The Isaan rice growing season is more or less in sync with the East Asian Monsoon Season, when it rains frequently and substantially, June through September. The rice season begins in July and stretches on until the end of November. Once the Monsoons get going, the ground is soft enough to till, flatten, sow and then transplant. Importantly, there is a steady supply of water to grow the grain at the beginning and through most of its growing stages. Towards the end, when the Monsoons drop off, the drier conditions help dry out the rice paddies which is important, too, otherwise the rice stalks flatten out, lay on the ground and if that goes on for too long, the rice can rott.
(Views from our front yard, at our village home, just prior to cutting, late November 2015)
I didn’t really understand all this until this year, as I have been more active in the entire process, from the beginning of the rice growing season to the end. It has been good for me and also good for family. Although I’m viewed as the Isaan equivalent of a “gentleman farmer” (gonna hafta put that in my resume!), my wife’s family likes to see me out in the fields. It’s kind of a morale thing, although at age 67, I can’t do much of it for very long.
I’m not the only elder person working the fields, either. It is a great tragedy that the newer generations of Thai young adults and kids do not help out in their family’s farms. Those that do are exceptions. Usually, the way it goes is if a kid is in school, s/he is exempt from farmwork, by their parents, in the hopes they will do better in school/college. This includes kids and young adults who attend formal education close enough to home and the farms to be able to do both. For the young adults who have moved out of their family’s home and begun young families of their own – not counting those who have moved too far away to help – their excuse is that they have a job and young kids and don’t have the time.
Bottom Line: It’s now rare to see anyone under the age of 30 working in the Isaan countryside.
(View from Bann Nah, prior to the rice fully maturing, October 2015; compare the green color in this photograph with the golden brown color of the rice a month later, in the pictures above)