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Showing posts from April, 2010

Garlic Growing Fine...So Far

I've never grown garlic in this temperature zone before, so I really don't feel like I know what I'm doing. Heck, I've never grown ANYTHING in this temperature zone before, so it's all new. Anyway, I planted the garlic in late fall in two places in my garden . The main bed is mulched with plastic in rows of four by about eleven. The remaining cloves I tucked in my little rebel bed along the wall. (See last photo.) The wall bed is mulched with leaves not so subtly nipped from the neighbors last fall on burnables day , skeletons of last year's basil, and a small hit of chicken manure. I am not a big fan of plastic mulch, but the dearth of natural materials to be had is daunting. At home I used mulch to keep weeds down and the ground moist, but here I've seen it's value for those reasons and more. The wind as it whips across the farm and over Tokyo is most impressive, and not just in typhoon season. I see great gobs of topsoil flying away sometimes as we

Seedling Update and Beginnings of the Green Curtain

The kale and zucchini seedlings are well underway, and the Brandywines are just beginning to unfurl their first set of true leaves. Shee-chan recommended I set the zuch's outside for more light (a bit leggy) and hardening off, so everyone's out sunning themselves at the moment. Thursday is meant to be lovely and some of them will move into the garden then. It's a busy time in our apartment-greenhouse. I just potted up some morning glories, cardinal climbers, and cucumbers. I technically don't have room for everything in the garden (the old my-eyes-are-bigger-than-the-rows syndrome), but my justification is that I'm giving serious thought to making a green curtain or two. A green curtain is, well, a "curtain" made out of vining plants. The idea is that as the vines grow they shade windows and walls keeping the interior cool. Companies , government offices , schools , and individuals make use of green curtains here to keep out some of the blistering

Bike Touring in Kawaguchiko

(Second in a series about Do-it-yourself tourism !) It goes without saying that the Fuji Five Lakes in Yamanashi Prefecture are a popular tourist destination in Japan. Mount Fuji, visible from as far away as Tokyo and Yokohama, dominates the landscape and is a magnet for visitors. With plenty to do all year round, it's an easy hop from Tokyo and makes for a simple do-it-yourself green vacation . Impressions of Kawaguchiko and Surrounds from the Seat of a Bike Eager to get out and about, we rented bikes from our hostel and went straight to Lake Kawaguchi to begin the 26 km loop . Within moments we spotted Mount Fuji, rising in all his snowy shouldered glory just to the south. Trees were giving serious thought to blooming, but holding back a bit in the chill wind, and bits of snow huddled next to the bike path in a few places. Herb and rose gardens dotted the shore and looked as though they were mustering up the strength for another year of beautiful blooms and bounty. On the

Everyday Gardens Up and Growing!

I might be mad to do this, but I've created another blog just dedicated to the little gardens I see in my wanderings. Tokyo (and Japan in general for that matter) is astonishingly full of small gardens. And when I say gardens I'm talking mostly about the homemade ones that range in size from one little pot on a balcony or stoop to rows and rows of pots carefully arranged in front of a house or business. Everyday Gardens is mostly photo-based, and is where I'll share the spots I see tucked away hopefully as soon as I see them. I also plan to share photos from some past trips, too, as I've got so many stashed away!

Budding Blueberries

At the farm there's a sweet little blueberry patch on the southern end of what at the moment are cabbage fields. Last year they produced some super scrumptious berries, and as we walked by the patch this year we saw that the bushes were in flower. Mulched in the fall with old basil plants and sunflower stalks, the plants seem quite content. A recent trimming of old branches ensures that energy will be put into new growth and berries bursting with flavor. My mouth is watering even now.

Zucchini Seedlings Going Strong

These little guys just got rolling, and are enjoying the view from our windowsill for the moment. (Still a bit too chilly here to let them roam free in the garden .) It's a new variety - white patty pan - that I've never tried to grow or eat before, but I thought the farmers would get a kick out of them. I keep thinking they'll be awesome in a pesto-zucchini soup that I don't have the recipe for any more. (Kale and Brandywine seedlings underway, too, by the way.)

Rainy Morning Marmalade

A pot of marmalade bubbles away on the stove filling the apartment with a bright tangy smell this morning. We spent Saturday helping prepare this year's eggplant field for planting later this month, and one of our take-home prizes was a big bag of mikan. (As was a lovely bamboo shoot, a.k.a. takenoko .) Big, bright, and round these are some of the last ones for the year. They made a lovely marmalade last year that we savored on fresh bread and in cups of tea. Growing just behind the farmhouse the mikan is one of an assortment of trees, shrubs, and plants that could still feed an extended family year round. The farmstead inventory includes (but is probably not limited to) two kinds of kaki (persimmon), a kinkan bush (tiny, tiny edible orange eaten whole), yuzu and ume (plum) trees, at least one green tea bush with ginger (myoga) at its feet, a healthy stand of bamboo, a few wild vegetables such as fukinoto and warabi, and green and red shiso sprouting just about everywhere ima

Scrumptious Fungus with Matt Demmon

Matt Demmon over at Little House Farm is once again offering his most-fascinating mushroom class. Learn how to grow and get tips on preserving and cooking up your own delicious fungi, and enter a world of tasty beauty with Matt as your guide. To whet your appetite, read my interview with Matt from last year and then check out his mouth-watering recipe below! Backyard Mushrooming Sunday, April 11th 12pm - 3pm Little House Farm $50 for class; $70 to take home your own log Call Matt at 734-255-2783 or email to register Hurry! Class size is limited. Quick and Easy Mushrooms with Cream Sauce ala Little House Farm 8 oz. fresh mushrooms or 2 oz. dried mushrooms (reconstituted in water first) 1/2 of a small onion 3 tablespoons of butter 2 tablespoons of flour (can be a combination of millet, amaranth, buckwheat and/or teff for those hankering after gluten-free) 1 cup milk or half and half Salt and pepper to taste Pasta of your choice Saute the mushrooms in the butter for about five mi

Do-It-Yourself Eco-Tourism in Kawaguchiko

Eco or green vacations are popular and an excellent idea, but they can be expensive and sometimes intimidating to sort out on a budget in a foreign country. We've tried our hand at a few different green trips since coming to Japan, and have learned a great deal in the past year. (We lean toward cheap and green in life in general, so we automatically transferred these same concepts to trip planning.) Also, we often find that inexpensive travel is much more interesting, green, and adventurous than something with a high price tag. Our first green vacation was helping rethatch a roof in Nagano Prefecture , followed by camping in Hokkaido , and then WOOFing on Shikouku Island . Each was a little different than the last - a guided volunteer trip to farm labor - but all were fun and fantastic learning experiences. We do tend to take the slow route, get dirty, lost, and eat at places where we can't quite read the menu or exactly understand what the cook is telling us, but we love i

Ivan Ramen

Inspired by the double whammy of a recent Frugal Traveler story and a yuzu ramen trip to Ebisu , we thought we'd try another. A sunny Saturday put us on our bikes for a 45-minute ride to Ivan Ramen over in Rokakouen. A non-descript little place on the corner of a little shopping street and a major road it would be easy to miss. But we'll attest it's well worth looking for. The long line of people patiently waiting not only marked the spot, but signified that something special awaited those who finally made it to one of the ten or so stools strung a long the L-shpaed counter. Ivan himself hopped out to say hello to folks in the line, and spent some time talking with us about his ramen and his story . Always mad about food and curious, he worked as a chef for a number of years in New York City before moving to Tokyo with his wife and family. After trying a couple different food ventures, Ivan turned his culinary hand to ramen . A quinticesential Japanese dish (borrowed fr