I had quite an exciting weekend! Well, at least an exciting Sunday morning - I went to help harvest rice in the rice field that Choma Club is renting for one of its projects. There were about 20 other people helping out too, including volunteers from Japan, Russia, Korea, America and Taiwan. I thought it sounded like a potentially terrifying combination, but it was actually a lovely day.
Most people now harvest and dry rice mechanically, but walking around the village you can still see quite a few field where the rice has been
harvested and bundled by hand, and hung up to dry in the same field that it had been growing in. That's what we did on Sunday, and it was really interesting being so up and close with rice while it's at this stage. Usually I just mea- sure it out of a bag and into the rice cook- er!
The top photo here is the rice after it's been cut, waiting to be tied into a bundle with a piece of straw. Once you get the hang of it, it's surprisingly easy to do. The rice is planted in little clumps, which are pretty much one handful. So you grab the clump of rice down low and cut it off with your scythe. With a bit of practice you can do it in just one movement of your arm and without exerting any pressure. It's not such amazingly hard work to do for an hour, but if you had to spend two or three days doing it, it would be a totally different story!
The rice is then hung up to dry as you can see in the next photo, and it stays there for a month. With a machine, the rice is dried overnight though. I'm not totally sure what comes next, but I'm sure I'll find out before too long!
The last photo is an ex-rice field. There is a lot of abandoned agricultural land in Showa Mura, and especially in this particular area of the village. The combination of an aging population, and the urban drift means that uncultivated fields are always increasing. When you think that these fields were continuously farmed for at least ten generations, it really is very sad. So maybe we'll try and grow rice ourselves next year! We're still thinking...