6:00 Rise & Shine I
Wake up to the sounds of doors sliding open and truck doors slamming. This is the time that deliveries are made to the grocery stores that sell T-san’s products. I don’t take part in this, but you can call me an unintentional cheerleader of sorts. It’s also not a big deal in the beginning but later on I’m clawing for every minute of sleep I can get as work gets more demanding.
8:00 Rise & Shine II
Wake up and fuel up with some combination of homemade walnut rice-wheat bread, pickled cucumbers and zucchini, and fruit. Very light coffee, a Caspean sea-inspired homemade yogurt (a treasure of his from his 3 years of backpacking around the world), and Calbee cereal were daily staples.
Be ready outside by this time for the first half of the day. I’ll have donned work pants, longsleeve shirts, and rainboots by this time. I arrived at the tail-end of the rainy season and puddles remained in the walking path between the vegetable beds. As hot as it’d be, these would take days to dry up. Frogs dwelled here and would scurry out of the puddles as you stepped through.
This was the only time devoted to maintaining & expanding the farm while WWOOFers were around; it’s not much time. Activities included pruning, trellising, and weeding by machine, to name a few.
12:00 Mid-day break
Return to the house, shower and prepare for lunch. At first, multiple showers were an annoyance. I soon learned to cherish these. It’s also the hottest time of the day to the point of drying wet laundry in 30 minutes (est. +90F).
Set the table for lunch. With zucchini and cucumbers aplenty, rejects not market-worthy were pickled in a rice bran mixture and held a dedicated spot at each table. Rice, noodles, and quickly fixed meats & vegetables were common. Afterwards, wash dishes.
13:20 Personal time
This was my time. This meant I could be productive and have written or read more, but it wasn’t as gratifying as bingewatching the Netflix Korean drama “Let’s Eat” I picked up since Netflix inventory differs by country. When I became more disciplined — or maybe more exhausted — I’d nap proper.
14:00 Sweat (a little less)
Drive back to the fields to harvest vegetables for market. They’d be held overnight until the next morning’s delivery so they’d be fresh and ripe for customers. Cucumbers, Sicilian and Roman-something/unknown cherry-like tomatoes, zucchini, green onion, eggplant, and Japanese green peppers were in season.
Ripe, local vegetables were advantageous for customers looking to eat the very best. For the producers this was a timesuck demanding excessive time and energy for a small operation: from driving to three stores every morning to harvesting and packaging daily. Accounting the two of us, this deprived the farm of at least 36 people hours each week.
15:00 Package Vegetables
Wash the vegetables, sort them, package them in transparent plastic slips (no. 8, 10, 11, 12), and make sure stickers were on them. I was always on green onion detail, to start. Trim leaves affected by disease (think orange chicken pox), bugs, or natural yellowing, and wash. 115g of negi was sold in a bundle, and there were at least 30 final packages per day. There were at least 3KG of negi during my first week but in the second week after rainy season ended, these weren’t doing as well.
17:00 Boar Check
Check out T-san’s boar trap to see if anything was caught. Brainstorm new ways to capture boars so they don’t eat the village’s rice fields later once they flower in a few weeks. Realize with increasing disappointment that boars are too smart and are only teasing the humans who hope to capture them.
Two were caught in the past and due to local regulations, licensed hunters are the only ones who can dispatch the animals. Each one they send off nets them over 10k yen ($100 USD). A farmer could also do the same but for only 10%-15% of the same value. The farmer still has to trap the animal though.
17:30 Break & Opt. Activities
Shower again and rest a bit until dinner.
For about half my stay we also practiced aikido at T-san’s dojo, or went to the onsen (hot springs). This led to late night dining but experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything else.
Meal setup and cleanup. Pickles, rice or noodles, and more. Always delicious.