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Showing posts from May, 2012

Another 31 Done

Some of Koyasan's many moss-covered Buddhas. It's hard to believe the Blogathon is over already. As always, there is some relief and some sadness. Relief that the pressure is off to post every day, and sadness that the other 250 (give or take) people I've been working with this month will wander off into their own electronic lives. There's also, to be frank, some sadness that the pressure to post every day is off, too. I work better with firm deadlines and the prospect of a stern tone. Perhaps that's the result of my Midwest upbringing. And as usual I'm coming away with more than a few lessons learned over the course of the month. Here are the highlights. 1. I'm actually pretty good at this.  OK, I usually don't toot my own horn quite so much, but I seriously find that I enjoy reading my own writing and that my content is good. I work hard to not put up fluff material just to fill the space, and I spend a fair amount of time researching my conte

Carrot Thinnings: An Experiment in Cold Soup

Just like the daikon in early winter , we thin the carrot seedlings down to one little orange guy per hole. It's a mildly heart-breaking affair as it always seems a shame to waste so much lovely vegetable matter, although there is something to be said for adding to the compost pile . I decided as I pulled little lovely after little lovely out of the ground yesterday that I ought to do something with at least some of them. The greens, small, tender and aromatic, will whip up into an excellent dish on their own , but what to do with those little orange roots? As the sun beat down on my shoulders a desire for a cold beverage took hold, and then it came to me: cold carrot ginger soup. A recipe began to take shape there in the field, and after a quick conference call with my sister-in-law, gardener and cook extraordinaire, I sorted out a few details and set out on a journey of experimentation. Cold Ginger Carrot Soup 5 large carrots, washed and topped.* 2 inch piece of ginger, w

Piddling on the Vegetables

Well, not exactly, but something similar is happening in my garden here in Tokyo . I'm not installing a potty in the garden, but I'm planning to surreptitiously transport a bottle of fresh urine there once a week. There I'll mix it with water and pour it over my plants in an effort to offer them some needed nutrients and give the soil a boost. If I forget to take it (an event which has already occurred in my jet-lagged state) I'll simply pour the contents over the compost pile to add nutrients there and speed the breakdown process. (Check out this article at The Ecologist for a good summary of urine's benefits.) Why am I doing this? Oh, heaps of reasons, but mostly it is because I have found organic urban gardening to be mildly confounding. My previous garden in Michigan in the country was an easy affair in comparison in terms of sourcing compost, manure, and straw. It was easy to build compost bins, potato towers , and lasagna beds. Unbeknownst to me, it was

Five Blogging Lessons Plus One

Mita-san's father's awesome chopstick rest. I missed one of the Blogathon theme days while in America last week, and so I'm opting to share my thoughts on the group topic today instead. The question posed to the group was, "If you began blogging today, what would you do differently?" I started this blog to prove to myself that I could still write a series of paragraphs in a compelling and meaningful way. I worked at a non-profit back then where most of my writing consisted of bullet points, brief emails, and letters to donors and volunteers. It was good work and I loved it, but I worried that I'd lost the one skill I truly loved: my ability to write. Since that day more than three years ago, I find myself writing nearly every day either here or in my journal. Articles , reviews , and more come pouring out and I'm grateful for each word as it emerges. I learn something new every day. And if I were to start today, here are a few things I might do a bi

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Sunday, May 27th

Handspun yarn at Nara Organic Farmers Market Just a little reminder of all the great markets happening on this ridiculously beautiful Sunday. We just returned from an emergency trip to America, so I'll be heading out to restock my larder and hopefully ward off jet lag for a bit. If you see someone napping near the display of strawberries or broccoli, feel free to nudge me awake and say hello! Gyre Market Sunday, May 27 A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y. 11am to 5pm Map Earth Day Market Sunday, May 27 I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. 10am to 4pm, Rain or shine! Map UN University Market Every S

Satoimo at Garden to Table

One of the benefits of doing the Blogathon is that I get to meet tons of other bloggers writing about a wide variety of things. And we swap posts, which is a fun way to make creative connections as well as share knowledge and ideas. This year I was lucky enough to have two swap partners. One of them, Garden to Table , is a great gardening site that I subscribed to even before I met up with her here. It was like meeting someone famous. Here at Popcorn Homestead, Elyse wrote about Oregon Farmer's Markets , and over there I talked at length about my growing relationship with satoimo (taro root), one of Japan's favorite slimy foods . Yummier than it sounds!

