On the day we had all met last, 14th November 2017, for the children's day programme, we decided that the first week of December 2017 would be the ideal time to harvest.
Madhu groaned hearing the time line- She was going to miss it! Her wedding was in that week! Sammitha was happy it was before 15th because she would be able to make it ! We were going to miss our Madhu on D-Day but were happy that Sammitha's enthusiasm was around. Meanwhile, Laksh said, in his characteristic style, "100 percent! Ragi would be ready by then!" He felt some of our crop was slightly infected but still we would get to harvest the rest.
All right then! what all would we need? Sickles, a gunny bag, space to dry, space to store, bedsheets and we could do the whole process in the school in front of all classes, and explain to them the stages of harvesting.
I had no understanding of this- having never seen this process before but making a mental note to check the internet and ask my farmer relatives who might transfer some paddy harvesting knowledge. But I soon heard Vasantha, Madhu, Ashwini, Reena. Sreeja, discussing nostalgically about similar processes in their grandparents' place .
Harvest is a time for joy but also for planning- harvesting, drying, grain processing and storage itself is a lot of work . Thank god, for Roshni's management skills.
Anyways, as usual with every activity, much excitement was around...Jalaja and Roshni decided to ask our neighbouring farmer, Shyamanna, to help us and come over for the community lunch. Jalaja also came up with the idea of asking Santosh , who is trained with Ninasam theatre to come sing some traditional harvest songs for us. With a bit of understanding (and even misunderstanding around honorarium amount and travel funding) finally the 6th December programme was laid out.
Very nice, very nice. Until Cyclone Okchi struck....
Roshni, Banu, Viji and Shubha had been to the farm on Thursday ( 30th Nov) just before that. (The first time for them except Roshni,of course). They sent the pictures which in excitement I forwarded to Laksh. I get a serious call from him within 10 minutes. "Pallavi! The birds seemed to be eating all your grains, Harvest quick! Otherwise you will be left with nothing"
Birds? that's what we should worry about now? Not the rain? Apparently we had put up our scarecrows too early and now with the rain and wind they were pretty useless. Laksh laughed and said , "it is not the scarecrows alone, farmers guard their crop in the evenings and early mornings by whooshing away the birds with a cloth. Since you are never around, the birds are having a field day!" Ah!<facepalm>
A mad scramble to harvest the very next day, (Friday, 1st December) ensued with whatsapp messages and calls flowing from Roshni to others and back. Neither I nor Laksh could join. But I sent in old bedheets and an old cotton curtain- my only contribution! Some more were collected.
Anyways, birds soon became our second worry. The cyclonic rain had troubled us the whole night. We requested Asha who knew the how of harvesting better than any of us to come along. In the morning however, Asha couldn't make it. The wet, gloomy Friday came with with many confusing suggestions. "If we harvest now, the wet crop will surely get spoilt! If we don't , the stalks which are already bent because of the wind and the rain will get spoilt anyways." Frantic phone calls to Laksh and to Loknath (Agastya's Botanist) didn't solve our crisis because of conflicting advice. From Birds to Rain . the nature of woes changed quickly.
The school was set to celebrate Kannada Rajyotsava and Kids had dressed up. Jalaja wasn't happy as she had put in quite an effort in organising celebrations. Going to farm would eat into time and energy. She was right. Taking kids however was not an option at anytime as the ground was muddy and slippery.
Finally, it was decided that only a few adults will do an 'emergency harvest' of only those stalks that had fallen down. Ashwini, Sammitha, Vasantha and Roshni made a quick dash to the farm. They cut the fallen ones and literally tied up some of other fallen down stalks together like bandages! They then brought back the cut stalks, dried them on newspapers under a full speed fan in the AV room. The Alpha class group (approx. class 5) spent one of their classes helping the teachers. Roshni made them sit around and asked how they were feeling looking at all this- some said happy because of their own produce, some said sad because it was all over. Some exclaimed, "this is how Ragi looks when mature?! " It was a good moment of reflection of their six month journey. When the school day ended, Roshni and Sammitha transferred the stalks to Vasantha's house nearby after some interesting discussion on the possible after school visitors- rodents/ pests/ squirrels who will be delighted to have the crop to themselves! Done for now. All in one day. Pheeeeeew.
At the end of the day, Roshni sent me pictures of some embroidery Ashwini was trying her hand at- the motifs inspired by the Ragi project and the upcoming harvest! Absolutely wonderful!