Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ladakh photos VII : threshing with draft animals

Thanks to Learning from Ladakh Farm Project participant Joe for these nice photos depicting the wheat harvesting process:

First the wheat is pulled up by hand, bundled and carried to the drying area where it is stacked for a few days. The wheat is then piled around a central post in the threshing area. A team of dzos (cow and yak mix) are lashed together and to the central post, and are driven around and around, to stomp the grain free of the stalk and chaff. Then the whole mixture is thrown into the air for wind separation.

According to Joe, during the days when the wheat threshing was going on at his family's field the wind wasn't very cooperative. They could only spend a few minutes at a time throwing the grain, then had to wait 20 or 30 minutes or an hour to begin again. No problem for the Ladakhis though, who work at a relaxed pace. This just meant more time for solja (tea) and chang (local beer made from fermented barley).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ladakh photos VI : Harvesting

Some scenes from the harvest of Ladakhi staples: apricots, mustard (for oil), and barley.

Mangpo chuli - many apricots - drying on the roof.

The best apricots are eaten by people, the so-so ones are dried and saved for the animals to eat during winter. The pits are saved and hulled. Some of the kernels are very tasty. The others are processed for oil, to light the lamps in the prayer rooms, for cooking, and as a skin treatment in the harsh hot/cold/dry climate.

Mustard seed, used for cooking oil.

Me carrying bundles of mustard to the threshing area.

Dzos (mix of yak and cow) walk around and around on the mustard to separate the seed from the chaff and stalks. Then, when the wind is right, the Ladakhis use special pitchforks to throw the trodden material into the air and the wind does the separation.

The seeds, plus bits of dirt, chaff, and other detritus are swept up and put into bags. Everything is emptied into a special water channel that washes the dirt and other bits away from the seeds so they can be easily collected. The seeds are bagged and sent to Leh where a mechanical press is used to extract the oil.

Tiku harvesting barley...

Ama-le, always hard at work...

The barley is laid out to dry for a few days with the roots up and the grains shaded.

Now most families have or share diesel powered mechanical threshers for the barley, whereas before animals would be used for this process as with the mustard.

Ladakhis have a blast at harvest time, always singing and joking while they work.

Mike's Meme-le (grandfather) harvesting the barley.

Ladakh photos V : Tsampa mill

An application of appropriate technology: a water-powered tsampa (barley flour) mill.

Each family in our village has one of these water powered grain mills made housed in a small stone building. They divert a channel of water from the river which flows down a hollowed-out log and turns a paddle wheel below the mill (second photo).

The paddle wheel turns the top stone, which grinds the grain into flour against the bottom stone. Note the wooden arm in the third photo - as the top stone turns it vibrates the wooden arm like a phonograph needle. This vibration causes the grains of barley to drop out of the basket at the proper rate.

Ladakh photos IV : a la Tiku

Thanks to Tiku for these images...

A Meme-le (grandfather) praying at the Dalai Lama's talk

Me and the evil dzomo (left) and Daisy the balang (cow)...

Abi-le (grandmother)


Tiku's Ama-le and dzo (cow and yak mix)

Some of the Learning from Ladakh Farm Project participants, from left: me, Tiku, Martha, Sasha, Mike

Aba-le (father)


Ladakh photos III : Ladakhi houses

The first two shots are of my house...

Ladakh photos II : Hemis Shukpachan

Ama-le, making chapatis...

Ladakh photos I : Leh

Some photos from around Leh, the capital of Ladakh...