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Meet my friend AJ ... he is seven years old.  We spent two days having fun riding motor bikes, together with his dad, near where he lives in southern China.
One day AJ took me to a rice field.

I don't think many bears have had the chance to see how rice grows.
I didn't know how much work went into getting those little bits of rice into my bowl but AJ showed me how they do it.

A few things to know about growing rice.  Rice likes water and needs a lot it.  It survives in very damp soil or in fields of shallow water called 'paddies' ... but ... not too much water; the plant must have at least 1/3 of it's height above water to breath.  Rice also needs warm temperatures and bright sun for good crops.

To grow rice the farmer first ploughs his fields.  Some farmers own their own animal to pull the plough, other farmers share an animal.  The plough digs into the dirt and turns it over making a softer bed to plant the rice. When we saw the farmer leave the bull we asked ... won't it run away. 

"No," the farmer told us.  "I just put a pile of straw in front of him and he thinks it could be as strong as a brick wall so he doesn't try."  The bull has never gone to school so he is not very smart. 

Rice seeds are first planted in shallow boxes of dirt placed in water. 

The seeds send out roots and leaves.  The baby plants are now called 'seedlings'. When the seedlings are about two weeks old the farmers plant them in the ploughed and flooded fields.  This is called 'transplanting'. 

It is very hard work bending over hour after hour to make holes in the mud by hand and then carefully put 6 seedlings into each hole.   

The rice grows taller and taller.  Farmers work each day weeding between the rice plants.
Most weeds do not like too much water so the flooded paddies help to keep them away. 
The farmers pull and rake off any weeds which grow in water.  They put these weeds into baskets and feed them to their pigs and chickens. 
Nothing is wasted.
When the rice begins to ripen and turn yellow, farmers have to protect the crop from being eaten by rats and birds.
It takes about 120 days between the seedling being planted and the crop being ripe.  IF the weather has been warm and sunny ... if the weeding was done ... if the pests were kept away ... and the rice is yellow it is ...
Using a curved knife, called a 'scythe', which has tiny saw-like teeth and a long wooden handle, the farmer cuts his rice crop by hand.
Bundles of rice plants are gathered.

At this time the grains of rice are not dry.  If you squeeze one you can see droplets of liquid that look like milk.

Now the rice grains have to be separated from the plant and there are different ways this can be done.   
One Way:  A farmer gathers the rice stocks and ties them together so they can hang over a pole.  The rice stocks are then hung outside in the sunshine. 
Once the rice is dry (no longer 'milky') the farmer knocks the rice grains off their stems by beating them gently with a stick.

Another Way:  Some farmers have a threshing machine.  Inside there is a wooden roll, shaped like a toilet paper roll.  On it are nails bent to look like '7's.  The farmer pumps his foot up and down and it turns a wooden roll and the nails hit the rice grains and knocks them off the stems. 
The rice grains are put into big bags while the stems are tied together and left in the fields to dry and then are used as animal feed.

The rice cannot stay in the bag because it is not dry and will rot. 
As soon as the farmers get home they will spread it out on a hard surface or sheet to dry in the sun.  They use a rake to move the rice grains so each one has a turn drying in the sun.

They must be very careful and keep it dry.  If it looks like it is going to rain, they must sweep it all up and then put it out again once the threat of rain is past.   Every night they must sweep it up to protect in from the damp night air and then put it out again in the morning.  It is a lot of work.

Brown rice is when the thin brown skin is left on each grain of rice.  White rice is when the brown skin is taken off.  

Rice started as a wild plant in the Asian tropics; now there are over 8,000 kinds of rice being grown.  Some will grow better in dryer areas, others grow better in water; some have different tastes and some smell different than others. 

Do you have a favourite kind of rice?

What do you eat with your rice ... or do you like it plain?

Do you eat your rice with a fork, spoon or chopsticks?

In some parts of the world it is rude to leave even one grain of rice in your bowl.  When you think of how much work it takes to grow each grain of rice it is easier to understand why it should not be wasted.

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