For me at least, today was a crash course in how rice gets from the field to bag you buy it in, only in reverse order. This morning we spent 3 hours bagging rice, which I have to say is just a sucky job. It’s loud, for one thing, and the we were bagging 30 kilograms (60-ish pounds) at a time, so it was quite heavy. It was surprisingly tricky work at first. The the bags are thick, 2 or 3 ply paper, and there’s a particular way of folding and sealing them up. There’s also a particular knot that needs to be tied with the thick plastic fasteners. All of this generally ranks on one’s hands and fingers; hell of a forearm workout though.
The afternoon was much easier work. In fact, I didn’t really do anything. After spending the morning inside the barn bagging, I was very happy to be out in the sun. Chieko’s dad was running the machine that harvests the rice. It’s awesomely named the ‘Athlete Pro,’ because nothing symbolizes athleticism like perching yourself on top of a 5,000 pound, tank-like machine that actually enables you to do less work, and cruising around in circles at several miles per hour. The more traditional method, which some people still practice, is cutting the rice by hand and hanging it up to dry. That conjures up a much more traditional image of Japan, but not too many people are doing it around here now. There are a lot of Athlete Pros cruising around.
It’s a pretty remarkable machine though. It cuts the rice then gobbles up the stalks, separates the grains and expels the remains out the back. When the tank fills up, you pull up to the truck, swing the boom around (mechanically, of course), and blow all the grains into a hopper.
This is the point where I am crucial to the whole operation. I drive back to the barn, hook up a hose and plug 50 different plugs in, flip a few switches, then go back to sitting on my ass or taking more pictures for the next 10 minutes while the hoppers empties into the grain tower. Repeat. Tomorrow I will be certain to grab my iPod before we head out again, unless Chieko’s dad intends to give me something else to do in between trips.
I might be a little paranoid, but I was uncomfortable with Chieko helping us with the bagging this morning. She wasn’t doing anything overly physical, just hooking up bags to the rice dispenser after I grabbed the full one. But I was worried about all the noise. I know babies can hear things outside of the womb, like giant motors running several feet away for 3 hours straight. Chieko wasn’t overly concerned about it so I followed her lead, but I think I’ll encourage her to let me handle that job tomorrow (if it’s OK with her dad!).
Time for food and a libation, and then a course or two in the massage chair.