The views expressed in this blog are personal and not representative of the U.S. Government, etc etc etc.
Read at your own risk.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Eagle Hunting

This past Saturday we got to go on a little trip out of town to see some traditional Kazakh activities.  Kazakhs are very proud of their nomad heritage and we were happy that they could share some of their traditions with us.

We started the morning with a drive outside the city.  Since our cars are not yet registered, we haven't had a chance to get out of the city and see what it's like.  Once we were able to get out the industrial areas (which in some places felt a lot like the US), the landscape opened up to wide open steppe.  

Eventually we pulled off the highway and followed a dirt track to a ridge where we could watch the sports from.  They started with horseback riding.  We got to watch the riders do all sorts of tricks on horseback, jumping on and off the horses, standing on their backs while galloping, and wrestling to pull each other off.  The demonstration even included a horseback chase of the female member of the team.  If the guy chasing her didn't get close enough to kiss her, she got to chase him and try to whip him.

After the horses, we watched the local hunting dogs running.  They are long and lean like greyhounds, but with furry ears and tails.  It was impressive to see how quickly could run, which is probably pretty helpful for catching rabbits on the step.

The demonstrations ended with a golden eagle catching a killing a rabbit.  It was impressive to see how fast it flew and caught the rabbit, with the entire thing lasting less than thirty seconds.  We got to gather round and watch it eat the rabbit and then take pictures with the handler while he fed the eagle.  

Golden eagles are prized family possessions among Kazakh families, with eagles being passed from father to sun as they can live from 80-100 years in captivity.  The Kazakhs will catch an eaglet when they are young and then train them up for hunting, taking them hunting on horseback for foxes and hares.

We finished the day with pictures, petting the dogs, and rides on the horses.  The children enjoyed petting the dogs, which were remarkably calm and quiet, not barking a single time despite being surrounded by people and children.  I suppose they're saving all their energy for running fast to catch hares.

Despite the incredibly windy weather (a taste of things to come soon) that made the day pretty cold, we had a nice time seeing a little more of Kazakhstan and its traditions.  

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Canning Day

I am, generally, not a big canner.  I learned how to can from my mother, who grew up canning.  When I was a child, we would have various days - applesauce day, peach day, tomato day - that I do not have fond memories of.  I still don't care for canned peaches.  When I was first married and we lived in Utah, I canned applesauce and pears because they were both grown locally and not very expensive.  When we lived in a duplex that had a Concord grape vine, we canned grape juice - because free grapes.

As a general rule, I only can things that are a significant cost savings or taste significantly better when home canned.  As we've never managed to live in a house with any fruit trees or grape vines (each time I hope that we'll get one of those, but we never have), that restricts the list to two things - tomato sauce and jam.  Tomato sauce because tomatoes are cheap in the summer and jam because homemade jam is vastly better than commercial jam.  My children want me to add applesauce to the list, but apples are available all year round without needing me to take the time and effort to can them.

Since I had unpacked the last box and organized the last closet on Tuesday, I deemed this Saturday Canning Day.  Nur-Sultan doesn't have the multitude of bazaars that Tashkent does, but starting in mid-August they have farmer's markets that are open on the weekends.  Farmers from surrounding regions bring in their produce and sell it from the backs of trucks and pop-up tents.  

We went to one close to our house that was held in the parking lot of the big hockey rink in town and were surprised to find it swarming with people who were stocking up for the winter while being entertained by a live singer (who was actually very good).  There were vendors selling bags and boxes of potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, melons, pumpkins, and various other produce.  In addition to produce, there was honey, eggs, fresh butter, cream, and so so many carcasses of sheep and cows.

I was able to easily find tomatoes in addition to both strawberries and raspberries.  Evidently the season for berries is in the fall here because summer takes such a long time to get started.  By the end of our shopping trip, we had 63 kilos of tomatoes, 9 kilos of raspberries, 6 kilos of tomatoes, 1.5 kilos of garlic, a kilo of butter, two flats of eggs, and a bucket of honey.  It's hard for me to know when to stop at farmer's markets.

I can't say that the children were excited to get to work when we got back home with our haul, but they were amenable enough to being pressed in to service once we got an entertaining audiobook started.  There were enough able hands that I was able to split them into two teams, one working on berries and the other on tomatoes.  It was a long day, but by the evening, we had canned 47 quarts of tomato sauce, 15 quarts of pizza sauce, 15 pints of raspberry jam, 12 pints of strawberry jam, and frozen three sheets of raspberries.  I was grateful to have so many people to help, but as Sophia pointed out, without so many people, I wouldn't have needed to can nearly so much food.

By the evening, everyone was exhausted and didn't want to see another tomato, strawberry, or raspberry for a very long time.  But the best part of canning day is that it only happens once a year.  And we're all grateful for that.