Hehehe no problem. You needed more compacting.
Yeah, quite a job! We're getting there though. The ducklings should be here by the end of the week.
Ahhh, you'll need lots of string to protect them from birds of prey.
Yep. We're going to work on that today. I was worried about dogs though... Would Lemon (the dog) try to get in and chase them?
Lemon? No no no. Lemon's old. And she has diabetes. Can't produce insulin.
Oh nooooo.... she looks so healthy.
Yeah but no energy any more. She won't chase your ducks. No problem. She doesn't even eat meat. She's on a vegetarian diet for her diabetes.

So the dog's a vegetarian? No problem then, right?


the rice chronicles part 12- walah!!

Walah! Woohoo!! Hallelujah! And FINALLY!! Yes. That is a man in the rice paddy pushing a rice planting machine and yes I do believe he is planting rice!!

The machine made it to the end of the field! And yes to anyone who knows anything about rice paddies- it is still very uneven and yes, we know that. But it's our first year and it has been a long road so far so let us celebrate rice going in without thinking about what we could have/ should have done, ok?)

Child labour... One of the could have should have would have bits was that if your rice paddy isn't dead level there will be parts that are out of the water and therefore harden and parts that are in very deep water and therefore below what the planting machine can manage. All these places need to be planted by hand... That was a good 2/3 of our paddy so a big job. Lucky we have child labourers to exploit, huh? Actually they loved it. Really. Amy kept saying 'ganbatte baby rice!' as she planted.

The dry parts were drying out too fast in the sun so we opened the floodgates and let the water in. Lots of water! And the fence! Getting there, getting there!

The duck house. It sits on crates in the paddy and is lockable at night. You can't see but we have also strung orange fishing line in a criss cross pattern all across the field to protect the ducklings from airborne predators.

It was a BIG day- 7:00- 6:30 but we finally did it.

YEAH for rice!!!! Now we just have to keep it alive and disease free for the next 5 months....

And because I thought it was really pretty in a design kind of way this is how we transported the rice from the incubator field to the paddy:

All curled up and cuddling each other on the back of a crane truck.


Amy's kinder's bribery day

Another last. Last time we are bribed with seeing our kids do a cute dance to come out at 8:00 and clean up the kinder grounds. I don't mind yard work and I appreciate Amy having a nice clean and safe place to play but I think the system is screwy. 200 kids times two parents (well most of them anyway) is far too many people to be trying to keep themselves occupied with spades and buckets and wheelbarrows for 30 minutes. I think a roster system would be far more effective at year round maintenance...

But then we wouldn't get to see our kids do cute dances and then how many people would bother getting out of bed that early and fighting for a car park just to scoop sand around the playground?


punished for good work....

Most of the ailments in gardening are self-inflicyted.

Plant at the wrong time, plant too close together, don't prepare the soil well enough, don't water adequately, plant in conditions that don't suit the plant, don't keep watch and control bug activities, don't protect from predators/ frost/ rain/ blazing sun etc etc and you get problems. Problems you could have avoided and therefore are responsible for. Problems all of which I have experienced personally and kicked myself for.

But this year for the first time we were hit by a problem I feel is incredibly unfair. We were hit by a problem that stemmed from doing too good a job!

The problem was the delightfully named seedcorn maggot. (Don't click on that while eating.) The damage from the seedcorn maggot was complete annihilation of the soy bean, runner bean, snake bean and adzuki bean crops. (Funnily enough the corn is fine!) We planted the beans in two areas. A big field with 100+ plants for drying and using to make miso anduse in soups and stews and a couple of rows in the veggie garden for eating fresh. Luckily it was only the smaller veggie garden crop that was got but it was got good. We planted three times in all and got one solitary, sickly looking bean plant out of it.

Looking up the causes of the seedcorn maggot infestation it seems it's a combination of things. A cold Spring is part of it. Check, had that. The other two factors? Too much ploughing and too rich a soil. Darn it. We add fermented chicken manure and rice bran every Spring. And we plough. This year we bought a new plough (a smaller one that I can use) and it is so much fun I ploughed and ploughed and ploughed. All that fresh turned soil and sweet smelling (no really!) fermented manure is paradise for the greedy seedcorn maggot who lays her eggs in the soil and the maggots eat the seeds completely before maturing.

Darn it, darn it, darn it! And I personally think that is the suckiest bug there is. The bug who punishes good behaviour!

One of the beans from the neglected big field. Lucky to be neglected as it turns out!


the rice chronicles part 11- water!

Remember this?

Now look at this:

That's all. Just admire the water.

Haaaaaaaaaaa....... so pretty.



Not me. I love it here.

The potatoes though.


Well, boared really.

That's our potato field.

The gaps?

Not failed planting.

Not bugs or mold or potato blight.


Wild boar.

They dig up the seed potatoes and eat them.

So, what did we do to prevent future raids?

Electric fence?

Pig dog?

Traps, baits, barbed wire?

Nope, nope, nope, nope nope.

See those three branches lying on the ground. Just lying there?

That is our first line of defence.

Now, I'm not sure whether it's true or not but apparently pigs are quite timid and if they come back and the environment is different they will get scared off.

I guess we'll just wait and see, huh?

Might be boared but never bored, huh?


the rice chronicles part 10- whoa, hey there!

I was down in the rice paddy (again!) degunking. I'm sure that's not the technical term for it but you have to remove all the flotsam and jetsam from the top of the water. I don't know where it comes from, I guess some was buried and we churned it up with the tractor and others floated in from the inlet pipe. Anyway, you scoop it off. It's not a hard job but time consuming with such a large paddy.

I went down to de-gunk with my net and bucket and hat and ipod (Aerosmith and Shakira for paddy work) and took off my shoes and socks and was just getting set up when I realised that the paddy was at low tide making scooping difficult. Not sure if there wasn't a very good reason the water was turned off I rang our co-farmers before I let the water in.

I was wandering around the grass barrier between our paddy and the soba field to the North as I talked.

"So, you think it's best to leave the water at low ti- Aghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!"

Poor co-farmer copped quite the ear splitting scream.

Originally uploaded by Tamachi 999

A Japanese four lined rat snake (not the same one I saw as obviously I was jumping and running and screaming and turning all at the same time so in no state to take a picture. I don't actually mind snakes. So long as they stay in their place and that's not near mine. It was just the shock, the size 'about 120cm) and the fact that it escaped me by slither-swimming through the paddy.
I keep thinking of all those wee ducklings that will be here soon. How are we going to keep them safe??? It seems impossible when we have to protect them from foxes, cats, ferrets, snakes and who knows if wild boar eat ducks but we've got those, too....