I helped my friend and her family plant about 4 acres of watermelon in their village. We had 10 people from the village helping, it took all day.
First, the handsome uncle plowed the fields. We followed behind him with rakes and leveled the ground, breaking up clods of dirt.
After we leveled the ground, my friend's father and another uncle plowed again, making rows. These rows were flattened with rakes so we could lay plastic.
The plastic laying was pretty efficient. The plastic is thinner than a CVS bag, and I'm pretty sure it'll be torn to smithereens pretty soon.
The kid was afraid of me, but he did a good job of helping here and there. (that's the Yangtse River in the back...)
Taking a break around 11 a.m.
I took this picture, and shook my head at the guy to indicate it came out bad - butt in the foreground. He's skinny enough that the picture doesn't look that bad. He was the only man other than the father who would talk to me. I call him "the pot-smoking cousin," because the first time I met him he came by to visit the house I was at late in the evening. He and some other guy sat by the fire making jokes and laughing like they were high. He has no access to pot, but he is a cousin.
Does this look familiar? I got to punch holes for a while. But I slowed down, and they all laughed at me saying I was tired - which I was, but who cares - so the handsome uncle took over.
They planted 6 untreated seeds per hole, then covered the holes with 6 to 8 inches of dirt.
I kept telling them they didn't need to be planted so deep, but they just laughed at me. I kept muttering to myself, "This country is backward because you don't listen. I come from the most developed nation in the world, I have a degree in science, and I grew up on a farm. You keep digging in the dirt like monkeys, see how fast your country develops." (I was having a moment of frustration) In the end, I got them to test 2 small rows just covering the seeds an inch or two. My friend's father said that if my way works, they'll do it my way next year. One step at a time.
It felt good to do some work. And what a difference it made in my ability to build relationship with these people. Most of them didn't even speak Chinese, but they were much warmer to me after I spent the day working with them....