Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Rice Paddy


you have to dig trenches....

The first week of May is called Golden Week in Japan as it includes public holidays, which, depending on where the weekend(s) fall, can mean 5-10 days continuous break. In the countryside, you see many farmers planting rice seedlings at this time. Some younger people who work in cities return to their home town in the country during this time and assist in planting rice alongside neighbouring farmers. With the aid of sizeable machinery and with the extra hands, a large rice field can be planted within a few days.

In a Shizen-nou paddy, the rice planting season starts from now (end of June) until mid-July, depending on the type of rice for harvest. It’s a great achievement for Japanese farmers to breed particular types of rice which grow earlier than usual so that they can be planted in the golden week period, but it does beg the question as to who would modify crops to fit in the new calendar year.

The paddies of both sides of our land were completed a month in advance. Since we share the same water from the communal ponds, adjusting the water level is a significant task. We are dependent on the farm manager, who is very busy opening and closing water gates/sluices every day. He carefully monitors and controls water levels for earlier crops in neighbours’ paddies and our traditional paddy. I had not realised how sensitive and demanding rice can be in regard to the amount of water required. When planted, they are thirsty and need a massive amount of water – then a moderate drier period is necessarily. Balance and right timing of the hydration and dehydration cycle has a direct impact on the autumn harvest.

This season I am planning to plant a late blooming type of rice called Kodaimai (literary translated as ‘ancient rice’). The specific name is Manyo-midori (green rice) and Shikoku-en (black rice). They are now contentedly resting in a seed bed, ready to be transplanted in two weeks’ time.

Would anyone like to give me a hand on weekends?

making a seed bed in the paddy.

田んぼ

5月の第一週目は、ゴールデンウィークと呼ばれる一連の祝日です。週末がどこに入るかによって差異が出ますが、通常5日間、長い時には10日間に渡る大型連休となります。田舎では、この時期に田植えを行う農家の姿を多く見かけます。都会で働く若者の中にも、この連休に田舎に帰省し、近隣の人々と共に田植えに精を出す者もいます。大きな機械と、臨時の人手により、広大な田んぼの田植えが数日で終了します。

自然農の田んぼでは、植える稲の種類によりますが、通常今ぐらい(6月末)から7月中旬までが、田植えに最も適した時期となります。日本の農家がゴールデンウィークに田植えが出来るよう、早生の稲を特別に改良したということは、偉大な開発かもしれません。新たに導入された暦に合致するように、作物自体を進化させるという体制には多少の疑問は残りますが。

我々の田んぼの両側では、既にひと月前に田植えが完了しています。共同の貯水池から水を引くため、両隣の水位と合わせながら水加減を調整していくという重要な作業が課されます。水に関する作業は農園の管理人に一任しているため、彼は水門の開け閉めに忙しい日々を送っているようです。一足先に植え付けられた隣の田んぼの水位と、古来のやり方に従う我々の田んぼの水位の双方を見ながら、絶妙に調整していく必要があります。稲たちが、これほどまでに水量に対して繊細かつ貪欲だとは気づきませんでした。田植え直後はのどの渇きがひどいらしく、たっぷりの水を欲しがります。その後、すこしばかり我慢してもらう期間が必須だそうです。渇きと潤いの周期の絶妙なバランスとタイミングの測り方が、秋の収穫を大きく左右することになります。

今期私が植えるのは、古代米の中の万葉緑と呼ばれる緑米と、紫黒苑と呼ばれる黒米の2種です。2週間後の田植えに備え、現在苗床で安らかに待機中です。

どなたか、週末にお手伝いしたい方、いらっしゃいますか?

3 comments:

Nick said...

Hi Satoko,

Good looking blog and a nice combination of information and your personal history/philosophy. If you're looking for an extra hand on the weekend, I'd be interested. Haven't done much else besides weeding but I'm up for a new experience. :)

Sacchan said...

Hi Nick! Thanks for the offer. Let me know when you are back from sounds decadent academic conference is Perugia. I am sure there will be a plenty of work left for you!

Gary said...

Did any inquisitive pheasants come to watch the rice planting?