Rice planting begins

Enough rain has fallen for our farm staff to begin the laborious task of planting rice. The paddy fields need about a foot or so of water in them before the tractor can plough and the waiting staff can wade in. The work started last week and the farm staff were joined by the older children on Saturday. The first stop was at the 12 rai of land (just under 5 acres) where Fr. Shea lives. After mass, the children traveled to the fields on the big school bus and on the back of pick ups and waited for the land to be ploughed. They stepped into the muddy fields in rows and planted as they walked backwards towards the next field.

The weather was kind as there was enough cloud cover to keep the real heat away. That didn't stop the girls being covered from head to toe as no Thai girl wants darker skin. After a break for a delicious lunch of fried chicken, papaya salad and sticky rice, work recommenced and by about 4 o'clock, the entire patch of land was completed. Our weary German and US volunteers winced as they straightened their backs and everyone trooped home satisfied after a good day of hard work. Sunday is a rest day for all and the farm staff will keep working away throughout the week. The children will join them every Saturday until all of the rice has been planted.

Rice is, of course, the staple diet of so many people in Thailand, particularly in the poor north-east. A good harvest can provide Sarnelli House with enough rice for all of the children for almost a whole year. This depends greatly on the rains, however, and this time of year is always a worrying one for farmers as they wait anxiously for good rains to come. Like so much of the world, the climate is much less predictable here than in the past and this only adds to the the farmers' sleepless nights. The forecasts are not too promising either with some experts suggesting that the El Nino weather pattern will bring less the average rains for the region. A bad harvest would plunge thousands of families into desperate food poverty so we all keep our fingers crossed for plenty of rain. 

It is a good for our children to be involved in the rice planting process. The skills they learn will always stand to them in this agricultural region and they enjoy being out there with their friends, teasing and laughing. They giggle at the volunteers initial planting technique but look after them well, showing them how to do it properly. By helping like this, it also makes the children aware where their food comes from and gives them a better appreciation of what it takes for their plates to always be full. We will continue planting for the rest of this month and into the first week of August.


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