Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2009

Marmalade Makin'

(I started this awhile back, but got delayed by life and a bad internet connection at home. So, here's the marmalade tale, complete with photos. Two jars are already gone as presents!) Ok, its in the works even as I type. I sliced up the Mekon oranges per this recipe , and now they are boiling away on the stove with the sugar I had on hand. (It's the same stuff I used to make the inari rolls , which means it's not as refined as the white sugar I would use at home.) The recipe appealed to me for its lack of ingredients (oranges, water, and sugar), and the fact that its more of a formula. My Japanese canning operation is in its fledgling state, but everything is much smaller. I have  no canner, and the pan I am using to sterilize the jars probably only holds about a gallon or a gallon and half of water. Jars are not readily available, and when I did find them today at J-Mart (the Japanese equivalent of K-Mart or Wal-mart*) they were sold singly for either 68 yen or 450 yen

Earth Day Tokyo Event

Last weekend we made our way with a friend over to Yoyogi Park to check out the Earth Day Tokyo event. ( I fully intended to post this sooner, but our photos from the day were lost in a memory card shuffle. Hence, no photos, but Treehugger offers some good ones .) We went on Sunday in the middle of the afternoon, thinking that things may have died down a bit. Well, they hadn't. Enthusiasm was still running high, and thick crowds of people meandered past the booths where farmers sold seeds, seedlings, and talked about what they produced. (Seeing the lines of people wanting to talk with them made the trip worth it in itself.) And past the folks selling handmade soap, hemp hand-dyed yarns (I really wish I had the pictures of these! Great colors. These folks were my favorites right after the farmers.), handcrafted jewelry, earth-friendly bags and accessories, and clothhing. And the displays about alternative energy sources, healthy food products, and so much more.  There was plenty

Farmwork Thoughts

As I work along at a local organic farm planting epic numbers of vegetables - 5,000 cabbage one week and 1,000 broccoli the next - or spreading what feels like endless amounts of manure on fields for eggplant and zucchini, something my friend Amber said to me stays with me. It was last summer and we were camping in Canada. We were building a fire and setting up camp while the lads muled the rest of our stuff to the site from the car. She was cutting kindling and firewood, and while she sawed she held one end of the branch firmly with one foot while standing on the other. I'm sure I made some attempt at humour, and then we fell into discussion about how we wanted to live our lives. She said, “Doing this, I'm using my whole self - body and mind - together.” “ This” referred both to the branch she was cutting and to her work at Ambry Farms . Farming is no easy task in general, but at Ambry they combine horses and tractors to get the job done. One challenge is to find which tas

Takenoko Adventure

We spent this past Sunday helping the farmers I work for prepare their fields for planting eggplant and zucchini . It was an absolutely beautiful day to be outside working. It is still amazing to me that already the temperatures are in the high 60's to low 70's, and the first broccoli harvest is already over. (In Michigan, we're just thinking about getting beds ready to put in our first broccoli!) In fact, the seedlings for kabocha (Japanese squash) and zucchini are already in the field greenhouse beginning to harden off a bit. When our work finished for the day, Takash - san offered us takenoko (bamboo shoots) and Mikon oranges grown on his farm in thanks for our labors. We dug the bamboo and picked the oranges ourselves, which was great fun. I'd eaten the shoots once before with Seechan , Takash - san's wife, in a cold salad with pea pods. A mild taste and a pleasant texture, bamboo shoots are a spring speciality. Like the cherry blossoms, once they are gone

Mushrooms Await!

Once again, if I weren't in Japan I'd be attending this little shindig. So, instead I (PopcornHomestead, PH) talked with Matt Demmon (MD) of Little House Farm about mushrooming and what got him interested in fungi. Read on! Backyard Mushrooming Saturday, April 18th 1pm - 4pm Little House Farm $40 for the class; $60 to take a log home Limited to the first 8 people Call Matt at 734-255-2783 or email at mdemmon(at) to register (Herbal tea and a tasty, healthy snack included!) PH: How long have you been growing your own mushrooms? MD: Six years. PH: How did you get started? Did someone teach you or you just forged ahead on your own? MD: I worked for a local landscaping company owned by Mike Levine and Erica Kempter that also has a shiitake growing operating in Mike's backyard. I helped them inoculate logs for two years, and then I read a bunch of books and started off on my own. PH: Why did you get started? MD: Once I had eaten homegrown shiitakes, I was hooked. I

You Know You Live in Japan When...

