Throwing Pearls into the Earth

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.

Village India ploughing

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.

Village India ploughing5

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.

Village India planting 1

And plowing for the third time with the hook plough (kokki) to gently turn the seeds under.

Village India planting 9

For many farmers, the entire year’s income depends on the next few months.

Village India planting 6

Village India planting 2Village India planting 3

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.

Village India planting 4

Now is the time to wait– and pray for gentle rain.

Village India planting 8

About the Author

Bruce DeJong

I am an Indian of American parentage who practices medicine in rural Tamil Nadu. After years of getting to know the local people, they have begun to open up their lives, allowing me to paint a portrait of their village one story at a time.

  • Cynthia, aka Gaia gardener

    What is the millet used for? Has there been any push towards no-till farming? (As practiced here, it’s a devils’ choice: gasoline to plow or chemicals to control the weeds.)

    Your season does not really correspond with any planting season here – we’re in harvest season, at this point. Milo and corn and soybeans. The wheat was harvested in late June/early July and will be planted again sometime this fall.

    • Bruce DeJong

      Millet is used as a staple cereal for people (flour cooked into a thick porridge) and flour is one of the main feed items for cows, mixed with water, salt, and pressed peanuts. Our seasons reflect the rains, so we plant when the rains start and harvest end of Dec, early January. Nobody does no till farming because the soil is so hard, it needs to be turned upside down and aerated.

  • Marlo Henneman

    Thank you for bringing us this little vignette of life in India.

  • bryan plymale

    prayers for gentle rains, germination dreams, pearls of wisdom, seeds of change and bountiful blessings.

    • Bruce DeJong

      Thanks, Brian, sciplyguy.

  • Charlie Kehler

    Beautiful combination of photos in series with your explanation. I especially liked the shot of the man casting the see in rhythmic gestures. Would make a beautiful video clip. This post shows your growing love of the land near you. May your plowing and sowing end in a bountiful Pongal.