Rice Harvest February 05 2015
Tillers and panicles,
the rice puts forth,
heavy grains swing,
the gentle breeze sings,
O what sweet notes,
the harvest season brings!
It is finally harvest time! Our very first Rice Harvest!
But the weather has been playing truant for the past several days. Our all-weather tent which we had pitched in the farm to keep the boars away, had become soggy and there was an inch of water on the floor. We had to haul a cane cot all the way and manoeuvre it into the tent for the last few days. There was a brief dry spell misleading all into thinking that the bout of unseasonal rains was over. A whole lot of farmers immediately got down to harvesting their grain, and were caught in a fix as the rains lashed down on the harvested grains, forcing everyone to halt their work mid way.
The method followed here, is spread over 3 to 4 days. On day one- the bunches of rice plants are cut as close to the ground as possible. If you have read my earlier post on rice transplant, those small clumps of saplings which we held in a pinch and shoved into the sludge have grown into bunches which I can barely clasp. A brisk slash with a sickle, bunch after bunch is collected and laid on the ground in rows. At the end the field is covered with neat windrows of cut stalks.
They make light their work by merry chatter
It is left out to dry for a day and then collected into bundles and carried to the threshing area which is near the house. The bundling of the stalks and carrying takes almost a whole day. This is irrespective of the size of the field, as the larger the area, more are the people involved. The third and fourth day is devoted to threshing. A large wooden table is placed in the centre of the threshing area which is covered with large tarpaulin sheets.
The wooden threshing table in the centre, tarpaulin sheets covering the ground
Everyone in the village seems to join in, each one lifts a bunch and holding it high above their heads, whacks it down onto the wooden table. The impact scatters the grain all over.
A couple of times more, and most of the grain is separated from the stalks. These stalks are tossed onto one pile, from where a group of men collect them and stack them neatly to make a ‘Hay stack’. This will provide fodder for the cows in the lean dry months when fresh grass is no longer available. The scattered grain is swept together by a group of women and filled into gunny bags. The whole area bustles with activity.....
See the haystack being built in the left corner
As for us, we were caught in an un-welcome situation. A pre-scheduled trip which we could not postpone, a crop waiting to be harvested, and the work-force caught up with their own harvest, unable to attend to our field....added to that gloomy warnings in the Rice Cultivation manual about how delayed harvesting causes grain shattering and grain losses.....
Waiting to be harvested
We had to do something. How about hiring a ‘Rice Harvesting machine’? Our farm hand was not too keen... we would still need people to collect and thresh, besides the machine cuts it several inches above the ground and a lot of hay would get wasted he said. Do you think a harvestor-cum thresher would be a better option? We asked. That would be a good thing he said, but expressed doubt whether it would be available in our area. Anyway, off we went in search of the machine. Asking people along the way and trying to figure out their directions, we finally found 2 machines parked in the open ground near the Sharada-holle bridge, which people have shortened to Sardoli bridge. The owner of the machine could speak Hindi, so we could convey to him that we wanted to hire his machine. We fixed up the next morning for the harvesting.
So at the appointed time, the humongous monster named “Crop Tiger” trundled into our farm.
Making its way thru the dried stream bed, Johnny and Phoenix unperturbed by the noise
The operator perched high up on the machine surveyed the field, taking in the tricky corners and the semicircular jut-ins which housed the coconut palms on the border of the field. “Mark the time” he said and started the noisy machine.
The path into the farm which is normally blocked by a fence
Two rows done already
The name Crop tiger seemed apt as the machine seemed to devour the standing crop. Spewing the hay stalks on either side, chugging the grain through a funnel like chute on top, the machine cleared row after row.
Crop tiger moves into the next section of the field
Not bad eh? The cut is close to the ground and the hay is piled in rows
In an hours time, the entire crop was harvested, threshed and piled neatly on a tarpaulin sheet. The work that would have taken a team of at least 6 people working for 3 days was done in an hours time! Oh the marvels of technology!
Spewing out the collected grain
We filled the grain into sacks and carried it back to the house where we could weigh it and see if our ‘stubborn’ refusal to use chemicals and do it the organic way could be called a success.