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Ducks, rice and rural life

Raising ducks and cultivating rice have a tight relation in rural economy as they make beneficial to each other. Each time of the year is a different scene, but this interbeeing is always very present in the countryside and has not much changed through time. Travelers on our Rice and Rural Life Immersion, cycling tour to Thanh Toan village, always feel delighted to witness such lively scene. An old book by Gabrielle M.Vassal, published more than one hundred year ago tells us interesting about that.

Duck and Rice Field

In South Annam, it is not rare to meet a herd of ducks. The first time we saw any number driven together was one evening by moonlight. We were preparing for bed in a “tram” (post of relay, where the mail changes hands; postal officials and mandarin travelers can find shelter here) where we had to pass by the night, when we heard the soft patter of waddling feet on the dusty road, accompanied by such a quacking as might announce the assemblage of all the ducks of the universe. We went out, and there beheld perhaps a thousand or more ducks being driven in serried ranks by three or four natives. The latter held long canes, and while one directed the foremost duck, the others kept its followers in place. The outlines of the herd were even, its form symmetrical. Suddenly the leading duck was led off the road into an open space near us; the army followed suit, and to our disgust we found that they, too, were going to spend the night at the “tram”. However, they were too tired with their march to quack long, and when they fell asleep; we were allowed to do likewise.

We made inquiries as to how the Annamese came to possess so many duck at once, for it was impossible that they had been hatched out in the ordinary way. It appears that the eggs are incubated by being laid in flat round baskets and covered with warm paddy, which is frequently changed. It is a business which needs close attention and an accurate senses of temperature by touch, for no thermometer is used. Very few natives can manage it successfully, and the whole industry seems limited to certain villages.

When the ducks are old enough, they are distributed over the country. The must be driven very slowly and carefully and only in the early morning or late evening. During the hot part of the day, they are led into water, and it is curious to see a pond or a corner of a rice-field literally moving with ducks. They are brown-black (earth colour), so that one is struck by the bobbing and flapping before being able to distinguish what they really are…”
(extrait from “On & Off duty in Annam, Gabrielle M.Vassal, London, William Heineman, 1910)

Wish to know more about this fruitful relationship or just want to touch the rustic rural life? Join us.

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