Tag Archives: travel

Where horses are Food, not friends

19 Aug


Let me get this right out in the open.  Kazakhstan is not a place for vegetarians or animal rights activists.  The population was halved by Stalin using starvation and gulags.  Kazakhstan values its children.  They are a main priority.  Animals are primarily for food.  In Kazakhstan people eat horses, cattle, sheep, goats, fish, chickens.  Though I never saw any pigs or pork I was told it, too, is available.  On the vast steppe one sees herds of hundreds of cattle, or horses, or sheep and goats grazing without fences in the care of one to three herders.

Horse meat is readily available in the bazaars.  Along with horse sausage.

IMG_0591Horse has yellow fat, which similar to venison, is around the outside of muscles rather than in the muscle tissue itself (like beef).  It is a lean meat.  The horse meat we ate was either boiled, steamed, or in some kind of sausage.

IMG_0340Behold Beshbarmak, literally “five fingers”.  Historically (and even currently) eaten with the hands, hence the name.  The horse is boiled in salted water, removed and large thin rounds of home made noodles are added to the salty broth to cook.  Meanwhile, thinly sliced onions are cooked in horse fat.  When the noodles are done, they are placed on a platter, then the horse, then the onions scattered over the top.  It is delicious.  Sometimes potatoes were cooked before the noodles and added.

IMG_1639Another bishbarmak, with horse sausage.   And yes, most people eat at least some of the fat.

IMG_1664My plate at a party.  Yum!

IMG_1797The other main way we ate horse was in manti, steamed dumplings filled with chopped horse, potato and, onion.


Isabelle and I had fun learning to package the manti correctly.


Manti were very popular.  Eaten hot right out of the steamer, maybe with a little hot pepper sprinkled on.

And here is another boiled horse dish which has thin noodles (they were called strudel) that are layered and boiled after the horse meat and potatoes.


Here is a link to an old NYTimes article on Kazakh horse use.

Large Land, Large Hearts

12 Aug

The hearts of our Kazakh friends are as broad and open as their land.  Generous, loving, kind, they enfolded us into their family and insisted on our rest and comfort.  To spend this significant chunk of time with their extended family, including my goddaughter and her cousins, was a blessing.

IMG_0240We spent the majority of our time in Astana, which replaced Almaty as the capital of Kazakhstan 15 years ago.  We lived in a micro-district close to where lots of high-rise housing is built (and continues to be built), on the far side of the southern bank of the Ishim River where the new part of the city is.  The old Soviet part of town is on the northern bank.IMG_0277This is Khan Shatyr, the King’s Tent, a large modern shopping mall filled with higher-end European stores. It the building that anchors a line of new impressive government buildings bisecting the city.

IMG_0294Astana is in the middle of the steppe.  It is windy, like Chicago.  Temperatures range from +40 to -40 degrees C.  Though it rained almost every day, it is almost arid.  All the trees one sees in the city have been planted by hand.  With intention.

IMG_0325There are fountains and flowerbeds galore.  And not just any old flowerbeds: these have designs, curliques, spirals, outlines using flowers of different colors, heights, and texture.  They are lovely living ornaments.IMG_0305There is also a lot of sculpture.  Indigenous animals, people, mythological figures, cultural symbols, historical statues: all sorts and of varied quality.  These are horses, a popular theme.IMG_0357Colored glass is also used prominently in the new buildings.  And at night many buildings either have lights which emphasize ornamentation on the building, or have a colored light display which travels and changes on the side of the building.  Ornamentation for beauty is apparent almost everywhere:  even elevator doors and walls are inscribed with geometric patterns to please the eye.

IMG_0289This is looking from Khan Shatyr towards the President’s palace.  The tower is Bayterek.

Kiryat Arba

6 Nov
So today we walked to the bus stop after dropping M at gan, took a bus downtown to the Central Bus Station, where the prevailing color was khaki. Sunday is back to work day–all the soldiers coming back from visits home over the weekend.

Two security screenings to enter the bus station: you walk through a metal detector, then your stuff goes through a detector.

