Sunday, November 22, 2009

Threshing Rice Outside Tahsang Village

On Friday morning we drove out to Tahsang Village for a couple of reasons. Duang's daughter and her husband were still busy with harvesting the rice from the family paddy so we had the chance to care for Peelawat. Secondly, some of Duang's 93 cousins were going to be threshing their harvested rice just outside of Tahsang Village so there would be photography opportunities for me to take advantage of.

On our extended visits to Tahsang Village, I bring my camera gear as well as my laptop computer. While Peelawat sleeps I use the computer to organize and edit photographs. Lately I have been waiting until around 2:00 P.M. to go out to the fields to commence photographing. I find the lower light of the late afternoon more conducive to photographing the workers and harvested rice. The late afternoon sun gives an overall golden hue to the scenery.

On Friday afternoon when we was going out to photograph the threshing operation nearby, Peelawat was awake so we decided to take him with us. It was a bright and hot afternoon so we attempted to shield him with a large hat. Peelawat would not cooperate and kept brushing the hat off of his head. Fortunately near where the work was going on there was a typical rest platform. Rest platforms are scattered about the fields and provide some protection for the workers from the sun. The platforms have either a thatched or corrugated (usually rusty) metal roof. Workers eat their meals underneath the roofs and sometimes take a nap in the middle of the day to deal with the heat of the day. This was a good place for Duang and Peelawat to sit while I went about the field. Peelawat watched me the entire time.

The rice in the paddy had been cut and bundled into sheaves previously. A very large mound of rice sheaves had been created in one corner of the complex of paddies. The mound had been built up upon a very large blue mat of very fine mesh plastic netting. The netting captures the rice kernels that fall from the stalks due to handling. The threshing machine is also set up to ensure that the loss of product is minimized. There were also many sheaves of rice stalks scatter throughout the paddies. The first task of the day was to gather up, transport the scattered sheaves, and add them to the large mound. The workers set about gathering the sheaves and piling them into a wagon pulled by an "iron buffalo". The workers were in fine spirits, singing to the Mahlam Lao music that blared across the paddies from a portable radio that they had placed on the ground - UNTIL - until one of the cousins backed up the rice laden wagon over the top of the radio. The last song abruptly terminated with a large scrunching sound.

After awhile the threshing machine arrived. It was the same machine and operator that I had photographed a year ago at another cousin's field.

The machine was set up on the blue netting and the crew began feeding the sheaves into the middle of the machine. Dust and straw was forcibly ejected from a chute at the other side of the threshing drum. Additional debris was ejected from a screw conveyor beneath the drum at the same side as the straw ejection chute. Rice kernels left the machine at the back end in a heavy stream.. The rice was collected into 50 kilogram bags. As the bags were quickly filled, they were carried away to a storage area where their tops were closed and tied off with thin strips of bamboo.

We spent about an hour and one-half there before returning Peelawat back to his home. The little guy had done well on his first photo shoot in the field.

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