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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One Down

The wood stove is installed and working perfectly. That means that one project is done and I have ten thousand more to go. The next headache…I mean project…is to repair, apply sealant, and stain one side of the house. Most of the upper logs have been completed. I still need to clean up the white panels and prepare them for primer and paint. The middle section of logs will require a major repair (see an earlier post). I decided to leave that for later. Since the scaffolding is on borrowed time, I need to make the best use of it. The weather has been stable, but each day begins with mist and the temperature gradually warms as the day progresses. This pattern should continue for another day or two before it starts to get really cold. I’m at the mercy of mother-nature which means that I can only do what I can do.  I’ll continue removing the grey wood along with the mildew using a product called “Wood Renew”. The stuff is amazing and it doesn’t harm the environment. Just mix it up, brush it on, wait ten minutes, and scrub the remaining gunk off. Like magic, the original wood color appears. I’ll post before and after pictures as soon as I get around to it.

Our friends and neighbors have been kind enough to provide us with some hardwoods to burn in our new stove. The problems are that we don’t have a place to store seasoned wood and the wood needs to be cut into 45cm pieces. We purchased a wood splitter in the U.S., but we need a chainsaw. A good chainsaw is expensive in Japan. I feel uncomfortable asking our neighbor to use her chainsaw all the time. We’ll try to shop around for one this week. I wish we could find a good used one, but I know I’m dreaming. Our front yard has a truck load of starter wood in one pile and a truckload of logs in another. We are expecting another 2 tons of wood to appear next week. It sounds like a lot of wood, but I was told that we may not have enough wood to get us through the winter. We’ll see how it goes. As the season gets colder, the price of firewood rises. Hopefully, we’ll make it through our first winter without freezing to death.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What a nice day!

Even though it's cold and winter is near, we frequently have beautifully clear and sunny days here. I often take advantage of it and hang our blankets outside. The blankets airate under the sun and smell nice and fresh when we use them at night. It may be a luxurious life we are having without money. There may be so many rich people who want to experience this...a life safe from guns and gangs, from pesticides and chemicals and from polluted air and water. I gradually understand why George loves it here. I can see that George has never experienced this kind of life before. He yells, "Good morning!"when he opens the front door each morning to let the dogs out. He really loves it here.This castle is for Kiley and George. Hopefully, someday it will be for Lucky and myself.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


George missed American food, cookies and pizza. Our friend, Nami-chan, took us to COSTCO in Fukuoka. It took 2.5 hours by car, but it was worth it. He kept saying, "pizza" all the way to Costco.
We ordered one large combo pizza which was more than enough for the three of us. After that, he was tired of pizza, which was a good thing. We can't afford to go to Costco so often. As soon as he finished the pizza, he grabbed some cookies and headed to the car to spend some time with the doggies. Of course, the doggies got some pizza and cookies. They enjoyed the whole trip in Nami-chan's comfortable van. Thank you Nami-chan!!
We can afford this kind of luxury once in a while, can't we???

I guess this is what they mean when they say, "Having all your ducks in a row?"    George


Maybe, you imagined that George would treat me like a princess since I agreed to live in Japan. No, our relationship has not changed.
George and I installed the parts to the chimney. I was so scared to climb up to the top of the scaffolding in the strong winds. My legs were trembling and my heart was pounding. One thing I was sure of...I was not ready to die. George felt sorry for me and allowed me to climb to the third level instead of the top. I was okay and I enjoyed the views while spying on what the others' were doing.
I observed that the field of Susuki's next to our house to be huge and beautiful. A nearby neighbor owned a large property with many buildings. I also observed that Lucky had the best seat in our yard. Earlier, I cleaned the dogs' beds and airated them under the sun on our patio table. Of course, Lucky chose the most comfortable bed with the best view. He didn't know that I was watching him from above.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Day at the Office

Here’s an update on the remodeling of our home. The giant blue tarp was removed after a year of protecting our home from the torrential rains in Tsukahara. I managed to apply Perma-chink sealant to all of the seams and joints that could possibly cause a leak. This took about five days to accomplish. I found some gaps between the logs and the concrete backer board. It’s no wonder that we had some serious leaks in the house. After completing that long and tedious project, I decided to remove the side roofing structure that looked like a two-year old had built it. The eye-sore was causing more harm than good. I was surprised to see how much rot was behind the bracing for the structure. These photos will give you an idea of the extent of the damage. Our neighbor’s jaw dropped when she saw the gaping holes after I removed some of the rotted wood. I’ll need at least a week to get this area stabilized.

