Wallabi's Farm: The English Hototogisu Bakery and Farm Blog

Hello, my name is Sara. In 2005 my husband and I bought an old farmhouse in Okayama, borrowed a few fields and set to building ourselves a pleasant rural life. Now, several years on, we have fields a-plenty, what was until the end of 2012 a wheaty bread bakery and is now prepping to be a gluten-free space, and have incorporated our efforts into the Hototogisu Bakery and Farm. Welcome!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


The rice is in the ground (okay - it started in the ground, but now it is in OUR ground, not the nursery bed at the neighbors house). The actual planting only took a few hours, but getting them out of the nursery bed...much longer. We got a TON of weeds sprouting up inthe nursery bed, and digging them up and sorting the rice from the weeds (especially the hie - a kind of millet, I believe - which looks very very similar to rice seedlings) was painful. We will not be starting them in a nursery bed again - flats or cell pots for us from now on. Here are a few pictures:

This year we are trying out a method we learned on a field trip with our local Young Farmers group. An hour or so away is a man who has been using heavy overwinter green manuring to impressive effect by timing the tilling under of the green manure so that there is still a lot of organic matter in the field at planting time. As a result, the plants grow relatively little for the first week and a half or so, and put their energy into developing strong root systems, and then all of a sudden, lots of nitrogen becomes available from the break-down of the green manure and the plants take off. The pictures he showed us were pretty dramatic, and he has had several years of consistent results. We have been green manuring with Chinese Vetch and so have the biomass to give it a good try - we will see. Ordinarily you try to time green manure tilling so that it is largely broken down when you plant because the process of breaking down organic matter ties up nitrogen in the soil (although it ultimately increases the amount). The after-planting nitrogen boost is what we want here, though, so the logic seem sound. We'll be tracking the progress by photographing the field from the same spot each day. Fun!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A few bits of randomness

Life proceeds much as usual here. We are weeding furiously, harvesting peas daily, eating lots of peas, fava beans, radishes, lettuce, carrots, cabbage and onions, watching the progress of the tomatoes and summer squash with anticipation, tying up loose ends in the blueberry field and tidying the yard with a view to keeping the weeds down and various creepy crawlies at bay. We have harvested honey several times now, I got stung just in front on my ear (OUCH!), we went out with a friend and picked cherries along the roadside, we are working on our firewood stores for next winter, we are making a list of unfinished construction projects to work on over the summer, I am baking weekly and will be resuming Japanese lessons this Saturday (hoorah!). Shuzo turned thirty last week and we cut off his hair. He says it is much cooler now, and his hat fits better.

We are surrounded by rice fields, and at this time of the year, it means we are surrounded by frogs. Millions of them, to judge by the racket they make just as I begin falling asleep at night. They make enough noise that we actually have to talk over them, or turn up the music extra loud in order to hear it. I cover my head with a blanket at night for some peace. The mosquitoes are also coming out, meaning that in the next few weeks we will be setting up the mosquito nets. We have several. On a more fun bug note - the fireflies are out. We sometimes go for evening walks down to the river to see them, but there are nearly always more next to the little stream that runs two meters from the house, so now we are lazy and just stay here. We can see them from the bedroom. In fact, sometimes they just come on in the bedroom (as do the mosquitoes - we have some construction to do).

We are locked in an endless cycle of indecision with regards to the building of our bakery. We go back and forth between wanting it to be a stand-alone building and wanting it to attach to the house (at the moment, it is to stand alone), we can't decide whether to built it ourselves completely, or to have someone else build the foundation and install the possibly-necessary-septic-tank-like-thing to deal with greywater (greywater = non-toilet wastewater), or to have someone else deal with the whole building, top to bottom and to notify us when they have finished. We have this cool book (in Japanese) called "Hyaku Man Ie Zukuri" (or thereabouts), which provides instructions and plans for constructing a small house, foundation to roof, for about $10,000. Every time I look at the book, I get to thinking that we can totally build the bakery ourselves and that it would be silly to hire someone else to do it, because it would be fun and we would learn lots and all of the knowledge that we have gained through building and making mistakes with the goat house and the shed and the sunroom and in taking down the old shed would be put to good use. Plus, we would get to visit the lumberyard lots, and the people there are very nice and always give us presents (beer, several times, and grapes once). On the other hand, we were approved as foster/adopt parents a few months ago, and I'm pretty sure that I would be all for hiring a professional if we were to meet our mystery child tomorrow. It could be complicated if that happened half way through construction, right? But then, being busy building the bakery would keep my mind off wondering when we will hear about the mystery child. What to do?

In other news (do I use that phrase a lot?): our rice planting time is coming up soon. Most of the neighbors are planting theirs now. We will be planting kodaimai, ancient rice. Last year a friend gave us seed for several different types (we don't really know what, precisely) - some red rice, some black, some light-green mochi rice and a few others - five in all. The yield will be about half that of the asahi variety we have been growing, but they are really cool looking and not too common. If we take over more fields and grow enough to sell one day, we expect to sell it at about 3 times the price of regular organic rice. For now, though, it is mostly for fun, and an attempt to grow enough to use for seed on a larger scale in the future. We plant in about ten days - I'll be sure to get some pictures up.