by guibi


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カテゴリ:Early days:初めは( 7 )

The mother of all sheds... and a truck full of Yurt.

Kazumi and I have been blessed with the presence of Iain and Tomoko for the last three weeks. An absolutely enchanting couple, Iain has been keeping me going and focused on getting the shed done, while Tomoko has been reminding us that despite the primitive conditions we're human and that there's no need to slum it. At the same time making sure that we're well fed and watered. Happily the four of us have found each-other very easy to get on with and, dare I say, I feel like a life long friendship has been founded. All power to the both of you!

The shed has come together great guns, and all that remains is the roofing and cladding. The frame is up and rock solid... and considering our amateur status, pretty much all aligned and square. There have been a number of 'plan Bs' during construction, and even some 'plan Cs', but we work on the old Islamic tradition that it would be arrogant in the extreme to create something that didn't have any mistakes in it.

Iain and Tomoko are now off on their 3 week trip down to Shikoku's Shimanto gawa region to see if the land down there tickles their fancy or not. We expect to see them again at the beginning of October.

In the meantime, Kazumi and I have to get the Yurt ready for putting up.

The Yurt arrived last week (on the 7th) and was processed and ready for collection on the 9th. Paul & I jumped the gun a bit and turned up on the 8th with a bloody great truck and all our papers at hand, but the Yurt itself was not ready for us yet. Unfortunately Paul wasn't available the next day, so that left Kazumi and I to load all 1,350kg of the thing onto the truck on Thursday. No mean feat! Luckily one of the longshoremen took pity on us and lent a hand with his fork-lift. I really don't know how we'd have managed without him. Many thanks to you, sir, whoever you were!

We got back to Okayama after all the messing about with customs and what-not at about 5:30pm with an hour of daylight and two and a half hours left till the truck had to go back... cutting it fine as usual! Iain was at the land waiting for us, and admitted to having been on the verge of going into town to call us as we'd been expected back on the previous evening. Cell phones don't work on our plot, not that he has one anyway.

We got the truck unloaded in double time, and rushed back to the rental company as fast as we could go. Five minutes over our deadline, but they let us off. Kazumi and I then drove back to Osaka as I had work from 10am the next morning.

So, back to digging foundations again this time for the yurt. We'll be building a deck on which the yurt will stand. Much bigger than the shed, 10m x 10m this time. I'll have to use proper concrete forms and reinforce them with re-bar this time, then we'll be placing whole 25cm diameter logs as legs and 10x6 beams sitting on them and then 6x2 joists and 2x4 decking... lots of wood, lots of work... and all in time for the yurt raising which we have planned for the weekend of the 25th/26th. Pah! Who am I kidding? Still, no time to lose, got to get on. More to follow!
by guibi | 2010-09-12 14:48 | Early days:初めは

We're having a party. Join us!

It's official, we will be hosting a 'work party' here in Okayama on Oct 10th for all our friends and colleagues. The idea of the party is not only to help us with some of the jobs on the land, but also to raise awareness of climate change issues and to persuade people that waiting for their leaders to do something will be too late, and that they themselves can do something.
Hopefully we'll have got the yurt, the shed, and a toilet set up in time, because we're expecting maybe 20 people or more. We'll be putting together the solar array that we've bought (most of), and people will each have a couple of trees with which to start planting our forest garden. Of course, if you're coming, feel free to bring a tree for the forest. Anything productive and suited to the climate. Bushes, trees, ground cover (that handles shade well)... the choice is yours!
We will be providing soft drinks, so bring a bento for your lunch. Party runs from 10am to 10pm. If you want to stay, bring a tent!
by guibi | 2010-08-25 14:43 | Early days:初めは

Coming together...

