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Onion Harvesting Machines in Japan

July 3, 2015
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Rows of mature Japanese onions on raised soil mounds.

Rows of mature Japanese onions within raised soil mounds in Ibaraki, Japan.
(Click to Enlarge)

summer-seasonJapanese onion harvesting machines save a huge amount of time and effort for the farmers of rural Japan.  The machines automatically pull the individual plants from the ground, remove soil, cut away excess root material and present the stalks to the operators for neat bundling.

Non-bulbous straight onions (commonly known as “Japanese Onion”, or “Naga-negi” lit: long onion in Japanese) are a popularly farmed vegetable in Japan. We have written about this particular variety of onion in the past, so if you want more information about it’s farming and general use in Japan, please check our original post here.

Japanese onions are usually grown within mounded rows of soil approximately 3 feet apart and 1 foot high.  The mounds are formed during the growing season, as a machine is used to partially bury the plants from the side to provide development of the desired long, white stalks below ground level.  This growing arrangement is also suitable for providing access to the harvesting machines that straddle each row during harvest.

Skip to the bottom of this page to view a video of a typical onion harvesting machine in action.

Onions are automatically pulled from the ground, de-soiled and de-rooted using a Japanese designed onion harvesting machine.

A Kobashi HG100 onion harvesting machine makes fast work of harvesting an onion field in Ibaraki, Prefecture, Japan.
(Click to Enlarge)

Onions are automatically pulled from the ground, de-soiled and de-rooted using a Japanese designed onion harvesting machine.

Japanese farmers use a Kobashi HG100 onion harvesting machine to save themselves from back breaking work.
(Click to Enlarge)

Machine harvesting of Japanese onions requires at least two operators for efficient workflow.   Many farms plots however, are owned by individual families, so harvesting tasks are shared amongst family members to reduce workloads and to get the crop to market more quickly.

Harvesting machines have an automated uprooting system towards the front of the machine and a bundling and cutting area at the back.

The first part of the uprooting section is equipped with angled guide wheels that run along either side of the deep onion rows.  Along with the main rear tracks, these wheels help the machine stay on course as it moves.
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Making DIY Miso Paste with Soy Beans (Half Year Update)

June 28, 2015
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DIY Miso Paste made from Soy Beans is mixed at six month milestone.

At the six month milestone, DIY Miso paste requires mixing of the blended Soy Bean ingredients to help development of flavor.

Spring SeasonMiso paste is an ancient Japanese preparation with origins dating back almost a thousand years. The pungent fermented food has an acquired taste, but is extremely healthy as an addition to many popular Japanese dishes.

We wrote about making Miso earlier in the year in our blog post here.

We also produced a step-by-step guide to making DIY Miso paste for those interested in having a shot at making it at home themselves.

With our DIY paste having quietly sat in a cool place for almost half a year, it is about to enter a new Summer phase of fermentation. It was therefore time to re-visit our DIY Miso paste to give it a good thorough mixing to help aerate and redistribute the fermentation culture to ensure development of a rich and consistent taste.

Our home Miso paste project was started in late Winter, which we timed so that ingredients and base flavors had a chance to soak together and spread evenly throughout the entire mixture before Summer heat arrived. The next Summer phase however, is when the real added flavor and character of the Miso develops. As the temperature rises, the fermentation culture kicks into overdrive.

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Fixing a Dremel® Hand Held Rotary Drill – A Step-by-Step Guide

May 26, 2015
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Dremel® Multipro (Model 395) Rotary Drill.

There comes a sad time when all great and trusty tools in the workshop begin to die from overuse.

Murphy’s Law states that this must occur at the most inopportune time. In the case of our ever faithful hand held Dremel® MultiPro rotary drill, this breakdown just happened to be in the middle of an important PCB shaping, drilling and cutting project.  Our rotary drilling tool was mounted as a router on top of a mini CNC machine at the time.

Dremel® Hand Rotary Drilling Tool - Exploded Parts Anterior View

Dremel® Hand Rotary Drilling Tool – Exploded Parts
(Click to see our step-by-step hand held rotary drill strip down guide.)

When the problem started, the tool motor suddenly became erratic and there were problems with the variable speed control (VSC) switch. Then, the sliding switch no longer provided any motor speed control what-so-ever.  It only provided power ON at full speed – a heat blasting 35,000rpm …. and a silent OFF.  This wasn’t at all ideal for our CNC cutting project where cutter heat control was important.

So what was our obvious DIY reaction to this? Find the cause and fix the tool ourselves of course!

You can find photos showing how the internals of our Dremel® MultiPro tool looked here.  We have also provided a step-by-step dialogue on how the tool was taken apart; how the faulty part was found and replaced AND importantly, how the hand held drill was successfully put back together again!
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Lettuce Harvest in Japan

March 4, 2015
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A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under a frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki, Japan.

