Sunday, February 27, 2011


On the bulletin board in my mental post office I have a huge WANTED! poster with a couple dozen monkey mafia mug shots on it, you can jail any one of them if you can find them (they blend right in); they’re all on the lam from one Brady job or another.

I don’t yet have a wanted poster up for bears, which surprises me, from what I’ve been hearing about bears not far from here, but bears aren’t a bother to me, at least not yet, so there isn’t a bear poster. There is room for one, but I’m generally content with bear preferences for acorns, grubs and berries.

I don’t have a poster up for wild pigs either, which surprises me even more, because I’ve seen them go after the rice in these parts and everything else in other parts of the world, even uprooting lawns in some places to get earthworms, but I don’t have a lawn; maybe that’s why the porkers don’t bother me. Yet they don’t want free fresh potatoes, tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers? Not that I’m offering, but it is another of the natural puzzles that seem to be burgeoning everywhere these days. Let the dear bristly creatures enjoy their acorns and wild yams or whatever.

Still, it seems somehow unnatural, and worries the greenness in me. I’m pretty green when it comes to most things, especially being Irish and all. Regarding plants and creatures I say live and let live, except again for the local monkeys. That’s where I turn from green to red. Most folks who don’t live around here and get their vegs at the supermarket LOVE monkeys, those dear furry creatures on tv and in the zoo, so cute and suitably distant there in the magazine or on the net in the hot spring, aren’t they adorable they’re so human!

I have no rabbits as pests either, though rabbits have always in my mind been notorious, gardenwise, ever since Peter. I’ve seen one or two of the hoppies around here in 15 years, so they are in the vicinity, but they seem to be very old-time Japanesey and prefer their original native diet, though the younger rabbits might start going for the easy food available in my garden, you never know when it comes to animals-- they evolve.

But I always trusted the deer...sniff, sniff...Santa has deer... At least, once I’d put up my garden fence to protect among other things my spinach and green onions, after which the deer just went around munching wild herbs and acorns, but then I spotted the Baron himself, the symbol of noble integrity with his crown of antlers, lowering his regal head to filch my shiitake, scarfing them like a king in a pastry kitchen.

Today, in response to severe nocturnal nibbling of some new shiitake buds by ruminant teeth and I don’t mean cows, as I was moving some of my older shiitake logs inside the garden fence and rigging a pro tem net on poles over the bigger, newer logs, I was mentally designing my DEER WANTED poster, I have the mental mugshot of the noble countenance posing before being booked, one hoof holding up the little black personal data plaque, full-face and profile, looking so innocent - Don’t smile please, look straight into the camera...

I wouldn’t press charges, you understand, I don’t want the Baron to actually go to jail, maybe just some sort of mushroom restraining order. The monkeys you can throw the book at, though that has no effect, I’ve tried. Rocks don’t work either, for the long term. I know they were all here first, but I was here second and I had a loan from a bank. If that’s not legitimate I don’t now what is.

Monday, February 21, 2011


This morning was nice and sunny so I spent some early time in the garden checking on the beans I planted in the autumn, staked with a bamboo lattice and covered with broad netting and fine mesh to protect them from the snow, thereby rendering them inaccessible and largely invisible.

I lifted off those layers and exposed the graphic reality of beanstalks and dirt left on their own for 3 months, saw that succulent weeds had sidled in from the cold to enjoy the warm serenity of beanworld, and that the beanstalks and the weeds had become good friends, the stalks rejecting my inviting bamboo framework in favor of base groveling, wrapping their tendrils around feckless weedery in the lowest form of companionship, the kind mothers warn their young teens about.

In order to free the beanstalks from their iniquity, that they might better to pursue the natural instincts of their breeding and reach the full bean potential that is their birthright, I had to break up these earthy relationships, and as I went along I saw in every instance - every instance, as though it were a completely natural thing - which I suppose, looking back on my own life, it is - that the beanstalks had preferred tendrilizing with the weeds, not in a single instance grabbing onto the convenient bamboo, over which in some cases the beanstalks had even grown downward to reach the weeds!