Earlier this week, Erika and I installed the chimney section of piping for our wood stove. This wasn’t an easy task since the piping was heavy and awkward. Fortunately, the scaffolding was a great help. I could barely reach the chimney, but it was doable. We are trying to install the wood stove before winter arrives. The floor tile for the stove area has been cut, but we are having trouble finding thin set mortar to install the tile. It looks like we will have to use some sort of adhesive to lay the tiles. The adhesive is extremely expensive and I’m not looking forward to using it. The working time is ten minutes and that’s not a long time to use a material that I have no experience with. I’ll take photos as soon as that project is done.

It’s has been raining all day…time to catch up on some much needed rest. I’ve been studying for my driver’s exam. The written exam is supposed to be an easy ten question test. The practical exam is the real challenge. I’m expecting to fail a few times before I even come close to passing. I’ll have a lot to write about when that time comes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Busy, busy, busy

In between doing a gazillion other things, I managed to start remodeling our home. Since winter will soon be here, I need to have the wood stove up and running. I was told that it can get very cold in Tsukahara. It would be a shame to freeze to death during our first winter in Japan. In order to have a working stove, I need to tile the area where the stove will be placed. I cut all of the floor tiles, but I’m having difficulty finding acrylic thin set mortar. Finding anything that has to do with home maintenance is a challenge. In the U.S., I visited my nearby Home Depot or Lowes and they would have everything I needed. In Japan, I visited a home center in Oita City (45 minutes away)and they told me that only a specialist uses this or that. I would have to special order whatever I was looking for…good grief. An example of this nonsense was when I needed to purchase some mortar. They carry only tiny bags of mortar that could cover only a couple of tiles. The cost was 2000 yen. To make matters worse, the grout only came in two colors…gray and white. The person working at the home center didn’t have a clue about using mortar or laying tiles. He tried to sell me a bag of concrete and told me that only specialists use thin set mortar. “Normal people” use concrete. Fortunately, my neighbor’s son works for Diawa House and he brought over some beige colored grout. The color matched our tile perfectly. I’m still working on purchasing mortar.

The chimney pipe also requires installation. A huge scaffold is resting next to our home waiting for me to climb all over it. The plan is to install the chimney pipe before the tile. I’ll need the scaffolding to get near the chimney so the pipe can be secured. Once the pipe is secured, I can install the tile. The stove comes next, then the stove pipe. After all of that fun is complete, it will be time to build a wood storage shed. I also need to install fencing for the yard so that the dogs can play outside while we are away from home. Somehow, I need to find time to repair the leak under the blue tarp that has been hanging on the side of our home for the past year. To complicate things, I need the scaffolding to repair the leak, but I only have two weeks left to use the stand. The mountain weather is unpredictable and it’s hard to determine when a clear day will occur. The best I can do is to keep busy and to get as much done as I can. Did I say I was busy?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thank you

Our life has totally changed. We are now officially POOR, but I have never seen George so happy. His smile has never disappeared since he moved here. Whenever we have a chance to go to the city, he misses Tsukahara.

I am often scared of the strong winds, wild boar, deer, snakes and bugs, but this is the safest environment he has ever lived in, according to George. We don’t have to worry about guns, gangs, violence or lawsuits. Our next door neighbor, Ms. Namba-san, shares with us all kinds of rumors which is a form of entertainment for us. Ms. Namba, often gives us some of her cooking. Her cooking tastes as if a world class chef had prepared it. We get more than enough nutritious food from her. Thank you Namba-san!

Each day, we experience something new…most of the experiences are good. We have so much news to share with you after spending our first month in Japan.
Our new car is a Nissan Moco. George’s cousin, Megumi from Tokyo, gave us a fantastic deal and managed to arrange delivery a day after we arrived home. George was complaining about the color and female interior style, but as soon as it arrived, Lucky gave his approval. That’s all that mattered for us. Since then, Lucky spends most of his time in the car and George has grown fond of the color. Thank you for everything Megumi!
Scaffolding: George had kept asking for it for a long time, but we couldn’t afford to rent it. On George’s birthday, Mr. Kiyonaga-san who is the best friend of George’s good friend, Mr. Yoshida-san called us. He found the great deal on scaffolding and he even helped us for an entire day to set it up. Thank you Kiyonaga-san!

George’s 50th birthday: Our friends brought a cake for George and shared his birthday. We usually don’t celebrate anniversaries or holidays, but this was special. I did my best to make sure that we moved to Japan before his birthday. I wanted this to be the BEST birthday present that he ever had. Since we had to pinch every penny, he missed having dessert. The cake was sooooooo good. Thank you Nami-chan and Yoko!

Lucky and Kiley: They have experienced all kinds of creatures in this natural environment. They are often scared of strong winds and sudden downpours. Deer often visit our yard and the dogs go nuts! Kiley and Lucky can find all sorts of entertainment from the window. It’s a great relief to see that they have adapted so well to their new home.

I have so many stories to tell, but I’ll just summarize a few for today. Erika