The rainy season has come to Ojika.
Today was warm and humid, with a haze hanging over the island most of the day after yesterday evening’s downpour. The windows are open, and some breeze blows through the house to do what it can to dispel some moisture. As I type now, sunshine breaks through and casts its angled rays through the kitchen.
As is common this time of year, the forecast for the coming week is all clounds and rain. You have to enjoy the small breaks when they come, because it won’t be too long before the rain returns.
The rain brings many things with it, sometimes lightning and thunder, sometimes wind, sometimes gorgeous sunsets or rainbows. It always brings mold and bugs. But it fills the ponds and rivers too, and this is the season when the rice fields thrive and become full with life and grow seemingly right before your eyes.
The fireflies are out here and there, if you are in a place with clean water (conventional rice paddies and their pesticides don’t offer a great haven in many places anymore). And the cicadas’ summer cries are not far away.
The summer rainy season brings with it the good and the bad, the wanted and unwanted. That is the nature of seasons and life.
Some of the recent ongoings around here have been getting the kamado kitchen hearth back into working order, threshing wheat, more plastering, various small(ish) woodworking projects, beach clean-ups, first aid training, and certainly ice cream eating.
Getting the kamado hearth back into shape required a few steps. First was replacing the chimney. The previous one was a straight tube going up into the second floor storage space and just stopping. It had gone up and out through the roof once, but that spot had obviously leaked and since nobody was using the hearth anymore anyways, the chimney was just cut and the roof repaired and sealed off. I had originally envisioned running a new chimney out the side of the wall and bending it up around the roofline, and was ready to put in the order for parts when it occurred to me…
I can just let the smoke up in to the second floor like it worked when the house was built. I will only use the hearth occasionally anyway, as everything else gets cooked by charcoal on the shichirin.
So that’s what I did. I bought some new black chimney pipe and ran it up to the second floor. Now the massive soot blackened beams of the roof structure can once again be bathed in insect-repellant smoke from time to time.
I also bought some new rings to set the pots on, and change the size of the opening. Beneath the rings I sealed the gaps with an earth/clay mixture which should keep things in place.
I also couldn’t stop myself from plastering a part of the kitchen that had been bothering me for a while.
There was a section where I had removed a built in storage cabinet and the remaining wall was just the bare earth. It wasn’t perfectly sealed up to the wood supports on the sides anymore, and there were gaps where it met the wood floor.
I filled in the gaps and leveled things out a bit with a straw/earth/clay mix and then went over it all with the shikkui plaster. Now the walls are all sealed up and I’ve added some trim where the wall meets the floor.
Another project that is really a cooperative effort between Yo and a friend of ours on the island is a test of growing wheat and barley.
They harvested both recently and in the meantime Yo somehow tracked down a foot powered threshing wheel. This is an impressive contraption. Simple but powerful. It’s quite a sight to see when it gets whirling at full speed!
So far we have used it to thresh the barley, and it performed much better than we had anticipated. We had heard the barley was harder to remove from it’s husk and so we feared we might have to do a good deal of separating by hand. As it turned out though, most of the seeds came flying out under the relentless thwacking of the wires on the wood spinning round and round.
I’ve also been doing a few woodworking projects here and there.
And we have also been participating in beach cleanups, trying to make headway against the onslaught of garbage that washes up on the shores of the island daily. This is a massive problem that needs a lot more attention and support. We need to stop using so much plastic. It is everywhere, and it’s coming from so many different sources, and the oceans and it’s creatures are literally choking on it. Once the plastic is out there, it’s really hard to deal with it. Especially for a small island like Ojika. The most effective way to slow things down is at the source. Say no to all the plastic junk. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s worth the effort to find an alternative.