by guibi


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Coming in from the cold...

It seems that I haven't written anything here since December, so time for a pre-spring up-date.

The end of December saw the shed getting it's last few planks of siding fixed on, and a lovely new pot-belly stove replacing the one we'd borrowed from Iain and Tomoko. We took the chimney out through the northern wall instead of going through the western window, and it's made the shed feel so much more spacious. Not to mention warm.
As hinted at in that last post, we ended the year with the digger. Sankyo lease, our local tool hire place, has this cool system where they don't charge for days on which the company is closed. So, if you rent something on Saturday morning and get it back to them first thing Monday, they only charge for a day. Cool eh! We timed the digger rental for the new year holidays, meaning that while we had the digger for 6 days, we only had to pay for one! How's that for lateral thinking! We had to pay for drop off and pick up, but it still saved us a packet. We also rented a chipper which ended up costing nothing as I had to fix it before it would work properly, and they felt bad about it. "So", you may ask, "what were you doing that needed a digger and a chipper?"

The first job was to dig a pond.

We kind of like the idea of having water flowing across the land, and want to keep ducks at some point, so a small pond on the top terrace which will over-flow down onto the lower terrace seemed like a good idea. Another reason was that we wanted to fill and level what used to be a pond on the third terrace, down at the bottom of our land. We used the digger to dig the pond and fill the Kei truck . The poor old truck worked it's metaphorical arse off, hauling dozens of loads of earth down the track to the old pond. We ended up filling an area of around 150 sqm with an average depth of 80~90cm. You do the math. I reckon each load was close to half a ton, and oh, did I mention the snow? 50cm deep at it's worst point. The whole new-year period we had basically 2 days of snow, followed by two days of freeze and one day of melt... over and over again. The site looked like a scene from Flanders during World War One. Mud everywhere. Actually, once we were done with the digger and the snow finally cleared, I felt guilty as hell looking at what we'd done. What a mess! Still, all cleaned up now.

As well as the ponds, we wanted to make a turning space in front of the shed.
We ended up moving another 50 sqm or so of earth down the slope so as to make a new, flat vege patch. Of course, we needed to build a retaining wall to stop it heading further down hill than we wanted it to, and so we decided to make use of the free timber mill off cuts that I'd picked up before the snow to do just that. In the meantime, we just moved the earth and hoped we'd get enough dry weather to build the walls later (which we did, and you can read about below).
We had planed to grade the road around the site, but ran out of time and the weather wasn't co-operating so decided to scrap that for this year. We'll just have to fill some of the ruts with hardcore and see how that lasts.
Once I'd fixed it, we used the chipper to chew up all the wood we'd cleared from the old pond and spread the chips where we wanted paths up on the top terrace. Luckily we had a 'melt day' which allowed us to see the path lines which were previously (and later) under snow.
So, that was how we spent our new year. cold, muddy and physically knackered. I should say at this point, how impressed and thankful I am to Kazumi. Hardly a word of complaint, and an honestly fair day's work the whole period. Hat's off to ya Kazumi. I couldn't have done it without you!

The winter weather set in for good right after we'd handed back the digger, so in a way, our timing was perfect. Most of January was taken up with moving out of our house in Hyogo, and into a small apartment we've taken on temporarily down here in Mimasaka. Kazumi has quit her job to join me full time on the land, and the Hyogo house was no longer needed. We moved what was left of our stuff after we'd sold or given away a bunch of it, in a rented truck at the end of Jan, and as Kazumi had stuffed her wrist, it was down to me to load and unload all the boxes and furniture. Don't want to even guess at the number of times I climbed the stairs to our new apartment. Helped me get rid of at least one spare tyre around my waist, though

Early February saw the snows melt away at last, and we could get back onto the land without freezing or picking up a ton of mud on our boots. As I mentioned earlier, we had a retaining wall to build, and so that's what we did next. Made a lovely job of it too, I reckon. We mixed in a truck load of well composted cow shit/woodchip bedding with the soil, and it looks like it'll end up being a prime growing patch.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the day the digger arrived, our neighbour turned up with a story about how they owned a slice of our land... Riiight, show us the documents... What? No documents? Riiight.... Here's a map from the city defining our borders for taxation purposes... let's go and pace it out, shall we? Of course, she wouldn't accept that, so we ended up telling her to take us to court if she felt like it, but in the meantime, kindly step out of the way so I can get the digger in. Thank you very much! Long and the short of it, we no longer have a friendly neighbour and have decided to put up our deer and wild boar proof fence earlier than we had intended.

