Our Farm at Chitrapur
Rice Nursery. November 17 2014
It is now more than a month since we got our paddy area prepared to a fine tilth. We had purchased one sack of rice seeds, which is actually rice with the husk itself. The only available variety was a local variety called MTU1001, so we brought it. When I opened the sack, there was a small sachet double wrapped in a plastic with an instruction sheet in Kannada. I asked our farm-hand Manjunath about it, he said it will help the seeds to grow better. Now I better check this I thought, and tried to decipher it, without much success. But the last sentence helped me figure out what it was. It said in Kannada ‘Poison - Wash hands after touching’. So obviously it was some pesticide. So I kept it aside to discard it appropriately, as we had planned to do everything organically.
Rice Seeds for the Nursery
Preparing a seed-bed for the rice nursery is indeed an art. The seeds are strewn around, artfully does it, in a small patch of land. If you get it right, then the shower of seeds looks well spaced, you cannot have clumps and heaps of seeds in any spot. About 20 kgs of seeds were strewn around and then Manjunath demonstrated the method of picking the soil with a large spade and hurling it over the seeds. The soil is picked in such a way that it creates a neat channel around the border of the nursery. The soil hurled onto the seeds raises that level a bit. And there - you have a neat raised seed-bed with a well-defined channel around it, through which we can release some irrigation water. On the third day a pretty green carpet could be seen on the seed-bed , our rice saplings had pushed their pretty little heads above the damp soil to see the sun!
The rice nursery at the far end of the field
The saplings grow at an amazing speed and within a week the saplings were rippling in the breeze and looking taller. But we were not the only ones admiring them. a group of local cows had noticed them too and one morning I found a whole herd of them merrily chomping on the tender greens. I whooped and yelled and drove them away. But something needs to be done! Maybe I could make a make-shift fence out of old clothes and sarees. I spent a good part of the day doing it, my sewing machine happily humming a tune after a long hiatus. Towards evening I picked what looked like a small mountain of coloured strips of cloth and carried it to the rice nursery. The entire length of what I had stitched did not cover even one complete side of the nursery! And it had taken me so much time. So I had to think of a better option. The Jute and Plastic sacks! Yes they would do fine, I had to cut open two sides of each bag, shake the remnants of husk, bran and whatnot out and then join them together. My sewing machine was not very happy with this rough course material which left a layer of grit and lint all around, but it still complied. The next day, we rigged up the fence around the entire nursery. I was worried about the saplings that had their heads shorn off, but Manjunath was confident that they would still grow.
The makeshift fence of jute and plastic sacking in place, but you can see the gaps where the cows have munched.
We kept at our schedule of spraying Panchgavya on the saplings and hoped they would turn out well. The majority of them looked quite ok, though there were patches of pale and short saplings in the nursery, which might need to be discarded later.
Another week, and we will be ready for the transplantation! The plants seem to be thriving and the cows are casting longing looks at the green feast that is now cordoned off for them.