The Beanpod Episode 3

I’ll get some more garden pictures up soon since things are starting to POP, but for now all I’ve got to offer is Episode 3 of my podcast. This week I’m talking about elementary school in Japan, and I’m also starting a new feature called ‘Plant of the Week’ in which I introduce some of my favorite plants.

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The Beanpod Podcast – Episode 1

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Another one of the things I love doing is podcasting, and I’m happy to introduce my newest endeavor – The Beanpod. For a few years a friend and I were making a podcast called Gozaimasu!, but that fizzled out a few months back. Since then, I’ve been working my way towards this solo effort. I’m describing it as  a podcast about ‘living, working, raising kids, and gardening in Japan.’ If you’re a podcast person, please have a listen. You can find it on Facebook under The Beanpod Podcast and (shortly) on iTunes under The Beanpod. You can also stream it HERE. I’ll shamelessly implore you to ‘like,’ ‘follow,’ ‘subscribe,’ and all that other jazz. New episodes will be released every week, so if you have any questions/comments/things you want me to talk about, please get in touch. Enjoy!

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There’s been a lot this lately…

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After some tantalizingly spring-like weather last week, it’s been nothing but snow and freezing rain. A few years ago I came up with the term ‘fecal equinox’ to describe this, the shittiest time of the year. Spring is close, we get glimpses of it now and then, but then winter swoops back in. There are signs of change, though. It’s light when I get up at 6 in the morning these days, and still not quite dark at 6 in the evening, which is great for moral.

In the garden, flowers are on their way.

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Buds abound on most trees and shrubs.

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And with all the rain and snow, the pond is perpetually full. I hope that as my canopy matures it will create enough shade to keep the water from disappearing as fast during the summer, although I’m surely losing a lot as it seeps into the ground. I never did get around to lining the pond (either naturally or otherwise), but I’ve got a theory that as more leaves and other detritus settle on the bottom it will create a natural seal that prevents water from leaking into the ground. Wishful thinking?

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My chicken coop is just about finished. I used some leftover netting to make a screen door that will allow me to open up the coop when the weather is warm, improving light and ventilation. Excuse the small child.

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I used scraps to build a ramp in the run, and also went to the beach and found a suitable piece of driftwood to serve as a roost. Still need to make a cover for that utility box so it doesn’t get covered in chicken poop.

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Speaking of chickens, I’ll take delivery of the babies on April 28, which is very exciting. I ended up going back and ordering 1 Silkie chick since I couldn’t get the cute little buggers out of might head. So the total number of chickens will be 5 — 1 silkie, 2 Boris Brown, and 2 Okazaki Ouhan.

Another thing I’ve been experimenting with is the Bokashi bucket. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are a good way to compost your kitchen scraps in a short time. They work by fermentation, which is triggered by microbes that are also beneficial to your soil when you eventually bury this mess in your garden. And you will definitely want to bury it, because it fuxxing stinks!

Each time you add scraps to the bucket, you sprinkle a layer of ‘bokashi mix’ which has been inoculated with the microbes. You can find lots of recipes for making your own bokashi mix online, but it’s also available at home centers here for a couple hundred yen. The stuff I use seems to be made of mashed corn and some other grains, but I haven’t actually read the ingredients.

Once your bucket is full, you let it sit for about 2 weeks. It will develop a layer of white mold on top, and when you crack the top it doesn’t actually smell that bad. My buckets (I’m using 2 at a time — filling one while the other ferments) have a spigot on the bottom that allows you to drain the liquid that accumulates at the bottom. The liquid is terribly, gag reflex-triggering smelly.

After a few weeks, you’re free to dispatch the contents into the garden. I was surprised that the scraps aren’t really decomposed at all, just a bit slimier and smellier. But apparently the microbes are hard at work, an that’s the important thing. I highly suggest burying the contents of your bucket, or at least covering them with a layer of soil or rice husks to knock down the smell. Even if you can tolerate the aroma, if you have neighbors close by the lingering smell will surely offend them. Foul!

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Back to gardening… During our warmer weather I did manage to get some baby trees in the ground — a few varieties of acacia around the perimeter, between some fruit trees. Since they are evergreen, they will eventually provide privacy, and their nitrogen fixing will benefit the fruit trees. I also planted a few black currant, gooseberries, and another fig, as well as another acacia to replace the one that tipped over a few months back. It’s a different variety that has less-dense foliage than the previous acacia, so it will allow more sunlight to reach the ground. I’ve got a soft spot for acacia trees.

Once this crap weather system finally gets out of town, I’ve also got linden, bay laurel, loquat, and cinnamon saplings to plant, courtesy of Ken Elwood. By all means check out his blog for all sorts of forest gardening information. I also picked up an olive tree today that I’ll probably put by the pond.

That’ll likely do it for major plantings this spring. Time to find some projects that I can do for free!