Saturday, November 29, 2008

More logs

The gov't is building a dam to prevent land slides and flooding in the valley, up on my mother-in-law's land, as well as other people's land up in the mountains around Itoi. Part of the reason for the land survey's was to mark the trees which need to be cut for this pork barrel project. I was able to get 3 truckloads of wood, but had to pay to have it carted over to my main woodshed. Next time I'll be a little more business savvy and have it carted over for free or refuse to let them cut the trees for the project, lesson learned.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

canoe sail camping


I have absolutely no luck with solo camping. After several weeks of being very stressed out from work, my wife actually suggested that I take some time and go camping. Wow, I must have been grouchy, huh?

So I finally had my chance to head for my favorite beach in Kasumi on the Sea of Japan. The weather forecast said mostly cloudy, fairly warm, chance of rain. I put the canoe on the car, loaded some firewood and supplies and was very psyched to fulfill my dream of camping on the beach! Upon arriving at Mitahama beach I was very surprised to see the beach nice and clean, very little litter. It was blustery and water temp was about 16, air about 22, very nice. So I sailed for a while, it was quite hairy to keep upright. Tense sailing as I like to call it, as in you can't do anything but focus on keeping the craft upright as the wind throws you around. After about an hour of "tense sailing" I took a break, set up my tent and blocked the wind with my Hijet.

Then it started to rain, but I was optimistic. The rain stopped and again I took to the water, this time it was more intense. I decided to call it a day and head back to camp for dinner. While happily collecting some driftwood, there was a sudden boom! Then rain began to pour down. I ran for the campsite and quickly secured everything, and piled into the Hijet. This won't last too long I thought. How wrong I was! The wind increased dramatically as the rain beat against the car. I had to jump out now and again to secure the now flattend tent. Even with the car blocking the wind the tent was pancaked to the ground, with my gear and guitar inside.

Back in the Hijet, I sat in my folding chair, having a beer and considering my options. Then a loud bang and the little van shook, what the? The wind had picked up my 25kg canoe with about 20kg of gear in it, and blew it 1meter into my car, this is not good, I thought. I repositioned the boat and waited listening to music, hoping for the best. Again and again the canoe was flipped over and bashed into the car. It's going to be a long night. As darkness fell and I sat in my Coleman chair warm and dry, but bored and cramped, I thought how I should be strumming my guitar to a crackling fire right now. Not worring about my gear being damaged and blown away.

Listening to weather forcasts gave no good news, more of the same tomorrow. Finally, after sunset, I could take no more and donned my headlamp for the arduous task of re-loading all my now wet and sandy gear into the car. What a bummer. Trying to get a 15 foot canoe onto a car in the middle of a gale requires excellent timing and a lot of luck. I was lucky at least in that part that as I finally got the craft onto the vehicle that a big gust didn't come along at that precise moment and bash me with the canoe. After about an hour of this nonsense, I was thoroghly soaked and exhausted.

Now looking at a 2 1/2 hour drive home I considered stopping at an inn and staying the night as I had intended. But I could imagine how the person at the inn would look at me, now completely soaked, wearing outdoor gear, asking for a room, meal and bath. Also who knows what this might cost me, it sure wouldn't be cheap in this quaint seaside village. So began the long drive home. The next day was lots of fun rinsing, hanging and drying my sopping gear. Someone wants me to stay home with my family!

Monday, October 6, 2008

firewood gleaning


It's 1.5m high, 2m deep and 15m long. Conservatively estimated at 5 cords. Mostly sugi with some hinoki and keiyaki.

14 full loads in the Hijet. It's rated at 350kg payload, but was hauling more like 450 I think, judging by the pancaked rear tires.

Even though it's already October, some of it will be dry in a few weeks. The large round pieces (my favorites)are the the end of the log just above the box cut that the logger makes to fell the tree. They're only 10-20cm thick so it splits oh so easily, like cutting cake.

