Selenge Province - Commodity

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The moderate temperature and dryness of the north make this area ideal for raising cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. The abundance of grass in this region allows families to let their herds roam and feed on their own during the day. Due to the latitude of the province, the extended daylight hours allow for ample light for herding, milking, and sheering when the herds return later in the day. No matter the type of livestock, there are many different products to be derived from the milk or fur of the animal as well as many uses for the animal itself. Sheep and goats provide wool that may be used for any number of things predominantly clothes to ger covers. Dairy products in particular are part of the sustainability of life in rural Northern Mongolia.

Milk is used to make several key components of the Northern Mongolian daily diet, including cheeses, butter, yogurt, alcohol, soup, and tea; all of which are consumed on a regular basis. Nearly every meal the 2011 H.I.T. team had while in the Selenge included the same assortment of ingredients. Soups are generally made using fats, water, vegetables and meat, but they also can contain milk, rice and raisins. The family we stayed with made both warm and cold desserts by adding sugar to various cheeses. Horses and cows produce milk that is used specifically for processing two types of alcohol. Horse milk is left in the sun to ferment from the heat. The longer the milk is exposed to the sunlight, the more potent the alcohol becomes. Shaking the fermented milk only increases the alcohol content further. Milk from cows goes through a distillation process resulting in an odorless, colorless liquor with a high alcohol content. Many of these processes and products have historical roots. For example, when Chinggis Khan was in power, he required his military forces carry a mixture of yogurt and water that would both hydrate and provide them with nutrients and calories. Nomads in the Selenge province still use this beverage today when following flocks of sheep and goats during the day or when travelling on long journeys.

Grass is a commodity for Mongolian nomads in the valleys of the north because it is one of the few types of vegetation found in the area. In the most basic sense, the grass serves as the food source for herds of livestock and, as a result of grazing, as an indicator of when the nomads should move to a new location. As the herds move up the mountains, the grass experiences fewer footsteps, so it is able to grow much taller creating the ideal feeding ground for goats, cattle, and horses as they roam. Nearer to the ger camp sites, longer grass is still available in small patches. These patches are used as needed to do things like dry clothes in the sun.

Rocks serve as more than mere pieces of landscape in Mongolia. Driving out of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar it is common to see extensive road construction projects in process. The road workers strategically place piles of rocks in order to block oncoming traffic from merging into unsafe territory. Rocks are also used in cooking because of their ability to heat quickly and cook food evenly. Similar to Papua New Guinea, the rocks are placed in a fire until they are heated to the proper temperature. They are then placed into a pot containing all of the meat and vegetables to be cooked. Once the food is cooked thoroughly, the rocks are used as a way to sanitize hands before eating with them. Each person at the meal is given a hot rock that they must toss from one hand to the other for a few minutes before eating.

The cooking stones are heated using dried cow dung because it burns hotter than wood, which is scarce in the valleys of Northern Mongolia. Cow dung is a readily available form of fuel for fires since it is in abundance wherever there is a herd of cattle. While making high temperature fires is especially helpful for heating cooking rocks, cow dung is also used in cooking with the stove and warming gers when the temperature drops. Not only is it an abundant resource, but it also produces high temperature fires and acts as a mosquito repellant.

Date Entered: June 2011