Harvesting in the middle hills

During the main trekking season in October and November it is harvest time in the middle hills. Crops that were planted in the spring have grown to maturity during the hot and humid monsoon that engulfs Nepal during the summer. The Sherpa people who live at higher elevations are already finished harvesting their potato and wheat crops by this time, and they are ready to make some cash in the trekking business. For the people of the hills these two interests compete. For instance, at Nara's farm in the hills west of Kathmandu his family and his sibling's families do the harvesting while Nara brings home the tourist dollars.


Rice is the staple food of most Nepalis and it is widely grown in the hills. During the fall trekking season, rice is being harvested everywhere. For the trekker, a challenge is to try to score fresh rice for dinner, which is much tastier than last year's stuff.


Millet is also widely grown. Some of it is roasted and ground up to make tsampa, a breakfast cereal that is reconstituted with boiling water. Millet is also fermented to make booze. Thongba, a specialty of eastern Nepal, is fermented millet which is scooped into a big beerstein. Boiling water is added, and once the brew has percolated, you drink it up though a bamboo straw that acts as a filter. Tastes pretty good once you've had a few.


Corn is dried and ground into corn flour. I never saw corn eaten fresh in Nepal.

Cutting and bundling rice stalks.

The whole family participates in the harvest. Although is is backbreaking work there is lots of fun and laughter.


Threshing is quite primitive: the bundles are whacked on a stone. The rice kernels are then scooped off of the ground. For some reason many people don't put plastic sheeting beneath the threshing site. Even though women spend many hours picking out bits of gravel from the rice, I still managed to chip a tooth eating rice when I bit down on a stone.

Rai farm.

Corn cobs are drying on a rack. The brown stuff lying on the ground is millet drying. On the roof is a basket of chilis. The vine on the right produces fruit that looks like a green bell pepper but it is starchy like a squash. Nara says there is no English name for it. It is often curried (tarkari) and served with rice and beans (dhal bhat).

Water buffalo.

At lower elevations, water buffalo are the beast of burden. They provide milk and meat, and are used for ploughing fields. Yaks and yak-cow crossbreeds are used at higher elevations. The only place I saw cows in Nepal is in the streets of Kathmandu. They have been released by pious Hindus there. The cows like to browse on garbage, and they lie down and chew their cud in the middle of traffic.