Thursday, July 02, 2009

And the Challenges Go On.. Part 5

Now my nightmares are in red color...

A fact of life in a super-rural area in Japan: Farmers' relatives are also farmers.
Living in the same climate, they grow mostly the same crops. And the crops become ready for harvest at about the same time... :O

Our tomato season has started. Dad and mom pick tomatoes and bring them into the kitchen every day. I already made tomato sauce twice. And my family eats fresh tomatoes at every meal. Then yesterday dad came home carrying a big white plastic bag like a Santa Claus, and the bag was full of tomatoes! Yeah, I should have known... One of our extended families grows tomatoes in a huge greenhouse and they give us some every summer. Gosh, it's already that time of the year...!!! OK. Time for the biggest enamel pot and a wooden spatula again!

Dad shoved some tomatoes into a smaller plastic bag and hurried to another relative's house. Oh, well. It can't be helped. In a place like this, you just have to be caught in the big cycle of the free distribution of fruits and vegetables and get drowned. :P
And it's fig season as well. Soon you'll read about our endless "battles" with hakubishin (masked palm civet?) that comes to our garden almost every night. Maybe you'll find him (them?) smarter than us.

Then our watermelons will be ready... one after another. Tell you what. Currently 37 watermelons are ripening in our veggie garden. Thirty seven. You heard me? THIRTY SEVEN! That was all my parents were able to count, so they must be forty-something actually. And none of them is for sale; they are all for our family (and extended families, probably) to eat. Where would we put them after harvesting them?! Personally I don't mind sharing them with non-human guests to our veggie gardens -- as far as our family can get more than half of the fruit -- but my parents can't stand it.

The unwelcomed guests are crows. Do crows eat watermelons in your country? Around here, to protect watermelons from the greedy birds, people usually a) hide watermelons with straw or weed, b) spread a net over the watermelon plants or c) set up fishing lines across the field over the watermelon plants.

Our neighbors must have been puzzled if they saw my parents and I walking around in our veggie garden for hours with big old fishing rods in hands. No, we didn't start a new religion or anything. It was us doing the c). We decided to use the fishing lines on dad's old fishing rods, and they were too terribly old that the reels didn't come off the rods. LOL

It's also pit viper season. Every year several people are brought to the hospital in ambulance in this part of the prefecture. I always try to bring my cell phone with me when I go to the orchard with my parents, just in case. (But many times I forgot. :P) You know what. When choosing a cell phone service around here, there is more important thing than fancy functions like decomail, one-seg TV or games. It's a wide coverage in mountains and on the beach so that you can make emergency calls!

As for my mom, things got much better. She doesn't go on hunger strike any more, though she still avoids eating meals with dad for a while after they had a quarrel. But she doesn't try to starve herself, and pays more attention to nutrition when she eats alone in the kitchen or in her room.

The freezers are not jam-packed like before because -- thank goodness! -- she is not obsessed with buying frozen food now. In the past she just kept buying but almost never ate the frozen food. These days she checks what's in the freezer and once in a while uses the stored food to make some space in there. Perhaps she began to understand that it feels better when there is a "flow."

Honestly, I really tried hard to keep the "negative" happenings in the kitchen to the minimum. You know a kitchen can be such a great source of stress if negative experiences accumulate while being there. Letting a lot of food rot or "fossilize" in the freezer is by no means empowering, you know. So I did my best not to waste food. If grilled eggplants turned out yucky, I made them into hummus. When leftover white rice dried up, I microwaved it and made doria or risotto with my homemade tomato sauce and summer vegetables from our garden. Mom's fig jam was baked into pound cake a couple of times like I did with my yamamomo jam.

And whenever I experimented with food, I always had mom taste it. While dad doesn't like anything new and different, she enjoys trying something new. Recently she even tries to experiment on her own.

But I guess that what worked the best for both mom and I was quitting my driving practice with mom. :P

BTW, I would like to be straightforward about this since being indirect didn't serve its purpose:
Mom is not currently being treated for dementia NOT BECAUSE her family does not know anything about dementia and/or in denial of the idea that a family member is "crazy." I had my training in mental health in the U.S. with DSM-III-R (I know. Old. :P ) and have a basic knowledge of Petersen's classification of MCI as well as the tests doctors use to diagnose dementia (esp. AD) in Japan and side effects of drugs commonly used for aged people.

