Skip to main content

Back in the Garden

Early April, 2012 in my Tokyo garden.















A friend recently said that he thought some of my best writing was about gardening.

"It's when I really hear you," he said.

And for some time now I've not written much about the garden. The last year was intensely busy and the garden took a back seat. Truth be told the garden wasn't even in the back seat. It was in the trunk under an old blanket. I'd visit to harvest and then quickly leave. Spending more time than that meant thinking about chores I didn't have time to do, plants that were neglected, things I didn't have time to buy. Rather than a joy it became a sorrow to be there, and it seemed best to hurry away.

This year I'm still busy, but marginally less so. I'm making room for the garden again. And for marmalade. And reading. I need that dirt under my fingernails (and subsequently a new nail brush) and a few good rounds of weeding to bring me back around to the physical and metaphorical space I want to be in again.

So back in the garden I am with camera, notebook, pen, dirty fingers, and knees. Weeds and birds are all around this breezy spring afternoon, and I'm more than pleased to see the praying mantis egg cases in the mint and bamboo canes. Those damned aphids are back, too, but a good round of squishing paired with harvesting of my kale for ourselves and friends ought to improve air circulation and set them back a bit. A handful of winter greens - komatsuna, karashina, and mizuna - are flowering as usual, but the scent is thick and sweet and the yellow blooms bring in little pollinators for a feast I'm happy to provide. The mint and bergamont are running away with the show, and I've just managed to free one of the emerging rhubarb plants from their grip. Tulips stand at the ready with buds ready to burst into color at the first chance while crocus leaves gather fuel for next year nearby.

The tatami mats are decaying pleasantly in place, and I'm already plotting what little gift to take over to the master this year for a fresh round. Some of those broccoli side shoots with a few sprigs of lavender or mint? The lasanga bed remains unattractive and I feel a bit unsure of the wisdom of creating it although the garlic looks happy and the worms I saw earlier seem a testament to its soil-building ability. Although, as I work along I can hear a passerby comment that they don't know what it's all about. I've learned the blessing and the curse of urban gardening and farming is the audience. As much a part of my garden as the praying mantis, stray cats, aphids, birds, butterflies, and the occasional lizard, the public is there. I try to think of them as good language practice even if I don't always like what they have to say.

The afternoon light shifts to orange and the shadows grow long. I look up to see the full moon rising over the buildings lining the station street a block away, and I hear the five o'clock bell toll. There's lots of work to be done yet, and I know as I pack my tools away in one bike basket and a small harvest in the other that I'm already behind. The beans aren't in and if I'm going to plant those blue potatoes I bought at the Nippori Farmer's Market I'd best get busy. The compost bins need to be turned, a bed cleared and prepped for the popcorn, and the tomato seedlings need to come back in for the night.  But it's alright. It feels manageable. It feels good to be back.

Comments

Tom said…
"I need that dirt under my fingernails (and subsequently a new nail brush) and a few good rounds of weeding to bring me back around to the physical and metaphorical space I want to be in again."

BANG!That's it, Joan, that's IT, in a nutshell.

To *that* space, a toast!

All the best,

T
Many thanks, Tom! A toast with rhubarb shu, perhaps? The experimental batch turned out well, if I do say so myself, and an official batch for this year will be underway this evening...hopefully. Give a shout when you're ready for extra hands, by the way.

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Kamakura Farmers Market: Giant Buddhas and Good Vegetables

Kamakura Farmers Market entrance A little more than an hour train ride south of Tokyo sits Kamakura. Like Kyoto and Nara, Kamakura is a former capital full to the brim with temples, shrines, and a bounty of historical sites lining its winding streets. Nestled in a cozy bay with beaches and a giant Buddha tucked amongst the rest, it's a city that invites multiple visits if not at least one. And those seeking a farmers market well-stocked with traditional vegetables, skilled growers ready to share recipes and chat about their wares, along with some nifty prepared foods to rejuvenate themselves after so many temples surely won't be disappointed, either. Kamakura Farmers Market - right side full of signs Started nearly twenty years ago, the Kamakura Farmers Market or Kamakurasui Nyogyou Rensokubaijo, runs seven days a week nearly year-round. A ten-minute walk from the station, the market is located in what at first glance looks like nothing so much as a run-down w

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l