life in likir

Nearly thirty miles West of Leh lies the long village of Likir, a lush green eight-kilometer oasis spread out between steep and rocky mountains plastered with bright red rocks.  This is where I made my home for eleven quiet days, residing with a Ladakhi family in their mud and brick house at nearly 12,500 ft. The scenery of Likir is nearly unbelievable.  Green fields and trees stretch up and down the valley, with their backdrop of snow-covered mountains high above the valley seemingly too good to be true.

In July, the air is still crisp and cool until the strong sun makes it’s appearance, yet the garden is growing nicely–with fresh greens, a few strawberries, peas, and herbs like cilantro gracing the table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With my Likir family there are no leftovers–all meals are made fresh, from scratch, mostly from ingredients from the garden, and any remainders are fed to the happy cows when they return from the high mountain pasture each night, having munched on wild grass and plants all day.

The fields are bright green and yellow, with barley, potato, and mustard seed still working their way skywards, not quite ready to harvest just yet.  Though the crops aren’t ready, there is plenty to do, yet the Ladakhis move slowly throughout the days work, breaking for cups of salted butter tea and homemade bread and curd between weeding, irrigating, and tending to the animals.

Each morning Ama-le would feed and milk the mother cows while I would distract and play with the two baby cows I affectionately named Franny and Zooey.  My one attempt at milking a cow was futile and produced no milk, so I resigned to playing with the babies, feeding them leftover barley mush while Ama-le milked away.

Irrigating became another favorite activity of mine, which was done by diverting glacial water from the stream through a series of intricate canals dug amongst the crops.  I watched in awe as Ama-le gracefully weaved her way through the field, carefully pushing the water along with the edge of her heavy shovel.  In the meantime, I awkwardly splashed my way through the cropso, stmping over plants in the canal like a godzilla, lopping the heads off of mustard seed plants as I flung water aimlessly.

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