Before doing that though, we decided to pace out and mark our lower terrace vege beds and paths. What fun that was! And how much easier it is to envision the place as it'll hopefully look in the not so distant future. I dug out some old plans, re-thought and re-drew them and armed with a compass, dozens of pegs and a huge ball of string we proceeded to mark it out. We don't really want to turn over the soil down on that lower terrace, as it's lovely and soft as it is. Trouble is the weed seed bank buried down there. We've decided to take our time and do the job properly, sheet mulching out all the weeds this year and building up the soil little by little over the years

Which brings us to the middle of February. Now, as you might recollect, we built the shed using timber from the local home centers. Which was ok, except that we were limited to using the sizes they stock and were paying over the top for the timber itself. Our fence, to be truly deer and boar proof, needs some pretty hefty posts. The best we could find in the home centers are 40 or 50mm diameter and no longer than 2m. Not really man enough for the job. We finally got off our arses and tracked down a proper source for wood. We stumbled upon a small wood yard near to our new apartment, and popped in to ask about fence posts. What a goldmine of useful information they've been. And friendly? Hell, we've been showered with hospitality down at the Marudai lumber yard. The boss, one Oishi san, sits at the center of a constant flow of coming and going, with carpenters, plasterers, glaziers, hunters, and other local retirees dropping in for a chat over a cup of ocha and a smoke. seriously, it never stops and we've been welcomed into their world with open arms! We asked about posts for deer fencing and got a seriously competitive quote for exactly the dimensions we wanted. 3m long, 6" diameter posts. Oishi san took us out to a free range chicken farm which is using the same type of posts, and sure enough, they were exactly what we'd been looking for.

200 3m posts are not the sort of thing to be found quickly, however, and we were told that they'd take about 10 days to gather. No problem, we thought, we can get on and dig the post holes. Two days later, we got a phone call, and were surprised to hear that they'd struck lucky and located the posts. One wee snag, they were all of Hinoki. Now, if you've been here for a while, you'll know that Hinoki is the king of woods out here, beaten only by Keyaki, but almost as pricey. Thing was, they were happy to let us have them at the same price as we'd been quoted for the regular Matsu (Pine). We couldn't believe our luck, and told him to go ahead and get them delivered.
I had to go into Osaka for work the next day, and Kazumi got a call saying that they couldn't find our land so had delivered them to the Marudai yard which we were welcome to use as a place to de-bark and charcoal the ends so as to make bug and rot proof(ish), if we wanted... keeps on getting better and better, this yarn, doesn't it! Bingo! So, for the last few days we've been de-barking the posts, the majority of which are very conservatively labled as 6" and often bigger... at their base of course. A word of warning. 200 posts take a lot of time to de-bark!
Of couse, having two weirdos working out the back of his yard just adds to the entertainment value from the point of view of their stream of visitors, and we're constantly having to down tools for yet another introduction. Each visitor has something seriously interesting to to say though, and a result of this, we've now got a freezer full of venison, finished off about 3kg of boar meat and been fed and beerd every day since we started. Our project has sparked the interest of a number of folk, and advice and good ideas are coming in fast and furious. Surprisingly, no-one has laughed at our ideas (yet) and these are country folk, not used to mincing their words bear in mind. The builders love the idea of a yurt, and a cord wood house, the farmers nod approvingly when we mention oil based fertilizer, pesticide/herbicide free farming methods, and when people hear that we don't have or want power or mains water brought onto the land, they nod sagely, and start talking about how things used to be...

Anyway, more posts to skin tomorrow, so I'm going to finish this post there. I'll add some pics over the next few days so keep an eye out.
by guibi | 2011-03-01 20:01 | Other Work:その他の作業


About Us:私達について
Early days:初めは
Forest Garden:食べる森
Lower Field:下の畑
Other Work:その他の作業
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