We're really lucky to have the support of two Very American companies- Johnny's and Homesteader's Supply - for our Women's Cooperatives in 2015.
Johnny's is helping us with our Seed Libraries - an opportunity for village women to "check out" packets of OP seeds, grow them, eat and market the produce, and then "return" a packet of seeds to the library in autumn.
It will help women diversify their kitchen gardens while improving local economies and nutrition.
And it will help us test these fabulous seeds on the roof of the world.
Last winter, women supplying milk to a new cooperative producing cheese for summer sale to tourists visiting Ladakh asked me to help them find a great cheese press.
Well I found the ultimate cheese press. Literally - from Homesteader's Supply. Then when we had questions about using it, Homesteader's owner offered to walk through the entire process with me. Now two presses will be helping women from the far west and the far north of Ladakh bring tourist money back to their villages with value added products: Cheese and butter the way tourists like it - local, organic and delicious.
I could not find tarps or plastic anywhere in the Leh bazaar - indeed, anywhere in Leh.
One friend told me her daughter bought her 12 x 24 foot tarp in Jammu last year for Rs. 1,800 (about $30). With all our weather changes - from the hottest August ever where tarps were used for shade, to the endless rains last month where a tarp made the difference in saving this year's crop - tarps sell for twice that in-District if you can find them.
That's why we are so lucky to get UV resistant polythene for our flood relief recipients from the Department of Agriculture. Costing less per square foot than anything else available too. In spring, it can be used to start bedding plants.
And if the rains come next year, in autumn it can be used to save the harvest or the house.
I think I'm casting my vote for the UV polythene to win the "poster child for climate change" contest happening in my mind this week. Although you might want to choose the line of dzo's threshing what was left of this family's barley. But look below - same dzos, but I included the huge pile of rotting peas in the photo this time.
As a part of the regular health outreach work, a fantastic teaching team from SNM Hospital - Leh held an adolescent health discussion at the Government Higher Secondary School for Girls in Leh. It was a joy to join the team and hear the questions 18 year old girls had for them.
Stanzin Dolma, who manages our joint HIV-hep B project reminded them that this was the opportunity to ask frank questions - and they did.
With suicide rates rapidly increasing in the District, and the girls' exams coming next week, it was a great chance to discuss stress, anxiety and depression too.
An article in Reach Ladakh:
We were talking about threshing what's left of the crops; and that evening yet another huge storm moved through.
Then in the next village, we were discussing which families would be in the distribution for UV resistant polythene sheets - big enough to use as a greenhouse in spring and cover an entire roof or harvested crop as needed...
And the rains started again. But this time mixed with snow, and then a lot of snow. Stacks of rotting crops remain in the fields and you could feel the anguish in the women as they covered what was salvageable yet again. Hoping it will stop raining and they can thresh before winter sets in.
But with the help of the Department of Agriculture, polythene sheeting will go to our worst hit villages. And hopefully we can get more in spring.
Narendra Modi announced it's time for a "Swachh Barat" (of "Clean India") by taking up a broom himself and ordering over 3 million government employees to do likewise.
We could have used a few of those brooms here in Ladakh. On 3 October, the day after Gandhiji's Birthday and the brooming, I looked around at the schools, irrigation canals, toilets, bus stops - even the Main Bazaar in Leh and the Main Gompa there. No sign of a clean up.
What is not commonly mentioned in these clean campaigns is the huge economic and health costs India pays for the filth it is willing to live in. Ladakh, too. Do we really want to drink milk considering what the cows are dining on? Why are lead levels in drinking water dangerously high in some villages? And how much is Leh spending on "sanitation" - not to mention the toilets they keep building across the district which always remain locked?
Modi declared that India will be clean by 2019. And more interesting, he insinuated that "Clean India" also means he intends to clean up the corruption crippling India by that time.
But that's another topic.
Cynthia will be blogging as she works with our Himalayan projects this year.