A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

winter-seasonWith greenhouses providing much of the warmth for germination and growth of lettuce seedlings in the Winter season, lettuce plants really don’t need much time in the ground in growing plots before being ready to harvest.  Growing conditions are suitable for multiple, staggered crops of lettuce almost year round in Japan.  All for except the peak Summer periods.

We mentioned the planting out process of lettuce in an earlier post, but in Ibaraki Prefecture, the last week or two has already seen the commencement of harvesting activity for some of that Winter grown lettuce crop.  Ibaraki Prefecture is an area well known for contributing to a significant portion of Japan’s annual 530,000 tonne  production quota.  The Ibaraki farming regions help supply the lettuce market demands of many cities within and surrounding the prefecture, including Tokyo.

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Greenhouse Farming in Japan

February 8, 2015
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winter-seasonJapanese Winter temperatures plunge below freezing on a regular basis, despite skies often being bright, clear and sunny.  In these low temperatures, seed germination is usually impossible and growth usually grinds to a halt in any open air farming environment.  Snow and frost damage is also a very likely risk for most unprotected crops.   Greenhouses are therefore an important part of farming in Japan for both large and small scale operations.  Die hard DIY gardeners also use greenhouses to produce home grown food for their close knit families, friends and communities.

Winter Greenhouse Farming

Snow engulfs the greenhouses of a private DIY gardener in Japan.

Japanese greenhouses

Commercial scale greenhouses sit in the bright sunshine and bitterly cold Winter air in Japan.

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Replacing Japanese Tatami Mat Flooring

February 6, 2015
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Japanese Tatami Room

A traditional Japanese tatami room with floor panels made of Igusa (rush) straw fibre.

Tatami rooms are a wonderful part of many Japanese homes. They are elegant and stylish.

But look up “Japanese tatami room” in any Japanese DIY handyman’s manual and within the first few paragraphs, any guide will likely mention the notorious requirement for constant care, cleaning and replacement of materials in order to maintain their appearance.

Most materials used in the construction and decoration of traditional tatami rooms are natural fiber products, including raw pine wood, rush fiber and rice paper. The rooms look and smell great when they are fresh and new, but deteriorate, yellow and mould with age.

Earlier, we provided tips for renewing aged and discolored rice paper on the Japanese Shoji paper doors of tatami rooms. Now we turn our focus to replacing tatami floor panels – a larger, more expensive and somewhat more involved renewal job.

Watch the making of Japanese tatami mats on Youtube here.

Traditional tatami floor panels are usually made from neatly woven mats of rush fibre (ie: Igusa plant) stretched over and sewn onto thick blocks of compacted straw from the same plant.

In recent years, lighter weight, synthetically backed tatami flooring panel alternatives have also become available. Some are often considered significantly inferior by traditionalists, but they do have benefits.

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Making DIY CNC Clamps and Knobs – Free G-Code Download

January 26, 2015
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CNC DIY holddown clamp

Moving material blocks cause lots of failed CNC project attempts. Having ample CNC machine clamps on hand always helps prevent material movement problems.

There is nothing more frustrating than completing a lengthy DIY CNC design cut, only to find the wood or aluminium material block has moved during the program – rendering the material and entire project cut-out attempt  useless.

We “clamped down” on this problem long ago in our DIY workshop, but we always like to remind new CNC machine builders that you can never have too many clamps on hand.

The problems extending from small amounts of material slippage on a CNC table are often the hardest to identify.  The problems are often blamed on other machine components, such as faulty CNC motor driver controllers, slipping shaft joints, structural flex, or backlash.

We’ve found that many of these DIY workshop problems are solved by having ample clamps and clamping positions available for use on the machining table.  This ensures your projects stay securely in place and that they are cut correctly every time.

Hold down clamps in themselves are cheap and easy to make.  Three to six clamps made of 5-7 mm thick steel with a slight bend at one end (coated in a tough powder coat paint), is usually enough to hold wood or aluminium material blocks firmly in place for most projects.  Being made of steel, the clamps have some inherent ‘springiness’ in them making them easy to place on and off a part (unlike block aluminium clamp alternatives).

DIY CNC Hold Down Clamp Knob

Easy turn DIY CNC clamp knobs are quick, cheap and simple to make for yourself, with your own CNC machine!

Making the ‘easy turn’ DIY knobs for your CNC machine clamps is also super easy …. using your CNC machine!

With our free g-code, dxf and crv files available for download, you don’t even need to design the knobs yourself. You can download the files and import them into your CNC machine design software right now!

The downloadable knob design provided is sized for M8 bolt heads (ie: bolt shaft diameter 8mm, head hex width 13mm) embedded in 13mm thick high density plastic material, but the basic CNC machine g-code or crv design file (for Ventric and other compatible design software)  can easily be resized, recoded, or redrawn to suit other bolt sizes and material thickness’s. Read more »

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