Friday, September 28, 2018

Four down, two to go

Wow, where does time go?
Monday was my usual early morning onigiri run. Since it was a holiday, Autumnal Exuinox", traffic was less and the drive to pick up and deliver the onigiri went along quite quickly. The train to school was also less crowded and I got to sit the whole way ... very unusual. The week before was also a holiday, "Respect for the Aged" and I could sit on the way to school that day too. As I finished up a bit earlier than usual, I could sit on the way home too.

Wednesday I was expecting a visit from a friend, so daytime was spent trying to remove enough clutter that she would have a place to sit. Last of all, de-dog-hairing the carpet. If there was an award for shedding, Nikko would win it paws down. All the plucking of hair done in May and June is back in and falling out in big hunks. Each morning I sweep hair off the stairs as I come down, and when I go up to bed at night there is a pile in the corner of every step.

My friend had brought some black on white fabric with words printed in Afrikaans. Since I am using leftover blocks to make a quilt for our pastor who is from South Africa, It was a super bonus, and while here, we looked over the print and selected words to include in the blocks I will make.

From Wednesday evening, I began sewing the strips of yukata fabric together for the big quilt back.
Those are long seams, and by tonight I have completed sewing four strips. Two are left to go. They are not take-along work and I have to stop from time to time... take a break, and rethread my needle.

These days the weather has been crazy with hot and cold and off and on rain. One night I am waking up being too hot and the next getting up at two am and putting on a down vest. With a typhoon moving in, who knows what will be next.

Meanwhile, Since last week there has been a crashing and banging as the house next to the weed lot has been taken down. This seems to be the new normal for our neighborhood. Several weeks ago, it was the building across the street to the east. An old Japanese style house, it took about two weeks to remove the building and another two weeks to smash up and remove the foundation. Then there was the same going on to the north-west of my block. Now both of those are re-building , so lots of banging and hammering. To the direct south, four lots down, an apartment is going up so lots of sound from there ... other than the smashing, because that was an empty lot for the last ten years. Then, from last weekend, the building across the street to the south began coming down. My poor neighbors could barely get their cars out because of trucks blocking the way. Our lane is not intended for cars so going by the front of my house, only a small car with the mirrors turned in can fit.

Well, today, the final blocks of concrete were hauled off.

This is what Nikko and I found on our afternoon walk.

For some reason, they took out the fence between the plot and the tan house on the corner..
I was rather glad that this year I did not plant flowers along the fence because everything was ripped out.

I did go over and pick up some bulbs that had been pushed to the top of the soil. What was a triangle of stones is now bare soil and I'm wondering how much of the space the new building will take up. (and what weeds will be moving in now that the ground-cover is gone.

What you see behind the fence is actually two houses.

The shorter house has two dogs that bark every time Nikko and I walk down and around the corner to the park. Today, without a house in the way, they barked as we walked all the way around.

Can you see the space between those two houses? It is narrower than the length between my thumb and pinky...
about six to six and a half inches. I can't imagine living that close to those yappy dogs.

Usually, the space between houses is around a meter.
Our garden space is 57 inches wide, with a path to the gate, but the neighbor's house is only a foot or so from the other side of the wall. Only wide enough for cats to pass through.

The neighbor to the north has a large garden so his house is much farther away.

These are the two houses built across the lane from our house.
The space between them is less than 20 inches.

When our house was built, there was a rule about the percentage of house space one could have according to the total lot. That is why we have a tiny garden.

These days, if the rules exist, they are nor being followed.
When our house was being built, the neighbor to the north came during the night and measured everything, then objected to my third floor room, allowing us to only have one meter at the top of the stairs. The rest became a deck, and was later turned into a greenhouse. The problem is, because it was to be a covered room, the roof is flat and the water collects and sets and works its way into the walls, rotting them out.

New putty was put in this summer and so far no leaking, but the roof is metal and gets hot in summer and cold in winter and that may be why the putty is short-lived. Since there is a large hole in the floor, I can remove the temporary step and check after the rain for leaks.

Rain is predicted for the next two days so maybe I can get the last two strips sewed together ... and maybe have time to assemble the new blocks and arrange those final rows. It is probably also time to hunt up my down comforter so I don't have to go looking for warmer clothing in the middle of the night. I don't think it is time to dig out my sleeping bag as yet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Finally moving forward

I have been holding off on laying out the black and white quilt for planning the backing because the only space large enough is the second floor apartment, and with it closed up in the heat with the electricity turned off, it didn't seem like the best option.

Well, my daughter has offered that space for a friend to use during a stay in Tokyo, and I needed to get a few things done to make it liveable.  Today I took out two futons and hung them outside to air. Then I went to do some cleaning, starting with washing the floor in the loft, then the main room floor, windowsills, hall etc. I opened all the windows. Not sure the place was cooled off any but there was a slight breeze....    and as long as I was running up and down anyway, I decided to take the quilt up and lay it out and see what I could come up with for the backing.

