Bringing in the rice

The rice harvest has been completed for another year at Jomp’s Farm, as well as on the 12 rai of land where Fr. Mike now lives. The rice sown on the farms at Sarnelli House is sticky rice, the most common variety in this part of Thailand. This year a new technique was used to harvest the rice in order to save on the back breaking labour of harvesting by hand. Ms. Kung invested in a reaper which is attached to the front of the tractor and then driven through the paddies slicing the rice stalks off. The cut stalks then fall into the apron of the reaper and are  deposited in neat bundles.

It is such an efficient and simple way of harvesting. But some manual labour is still necessary. The kids started work on the last two Saturdays in November, literally covered from head to toe in hooded, long sleeved tops and long trousers to protect against the sun, the dust and itchiness of the rice stalks. Pick up trucks were loaded with young adults as they spilled out of children’s mass on Saturday morning. They were waved off by the smaller children, who were probably a little jealous at not being able to join in. The trucks bounced along the hard and pot holed dirt tracks, on their way to the dry, brown rice paddies. but the teenagers were full of laughter and chatter. Ms Kung revelled in her usual role of managing everything with good humour and  intelligence. She was in top form, co-ordinating, encouraging and cajoling the workers with her loud speaker. Occasionally you would hear her call out to continue the good work they were doing and not to give up yet as lunch was just around the corner. On other occasions, a name or two was bellowed out over the fields as some kids tried to finish early. Invariably there were yelled excuses of toilet breaks or water breaks. Ms Kung was well aware of the genuine workers and the shirkers and she tried to make sure the kids understood that it was everybody’s job to help out. 

The rice was picked up in bundles, tied and then carried to the threshing machine. When the work moved far from the threshing machine, the rice was stacked in to waiting pick ups and when full, driven to the machine with kids sitting perched on top.  More workers were at the thresher machine throwing the rice stalks, with the grains still attached, up into the open mouth of the machine, that chugged and belched noisily. On one side of the machine, two people held a bag under the chute and rice grains appeared quickly filling the bag. On the other side rice stalks were propelled high into the air scattering everyone with straw as a huge mound developed.

The bagged rice had to be loaded on to the back of trucks and transported to Pi Si Tong. There, it is stored in the rice barn between Jan and Oscar House and St Patrick’s for the whole year. Recently the rice barn has been renovated and 4 large vents have been installed in the roof. This was needed to keep the barn cool. Rice generates heat lying in its bags, and can sprout or worse, weevils can start to infest the rice destroying it for eating. When rice is needed by the kitchens, bags are taken to the rice mill — on Jomp’s Farm where the pigs are located — and the rice is milled. The husk is removed and kept for animal feed and the newly milled rice ends up on the kids’ plates.


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