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There has been a pari of swallows coming into our house every day for a few weeks now. They were trying to make a nest on the wall in the hallway near our bedroom. They bring mud and straw, weeds, etc., spit it onto the wall and usually it will make a nice nest. Our wall is sand, and after several days of them building a nest and it kept falling off to the floor because the sand wall was not strong enough to hold it, I put up a wire mesh, hoping it would make it easier for their nest to catch.
Now, they still come in every day, they sit on the mesh, but they seem to have given up on trying to make the nest. I worry that keeping the window open is preventing them from finding a better place where they can make a home.
And the other day found this guy on the side of the road.

Tragic Rice Story

Our rice story this year may turn out a little tragic. Despite having so much help planting, the weeds were even quicker to sprout this year, and by the time I got around to trying to till them in, it was almost impossible to tell what was a weed and what was a rice stalk. One of our smaller fields is a complete loss. I can’t tell anymore so will end up just cutting everything down.
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To top it off, by the time I did get done tilling all the other fields, the weeds in the first field had started coming up again, so it all starts over. And for some reason the rice is growing way slower this year than in previous years, despite putting in a lot more fertiliser and controlling the water better.

田休み (tayasumi)

Every year on the first Sunday of June we have the tayasumi festival – the rest afte planting – and every year we are the only people who have not finished planting before the festival. This year was no different, but we have an excuse, as always. This year we managed to plant everything by hand, without going through the trouble of borrowing somebody else’s machine. This was thanks to a young man who came to do a home stay with us for three weeks, a group of 15 university students from Canada who came for a week to learn about food in Japan, and two young men from Vietnam who came out for two days to steal the secrets of Japanese rice and smuggle it back home. Too bad for them we don’t do it like most Japanese folks, so not sure they figured out too many secrets.
This is just a dump of photos from the festival.
The young man who came for a homestay was arranged when his mother, who is a reader of my blog, called me one night and said something like “I know this is a strange request, but can my son go live at your house for a month?” Apparently, being from a bi-cultural family, he was having some difficulties feeling comfortable in the Japanese school systems rigidity. He has decided to go to school in Canada near his relatives there, and English is his third language (French-Canadian / Japanese), so they thought it would be a good experience to spend the time before he leaves doing something interesting and productive – as well as get some English practice.
So, young homestay man’s mom – if you are reading, if you look closely in some of these photos you can see him sitting on the blue sheet helping the neighbors peel the bamboo shoots, some of which he gathered earlier in the morning in the mountains. I have more photos from his time here, and I am sorry I have not had the chance to go through many photos yet, but I will send them as soon as I can.
The kids had fun. While Mona plays with other children all day at school, and around the house with the neighbor kids often, and sometimes gets a chance to go down the street to another little girl that lives a bit further away, we never get a chance to see them all playing together. It was fun, and I am sure that the older people are very happy to see so many children running around the grounds. In the photo below they are inside the shrine playing with the drums. Makes me remember potlucks in the church basement and sneaking off with friends upstairs to do mischief and play the organ.
Mona’s biggest fans were there too. We call them “The Good Man” and “The Good Lady” when we speak English in front of other people and don’t want them to know who we are talking about.

May and June flew by

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Didn’t realize it had been so long since I have posted anything on my blog. It seems like ages ago that we had gyoja niniku seen in my May 9 post, and even more shocking is to see these photos of Mona playing in our garden in May that is completely bare. Now it is pretty much filled with weeds and whatever sprouted from last year’s leftovers. We had big plans to build a deck out back and all kinds of other cool stuff, but somehow, I haven’t even gotten the snow-cover off of the garage yet.
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Gyoja Ninniku

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Kept Mona away from school yesterday because she had a fever and half of her class has been hit with a virus that causes sever vomiting and runs for a full week. Some kids are even in the hospital. Fortunately, Mona was back on her feet the next day, and doesn’t appear that she has cought it, even more fortunately, I don’t have it – yet. Yesterday was the teacher visitation day, so even though we kept Mona home, the teacher (who is visiting all the parents of sick kids as well) may have brought it to our door step.
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Since Mona was feeling well, and there was little chance for me to get work done with her bumping around the desk, we went to pick some wild veggies from the mountain.
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Nanohana Matsuri Part 2

