In my last post we were planting rice using the machine and sprinkling the fields with pesticides and weed-killers. That took about two weeks or so–22 fields in all. Once that was done we moved on to planting the organic fields.
As you would assume, these fields use no pesticides and weed killers, nor do we use a machine to plant the rice. It’s all done by hand. Granted, we could use the machine if we wanted but this year we chose a rather novel method of keeping the weeds away that meant the machine was out of the picture.
A little bit of back story… Last year Nabe rented a planting machine from the mechanic we use for our tractors and harvesters and such. He had read on the internet about this new kind of machine that used biodegradable sheets of paper to lay over the mud of the rice field. After planting the rice through the paper, the paper would keep the weeds from growing up between the rice. And then after about 2 months the paper would disintegrate into the mud and any weeds that would grow up then would be too weak to compete with the stalks of rice. Great idea. But the machine didn’t work so well: when you reached the end of the line, it sometimes failed to cut the paper cleanly and so it would rip and you’d have to go out into the mud and cut it manually; it wouldn’t press the paper down into the mud so that it would get damp and stick to the ground and then when the wind would blow the sheets would turn over and cover up the rice. The machine turned out to be more of a pain than it was worth. However, the idea of using the paper to keep away the weeds was a good one and we thought that the next year we would try using the sheets manually.
Which brings us to late May and this year’s organic experiment. Luckily on the first day we had a gang of local ALTs (assistant language teachers) out to help.
The paper came in a 2 meter by 100 meter rolls. So at first we figured that we could have two people hold the paper and unroll it while 2 guys stand behind the roll and plant the rice.
At the end of the day, and with the awesome help from the ALTs, we had planted 6 lines, which was about half of that small field. This was going to be a long process. But, thank the Monolith, our large brains and opposable thumbs would come to the rescue once again. Behold, The Wheel!
It’s…it’s so round and makes transporting large, heavy objects so easy. Has anyone ever thought of this before? With the help of the wheel and some more friends we were able to plant 2 fields in about 6 days. Here’s how it went. We would start from one side of the paddy, pat the paper down, plant about 2 or 3 rows of 8 rice, unroll the paper a bit, and repeat until we reached the other side of the paddy.
Like I said, it took about 6 days to finish all 2 fields, and including the first field where we used the sticks (and a few days when it rained so we couldn’t plant) it was about 2 and a half weeks to finish all 3. Not too bad.
It was a really great experience planting these fields by hand. Of course it was hard work, but when, at the end of the day, you can look back over the rows and rows of rice you’ve planted with your own hands…very fulfilling. And after 2 plus weeks of that kind of work, the beer with dinner tastes that much better. 🙂