Buy a bagel with dill cream cheese.  More cream cheese than bagel, and tomato slices to boot.

The armored, bullet-proof glass bus was full.   The hour long ride wound through rocky land with terraced fields, settlements both Jewish and Arab, and some lone houses.

The tunnels and high walls on parts of the highway were to protect Jewish drivers from rocks through the windshields and bullets.  At the three bus stops along the way were heavy cement guards so drivers could not swerve and kill those waiting for the bus.

Grapes, melons, olives, corn, kale, tomatoes growing.  Saw one herd of sheep and goats.

The Arab homes differed in style but were of similar, if not nicer, substance.  An interesting note:  Jewish homes have white solar water heaters on the roofs; Arab homes have metal or black solar water heaters on the roofs.

Kiryat Arba has a population of about 7500-8000.  We had a fun textile time, A teaching her friend to knit, and I spinning up the last of some pastel Easter Egg colored wool from Germany into a fingering weight yarn.

I saw an olive tree with olives up close and personal.  The olives have to be soaked in brine to be palatable. Mammoth roses and their small apple-sized rose hips.  A nut tree of some sort.  Pomegranate bushes with ripe and splitting fruit.  Gigantic morning glory vine in full bloom.  Lot of other plants in bloom and fruit which i have no name for.

And that wonderful large jaylike bird which has a large, lovely feathered crest more on the order of a parrot than a jay. But it would not sit still for a photo.

The sound of jets training in the desert near by.  A blimp.  Watchtowers. Returning to Jerusalem, the bus had to come through a security checkpoint to enter the city limits.  Lots of men with protective veswts and submachine guns.  Hanging out.

Because really, it is safer here than Chicago.  Robberies are essentially nonexistent because you never know which home has a gun with ammo in the bedroom.  And all security profiling is 100 percent racial profiling.  Which is pretty effective.

A left me in the bus station which also has a small shopping mall.  I made my way home alone via the #6 bus, walked under a large crane which was busy lifting cement for a new building.  The vast cauldron attached to the crane was sitting behind the cement mixer parked by the edge of the sidewalk, being washed out.  I had to scoot to avoid being sprayed.

Now we hope there is no general strike tomorrow, which would put s crimp in plans for the rest of the week.

Season Change

1 Nov

The ancients were correct that this time of year is transitional. Just in the past week the weather has changed: snow twice, hard freezes.  Those freezes mark the end of raspberries from the garden, ferns near the house, bright leaves on the trees.

The rest of the apples need to be picked, and the stems of wild rose hips for bouquets.  The lst hydrangeas picked before the snow:


The girl spent more of her birthday money on a new haircut:  a long shag.  Almost half her hair was cut off but it is hard to tell, she has so much!

And I am readying for a trip to visit friends in a far off land, my first visit to the Mediterranean and the Mid-east.  Pounce looked last night like he was waiting to be packed!

He has been joining Hawthorne and me on our morning walks.

Troy Wool Day (2)

29 Jul

The other reason we judges were at the Troy was to judge the fair entries in the various craft categories.  entries were down this year, but we kept quite busy with what was at hand. Here are some snippets.   And then there was some shopping…

Loch’s Maple Fiber Mill was where two of us bought rovings ready to spin.  A half pound each of some lustrous mohair and Wensleydale wool came home with me.  Sharon got those as well as most of a light grey Teasdale/Wensleydale roving.   I highly recommend Randy and Jamie’s business.  They have machines imported from Europe so are able to process fiber into very fine rovings. They have a 16 month backlog for processing!


There were lots of fleeces for sale, like these from Mary Stepney’s sheep.  Mary herself no longer runs her place.  The prices have gone up considerably: $15.00 per pound for raw skirted fleeces!  They are beautiful.


Here are three examples of yarn we judged: a hand spun boucle (say boo-clay since diacritical marks are outside my skill level to apply), paper yarn, and hand-dyed mohair locks spun into yarn.  The boucle was a wonder: it was also entered in the sheep to shawl in the warp as an accent in the Dream Weaver’s teal-winged duck shawl.  The paper yarn is for display and spun from old tissue sewing patterns.  The goat yarn is pretty and had a hard hand; its intended use was for ornamenting a scarf which we felt might one would not want in contact with skin.


