Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beauty in Autumnal Fields

A grandfather diligently working in his fields. The rice field in the background has probably been machine-cut but the sheaves have been hand-tied in the traditional manner rather than bundled in square or large round bales. Retirement age in the rural vicinities is often when a person can no longer work as retirement pensions are a relatively new thing - only since the 1990s. A tour guide I met told me about her grandmother's village where the youngest villager is 73-years-old and they are all still working, most planting gardens and caring for orchards for their children and grandchildren to give them well-being, usually organic, country-raised produce.

Fields are neat and orderly, well-planned and well laid out. Of course with the introduction of modern machinery, the edges of fields are now straighter and the soil is tilled deeper and made softer, but these fields have been planted and harvested on for centuries, and the fields are the farmers' pride.

The hanok in the background is for a higher positioned person than others as can be deciphered by the number of buildings enclosed within the walled home. Unfortunately, the hanok in many parts of the country are falling into disrepair - people find them less comfortable or fashionable to live in than the apartment buildings and villas with their more convenient gas-heated ondol-floors and other modern conveniences, not that the hanok can't be carefully remodeled inside as many have. This particular hanok is nicely positioned facing the fortuitous south as well as being at the base of a hill so that the earth's energy can flow into it but not too low so as to be poorly irrigated. Long ago choosing sites for hanok was done scientifically based on the wind, the soil, the terrain around and many other considerations. Too bad such a beautiful home is falling into disrepair.

Korea is considered to be the second most mountainous country in the world with about 75% of the country considered to be mountain-sloped (Nepal is the most mountainous and with decidedly bigger mountains too). Therefore, when seeing large flat areas, it is a bit of a surprise. This picture was taken in the very hilly province of Gyeoungsangnam-do.

Sheaves of rice straw bundled and tied are becoming a rarer and rarer sight. More and more farmers are managing to get the big baling machines into postage-stamp sized rice paddies (only wet during the early planting season and rainy season) to rake and bale the rice straw for convenience winter storage. In the pictures below the sheaves are ready for gathering on a warm Indian summer autumnal day.

The patchwork colors were vibrant and clear but I was unable to capture their beauty. Nor was I able to capture the freshly-cut grass and straw scents that permeated the warming morning air.

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