Shortly after the first Mango Showers in Chittrai (April), we hired a tractor to disc (chetti) our fields which had become a tangle of weeds affixed to sun-baked clay.
The idea is to turn the weeds under and let the ones that survive bake to death under the Agni Natchattaram, the star of fire.
After the first showers of the Southwest Monsoon in Aani (June), we ploughed again, this time with the five-row plough ( anji kalappai) to rake the weeds under another time and break up the big clods of clay from the first plowing. This also opens the earth to receive the rain.
Traditionally our farmers sow the seed soon after Aadi pathinettu (around August first) when the planting rains fall, but with climate change, this date keeps getting pushed later into the growing season.
This year our planting rain came on August 31 and soaked the soil about 12 inches deep. Going on faith that the showers will continue into the Northeast Monsoon and bring us safely through Karthikai and Margali ( November and December), the farmers have been sowing.
And plowing for the third time with the hook plough (kokki) to gently turn the seeds under.
For many farmers, the entire year’s income depends on the next few months.
Suriuli threw our pearls of millet into the soil on September 2 in the traditional way: Step, Throw, Step, Throw, Step, Throw– ricocheting the seed off the half marakal measure to spray them evenly across the soil.
Now is the time to wait– and pray for gentle rain.