Monday, January 22, 2018

Yay Rice!

I spent the morning at Eco-Organic Farm harvesting rice. 

It was satisfying to see the patterns. The green stalks and yellowing rice as waves of grain on concentric  terraces. The cut clumps lying rhythmically in bundles. The shorn root stumps as perfectly spaced mounds on brown cracked earth. 

All of this backed by slopes bordering the terraces of purple native ageratum and orange marigold.

And satisfying to work. 

Cutting each clump of about 8 stalks with a sharpened sickle. Thwack. 

Laying 4 clumps parallel on a bundle. Seeing the full terrace of stalks shrink to brown earth and spaced green bundles. And feeling the scratchy stalks, the drooping rice heads, the sweat.

Working together, more people joining, having to be a little careful not too get too close to someone else’s sickle and lose a finger. Sangham sang us a harvest song.

Because it is a celebration! The rain was good. There was no hail! 150 grains of rice per stalk! Even-though the skies are grey right now there is no rain. Yay rice! We will eat this year! 

And what is this descending the narrow path? 

An ancient tool, a mechanical thresher. Sangham laughed that this model was used in the US in the 1700’s and now still in Nepal. Of course I don’t hardly see how a larger machine thresher could work these terraces, even if anyone could pool the money to afford one. This way no ground is compressed by heavy metal ! It takes a little while to level it off with a pole and string. Then pump it vigorously with the foot. Then take a bundle and hold it against the rotating whopper and grains fly off. 

Sangham demonstrated but was pushed aside by a more shorter, older more vigorous worker. He pumped harder, rotated the bundle better and produced a greater pile of white gold. (For two days!)

I got dehydrated even after a liter of water and after having learned all I could of the process and having absolutely no need to outwork the grandmother, retired up the hill to shower and wash the dusty clothes. Yes, I was a little jealous to observe the crowd below laughing and eating lunch, but not enough to descend the slippery slope to join them. I searched the kitchen for lunch and found two boiled potatoes— the rest were served to the  workers as well as rewarding alcohol.

What did I learn? Yay rice! The harvest was good! 

The  coming together to gather and thresh was bonding. And wow will that fragrant bowl of home-grown rice contain more than just the carbohydrates that some of us try to avoid!

Look and listen, feel and taste— green, gold, brown, song, sweat, thwack, stack, carry, thresh, scatter, save. 

Yay rice!

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