Scarecrows, Rattling Cans and Howling Rice Guards

Rice Fields of BaliRice Fields of BaliRice Fields of BaliRice Fields of Bali

We have been staying in a house at the end of a narrow, short road, in the middle of Bali‘s rice fields.  It is almost as if the house was picked up by the same tornado that took Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz, and dropped us here.   We have been able to see up close just how significant rice is to the Balinese; it is not simply the food staple, eaten at every meal including breakfast, but also an integral part of their culture, the rice terraces also making Bali’s picturesque landscape what it is.  We watched their daily work routines from morning to night.  Not only seeing how it all works, but especially hearing it all too.

Rice Fields of Bali

Rice Fields of BaliAll of the rice fields are spotted with little huts.  This is where the “Rice Guards” stay – that is what I call them at least.  They are there to protect the rice from birds, who would otherwise eat it and cause damage to the fields.  So from dawn to dusk, they stare out at their bright green rows of rice, watching for birds, and have all sorts of techniques to chase them away.  It’s an extremely clever system, making use of old rusted cans, bamboo sticks, colored fabric, plastic, paper windmills, as well as actual scarecrows.  The bamboo holds up long rows of string with all of these materials attached.  The guard watches nonstop, and tugs aggressively on the string making all of the objects shake, the cans rattling violently, making noises that send the birds flying far away.

And off they go…

Rice Fields of Bali

Even the cows are on guard, their bells adding to the orchestra of the rice fields.

Rice Fields of BaliRice Fields of Bali

But above all, the most powerful tool is the watchman’s voice.  He shouts.  All… day… long.  Think sounds that you would hear in a haunted house or from a child jumping out from behind the wall to scare you or from a monster howling at its prey.  Again, all day long.  We looked forward to windy days, for the guard did not need to yell as much. The strong gusts of wind kept the windmills spinning and the cans rattling, a beautiful sight to see and much more peaceful sounds, thankfully.

Rice Fields of Bali

6 Responses to “Scarecrows, Rattling Cans and Howling Rice Guards”

  1. Lani says:

    It is a beautiful site to see….but no rest for the tired!!!! Different sounds then clacking of street cars and honking horns! Rice an important commodity in today’s economic environment. Even on vacation you received an education on how rice is grown….The sunset is amazing……just breathtaking….

  2. Steve says:

    Great photography. And really interesting information. But how on earth did you guys sleep? Sounds even worse than living in Manhattan. No cowbells, but everything else! 🙂

  3. Jenn says:

    Stunning photos!! What an incredible experience this must be for you two. So glad you’re able to share this all with us!

  4. Joy says:

    Wow, you don’t see many sunsets like that in this neck of the woods; that photo is just stunning. Godspeed to the Rice Guards, as rice is a staple in our house.

    hmmm..Rice Guard…the job description probably reads, “must be loud and annoying enough to render an area displeasing to both animals and humans”. I’m on my way!!!

  5. Steve says:

    Joy, let me know if you need any references? 🙂

  6. Catherine says:

    A lovely selection of photos here…well captured..

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