Published: July 3rd 2007July 3rd 2007
I'm now staying at TAO Learning Centre and Farm near Aso in Kyushu. They teach an ecclectic mix of self-help, healing techniques, macrobiotics, English, maths and calligraphy as well as having an enzyme bath and an organic farm. Here's a link to a 3 minute video TAO have created to publicise their work.
Day1: I had a hard working day today!!! After breakfast, which incidentally was rice and last night's left overs (various veggie stir fries), we went to the farm land. This was about a 15 min drive from the house, which is a bit of a shame because one of the benefits of the last farm was that the land was around it so I could potter around when ever I felt like it rather than having to wait like a lemon for someone to decide it's time to go. Anyway, it was well worth the drive as the farm is in a beautiful setting away from the main road down a track. You're in the middle of nowhere it seems. I can't judge accurately how much land they have but it looks to be about 5 acres perhaps? So today's tasks were clearing a part of the veggie plot that had become over grown with grass so it could be planted with soya beans. Apparently in the rainy season the grass can grow about 10cm/week!
Lunch was rice balls; cricket ball size of rice with sesame seeds and some flaked salmon and a Japanese Ume (bitter plum) inside, with some seeweed on the outside. It's quite basic, peasant style food and tastes ok if there's enough salmon in it (which there wasn't really, so it was basically a ball of rice!). To drink there was cold barley tea, which isn't as bad as it sounds. It's better than cold green tea anyway, as that's very bitter!
In the afternooon I had my first Paddy Field experience. With an ancient device I had to weed in between the rice rows. The contraption was like a hand rotavator perhaps? I had to push this through the calf-high mud, back and forth over the weeds 3 times before moving on. Oh my god it was tiring and very quickly I developed a twinge in my back! Hmm, I left behind office work to escape a twinging back!!! So up and down each row I went. I couldn't help but despair at how much of the field remained !! I did this for nearly 2 hours and was ready to lie face down in the water to put myself out of my misery; luckily we stopped for a barley tea break! It's really hard to wade through sloppy mud and water without trampling the rice. A number of times I had a serious wobble and thought I'd fall over and flatten the crop - not to mention covering myself in mud! I bet it's like sinking sand too in that once you'd down it's impossible to get up again!!!!!!!!!
After tea Takeshi turned up with a petrol driven weeder and after very brief instructions I was given the reins. Now, believe you me, that if i'd been given a wild beast to control it would have been easier than this machine! This was, again, like a rotovator but it spanned three lanes, straddling the delicate rice seedlings between it's vicious madly spinning teeth! Yikes! I was being dragged around the field by a mad machine that was towing me behind it. I'm sure it had a mind of its own too as on a number of occassions it took a sudden left or right turn, and I nearly wiped out their entire year's crop of rice! Hmm, how popular would I be!!!? But the good news was that at least it went faster and did three lanes at a time. After some initial cursing, I soon pacified the beast by murmering soft words to it and we trundled calmly up and down the rows. Unfortunately I didn't quite finish before it ran out of fuel. Takeshi said, "don't worry you can finish it tomorrow" ... I think he was missing the point hey!!
So that's my first day's work completed here. I'm thoroughly exhausted and am looking forward to bed tonight. When I was taking my shower earlier I had such a strong urge to lie in a hot bath that I snuck into the family bath tub. Remember that bathing is different here. They run one mega bath of very hot water which every one takes turns using. They put an insulating cover on it between bathers to keep it warm. The posh homes even have heating tubs which keep the water at the desired temperature. It's very important to thoroughly wash before getting in the tub though so that subsequent bathers don't have a slimey bath experience. Unfortunatley I couldn't get the mud out from between my toe nails (my wellies had holes in so I basically spent all afternoon standing in mud filled wellies!!), so I snuck in the bath with dirty toe nails! I hope no one notices the scum marks I left around the bath!!!!