It's been hot. Bloody hot! Working out there in the middle of the day is impossible, so we've kind of gone Mediterranean... maybe nocturnal would be closer to the truth. Work starts at sun-up, usually between 5~5:30am, then we knock off at 10 or 11. If there's stuff to be bought from the builders' merchant or some such, we head off and do that in the middle of the day or just chill out (figuratively speaking, 'melt out' would be more accurate) over a slow lunch. Once the site is back in the shade, between 4 and 5pm, we head back to finish off and tidy up. Usually knocking it on the head just before sundown. Not such a hard schedule, but hey, we're not on any particular schedule... actually, having said that, I've kind of gone and created an artificial deadline and battle plan for the next two months, culminating in a "Forest Garden Tree Planting and Solar Array Building Work Party" in solidarity with the 350.org inspired Global Work Party on Oct 10th. Oops!

So, where are we at? Firstly, a new face. Iain will be wintering with us and helping out around the place. He has spent most of the last year down in Kyuushu and has moved up to Honshu recently to look for a plot of his own. Hopefully, while staying with us, he'll be able to find something suitable in the vicinity. Talk of an Okayama based 'Intentional Community' has been bandied around for quite a while now, and who knows, this might be the start of something along those lines.

We've finally finished the foundations for the shed/garage that Kazumi & I have been building in the N.W corner of the plot. Horrible job in this weather. Fiddly as hell too what with the slope and all. Hopefully Iain and I can make short work of getting the framing and cladding up and done with in the next couple of weeks because then we really have to start getting the Yurt foundations done. The Yurt will ship on the 22nd of this month, arriving in Osaka on or around the 8th of September. Theoretically that'll give us 3 weeks or so to get it up and ready-ish for the Oct 10th do. The compost toilets have already arrived and are cluttering up the hall in Kawanishi, along with all the stuff that's destined to be put in the shed once it's done (generator etc). Kazumi and I bought ten Sharp 120W solar modules yesterday. They're 5 years old and 2nd hand, but polycrystalline so relatively long lasting (30yrs) as PV modules go. We paid a very reasonable price for them and considering that we can count on 4 hours of sunlight a day almost all year round in Okayama (Japan's 4th sunniest prefecture!), we should be able to get somewhere around 3kWh a day out of them on average. Hopefully more than enough.
One thing that has been knocking around my head the last few days is "Where the hell are we going to put them all?" I'm thinking now that maybe we'll end up having them on the bank, though I'd have liked to plant that over with stuff that'll bind the thing together a bit more than it is. Maybe we can do a bit of both... Have to think about it.

Kazumi's bathroom goodies are also on their way, apparently. We've ordered a shower unit that, to be honest, looks more like a shower room to me! Hope I can get the water pressure up. This yurt is going to be so well kitted out that I doubt we'll want to move out of it, even if the real house gets finished ahead of schedule! (very unlikely, I should add).

Other things that have kept us busy. Weeds. Now, I know they say that there are no such things as weeds, that all plants have a use. Well, the only use I can think of for these is cutting down and mulching/composting. A very important role, I know, and it's good to have a limitless supply of compost... really it is. Anyway, I've started mulching large areas of the lower field with old cardboard boxes in an attempt to:
a) add some organic matter to the soil, which seems to need it, and
b) suppress new weeds from springing up where Kazumi is going to start her raised beds.
We'll see how that goes.

I just wish the weather would give us a break. It's been in the mid to high 30s for about a month now, and 22℃ with minimal humidity would be just perfect right now! Climate change in action? Maybe so. The media are full of stories about unstable and unusual weather nationwide, veg prices are all over the place and the count to date is 132 dead of heatstroke. It's not just Japan either. Pakistan and China are experiencing horrendous floods. Russia along with more than a dozen other countries is burning up under record highs. The World Meteorological Organization has a sobering news item up at the moment titled: "Unprecedented sequence of extreme weather events.", and the next item on their news page sounds even more ominous: "Scientists projected an increase in intensity and frequency of extreme weather events". The warnings were there for all to see...
by guibi | 2010-08-17 14:36 | Early days:初めは

Game on!

