AT THE SALASH
The journey to the "world of hunya" begins far beyond the home of an artisan, who makes and gives the product a recognizable look. The manufacture of wool products begins high in the mountains, above the settlement, In polonynas of the Carpathian Highlands. It is there, in the salash – a place of farm high in the mountains – where flocks of sheep graze from early spring to late autumn not only to get aromatic milk, but also to obtain the resource for production of hunya – the sheep wool.
This difficult work has its own clear rules, traditions and customs aimed at getting high quality raw materials. Thus, grazing and caring about cattle required a variety of skills and knowledge, as well as special attention in order to keep cattle intact and safe, which obliged the shepherds to be in constant vigilance. A good shepherd knows that flocks of sheep do not graze against the sun, do not go straight down or up the slope, but only slantwise. Sheep were never grazed in swampy areas where grass was covered with dew or drops of cold rain, because animals could get inflammation of the internal organs.
There are certain rules in sheep shearing. Sheep are sheared several times a year, usually 3 shearings during the grazing period: the first in early April, the second in June, and the last one in early autumn. The third shearing is considered to be the richest in wool. The shepherds themselves say that the sheep will never have more wool than during the third shearing. However, this rule does not apply to lambs, which are first sheared in June in the pasture, and for the second time – in autumn. However, not all mountainous regions of the Carpathians have this tradition to shear sheep in three stages. For example, Hutsuls of Zakarpattia sheared sheep only once a year, in mid-summer – on the eve or immediately after the feast of St. Peter and Paul.
Each owner shears his sheep manually. Shearing starts from the head of a sheep and only a piece of wool is left on the tail. Wool obtained from one sheep was called "runo" (woollen fleece). Wool had different names depending on the period when it was cut. For example, wool cut in spring was called "notynyna". It is the sheep's wool that serves as a raw material for making hunya, which is still made in the village of Richka.