Thursday, January 21, 2010

Season Premier

Nature's drama was never as interesting in the cities. Rain meant umbrellas, wet pants, sloshy streets and having to use something other than my bike to get around. Typhoons meant delayed trains and subways, traffic jams, billboards falling on unwary pedestrians.

Out in the countryside, weather is an event rivaling even the County Fair and for the last couple of weeks, there's been talk of nothing but.
"There's going to be several storms, one after the other..."
"It gets worse on Thursday..."
"They say there'll be maybe 12 inches of rain..."

All last week, while Big Dog and I were pruning, I could hear chainsaws around the valley as ranchers cut away dead limbs and other potential hazards. Our neighbors were at our common creek with a backhoe, lifting out fallen tree stumps and other debris from the October Storm. (City people never name their weather events. I can only remember one summer drought in Japan that got a nickname. It was bad enough to cause a major rice shortage and the government had to allow rice imports for the first time. That became known as The Summer of Imported Rice.)

By the end of the week, we were also infected with Storm Watch Fever. Big Dog was forever dashing to the fire station to get more sandbags (and why it had to be 10 or 20 bags at a time, instead of, say, 50 all at once, I'll never know) and lugging them around the ranch to place in strategic and sometime mysterious locations. I wasn't much help, I'm afraid. After stocking up our food supply, in case we got trapped on the ranch, and bringing in the seedlings, I was merely one of those who excitedly waited for the rain.

We're five days into it, now, and I'm still strolling around the place during lulls to check out how swollen the river is, where pastures have turned into lakes, if our neighbors were able to clear the culvert enough to keep the easement road from becoming another creek. It's a watery world out there and everything smells clean, clean, clean.

I am sure the Season Premier of the Storm Series gets a less than open-armed welcome further south. As much as they need the rain, the summer's rash of wildfires means danger of major landslides.

Is there more rain coming? Will the pasture flood completely? Can we keep the road from being washed away? Will the price of chanterelle mushrooms plummet like it's rumored? Don't touch that dial.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Love My Jika-Tabi!

So, I've been a Bad Blogger Dog, again. I got a bit internet-phobic about exposing so much of my life to total strangers and decided to give it a break for a while. In fact, I was going to post a notice here about a leave of absence. Guess I changed my mind. For now.

After a truly enjoyable visit to Tokyo for the holidays, I am back on the ol' homestead for our annual tree pruning. What's making it incredibly fun this year are...MY JIKA-TABI! These are rubber-soled, split-toed "tabi" socks worn by Japanese construction workers, landscapers, Edo Period firemen and others who had "climbing" in their job description.

I love the design of all tabi. (There are no plurals in Japanese, so please don't say kimonos. It's "one kimono, many kimono.") The "hooks" aren't really hooks but little metal "fingernails" that slide into slots on the fabric. Jika-tabi go up a ways higher than normal tabi, and around your pant legs. No flapping pant legs to trip you up and the thin rubber soles are perfect for climbing trees and balancing on narrow limbs. I feel like I could walk a tightrope in them!

"If they had better arch support, I'd wear them instead of shoes," I wrote to a friend, but perhaps that would hamper the effectiveness of jika-tabi. I've seen funky jika-tabi-inspired split-toed sneakers (I think it was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith that showed them to me) but the real deal is cheap and totally utilitarian. Go to any of the workmen's clothes and supply shops in Nishi Shinjuku, just beyond the gleaming high rises and luxury hotels. Not only will you find tons of cool work clothes, but you'll get a little glimpse of what Shinjuku once was.

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