Two fingers poke through the layers of rye and rice straw, slightly more decayed as you reach deeper through the years, and finally into a thick and firm muddy soil. Spiders run amok, as do beetles, ladybugs, tiny bright-green grasshoppers, caterpillars; all of them welcome. Then, into the soil goes your rice seedling. “Tuck it in, make sure it is comfortable in its home” says Mr. Choi.
Twenty or so of those and the call comes from ‘Zorba’ to move the string which keeps our planting lines straight. Relatively straight. This year’s lines of planted rice actually tended to look like kids drawings, perhaps because I was helping out more than in the past.
In Hongcheon, South Korea the sky felt a little more hazy, and the air a little thicker than before — but then again, the cool sea winds of Edinburgh were likely still on my skin, and the jet lag, being fresh from a flight here via Istanbul.
Suhee and I returned to Mr. Choi’s rice farm last weekend, as it seems we have at least once or twice a year since 2011. This is the place where our journey to make the Final Straw began. Instead of prioritizing filming however, we were mainly here to help with the rice planting.
This is a community event — a wide community, some hailing from several hours away — and many familiar faces showed up from previous years, as well as some new ones, musicians from a popular Korean Reggae band, a cafe manager and her daughter who will start college next year. It always amazes me how wide and far the interest, and effect, of this simple act of rice planting spreads.
Well, enough talk. I’ll leave you with some photographs from Suhee (I think she took portraits of just about everyone who was out on the field over the weekend!) and form me (I most planted rice) from the weekend.
The rye and a butterfly.
So much life in the fields.
Everyone is armed with a wooden stake to open holes in the sometimes tough ground.
Mr. Choi demonstrates planting technique to newcomer Gwi-Jung.
We’re on a ‘makgeoli’ (Korean Rice Wine) break under the trees on a neighboring farm.
You know how we work, it’s always nice to put the camera down for a while and engage.
My arms and legs only began to hurt on the second day, but it was that nice “I feel alive” kind of pain, mostly overshadowed by the joy of being out there planting precious food with care. Hope you enjoyed the words and photographs. More updates soon, as we plan our summer and fall out here and possibly in the USA…