Hi from up north

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Townsend
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Hi from up north

Post by Townsend »

Hello! I've been invited to this board several times via /r/japanlife and have finally gotten around to joining.

I'm from Hamilton, ON, Canada originally and have been living in Japan since 2011. I used to live on the outskirts of Tokyo working for Berlitz Japan (eikaiwa chain) but, back in 2015, moved up to near Hirosaki in the Tsugaru side of Aomori. My wife (married 8 years now; met in Canada 13 years ago) is from here and her parents are apple farmers. I had the crazy notion of some day working on their farm before I even came to Japan, which, along with the weather and dissatisfaction with my job, is why we left Tokyo.

I accepted a nice private ALT position at the local university's fuzoku elementary school (basically the school where all the doctors and well-off people send their kids). I'm on multiple short-term contracts during the year and it just so happens that I get a break from the last day of school in July to early October. During (and somewhat before and after) that time I'm a cherry tomato farmer along with my wife. Workload isn't that bad in the spring or fall, so I can balance a M-F job along with farm work. In the summer when it's crazy I'm always home, so no problem.

Originally intended to do apple work, but the in-laws don't really need that much help and, besides, being an apple farmer is a colossal pain at times (particularly typhoon season). Many of the older farmers around here have begun building greenhouses to farm tomatoes given that it's easier on old bones than going up and down ladders and navigating hillsides all day. My wife and I handle three greenhouses containing about 1800 plants.

Pretty quiet up here in Aomori. Not much goes on. No other foreigners in my neck of the woods although they're fairly common in Hirosaki. The simple life suits me. Although I was born and grew up in a fair-sized city I actually lived in rural Ontario from the age of 5 until I was 12. Spent a lot of time wandering around woods and farmland. My only gripe with the particular countryside where I live is the sheer volume of machine sounds (lots of hillside orchards nearby and the sound echoes out of a valley directly towards my place) and the propensity of the locals to burn enormous amounts of plant waste on a very frequent basis.

This looks like a decent little community and I'll try to chime in on threads from time to time. If anyone needs advice on how to get their tomato plants performing I've got a decent amount of experience in that area, so I might be of some use.

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Hi from up north

Post by VanillaEssence »

Thanks for joining. Nice to see that it’s possible for some good to come out of that subreddit

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Zasso Nouka
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Post by Zasso Nouka »

Welcome to Japan Simple Life Townsend and thank you for taking the time to sign up, we really do appreciate that.

Sounds like you have a pretty sweet lifestyle up there, a nice balance between farming and other work and living a more sustainable life. Mrs Nouka is very jealous of your apples, she has tried growing apple trees but they always get killed by kamikirimushi. We get some guys drive down from Tohoku every year selling apples and other fruit door to door and whenever they arrive she always buys heaps from them and we pig out on fruit for a week.

You must have some fair size greenhouses to have that many tomatoes, do you grow them hydroponically or in soil with drip lines ? We have a couple of small houses growing maybe 50 plants per house so nothing like your scale.

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Post by Townsend »

Thanks for the welcomes.

@VanillaEssence Not the best sub out there, I agree.

@Zasso: I was pretty neutral about apples prior to coming to Japan. They were just "ok," and that's in spite of my part of Canada being apple country. My wife's dad sent us a box of Fuji apples when we were down in Tokyo and my mind was blown. "This is an apple? What the heck are they selling back home?!" All the leftover unsalable apples are a nice treat through the winter. They grow about 7 varieties. 2-3 kinds of Fuji (trivia: named after Fujisaki, the nearby area where they were developed, and not Mt. Fuji), Orin, Toki, Jonagold and something else the name of which escapes me. Mori no something.

Damn those kamikirimushi. Bugs aren't a huge problem in the orchards, but my wife's dad goes out there with a massive spraying vehicle and douses everything with pesticides every week or two during the summer. I could imagine it's a pain to deal with the pests on a smaller scale.

The tomatoes are in soil with drip lines. The greenhouses are fairly large - takes about 20 seconds to walk from one end to the other. 600 plants per greenhouse divided into 6 rows of 100, guided sideways across poles. My wife and I would like to modernize once we take over completely, at which point we'll look into more advanced methods.

Peak season right now and today's harvest was 15 apple baskets' worth of cherry tomatoes. Two varieties: "Pure" and "Samaachika" (which I initially mistook to be a Russian breed when I first heard the name). My wife is sorting them by size with a machine and I'm packing them into little 220g containers which go into boxes to be taken to JA in the morning. Will be busy with that the rest of the day.

Bugs can be a pain in the greenhouses. While picking I'm currently being hounded constantly by horseflies. The largest ones resemble giant hornets but are somewhat easy to kill. The small black and white ones are fast and tend to be the ones that get me. Actual giant hornets also like to get trapped inside with me. It's... exciting to work several meters away from those things when they're angrily trying to bash their way through the roof. In another month or so it will be stink bug time again. Our house, being near the base of some foothills, gets swarmed by the things. On a sunny day there can be a couple thousand on the house at any given time. We kill hundreds per day with soapy water traps but we might as well be trying to fist fight the weather.

What do you guys grow in your 50-plant house?
Last edited by Townsend on Fri Aug 21, 2020 1:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by gonbechan »

@Townsend great to have you with us.
Your setup sounds amazing and I look forward to some serious tomato porn in the future :D

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Post by Townsend »

@gonbechan Thanks! A couple of pictures in the link below. One of the greenhouse setup (one of the smaller apple orchards to the left and a peach tree on the right) and one of the interior from June. The plants are most of the way up the guidepoles now.

https://imgur.com/a/do8c9q7

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gonbechan
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Post by gonbechan »

wow they're really healthy and happy plants judging from the amount of flowers already.

Thank you for that. I love me some produce porn as much as I love house porn.

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Post by Zasso Nouka »

Townsend wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 1:02 pm
I was pretty neutral about apples prior to coming to Japan. They were just "ok," and that's in spite of my part of Canada being apple country. My wife's dad sent us a box of Fuji apples when we were down in Tokyo and my mind was blown. "This is an apple? What the heck are they selling back home?!" All the leftover unsalable apples are a nice treat through the winter. They grow about 7 varieties. 2-3 kinds of Fuji (trivia: named after Fujisaki, the nearby area where they were developed, and not Mt. Fuji), Orin, Toki, Jonagold and something else the name of which escapes me. Mori no something.
Japan grows some pretty nice apples, maybe the ones in the supermarket aren't the best but if you look around there are some absolutely superb varieties. Perhaps all the griping you hear is from folk that have only a limited selection in their local supermarket.
Townsend wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 1:02 pm
While picking I'm currently being hounded constantly by horseflies. The largest ones resemble giant hornets but are somewhat easy to kill. The small black and white ones are fast and tend to be the ones that get me.
I hate Abu, mosquitoes are irritating but the itching stops soon enough but Abu bites are really painful, for days. I have no compunction killing them on sight :twisted:
Townsend wrote:
Fri Aug 21, 2020 1:02 pm
What do you guys grow in your 50-plant house?
A couple of houses grow tomatoes from Mauro's Tomato Collection, seeds are pretty pricey for large scale growing perhaps but we sell those mainly to chefs and restaurants so can get a reasonable price for them. Another house grows Marmande tomatoes for passata and sauce and another house grows sweet peppers. Then in winter autumn and winter we grow baby leaf salad in them as well as Chingensai, Komatsuna and various nabana. We also grow various snack cucumber and gherkins on the sides while growing tomatoes down the middle. I have to say from looking at your pictures your houses are a lot neater than mine :oops: :lol: