After nearly 20 years in big Tokyo I was feeling burned out in my not-so-successful "career" in the service industry, knocking on several after a chance discovery of cheap old farmhouses we set out towards the countryside - but still close enough for my wife to further pursue her working live, commuting by Shinkansen while I would take care of the house and kids and build my own little cafe at home...
Our first bump came when we realized that the bank wasn't willing to give a loan for an old rundown house on some worthless property in the "Hinterland". So, we changed plans and will be building a new house. We already bought the plot last year, with about 400 square meters size, and I have started the vegetable garden beforehand, next project will be the garden house.

26 July, 2011

A long day

Today was my off-day, meaning I was very busy trying to fit the necessary gardening, Garden House and Family time all into one day's time. Impossible to achieve, but at least I did some of each...

Early morning I set out to our garden to finish the asphalt roofing of the Garden House before the next heavy rain would come. For this I first had to strengthen the beams below the roof, otherwise I would not be able to safely climb onto it, but necessary to attach the roofing. I than cut the sheets of roofing, calculated how much overlapping I could achieve and than started with the first one from the low back end of the roof, slowly working my way up. I didn't want to move in a hurry on the sloped roof and was always careful where to put my hands and feet to balance my body weight  because an accident on the roof is never an easy story, and working alone would make it even more trickier.

 I than did the second job, digging out potatoes. I had first thought about bringing out the whole lot, but the weather now is not real dry, we have thunderstorms more or less close by nearly every day, and after finding some information on the net I took an easier, and time-friendly approach, and dug out only half of the first row to have stuff for the week it will take till my next off-day. They where very different in size, big ones but also very small ones, either they didn't get enough fertilizer in the later time or the bugs eating off all the leafs stopped the growth too early.

In the afternoon I had another two hours to finish the roofing, it had been getting really hot on the black asphalt sheets, indicator to put some insulation below the roof before the next summer...on the picture you can see the two beams I added in the morning from below, the ones that are not sticking out in the front. Before that the 9mm OSB had laid only on the corners and, needless to say, were really sagging in the middle.

For dinner we enjoyed the fresh potatoes, delicious, kind of buttery taste to it, remarkably different from the usual fare at the supermarket.

Hannah had a potato as well, mixed with her tomato spaghetti, and enjoyed it very much.

This a called a ヤマユリ, yamayuri, golden-banded lily. It's the symbol flower of the town and grows wild in different spots, as well as in our garden, two spots each with about a dozen plants in it, beautiful to look at.

25 July, 2011

Standing up

Aufgrund eines langen und arbeitsreichen Wochenende hatte ich Hannah ein paar Tage nicht gesehen, Hiromi hielt mich zwar auf dem Laufenden, aber es war doch schon schön und spannend die Kleine nach einigen Tagen in voller Action zu sehen!

Sie hatte nämlich nicht nur krabbeln vorwärts herausbekommen, sondern auch wie sich am Tisch hochziehen und stehen konnte

Ihre Haare werden, im Gegensatz zu meinen, immer mehr und wuscheliger, ihre Augen immer grösser. Aufgrund ihrer vielen neuen Bewegungen und das dadurch entstehende Entwickeln neuer Muskelbereiche hat sie sogar ein wenig abgenommen und auch ihr Gesicht sieht schon viel mehr wie ein kleiner Mensch aus als wie ein Baby

Und natürlich das schönste bei Kleinkindern, die vielen verschiedenen Gesichtsausdrücke, frei und offen

Es ergeben sich natürlich auch wieder neue Gefahren, denn zwischen diesem Bild


diesem hier 
liegen genau 10 Sekunden

Auch wenn sie in einem Moment ganz unschuldig ihren Tee trinkt, kann sich die Situation ganz schnell ändern, besonders wenn die Mama sich zu sehr mit ihrem neuen Smartphone beschäftigt

22 July, 2011

Standing tall

July 14th - the day I finally put up the house
When I arrived in the morning there were still water puddles around the house from the heavy rain of the last days. It was a beautiful day though, and so I set out to finally put up the house. I had most of the small work done beforehand, finishing the nooks and dadoes etc. I started with the first half of the front wall. Putting it up all together in one piece would have made it really heavy and since I was alone I didn't want to be crushed beneath the framework, thus I had come up with this solution.

I had cut out the feet of the post and the bottom accordingly and before the lift-up, I remeasured again to save me from later trouble.

To support a freestanding wall, diagonal planks are nailed to the side, which sounds good when you have a second person to hold the wall! But I then got the idea to attach the plank first at the bottom side and hold it in place with a second nail right beneath it, which worked out really well.

