How To Plant Rice

Had a productive(literally, if the typhoons work out ok this year) weekend plantin rice, by hand, up in beautiful, mountainous Takachiho, Miyazaki. Anyway this is how it’s done. You save your ancient varieties of red mochimochi chewy rice, or flavorful and aromatic black rice every year. Two months before having a bunch of people come help you plant the rice in the paddies where it will acutally be harvested you start the seedling in a paddy by your house, so you can control the weeds, and discourage deer and wild boar from eating them(the rice seedlings – the deer can have the weeds.)

Then you bunch up the seedlings tieing them together with a piece of rice straw.

It’s amazing how much abuse rice takes and still grows up to feed so many people. Some people even grow rice under their greenhouses after harvesting their cucumbers or greenpeppers, all those oil-intesive veggies people like to eat out of season. Growing rice sanitized the soil for you. Talk about two birds with one stone!

So, jumping in and particpating two months into the preparation with the seedlings all bunched and reeady, the grid for spacing lined into the mud, you’ll want to save yourself some aggravation and get barefoot.

Then you yank out a hunk of bunched seedling, balancing delicacy and speed hoping you’re damaging the roots too much. You wonder if Fukuoka Masanobu’s One Straw Revolution and the seedballs really works, and if so would it be any less work?

seven or nine rice seedlings to be inserted in the mud together

After pulling a more manageable clump from the big handful of rice seedling you separate out 7 to 9 seedlings here. It looked like the neighbors with their rice planting machine were only putting in two to three seedlings at a time, but it may have been a different variety, or the grid lines were closer, or a philosophical difference. Questions to steer a worthwhile conversation in the future…

Rice seedlings for planting

And finally, the insertion. It seems like you end up with a certain hand shape, you see people using the gesture while on the topic of Rice planting.

Inserting the seven to nine rice seedlings

Agriculture can be fun, you get a bunch of people out there talking, enjoying the scenery. I guess you’d also have to work the varieites and seasons that would let you avoid the more punshingly hot periods. Nowadays the varieties are all rushed so you’re either in debt for a big machine or your out in the August heat throwing 30 kilo bags up onto the back of a truck. I don’t mind the workout but the sunburn and the two liters of drinking water can be tiresome. This guy uses the old varieties so the harvest will be in the much more humane October.

It’s nice when you get a big (Ittan) field done. Is there a training regime for avoiding sore hamstrings and stiff backs after a day of rice planting? Would a Parecon find ways to dedicate a lot of pro sports and Olympic trainers to useful pursuits like that? Or is that what Taichi and Karate are? Somebody was just telling me Karate came from farming activities, NumChucks arose from the swinging stickes used to separate rice from the chaff. This trivia made Karate interesting, up until then kicking people just seemed obnoxious..

I was aiming for that classic Chinese, Asian painting fell with this picture, the big landscape with the people situated as a small part of it. I saw an article online somewhere about Navajo and/or other indigenous children drawing their surroundings when asked to do a self-potrait. The kids situated themselves in their environment, my daughter just draws people, her family, ‘girls’ or something. You can’t really see any ecological understanding in the ‘cute’ girl pictures. She likes bugs, raising caterpillars into butterflies, feeding Soldier Fly Larvae to chickens and carp but this hasn’t been the focus of any expression yet…

150 year old Persimmon Kaki Tree

This Persimmon tree (a pair actually) on the side of the terraced rice fiel, across the street from the potatoes, is about 150 years old. A guy who died a few years ago at the age of 107 said the pair was there when he was a little kid. The little greet, thumb sized persimmons were falling off the tree. I thought this was normal but an old guy wrote a letter to the editor saying how bad (lonely) he felt watching this unusual phenomonan this year..

The tree sperm from the chestnut tree flowers was smelling kind of erotic too. Not that many people admitted to noticing this. Maybe it was just me, born in a dog year on the ‘Chinese Zodiac’ and liking trees and everything….

It feels good to go out and be useful. It can only be healthy too. What better way to spend you weekend as the Food Crisis is probably getting worse…Another useful talent I’ve been working on is ropework. That will have to wait for another blog post, but it’s nice to know you’ll never be at a loss in front of a clothesline again. And knowing the trucker’s hitch or wagoner’s hitch when a buddy needs help hauling a truckload of stuff lets you do your good deed for the day. Coming to ropework and knots as an exercize for using your mind and hands, out of curiousity, instead of boy scout badges or some other Alfie-Kohon-repudiated rewards, makes for a fascinating pursuit. Knots get you into cultural exchange too, the bowline‘s name in Japanes is Moyai, mutual support groups use the imagery to tether everyone together for security. There’s an Eskimo Bowline, which requires some attention but is purported to be more reliable than the Western Bowline by Geoffrey Budworth in his fun Everyday Knots. I was a bit disappointed that he chose his own witty, gendered naming for the ‘Bull Hitch’ instead of Robert Pont’s name giving credit to "Piwich Kust of the Bois Brule tribe" in Quebec Canada. (p 120)

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