The drop spindle contest.  Who can spin the longest thread in ten minutes.  For the first time in memory, we had a tie for first place: a very fine grey wool and a thick, dark brown camel both had 52 yards on the spindle–more than twice as much as any others.  If I am recalling correctly.


The Spinning Bunny was there, too.


Above are the three shawls that we gave special prizes to.  The Crab Nebula shawl was designed for a Ravelry contest.  The entrant even had a photo of the Crab Nebula attached to show us how well she did.  It is wool and silk.  The gold shawl was spun on a drop spindle and plied on a wheel.  It had some angelina in it so in certain light is looked as if it was covered with gold leaf.  And the rust colored shawl was from yarn spun more thick but incredibly softly and knitted into a lovely leaf-edged pattern.

More entries.  Please note the blanket in the lower left hand corner.  It was our best of show.  Spun by the young weaver for Cat’s Cradle.  It was her second project ever.  She included her pattern draft, a color card of all the yarns she used–all hand spun and hand dyed by herself.  It was soft and the colors worked well together.

And it was beautiful.  The photo does not do it justice.

Wool Day in PA (1)

28 Jul

Yesterday was Wool Day at the Troy, Pa Fair.  Three of us went down to judge the hand spinning, weaving, and sheep-to-shawl contest.

There were four teams competing in the Sheep-to-Shawl:

Each team had six members: five spinners and a weaver.  One spinner plies the yarn.  All prepared the wool for spinning from a fleece of their choice which was brought into the ring with them.  The looms were warped prior to the contest.  Three teams had hand spun warps.  The sett varied from 8 to 12 ends per inch. They had four hours to complete a  (minimum) 72-inch long, 18-inch wide shawl.


This is the Fort F__?__ Flickers  (the middle name escapes me) shawl.  It was based on the theme of a daffodil.  The warp was dyed green at one end and slowly changed to deep yellow at the other end.  The team used a white fleece for the warp. It was a nicely spun and woven shawl.  I wonder if their use of food dye will mean it is not light fast.  The Flickers was the youngest team.  They came in second.


Cat’s Cradle used an unusual table loom.  The sheds were raised and lowered by turning the wheel. This was the weaver’s third project!  She did an admirable job, but the sett was too high (so the shawl was more like a blanket)  and their shawl too short (a baby blanket).  Cat’s also used a white fleece for the weft. They came in fourth.  Isn’t that warp lovely?


From our own guild were the Sheep Thrills.  An appropriate name.  They used a dark grey fleece from Christine Johnson’s Johanneshof Romneys  as the weft over a boughten grey warp that looked almost lavender next to the handspun. Bill, who is an expert weaver in cotton, wove an incredible shawl that had a zig-zag border not only on the long sides but also on both short sides which enclosed a square diaper pattern (diaper in the design sense).*  But alas, their shawl was short.  Sheep Thrills came in third.

Dream Weavers wove a shawl based on the theme of a teal winged duck.  They used two shades of grey hand, a dark blue teal, black and a little bit of boucle–all hand spun in their warp and then used a lighter grey fleece as weft. The result was a simple elegant shawl that  incredibly beautiful. Dream Weavers finished first and won first prize.

* Textile fabric woven with a small and simple pattern formed by the different directions of the thread with the different reflections of light from its surface and consisting of lines crossing diamond-wise with the spaces variously filled up by parallel lines, a central leaf or dot, etc. – the geometrical or conventional pattern design forming the ground of this pattern. A pattern or design of the same kind used to decorate a flat surface.
The Oxford English Dictionary.

How to Look like a Million

24 Jul

It is not hard.  Especially in farm country.

For your perusal: this group of dryers, bins, weigh scale, and transport chutes  are used to  dry, store, and move grain (wheat and corn mostly).  The footers for the pad of the largest bin are over five feet under the soil surface.

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