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The Farming Life
The ancestral home of the Uyghur people and all Turkic people is Mongolia. Before the advent of Islam, Uyghur tribes had migrated westwards. Eventually, my people reached the area we now call home: the north western part of the present-day People's Republic of China. Although many Turkish-speaking tribes of central and west Asia are still nomadic, the Uyghurs became settled farmers hundreds of years ago. In fact, the word "Uyghur" means "civilized".
Today, here in Gonja village, my father tends our large orchard. He is an excellent gardener and has learned many skills from his father and grandfather. For centuries, the Uyghur people have used an ingenious method to bring water from long distances to their gardens and fields. Ancient kariz, or water canals-some above and some under ground-help divert the water from mountain streams and deep underground reservoirs. Our village is on the edge of the desert, but because of this supply of fresh water, we are able to grow succulent fruits and a wide variety of vegetables, al-Hamdulillah.
MashaAllah, I believe the sweetest melons in the world are found right here in our garden; they taste as if they were soaked in honey! My father's peaches are some of the largest and juiciest I have ever eaten. Our apricot trees, however, give us the biggest harvest. Apricots always seem to thrive in the highland valleys where so many other fruit trees simply won't grow. It is now spring and as you can see, the apricot trees are in full blossom. In late summer, we dry the apricots on rooftops and save the preserved fruit for the long cold winters. We also crack open the many piles of apricot stones to obtain the delicious protein-rich kernels inside. Apricot kernels taste like almonds and are very healthy Outside of the village, in irrigated fields, my uncles and other villagers grow barley, corn, potatoes, and sugar beets. Working in the fields is always hard, but alHamdu-lillah, we can always see the fruits of our labour. After the barley crop has been cut, the grain must be threshed. In late summer, the sun at these high altitudes can be very fierce. We, therefore, sometimes thresh the barley in the evening. We work from salat al-eisha to salat al-fajr. What a wonderful feeling it is to work so hard in the open air under a full moon! No artificial light disturbs the work. In the middle of the night, we have some cool honey melon and refreshing water. When we hear the adhan al-fajr, from our village mosque, we make our ablutions and pray together outside in the field. A cool morning breeze blows from behind us as we carry the sacks of grain back to the village. Al-Hamdulillah, one evening's hard work gives us a year's supply of barley flour !
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