Mom has certain health problems (physical) from before, and whatever treatment to seek, it has to wait for the result of her annual checkup including MRI scan of the brain scheduled this month. And living in a super-rural place where the one and only clinic in town closed more than 30 years ago, finding an appropriate hospital/doctor and securing transportation for hospital visits is much harder than you might think. It usually takes time and it IS taking time. That's the situation now. (I have received good many emails so enthusiastically trying to convince me that mom is "crazy." I do appreciate their concern and enthusiasm, and I don't want to hurt anyone's feeling, but I hope, reading these paragraphs, the readers understand that that's not the kind of support I need.)

I'm going to post about all these in more details on another blog of mine sometime soon. I'll link to it when it's ready. Like I wrote before, this is my foodblog and I want to keep it that way.

As for myself, things are looking up, too. I might be doing some translation work for a local volunteer group this summer. Also in August, I'm attending a course to be a volunteer tour guide here in my hometown. It'll be fun. Yeah, it's about time I do something other than cooking/baking and fishing...


C(h)ristine said...

Soo excited to hear about your tomato season! I know, I know, you are probably overwhelmed--but the tomatoes in my garden have not yet ripened and reading about your bounty helps me experience the harvest vicariously. I even planted momotaro tomatoes this year for the first time, and I'm excited about them!

iml said...

I'm sure if you offer to sell online your over abundance of fresh/homegrown produce there'll be buyers.

emi said...

wow, it must be plentiful to harvest from the garden and having plenty to eat and give away.. how i wish i am your neigbour..

in a concrete jungle in singapore, we hardly seen vegetation in our surrounding. It is must be surreal to be living in your province..supre envy.

Press on and take your parent ageing problems one at a time ! Feed us more on your gardne news ! drooling over all your yummy food post.. the best !

neki desu said...

ohayo obachan
may i suggest making gazpacho with all those tomatoes?perfect summer soup.

neki desu

K and S said...

man, 37 watermelons! you could make a lot of watermelon sorbet with that. gosh, you should try to get into a co-op to sell your veggies, I'm sure a lot of people would love it :) hang in there with your mom!

Anonymous said...

Dear Obachan,

I am a silent reader of your blog from Malaysia. However, today I couldn't help putting in a line. I feel very happy that your mom is not on hunger strike so much anymore. Such good news and keep up the good work.

I do not do any gardening and farming but it sounds so fun in your blog!


Grace said...

Yay for tomatoes! My husband makes a pico de gallo that is like a salsa. He just uses tomatoes, red onions, jalapeno, cilantro and salt. It's so fresh and uses a ton of tomatoes. Is there something similar to cilantro in Japan? My mom does not like the flavor of cilantro (she's issei). I guess cilantro can be left out. We eat it on tortilla chips. Again not sure if you'd be able to find tortilla chips in rural Japan.

My husband just said it may be good on top of any type of grilled fish.

Glad to hear that your life situation is smoothing out.

Anonymous said...

it's amazing how much watermelon you use when making watermelon juice. light and refreshing it is.


Anonymous said...

I am so amazed by the prolific harvest from your dad's farm and the clever ways you dealt with them. I am also very sorry to hear about the situation with your mum. For us Asians who live in extended families, situations like these are very common. Older folks are normally more set in their ways and some can be more sensitive than others, whatever they do is just a cry for attention! So we younger folks just hang in there and when the situation blows over without much fireworks, we have much to be thankful about... Sorry for rambling on and on, I actually wanted to ask if you know of the leaves of the yuzu plant being used for flavouring/cooking (much like the way we use the kaffir lime leaves )? I managed to plant some and it is a long way from fruiting as yet.

jalna said...

Your neighbors must've been wondering what kind of fish were biting in your garden. Hahahaha. I just discovered your blog and spent this morning getting up to date. I'm not much of a cook, but I love your photos and reading about your new lifestyle. I'll definitely be following your posts. Thanks for sharing.

obachan said...

We have momotaro, too and we love them!! Personally I think they taste the best when eaten fresh. Enjoy! :D

Haha... maybe so.

I really wish you were my neighbor. I wish I could invite all the readers of this blog to my house!

Neki desu;
Good idea. Thanks! (But I'll be the only one to eat it since my parents do not like cold soup.)

