Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back from Vacation

Been away for a while but now its time to start posting again.

history of art

Here's an odd little thing I found recently. It's the oldest existing artwork of mine.
Over the years I have painted/printed/produced dozens of thousands of artworks. Most of them no longer exist. This one is from 1971 when I was in my first year of art school. Made with a manual typewriter, and indicative of both the style of imagery I was into back then and the absurd amounts of time I used to spend "making art"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Defending the garden


Before moving to the Japanese countryside, my experiences of gardening were all in the desert, so learning to grow food in Japan has been a long learning period. One of the main differences between gardening in Arizona and in Japan is that there are few animals and bugs in the desert. Here in Japan it is a constant battle defending the garden against critters. I don't mind sharing,.... I expect to lose a certain percentage of a crop to other critters, but there are some greedy critters.

Caterpillars of the white butterfly (called Cabbage White in England) will consume all the brassica family, cabbages, cauliflower, brussel sprouts etc. Most Japanese gardeners will use pesticide, but for me growing brassicas under net works perfectly.

The only other bug that is a real problem is a little orange bugger that feeds on the leaves of squash plants. Pumpkins will usually recover, but every year my Zuccini plants have been completely eaten and killed by the orange bugs. Every version of organic pesticide I've tried has been completely useless, so I now grow zuccini under net also.


My village garden now has a metal fence around it. The village put it up recently around the rice paddies, and my garden is in the same piece of land as the paddies. The purpose of the fence is to keep wild boars out. Not sure how much damage boars do to rice paddies, but if they get into a garden they will dig up and eat all the sweet potatoes and as many pumpkins they can find.


Down in the riverside garden the ripening corn needs a net to protect it from the crows. They will sometimes eat tomatoes, peas, and other veggies, but they really love newly ripened corn.
The blue fence is to protect against a creature I never knew existed in Japan, the Coypu, or Nutria, sometimes known as Beaver Rat. It is originally from South America, but has spread around the world as people raised them for their fur. It likes to eat cornstalk.

In the bamboo grove next to the garden is a foxes den, and people say the foxes damage the gaedens when they dig around for food, but they have never given me any trouble.

Both gardens have moles, but again they have not caused enough trouble to worry about.

Both my gardens are too far from the edge of the forest for the monkeys to raid, but my neighbors are constantly losing food to them. They particularly like daikons and onions.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Umeboshi,... an acquired taste


Umeboshi, pickled plums, can most often be found in bentos, where a single plum is placed in the center of the rice to look like the Japanese flag.

After picking when ripe in June, the plums are mixed with salt and shiso leaves (to give the color) and packed with a weight on top.

Later the pickled plums are sun dried, like these of my neighbors in the photo above.

Actually Ume are not true plums, being closer to apricots.

Not fond of umeboshi myself, though umeboshi-flavored candy is OK.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ainu-design bags


These bags were designed and made by my good wife Yoko. She is a dab hand with a needle, and makes a lot of clothes, curtains etc.


A few years ago she took some classes on Ainu embroidery from a couple of Ainu sisters, Machiko Kato & Sanae Ogawa. The Ainu now live mostly on Hokkaido, and are descended from the Emishi, the original inhabitants of eastern Japan before being driven out by the invading Yamato. A couple of years ago the Japanese government finally admitted that the Ainu exist, and there has been a resurgence of interest among younger Ainu in their traditional culture and language.


Ainu design bears a striking similarity to celtic design sometimes.


Yoko has sold a lot of these bags, each one unique as she doesnt like to repeat a design.


If you are interested in knowing more, or in purchasing any of them, please contact me. They go for approx 50 USD.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Season of the Frog Part 2: Egrets


With the flooding of the paddies in late spring, there is an explosion of frogs. This has effects on other species in the vicinity, not the least of which is us gardeners. There are dozens of frogs in my garden, and as frogs eat insects, I'm quite happy about that.


Snakes come out from the forest and feast on the cornucopia of small frogs, and this afternoon I watched a flock of egrets come in for the feast. They don't mind vehicles driving by, but will up and fly away if a human gets within 100 metres.


The egret, related to and often seen with herons, can be found all over Japan, and in total there are 18 different species, but I'm not ornithologist enough to be able to tell which species these were,


In the streams that run through villages and urban areas, the herons and egrets are less skittish.