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