A Fine Tilth... June 13 2014

Land Preparation : Clear out the weeds and plough the land to a fine tilth................reads the manual on Rice cultivation.

Five years before the previous owner sold the place to us, he realised that rice cultivation was not commercially viable.  And he had stopped it . It is now our third year on the farm, so in effect our paddy area has been lying barren for the past 8 years.   

The Paddy area overgrown with weeds

But this year we felt we must go ahead and try our hand at rice cultivation.

So a few days back, I heard about a new tractor which is available for hire in the village. Apparently some enterprising fellow from TamilNadu is travelling across villages and tilling for the willing. i.e those willing to pay his steep charges of Rs. 1000 per hour. Well, we decided it would be worth a try – for two reasons – First - because our land was untended for so long, it would be really rock hard; and would take much more time to get it done by bullocks - probably cost more as well. Secondly, the new tractor could apparently work even if the tough weeds were not removed.

So Saturday afternoon at 4 pm, Ponarasu – the tractor driver who spoke no Kannada and just a smattering of English , drove into the farm on his monstrous vehicle. After assessing the place, he asked ‘ one or two?’ meaning one round of tillage or two?  We agreed for two as we wanted the land to be done really well. And there, the noisy monster rumbled around raising a huge cloud of dust, pulverising everything in its path. Its huge rotor blades cut through the weeds and churned them along with the mud.  

I walked in its wake to see how the mud was churned up. The soil below the surface had a rich moist feel. And I could see scores of white thick grubs that were disturbed from their homes, scurrying about. In a few moments a couple of white egrets flew gracefully and landed on the upturned mud. They were followed by one more and then two more... and soon there was an entire flock. Pecking, gobbling, scurrying around, they were having a feast. I was amazed at the perception and communication skills of these birds. Did one of them first notice that here was a field being ploughed,and then spread the message- “Come one Come all, lets feast”  or were they all flying high overhead to distant places and decided that this was just the spot for their afternoon break? Whatever it was, these birds were having a merry time- and were they insolent? they hopped around in the wake of the tractor and in its very path, unmindful of the monster as it bore straight down on them, taking off just as it was close enough to touch their wings.    

In the midst of all this, I noticed Misty; Zuki, Phoenix and Johnny making their way through the arecanut trees. They had not noticed me leaving the house and now they all surrounded me with a ‘why didn’t you call us when you left?” look. And then they saw the birds! As they ran to chase them, the wonder of the soft – sink-your feet-in feeling of the freshly tilled soil, caught on to them and they raced around in joyous abandon.

It took the tractor an hour and a half to prepare our half acre paddy area to a fine tilth. We will now sow the seeds and like the rest of the farmers across the state, await the first rains and hope and pray for a good bountiful crop.