No one who can rise before dawn three-hundred-sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.
-Chinese ProverbJust finished the book Outliers which I enjoyed. Here's a little excerpt:
"Rice patties are "built," not "opened up" the way a wheat field is. You don't just clear the trees, underbrush, and stones and then plow. Rice fields are carved into mountainsides in an elaborate series of terraces, or painstakingly constructed from marshland and river plains. A rice paddy has to be irrigated, so a complex system of dikes has to be built around the field. Channels must be dug from the nearest water source, and gates built into the dikes so the water flow can be adjusted precisely to cover the right amount of the plant.
The paddy itself, meanwhile, has to have a hardy clay floor; otherwise the water will simply seep into the ground. But of course, rice seedlings can't be planted in hard clay, so on top of the clay, there has to be a thick, soft layer of mud. And the claypen, as it's called, has to be carefully engineered so that it will drain properly and also keep the plants submerged at the optimum level. Rice has to be fertilized repeatedly, which is another art. Traditionally, farmers used "night soil" (human manure) and a combination of burned compost, river mud, bean cake, and hemp - and they had to be careful, because too much fertilizer, or the right amount applied at the wrong time, could be as bad as too little.
When the time came to plant, a Chinese farmer would have hundreds of different varieties of rice from which to choose, each one of which offered a slightly different trade-off, say, between yield and how quickly it grew, or how well it did in times of drought, or how it fared in poor soil. A farmer might plant a dozen or more different varieties at one time, adjusting the mix from season to season in order to manage the risk of a crop failure.
He or she (or more accurately, the whole family, since rice agriculture was a family affair) would plant the seed in a specifically prepared seedbed. After a few weeks, the seedlings would be transplanted into the field, in carefully spaced rows six inches apart, and then painstakingly nurtured.
Weeding was done by hand, diligently and unceasingly, because the seedlings could easily be choked by other plant life. Sometimes each rice shoot would be individually groomed with a bamboo comb to clear away insects. All the while, farmers had to check and recheck water levels and make sure the water didn't get too hot in the summer sun. And when the rice ripened, farmers gathered all of their friends and relatives and, in one coordinated burst, harvested it as quickly as possible so they could get a second crop in before the winter dry season began."
So too, a trader must be nurtured and skills be given time to develop. Be the rice farmer.