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Posts Tagged ‘harvesting rice’

Bali Day 2: Sunday, August 6, 2017

Lush green rice field

Rice fields near Ubud, Bali.

Along our way to our first destination, the rain continued to fall intermittently. We passed along narrow roads without many other cars (our driver knew the back roads very well) and we wound through small villages and rice fields. I asked Gusti questions about rice planting and harvesting. I’ve already talked about the harvesting that I saw around Banjarmasin a week before, so I’ll talk about the planting here.

Mountains over rice fields

Rice fields and mountains in Bali. This rice has been planted and growing for about one month. When the rice is green, the paddies are kept flooded. One the rice starts to mature and comes into the head, the fields are drained and dried out.

Gusti told me that Indonesia gets two rice crops per year, and that they are timed to coincide with the two seasons: rainy and less rainy. The rains begin in earnest in October and last until March, then things gradually dry out through August to September. Usually there are a few weeks between one harvest and the next planting, which we were beginning to see here. The second crop of rice should be planted and growing before the rains begin. As Bali is a mountainous island, the rice paddies are built into terraces and the dikes between need to be repaired before the fields are flooded in preparation for planting. A system of ditches carries the rain water from paddy to paddy.

Rice field with adung

The rice terraces of Bali are famous. I didn’t get to the ones that are most photographed, but I still saw plenty of rice paddies in various stages of maturity. Here, andung plants mark the edge of a terrace.

At the beginning of planting season, the ground of the paddies is worked. Weeds have tried to grow up in the weeks between, and the ground is plowed or a motorized rototiller is used to churn up the mud and churn in the weeds. I saw this happening in several locations today, but mostly the planting was beginning.

Freshly planted rice

Rice terraces near Ubud, Bali. Each terrace or paddy is walled to contain water. The rice is first planted from seeds in a small fenced off and flooded area, then the seedlings are transplanted by hand. In the field in the foreground, the rice seedlings had just barely been transplanted the day before. The paddies behind have seedlings that are several days to a week old.

As the ground is being prepared, a small area of the field is fenced off from grazing animals for growing seedlings. Rice must be planted and mostly grown wet. The desert environment I am from is simply too dry and rice takes too much water as a crop in an arid region. It requires a place like Bali.

Once the seedling reach about 8-10 inches height, they are manually transplanted into the rice paddies. This is difficult labor and because of the muddy conditions of the paddies, it can’t really be automated. A team of planters will poke the seedlings into the mud, going in a pattern and working quickly. Each seedling is spaced out about eight inches. Even in the rain this morning, I saw many groups of farmers in rain gear and conical hats planting the rice. I managed to take several good photos.

Planting rice

This farmer is transplanting rice seedlings into a flooded paddy. It is very labor intensive, and the muddy fields make using machinery difficult (and expensive). A practiced hand can poke the seedlings into the mud with surprising rapidity.

Planting rice in the rain

Here, a team of four people are transplanting rice seedlings into a flooded paddy in the rain. A rainy day is actually ideal for planting. I can only imagine how one’s back would feel after bending over and planting rice all day.

We saw fields in many different ages, ranging from unplowed to plowed but awaiting planting to planting going on to rice that was a week or two weeks old. Since rice can grow all year here, the seasons and crops aren’t precise. Some places like Banjarmasin are just harvesting the rice while in Bali they are planting the next crop.

Irrigating fields

A rice farmer moving water from one rice paddy to another. Working in rice fields is a wet and muddy occupation. As the son of a farmer, I appreciate machinery and automation even more after seeing the work involved to plant, transplant, water, and harvest rice.

I grew up as the son of a farmer so for me this is fascinating. We planted grain (wheat, barley, and oats) with a seed drill after we had leveled and plowed the fields. Since the spring rains can’t be counted on, we would irrigate the fields several times before the final harvest in late July or early August. We only got one crop, and would often plant alfalfa with the grain so that it would grow up during the fall for a good first crop the next spring. Because of the poor quality of the soil where I live (highly alkaline and nutrient poor), we have to fertilize and rotate our crops. We start with alfalfa for several years, since it has nematodes which fix nitrogen in the soil. Then we relevel the field and plant corn, which is chopped for silage. Since they are large plants, corn will quickly deplete the soil. Then we plant grain for a year or two and it’s time to start the rotation over again.