I really like using tenugui for quilt backs and I had found these partial rolls at the Salvation Army store. They aren't black and white but indigo-dyed. If they were made into a yukata, the prints could be matched up into a picture of a dragon in the clouds. Since these are just random cuts, I needed to lay them out and come up with a plan. I didn't really want to chop up those strips any more than necessary other than to adjust the length. The center strips are from a roll representing a sumo wrestler. (the kanji is his name).

If I look at the weather report for the rest of the week and into next week, it seems a week of rain is predicted. Of course, my weather app on my cell phone is wrong more than 50% of the time. I should be glad for this day of sun ... and take every advantage I can. I can stay inside and do the sewing when the rain comes.

For now, I will hunt up bedding, electric cords, dishes and utensils, and whatever might be needed for a few weeks stay. I can't say life is dull!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Is it really autumn?

Higanbana! In the continuous heat and humidity of Tokyo, how did they know that autumn is just around the corner?

Higanbana - Lycoris radiata - is a member of the amaryllis family, and often known as spider lily.

Higan is the word for the autumnal equinox in Japan, which is a national holiday.

When I returned from our former house in Suginami, I brought with me from that large garden, a number of bulbs with little room for planting them all. I took the leftover bulbs and planted them around the neighborhood, these are some  that have thrived and multiplied over the years. (in the raised bed of an apartment building two houses away.)

I also planted some in a neighbor's weed garden. It is an area between their house and the street surrounded by a low cement wall about one foot high and maybe a yard wide, with a fence on the house side. Mostly what grows there is weeds and maybe one or two small bushes randomly placed.
As far as I can tell, those neighbors do not pay much attention to that plot, maybe pulling out the weeds one day a year when they get too tall. Therefore, I was rather surprised that when the spider lily bulbs I had planted sprang up beautifully at the back corner of the plot, they were all pulled out within a few days from the time they opened.

Since then, I have seen other bulbs in the park being pulled out and learned some new things about that plant. Often, in Japan, that lovely flower is called "flower of the dead". When it blooms in autumn like violently shed blood, rising straight out of the ground, it is time to get serious about ghosts that haunt winter nights.

Higan translates to "other shore" ... land of the dead. It is the day to visit family graves and pray for the well-being of departed souls ... and take care of unruly, potentially vengeful souls of ancestors.
I am not so sure about how Japanese think of ghosts, but I remember my neighbor going out in winter and cutting all the swaying branches off a weeping willow across the street. When I asked her why, she said it looked like an obake or ghost. I also remember her pulling out wisteria vines, saying if they are planted in your garden they will strangle the owner to death.

The higan holiday is still 8 days away.

This pale pink version has also sprung up on the east side of my house.

Others along the west side have yet to break the soil, but they do get less sun there.

Perhaps, like the gardenias, they burst into bloom when the length of dark and light become close to the same.

The leaves will not appear until much later after the blossoms are finished.
The bulbs are poisonous and are thought to keep hole-digging vermin like moles and mice at bay.

Now, as I contemplate these traditions, I wonder about the arrival of halloween. Hardly even heard off 55 years ago, it has now been so embraced by communities, that the shops began to display halloween decorations out in front on the last day of august. There are even costumes you can buy for your dog! There is a grand parade through the streets in front of my church. And young people in Japan really seem to like costumes and dressing up. I wonder how my older neighbors feel about embracing witches and ghosts and skeletons ... and things that go bump in the night.

Hopefully, the rain falling now will bring some much needed cooler weather and not just more humidity, and I can get back to my quilting projects ... maybe something to show other than what nature has produced.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Not much to report

One of the first quilts I made after starting my paper quilt diary back in the 1980s, was this cathedral window I entitled, "Windows of Time" because it was made to save some of the fabrics in a quilt my great-grandmother made for me that had completely fallen apart.

I chose this technique because it would not put stress on those vintage fabrics. 1,344 2.5" folded blocks.

It lived on a large bed until we moved back to a house too small for a big bed, and was passed to my second daughter in August, 2007.
even without any batting, it is very heavy.

This year, along with friends, I am trying to meet another cathedral-window challenge. As it is just too awfully hot to work on the Black and white quilt. I pulled out some donated muslin that is a bit heavy and I had no plans to use in a quilt.

 I haven't decided where I am going with this project, but just getting this far, it is hard to look back at that first quilt and understand how I managed to get that far.

Maybe in those days I was less of a perfectionist.

Nikko's walks are getting shorter and shorter.
When she first came home with the kids, I would take her to the same spot each day, walk her back and forth, and back and forth, saying, "Hurry-up". After she took care of business, she got the fun part of the "walk" as a reward.
These days, we have returned to that plan, only in a different place, and I don't even have to tell her to hurry-up. A short trip to the corner and back and I am dripping wet ... without any rain. The typhoon did little damage but the humidity it left behind still hangs in the air. The wind today is not cool but more like a blast furnace. At least I don't have to go out and water the plants....