Saturday, 18 July 2009

Rice Planting - 4th Year


This year is the fourth time we have grown rice. Each year is different and we repeatedly encounter new, exciting and sometimes overwhelming challenges.

In the first year in the previous property called “Kise”, we were threatened by overgrowing reeds which covered the entire paddy. This particular field was fully equipped with a water irrigation system which had been left unused for a several years. Following the approach taken by nearby farmers, with whom we share the same canal, we kept the land dry during the winter. It seemed at that time that our attempts to cultivate previously untouched soil, by cutting the hardy cattails and weeds that were taller than our height, were endless. Strangely enough, you do not recall the struggling efforts once you have reached the next season. There is always a new challenge.

The second year was relatively easy. The weeds that grew in the first winter were controllable. New types of soft weed began to spread in the paddy and hardy weeds were disappearing. The crucial elements in growing rice are to maintain the water level in accordance with the weather and the pace of rice’s growth. This particular job was managed by the property manager every day, so we had healthy harvests in autumn.

We moved to the new land after two years due to the shortage of space. The new area is called “Tamatori”, and in its background Mt Tsukuba stands out clear against the blue sky. The new land was utterly unique, a marshy place with no irrigation. Neighboring farmers were surprised to hear about our attempt to grow rice in a wetland. When it rains, water permeates the soil and floods to create a shallow reservoir. There are no means to control the water so we have to be well acquainted with daily weather and the annual natural conditions. Before WWII, people apparently used this area as a rice paddy but that was more than five decades ago. As you can imagine, the land was completely covered by hardy grasses.

When we finally planted the seedlings in the new paddy, the water was just enough to cover the soil so it was the ideal condition for rice planting. Yet, with the heavier rain in winter and spring in the following year, our second rice planting attempt in the new land meant more struggle with a higher water level. Some seedlings were too short and the green leaves sunk under the water completely. Now the recent rainy season (Tsuyu) has finished unexpectedly earlier, our concerns about water shortage in the summer begin.

Going through the three rice cycles and heading towards the fourth, my body and mind are becoming more attuned to nature and surroundings. Each year is different. My future endeavour is endless.


田植え4年目


今年で4回目の田植えを迎えました。田の状態は年々異なるため、毎年新しい出会い、発見、そして挑戦の連続です。

田植え一年目は、吉瀬という場所で米作りをしました。初めてこの田んぼを目の前にした時は、いっぱいに広がる蒲の群生に正直たじろぎました。用水路を完備した水田でしたが、過去数年は放置されていた休耕地でした。近隣の農家の田んぼ作りに従って用水路の水を利用し、冬場は水を張らない様式にしました。自分たちよりも背の高い蒲の穂や、硬く根を張った雑草を刈り続ける作業は、果たして終わりがあるのかと思われるほど辛かったはずなのですが、次の年が来る頃にはすっかり忘れてしまいます。翌年には、目の前にある新たな挑戦にむけて胸を躍らせるばかりです。

二年目の田植えは、比較的簡単だったという記憶があります。稲刈り後の冬の間に育った雑草は、存外対応しやすいものでした。これまでに見られなかった新しい柔らかな草が生え始め、前年の堅い茎を持った根太い雑草が少しずつ姿を消し始めました。米作りにおいて大切なことは、天候や稲の育ち方を逐一観察しながら、水位を管理していくことです。水の管理は、つくし農園の管理人に一任したため、秋の収穫期にはまずまずの成果を収めることができました。

吉瀬での二年の後、より広い土地を求めて新しい地域に移動しました。玉取という場所で、晴れた日には青空にくっきりと筑波山の姿を目にすることのできる土地です。新しい田んぼの地形はめずらしいもので、用水の設備の全くない沼地です。ご近所の農家の方には、この土地での米作りは無謀だと驚かれました。雨が降ると土に水が浸透し、溢れ、浅い溜池を形成します。水の状態を完全に管理することが出来ないため、日々の天候やその年の気候の状態に、より敏感になる必要があります。第二次世界大戦前には、この沼地でも米作りがなされていたそうですが、五十年以上も前のことです。一面にがっちりと蔓延った水草や雑草の根の強さは、想像に難くないでしょう。

新しい田んぼでの一年目は、土をしっとりと濡らす程度の水の入り具合であったため、田植えに適した土の状態でした。しかし、二年目である今年は、冬から春にかけての雨が多かったために、水の深さとの格闘となりました。苗床で作った苗の中には、まだ背丈が低いものもあり、場所によっては水の下に苗が冠水してしまうこともありました。今年は梅雨明けが例年よりも早かったために、今度は夏季の水不足を心配し始めなければなりません。

米作りの三年の周期を終え、四年目に突入するに当たり、体や心が周囲の自然の営みにより調和し始めたように感じられます。人生同じ年の繰り返しはありません。日々、新たに邁進するのみです。

4 comments:

Gary said...

sorry.. i fluffed my comment and dropped it in the wrong section.. its in the first one about rice paddies from 2007!

kodou said...

Welcome back.
I enjoyed this post and look forward to reading more.

I think planting rice in a wetland makes perfect sense.

Sacchan said...

Dear Gary,

No worries! Thanks for dropping by.

I am sorry to say but the goat you gave me is not as cute as my real one. Did you know you can take a goat for a walk on a leash? She keeps bumping into my legs as she used to do to her mother.

My dream of taking a pig for walk at a busy Shibuya intersection has not yet been fulfilled but I may be able to do that with my goat....

Sacchan said...

Dear kodou-san,

Thanks so much for your warm message. I didn't have enough energy left after hectic workload so the postings lapsed for a while. However, I continued Shizen-nou during that time. I hope to correspond with you through this blog in the future.