Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mongolian Permaculture: Day 26 - Food Culture and Solar Ovens


Ankle is swollen to the size of a tennis ball.

Two more treatments of salty tea compress and I am able to hobble around by afternoon on a walking stick Moko cut up for me from an orange painted ger pole.

Spent the morning simmering tomato chutney in the outdoor kitchen for Kat’s Food Culture class; creating value-added products such as chutneys, pickles and preserves that can be processed over winter can create higher proit margins, and extend the co-operatives productivity into the cold winter months.

1kg of cucmbers = 500MNT.
1kg of pickled cucumbers = 1500MNT.

There is 2-3 times more labour involved, and the additional cost of bottling materials, but the long winter season is currently an unproductive time, and proximity to local markets could also give them an edge against inferior goods imported from UB and beyond.

Chimgee plays her Mongolian hip-hop mixed in with Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce while we cook, and we have become friends through our conversations in very basic, very broken Mongolian-English-and-Mime… she has been tending to my wound as if she was my little sister. I am surprised to find out that she is 23 years old, as I had picked her for 16 or maybe 17.

Tsurren, one of the women I spent an afternoon digging irrigation trenches with, gives my ankle a very painful massage and laughs with the others at my howls of anguish.

In fact, the entire kitchen staff and co-operative workers and I are becoming friends through our very basic, very broken Mongolian-English-and-Mime – I love this, making friends across language, cultural and distance barriers…

The Solar Oven Construction group-workshop after lunch is a hit, with 4-and-a-half working ovens being made [vs. the planned 2] from waste cardboard, reflective foil bought in Tosontsengel, waste plastic, rocks, a woolen blanket, and even a washbasin we picked up. This is could be a highly appropriate and replicable technology for the area, given the scarcity of fuelwood and long daylight hours [in summer].

Some boys show up at the gates of the hasha again this afternoon with a fresh catch, and Rick is able to haggle them down to 8500MNT, about $8AUS for 18 pan-sized Mongolian trout…delicious.

Tetch and I buterfly fillet the lot of them, lightly salt and dust with flour, and fry to a crsip in the wok-pan for a late dinner. There is enough for Bek,The Program Director, Rick and I to eat our fill, and feed the remaining kitchen staff.

I can almost feel my ankle healing minute-by-minute as I sit here typing the daily log listening to my iTunes. There is an almost-full moon out tonight, wispy clouds glowing in the Mongolian night sky casting a dark outline of the surrounding hills. The dogs of Tosontsengel are quiet(er) tonight, and the buddhist temples on the hill glow with a pale white light.

Students are buzzing with activity, are showing no signs of slowing down, and the clock is ticking over to 11:30pm. Tomorrow they will present their final designs for the task Rick has set.

Mongolia’s first-ever Permaculture Design Course will soon draw to a close.

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