Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sprung Out and Thai-d Up

Wiping my nose, JeenHae planting flowers
Happy Spring Everyone! The warm weather is beginning. All week I have been walking to morning exercise in slippers without socks. From here the possibilities are endless. Despite this turn of good fortune, this week on the farm has been a rough one.

The warm weather also brought pollen and lots of new work to do on the farm. The combination of the two have worn me down. I've spent all week squinting through swollen, itchy eyes, sneezing loudly, and blowing snot like a water hydrant. Luckily, even in my allergy induced stupor, I was still able to finish all the work that needed doing before we left for Thailand.

I spent most of the week finishing up a new trellis system for the Kiwi orchard. I got to use lots of tools and skills I've never used before in that way. Big cables, metal cutters, giant wire clippers, an arc welder, and—of course the classic do it yourself resources—concrete and rebar. Part of me enjoyed the break from humble hand weeding, sowing, and sorting, but I also wondered if there was a more natural way to give the kiwis something to climb. I guess we'll just leave that experiment for our future farm.

The new spring work includes sowing spring vegetables that will get us through to summer: stem onions, cabbage, chrysanthemum, and lettuce. Some we sow directly in the field while others, we start as seedlings in the green house.
Stomping leaves in hot bed #2

We make hot beds for these seeds. Back in the fall the volunteers spent many long hours raking up leaves around campus. I am glad to see that this is not for aesthetic purposes. We make hot beds with them. All the leaves are packed into a makeshift compost bin we construct from old rice straw mats. It stands about waist high in the green house. We add a little bacteria and give them all the resources they need for a population boom (rice bran for food, chicken manure for even more food, and water for hydration) and we just have to wait a week. Much like our bokashi, this box packed with leaves starts to give off some serious heat from all of the biotic action going on inside. We then sow our trays of seedlings and set them on the hot bed so they can get the heat they need to germinate early.

Egoma Oil
Another interesting continuation of work done in the fall is our egoma oil. Our green house was full of egoma plants all through November and into December. The volunteers spent our rainy days in there threshing the seeds out of each plant. Since then we have spent the winter sorting the seeds through various water, wind, and sifting processes. Finally we got nine bags of seed and sent them out to be pressed for oil. Last week the oil returned and we are going to be able to sell each bottle for 3000 yen, because it is really pure.

We also picked up our soy sauce from the small company that made it for us, using our harvest of black soybeans and wheat.

We are looking ahead to a time of change this month, not only in the weather but in our community as well. Of course we'll be saying hello to a whole new class of participants at the end of this month. Unfortunately we'll be saying goodbye to many people who have been a constant presence in the ARI community since Jenny and I arrived here.

Steven Cutting is moving to Kyushu with his family. He has two lovely daughters, Sarah and Ellie, who we've grown very fond of. Steven has taken us on hiking adventures and opened his home to american movie night several times. He has been a real warming presence here. Plus he is the only other tall blond guy that lives here! With him around I feel less like a big tower of white.

Gussan is the farm manager. His wife and his two-year-old daughter live an hour away on another organic farm. They are very dedicated to this lifestyle and to teaching it to others. Gussan commutes to ARI by 6:30 AM every day and sometimes doesn't leave until 5, 6, or 7:00 PM. But now he and his wife are finishing up their farm work on this side of Japan. They will move this month to Western Japan where they will start their own farm in an old and rural Japanese village. His knowledge skill and unshakable calm will be missed here.

Volunteers, Megumi and Sakura, will also be leaving us this month. We celebrated their work at ARI this week by eating out at a Chinese restaurant. Megumi is always excited about what is going on around her and her energy will surely be missed. Sakura has just turned twenty. She graduated from an agriculturally based high school before she came to ARI so she knows as much as the staff, about chickens especially. But she is never pretentious about her knowledge. Sakura is always willing to calmly discuss the method of work and its purpose, even to ask Gussan time and time again for clarification.

Recently we have taken a break in Thailand. After the long week a get away is nice. We'll tell y'all all about it next week. For the time being, just know that we are enjoying the warm weather and fresh fruit!

Peace be with you,

Doug and Jenny Knight

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