Farming? Gardening? Playing?

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We “farm” enough for our own consumption, to give away to friends, and have some leftover to feed guests and experiment with some unique products to go on sale soon.

The very small scale allows us to do much of the farming by hand, which also means that we have little need to purchase the large machinery which puts many of our neighbors into debt. We spend less time in the fields. We spend less money. We enjoy it. Yet, always work under the uncomfortable shadow of being considered as “playing” by our “real” farmer neighbors.

While we were out harvesting the rice a week or so ago, it took us two days to harvest the same amount that the guy in the next field completed in about an hour. We still have to do the thrashing as well which will most likely take several days of tedious work – work that they also complete in an hour.

In the past we have borrowed equipment form neighbors when time was scarce, but now we have the time, so we enjoy getting outside and moving our bodies. We also enjoy being able to work without having to worry about Mona causing trouble – when we are in the house she is either trying to help us write emails, begging to watch sesame street, or trying to escape when we are not watching the front door. In the field there is no place she can escape to, and it is open enough with enough interesting little bugs and frogs to keep her occupied by herself for hours.

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Still, despite all the benefits and reasons to be as inefficient as we are, I always find myself being self-conscious when neighbors see us walking to the field, old-fashioned scythe and hand hoe in hand. I wish they couldn’t see me when they finish tilling five of their fields before lunch and I have only tilled five rows in our adjacent field.

They, naturally, don’t take us seriously. They think that we are just playing. They have given up on telling us to stop even trying – that we should stick to doing things that can make us more money. To them it is a waste to see a Tokyo University graduate and a perfectly good native English speaker playing in the dirt to grow things that, if not given to us for free, can easily be purchased with money earned from a very small fraction of the time by teaching English.

In the bath last night, I soaked next to two neighbors who groaned and ahhh-ed as they lowered themselves into the bath, rubbing their shoulders and talking about how many fields they harvested that day and how tired they were. I kept my mouth shut as I had only tilled eight rows of field intended to experiment with canola for oil (it is most likely too late, but we decided to try anyway instead of waiting for another year).

All the while I was tilling I imagined them smirking at me as they drove their tractors around, shaking their heads at the white guy who likes to pretend to be a farmer, just as I imagined a mocking tone in their voice in the bath. I somehow felt inferior even despite a strong urge to comment on how tired it made my back and arms, and ask them what, exactly, it is about sitting comfortably on what is basically a large riding-mower all day made them so tired…

I have no idea why I feel I need to justify the time we spend doing “silly” and inefficient things, when I should actually feel proud that we have that much time to “waste” and still pay all of our bills.

In the photos Tomoe is gathering weeds which we cultivated to produce green manure for next year. The neighbors, of course, wonder why I spent hours harvesting weeds by hand that could easily have been taken care of with thirty minutes worth of spraying.

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