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Showing posts from March, 2011

Parsley and Daffodils

Spring continues her steady process of infiltrating everything. The days gradually warm and I can feel the world slowly stretching its limbs as the heat permeates. (That's not a veiled reference to continued aftershocks, although it wouldn't be a bad one now that I think about it.) Two of my spring favorites are pictured here. Picked last week from just behind the greenhouse by the gate, these daffodils fully opened just yesterday. My favorite spouse plunked the parsley (overwintered nicely, by the way) from the balcony garden in a jar next to them, and like magic, Spring came to the kitchen sink. Doing dishes is almost a pleasant chore now.

Fantasy Farm Bike

My bicycle is really a pick-up truck in disguise. In America, we lived in the boonies. We hauled firewood, horse manure, sand, rocks large and small, furniture, recycling, parts for a hoophouse , appliances, other people's stuff, and even the occasional chicken in the back of our little truck. It was one of the most valuable tools we had. Here in Tokyo, we don't own a car. The city's mass transit system alone connects us to anywhere we would want to go - bus or train - including the venerable shinkansen (bullet train) that will get us nearly anywhere else we might want to wander off to in a mind-boggling short amount of time. For short hops to the store or even slightly longer ones sometimes, we use our mama-chari's (bicycles). My mama-chari is my best friend. It has a front and back basket, gears, light and a bell. Like the pick-up truck, it's a dirty and dusty little thing. Bits of mud and momigara (rice hulls) thickly coat the tires after a rain,

Updated Garden Photos

Despite still being on crutches, I've been dying to get my hands in the dirt again. While our balcony garden lies in that mildly chaotic state that happens between seasons, my mind continually wanders down the street, around the corner, and through the gate at the farm. This past Saturday afternoon I corralled some friends to join me there to do a bit of tidying and much-needed harvesting (I'm not kidding when I make those offers of vegetables, people.) I can just hear Spring raising a commotion out there and warming things up in preparation for Summer's grand arrival. It's time for a clean slate once again. We weeded the beds and harvested the last of the daikon . (The farmers have a wheeled stool I borrowed to toddle about in for our time there.) I'll be making some quick pickles of them with the last of the umetsu , and hopefully whipping up that batch of kimchi I've been talking about for weeks now. (Darn earthquake ...) We t

Osaka Farmers Market Post at Summer Tomato

I've become a bit of a farmer's market nut (as well as a yasai otaku ) since coming to Japan. Folks told me before arriving here that they didn't exist. (They said the same thing about farms and gardens, too, but luckily it took just a couple of walks and bike rides to knock that misconception out of the park.) Anyway, I've also been lucky enough to find a few folks interested in reading about my market adventures. Summer Tomato , a food-health-all-around-nifty-blog out of San Francisco, is one of them. Discovered in the course of the 2010 Blogathon , it's become a regular read. I wrote about Tokyo's United Nation's University Market in October (one of a number of markets in the city , by the way); the Dane County Farmer's Market in February, and now Osaka's Odona Market can be added to the list. P.S. My dearest assistant is working up a video of our visit to the Odona Market, too, so get your popcorn ready!

Back on the Farm in Tokyo

Our week in Osaka drew to a close with a visit to the Odona Farmer's Market on Wednesday evening, and fond farewells to our friends there. (Look for the post at Summer Tomato on Sunday morning, 6am, PST. Check out my posts about the UN University Market in Tokyo and my visit in February to a beloved old haunt, the Dane County Farmers Market .) Our earthquake-nuclear-power-plant free week refreshed us a bit, and I was able to spend some time getting my leg to heal (Let me just say again that the Nintendo Wii Dance Party is a great party game, but I do recommend a good stretch beforehand.) We decided to return to Tokyo because it's our home now, and we missed our friends there. By all accounts (from friends and colleagues), the mood in the city was lightening, and despite the news of radiation in the water we decided to head back. Our return on Thursday morning was uneventful except for a rather large aftershock (none since for the most part), and we learned that the warni

Road to Osaka

My most recent posts have not focused on gardening or food much at all. I've been mostly home bound before and after the March 11 th quake with a strained Achilles. I've ventured to the farm once since then for a blissful (and mildly painful) few hours only. Instead I'm writing briefly about my experiences here in Japan during this time. I'm writing (somewhat rapidly and badly) for myself, family, and friends to try and capture what I'm seeing, hearing and feeling and subsequently sort through it all. Please bear with me. - Joan We boarded a night bus to Osaka with mixed feelings last night. Many of our friends are still in Tokyo and are not planning to leave. Their families and homes are there, and they don't feel a need to go. We obviously felt some kind of need, and decided to go with it. Our decision was based on the fact that I'm still on crutches with my strained Achilles and that if people panicked in any way, it wouldn't be easy to maneuver

