Photographer: Александр Леснянский
Text: Александр Леснянский
September is the most beautiful month in Zabaykalsky Krai. And it’s also the time to pick cedar nuts. In Chikoyskiy district, that is famous by its Siberian dwarf pines, men go to taiga every year for three or four weeks to pick cedar nuts. Each team has its own parcel of forest that they know backward and forward.
The work of nutter is very hard. They don’t climb trees to get cones, but shake them down with huge kolot (the enormous wooden hammer that you can see at some of the pictures). The kolot leaves marks on trees, because every year the workers are to hit the same spot on the tree’s trunk.
After cones fall down on the ground they are picked up, put in sacks and taken to the camp. The technology of nut shelling and screening is proven by time and it hardly changed during hundreds of years, except for the cracker which is now mechanical, while back in the days the workers were mostly using wooden ribbed mashers.
Shells and nuts are mixed when they fall out of the cracker, and they need to be separated. There is a special tool for that, sizing screen that is called “grokhot” (this word also means “rumble” in Russian). Grokhot is a sieve that looks like a big washing tub with holes. The nuts fall through these holes, while shells and pieces of cones stay in the tub.
Cedar nut is one of the most important elements in the food chain. All of the animals from mice to bears depend on it one way or another. The number of animals is changing cyclically depending on cedar’s yield cycle. Even deer that don’t eat cones implicitly depend on it. In the years of famine, when there are no nuts, bears start to hunt down hoofed mammals.