Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zazen shed

Today as I was a'mulching my hedges, Yano-san came around. He brought me some frozen peas from his father's farm, a bag of naturally dried rice, and a paper model of the zazen shed for which he had earlier sent some plans. This generosity is quite undeserved, but most welcome.

The idea arose from the geodesic dome we built with Mugen Mura (and the fact that I've started doing Zen meditation and want somewhere quiet to do it).

The total estimated cost is about 100,000 yen which is quite a lot for a shed. I could keep my worm bin and tools in there, and meditate. But it might well be pointed out that my worms are already in their own accommodation, the tools have not so far complained about being stored under the overhang, and I seem to manage to meditate in the house.

When we have our new trees in place, we'll have to see how much space and money is left. Somehow a man needs a shed, in the same way that he needs a drill.

Thank you very mulch

Oh god, what a horrible pun to start a post with. This bodes ill.

We got tired of the fact that our tree man Chiba-san wouldn't come around and look at our trees, nor would he suggest what other trees we should plant, so we asked another place, Mishian Green to advise us. A pleasant young lady came right away, looking competent in a grungy sort of way, and knowing the names of lots of plants and trees off the top of her head.

She also recommended that I immediately mulch my yellowed and wilted hedges with a thick layer of fallen leaves. This has always been my inclination from the start, although Chiba-san advised me that the soil should be bare so that I would know when it was dry to water it. Since I watered it every day, this seemed odd advice. So I mulched the hell out of all my hedges and plants, with joy in my heart. I don't believe this can be wrong. The leaves I got from the library - a lady there rakes up all their dry leaves and puts them in convenient yellow bags. I always grab a few when I go. Books in English and bags of leaves are excellent complementary services.

The procedure went; scatter some organic fertilizer pellets (in plastic box on the deck - these things don't look organic), slap down some wet leaves, and before they all blow away, lay down some grass straw on both sides of the hedge, then hose the lot. Apart from the fertilizer, the main ingredients were free (discounting the very pleasant time spent gathering them).

Oh, and now it's winter.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

More rice husk charcoal

On a stroll through the local hills last weekend, I found another pile of pyrolizing rice husks. This was a big one with a new-looking chimney. After taking a few photos, I noticed that there was a man tending the allotment behind it (hidden by some nice brassicas). He told me that this was his first try - he got the husks from a farmer. I shared my valuable knowledge on watering the heap to keep it from burning right down. He said he didn't care - he only had the weekends for his plot, and even if he screwed up this heap, he had a promise of lots more husks from the farmer. Then he said that I could come and take however much charcoal I wanted during the week - "After all, you're always at home, right?" Somebody else who I don't know who knows all about me. I'm always amazed how kind and generous the people around here are. I hope I can repay some of the kindness I've been shown.

So I went back several times during the week, and although the chimney assembly had been taken out, the pile was still burning away. It was mostly grey ash with some black grains left here and there. I wanted to put some water on it, but there was none around. By Friday the pile was down to one third its previous size and was still red hot inside. On Saturday I went to get some for my garden, and the heap was already in bags. My friend offered me the remaining six - I took three.

In the evening, I put one a whole bagful on the bed I prepared for my onions. The ash had a wonderful silky feel, and adding it to the still clayey soil was a joy. (I pulled up the moroheya, okra and shisito peppers and hoed the ash into where the roots had been.)

My carrots, planted two weeks ago were also clearly a miserable failure (again!), so I redid the rows, this time adding some of the black rice husks. The soil looked very rich with the black charcoal in it. I've put half PET bottles over the seeds in the hope that the sprouts won't be eaten immediately by slugs and caterpillars.

I found prints of my neighbour's dog, which roams around freely, all over my new carrot beds, so I spent a couple of hours cutting bamboo in a local bamboo grove and making a fence that I'm confident it can't get through. I'm sure it'll just find another way in though. It does leave little smelly patches of fertility here and there though, which seem to disappear quickly when mulched heavily.