Friday, 19 December 2014

End of the Year Musings

It is the end of the year. Once again instead of having a pricey "forgetting-the-old-year-party" at a restaurant the Tuesday students and I spent the day making miso at the house. 100 kg of miso. (Miso is fermented soybeans and is used in Japanese cooking. Plenty of vegetable protein.) We can remember the cold winter day and the nutritious fellowship we are to each other for the rest of the year when we have a simple bowl of miso soup.

The beans are put in fresh stream water the night before and then boiled for six hours in the clean (no Mordants) dye pots. The soft beans are placed into a big zelkova mortar (That is used as a clothes hamper for the other 364 days of the year.) and squashed with a massive wooden pestle.

Rice with the appropriate bacteria and salt are turned in by hand into the steaming mush. The miso mix is flattened into ceramic crock pots and left to ferment for six to ten months before it is ripe.

Home made miso using the best beans and stream water is better than what you can buy. It makes it's way into almost every day's menu.

We had some guests over to help with the taxing business of smushing beans by hand. Tohei and Shunji and friends.

The day started with light snow. The fire was there to add spoil us...then we ended up spoiling the fire...

The cold and rain did not bother us. It was a perfect productive day. Great timing as a box from Austria with a big block of cheese, a bottle of schnapps, a chunk of smoked meat and an antique Persian carpet I picked up a few months back arrived by post to make the second party indoors complete. 

Shunji, it is always an honour to have you over. All this traditional Japanese textile work...weaving and silkworms etc. gets heavy. Knowing about the traditional techniques and aesthetics and all the other anthropological background to the textiles is important. What about making them relative to our lives now? That is where I respect your work as a designer. There are a few designers in Japan who do use the rich history of Japanese textiles in a fun and intelligent way. Shunji designed a fare share of this work at Kapital...the contemporary denim House of the Holy.

After a four ridiculously busy years I have some time off now. I was filled with self-loathing every time I bitched about being "crazy busy" the past years. Busy is good. But busy eats your soul. 

There needs to be some more work done on the yard and carpentry work here and there. The house is quiet and clean and warm inside while it is minus 5 outside. I spend the evenings with the doggies curled up nearby sketching and sewing in solitude. ( I am the one sketching and sewing not Momo and Geiger.)

Yesterday was the last day for indigo dyeing at the house. The atmosphere was festive with even a hint of Christmas decoration outside (thank you Hiro...Christmas has been ignored here for twenty years and the slow revival pace is perfect....maybe even a Christmas tree one of these years.) and some frankincense (Thank you Cynthia in Dubai... there is still some left!) on the heater all day. 

A good proportion of the indigo grown this year is still on the stalks. Nothing better than a cold few hours by the fire stripping leaves off. The bed of straw in the barn is almost ready to start the three month composting of the indigo leaves. An ember from the fire landed in the dry leaves in the mortar, (taking an extra day off from clothes hamper duty.) and I smiled before leaping up to extinguish it before all that work went up in smoke. Just the wooden mortar of blue leaves was satisfying enough....why ask for more?  

It was a Leonard Cohen moment.

Plenty of smiles even in the cold. Global warming was not doing it's job so a heater was needed to keep the behinds warm while hands froze in the indigo.

Good hibernation indigo vats....see you in the spring.


  1. oh miso♥ been eating lots lately.
    awesome fire-with-a-parasol number!

  2. A wooden mortar full of blue leaves is also full of promise for the New Year. But first a winter's rest is needed for the magic to happen ...

  3. What a lovely post ! Very much appreciated your description of easing back into Christmas festivity as we have tended to ignore it here as well ... your way sounds about perfect.

    Best wishes of the season !

  4. what a wonderful, creative way to "forget the old year" and prepare for the new with friends - and you have that wonderful miso and indigo to look forward to. did the plastic umbrella survive the fire?

  5. It even closed properly. A bit on the grotty side. I won't be walking around Tokyo with it.