So far it cost me 6 cans of coffee, 2 packs of smokes, and 1 bottle of sake for the workers. Plus 20 liters of gasoline for the Hijet and 10 hours of my labor. Didn't lift a chainsaw til today.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Aigamo ducklings!




After much searching for Guinea Fowl ホロホロチョウ、I finally gave up and ordered some Aigamo ducklings by mail. They're said to be so so layers, and much better tempered than chickens. Also they won't dig up the garden and eat every seedling like chickens will, we'll see. Needless to say the children love them! There's Choco- the darkest one, Mini- the biggest one, and Cookie- the yellowest one. They're too cute, but the genkan (front hallway) stinks like, well, ducks in August.




the ark


one week later


one month old

Saturday, August 23, 2008



After taking this picture I did something incredibly stupid. I jumped from a large boulder down to a smaller boulder in the middle of the river behind the house. I have done this in the same location probably hundreds of times. But today, I stepped onto a mossy patch instead of a dry rocky patch of boulder. I slipped and fell backwards almost 2 meters through the air, and into about 1 meter of water. I had the presence of mind to extend the camera up (wasn't using the waterproof housing) and splashed down into the water. I saved the camera, but very narrowly missed bashing the back of my head in to the boulder. Had that happened, I hate to think of what would have become of me. Probably would have drown in 3 feet of water in my own backyard. Gives me chills. Got the picture though.

Friday, August 8, 2008

swimming hole





Went to a cool swimming hole up the rindou with my brave little girls. It was a little chilly and buggy but they did great, found a nice antler and lots of friendly trout! Also a great view on the way home.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

blackberries, no not the thing in your pocket


After 3 years of waiting the blackberry bush is finally procucing! They're a bit seedy and not supermarket sweet, but they're nice and the kids love them, especially Luke, I have to keep him away from the bush as he'll eat all the small ones before they have a chance to get like these monsters.

Friday, July 11, 2008

first summer harvest




After coming back from visiting the States, my field was overrun with weeds, and vegetables! Best of all, corn, nearly 30 ears. The cucumbers were mostly gigantic waterlogged yellow submarines, but we did get a good amount. The corn is not the prettiest, but it is soooo sweet!

Next year will be planting much, much more.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

古墳 kofun old tombs
















After the final land survey we came across these 1500 year old tombs behind the local temple in Itoi. I had no idea they were there. They're from the tomb building era that lasted up until 6-700AD. Would love to poke around here with a metal detector.










Friday, May 30, 2008

land survey- chisekichousa



Got this great aerial shot of field #1 from the mountain in Itoi. It looks fairly nice and orderly from this altitude using the zoom. Had to climb a pine tree to get the shot. The guys in the survey party thought I was nuts, acting like a tourist.

Today was a chisekichousa- or land survey for my mother in laws mountain land. Most older people around her village have a plot or two of nearly 'useless' land up in the steep mountains surrounding the valley. Today we, the land owners and survey team staked borders and agreed on borders. It was very interesting and I marked everything with my GPS. Most of mom's land is extremely rugged, steep, remote. I did find a couple of promising campsites and mushroom huntin sites, though. All in all it's only a few acres of long narrow strips running up the mountainside.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Canoe sailing

Canoe sailing my Aquamuse 141 . Light winds today, but a few good runs.
video

Sunday, May 4, 2008

canoe sailing

canoe sailing is greatthis little craft can do 10 knots!
sailing on the lake
rig down on the river
too windy to sail

Thursday, April 3, 2008


the garden
luke the ham

daruma ga mine and ikuno highlandsdanga mine(mee-nay)
mini daikon in my garden in february
summer ichikawa river
looking down the valley


the mizou (irrigation channel)backyard
giant beetle
honda super cub in winter rindou cruising
playhouse and see-saw


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Winter camping attempt


If you're interested. My poor attempt at solo camping, or, The winter camping trip that wasn't. What I mean is I bailed out of staying overnight on top of a mountain near my house.