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: May 26th and May 27th

Glorious weather means glorious food shopping! Head on out to see what's available this weekend at some of the loveliest markets going. Swing by Meijijingu Gardens after the Earth Day Market in Yoyogi to see if the iris are still blooming, too. Can't think of a better combination at the moment! Photo Note: Hex Hive is a groovy little vegetable-local-food-product-second-hand-shop we discovered during our stay in Nara. Gyre Market Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, May 27 A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y. 11am to 5pm Map Earth Day Market Sunday, May 27 I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. 10am to 4pm, Rain or shine! Map

Cafe Good Life Review at Japan Tourist

Dessert at Cafe Good Life. Oh, yeah. Even though it's only May we are already starting to think about our summer travel plans to Hokkaido . We do love it there, not least because of good friends at Square One , but also because of the the other little treasures we have found there. These have made us feel at home, and have become regular visits for us each time. One of these places is Cafe Good Life in Asahikawa. Set outside of town in the countryside, Cafe Good Life is one of the few destination restaurants I would recommend as worth the effort. I could say more, but I'll let you read the review I wrote of it over at Japan Tourist , a handy travel site where I'm a contributor. I wrote this one in winter, but summer is glorious. See you there?

Here Come the Plums!

I'd like to say this photo is blurry because the ume were growing so fast I couldn't get a good picture, but that would be a lie. I was rushing about last week doing a last few things at the farm and in the garden before our trip home to Michigan. We'll be home there for one week for family reasons, but as I've said before, vegetables wait for no one . And, clearly, that goes for fruit, too. Ume (Japanese plums) are tart, lovely, and preserve well in so many ways. This little fruit has opened a door of flavor for me, not to mention my closet full of shus (just search the word on my blog and you'll see), that I have a great deal of affection for it. Below is a list of links to peruse and choose what you might like to do, too. Let me know. I'm sure there's something with this little lovely I've not thought of that ought to be tried. Umeboshi  - The classic preserve in Japan with a flavor like no other. A little work, but well worth the effort. I s

Strawberry Fields

OK, not fields. Not even a row, actually. How about a plant a friend put in the garden a year or so ago that sent out runners, bloomed, and is now heavy with fruit? Probably not enough for jam, but definitely enough to try sun warm in the garden and take home for oatmeal. Oh, yeah.

Busy Bee Haiku

Each year the Blogathon opts for a haiku theme day. Years past I've written about my mini-tambo (my first personal rice field...in a cup) and about a stunning ornamental peach that grew near the farm gate. (It succumbed to a typhoon last fall, but is now sprouting vigorously, much to our delight.) This year I'm penning one in awe of our field of norabo (a traditional green not unlike kale in taste and texture that is usually grown in the foothills and mountains further west of here) that we've let go to seed. It's somewhat uncharacteristic of the farmers to have made this choice, but I'm so very pleased. The yellow flowers have a heady scent and walking to and from other fields the buzzing sound emanating from these rows is delightful. I should have taken a video. Norabo Cocktail Party Yellow flowers blooming bright. Heavy with pollen, Bees humming sip happily.
Just a quick reminder that there's still plenty of good markets to visit this weekend with heaps of good food. Whip up a batch of soup or a nice salad . Really, the possibilities are endless, so why not give it a go? Good luck! ***Notice the addition of the Shinonome Earth Day Market on Sunday!!*** Ebisu Market Sunday, May 20 11am to 5pm A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and  tea seedpods . Map Nippori Farmer's Market Sunday, May 20 10am to 5pm Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat. No map, but just head out the  east exit and look for the green awnings !

Kichijoji Farmer's Market Overview

Kichijoji is home to two wonderful farmer's markets. Both are small, but good fun and filled with plenty of promise for growth. The first is the Earth Day Market (Rescheduled from last week until the end of summer. The website doesn't say why, but here's hoping we get to do more organic shopping just around the corner.) in Inokashira Park and the second is the regular market closer to the station. On this weekend, the Kichijoji Farmer's Market aims to please and surely will. Read my overview of the market and head on over with shopping bags in hand. You're bound to find plenty of good fruit, vegetables, and fun! It might also be worth noting that strawberry season here is just starting to kick it. Be prepared with proper packaging to lug home some of these luscious beauties. Know of a market in or around Tokyo? (Or Japan for that matter. We're making summer travel plans now.) Don't hold back! Tell all and make your local farmers glad. 

