Thursday, May 17, 2007
Rice plants appear
On May 5th, my farming buddy and I went out to visit Mr. Kobayashi's, our farming teacher, for some tips on planting our rice crop. Until that day, I wasn't really sure that we would actually get anything in the ground. After a few pointers and getting Mr. K's seeds in the ground, we set off for our plot with our seeds to plant what we could with what was left of the day. As of this writing, sprouts have appeared on our plot.
It had been very difficult to find seed. We had been searching for weeks, and had come up empty handed. JA, the farming cooperative told us that they just don't sell rikutou seeds, ever. I found some on the Internet, but wasn't sure how much to buy to cover our plot. My feeling about why this is true is that there is enough suitou being planted to meet demand, and that most people do not want to eat rikutou, which doesn't taste as good as suitou. As it turned out, Mr Kobayashi had some seed left over after planting his fields, and he gave it to us. We had our seeds.
Planting rice by hand is hard work. I had an experience with planting some paddy rice the week before we planted our field rice (I had helped another person plant their organic rice paddy), and both are difficult, but I found that not having to slip and slide though knee-deep mud and fend off leeches while slamming seedlings in the sludge was tremendous. Mr. Kobayashi's plot was tilled in a rough kid of way, with most of the other plants still intact, but leaving a little loose soil to plant seeds in. The planter takes five to ten germinated rice seeds in the fingers, sticks them in the soil, and then covers them with a 3 centimeter layer of soil, then moves on to the next spot. I found that planting two or three rows at once is more efficient, because there is less leg movement and one bend takes the place of three, as does grabbing seeds from the container. The three of us planted an ittan area in about three hours.
We planted Mr. Kobayashi's plot in two varieties of rice. One was suitou seeds and the other was rikutou seeds. The suitou seeds are available anywhere, and the rikutou seeds were from his harvest last year. It hadn't even occurred to me that one could plant suitou in a field instead of a paddy. Mr. Kobayashi explained that it was possible, and the resulting rice may be a hybrid variety, although in an article that I read later on rice flowering, the varieties bloom at different times of the day, so that cross pollination may be unlikely.
After lunch we returned to our plot and planted ours in the same mixture of suitou and rikutou. Our field was much more completely cultivated, with very few weeds remaining. It was easier to plant, but I am doubtful about how useful it is to plow and weed the plot so completely. In fact, I will experiment at my home with a variety of rice growing environments, unplowed.
On May 15, we planted more seed, a mochi variety of rikutou. The seeds came from a helpful seed store in Kameyama. They ordered the seed for us and had it in our hands within a week. Thus we have three varieties of rice in our field.
Today the suitou rice has sprouted. Yesterday there was a pretty heavy rain, and I was concerned that our seed may have been exposed, but it was unscathed. The pictures included are those of our whole plot, and the suitou sprouts this morning.