Lazy day today. So now that Ive got unlimited internet for the first time in a month, I thought Id share what Ive been doing with the destined bunch to read this blog.

The first farm I went to was in a small town in Tomamu, about central Hokkaido. Ken-san, the father and man in charge of Karifuri Farm, is a wonderful man. He lived in America for two years after majoring in Economics at (I believe) Tokyo University. He lived with a family in a small town in Utah, worked on a ranch in Idaho, and then hitchhiked from Canada to Guatemala for half a year. But he barely speaks English. Still it was this experience that inspired him to go back to Japan, live with a family in Nagano on their 300 year old farm for one year and just work with them, in order to learn how to start a farm of his own. He came to Tomamu the same way he came to America; with nothing but his backback and a bike. He had only a few acres at first, and slowly, slowly bought land from surrounding farmers. For the first few years that was all he had. He said “we’re poor and work hard, but we’re happy because we have beautiful land, beautiful animals, and healthy food.” Emi contested to this. They live almost entirely self-sustainably.

The mother Emi is a sweet, unsuspectingly strong woman. Kazuma, 10, the son, is an artistic genius. I taught him how to use a knife to carve and he made a small rabbit and a weasel in two days. He also paints and draws lots of landscapes, and wants to use oil paint. The daughter, Hikaru, 8, is feisty and hilarious. She too is interested in art. They are obsessed with Galaxy Express 999, an anime from the 70s about a train in outer space. They all get up at about 5 in the morning to feed the animals. There are about 70 egg  chickens, I dont know how many meat chickens, rabbits (they sell them to French and CHinese restaurants in Sapporo and also sell the fur), 40 goats, 6 pigs, 3 dogs, and a cat named Jo, (from Little Women).

I did mostly harvesting of vegetables, also preparing the vegetables to dry and packing them. I also went with Ken around town to sell the vegetables. Tomamu is a poor, small town, whose sister city is Aspen.  THey have an exchange program. Aspen also gives monetary aid to Tomamu. I met Corey, one of the two westerners who live in Tomamu (everyone, I mean EVERYONE knows him, blond hair blue eyed man who married a woman who owns a restaurant. He ran a taco restaurant but now he sells dairy products, but he also is in charge of the exchange program for Tomamu so he goes back to Aspen quite a bit. It was wild speaking English for the first time in 5 days.

Ken made all of the buildings, including the house they live in (which burned down to the ground 2 years ago, so he rebuild it) and the one I stayed in which was next to the egg chickens house (I would wake up 3 times each night, at 3, 4:30, and 5 by the roosters.) I know I worked a lot, but im sure i gained weight. Wed have breakfast at 7:30, then thered be a break with tea and cookies, then  lunch, then a coffee and dessert break, then back to work, then another tea or coffee break, then dinner. I celebrated by birthday while we were there. It was the day we went to Emis mothers grave (she died in August and it was also a day or two after Obon) and they washed her tombstone and put some beer there (and removed the cans that were already there), put fresh flowers, lit incense and candles, and then tried to take a picture, but their camera didnt have any batteries! So I used my camera and took the picture of them all in front of the grave. I will be sure to post it. Then Emi and Ken tried to take us (by us, there were also Hikaru and Kazumas three cousins) to Karifuri mountain, but it was closed because the water was too high or something. So we climbed a little way up to some phone towers and could see Karifuri farm!

I also went with Ken and the kids to drop a goat off at a man called Jack Daniel. He is fully Japanese and speaks no English. He owns a horse ranch and lives in a 50 year old train station. He has black long curly hair, a handlebar moustache, wears tight jeans and chaps, has a bit of a pot belly, sunglasses, and of course, a cowboy hat, and a belt buckle with the Mustang logo on it. Everyone in Tomamu knows him, you could spot him from any angle with both eyes shut.  His house was decorated like a rich cowboys house. Somehow. He said he might start the Wwoofing program, so I might have to go back and work with him.

Ken drove me about half-way to Asahikawa, he was so kind. We barely had time, but we were in Furano, which is famous for Lavender fields and lavender ice cream. I told him many people had advised me to try the ice cream since I would be in Hokkaido so he sped us over the lavender farm (not much was growing, we were too late) and gobbled it down and drove me to the station.

Yesterday, a French girl who had been working here for a month left. We all
went to the train station )the closest one, being an hour away!)  It was a
teary good-bye, as she was like his second hand. He then took us )by us
there is also a brother and sister from taiwan) to a big park consisting
entirely of cosmos fields (the flowers) and he bought us cocoa soft-serve.
Then we went to a funny camping ground with a small train than would run
through every once and a while. we skipped stones and walked around. THEN
he took us to an onsen! It was so funny, the outside buildings were like
churches, and the insides were decorated with medieval antiques and
Scottish kilts and things like that. Then he treated us to lunch! And on
the way back, we went to a waterfall! What a beautiful day, and a kind
man. We cant keep him from treating us because he does it without us
knowing whats going on. Each time its a surprise. We try paying him back
but he wont put his hands out to take the money!
Then we went back and milked the cows )im becoming quite good. its hard at
first because really each cow is different, so I feel like the way you
milk the teats is also different. Theres a lot to remember, but its little
by little every day so I can handle it! Its much less gruelling than
digging potatoes or carrying firewood.
But this morning we went into the stable and there was a dead cow fetus
covered in shit on the floor. It was pretty shocking. He said it was an
early birth, and probably happened during the night. We could all tell
which cow it was because she just stood around mooing as loudly as
possible for a long time.
The landscape around here is crazy. A lot of times like a Breugel
painting. Beautiful pastures of indeterminable distances. Then there are huge hills that stand straight up in the
at a 90 degree angle with neatly planted trees and sometimes giant sunflower fields
on them. The scenery is almost fantastical but more mild than I thought, too. Maybe  what a child would depict you if you asked her to draw a landscape. The vast endless fields are of an impossible green. Green is blinding. You could drive for about 20 minutes and only see a cornfield and a rundown shed. I swear for about 40 minutes on the road, we didnt see a single other car.

I had heard that most of Hokkaido is uninhabited but I didnt even expect this. I quite like it. We also drove through what
Kataokasan called a ghost-town gold town. About 60 years ago it was a gold town but its all overgrown with forest and ruins of small stone buildings and the remains of a movie theater.
But it also means no more traditional houses. Its a lot like being in
America. Virtually everything western style.  I even went to a giant sprawl mall while waiting for the train outside Sapporo (the first I have seen while in Japan) But Kataokasan has a huge buddhist altar and tokonoma, as well as  a painted shoji door. But its all
confined to one room. From the outside it looks like a rundown farm house.
Its kind of what I imagine Idaho as being. Ken-san from the previous farm even said he probably moved here because it was like AMerica. Even the history is similar. A lot of places still have the Ainu language names.
Kataoka san wants me to paint a sign for him (he had seen I had put
‘painting’ as one of my skills on the wwoofing website). I mentioned I had
carved a sign at pearlstone and he brought out small chisels. but i dont
think its enough! so ill paint a sign.

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