...the bottom of your bag is full of pickled ginger juice that leaked out of a tupperware container you took for lunch. (It's very tasty on the homemade onigiri , by the way.) And the cloth that you use to dry your hands after using a public bathroom was incredibly handy in sopping up most of it! 

Ginger Wine

Ever since we sat down with our good friends over at Ambry Farms with a bottle of their homemade wine, I've had a hankering to make a batch or two of my own. Well, Ryan Libre , our most recent Couchsurfer , helped us make our first batch of ginger wine. It's bubbling away in its make-shift container (modified water bottle) in a little spot in the kitchen. It was ridiculously simple, and I'm already thinking about the next batch. We basically cut up some ginger, and popped it in a pan on the stove to boil. The idea, according to Ryan, is to make a really strong version of ginger tea. In another pan, we heated up some water with some of the Hokkaido sugar in it. This one we didn't boil, but just got it warm enough so the sugar would more easily dissolve. Meanwhile, we dissolved the yeast in a little bit of water in a small glass. Once everything cooled enough we combined it together and stirred in the yeast. We topped it off with an airlock , and waited for the bubbles

Stewardship Workday!

I'd do this if I could, but I'm in Japan. This Stewardship Network workday takes place in my Michigan neighborhood on the land of beloved family and friends, and it is a chance to spend time in one of the prettiest spots there is with some of the best people. The Kolon and Kellum families, longtime friends, work hard with and for the land they live on and love. It's worth joining them to learn and lend a hand. Iron Creek Properties The River Raisin headwaters are near the southern extent of what is referred to as the Southeast Michigan Headwaters Region. The region, loosely defined by the headwaters of ten river systems, is recognized as a high quality area by the Nature Conservancy and other Stewardship Network partners. Iron Creek between Mud Lake and Iron Creek Millpond is representative of the headwaters area and is recognized for its unspoiled habitats and intact plant communities, where several special concern and threatened species have been identified. With ne

The Fox and Inari

Our latest couchsurfer , Ryan the Photographer , taught us how to make a very simple but wonderfully delicious udon dish. Kitz-oo-nay Udon (Fox Udon) is quite simply a strong soy sauce, udon noodles , some carrots, and inari tofu skins . (These are the same skins stuffed with rice that can be found in sushi places, and which we made for the second course. Interestingly, Inari is also a Japanese kami whose minion is the fox. We just happened to take the photo at left the same day while hiking at Mount Takao.) Ryan often made it during the winter months while living in Hokkaido , and even though it could become more complex with other vegetables he likes to keep it pretty simple. The whole process was pretty simple. Fill a medium saucepan about three-quarters full of water, and pour in about an inch to inch and a half of the strong soy sauce. Put in the precooked udon noodles (available everywhere here), the carrots, and inari skins. Gently boil until the carrots are soft enough to eat

Big News in Garden City

We recently found out that the community garden plot we put our name in for did not come through. The system for choosing people is a lottery, but we were hopeful. We spoke with the office yesterday (with the help of a friend), and learned that we did not get the plot. The office reported that they received the most applications ever this past spring, which seemed to be a little surprising. (On the left is the Japanese character for garden, by the way.) We walked by that same evening to check out the location. It's right near a walking path that culminates in a nearby park, and would be quite accessible from our apartment. The beds are much smaller than we thought - like 3 feet by 3 feet - but look really well organized and maintained. I confess I was feeling quite sad, and perhaps that was more than rain on my cheek. Maybe. But I've got my balcony, right? Well, our couchsurfer, Ryan, came in after a morning of shooting photos to say he'd found hope. We assumed he'd

Mowed Down!

I promise to get back to talking about cool stuff in Japan, or at least my version of that, but this little blurb about mowing grass caught my attention. Proof, once again, that less mowing (if not no-mowing) is the way to go!