This last weekend was another big weekend for Tomoe and her bread sales at the Nanohana Festival in Iiyama.
While Mona and I played in the flowers, Tomoe was busy selling out of her bread. Amazing taiko drummers (children form the nearby village – I have video but have not had a chance to upload it yet) And lots of kaki-kori crushed ice with colored sugar topping for Mona. The man running the sugar-ice booth was right next to Tomoe’s bread booth and was in love with Mona. With good reason too. When Mona started eating a hot dog from his booth, his hot-dog sales increased dramatically as people walking by saw her and wanted one too. In Japanese this is called “kanban musume” or “signboard girl/daughter”. I think she may have a career.
I have way to many photos from the event to post here, but many more on my flickr account for anyone interested.
Oh, and we got our first frogs of the season for Mona to torture.

May 1

So, this blog has become more just a means for me to easily look back at photos from previous years and remember what was happening when. May 1. Last week I finished a trip with my Swiss couple J & R. Given the rain, which didn’t make for much good riding, Mona probably had the most fun, as she tagged along, made mochi rice, spent a night playing with three of the most docile cats I have ever seen, and didn’t mind Mona’s love and affection.
When it was all done we went to help Tomoe sell her bread at the local nanohana festival (rape flower). Mona spent the afternoon picking flowers and handing them out to random people walking by. It was really great to watch the people’s face as they take the flowers from this strange little girl.
Back in the yard, there are no flowers coming up on their own, so Mona and I went to the shop and purchased some. Mona planted them in the back yard.

Why do weather gods hate me?

DSC 7702 from Kevin Cameron on Vimeo.

Why?!?!?! The weather forecast yesterday said this week was mostly clear and would look like it did when I went yesterday with Mona to check on part of the route. Beautiful blue sunny skies.
This morning, a few hours before going to meet the customers, and the weather site calls for rain. Rain is what I worry about most. Although I know it is not my fault, a bright sunny day can make even the dullest parts of the ride wonderful, and rain makes the best parts of the ride miserable. (but the bath at the end feels better)
In the background of the videos you see Mt. Naeba. This is a portion of the ride where the snow is not cleared yet, so we have to walk the bikes over the snow.

DSC 7753 from Kevin Cameron on Vimeo.

For Future Reference: March 28

Photos of the current snow situation. Also, today we picked our first fukinoto for the year, and had our first tara-no-me tempura for lunch (grown in our neighbor’s greenhouse)
Its amazing how much more quickly the snow is melting compared to last year. I have customers coming in five days. Originally I had suggested that we do the trip somplace further south, because I Was worried about snow. Luckily they said they didn’t mind cold and snow, and would rather be someplace a bit more remote, like here. Looks like it will be perfect amount of snow maybe even some flower buds?
Compare to March 21 last year, and first fuki harvest on March 20, but with lots more snow.

Bad Timing

So I am on day 4 of Shawn T Insanity workout now. I figure I gotta be able to at least keep up with my customers at the end of this month without being out of breath. I think it will work well for that. But it really makes me sad that I consider this a good workout, when back in my “better” days, it would have been a nice warm-up.
It is bad timing because 1) I am not sure it will be effective quick enough to help me with the April 2 clients, and 2) There are only two weeks left before the ski hill closes.
Yesterday was another beautiful sunny day, and all the lifts were running, so I couldn’t resist heading to ski right after my Insanity workout. My legs were jello and it is hard to ski on jello, so I am missing out on the last two weeks of my season pass.
Today is another beautiful sunny day, and it is also the village snow festival at the ski-hill. Last year Tomoe had a booth selling waffles. Its always a lot more fun when you are selling something, or involved in some way, so even the rain wasn’t too bothersome. This year, she had a previous obligation so did not register to sell anything.
I will certainly be taking Mona to the festival though, and hopefully she will agree to put in a few runs on the beginner hill, which is about all I can handle now as well (I just got back from todays workout).
In the photos above you can see Mt. Naeba in the background.
The photo below is of preparations for the festival. While it is nice and festive, it is really stupid. So much energy (fossil) is put into building these big snow domes, and a snow stage, and it would be just as fun, if not more, to have a full-day festival where the kids of all ages come out and everyone builds their own snowman or snowcave or snow sculpture or fort – and no need for all this heavy machinery (there are even more huge cranes that you can’t see in this photo, moving snow from left to right and then back to left again).
The video below is for grandma to watch with the cousins.

DSC 7106 from Kevin Cameron on Vimeo.