Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Giao Khao, 2015 - 3

During the time of the rice cutting, the rice on stalks cut to about two feet lengths are left in the dry paddies, organized neatly to dry. After a couple of days, these are bundled up in small bunches and tied-up with wet bamboo strips that, when dry, make for a very effective tie. The material is important, as when the bunches are thrown into a thresher, the machine treats the bamboo the same way it handles the stalks – cutting it up and throwing it out without “string” gumming up the works.

After the rice has been dried (not too much, though, otherwise the grain will fall off the stalks onto the ground) and bundled and tied, the bundles are collected by mechanical buffalo with a cart attached and brought to a central pile.

A thresher and crew are then called in. The thresher is most often connected to a tractor that actually provides the power to the thresher. There are also threshers that are self-contained vehicles, but these are more expensive and can only be used seasonally, whereas a tractor can be used most every day, with the actual thresher mechanism standing by for when needed.

The crew of at least four guys looks after both machines and take turns being the primary feeder of the thresher. Once the machine is warmed up and ready to go, family and friends then throw bundles of rice from the pile to the primary feeder, who is usually on top of the pile of rice and stalks.

Video I shot in 2013 of the process, at our smaller farm:

Rice Harvest at 8.5 Rai from Malcolm Gault-Williams on Vimeo.

Of course, there are containers of ice, glasses and bottles of soda, beer, water and M150 to keep everyone in a good mood. These are touched upon only lightly during the actual work, including breaks.

After the threshing has been completed, everyone eats and drinks – usually on a tarp so that many people can be accommodated. More beer magically materializes (along with a small number of bottles of lao khao [rice whiskey]) as everyone celebrates the end of the rice harvest for that particular farm. This year, our harvest at Gao Rai (9 rai; approximately 3.5 acres) and 8.5 Rai was the best it’s ever been – in part due to the water well we had drilled at 9 Rai during the summer, which gave us more control over water availability, and a water pump at 8.5 Rai. Since rainfall was low and late, this Monsoon Season, many Thai farmers did not fare as well.

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