When the fall pasture begins to deplete, it is time to bring the animals into winter mode. The oats, the animal’s winter feed are ripe for harvest and for three days in mid October, all the Ritoma families are busy collecting and storing. Everyone joins in and the workshop closes to allow all to lend a hand to relatives in this hectic time. When all the oats are collected, the animals, about 20,000 of them are let loose on the empty fields for three days are allowed to feed on the left overs. They have been waiting impatiently for this moment, and it is sometimes hard to contain them.
Then, everyone returns to the winter grassland, and the whole area is blessed to protect the animals over the winter. Men representing the village clans borrow a complete set of the Kangyur, 108 volumes of the Buddha’s teachings, from the monastery, tie two to three to their backs and circle the winter pastures on horse, including the sacred Amne Tongra mountain in their path. The circumambulation complete, they return to the monastery and deliver the volumes, all set to begin winter life.
The village is a different place in winter, people and animals sharing the same space, mornings marked by yak and sheep noisily setting off to their grazing areas, and evenings with the main street clogged with herds of bleating sheep returning to their wolf safe enclosures and a meal of oats.