In the springtime, a large percentage of a given village’s households will set up a yurt in their designated pasture zone. In Kyrgyz, the word for pasture is jailoo. For some villages, the jailoo area is nearby - a sixty or ninety minute walk. Other villages have to move their animals 50-60 miles. These days many people use trucks to take their yurts and supplies out to the jailoo…but some still rely on their donkeys, horses, or even camels for hauling.
After a full summer of grazing, people begin to return home. For families with school children, the start of the school year is a catalyst for packing up and returning back to the village.
It only takes a few hours to dismantle and pack a yurt. Once home, shepherds inspect the felt walls and roof of the yurt to see if there are any areas that need repair or extra felt. Once inspected, the yurt is carefully packed up and usually placed in the attic space above the home and then wrapped with plastic to protect it during the winter. Others will stay in the jailoo all the way until the weather gets too cold to stay longer and/or the grass completely dries up (this timing varies based on any given year’s precipitation).
Every spring, after a winter cooped up in their houses, the Kyrygz are energized and excited to head to the beautiful mountain rimmed, super-green grassy pastures. But by the end of the summer, with temperatures getting cold, the grass having browned out, and months of living without the conveniences of electricity and a house, folks are ready to return back to their own homes.
After grazing all summer, by mid-August the animals are in their peak “fat” mode, primed to sell. Late August through October is the prime time when livestock is sold at the weekly animal bazaars that are arranged in each region. In addition to the harvesting of potatoes (which is the main agricultural activity in this high altitude area), this selling of the animals makes for the peak income for families. This is why the fall is known as “wedding season” as people are able to leverage their recent revenue to cover the costs of weddings.