Wednesday, October 14, 2015

July Time

July 17
Our work is physically hard right now, which makes these times to sit and write all the more special.  Right now I sit at midday with a herd of thirty-four under the spreading arms of a bunch of gray-barked willows.  The stream rushes cold and delicious, out of sight in a gully.  The rose bushes are blazing pink with flowers – higher up in the mountains they become almost white.  The valley floor consists of endlessly piled and stirred tiny stones, out of which emerges a flush of two-foot-high, pale, glowing green – fresh, aromatic clumps of artemesia.  And yet after three hours of walking and steadily climbing, the sheep and goats are content to sit with me in the shade and nibble last year’s fallen dry brown willow leaves.
In between stints of goat-sitting, I help villagers maintain the irrigation canals and the walls that hold all the terraced masses of soil in place.  The lower walls of terraces are often four, six, even eight feet in height, holding great masses of productive soil built over who knows how many centuries on these mountain slopes.  All of our food comes from these, the manure returned every spring, the humus jealously guarded by great walls.  Nyilza Angmo (Caitlin) helps remove weeds from the gardens and potato patches and fields, and feeds them to the cows, working about 10-12 hours every day.  The women of the village call to her for help – we are among the few workers in the village without a regular smallholding and endless work of our own, so our labor is in high demand because people know we will say yes.  We have also found time to plow, seed, water, manure, and weed a ten by sixty pace field of wheat, a small thin terrace field of barley (perhaps five by thirty paces), and three garden plots in different women’s fields.  All these and more were freely offered into our care in the spring; we have potatoes, carrots, turnips, lettuce and other greens, cabbage, labuk (a huge radish), tabnyung (like rutabaga), mint, cilantro, dill.  The kale is mostly eaten by caterpillars, and our garlic grew nearly two feet tall but then dried up and died.  Onions all across the village were also killed by allium insects, but our potatoes look great—the Colorado potato beetle hasn’t made it here.

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