Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gam Kha

During July 2015, Thip’s brother Sawt organized the nursery beds for this year’s rice crop at 9 Rai, 8.5 Rai, and a rai or two at the family farm. He’s been the lead farmer in this ever since Thip and I bought 9 Rai (originally 17 Rai) and 8.5 Rai for my wife’s family to rice farm on, about 15 years ago.

This was also about the time Thip’s father – Khun Paw – retired from rice farming. The way I hear it, he was more or less instructed by family not to work on the farms, anymore, for his health. Looking back, I also think that once Sawt had the additional 25.5 rai to work, he did not want the far more experienced Khun Paw looking over his shoulder all the time and, of course, being critical.

The process for preparing the nursery beds – actually, just a single rice paddy at each farm – goes like this:

At some point after Boon Pakwet, the rice fields are tilled – usually by tractor, but if this cannot be afforded, then it’s done by mechanical buffalo, which takes far longer and is a workout. Back in Khun Paw’s prime, it was done with a buffalo and a single or double edge plow!

Mechanical Buffalo: https://youtu.be/w8fLDpfbVxQ

My nephew Tah driving his mother Jom from Bann Nah, in the family mechanical buffalo (Kubota). Note the tires which are used only for road travel and are easily taken off; the tractor wheels are sitting on top of the cart bed, next to Jom; the jack used for switching out the rubber wheels with the metal tread wheels sit inside the metal wheels in this video; discs used for plowing are immediately adjacent to Jom; family transplanting rice in the background; shot of the chedi site towards the very end.

The paddies then sit for a while; a month or two, until the East Asian Monsoon Season begins. When the rains start to fall with some regularity, the fields are churned over with a mechanical buffalo and then – again using a Kubota (brand name for popular mechanical buffalo here in The Isaan) – the pads of mud are smoothed over by running heavy boards over the surface. Once this is done, the paddies are ready for the rice seed to be thrown out (gam kha).

As mentioned, a single paddy at each farm is selected as a seed bed. From here, when the rice is about a month old, it is transplanted throughout the rest of the farm, by hand.

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