Is this post mis-labelled?
It's a little known (and even less cared about, I'm sure) fact that I write a column in the AFWJ journal about my exploits in this fair neighbourhood and I have been known to steal content from this fair blog to complete said column.
I was looking through past blog posts and realised that I hadn't posted the 2011 and 2012 rice harvest wrap up.
What a shocking oversite!
Luckily I wrote about both events for the journal so I still have a record.
In order to learn from my mistakes it's important to record them in all their embarrassing glory afterall, hey?
And so, here you are, rice harvest 2011:
In the long and comical-if-you-were-watching-not-participating saga that was rice growing, harvesting the rice was a finale that fit the whole process. And, while at the time I really couldn’t see anything funny about it at all, now, sitting back safely a couple of months the other side of rice harvest I can see the humour in it. Almost.
Due to the fickleness of the weather and rice maturation the week we had all blocked out in our schedules as HARVEST WEEK arrived and went before the rice was ready. We ended up doing a lot of that farmer type staring up at the sky and frowning and sighing and smushing rice pods between our fingers guessing at the moisture content of the rice. And then, being the cutting edge farmers we are (and utterly without confidence in our abilities to read the skies or feel the water content in rice to a precise 13%) I whipped out the smart phone for a long term weather forecast and we went down to a friend with a rice moisture calculator machine (technical name) and came up with a revised harvest schedule.
Before it rains next week.
We decided to harvest our rice using the sundried method. To do this we needed drying poles. Long 4 metre plus horizontal poles and short 1.5 m legs. Between the two families we have a k-truck, a 4 tonne dump truck and two swarthy men. Unfortunately none of the above were ready the day neighbour W and I decided to start setting up.
So, she loaded up the wheelbarrow with a whole pile of metal stakes we were going to use as legs. They were a little too big to fit in the barrow so she lay them across the barrow and just pushed it while half crouching to keep the barrow as close to horizontal as possible. Every 10 or so metres adjustments would need to be made or poles would clatter clang crash to the bitumen and the loading would start again.
I was carrying the 4 metre pole. Convinced of my strength and power and impatience at pushing the pole-loaded wheelbarrow I jumped at this option.
For the first 5 metres or so of our trek I was convinced I had made the right decision. Then I realized that it wasn’t just strength but balance too that was necessary. If you don’t have the exact middle of the pole resting on your shoulder and hold it just so it swings around all over the place and your shoulder muscles will begin to whimper then howl then scream so there was a lot of stopping and adjusting and shaking out of shoulder muscles going on. I also couldn’t turn my head to look behind me or take corners with any grace at all so it was a very slow and clumsy shuffle-stop shuffle-stop journey punctuated with the clang of poles hitting the ground out of the barrow.
Rounding out our party were Meg and Amy. Meg was wearing a princess dress and fairy wings and pushing her doll in her stroller. Amy was wearing a pink and frilly Pretty-cure character bathing suit, red gumboots and pushing her doll in her stroller. Yes. Just a bathing suit. In Autumn. In Nagano. Just don’t ask!
And this was the strange sight that met our neighbours as we walked the 200 metres or so down the mountain to the rice paddy from our houses. I said a small but fervent wish/ hope and prayer to the mountain gods and anyone else who was listening that we would not meet any of the neighbours on our trip.
Well, they weren’t listening and we passed three cars worth of neighbours. One of whom mentioned the next time she saw me “I saw you last week. What on earth were you doing? We were going to stop and give you a lift (they were driving one of the ubiquitous k-trucks) but we couldn’t work out what you were all doing….” I kindly suggested that should she see us doing anything that looked arduous even if a little odd she should definitely stop and inquire next time!
Can’t touch this!
We did get to the rice paddy eventually.
And we did get the rice harvested eventually.
And so one day neighbour W and I were down the paddy (again) and we noticed that the narrow metal stakes we were using as legs on our rice drying racks seemed to be sinking…. That 4 metre long pole that was now laden with drying rice seemed to have developed both a pronounced bow in the middle and a decided tilt.
We walked over and hmmed. And hrmmmed. And gave the nearest leg a little thump with the toe of our boots. And hmmed again.
Having satisfied all the tests that any farmer worth their salt would, we went to opposite ends of the pole and decided to see of we could give a good old coordinated heave ho to the left and right things.
The mountain Gods were obviously still not listening and not only had the heave-ho not worked but it had had the opposite effect. The leg at W’s end had now completely sunk causing the one at my end to buckle. Without thinking W and I had taken the weight on our shoulders. Something we were not going to be able to keep up for the next 5 minutes let alone the 2 weeks it takes rice to dry! Looking desperately around for someone to miraculously turn up to help us we spied an unknown young man running down the dead end street leading to our paddy.
But before we could summon up the courage to ask for help the truth of our prospective savior’s identity came to light as the local JA co-op’s rent-a-harvester combine harvester came rumbling around the corner and the initial young man waved it over to the paddy next door.
Ohhhhhhhh…. of all the people to see us struggling with our knocked together and decidedly unorthodox rice drying racks!
Gritting our teeth and trying to look nonchalant until the two young men had jogged back up the road and out of sight around the corner we heave ho-ed the rice as far as we could (not very far) in the direction of the grass bank surrounding the paddy and sat down in despair to plan our next move. The absurdity and comedy of the situation wouldn’t become apparent for a long time to come.
Not until we had done a lot more re-stacking of rice, replaced a handful more bent and busted poles and broken a car-jack in a never-before-seen unorthodox attempt to create a new rice-drying system.
But, you know what? That eventual first bowl of rice has never tasted so good!