Saturday, May 25, 2013

Waiting With Open Hands

Today we are cleaning a room in this house, preparing it for the arrival of my sister! She just graduated from high school and will be landing in Tokyo two weeks from now.

We are also preparing a talk for the youth group at Nishinasuno Church. We'll be talking a little bit about how we ended up here. It is a funny thing to think about. Our friend, Steven Cutting, likes to interpret the story of the good Samaritan as someone who allowed God to use their life. We are coming to realize that being "used" is a big part of what it means to be a volunteer, a servant, a missionary, and a compassionate being. Without really knowing what we were doing we told our church, "Use us, please." Though our hands were empty God has used them in uncountable ways this year. He has also placed in our hands blessing after blessing.

A big blessing this spring has been all of the wonderful leaf vegetables we have. They grow quick and do well to fill our stomachs in the awkward gap between fall storage and summer abundance. Our onion and potato stocks are finished now. Our summer vegetables are just beginning to leave their seedling stage. Yellow flowers are slowly peeping out here and there on a tomato plant or two. We wait for them to mature and munch on some more spinach. 

Next week is rice planting. We have already started in a few paddies. We've picked the rocks from the paddies, fertilized them with compost and chicken manure, sealed the banks, tilled the soil, filled them with water, and raked out the straw. We've selected the best rice seeds and kept them safe, warm, and wet in a green house until now. Finally it is time to pluck the little chopstick sized, wiry, green rice seedling up and stick it down in the mud. More on this next week!

This week the participants all gave a short presentation on the work that they are doing in their home communities and sending organizations. 

Warmer weather has everyone feeling a little more "genki" or healthy/excited/happy/energetic. 

Jenny is drying parsley because we have so much of it. 

The blackberry vines are blooming around the fish ponds!

One of these is not a tree.

To celebrate Jenny's life that has lasted for nearly 23 years so far I planned a special day out. We rode a train to the capital city of our prefecture, Utsunomiya, which is famous for one of Jenny's favorite foods, gyoza!

The Gyoza head couple. 

We made a new friend.

We also hit up some prime time karaoke! In Japan to do Karaoke you just get your own private room so you can be as weird and awful as you want. We got pretty weird but sang every note on key...kind of. We also discovered that Jenny is better than me at gangster rap. Represent.

In the 24th year of our life, we plan to keep our hands empty and available for use. We aren't sure what'll happen to us but we have a feeling that everything will work out.

I would like again, to thank all of the wonderful people who have filled our hands with what we need to do this work. 

Much Love and Peace to you all. 

Doug and Jenny

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Life at ARI

Buyo are biting and pigs are poo-rolling, which means warmer weather is here to stay.

I'd like to dedicate this blog to life.

Tuesday was the expected delivery day of one of our mother sows. But there were no piglets to be seen on Tuesday. No piglets to be seen on Wednesday, nor Thursday, nor Friday. After a long day in the sun on Saturday (details to follow), we went to bed early, only to be woken up by excited shouts about the sow's water breaking. When I made it to the delivery pen, there were about 10-12 other people already waiting and watching in anticipation. The sow had already given birth to one piglet about 20 minutes before I arrived. So we waited, gasping at every heave and grunt and movement of the sow. It wasn't until an hour and a half passed that piglet #2 joined its sibling in the outside world. The actual birth of the piglet happened a lot quicker than I expected. The piglet just slid right out of there.

The welcoming party was ready and with their cue they picked up the piglet and went to work cleaning her, snipping her free from the lifeline of her mother, and weighing her. She joined her brother in the warm box from where we could hear them playing together, KAWAII!!! 

The whole event was so exciting I thought I would stay to see another piglet's journey through the canal. So I stayed. We waited, gasping at every heave, grunt, and movement of the sow. It wasn't until an hour and half passed that I said, I have got to go. We were to get up early the next morning to join some folks for a Zen Buddhist Meditation. 

For these sows, a normal litter is 10-12 piglets born on average every 15 minutes. This delivery was a bit out of the ordinary, this morning I saw 17 healthy and happy piglets, and 1 exhausted mama. This was a very unique experience for me, having never seen a mammal delivery (I've seen chickens lay eggs, that's about it). I've never stared at the backside of an animal with so much hope and happiness and awe.

The crew.
On Saturday, we celebrated our successful English Farm work-camp that we had two weeks ago. Takashi invited the volunteers and staff who helped over to his house for a barbecue! It was a beautiful day outside. We built a stove for a barbecue pit and grilled ARI pork (piglets will be pork one day, and that's life) and onions. And we made homemade pizza and cooked it in a brick-oven that Takashi built himself! We enjoyed the life of our friends and our food, and of the sun. I think all of us got at least a little if not a LOT sunburned.

Kneadin' the pizza dough
Ayumi and Fuji fannin' the fire
Takashi next to his brick oven!
Yum. E.
Takashi's mini-me :)
After leaving the mother sow pen Saturday night to get some rest for the meditation, we found out this morning we had to cancel because Nishi was sick. We're sorry to hear she was sick, sorry we missed out on meditation, and sorry I couldn't have stayed to watch more piglets born. But here I am anyway, rested with more free time than I anticipated to write a semi-interesting blog for you. :)

Another thing I want to share with you this week is my new friendship with the workers at Otani Supermarket. As you may remember, I have been driving the kitchen garbage route twice a week since March to collect local resources for use on the farm. One of the places I go is Otani Supermarket where they collect fish that doesn't sell in time, is imperfect, or not suitable for sales. I've gotten to know some of the workers there and we always share broken English and Japanese with smiles and laughs. So on Thursday, Doug took the afternoon off and joined me on the route to meet my friends. We took a picture of course. Sometimes we find friends in the darndest places.

