Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Monday, July 29, 2013

I'm trying!

Wow, how time flies. Some people say that time flies because it takes so long to finish a task that could be completed earlier, in a shorter amount of time. Chalk it up to age? 

You will be amazed at how many programs you can find on TV, in Japan, about health. We only have 4 channels. Since we rarely watch TV, we don’t bother spending an extra $30 to get more channels. Anyway, every time I turn it on, I encounter at least one health commercial or program. That makes me feel old. I told that to our physician and he laughed. He agreed that Japanese have too much information.


I have a few Japanese friends in our small neighborhood. All of them are very health conscious. George always brags about how well I can cook. I’m embarrassed because I know how much my friends care about food. They cook very well. I have tried to learn from them. George kindly makes excuses for me by saying that I don’t take the time to prep for cooking because I’m busy. That’s all BS. I have made concentrated juice from vegetables, fruit wine, jam, pickles, and herb tea. I will be as good as my neighbors, one day. I’m learning more about cooking than ever before. They showed me how to use some “weeds”…as George says…for medicine and food.

A few people have asked me how I have been doing since I don’t write much about myself on the blog. I will answer the question, simply… “I am not unhappy, so I am probably happy.” I asked a bank teller a couple of years ago if she was happy. She gave me the same answer.

I left a lot of good stuff in the U.S. and I miss it. However, I never miss George’s complaints about how unhappy he was in the U.S. He knows what makes him happy and what doesn’t. I still don’t know for sure. I know what I don’t like or want. As for what I want, I don’t have anything that I want more than my dogs’ and George’s smile (yes, my dogs smile if you are wondering). One thing that I can tell you, my dogs are a couple of the luckiest dogs in the world. I sacrifice my money and time for them. They are more important than anyone or anything. I arrange my work schedule for them and George…the dogs come first, though. If I can’t do that, I will choose to spend time with them over money.

George says that I shouldn’t take anymore new students. Instead, I should spend more time in our yard to weed or work around the house (George: I never said that). Honestly, I don’t have much time to think to myself, if I’m happy or not. I walk the dogs 1.5 hours twice a day, clean the house, weed, cut firewood, cook, prep for classes, contact and socialize with a lot of people and teach. I used to have a sleeping problem, but now I fall asleep right away. I’m exhausted.

One thing I have found that relaxes me are the local hot springs. I teach in Yufuin on Fridays. After classes, I take a hot bath which costs only 2 bucks. The natural bath relaxes me and I can go straight to bed after only 7 minutes of driving. It’s a luxurious time for me, isn’t it? If I became a billionaire, I could be happy here, but otherwise, I don’t think too much about happiness. I appreciate that we can feed ourselves, we have our health, and we are surrounded by nature.    Erika

Friday, July 19, 2013

Remembering Seabrook

Our very close and dear friend, Tish, reminded us of a very special place…Seabrook. It was one of the last places we visited before we left the states. If you haven’t been there, go! I promise that you will come back, again and again. Seabrook is nestled on the coast of northern Washington. It’s the ideal place to go to relax, enjoy the breathtaking scenery, and reflect. The first time we visited Seabrook, I was struck at how surreal  the tiny, newly incorporated beach town was. People in the neighborhood actually said, “Hello” and smiled. “Too good to be true,” was my first impression. The longer we stayed, the more convinced we became. It's one of the few places that we felt safe to stroll the streets at night. Seabrook is the crown jewel of the Washington coast. Don’t wait, go and be sure to bring your dog(s).

Oh, one more thing. Tish pointed out that a picture of Lucky is used to advertise a merchant in Seabrook, the Salty Dog. The picture's are on Seabrook’s homepage. I think that’s kinda cool! Here’s some more pictures of the annual Doggie Day Event that was held in Seabrook in 2010. Look closely to see if you can spot Kiley, Lucky, and Erika in several of the pictures. It was a great time! Thank you for the reminder, Tish. Have a great trip!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is it done, yet?

Almost. The sink area and stairs need to be installed, but those items will have to wait. I have a garage to seal, prime, paint, and stain. Meanwhile, I’ll be making a bench for Kiley and Lucky on the balcony. Ever since I installed a dog door, they like to greet our guests from there. I just have to make sure that I don’t build it too high. It’s a long way down from the second floor.

As for pictures, I’m working with the planer and router.

Love the smell of freshly planed hinoki

Rounding the edges with a router

Before we go any further, here's some "before" pictures:

I think there's a problem.
Erika was busy chopping and discarding the old and rotted wood.

EEK! It's painful to look at this.
Walking on this was like walking in a minefield

There's a "slight" improvement with the almost finished deck.

Details, details, details

All stained

Another very warm day

Erika and I had the deck stained in one hour. We used every last drop of stain.

Many of the larger pieces of wood were recycled.

