Wednesday, February 04, 2004



Not long after we first moved here, one of the older farmers in the village told me that farming on this mountainside has been going on since way before history, that this was in fact one of the earliest rice-growing regions in Japan.

My own mountainside land, in contrast, being on one of the ridges and therefore unfarmed during those same millennia of which we speak, sets me back about three or four thousand years in terms of soil preparation. So the farmers here have a good head start over me, and can get directly to farming every year, which they do, in fact they are beginning to till their rich, pure, utterly stoneless and disgustingly equitably nourished soil right now, whereas I must once again spend the first few days doing the task that the farmers' ancient ancestors wisely spread out over a couple thousand years, i.e., removing stones. In the first years, the stones I dug up were as big as Neanderthal basketballs, and went into making the stone walls that hold up my terraces, as briefly chronicled here.

Each year since then, as I minimize the millennia by usually tilling only 50-80 tsubo (depending on monkey-related prognostications and travel plans), the stones I turn up have gotten steadily smaller, the initial larger ones now bordering my garden plots, the later apple-to-egg sized ones serving as ABMs (Antimonkey Ballistic Missiles); the yet smaller ones were merely tossed onto the garden pathways, by which means my plan was to create gravel walks, albeit in the slowest conceivable way.

Today as I was tilling the first plot of the year, about 10 tsubo whereon I will plant some early bush beans, I noticed that I was harvesting my gravel as though it were diamonds. The stones I was finding were getting alarmingly small, with yet a rather large gravel requirement pending. These were quail egg-sized stones I was unearthing, and I had to look for them, even dig a bit to stir them up, and they were few and far between.

Gravel walks are ravenous for stones, and if I want to finish mine I'll have to dig much deeper, but if I do that I'll be back to very big rocks again and will have to find something other to do with them than build stone walls, of which I have quite enough now. This is a dilemma I had not foreseen. Maybe a monkey maze, whence there is no return...

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