So, money has changed hands and documents have been duly stamped. The land is well and truly ours now.
I think I mentioned before that we're trying to get at least some of the woodland to the north of our plot. Here's an image to help you follow what I'm about to say:

The plot to the right, No.3 in the pic, is up for sale and at not too bad a price, to be honest. It's only 300 or so square meters though, and it's somewhat 'separate' from us, if you see what I mean.
The plot to the left, No. 1 in the pic, might be for sale. Trouble is, the owner is currently bed ridden and, unfortunately, non compos mentis. The family that stand to inherit this plot are inclined to realize it before gramps pops it, and thereby add cash to the inheritance rather than keep the land. Or so we've been led to believe. I'd like this bit of land for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's three and a half thousand square meters of not too steeply inclined san-rin which we could use to build on rather than the small genya down at the bottom of our plot.
Another reason is that while we were exploring at the weekend, we found a small pond (tame ike) that would be really useful if we wanted to or were forced to stop using the mains supply that we have.
The third reason is that it adjoins what I've called 'Plot 2' in the picture. This plot appears to be ownerless, or we've been unable to trace them in the usual manner (city office, real estate searches etc.). Seems like he's just dropped of the face of the earth... which means that if we put up signs stating out intents to claim the land as our own, and if no-one challenges us for 20 years, it becomes ours
Yes, I'm serious. Here's a link to an article by another non-Japanese homesteader in Japan, Ken Elwood, titled "Adverse Possession of Abandoned Land in Japan: A Primer". It tells you all that you need to know
So if I can buy plot No. 1 and claim plot No. 2, I reckon that will do us just about right and we'll be set up for the rest of our time on this good ol' planet of ours.
by guibi | 2010-06-22 14:29 | Early days:初めは

Thinking about the land...

I've been thinking about how we'll use the land we've bought as time goes on. The permaculture course I've just finished reminded me of the importance of zones. Zones can refer to many things, but a useful set to start with can be zones defined by expected usage, or frequency of visit. I've knocked up a couple of zone maps, only preliminary but reflective of my thoughts as they currently stand, and will put them up here so I can come back to them in the future to see how far off the mark I was

There're three maps. The first with no zones, but a rough idea of what I'm trying to do. The second showing with Zone 0 (the yurt). And the third one showing how the zones might change once the real house has been built. I should add that I've forgotten to include the yurt as a secondary residence in this map:

As I said earlier, these are just rough ideas that we're still thinking through (I don't like the look of the beds, for example, and I'm not sure I want the pond so close to the yurt...).

Oh, and comments are open to folk who want to register now.

More as it comes
by guibi | 2010-06-16 14:18 | Early days:初めは

Meeting the Nogyou Inkai...

Well, the interview with the Nogyou inkai is over and done with. I get the impression that the district we're hoping to move into is about as strict as they come. I think I mentioned earlier that the chou had successfully resisted being swallowed up by their nearest city a couple of years back, and that as a result they were proud as hell about their new found independence.

The inkai was represented by the kai-cho and three senior members, and we had our notary (forgotten the Japanese word for it, a kind of lawyer) with us.

The interview was a fairly weird experience, the notary had told us to not go into any details that weren't brought up directly by the inkai, and so I spent most of my time biting my tongue. I wish he hadn't said that as it made me very self conscious.

To be fair to the inkai, the kaicho and one of the members seemed unfazed by my foreignness but keen to establish that we weren't religious nuts or dope fiends, a perfectly understandable stance imo. One of the other interviewers, probably the oldest, certainly the saltiest looking, was full of intelligent questions about permaculture, seed saving and how we intended to protect our crops against cross pollination with local non-heirloom/non-hybrid varieties. If he'd spoken with a less broad accent I would have understood a bunch more of what he was saying, but what I caught sounded very interesting. I'll have to look him out if we get our permission to move. Inevitably there was the obligatory a-hole too. Extremely defensive about his farm/the village's well being and skeptical if not downright hostile towards us and our ability to farm, I assigned him to the 'smile and ignore' pile and concentrated on the others.
One sweaty moment came about when the notary chimed in that we'd bought a Kominka in the neighboring village, which was total bullshit and I've no idea where he got that idea from, so we had to explain that that wasn't the case and what our actual residential situation was. Something we'd managed to avoid talking about up until then. It made us look foolish and cast unnecessary doubt on the whole proceedings. What a pratt!

