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Saturday, November 18, 2006


This post is dedicated to a friend of mine and his name is Kino. Actually, his real name is Satoshi Kinoshita and he is Japanese, but was raised in Hawaii.

Had you told me before now that someday I would become friends with and hang out with an 85 year old Japanese man from Hawaii and I would have said you were drunk.

But, here I am and I couldn't be happier about it.

When I was first starting my CSA (community supported agriculture - vegetable/flower subscription service just in case you don't read this blog) I had put my brochure and business cards at different local spots. One evening, I get this call from a gentleman, he is very hard to understand, has a strong accent and his voice goes in and out, like he is hoarse.

At first I thought it was a prank phone call, one of Alyson's friends being funny, so I'm rude and I say, "Who is this? Is this Jake?"

Kino proceeds to explain to me that he picked up one of my brochures and is interested in what I am trying to do and wonders if he can come over and see my 'operation'. Operation? What I had at this point was hardly an operation, but what the hell. "Sure, that sounds great, how about tomorrow?"

My husband, of course, thinks I've lost my mind and that I've just invited an ax murderer over to my home, but my instinct says otherwise.

Kino shows up the next day, right on time. He is a little man, probably only 5 feet tall, obviously Asian and if I had to guess, probably 60 years old. We would later find out he was actually 84 years old, which you would never believe by looking at him. He introduces himself and he is quite hard to understand. He explains that he has hardening of the vocal chords and that is why his voice goes in and out. At first I have to ask him to repeat himself a lot, he doesn't seem to mind but after awhile I start to catch on to his cadence and stop having to have him repeat himself.

We end up spending the next 4 hours talking non-stop, not only about vegetable farming, chickens, goats, flowers and such, but about our families, Hawaii, Japan and how he came to this area back in the 60's.

If I was a religious person, I would say he was sent to me by 'someone' - it turns out I'm the type of person that believes things happen for a reason. What I have learned from this gentleman would have taken me another 4 years of college and then some. The knowledge he has is mind-boggling. His ideas and suggestions always end up working, saving us time and energy and make us realize how much we would have done wrong if he hadn't showed up.

Here's a list of just a small smattering of the things he has taught us: how to butcher chickens, how to maple syrup, how to properly hoe a garden without breaking your back, how to 'read the clouds' instead of being victim to the weather man, how to make bonsai out of your regular trees, how to graft apple trees, how to prune/trellis grapes, how to cook many styles of asian food, where to find the best asian food stores in Minneapolis/St. Paul.......you get the gist, but the list could go on and on.

All spring and summer this little man would show up early in the morning and stay and work side by side with me in the fields until dark. Of course, I fed him lunch and kept him hydrated, gave him a chair for when he was tired and kept reminding him that it wasn't necessary for him to work so hard and please, please sit down and take a break. He didn't. He worked right along with me in the heat, rain, cold and also the breathtakingly beautiful days we have here in Northern Wisconsin. We planted over 1200 plants together, weeded, hauled manure, layed out an entire irrigation system, weeded, harvested, packed 25 boxes of produce every week, weeded and spent all those days talking, talking and talking.

It turns out that he doesn't have any family close, only two brothers left out of 8 siblings and they are both in Hawaii. He also has a son from his 2nd failed marriage that lives too far to visit often. In a way, he has adopted us as his family. My girls have come to love him like a grandfather and the things he has taught them are invaluable. Everytime he comes to our house he brings them something, nothing new, just things from his childhood in Hawaii or things from Japan. One day he brought them both authentic kimonos and Japanese wooden sandals that his father made, chopsticks and small porcelain rice bowls. After he explained to them what everything was, he and I went out to the field to work. Shortly after, the girls came out to the field dressed in the kimonos, their faces painted white with bright red lipstick, wearing the wooden sandals and carrying the rice bowls with rice in them and using the chopsticks. When Kino raised his head and saw them, he smiled so big and a single tear rolled down his cheek. It was one of the sweetest moments I have ever witnessed.

We have no way of knowing how much longer we will have him with us, hell he'll probably outlive all of us with the shape he's in, he can certainly out-work us. But no matter how many more years we have, we are so thankful for the time we have had, he has changed our lives forever - for the better.

1 comment:

ZaPaper said...

Hi, I am here via the NaBloPoMo randomizer. I just want to say that this is one of the sweetest posts I have ever seen. He has adopted you but also you have adopted him, and that is so wonderful. It has made my day brighter just reading about it.