There beside them was offered a bamboo structure that would lift them to levels of which they were capable; that would elevate them to greater, sunnier, more productive heights, yet instead they leaned heavily toward their baser instincts, bent to the bottom of their world, acted against their own benefit and potentially toward their own detriment; that’s one of the problems with new youth, even of the beany kind.

There is a lesson here - if I may be so didactic, and having been so thus far, I will - one which I could have followed better myself, had I in my earlier life been even slightly more aware of the benefits of the metaphorically speaking bamboo framework that had been prepared for the beanstalk I was; on the other hand, however, there is something to be said for the weeds, the heady benefit of that lower perspective, that sense of implacability you take with you when at last you unbend and strive upward-- it makes you tougher, makes you more patient, renders you less needful of hope and more in possession of grit. So go low, beans, go low if you must, but don’t stay there too far into Spring; and above all, do not abide the weedy path...

To add weight to my inner words I disassembled the whole bamboo framework, expelled the weeds and from the overpoles suspended lengths of rough gardening twine about a foot apart, hanging down helpfully among all the suddenly weedless beanstalks looking around like new graduates of Legume U.

The world awaits you all, my beans; tomorrow is yours!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


We all know in our own ways that randyness is a basic building block of the universe; it keeps the race going, neck and neck etc. Back in the days of my own youthful sexperience, that uberactivity pretty much subsumed every other, filling the body, the air, you name it, melodies everywhere... Thank aging, that madness has diminished a bit so I can finally enjoy continuities of other kinds, interspersed as they are...

Japan, as many of us also know, with its softer connection between sex and morality, its countless love hotels and esoterically kinky sex toys, is one of the most erotically informed cultures in the world, a leader in those subtler reaches. All the more incomprehensible then was this headline I saw recently in a J-newspaper: "More young Japanese, married couples, losing interest in sex: gov't survey."

I saw the term "gov't" and right away thought: How erotic a survey could that be? But yes, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (Health?? Labor?? Welfare?? Turn down the passion!) in January released the results of a survey of 3,000 J-men and J-females between the ages of 16 and 49 across Japan, with a 57.2 percent response rate, which to the discerning observer means that well over half the J-population of procreative age had nothing better to do than fill in the blanks on multipage government survey forms. This does not bode well for a decent sex life, let alone procreation.

The survey pretty much nailed the fact that increasing numbers of young Japanese have no interest in sex; but not to worry, the trail-blazing government is on the case, coming up with sexy solutions, like maybe reducing work time (it works for parliament!), which I guess they think would somehow stimulate modern youth to devote their off-hours to cranking out an appreciative electorate, instead of playing MRPGs in their rooms as the population declines.

O yes. The point-- well, one of them. “The percentage of male respondents who said they had no interest in or had an active aversion to sex stood at 18% -- an 8-point jump from 2008 figures. The percentage of women who agreed rose 11 points to 48%. There were particularly sharp increases in the 16 to 19 year old age range, where the percentage of females with no appetite for sex went from 46.9% in 2008 to 58.5% in 2010, while among males the rate more than doubled from 17.5% to 36.1%." "Young males not interested in sex more than doubled!" This is one of the biggest-shocks-of-this-year-that-went-entirely-under-the-world-news-radar. (“[Place name here] has sex with Sarah Palin” would get 24/7 skywriting headlines worldwide for a month; but “Half the Youth of a Major Nation Says No to Sex!” Who cares?)

For the sake of statistical integrity it should be pointed out right away (as was not done by the Ministry, I might add) that the survey itself probably interfered with imminent sex by at least a thousand or so respondees (Was that the doorbell? It looks like a government official! Get dressed!) (Government survey diminishes birth rate!). Plus, it need not be said but what the hell, youth who are not having or preoccupied with having sex, or not entertaining thoughts of being preoccupied with finding a way to have sex, must have a lot of time on their hands both day and night, engaging in dispassionate activities somewhere other than bedrooms and love hotels, indeed everywhere they go; such individuals tend to have big chunks of time to throw away responding to surveys and engaging in other time-shredding activities, so the sample is statistically flawed from the start.

