Nate passing a tray of rice to the lady on the tractor featured

Planting Rice in South Korea

Today I had the opportunity to help out my Korean mother-in-law plant her rice field in Goseong. My wife and I arrived just after 5am.

It was Friday, May 28th, 2021. The moon was full and shone so brightly, even ten minutes before a 5:19am sunrise, as we made the ten minute drive from our house in the town center to my mother-in-law’s village where her rice field is.

I was excited to become more familiar with my Korean family’s way of life. I had spent time living in the same house as my Korean family, but hadn’t really experienced assisting hands-on in the areas of farming. (I did get to do kimjang, making kimchi, a few times!) I was also excited because I enjoy helping others do things in general, especially outside.

It was quite cold this early, and the mist was fairly thick, covering up some mountains. I needed a pair of t-shirts and two more sweaters to start out.

After parking at the house to change and grab some gloves, we walked over to the field across the street. My mother-in-law had already been out and we could see the rice-planting tractor had just pulled into the field.

My Korean mother-in-law walking along her rice field at dawn with misty mountains in the background

While the moon was still shining over the misty mountains, my wife began passing the trays of dew-soaked rice to the lady running the tractor, so I could watch and do likewise.

My wife Alice loading trays of rice onto the rice tractor on the edge of the muddy rice field while the moon is still shining above misty mountains in Goseong

The rice is pulled out of the trays with two hands and remains as a single clump, held together by the roots. They are loaded at an angle onto the back of the tractor.

The backside of the rice tractor holding rice at an angle

The sides of the tractor have slots for holding the rice trays. As the rice that was loaded onto the back gets planted, the tractor driver stops occasionally to load more from the holders.

Rice trays held on the sides of the tractor while the driver sits on a seat in between them

The tractor then heads down the field and back. We washed the plastic trays in the running water along the edge of the field while we waited for the tractor to make its way back to our side, at which time we load it back up.

The rice tractor starting down the first row along the edge of a muddy field under a fading moon at dawn

It took a good hour and a half before the field was finished.

My back took a bit of a beating with all the bending to pick up the rice trays. It’s amazing how hard people work out here, especially in their older age. My wife explained about how Koreans often have a tough, diligent character, and about how this kind of labor was, and still is, a large part of Korean life.

The rice field more than halfway planted with long shadows cast along the water between the rows of rice with the tractor in the middle of the field

And that’s basically it!

For the sake of family memories, I can also share some family pictures and videos from yesterday, the evening before planting.

We dropped off Noah, who is now one year and three months old, with my mother-in-law while my wife and I attended to a matter for work. My mother-in-law was still in the field, so we set Noah up in the stroller with a banana to watch.

Baby Noah in the stroller with a banana watching my mother-in-law in the field and my wife standing next to the stroller
Baby Noah in the stroller with a banana watching my mother-in-law in the field and my wife standing next to the stroller

After returning less than an hour later, we found them both in the same spot, with my mother-in-law spoon-feeding Noah some pumpkin and rice porridge. He had been enjoying himself so well the whole time.

My mother-in-law spoon feeding Noah on the side of the rice field while in the stroller on a warm evening

He did want to walk around eventually.

Noah standing and smiling near the edge of the rice field with the sun shining on his face

We helped my mother-in-law pick up all the rice trays from the field and set them up along the edge. We stepped into the muddy field with socks that could get dirty.

After moving them, we kicked the lip of mud back into the flat part of the field.

Nate kicking a lip of mud back into the field with the trays of rice set up along the edge

And that is how we helped prepare and plant the rice field here in Goseong.

The sun setting over the mountains and rice fields as a tractor drives along a narrow road between the fields

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