The front parts in place with the diagonal support. Actually, because the bottom parts fit into the floor frame construction, the posts held up on there own quite nicely.

I than lifted the back wall up, that I already had constructed on the floor to speed up the setting-up process.

Next I put the two side walls in place and than finished the front wall by putting the middle piece into place and than setting the top post, a 2 by 6 with cut-outs to snuggly fit into the tops of the four posts. Standing high on the ladder with one foot on the wood work, hammering nails into the wood  under the bright blue sky felt really good, almost like a real carpenter, getting something done!

I than started with the roof construction, which actually took more time than thought and since it was already afternoon and getting hot and humid above the still wet ground, I took a break to finish later in the early evening...but when the OSB sheets where finally attached it was already dark, which is rather early, even in summer, at around half past seven. Not only that but there was no way I could attach the asphalt roofing sheets in a safe manner without risking to break through the rather unstable roof or fall off the ladder. So, with the help of the friendly neighbor I was able to attach the blue sheet to keep the worst of the rain away.

One week and a big Taifun with lots of rain, but luckily not too heavy winds, later I assured myself that the house is still standing safely, waiting to be finished.

08 July, 2011

I was finally fed up with all that weed crawling all over the place and making the air really humid because the ground beneath wouldn't dry from last night's rain. So I took a sickle that Hiromi had bought just a week ago to take care of the spreading weeds in front of the apartment, and which came in really handy now, 20 min of swinging left and right and the garden looked like freshly shaved, with just some odd ends sticking up here and there.

The potatoes on the other hand looked real devastated, just the plants at the front end are still with some green. Next year I will definitely plant the rows the other way and leave more space in between them, so that there will be more wind blowing through it. Still, this year's crop should still be okay.

Work at the Garden House has been progressing slowly but steady and today I finished the two parts for the front wall, next week will be the big day when I rise first these two parts and than the back wall, which you can see already assembled at the bottom. This will make the work to secure the walls, faster. Because it will be more difficuilt to cover the walls against rain I want to finish the frame work up to the roof in one day, military-operation like, and thus try to cut and assemble as much as possible on the ground beforehand.

The mulberry tree has been showing a steady albeit small supply of fruits, hampered by the fact that many branches are too high to reach with our small ladder, not to mention the fact that the birds like them too! The thing with mulberries is that they don't ripen all at once, but little by little, all over the tree.

This "Koenigskerze", King's Candle, as they are called in German, is looking like it wants to become more of a chandelier it seams. There are about another dozen or so on our lot, but this one is by far the most "majestic" one.

At this time of the year there are not only bugs and insects of all sizes and shapes around, but many different caterpillars as well. Especially the mulberry tree looks like a microcosm of bugs, so much that I feel like an intruder when I try to plug a few berries.

Now this one is a really unwanted species, the larvae of the Fall webworm moth, once native to America only, now found all over the world. They build huge webbed nests on the outer tree limbs without being to delicate against wind or sunshine.The mulberry tree was covered by them last year and luckily my cutting-back has resulted in far less of them but next week I definitely have to do some cutting again or the problem will grow like those bugs on the potato leafs...

04 July, 2011

Creatures in the Garden

This was about the only creature I was happy to see in our garden, a tree frog at our mulberry tree, quite easy to spot despite being very small because of the light green color standing out from the dark green of the leafs

These are not only ugly, but they are also wrecking havoc on the potato leafs. Granted, I was a bit slow when I first saw the bugs (at that time I hadn't seen the larvae yet), and now they have grown into big numbers. I shook off a few dozen of them easily in the few rows of plants and hopefully this will make the situation a bit better. I also finally found out their name: Henosepilachna vigintioctopunctata, 28-pointed lady beetle, belonging to the "vegetarian" subfamily of the lady beetles, which are more commonly known as predators of aphids.

To top that, when I was trying to retrieve some tools from the far corner of the garden, which had been half overgrown by weeds, I suddenly felt a fiery sting at my hand and saw it a bit swollen. Looking from afar I saw two or three black insects circling above the ground on the neighbor's lot beneath the trees. It seems to be some kind of earth dwelling wasps, though they looked quite sleek. I was happy that the swelling disappeared  after half an hour or so, but still my mood was getting rather depressing, as commented on the pic below (done with FastStone Image viewer, my preferred software when it comes to digital photographs)

But lets end this on a happy note 
This is what I would call an ugly duckling growing into a swan, a rather big sized Mullein starting to bloom. I can't wait for it to reach full bloom and would really love to get that fence out of the way.