Our Sources for News on Earthquake

I'll get back to gardening and growing shortly, but I also wanted to share the sources we follow for our news about the earthquake . A number of folks at home and elsewhere have asked. (I'm including another plum blossom photo because it's a little thing that gives me great comfort and pleasure at the moment.) Twitter Wild as it may seem, it's proven invaluable. We follow TimeOutTokyo tweets for links, translations of news conferences, and general Tokyo information. I just started following Makiko Itoh yesterday for her outstanding translations and on-top-of-it-all information. Better known as the author of Just Hungry - a blog about Japanese food and culture that I also follow - she's a no-nonsense writer/foodie. You can also follow me on Twitter (see the column at the right where my Tweets are listed) for the snippets I pass along. Television NHK, Japan's primary broadcaster, has an English translation channel that we listen to also. Al Jazeera easil

Aftershocks and Nuclear Power Plants

My list of posts for this week included topics such as gardening while on crutches, starting seeds, plum blossoms (pictured above), a book review, and a few notable food/gardening moments from our trip to America. Earthquakes, tsunami, nuclear power plants, aftershocks and rolling blackouts never crossed my mind. At least not until last Friday. While my husband was peering over the edge of the Kandagawa to see what a giant koi might look like , I was at home working on an article for Summer Tomato . My Achilles up on ice and my brain word-smithing away at my memories of the Dane County Farmer's Market, I felt a bit of a tremor. I paused as we'd had a similar one earlier in the week registering somewhere around 7 on the Richter scale. The shaking kept going and seemed to get stronger. I got up and started to make my way on my crutches to our bedroom to get under the desk. The shaking increased, and while part of my brain thought I was overreacting another part th

Tokyo Garden Check-In

After the interview with YokosoNews Sunday afternoon, we headed over to the garden to see what was happening. Last year when we returned from our trip to America , the garden was bursting with leaves ready to eat. This year proved much the same. Komatsuna, wasabina, karashina (both green and red), arugula, and mizuna are making a concerted effort to lift off the row covers. An older fellow stopped by as we were working ('we' meaning my friends and husband doing my bidding as I hovered over them on crutches) to say they were too big to eat, but we just laughed. The leaves are larger than normal since they stayed in the ground so long, but they still make a great addition to miso or salad . The garlic is happily sprouting in the west wall bed, and some of the crocus I planted are blooming, too. One rhubarb crown looks like it's more than ready for spring, but the other is nowhere to be seen. I suspect that the long hot summer may have been too much for it. The cabbag

Fresh Vegetables at Narita Airport

The last thing I thought I would see when we emerged from Immigration and Customs at Narita Airport on Friday was fresh produce. Packaged tsukemono , a few sembei , and sake would have been par for the course, but fresh eggs? Brilliant salad greens with a bright red radish? Assorted kinds of rice and soy beans? Daikon ? No way! These are things I fully expect to see at my neighborhood vegetable stalls , but not at the airport. Turns out it wasn't a foggy jet-lag dream after all. There they were in their fresh, leafy, gleaming glory. Strawberries, multiple-hued eggs, tomatoes, salad greens, ropey gobo (burdock), satoimo , and more enticed travelers to pick up something fresh for their wait, for the ride home, or as a gift. If we weren't rushing to our bus, and if I hadn't been on crutches and unable to help with our luggage I would have snapped up a handful of things to be supportive and get some good green vegetable juice moving through my veins once more. (W

Back in the Garden Again

We are back home in Tokyo after a fantastic month at home in America . Exchanging one wintry landscape for one clearly about to burst into spring feels delightful in a way, but we're already more than homesick for our family and friends. One of the beautiful things international living teaches is that there are amazing people everywhere in the world. It is heartening and humbling to meet people on many continents, in places large and small, urban and rural, that are so wonderful. It is also, at times, heart-breaking. Farewells are inevitable and the least favorite part of any adventure. The places we have been lucky enough to live and visit - England, Wisconsin , Kazakhstan , Michigan , Illinois, and now Japan - have been brought to life by the people we have met there and shared time with. A part of us remains in those places and a bit of those places also always travels with us. *Another snapshot of the landscape of my heart : While the accompanying photo is clearly not my bes