Harvest


Harvest in a nomadic area like Ritoma is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the old days, there were less animals in more plentiful pasture, gathered into larger herds owned by the big families of an area. Winter grazing was an important part of the cycle and involved the younger members of a family taking the animals to higher pastures where they found certain nourishing grasses that fed them through the cold months. Gradually, as elders like to say, younger nomads became ‘softer’. A trend began in the 70’s to build houses that provided shelter during the winter months and kept animals near them, nibbling on what was left of the grassland. This proved to be insufficient, so some forty years ago, all families began cultivating oats for winter feed. Nowadays, oat cultivation and the October harvest have become an integral part of the herder’s cycle. At Norlha, we find ourselves giving a 3 day harvest holiday so that our employees are free to help their families and friends on those busy days. The oats are cut, tied in bunches and placed in tripod formation until they are collected, loaded on ‘blue camels’ and taken to each family’s winter house to dry. Once the fields are cleared the animals are let loose to gorge on the left overs of the harvest and the surrounding grassland, saved up as autumn pasture. The yak and sheep, aware that this time is coming, become restless and invariably direct themselves towards the fields, their owners finding great difficulty in holding them back. Everyone camps in the big valley that lies before the village, which for three days is filled with tents, shepherds on horse, temporary fencing and thousands of yak and sheep.