K & S;
Watermelon sorbet. Yeah, if there's some space in the freezer when the watermelons are ripe. ;)

Unfortunately our watermelons tend to crack before they ripen. I wonder why... Too much water or too little water??

Thank you so much for your kind comment. I'll keep posting about our gardening and farming (because there's nothing else to post about, hahaha...) so keep coming back! :D

I guess cilantro is available in Japan, but definitely not around here. My parents wouldn't like it anyway, and I'm not too crazy about it, either. I can buy tortilla chips online, but the combination with grilled fish sounds healthier. Thanks for the idea.

Watermelon juice? Yeah, it must be refreshing, but... Maybe I'm too conservative about this? Watermelons are so juicy when eaten fresh that I feel a bit strange about squeezing the juice out of them. But wait. Oranges are so juicy when eaten fresh but I love orange juice... Mmmmmm....

Thanks for your concern. I hope other Asian countries do not make the same mistake as Japan did. No, not only in the past; we are still making mistakes. You'll see.

About yuzu: People around here do not use yuzu leaves for cooking. But when I googled, I did find a blog by a Japanese woman living in Europe, and she cut yuzu leaves into needle-thin strips and used them for flavoring (Japanese style) soup. She wrote that she got the idea from the use of kaffir lime leaves. :)

Welcome to my humble blog. I'll keep posting about my ups and downs here, so I hope you keep coming back to read about them. ;)

K and S said...

probably too much water? not sure...

Nicole said...

Obachan, love to hear the news about the garden and so glad to hear that your mom has adapted to you being there. For the many tomatoes, do you ever partially dehydrate them in the oven? I cut cherry tomatoes or rome type tomatoes in half, put them on a baking tray on parchment paper (for easier cleanup), drizzle them with olive oil (probably not needed) and then put them in a cool oven for a few hours (how long depends on the tomatoes and the temp of the oven, just keep an eye on them every 30-45 minutes). They become more intense and can easily be frozen for the winter but less work than sauce. I use them on pasta and on pizza/flat bread or in stews.

Rinshinomori said...

You are so lucky to have all those tomatoes. Planted 6 tomato plants but this year's harvest so far has been quite dismal. There is nothing better than tomato sandwich with salt and pepper on two white bread lathered with mayo.

Glad to hear your mom and you are going better together. Moms are very, very special. Dads too, but most times can't compare to moms.

Pit viper.....yikes! My cousin was recently telling a story when we visited him in Japan about walking Shikoku for the temple walk. He made it to something like 50 or 55. But he hates snakes and he claims snakes are attracted to people. When he sits on rocks to relax the snakes comes to him. LOL He thought Shikoku had lots of snakes.

Stay safe.

obachan said...

K & S;
Yeah, probably so.

Thanks for the idea. I already made some oven-dried cherry tomatoes and am thinking about using them for pasta. I wish my parents could eat pizza...

Ah, tomato sandwich! Why didn't I think about it?

Your cousin's story is so funny. Was he born in the year of snake or maybe he was a snake charmer in his previous life or something?? There might be a way to use his charm in a constructive way.

Anonymous said...

i support you not going for driving lessons with your mum! i suspect its something family members shouldnt do together. for years my sis refused to drive with me or my mum, apparently after we traumatized her in the one & only session we barely even remember! hahaha!

erm.. i still dont understand how 3people can cope with so much produce from the garden. How on earth did your parents manage when you were not around???

cant wait to hear what to do with extra watermelons! = )

Mora said...

Hello, Obachan. I wanted to write and thank you for being such a wonderful daughter to your parents. Though your mother's health details are private, I will share with you that my mother had dementia caused by transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). The best gift any child can give their parent, be they healthy or not, is to love and cherish them and dig deep for all the patience in the world. You are the best.

obachan said...

Anonymous commenter;
Honestly, driving practice with someone whose memories are rather faulty was SOOOOOOOOO stressful!!

You may not really understand this unless you actually drive in a Japanese countryside where the parking spaces are so small and cars are parked at the shoulders of the road that are not big enough for parking...

But driving with dad is even worse. He insists that I have to drive at 45km/h where the spped limit is 50km/h.

I appreciate your comment, though I don't think I've been very patient with my parents. :P
It's difficult to maintain "my way of living" when I spend so much time with them -- with them only. I almost forgot what it was like to have a conversation with people at my age or younger... So I think I've been trying harder to draw a boundary rather than being a "good daughter" for them.


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