Even so, an amazing number of hypohormonal youth are consciously checking the "No" and "Never" boxes on all kinds of forms, so there must be something to all this silence of the springs. Some say it's caused by pollution, others blame it on junk food, other groups say it's parenting and video games combined with global warming, yet others say it's a blend of pesticides and hormones in the food, compounded by tv programming, or vaccines, or all those drugs, something in the water, as men become epicene like back in Heian times (though those earlier epicene males were downright priapic, cruising the streets of Heian-kyo doing their ardent best to generate today's electorate...

Anyway, seems like everybody blames this apathy on a different cause, but it must be due to something; young loins couldn’t be simply giving up on sex because it’s no fun and not worth doing -a bother, even - since that is an utterly laughable statement en masse and would indicate collective insanity, apart from being blatantly untrue and a few other things as well, like here comes the end of the world-- or at least Japan, which would have to close down for good with a population smaller than that of Antarctica. (Would there still be visas?)

Apart from the niagara of internettable porn flooding eyeballs with both sexes and then some, another possible cause, if not merely a symptom (but if you ask me, there is nothing mere about sex; I'm a big fan) could be the increasing use of the "boyfriend's arm pillow," a best-selling prop that replaces the least procreative aspects of a boyfriend, who, being elsewhere by mutual preference, is increasingly likely to be dozing on his "girlfriend’s lap pillow," a best-selling item that does the same for the guys whose arms have been taxidermically replaced, as their entire presences are increasingly cold-shouldered and the national population graph suffers erectile dysfunction.

As if that weren't enough, after decades of young J-males depilating their bodies and learning to wear makeup in an effort to appeal to females who it turns out prefer to sleep on manufactured boy parts, Japan is concurrently giving birth - ironically speaking - to another social phenomenon, that of the hikikomori, defined as a person who hasn't interacted with anyone outside their family for more than 6 months, three-quarters of such individuals being male (many having been replaced by pillows), who number over a million so far and are increasing by the day, if the lengthening lines at pillow shops are any indication. It will be a dark day indeed, and for all the world, when Japan's last love hotel shutters its doors.

I should add that, in so many earlier ways, Japan has been the canary in the world's coal mine... So get ready, world.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Firelight flickers
so you can't read -
then it tells your stories

Friday, February 11, 2011


I’ve posted previously on the flavor magic of yuzukosho and other yuzu culinary possibilities that are wildfiring from chef to chef around the world, as well as yuzu's non-cuisinal uses, but I never knew of the following use for the mystic citrus until a few weeks ago when I got hold of some sun-dried yuzu seeds at Hot Station, where the lady told me I could soak the seeds for a few weeks in mild alcohol (shochu, sake) and make a good organic skin lotion. She had a little jar of it there as a sampler, so I bought some seeds to try...

I used some unfiltered sake I had, left the batch for three weeks, shaking it every now and then as it thickened, the result being a bunch of yuzu seeds in a viscous gel-fluid, sort of like an undecided jelly, but not sticky. Some substance in (or on?) the seeds had semigelatinized the sake, and when shaken and filtered through a sieve, yielded a good quantity of a pleasant thickish gel for skin/face lotion etc. I’m now using the same seeds again to make a second batch, slightly less gelly than the first, it seems.

Echo and I each made our own experimental preparation - she used rose essential oil in hers - and are saving the rest (about a cupful) in the fridge. I added a few drops of apricot oil to mine, plus a drop of lavender essential oil (other good essential oils for the skin are eucalyptus, tea tree, clary sage, lemon, myrrh, patchouli...) to make a little test squidgerful (beside the big jar in the foto) to use on my hands after I’ve been working outdoors.

Echo says it’s great for rough heels and elbows as well, but my rough heels and elbows have never been a bother to me (or others, as far as I know). Anyway, the lotion feels great, is cheap (free if you got a yuzu tree), no artificial additives, preservatives (add some vitamin E for that) or coloring --  it’s smooth, soothing, dries fast, not tacky, goodfeel to rub on, dissipates quickly, seems to fill in some dermal gaps and lubes or something. Feels good later too, slightly astringent perhaps. I'll try a new blend as an aftershave balm and experiment with other formulations.

