I was stuck at home for a few days while Mai tended to her Mother who was suffering from a cold we all had. To make up for it, Mai declared that Wednesday this week was Wan Ken, (Ken’s Day) where we go anywhere I want to go and do whatever I wanted. That was easy; let’s go take pictures and then meet my friend Simon for pizza lunch in Bueng Kan! What a great day to get out. It was sunny and warm and when we got out of town we found everybody was out planting rice. I learned a lot about growing rice that day, though I think I’ve only scratched the surface.
To start with, there appear to be two basic ways of getting the stuff in the ground. The simple, cheaper and less labour intensive way is to spread the seeds onto the field you want to plant. The timing is rather critical here. It has to happen before you get too far into the rainy season, which usually begins in April and runs to September. You have to spread the seeds on wet, muddy ground so that they will germinate quickly and send roots into the soil. You need some rain to accomplish this, but not too much. If it rains a lot before the seeds have germinated then the rain will simply wash them away and you’re left with nothing. Too little rain and they won’t germinate. The plan is that the rice grows enough before the heavy rains start. The fields flood and you have a healthy crop.
The second method is to start the rice growing earlier in a separate field, then pick the seedlings and bundle them up for transplanting into a new field. Then begins the backbreaking work of hand planting small bundles of seedling into neat rows. The planting can also be done by machine, but nobody here has the money to buy one or contract someone to come in and do it for them. It’s 100 percent manual labour. This is the method you see them using in National Geographic. My photos show this method of planting as well (not that I’m trying to make any comparisons between my photos and what you see in Nat Geo!)
We’ve made several trips back to Bueng Kan along the same road, which has given me the opportunity to shoot a few things that weren’t finished or there before and to shoot a few things from different angles. The result is a handful of new photos that belong with the ones you have already seen. Hope you enjoy!