Fixing the holes

I am not a farmer, but today I did some pleasurable field work; I helped to fill in the holes formed by erosion in the irrigation system at Oyama Senmaida.

There were six of us working today. My goal was to watch and learn and be as useful as possible. I was on “B Team” with Ishida-san, who is in charge of everything at Senmaida, so I felt confident. But I have to say it didn’t start very well.

We went out the A block of paddies, and got started filling things in. I am bad with shoveling. I am also inaccurate with throwing shoveled stuff into a hole. Within 15 minutes, both members of my team wandered off in different directions without a word to me. Uh, guys?

I felt like when I started cooking school – instructing chefs had expectations but never explained the metrics for the results they wanted: “This is a good pancake. Make your like this.” As a newb in the fields, I have no idea why one bit of irrigation was okay and the next one wasn’t. So left alone, I wandered over to A Team and helped them. Iku-chan is chatty and it was fun.

Eventually my guys came back and we continued. It was good to be outside doing physical labor and I learned a lot about the irrigation setup. Eventually I figured out what we were doing but mostly I carried tools.

Landslide damage will require shoring up the slope.

Some of the sections could not be fixed by hand today, and there was a paddy in D block that is sliding down into its neighbor. While the experts conferred on these complexities, I enjoyed the details of nature around me: ladybugs, worms, and all the plants coming back to life in the early spring.

At lunch, I paged through Ushimura-san’s new addition to the library and recognised dozens of plants I had seen in the field today. I was especially enamoured of this hydrophobic one with big drops sitting on its red winter leaves.

I’ve been asked to work up an English version of the website. That will bring English-speaking visitors who I will get to work with. I anticipate many happy hours (and confusing) at Oyama Senmaida this year.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.