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Cold weather blues

It’s been a tough week on the farm.

Temperatures have plummeted this week and without any type of in-house heating it’s meant wearing extra layers and sitting round a nightly fire just outside the house. A fire that has definitely got us through a couple of nights, especially the last two.

This house was built with warm weather in mind, not the near freezing 12c we woke up to this morning. Definite North Face weather!!

All joking aside, temperature is relative. Our average daily reading here is between 30-35c, so a 20 degree drop in temperature does have quite an impact. Scarves, jackets and even socks have to be begged for, borrowed or stolen.

I even saw one guy riding a motorbike with a blanket double-wrapped around himself.

Dogs even wear t-shirts (Unless this is Barcelona’s replacement for Messi).

To be honest it’s a lovely time of year, although the house seems to be a gathering place for dust blown in by the stronger than usual winds.

The week started off with the final rice-harvesting efforts as the grain was separated from the stalk, and it’s almost as if this exercise heralded the onset of the cooler weather.

Although this threshing would traditionally have been done by hand we had a lot of rice to process. In the end we had 140 large sacks full of rice, which should keep us fed for a while. Of those 140, around two-thirds is sticky rice, with plain jasmine rice making up the rest (100 to 40).

If we’d stuck to tradition, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of seeing this dream machine in action.

Some traditions remain, and they are usually associated with food

At around 3pm on the day of the harvest a small crowd arrived. Laab Pet, a minced duck dry curry popular in the north-east of Thailand, had been prepared for everyone before they started work. Neices, nephews, their kids, our neighbours, and a few other locals joined for the afternoon feed, covered from head to toe to protect them from the sun, and the itchiness of the rice stalks.

I took a walk over around 3.20 to see what was happening and get a feel for the atmosphere. The duck was finished and almost everyone was sleeping. I figured a late evening may be ahead.

Rice gathered ready for the final job

The harvesting truck made its way through the fields an positioned itself next to the rice.

All the guys stood at the rear of the truck and picked and passed bundle after bundle of rice, and each bundle was passed through the thresher.

All the women stood at the side of the truck. Two held a sack next to where the harvested rice poured out, making sure they caught every grain. The rice doesn’t stop pouring so they had to prepare a second bag as the first one was filling. Teams of two women waited in line to lift and drag a full sack of rice away. Once full, the switch to the next bag was seamless.

It really was mesmerizing how smoothly everything worked

Finally, cut stalks were used to tie the bags, a job for yet another person.

My job was driving.

In the absolute pitch black of night I had to drive the pick-up across some fields, navigate some narrow verges between ponds and water pumps, then fill the truck full of rice sacks to take into the village.

This would have been much easier if the guiding instructions had been in English, or even Thai. But being told to straighten up, steer left, steer right, stop, and plenty other instructions, can get a wee bit confusing, esp when there is a chorus of about 7 or 8 people shouting different advice all at the same time. We managed though, without harm to truck, driver or anything else.

I’m told that post-work crocodile was being served, but I passed on that opportunity.

It was a real team effort and from my point of view it was good to take part. Here’s to more of the same!

The next project is fixing the water supply, but more on that next time.

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