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Our 2012 crop of hayayuki short-grain japonica rice is available now for general sale. Please contact the farm for more information. We offer 1.5 lb cloth bags, and larger bags of five, ten, twenty, and fifty pounds are also available.
This is an exciting week on the farm. Transplants in the Eastern Paddy and in the nursery have started to put on panicles of grain!
The developing rice starts hollow and fills out with time.
More rice, more growth, and more paddies. The pond has been dug to full size as well.
Some updated photos of the planted rice, showing new growth.
Here are some photos of field prep and conditions, pond level, rice seedlings and seedling growth for late May.
The rice paddies, measuring about 5.5 acres in total, are now leveled within a few inches. It took many steps to get our uneven, mostly soggy pasture to this point, starting with bulldozer and excavator work last August. In the last few weeks we’ve been following up where the construction equipment left off with a device called a land plane.
A land plane is sort of like a road grader that gets towed behind a tractor. A neighbor and supporter was kind enough to loan it to us as well as the heavy tractor to pull it. By setting up a rotary laser and fitting the laser receiver onto the land plane, we were able to fine tune the leveling process with laser guidance, so to speak. The finished result was smooth enough to be an airport runway. This is important so that when the fields are flooded, the water is of consistent depth throughout the field, with no deep spots or islands.
But after the leveling some areas were so smooth and hard that plowing was definitely called for. If I had the wherewithal I would be using my horses for this step. But as heavy as this soil was I know my horses wouldn’t have been up for it. I don’t own enough drafts to pull a single plow bottom through this kind of clay. So instead we have been plowing with our kubota tractor, and are almost done. Finally the surface needs to be harrowed and leveled one last time before we flood it. I hope to accomplish these steps before setting up the seedling nursery Sunday or Monday.
Coming into April we are preparing for a busy season. The first step is to prepare a seedling nursery, to be seeded down by April 20th. The seedlings grow to about 6″ long in special flats before being mechanically (I hope) transplanted to the field starting around the third week of May.
Given that we live in a northern zone (5a, by the latest reassessment) we need to frost protect our seedlings from day one. Rice growers in cold areas have two main tools for this. The first is water, and the second cover.
The seedling nursery area is relatively small compared to the overall paddy area, maybe around half a percent. So you can raise seedlings in a greenhouse or even a hoophouse or low tunnel. In our case we are using a common Hokkaido method of creating a sort of mini-paddy within the larger paddy. We can then water or even flood the seedlings with the irrigation water already available in the project area.
Rice doesn’t actually need flooded conditions to grow, but it does have high water requirements and doesn’t mind flooding so long as the plants can get enough oxygen. The flooding is often as much for the growers’ convenience as for the plants’ needs. In the nursery period, the young plants can be almost completely immersed in water if very cold conditions threaten. The water provides a thermal buffer, both above and below the surface.
The second, and more modern tool to combat cold is cover. You can use a real greenhouse, or a lower-tech hoophouse or low tunnel. Last year we used a high tunnel, but this year we plan to use a 4′ wide low tunnel, for a total of 300 feet of length. We have a regular high-light-transmission cover to go on it most of the time with a second, heavier, “DEFCON 3” cover to put on if really cold temperatures enter the forecast between April 20th and May 20th.
If there is one thing we’ve learned it’s that the weather is unpredictable. So we take what steps we can, and roll the dice. More soon.