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: May 19th and 20th

Nara Organic Farmers Market Oh, there's way too many farmer's markets to choose from this weekend! Ebisu with Afuri Ramen just around the corner or Nippori with the battalion of Aizu Wakamatsu growers on hand or the UN University Night Market? Seriously, what is a vegetable geek supposed to do? Bust out an extra shopping bag and hit the road, that's what! See you there! Ebisu Market Sunday, May 20 11am to 5pm A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and  tea seedpods . Map Nippori Farmer's Market Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20 10am to 5pm Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and ge

Cucumber Trellis: Reprise

This post is consistently my most popular. I keep imagining growers everywhere searching for a good system for growing cucumbers, and stumbling across my blog. We're growing cucumbers again this year, and I'm betting that somewhere within the next week or two the trellis will go up again. We're also trying our hand at squash and watermelon on the farm, and I'm pretty excited. I'm sure the farmers I work with will have some ingenious plan to implement. They are so inspiring! Cucumbers  are this years experimental crop. In years past, the farmers have not had much luck with the C ucurbitaceae  family. Squash and watermelon succumbed to powdery mildew, and cucumber apparently has been a particular challenge for generations. Humidity and drought, disease, and the occasional roaming oni (a ghost that seems to enjoy eating the flowers before we get nary a bite) bear the blame. This year, though, with well-prepared soil, crossed fingers, and

Green Curtain Time!

Morning glory ( Asagao ) blossom from a curtain. Lovely, isn't she? Lovely and idyllic as these spring days are the heat of summer is surely on its way. And with the shut-down of all of Japan's nuclear reactors, that also means conservation strategies need to be put in place now. And that can mean only one thing: time to plant the green curtain! I've written about this before in some detail , so I'm not going to set folks yawning with yet another telling. Instead, I'm going to suggest you get pen and paper ready to jot down a shopping list, and grab a ruler to measure the space you've got in mind for the green curtain to cover. Later we'll talk about recipes if you decide to do an edible version or recommended reading if you opt for ornamental and get lots of wild visitors. Edible or ornamental, the shade makes a lovely spot for sipping a wee bit of umeshu or umehachimitsu as those temperatures climb, too. Morning glory curtain shading west wind

Farmer's Markets in Oregon

Dane County Winter Farmers Market, 2011 I had the unique pleasure of working with two (yes, two!) other bloggers as part of the Guest Post Swap for the 2012 Blogathon . (Check out my first swap post about Guelph, Ontario and its lovely rivers, too!)  Elyse Grau writes at Garden to Table about everything delicious growing and going on around her in Oregon as well as her own garden. If you're like me, you'll be hungry by the end! Farmers' markets are everywhere these days. The USDA reported a 17% increase in the number of markets between 2010 and 2011. I've seen at least 3 new markets open within twenty miles of ours in the past year. I manage the market in the small town where I live. Creswell, Oregon is a town of 5000, with a large outlying rural area. The market, currently in its fifth year, is held every Tuesday from 4-6 pm. It was originally a project of our local library, and was held in the library's “backyard” (a fenced-in partially covered ex-lu

Guelph, Ontario: A Tale of Two Rivers

River Run Centre, Guelph, Ontario. Courtesy V. Waffle, 2007. Today I'm very excited to welcome Van Waffle , a fellow blogger participating in Blogathon 2012 , who writes about urban nature. We traded posts about waterways in Guelph and Tokyo, our respective cities. Enjoy! Old Man Willow, 2008. Photo courtesy of V. Waffle. The city where I live demonstrates how dedicated citizens can bring nature into urban areas. Guelph, a city of 121,668 people in Southwestern Ontario is consistently identified as one of the best places to live in Canada. Progressive environmental standards contribute to the quality of life. If asked what they like most about Guelph, many residents would mention the two rivers. At the confluence of the Speed and Eramosa Rivers, the city was founded in 1827. They played an essential role in early economy. Tanneries, wool mills and breweries dotted their banks during the 19th Century. Two serious floods during the early 20th Century led the city to fill we

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: Recap!