Anyway, it turns out that the only real reason they can use to reject our application is that they fear we might be up to no good. Whether our notion of agriculture matches theirs or not is neither here nor there. So maybe we'll be ok.
The inkai reps we met yesterday will now take their findings to the whole inkai which convenes on Monday and they'll make a recommendation to the chou following that.
Blimey, what a palaver!
by guibi | 2010-05-09 13:35 | Early days:初めは

Call me impulsive if you like, but I'm now a land owner (gulp!)

So, last Saturday we went to have one last look at the Kamikayama plot (Sho-o cho). It'd been keeping us up all week, me worrying about slippage, and Kazumi worrying about the 'being on display' aspect of the place. We also wanted to visit S san, the gent who's got all the useful contacts in the area and was a Miya Daiku until an accident at work took him off the sites.

We intended to just spend the day there, scoping the site, taking soil samples and generally hanging out, soaking it all up. But at the end of the day, while talking with S, he let slip the fatal words "I know a better place..." We bit and asked him if we could take a look at it. "Come round first thing tomorrow." he said. "We'll go take a look."

I was kind of doubtful as we'd 99% decided on Kamikayama, and the place that S had mentioned was a third the size. Still, no harm in checking it out we thought...

So, yet another night in the car at Kamikayama. And man did it rain! We woke up at the crack of dawn and took yet another look around. The site was a total bog. The fact that it was almost all rice fields really sank in. How on earth were we going to build on that, I thought to myself. Anyway, after brekkie at the local michi-no-eki we headed off to meet S.
Boy can he talk. We met at nine, and it wasn't till 12 that I finally said, "Well, the rain's obviously not going to let up. Let's go see the place shall we?" and with no further a do, off we went.

"Guibi valley" (reads: gooey bee) is less than 10 minutes from Kamikayama, one valley over to the N. West. It's a small, incredibly picturesque valley with both sides forested and rice fields running down the foot of the valley from top to bottom. Elevation is about 400m at the top running down gently for maybe 2 or so km where a hamlet is located. About half way down the valley on the northern slopes lies the plot. A mere acre, but 100% usable and only divided in to two terraces. Totally different from Kamikayama. Totally sold!

As you can see, there's a 'curtain' of evergreens running along the southern and eastern sides of the land. A forested mountain to the north and a strip of mixed woodland to the west. Totally sheltered from both the heat of summer sun and morning and evening winds coming up and down the valley. The forest should provide some welcome cool air in the summer months too.
The land has JA water mains on it, with three cocks strategically placed. The south western corner (about 80 tsubo or 265sqm green in the lower pic) is classified as 'Genya' meaning that we can build on it. The rest is 'Nouchi' or agricultural land.
There are just over 1200 tsubo (or 4,057sqm). An almost perfect 'acre'!

Of course, then the price came up. 330 man. We could hardly hold ourselves back from running down to the fudosan (estate agent) immediately, but thought we should at least have a chat over a coffee before making any decisions. One quick coffee later, we were sitting at the desk and I was signing on the bottom line. Man, call me impulsive if you like, but I'm now a land owner (gulp!).

Obviously an underground house wouldn't suit this site as well as the last one, so a new house design is called for. Considering that the only location we can build on is on the south-west corner of the land, the area with the view down the valley, Kazumi and I both instantly thought of a roundhouse. Perfect site for one, really. We both think that it should be on piers, not necessarily so tall, 50cm between the ground and the underside of the wall plate floor beams would do the job. Enough space to get the compost toilet 'tank' under. There's enough space for a 10.8m diameter house with a 1.75m deck around that, the roof (a reciprocal roof) would come out to the edge of the deck, and a floor plan something like this:

by guibi | 2010-04-16 23:54 | Early days:初めは


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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