Salvage day

I got a sudden phone call yesterday evening, a friend was going to the site of an old house that was getting torn down. Apparently everything that didn’t get taken out was going to be tossed out with the demolished house parts.

No one had been living in the house at all for about 20 years, and I don’t know how old the house was but it was pretty old. I think it was probably pretty nice in its day, beautiful carving in the wood around the entrance. Kind of sad really, imagining it how it must have been even only fifty years ago, when seeing it in its present state.

The structure consisted of a farmhouse with attached barn and toilet area. What must have been the kitchen area had already collapsed several years ago, and we had to walk over that to get to the house. The entry way was old style domashiki, with a dirt floor where you removed your shoes and stepped up onto a raised floor. We didn’t take off our shoes today, just stepped up and waded through the remains of several generations of existence, what got left behind when the occupants moved out. Old wooden chests, a wooden mortar for pounding rice, things I would normally jump at, but they literally crumbled in my hands when I touched them.


Going upstairs was strange because among all of the old tools and farming equipment was an old loom in one room and the remains of a teen age boy’s life in another. There were posters of girls and cars ( best guess, late 70’s early 80’s) on the wall still, and in surprisingly good condition. There were many bundles of cotton still neatly wrapped up in paper and twine, but the loom was completely rotten, riddled with bug holes in the wooden parts, and metal parts rusted away.

I picked up some nice slabs of wood from the second floor. Inch thick pine forty to fifty cm wide, from 90cm to about two meters in length, all of it with nice figuring and shot through with wormholes. They were all milled by hand saw, the pattern of the saw still showing. When I finish them I will try to keep that saw pattern rather than sanding it away. They will make very nice boards for displaying pots.


In the downstairs and the barn were some old large jars. The two largest would hold me easily. 120cm tall and over 90cm wide at the shoulder. There were two smaller jars in the entryway of the house, about 80cm tall each. In one of them was a positively horrid smelling sludge left over from who knows when. Honestly, it smelled like sewage, but this was the one jar that had a smooth interior liner glaze, and what was inside was probably the remains of something fermented, like miso or nuka pickles combined with the rotting rice straw mats covering the mouth of the jar, the water dripping in through the roof, and whatever rodent and bug parts that had fallen in over the years. Ok, sewage.


There was one more of the huge jars in another room apart from the house. As with the other structures, the cob covered bamboo lattice walls had slowly melted away to reveal the mouth of the jar, which was 2/3’s buried in the earth? I asked if that room was another part of the barn and the owner replied that it was the toilet. I contents of the smaller jar immediately came to mind but I quickly reverted to blessed denial. I found out a couple of years ago that one main use of large jars in the farming community was fertilizer. People collected the nightsoil and put it in these large jars to compost down into fertilizer that would be used on the crops. Anyway, after experiencing the smaller jar stench, I decided to steer well clear of the toilet jar whose contents were less open to debate.

-Posted from iMike