It’s been unusually hot, but amazing clear. The surrounding scenery is a collage of vivid blues and greens. In California, when it’s this warm, the sky and horizon are usually filled with a hazy, yellowish brown smog. Not here. More to come…       George
Whew! Nice and cool, outside.
Sleeping? Nope. Planning the next project

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Close to the Homestretch

Rumor has it that "tsuyu" is almost over. In some areas of Japan, there are worries of drought. The lack of consistent rain has led to some very warm/ hot days. Although  it’s muggy and uncomfortable, we have managed to make significant progress on the deck. The rails and gate are completed. Two out of the three benches are ready to install. All that’s left to complete is the corner bench, sink area, and top rail. I’ll plane the bench seat boards and the top rails. This will make those surfaces easier to touch without the worry of splinters. The top rail will have its edges rounded off with a router. I have a couple of surprises for the sink area. The plumbing fixtures/ fittings have been purchased, but they will require considerable modifications. Please read on…

The worker in the plumbing department at Handsman  was very helpful. Everything I asked for him to find, he did without reservation. He was puzzled as to what I wanted to accomplish with my odd assortment of fittings. He often repeated as he handed me my fittings, “I’ve never done anything like this. I’m not sure if it’s going to work.” Those were words of encouragement to my ears. He made sure that I had plenty of plumbers tape…just in case.

If the weather holds out for this long holiday weekend, I should be able to get enough done to make it to the homestretch. So what’s the big hurry? We are expecting a whole bunch of guests in early August. More on that later as the details are sorted out. I’ll just say that it’s the most people that we have ever had gathered together at our home, at one time, ever. This might not seem like a big deal, but for us, the people who don’t like parties, it’s a huge event. It should be a lot of fun, too. Stay tuned…



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Learning by Experience

So, how is Erika’s garden? It was doing great until the deer decided to launch an attack. They managed to push their way through the netting and help themselves to a fruit and vegetable buffet. Upon first inspection, after the rampage, we discovered that the destruction was extensive…almost horrifying. All that was left were leafless stalks. Ahh, but nature has a way of healing itself. A month later, everything has made a comeback, except for the cucumbers. Those were brutally torn out and eaten by the roots. To our amazement, the cherry, plums, and apples have started to sprout new leaves. The strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries have fruit. The juneberries are sprouting new leaves all over the place. I guess that’s natural since juneberries are grown in the wild and are used to this sort of thing. Nothing impressive about these pictures except for the fact that these plants were stubs a month ago.


Thornless Blackberries

Recovering apple


Recovering Fuji Apple (bark will need to be painted with latex)

Recovering cherry (the damage encouraged growth below the graft)

Erika is still experimenting with what will grow in Tsukahara. She is trying melon and various tomatoes in addition to the assortment of berries and stone fruits. Next year, we’ll try corn, eggplant, and cucumbers. To make all of this possible requires a bunch of bamboo poles and netting. In Hasama, where it’s much warmer, we would like to grow Meyer’s lemon in a container. If we can find a drawf variety, we’ll give it a go.
Bamboo w/ netting fence
What are you going to do to prevent another attack? Preventing an attack in the middle of Grand Central Station for the neighborhood deer population would be impossible. Instead, we'll fortify the fence by installing bamboo poles on the bottom and top of the netting. This works for the farmers in the neighborhood. We'll tighten the netting so that they can't push their way in. Any gaps in the netting will be lashed together. The deer will visit our property and graze on the grass. That's fine with us. As a matter of fact, we encourage it. Why? The dogs need entertainment, too.  George

Monday, July 1, 2013

Between the Raindrops

Decking is complete

Bench under construction
Erichan staining the railing

Hey, is it finished yet?
First, mark the cut lines.

Second, make the cut.
Third, add the bench framing

Fourth, put everything away. It's raining.

It’s really hard to get anything done this time of year. The temps are in the low 70’s, but the rains are persistent and inconsistent. One minute, the sun is out and the next minute, it’s raining. I’ve learned to work between the raindrops. The weather forecasts are often wrong since the monitoring stations are located down the mountainside. It’s frustrating to build in these conditions. As soon as I get set up to do some work, it rains. As soon as I put my tools away, the rain stops. On Saturday, it was threatening rain during the entire day. Fortunately, it only sprinkled and I managed to get most of the railing built. The new garage is coming in handy. Erichan has a safe place to stain the railing while it rains.
The benches, sink area, and steps need to be made.
Erika has been busy chopping up the old deck boards and bringing the pieces to the dump. The cost is 1000 yen per truckload. Driving time to the dump is about 30 minutes each way. So far, she has made two trips. There is one thing we have learned while living in the countryside...don’t leave boards on the ground. Ants love to build nests under the wood. Every kind of insect imaginable seems to find refuge under the scrap lumber. Most of the scrap lumber was rotted and unusable. The old deck had lasted for 15 years without any preventative maintenance. The new deck will get plenty of preventative maintenance and is expected to last a lot longer.   George