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November 10, 2013
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My rice harvest experience

Rice harvest Thailand

Rice harvest in north Thailand, Mae Hong Son

xDSCF1969_edit2_Fotor_4704 This year I was lucky enough to be able to escape the realms of urban life in Chiang Mai and head into the hills of Mae Hong Son, in time to catch the rice harvest at ‘Ban la oob’ village where our hilltribe homestay is located.  Eight of us (mum,dad, uncle, Om, Anne, Dom & Emel) headed off on two motorbikes to the family’s rice plot a few kilometres away. We drove to the end of the village, until the road turned into a dirt track and we couldn’t go any further. Parking the bikes there, we rambled down the slope of the mountain, through plots of red beans, peanuts, corn and other crops. This is what I imagine a ‘garden of eden’ for hilltribes in Mae Hong Son would look like – you can almost feel the vegetation growing around you in every direction! After around 2km through the fields we arrived at the family’s plot, greeted with a fabulous view (pic above). ‘Nui’ the father of the homestay family was already hard at work, threshing rice. From what I gathered the family have to complete six main steps to harvest rice; Step 1) Cutting the rice plant Step 2) Stacking the rice stalks into piles Step 3) Threshing to get the grains out Step 4) Drying the grains Step 5) Cleaning (winnowing) the rice to remove the chaff Step 6) Packing up and storing the rice

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I had arrived in time for step three of the process. I tried my hand at threshing- and it’s hard work. Gathering a bundle of rice stalks raising it above your head and slamming it down on the ground as hard as you can , repeatedly – is exhausting! I only managed measly sized bundles in comparison to ‘Nui’ who managed to thresh bundles three times the girth of him. After this, they beat the rice with wooden type sickles in a rotating movement, to pound out any remaining grains that haven’t fallen out already. After threshing, what’s left are only the grains of rice and chaff.  The last step is ‘cleaning’ the rice to get rid of the chaff and any debris. This was done by one person pouring the rice grains from head height, and as the rice falls through mid-air, two people wave bamboo fans so that any bits of debris fly away

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It was intriguing to watch the process flow seamlessly between seven family members. Whenever somebody was tired, they would rest or change task, and somebody else would step in. Even 10 year old Dom and 5 year old E-mel were helping! It was amazing to watch the rice harvest in action, and experience firsthand just how physically demanding this is. I felt lucky to be there on the last day of harvest, and when all was done, we packed up the rice in sacks and counted the rewards of their hard work – 113 plastic sacks equaling about 3.4 tonnes of rice! According to the family, this year was a very good harvest (previous years have yielded less than 100 sacks). This will last the family for 1 year.  As if the day’s work was not tiring enough, the 2km walk back home through the mountains loomed ahead. However today it didn’t seem to matter, as dusk set in, we chatted and laughed as the day’s work and the year’s harvest was done! If you’re lucky enough to visit during rice harvest season, you can also join in on the action 🙂 Check out this Rice harvest video

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