In 1997 I undertook an expedition to collect walnut seeds from the wild walnut-fruit forests of Kyrgyzstan.

Journal entry: Tuesday 30th September 1997

Rest day!  I feel much better (see the post), especially after a lie-in; the clocks went back an hour.  Actually, they went back yesterday but our hosts decided to tell us today!  At last we have had some time to wash our clothes (10 days into the expedition), and thanks to the sunny weather they were dry by evening.  The family have been winnowing sunflower seeds and bagging them under the shade of the apple orchard.

Peter and I caught up with our data entry using the laptop computer.  It turns out that we have collected almost 1000 walnut seeds so far.  We have a substantial data set that includes the description of the parent tree (height, stem diameter, crown diameter) plus its GPS location, number of seed collected and their size.  We seem to be averaging 20-25 mother trees in each location or provenance, and about 10 seeds per tree, which is pretty much as I had hoped.

Different forms of Kyrgyz walnuts. From a sketch by Gabriel Hemery

Tomorrow we hope to travel to Kyzyl-Ungur beyond Arslanbob – the furthest distance yet from our base at Mamajan’s farmstead near Gava.  It will probably take 1.5 hours to drive there, and the driving here is incredibly uncomfortable and would be impossible without a 4×4.  Our Russian jeep is coping well despite the speed that it’s driven laden with five or six adult men across appallingly rough tracks.  Of course, the engine is only running for half the journey – the ascents!  Yesterday we picked up a 10″ nail in a tyre – I can’t imagine who would make, let alone try to use, a 10″ nail!

Gabriel Hemery

Read more from my Kyrgyzstan walnut journal

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