Doug, Yasco, Jenny, Tome, Saori

With a blog post dedicated to life, I can't leave out Knight Field. It's hardly recognizable as the same plot anymore. With the warm weather, sunshine and rain, our field has really grown, along with all the surrounding vegetation. This morning we spent about an hour clearing away some of the overgrown vegetation around the field, weeding, and planting the newest member of the Knight Field Family, a tomato plant. The seedling was an accident, a "weed" in another seedling's pot. They were going to just compost it but I asked if I could keep it. So I repotted it and we've been nursing it for a couple of weeks and today we sent it off with its school books and lunchbox into the real world. We hope the wheat and garlic and potatoes will play nice.

We seem to be in countdown mode, for many things. First on the list is my birthday, then Kim's arrival, then 5 weeks of Knight Fever Fiesta, and during that time we will harvest our wheat and hopefully make bread. After that, just a few short weeks before we are crying and dripping snot on people's shoulders saying "bye." We'll spend about a week in Korea visiting my cousin then make our way home. Wow.

But there's work and love to be done between now and then. Thank you for reading and supporting your Knight farmer missionaries in Japan.

Doug and Jenny

Monday, May 13, 2013

Action Packed

This week has been action packed! Wednesday was our community event day. Last month we went on a picnic and viewed the cherry blossoms. This month it was the volunteer's turn to plan the day of fun and community building for everyone. In the morning we split everyone into four teams and competed in what we called ARI Olympics. We used the ordinary tasks we carry out daily and made games out of them.

There was a race with pig feed in the wheelbarrows. Then we had a race packing feed and rolling blue barrels out of the mixing room. After that it was off to the field where we weeded beds and each team used the weeds to make art.


Weed Farmer

Mt. Fuji
 The chickens hid eggs around campus for everyone to find.

At the back of the kitchen we held a relay race carrying water and eventually pouring it into the serving containers we use for hot water every day.

The African women had the advantage here.

In the afternoon we went to a park where we played football, painted our faces, and slid down a big hill!

On Friday, Jenny and I skipped Foodlife work and hopped on a train to Sendai where we met our friend and fellow YASCer, Katie Young! We stayed with her for the weekend.

We sat in on a few of the Japanese classes she's involved in facilitating. She can't exactly teach them yet (though her Japanese is way better than ours!) but she does help behind the scenes by taking care of the students' kids. They are mostly teaching house wives from the Philippines who were affected by the earthquake that shook that region in 2011. I've been feeling ill this week, luckily a doctor was able to fix me right up.

Oisha-san deska?
Katie took us to some areas along the coast where towns were simply washed away.

In this area there were hundreds of these trees but this one was the only one that survived the tsunami. It is a symbol of hope and perseverance for the people.

This ship was washed ashore and now sits right next to the highway. 

On Sunday, we cheered Katie and her friends from her office on as they ran a half-marathon.

and celebrated afterward!

Katie, Jenny, and I were able to skype with our mother's on their special day, even though we were thousands of miles away. Happy Mothers day to everyone! We miss you more than blogs can tell, Wendy and Kathryn!

Weather is getting warmer. I am very excited to tell you all that Kimberly, my one and only sister, is coming to visit us for a few weeks. We'll go pick her from the airport as soon as June 9th! Other things we are looking forward to: Zen Buddhist meditation with Nishi, celebration of job well done with Takashi, and Jenny's Birthday on the 31st!

All's well that is well. 

Love to all,

Doug and Jenny Knight

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rice In All Things

This week as the paddy fields fill with water, the frogs are coming alive, rising out of their winter sleep in the muddy soil. We can leave our windows open some nights and let their roak-roak lullaby drift in. 

On the farm we have been busily monitoring our seedlings. The participants are transplanting them into their fields every day. Our rice seedlings are also nearly three inches tall. Our rice seedlings are still in the green house though some local farmers have already transplanted. Since we don't use herbicides or pesticides, we allow ours to grow a little stronger before we take them out of the kindergarten of our greenhouse. Some seedlings we leave out in the weather.

English Farm Campers observing the rice seedlings.
This week has been as busy as it was beautiful. We had many meetings to plan our English Farm event. Jenny has felt much better this week. We've been exercising and resting more. Right now Jenny is napping and I'm listing to the frogs, drinking coffee, and watching the sunlight fade.

We found some time to be kids 
Our English Farm turned out to be a great success. We hosted nearly thirty people from Japan here on the farm. We spent the weekend talking to them about rice and showing them the countless ways that rice is used in our agriculture here.

Campers making charcoal from rice husk. 
Watching kids learn about agriculture is really rejuvenating.

We also transplanted some seedlings into a field using bokashi and rice husk charcoal.
We learned how to make sandals from rice straw and also rope. It was difficult but with practice, I don't think I'll need to buy another pare of Chacos.

This is one of our young friends we met this weekend. He lives in Tokyo and came to the weekend because he wants to be a farmer. He ordered a small green house and assembled it on his families back deck. There he grows rice in a bucket!

The Queen of the paddy field.
Happy Cinco de Mayo everybody!

May the Peace of Christ be with you, 

Doug and Jenny