Monday, January 14, 2008


Although the birds have shunned the bird-box we built (to a specification which apparently doesn't match any known species of bird), we do have quite a few birds visiting the garden. In fact, they often come and sit on the fence in front of my porthole so I can see them when I'm working.
Fat little brown bird on a fence post

In the season when the blueberries are fruiting, I try to suppress my fury when they gobble up the unripe berries, but at other times they represent a charming diversion. A big black rook is always impressive. They're very big up close and they seem to be the most wary of the visiting birds, so you have to keep still if you don't want them to fly off right away.


There are huge numbers of crows in our neighbourhood, and they're especially active after the rice harvest. They form swirling storms that fill portions of the sky, and they're always fighting with each other and hassling the herons and buzzards that share the same airspace. While it's really none of my business, I sometimes feel that it's all a bit much and somehow offensive to propriety and something ought to be done about it. At these times, I'm sometimes driven to look again at my link for crow recipes. How one would go about gathering the main ingredient without a shotgun is a little beyond my wit however.

A few weeks ago, a pair of woodpigeons visited. Woodpigeons are not at all wary, and happily sit around very comfortably in full view. Their colours perfectly matched the autumn tableau outside my window.


I suppose I could spoil my casual enjoyment of the birds by vowing to photograph everything I see and getting a bird book to identify everything correctly. Somehow I don't think I will though.

His first carrots

I have not had much joy with carrots until now. Carrots, with their leafy greenness and weighty orangeyness seem to epitomize productivity in a home allotment. And hitherto, I signally failed to achieve that productivity. The leafy greenness was attacked by draught and grasshoppers, and was generally impossible to distinguish from a weed. When out of morbid curiosity I pulled the thing up, there was almost nothing orange in the ground to speak of. This was quite depressing, repeated as it was annually for a number of years.

Well, thanks to deep digging, coated seeds, and diligent watering, I've achieved a certain degree of carrot proficiency.

The score is; Out of five carrots pulled, two are perfect specimens, one is overly fat but eminently eatable, one suffers from dwarfism, while another is grotesquely deformed but edible. The leaves of all of them can be fried in sesame oil to go on rice. So the final tally is 3.5 out of 5 which is enough to satisfy me.

Next season, I'm sure it's not unreasonable to hope for 4 out of 5.

The peanuts by the way were quite vile. I think I may even have suffered unripe peanut poisoning if such a thing exists. I shall feed them to the worms and try to plant them earlier this year.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Wind again

The other day, I found a news item about a novel wind power company, Motorwind. The product looks like a toy and is priced like a toy, but the output is anything but.

In the same spirit, I bought a toy to measure our wind resource. The September issue of Gakken's magazine has a wind meter for 1,260 yen, significantly cheaper than a 'real' wind meter at 12,000 yen.

I put the wind meter together with help from the young master, and we took the thing outside. Gratifyingly, the little propeller went around like crazy, and the reading immediately went straight off the paper cylinder dial. 4 is the highest mark on the dial, and this apparently equals a wind speed of 5.5 to 8.0 m/s. This is in keeping with the wind map for our area which shows an annual average of 5.5 to 6.0 m/s at the red blob where our house is located.

Apart from showing the wind speed, my toy was very helpful in showing the direction of the wind, south to north, which is perpendicular to the axis of the sun (as Lucien Gambarota of Motorwind kindly explained to me when I emailed him).

The Motorwind product that interests me costs $199 (21,000 yen). It consists of 8 micro turbines with a generator rated 50W for 10m/s of wind. Daily production is 1.2 kWh. That is amazingly cheap alternative energy, assuming it works as advertised.

I figure that a row of 8 turbines will fit nicely on one of the uprights of our balcony. Once the current is passed through a battery to set the voltage level, it can go into the grid in the same way as our solar generated power.

This is the sort of cheap, smart solution that will revolutionize renewable energy and free people from fossil fuel. If our wind power works out, I'll be aiming to promote this solution to all of our neighbours and friends.
With Inchodon on the roof of his clinic in Masaki-cho. The wind measured 3-4 - probably adequate for generating some power. However, since the clinic is in a very built-up area, there's concern about disturbing the neighbours with noisy turbines.