Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Giao Khao, 2015 - 2

Following the beginning of the Monsoon Season, rice land is tilled and prepared. After about a month’s worth of regular rainfall, seed beds are prepared and seeded.(Gam Kha). If a farmer knows he doesn’t have the labor to successfully work the season, he might just throw out rice seed in the paddies, hoping for a decent crop.

The more efficient way to seed is to prepare seed beds – usually a paddy or more, where the rice will sprout thickly for about a month. After the rice stalks are strong enough, they are transplanted throughout the rest of the paddies. This is the time of Tam Nah.

During the time the rice grows, fertilizer is applied and paddies are kept wet. If the paddies get too dry, weeds pop up in abundance and the grain grows thinly. So, it’s good for the rice and good to keep the weeds down by keeping a layer of standing water in the rice paddies. Weeds that sprout up are pulled out whenever possible.

After four months, it’s time to cut the rice. This is usually done by hand, with a short handled scythe. Workers suit up in long pants, rubber boots (if they have them; socks and sandals are not uncommon), long sleeve shirts, head gear and often face and neck gear, along with cloth gloves that everyone uses. Cutters work in this attire in the hot sun.

My wife's brothers Awt and Pawt at 8.5 Rai.

For those farmers who do not have the labor force (family members or hired hands), there is an out for them by hiring a combine. The big draw back using a combine instead of the less-advanced thresher is that after going through a combine harvester, rice requires separately drying before permanent bagging. This can be time-consuming and takes longer; subjecting the grain to a greater possibility of rainfall.

This was my first year spending any considerable time out in the fields during giao khao (rice cutting). I got to understand the whole process, including details like how to use a scythe correctly without gorging myself. By the end of day, however, I’d feel it in my back – from bending over, but also from back twisting.

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