Sunday, October 7, 2007

Harvest Time

Yesterday we spent around a half hour in between our lessons watching the farmers harvest their rice from the firelds behind our house. I was amazed at the contrast between one farmer's harvesting technique and another's.
The farmer nearest us used a self-propelled machine that looked like a mix between a wood chipper and a lawn mower. He walked behind it, pushing it carefully up the perfectly-spaced rows of yellowing rice. His machine automatically wrapped string around the rice stalks as it cut them and then shot them out after having bunched the bound stalks. His wife (I assume that she was his wife) stood at the corner of the field closest to us. She seemed comfortable with the fact that I was photogrpahing her and treated us with a passive neglect. She would speak to us in loud rapid Japanese and then smile before looking back to her work. She bent over the stalks that the man's machine missed and, using what looked like a vey old kamma, cut the stragglers before tossing them of to the side for later binding. After they finished binding several rows of rice, they hang the stalks upside down on poles so that the sun would dry out the stalks and make it easier to knock the rice off.
The operation going on at the field furthest away from us was much less back-cracking. A single farmer rode a machine much larger than the aforementioned farmer's binding machine. This large machine looked like an angry mix between a riding mower and a zamboni. He would drive his machine up the lines of rice, and the machine would bunch and cut the rice stalks. It did not bind them, though. Instead, it pulled them up a conveyer belt to the back of the riding zambower, where the rice was shaken off of the stocks right there. The stalks were ejected out of the zambower's backside. The rice was shot into several bags that were mounted to the side of the zambower. Other farmers would walk around the farmer on the riding rice-eatting beast, picking up the stalks for later burning. Others walked alonside it and let him know when the bags of rice were full enough for changing. Then he would stop while the men on the ground would change out the bags on his beast of burden.
The level of complexity in this second operation led me to believe that the crew working in the far fields was working for a government-owned business. The closer couple were more likely a family harvesting their own personal rice. That is all speculation though, because that is far too complicated of a theory for my meager Japanese to inquire about (never end a sentence in a preposition, evne if you have to put a weird statement in parenthesis the statement... alright? yeah; that's good).
The second operation made the farmer and his wife working so close to us seem worthy of our pity. I wanted to run out hot bowls of the Lentil soup Amy had just made; I figured it would help them replenish their energy. I decided against it as I thought that a hot bowl of food is not the most desired thing when performing manual labor on a hot day. I decided to offer them some lemonade, but realized that the last of our lemon was already used up. By the time I started thinking about just taking them a simple glass of water, I realized that I couldn't hear them working anymore. I went outside to see that they had already taken off for lunch. Luckily, they will be harvesting all week, so I'll have another chance.

The farmer closest to us pushing his mechanical plow.

Him a little closer now

His lovely female assistant

The stalks of rice hung to dry in the sun and the cleared out rows below that

The operation further away from us

The assistant cleared out some stalks from the feeder before switching out the rice bags.

Going again. Notice the size of the rice bags next to the worker on the ground. You could feed a family for a few months with one bag, unless you happen to have all boys. Then that bag would only last three weeks. ~Fox