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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Help Wanted (“Will you be my friend?”, asks Mona)

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Help Wanted. Pass it on, please. Permalink To This Post

We are finally getting around to applying for status as an official WWOOFer host (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) – despite the fact that our farm will soon be covered with snow for six months. Of course you need not be a paying WWOOF member to come stay with us, so if you or anyone you know is even remotely interested in giving a few days, a week or maybe longer worth of your time to mainly entertain Mona, as well as help with the various duties listed below, in exchange for room and board, please contact me!

Who We Are / What We Do

We are an international couple with a kid (American, Japanese, and a mixture of both) living in a small Northern Nagano village. Among other things, we run an eco-tourism bicycle touring business, grow our own food, and are starting a health food bakery/food production business and farm-inn/backpacker accommodation.

Durring the non-snow months we farm and gather wild and organic vegetables and rice for our own consumption and some for sales online and at local events.

Durring the winter months our area is covered with two or more meters of snow. We offer some short hiking and cultural tours to experience Japan’s “Snow Country”, as well as focus on inside work, preparing for the next spring-fall seasons, web-development, research, etc.

You can learn more about our business and lifestyle through the blog you are reading now, and our business website.

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Volunteer Duties:

* Entertain Baby Mona

Volunteers will not be a “nanny”, but while my wife and I work at home we need someone to entertain the little girl and give us some a little concentrated time to get our work done without her “helping” us to write emails and cut vegetables.

Families with small children are more than welcome to come out for a weekend or whenever you have time off!

Volunteers should enjoy dolls, picture books, stacking blocks, crayons, Sesame Street, playing in the sand/snow, singing, and tickling.

* Prepare For Winter

Getting fields ready for next year – weeding, helping to till, gathering compost, etc. Helping to tidy/organize house, helping with some do-it-yourself building projects around the house as we prepare to be certified as a farm-inn / backpackers accommodation.

* Snow Shoveling

Once the snow comes (mid-late December) help shoveling snow around the house.

Volunteers should be able and willing to do some physical labor, and get dirty, but need not be weight-lifters.

* Office Work

May include: Compiling customer email lists, updating website, preparing news letters, organizing files (digital and analog), web research on topics related to our business, web promotion (twittering, blog updates, etc).

Volunteers should have basic 21st century computer and web skills.

* Random

Anything that pops up. Maybe helping our neighbors in their fields, washing the van, accompanying us on a shopping trip to the city, scouting a bike or hike route, make a bike trip to the local produce vendor to buy Mona some grapes, etc.

Working Hours

Hours are always changing and flexible, but expect to work up to 6 hours/day at various tasks. Very rarely will anyone be asked to spend the entire day on any one chore.

In Return

In return for your assistance, you get a room with a bed and warm futon, and lots of home-made/home-grown, mostly-vegetarian, healthy meals. (For good workers we throw in a pillow)

Depending on how long you stay, we can give plenty of free time to explore the area on your own on bike, foot, ski, and snow-shoe. We are 1.5 hours by train from Nagano City. For longer volunteers, you will have time to make a day or overnight trip to there.

Aside from sporadic train service, there is little public transport. Volunteers should be self-motivated to entertain themselves, and fit and willing to walk/ride a bike or hitch a ride on their own if you want to see more of the village in free time. When we have business that takes us to other areas, we will be sure to take volunteers with us whenever possible so you can see more of the larger region.

We have no TV, but you can use the high-speed wi-fi connection, so bring your own computer if you need it to stay entertained, or else bring a book.

Hiking opportunities. There are a few hiking trails in the area, and plenty of nearby forests to enjoy. In winter you can enjoy snow-shoe hiking just outside the front door.

Skiing (December 25 – March). The local ski hill is very affordable and never crowded. We are 30 minutes away from a much larger ski resort (Nozawa) area as well. There are also ample areas for safe and easy “back-country” skiing accessible by a short snow-shoe hike. We have snow-shoes and some cold weather gear for hiking. We have snow-boards to lend (you will need your own boots).

Hot-spring baths. There is a local hot-spring just a five minute walk away. Opportunities to use other hot-springs in the vicinity (at your own expense) accessible by train or bike.

Untitled from Kevin Cameron on Vimeo.

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Mitsukuri, Soba, Aspara

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Went for a jog the other day to get some photos of Mitsukuri hamlet, just a ten minute walk from my house, but I have been there only a few times since the earthquake wiped out the the road on the other side of the hamlet, ruining one of my favorite biking roads with great views, passing through little hamlets as well as lush forests, and only a slight, every managable uphill with a breath-taking downhill.

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View Mitsukuri in a larger map

My goal this time was to get some photos of the hamlet for the village website. Unfortunately, I have been there too many times and what I once would have spent hours photographing, I now look at and feel desensitized to its beauty. Anyone know how to get that first-time feeling back?

At any rate, what I found appealing this time were the soba fields and the asparagas seeds after a good rain.

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More on the Rice

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More from the rice harvest. You may think the ninja would be a big help because she should be handy with various blades. Think again. I am proud to say that even though I am not a ninja myself, I am hands down the fasted with an ine-kama.

Next week is dakkoku time so I gotta start practicing with my ashifumi dakkoki pedal powered rice kernel-off-the-stalker

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