You can go ahead and make a million with this; I have to go get some firewood with my new hands.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Out in the blustery dawn loading up on firewood to restock the holder beside the cold morning stove, using the work to get the bodyheat. Eyeing the oak first of course, as I have all these winter days, the old reliable winter fireheart with its hard and long-burning golden flame, taken straight from the sun.

Oak is our best flame for the heart of winter, heats every nook and cranny of this mountain house, but now that I’m warm so quickly out in the morning, it seemed to me that we’ve passed the heart of winter - though it may return for a passing shove or two of its icy shoulders - so out of habit I was eyeing the big firepower of oak I have out there, turning that gold they get when they’re ready to give back the sun, but then I catch a glimpse of the other stacks, the lighter fiery ones of cherry wood, with that flamey red they dry to, that glows in the morning light and in the stove burns so happily, so friendly flickery...

It’s hard to describe without getting too cute, but cherry is the perfect wood for blustery days because it’s warm in other ways than heat, like a grandma serving cookies and cocoa in front of the fire; it gives back a spritely, cheery kind of flame, long-embered but not strong, not the let’s-get-to-work kind of deep-tempered, hard-edged fire that oak brings to the room when there’s ice on the windows, oak like iron, the workhorse of firewood, the Percheron of flame, its big muscles hauling us all across winters of ice...

After a decade or two with a woodstove on a mountainside with a wide supply of wild windblown wood you get to be kind of a firewood gourmet, it’s like wine or coffee in its way, with body, bouquet, hints of this and that quality, each kind of wood, indeed each tree, having its own character that it’s best to know as best you can, and as I scanned the stacks something spoke to me from inside like the urgevoice that says “Boy, a cup of coffee sure would hit the spot right now,” or “A bit of Puligny-Montrachet would really go good with this meal,” as the conjurevision of the topic shows itself the mind’s eye and that’s what I saw, some cherry wood burning in the stove just minutes from now, with the sky turning the same color outside and the chill wind blowing by, rattling the bamboo, all souled by the cherry flame and the wine color of the dawning sun, it would just all fit together better than it would with oak, I thought, and it did, what can I say, I’ve tried in these awkwords.

Anyway, as to cherry, brighten just one letter and it's cheery...

Saturday, February 05, 2011


(5 min)

(Love the way they gave it a Latin name resonant with "nutritional expertise")

and it's international!



(Entire documentary)
(Effectively removes any remnant wool from eyes)

GM Soy in animal food - Greetings from Monsanto

Short and to the point.
via: reddit

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


This morning as I was making tea in the silence that verges a clear-sky sunrise - it was still rather dusky - out of the corner of my sensitive tea-making eye I noticed a large, dark shape shoot by outside just above the deck, where large, dark shapes rarely shoot by at any time of day.

I looked out the big window into the garden to see what it had been, and who was it but Dr. Crow. He was flying hard, had taken a brave and unprecedented shortcut right over the deck, which had always been a Dr. Crow no-no, since one of those featherless biped conundrums could pop right out of a doorway and grab him, teach him to say "Nevermore" or something.

Why did he break his rule and fly over the deck I wondered, why is he flying so hard when nothing's chasing him and there's nothing much going on? Then when he flashed by a second time I realized he was searching for a secure location, because gripped in his beak was an entire slice of bread, the equivalent of a week's salary for a crow, even a doctor.

Right away I wondered where he'd gotten a whole slice of bread up here on the mountain, but then I thought: he's a crow; of course he can get a whole slice of bread up on a mountain. He landed in the meadow across the road, then immediately flew back, straight across the deck, empty-beaked; he had hidden the bread in the grass!!

A moment later he was whizzing by again, straight as the crow flies, with another slice-- you could practically hear him panting, he was flying so hard in his hurry to get the heist all stashed, but this time he headed in a slightly different direction, off through the trees; he would hide this portion of his treasure in another place he knew about.

It was a haul; he had hit it bigtime, and was stashing it here and there in his version of the Cayman Islands. Soon he'll be seen in only the finest trees, smoking big cigars, a sultry crowette on each wing and no apparent source of income, used to work for Goldcrow-Sachs.