This is a topic I covered in November 2013 but yesterday I took a new batch of photos covering this year’s harvest and I thought I would share these with newcomers who may have missed the harvest last year and also present a slightly different perspective to my longterm readers. If you want to re-visit the rice story, and there’s more than you think to growing rice, this post HERE is a good start.

The rice harvest here in Isaan is the culmination of an amazing amount of hard work, mostly done by hand, and there is a sense of activity and purpose in the village in November. Rice is incredibly central to society here as it forms the basis for all meals and eating is where families and friends gather as often as possible to share food and gossip. Anyone who has visited Thailand will know the consumption of food is almost a full-time occupation for Thais during waking hours. The call to dinner in Thai is “kin khaw” or “eat rice” even if there’s no rice – although that’s pretty unlikely, and that’s an indication of how integrated rice is here.

Sticky rice baskets beside most people enjoying this farm feast.

Sticky rice baskets beside many people enjoying this farm feast.

Having cut the rice and then collected it from all over the farm to one central point, steamed rice in one pile and sticky rice in another, yesterday was the time the threshing machine came in to separate rice from the stalks. I have to confess that as work started at daybreak I missed the steamed rice process and arrived at 7.00 am to the machine being moved to the sticky rice pile.

Essential early morning refreshment - Thai white whisky.

Essential early morning refreshment – Thai white whisky. Lud, by brother-in-law topping up one of the workers. It’s a tea-break with a kick!

There was quite a team on-site when we arrived. Three people feed rice from the stack to the machine platform, two people work here one passing the bundles to the operator who feeds them into the thresher. Two people bag the rice at the other end and one guy stacks the truck. There was another bloke wandering around doing nothing so I presume that in true fashion he was the boss.

Pick the boss.

Pick the boss.

Passing rice from stack to machine. Smoking that close to such super dry material is a brave move. Had he been consuming Thai whisky he would have  exploded in a ball of flames.

Passing rice from stack to machine. Smoking that close to such super dry material is a brave move. Had he been consuming Thai whisky he would have exploded in a ball of flames.

Working the threshing machine.

Working the threshing machine. The guy on the left is feeding the bundles into the chute.

This is what it is all about.

This is what it is all about. Unhusked rice being bagged.

This year has been particularly hard for Yuan and Lud, my in-laws. Yuan has often been unwell and that has coincided with important planting times, so the steamed rice crop was down from last year. Also it has been a very dry wet season. Luckily the farm has a high volume bore and that has been running for long periods feeding the paddy fields. The downside is that the cost of diesel to keep the pump running has made this an expensive crop. For those farmers without additional water supplies and who normally rely on the rain, this has been a bleak season with rice dying or producing a very reduced yield.

The huge leftover stacks. These don;t go to waste. They are used to provide coverage for newly planted vegetables on the farm.

The huge leftover stacks. These don’t go to waste. They are used to provide mulch for newly planted vegetables on the farm. I think they are fed to livestock too but not on this farm.

Lud who was a happy man to have his rice bagged. Maybe some Thai whisky contributing to the good spirits too!

Lud who was a happy man to have his rice being bagged. The culmination of so much manual work. Maybe some Thai whisky contributing to his good spirits too!

The rice once bagged is loaded onto this ancient transport, and we could be talking WW1 here 🙂 which I am guessing requires a well worn bloke like this one to drive it. The two sort of got together don’t they.

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The cockpit!

The cockpit! That engine can be removed and used to pump water, power various farm equipment and mix bread dough.

Rice being loaded up.

Rice being loaded up.

I thought I would add this photo because it is one of the few taken of me in Thailand actually moving. I suspect I was thinking about my first cup of coffee for the morning and this has brought some purpose to the moment.

A man with a mission.

A man on a mission. For Thailand I am wrapped up because the mornings are quite cool. Dew on the grass temperatures.

While the rice harvesting was in full swing, next door the market garden side of the farm business was up and happening. Onions freshly dug were being cleaned and bundled ready for delivery to the local markets ten minutes away. They will be part of someone’s meal by evening. Now that’s fresh.

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These bunches sell for 10 THB or A$0.35.

Gaun at the front, Apple, a niece and Yuan working away.

Gaun at the front, Apple, a niece and Yuan working away.

Any moment is a Kodak moment!

Any moment is a Kodak moment! My lovely wife Gaun.

Early morning light on the crops.

Early morning light on the crops. All planted by hand by two people.

The farm early morning.

The farm early morning. Gaun and I bought two mountain bikes when we arrived in Si Bun Ruang and they have become our local transport. We use a maximum of 3 out of the 21 gears – not too hilly here!

Hero. I came I took photos, I left.

Hero of the hour. I came, I took photos, I left for coffee.

Passing the some of the farm's sugar crop on the way out.

Passing the some of the farm’s sugar crop on the way out.

As soon as workers are released from harvesting the rice crop they start almost immediately cutting sugar. If you are looking for some work over here a day harvesting rice will earn you 300 THB or A$10.00 and a free lunch. Sugar seems to be paid by quantity cut and a steady worker can earn 400 THB a day while an energetic one working long hours can get between 800 – 1,000 THB for the day, which is big money while it’s available.

The final act to the rice harvest is bringing the bags to the family rice storage huts and emptying them for use in many a meal over the course of the next year. Only the previous year’s unused rice, the leftovers, is sold off to clear the storage for the new harvest. That “old rice is probably what you guys get in Australia 🙂

Note the handbrake tree trunk under the back wheel.

Note the handbrake tree trunk under the back wheel.

And finally rice borrowed from the family last year by neighbours is repaid from their recent crop.

Rice debt repaid.

Rice debt repaid.

Lud adding it to the family store.

Lud adding it to the family store.

This is my second harvest and I am sure it will become ho hum after a while. In the meantime the Thais love a farang joining in, even if it is only taking photos, showing an interest and sharing a laugh. It was a great morning and that coffee was worth waiting for!

Thanks for reading.