Sunday, 13 June 2010

Wet Bamboo Silk Rearing Trays in the River.

To prevent sickness with the silkworms it is important to disinfect all the equipment after each group of silkworms.

I used to wear a full rubber rain gear suit and a proper gas mask and spray the silk rearing room as well as all everything imaginable that would come in contact with the silkworms with a strong formaldehyde solution. I used to dread it. Sweltering hot and humid Japanese summers in a rubber suit. I once made a mistake and went in the room a day early after closing it down or a few days to open the windows to air it out. I was in the room less than a minute but I managed to burn my lungs and I was in the hospital a few hours later. Barely able to speak, it was a challenge to tell the doctor that I had breathed in formaldehyde fumes while disinfecting for my silkworms in broken semi-delirious Japanese.

A lot can go wrong. This is my 14th year in the silk business and I still have to manage one thousand minute details to make the whole process go smoothly. Is it worth it? Hmmmmm.

I am not rearing the numbers I used to so I just spray and wipe with a disinfectant. I alternate rearing areas between my house and the studio just down the driveway so I don't have to worry about disinfecting too much, giving each spot a year to rest.

All the bamboo trays and shelf frames get hauled down to the river and I spend day scrubbing and just enjoying the water. The waterfall washing area is only a hundred or so meters directly down from my doorstep, but this is the only time of the year that I really get in there and enjoy it. I can hear the waterfalls year round twenty four hours a day. Nice. Far enough away not to feel any dampness in the house but I can still enjoy the sound.

If you keep the silkworms environment spotlessly clean and well aired there isn't that much of a problem with sickness. The weather can be humid and sticky this time of year. A few rain showers and wet mulberry leaf can turn the whole process into nightmare pretty quick when raising over 10 000 silkworms. A lot can go wrong besides the weather. Too much nitrogen fertilizer on the mulberry field and the worms get weak. Low temperatures at the wrong time and the worms kind of implode on the silk liquid that can't flow properly. Too much formaldehyde on the cocoon spinning equipment and the worms stop spinning and try to escape but they are too weak to go far. What a mess.


  1. Mark Alberding14 June 2010 at 07:46

    Everything you've got on the front page of your blog right now is interesting stuff but this is like a mini-lesson in silkworm raising. I thought you already were the only silk farmer in the area but obviously not. It's wonderful that you are documenting their work but also your own. I know you've taken a lot of pictures over the years but presenting them along with textual information in an organized way is a great idea. As an aside, I thought you might have put something about the tea harvest on the blog but I suppose you were too busy to take pictures or write anything.

  2. The other silk farming family in my area is a 45 minute drive away. In the contemporary silk farming scheme of things he is practically next door.
    It will be sad next year with their gorgeous old silk farming house silent without the sound of the silkworms eating.