This morning had my wife drop me at the trailhead nearby, elevation 500m, and hiked to the peak, 900m, in sometimes blizzard like conditions. Only 1.6km up but very steep. On the top was post holing in knee deep old snow. Saw where one area of snow on the sasa had avalanched. Very small, 100m long 25m wide. Never saw that before up here. On the summit ridge there is always a 2m. deep drift about this time of year. My plan was dig a snowcave into it and overnight there.

After about an hour of digging I had a small cave with a sleeping shelf. Much harder work than I thought it would be. By this time my old gore-tex shell is soaked as are my cheesy gloves. Have back up mittens but not gore-tex. Figured that would happen, always does. Couldn't do much but sit inside as the snow was really flying outside. When I went outside and popped my head up over the top of the drift the north wind pelted me with flying ice and snow. Back into the snowcave.



Due to weight limitations it's always the choice of snowshoes or skis but rarely both, too heavy. I chose snowshoes today because of the weather forecast of course, like to be able to get home tomorrow.

After an hour or two realized the roof was dropping, not good, damn heavy snow. Plan B, remove the roof and cover it with 'blue sheet'. Brought an extra set of very long ski poles for this scenario. Pile everything in one corner and cut open the roof and clamber around outside in the quickly accumulating snow, shovel some snow on the edges of the sheet to hold it in place. Much better, spacious, but noisy with the flapping. By now it's about 2pm.

For entertainment, I've got a book, too much food, some nihonshu, a few cigarillos, heck I even have a portable DVD player,(I can hear scowls from the purists).
What movie you ask? Cold Mountain of course.

I figure I should wait till about 8pm for the movie, not the type of person who can sleep too early, even from all the activity, so try out my sleeping arrangement. Two thin closed cell foam pads and a very old zero (F) rated synthetic bag. Get all the lumps and bumps smoothed out underneath and climb in the bag, nice and toasty. By now the snow is piling up good on the blue sheet and it needs an occasional shake of the ski poles to clear it. When doing this the condensation from my warm cave mists down onto my uncovered bag. My old bivy cover has long since departed this world . If this keeps up all night the bag'll be fairly wet by morning. Not the end of the world but could be a problem. I also notice the blue sheet wearing thin where the ski poles push against it. If it goes in the middle of the night could be messy.

At this point I can honestly say it's the warmest I've ever been winter camping. Most of my previous experience has been in New York State and New Hampshire, very, very cold. I estimate it's about 5C inside and a little below zero outside and dropping. Won't get too cold though, never does.

Have lunch and read my book. Around 4pm or so, I'm thinking this ain't so fun. Gotta lay here 4 more hours till movie time and 14 more till daylight. A battle starts in my head, if I go I'll kick myself, if I stay I'll be staring at the blue sheet all night. The snow'll be waist deep by morning. The tarp will collapse etc. I'm fairly comfortable, warm and well supplied but... somethings missing. Company. Wish the kids were older.

Now I like camping and backcountry skiing. I've gone solo camping a few times many years before and it was at best so-so. I ski this mountain many times a winter, always by myself. But I'm bored ****less here! So I decided to head home. It's only about 4-5km.. Pack up my 2O kilo backpack and head out into the blizzard. It's raging. The powder is knee deep. Start thinking my 8X25 inch snowshoes ain't gonna do much in this come morning, when there will be double this amount. Maybe I made the right choice. Could be stuck for a while, or have a hell of a time getting home. About dark, make it home, man that pack was heavy and I'm old. But the fire's hot and the beer is cold!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Snow- Cub




A Honda Super Cub is one tough little bike, and can get through a lot of snow. I once took this machine to a Christmas party way up in the mountains. We got knee deep snow overnight. I had to snowshoe out and leave the Cub for 3 months. Finally in spring got back up there, and after about a minute of kicking she started up! Amazing.