Drying rice

Because farmers are able to get two crops of rice per year, one can see planting, growing, harvesting, and drying of rice all at once. The farmers near Banjarmasin were harvesting rice last week, the farmers here are planting. Here, rice is laid on a tarp to dry.

Because the soil here is derived from volcanic ash, it is fertile and will grow anything. Rain just falls from the sky and only has to be diverted. It seems like an idyllic way to farm. Yet I would not ever want to plant rice in a muddy field by hand. Give me modern farm machinery any day. I grew up in the desert and I like nice, dry air and clear skies.

Week old rice

The rice growing here was transplanted about a week ago. It will eventually fill in all the space, and will be drained as the rice begins to mature and come into the head.

Terraces on hillside

Terraced hillsides on our way up Mount Batur on Bali. These are a bit overgrown and not being used, but there are famous terraced paddies in many places over the slopes of the hillsides of Bali.

Towns and rice from air

Rice fields and towns from the air (approaching Jakarta). Some areas are clear (brownish) because they are between crops for a few weeks. Indonesian farmers can harvest two crops per year.

 

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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26

Pink mosque and rice field

Ripening rice field and a pink mosque in Barito Kuala Regency, South Kalimantan.

The counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana was celebrating the birth of a new baby and invited us to his home, along with the other teachers. School would be let out early so the teachers could attend. After we had rested a bit from our morning teaching and had re-hydrated, Nazar drove us to his home.

Coal barge on Barito

A coal barge on the Barito River. Sorry that it’s a bit blurry – I took this from a moving car as we crossed the bridge.

He lived out in the country beyond the Barito River Bridge and past the river town we had stopped in a few days before. This was the furthest we went to the west. Nazar hadn’t been to his house before and had to call him a few times for directions and turn around a few times. Google Maps isn’t as accurate out here. I had the chance to observe people as they were beginning the rice harvest.

Mosque and rice field

A field of rice ready to harvest and a blue mosque, out in the country of Barito Kuala Regency.

Rice can be grown twice each year in Indonesia. I’ll write about the process of planting and growing rice in a later post, but let me here talk about the harvesting. As the rice becomes ripe, the fields are allowed to dry and the rice heads and stalks turn golden, although never as golden as wheat. Some of the farmers use mechanical rice pickers (there is my obscure Star Trek reference for the day – what episode of the original series discusses Spock’s unfortunate accident with a mechanical rice picker?). Some still harvest by hand with machetes and carry the bundles to their house courtyards, where they use a hand-cranked threshing machine to separate the grains from the stalks (chaff). I saw quite a few of these threshing machines as we traveled today, as the harvest is beginning and farmers have brought them out to use. Once the grain is threshed, it is placed on top of the courtyard or on tarps by the road to dry. The farmers rake it around to help it dry faster. Then it is collected, bagged, and sold. We saw people on motorcycles carrying the bags, and stores by the roads selling the rice.

Drying rice in front of house

Harvested rice is laid out on tarps in the courtyard or driveway of the house (or sometimes at the edges of country lanes) to dry. The rice is raked frequently to aid in even drying. I’m not sure what happens if it rains (as it did later this afternoon).

We finally found the counselor’s house, by a rice field next to a pink mosque. This was his own rice field. We were welcomed into the house, where we removed our shoes and sat on the floor to eat the ceremonial meal.

Drying rice

Laying out tarps for drying rice. The wooden wheel-shaped object behind the farmer is a rice thresher. The stalks are placed inside and a crank is turned, causing the rice grains to be separated or threshed from the stalks. It is then placed on the tarps to dry.

The baby naming/presentation ceremony is an important one in Banjarese culture, and we were treated as honored guests. Different dishes were brought out on a carrying rack for us to choose from, as well as trays of the plastic water cups and steamed rice that he had grown and harvested himself in the field next door. The food was good. After the meal, as other people were beginning to arrive, we took photographs with the mother and mother-in-law and got to hold the baby.

Baby naming ceremony

Food for the baby naming ceremony. The blue plastic cups in the trays are sealed cups of purified water.

Nazar drove us back to the hotel to rest as clouds were beginning to gather.

Rice field and pink mosque 2

The counselor’s rice field and the pink mosque next door.

House and mother in law

The counselor’s house where the ceremony and meal took place. The mother, baby, and mother in law are on the porch. The rice field next door is his field, and we ate rice he harvested from it last year.

David holding baby

Getting to hold the baby. The father is to my left and the mother to my right. He is the counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

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