The Rice is Harvested!
The rice is harvested. Well, almost all of the rice... We still have a section we gave up on because it is too filled with hie millet and other weeds. We expect to get almost twice what we will be able to eat ourselves this year, so if anyone is interested in buying some pretty much chem free genmai (brown rice), just email me. It is certainly not certified organic, as the fields around us use a remote control helicopter to spray their fields for bugs, weeds ,and other diseases. Also, the water coming into our field has run-off from all the fields above us, so anything they put in their filed will inevitably end up in ours to some degree. That said, we did not spray or add any chemical fertilizers to our fields, as is evident by the green undergrowth after we harvested our rice, compared to the barren brown mud after other people harvested theirs. It is also evident by the fact that we expect to harvest only about 40% of what our neighbors would harvest on the same size land using chemical aids.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were advised to learn how to use the "traditional" gas powered hand-harvester, but after an afternoon with a local old-lady, we realized we can have more fun and easily complete the harvest by hand. It took us four days, but we did it, and hung all of the rice up to dry on the racks you see in the photo. Our neighbors advice is now to borrow her machine to strip the rice grains from the straw, but I am very interested to use the traditional no-oil method. I guess it is up to Tomoe to decide...
One of the highlights of the harvest was having a short break with some of the neighbors and their granddaughter. They were out harvesting their rice as well. They used a hand-pushed harvester, much like a lawn-mower, to do their fields and it appears that they did it only about twice as fast as us. It still took them two days (with four people) compared to our four days with two people. I am wondering if it is really that much more efficient. Sure, it is obviously faster. They can finish cutting a field in the time it takes us to do a half of ours, but efficiency-wise, they paid for a huge machine and also the gs to make it run, while we enjoyed to benefits of a good workout and fresh air as we worked.
As for the methodology of the harvest, basically, I took a small hand-held kama blade and cut each bunch one by one. Collected them into piles of 10 - 20, and left them laying on the ground for Tomoe to come by later and tie into bundles using old rice-straw, freshly cut hie millet, or sometimes a couple strands of the rice itself. Once they were tied into bundles, I hung them on the racks made with three-legged iron tripods supporting either bamboo or sugi poles. These drying racks were all borrowed from neighbors who had extra.
The photos are from our last day of harvesting, so don't worry, you can look forward to less rice-related photos from now on.