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 heard about funding for a project or that he'd gotten a new assignment. Turns out he found a map of all the farms in the area that also tells what they sell, when it's in season, and offers contact information. His idea was to stop at one and see if I could have a corner to grow things in for myself. He'd already stopped at one, and they liked the idea but said their space was too small.
That afternoon we headed out to a couple larger ones to see what the possibilities might be. At the first one we were told to come back later when the farmer was around. At the second one, a very nice woman heard our story, and seemed open to the idea. The ground is quite rocky there, and really needs to be worked. They have been marking out small plots to tackle and plant, and hope eventually to bring it around. (It looks to be a chestnut orchard or some such that I walk past regularly. They've been working alot, and this is one I regularly look forlornly at over the fence.) I said I liked the idea of helping make the garden a better place, and thought it would be fun. She took down Ryan's number and gave us hers, and said to check back in a week or so. She needed to speak with some other people first, but thought it was a good idea.
Pleased (ok, elated!), we walked back to the first farm. A farmworker we had spoken to earlier said the farmer was back, and pointed out to the field. We started walking over when a woman approached us. We explained our situation, and she in turn said the small spot would not work out for them as it would be in violation of some kind of farm law in place for Tokyo. Her husband, the farmer, came up and agreed with her. However, he offered that if I wanted to come and volunteer one day a week on the farm I could, and he would pay me in vegetables.
Let me just say here it took all my strength and will-power to not jump up and down with joy and hug both of them. Culturally inappropriate, to say the least. I enthusiastically accepted his offer, and they gave us a tour of the farm. Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and arugula seedlings waited in flats in a little greenhouse to be planted. Peas were eagerly climbing a trellis, and onions were already standing tall. Blueberry bushes (seriously, blueberries) were giving serious thought to budding, and a grassy green cover crop waved as I walked by.
Finally, we ended at a patch of broccoli that they said was done and needed to be cleaned up. Very generously they said we should pick as much as we wanted to take home and eat. The farmer then, in a gesture so similar to one I've seen Ken King do a million times over that it made my heart ache, took a bite out of a stalk he'd just picked. He said it was sweet tasting, and that it was organic. (If it weren't for the time difference and the fact that I don't have a cell phone, I would have called Ken on the spot to tell him about this. I felt so at home.)
So, we picked a good bundle, and waved a farewell until the next time. I'm so happy.