A little over a year ago, my parents acquired a small parcel of land deep in the hills of Zao Town that included a cottage, vegetable farm, pond, and chicken coop. The previous owners enjoyed a quiet life on the 1250坪 tsubo property (equal to a little over 1 acre), but had to put it up for sale when the wife’s illness required them to move closer to family.
Enter my parents. They fell in love with the property while browsing vacation homes in the area. Already avid gardeners and passionate about organic food and agriculture, they seized the opportunity to own their own little farm. They named their haven Kurian, Chestnut Cottage after the chestnut trees growing on the property. (Sadly, they had to let go of the chickens because they could only visit on the weekends and could not care for them full time, or at least until my dad retired).
Now, they make the one hour drive to Kurian every chance they get, and joyously spend their time planning, sowing, harvesting, sharing and eating the fruits of their labor. They lovingly refer to the veggies as “their babies”. The farm is 100% organic and they employ a method called nature farming that seeks to minimize interference with the existing ecosystem. They use very little fertilizer and do not view weeds and insects as enemies, but rather as natural parts of the system their crops should coexist with.
When we visited Kurian this week, it was snowing. Naturally in winter there is little to be harvested, but still we saw daikon and cabbage. The pleasant surprise of the day was the multitude of wild ふきのとう fukinoto (closest translation is butterbur sprout) sprouting all over the grounds. Fukinoto is normally the first plant to poke its head out of the (sometimes snow-covered) ground, signaling the coming of spring after a long cold winter. We plucked 5 or 6 and enjoyed them as tempura for dinner.
I’m excited to return again to experience and taste all that Kurian has to offer in each of the four seasons. This peaceful place brings endless hours of joy to my parents, and they eagerly await the day my dad can retire so they can become full time farmers (and maybe fill the chicken coop with chickens once again).