Kencha Tea at Nara's Organic Market Just a quick recap of the Tokyo farmer's markets on this weekend. There's a nice little selection of weekly ones as well as a couple that only appear once a month or less. Don't miss a wonderful opportunity to try a new vegetable, practice Japanese, or get a new recipe! Earth Day Market - Kichijoji Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13 A fantastic opportunity to get yummy all-organic and fair-trade goodies in one of Tokyo's niftiest little spots in one of the city's most beautiful parks. Seriously, why aren't you putting this on the calendar? 10am to 4pm, Rain or shine! No map yet. Gyre Market Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13 A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y. 11am to 5pm Map UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday in May A massive weekend affair that is g

Kichijoji's Earth Day Market: Reprise

It's a little early to run this post again, but it's worth the effort to spread the word about this great new market on the west side of Tokyo. The Earth Day Market itself isn't new at all, but this branch of it in Kichijoji is. The organizers try to set up markets around town to spread the word about good organic food and to bring such things to more and more places. Not only is it a little Earth Day every month, as one vendor said, but it's a nice bit of community as well. Good food grown by people passionate about their work never fails to inspire pleasure, and that's exactly what visitors to this market (and the others this weekend ) will find. See you there! There's a new market in town, and let's just say I'm excited. The  Earth Day Market , held monthly over in Yoyogi Park, is one of my favorites, and so when the market manager, Tomiyama-san, told me a 'branch' market was starting up in Kichijoji I was thrilled. The Earth Day Market

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: May 12th and 13th

Ota-san of Wakknopan Breads. Yummy! This second weekend in May looks as promising for weather as it does for markets. I'll be venturing off to the Earth Day Market in Kichijoji to restock on black rice, mochi, daizu , and more. I can't go too far afield as there's work to be done in the garden and at the farm, and the ever-rising temperatures mean there's no time to waste. The rest of you will just have to wander off to get a taste of other Tokyo markets this weekend. I have no doubt there's a farmer out there with a super-special recipe for that unknown vegetable at her stand. Go get it and report back! Earth Day Market - Kichijoji Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13 A fantastic opportunity to get yummy all-organic and fair-trade goodies in one of Tokyo's niftiest little spots in one of the city's most beautiful parks. Seriously, why aren't you putting this on the calendar? 10am to 4pm, Rain or shine! No map yet. Gyre Market Saturd

The Magic (and Science) of Charcoal

Charcoal maker's stand near Hachioji. I write for eco+waza , a very groovy company here in Tokyo, about an assortment of eco-ideas related to Japanese culture. Topics are a combination of my own ideas as well as suggestions from my editor. The latter are often particularly challenging assignments that require a fair amount of research and thought, but I love them for just that reason. And without fail, I learn much that gives me even greater insight into the country I currently call home. My latest assignment was to explain to readers why charcoal is an effective deodorizer and dehumidifier. Japanese people have long used it to prevent mildew in kimono closets and keep rooms from smelling musty or particularly stinky after a meal of grilled fish. After loads of reading, an interview with a friendly scientist, and a basic science lesson, I learned that there's more to charcoal than just grilled meat! Read the full article Japanese Charcoal: How and Why This Natural Deodo

Tatami Mat Break Down: The Story of Mulching Innovation Continues

Bonus: leftover tatami bits feed the soil. Two years ago I spotted old tatami mats used as mulch at a small neighboring farm. I'd just done a fairly serious weeding session in my little garden after returning from what has now become our annual summer romp in Hokkaido , and was looking for a solution. I am not a fan of weeding, because it usually happens in the heat of the day and because as I learn more about permaculture and organic gardening I see fewer and fewer plants as weeds. Many, like fleabane daisy , offer pollinators and other beneficials important sources of food and shelter, and I'm beginning to think more and more that I need to learn to cooperate. So, one year ago I got brave enough to ask our local tatami master if I could have some old mats. He said yes and a friend helped me haul them to the garden and lay them out between my rows. I still use plastic sheet mulch for the plants themselves as organic matter, like leaves and straw, can be hard to come b

Mint: A Rookie's Mistake

My mint forest. Confession time. I did one of the worst things a gardener could. An error that with more than ten years of dirt under my nails should simply have not occurred. I've warned others not to do it, for heaven's sake. But here I am, head hung in shame, confessing my error. I planted mint in the garden. Directly in the soil. Three times. Here's the context, a.k.a. my excuse. I'd been in Japan less than three months when the farmers told me I could have a little corner of their fields to call my own , to grow whatever I wanted. I was ecstatic beyond belief. Filled with such euphoria I went to the nursery, which is akin to going to the grocery store when you're hungry. You crave everything and anything, end up buying more than you need and a handful of things that aren't good for you. I filled two bike baskets and another bag hung from my handlebars. Mint and lemon balm sat innocent-leaved among tomatoes, nasturtiums, cosmos, marigolds, and eggpla