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Potato harvest

The Chong Alai valley is an oval-shaped plain surrounded by mountains on all sides.  The Eastern end of the valley is a little over 10,000 feet and the Western end of the valley is about 7,300 feet. In addition to their livestock, the main agricultural crop that shepherds grow is potatoes. The crops do not grow as well in the first eastern third of the valley, but after that they increasingly do quite well. Potatoes are typically planted in early May and harvested in early/mid October. For a long time people did this using plows drawn by horses and by hand digging. In recent years, more and more tractors have appeared on the scene making the work much faster. Even...

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On the Silk Road. . . Literally

We have a section in our weekly newsletter that we call 'On the Silk Road with June Cashmere' because we travel this ancient trade route in southern Kyrgyzstan to reach, work with and purchase from the shepherd families who provide the exquisite and precious cashmere fiber for our yarn. . .

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On the Silk Road with June Cashmere - Returning from the Jailoo

  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...

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On the Silk Road with June Cashmere - Back to school.

IN a normal year, September 1 is always the first day of school in Kyrgyzstan - no matter on which day of the week it falls. This year, because of the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 virus, the start of school was delayed, starting this week on September 15.   Before the big day, the school grounds are spruced up…everything is swept, walls are whitewashed, and parents prepare their children to look their best. Girls wear black skirts with white shirts or blouses and often have large hair bows in their hair.  The boys wear black pants, white shirts, and a bow tie or tie.  Many students come with a bouquet of flowers to give to their teacher  Photo: USAID Kyrgyz Republic On...

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Field Notes: Collecting Cashmere for Yarn

Seeing tangible progress with the villages and shepherds in which we’ve invested so heavily is always encouraging. For example, we’ve been collecting cashmere in the Chong Alai valley since 2013, and have seen a huge shift in the process during the last 5 years. At first, the shepherds were not familiar with the process of combing goats rather than shearing. Much of the fiber was full of coarse guard hair instead of clean cashmere, and the mix of fiber quality from great to poor was more pronounced.   Since then, combing has become the standard means of collecting cashmere and the majority of people are bringing in very cleanly combed fiber. Overall, we are seeing a greater consistency in the...

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