It’s been a while since I’ve written anthing here … that is mostly due to me slowing down a bit … my breathing told me I reached a point of over-doing … so much so that I couldn’t ignore it anymore and decided to slow down and due less. I’m still doing quite a lot but I am leaving aside anything that doesn’t feel highly important … and that included writing.

Still much has been happening … and I am still not inclined to do a recollection … however I do want to make a note of this day.

We are already well into our winter-food-preservation efforts. Yesterday we went to purchase from Ildi & Levente tomatoes for making tomato-sauce (some of which we use for making other preservatives – namely Zakuska – and most of which we keep as is). We purchased “second-rate” tomatoes that are not “presentable” enough to be sold to customers … they were not visually pleasing and over-ripe and some of them were stained on the bottom due to a calcium deficiency due to lack of water) … perfect for tomato sauce.

This morning we set out to  make the sauce. This is our second time doing this so we already have some kind of routine. The freshly squeezed tomato sauce was absolutely delicious … very sweet … and because the tomatoes were very ripe … they were loaded with juices … so we realized we were going to get much more sauce out of every kilogram of tomatoes. We quickly realized that the pots we had would not be sufficient … so we borrowed their large iron pot. When I went to pick it up, Ildi greeted me with another carton+ of tomatoes she wanted us to have (she was uncomfortable selling us the lower-grade tomatoes, had just collected these tomatoes and had no time to process them) … so now we had even more tomato sauce heading our way.

The pot worked amazingly well on the rocket-stove. At one point we realized we could use some help if we wanted to get this done today so we asked Maria (our neighbor) if she can spare us some time. She gladly came to help and sped things up. We wanted to make ~25 liters of tomato sauce. About two hours after Maria joined us we were looking at a 69 liter pot that was almost filled. This was my first time this close to a 69 liter pot … and seeing it full … is well … a site to see 🙂

We ended up bottling 45 liters and the rest (~10 liters) we gave to Maria. It was a long day – 12 hours of physical work. The weather was a blessing. It was cloudy which meant we could work through the whole day (our work space gets direct sun for 3 or 4 hours during the middle of the day – making it uncomfortable to work in when its hot out). It even started to drizzle … so we asked the clouds to wait a little longer … and the drizzling stopped. At the end of the day the clouds parted and let in beautiful golden end-of-the-day light.

Our flock had a wonderful time feeding on the leftovers … they love to help on such days 🙂 This time of year is probably their favorite 🙂 The color of their poop changes according to what we are making … on a day like today … it gets reddish 🙂 Much of the “waste” is still sitting outside … tomorrow our flock will have another go at it and the rest will go to Maria’s pig.

We are very tired and very content. This is a kind of day that leaves us immersed in a feeling of simple and powefful abundance – a blessed existence.

Walking Away From the King

I’ve donated to a Kickstarter  project called Money & Life. You can read more about why I donated to it on my personal blog. I am continuing to take in any existing video content I can find and I arrived at this too-short video … which touches precisely on the movitation for Cutia Taranului. I invite you to watch it and head over to the Kickstarter project page and make a donation. I really want to see this film and I want it to be available for many others to see.

 

This is the video that introduces the project:

Animal Report – Summer 2012

There’s been an accumulation of animal-related anecdotes that we’ve experienced … though some may seem unimportant or funny I do feel there is a lot to learn from them … so I’ll just put down those I can recollect for us to remember and you to do with as you please 🙂

Chicks and Chickens

We had an egg fertility problem with the chickens. Very few of our eggs hatched. We believe it was because there were 2 cocks for 6 hens.  The cocks were constantly running interference preventing each other from mounting the hens … which may have resulted in poor fertilization. We eventually (too late to matter for this season) culled one of the cocks. We had 4 brooders – one of our own hens and 3 lent to us by our neighbors. The first two hatched 3 and 4 chicks which have been living together as a group of 7. The third sat on eggs from our neighbors and had a much better clutch of ~12 chicks. The fourth hatched 4 chicks.

We were actually “fortunate” that not many of our hens became broody because when hens are broody they don’t lay eggs. If you only have 5 or 6 hens and some of them are broody then egg production can drop pretty fast. For us even 2 or 3 eggs a day is way more then we need … but this can be an issue.

During all of this we moved chickens into the electric-netting and mobile shelter setup. Quite a few of the chickens jumped over the net. We clipped most of their flying wings … and most have taken to staying put inside the net. However one stubborn hen is the third broody (our) broody hen that sat on eggs from our neighbors. We have clipped both her wings and still she jumps over the net. Naturally, her chicks followed her as they are still very small and can simply walk through the netting (even though it is netting made especially for chickens).

We moved mother and chicks back into the fence perimeter a couple of times but then gave up on it … it seemed pointless. A few days ago we heard a sudden disturbance – we lost 2 of the roaming chicks to a fox in the orchard behind the house. One chick disappeared and another I found lying dead in the grass.

In addition, in recent days the hen has decided that her mothering role is over – she is no longer calling out to the chicks, she is allowing the cock to mount her and we think she is laying eggs. We have put her back into the fence perimeter and she is staying put. We have also put the chicks into the fence perimeter and they are not staying put – they are all over the place. We can (and have many times) herded them back into the fence … but they quickly go roaming again. We are not fighting it. We send them back whenever we can, we are hoping they will soon grow to be too large to leave … and hope that until then most survive predator attacks.

Ducklings and Ducks

We had 18 muscovite ducklings. We have kept them in a small mobile shelter together with their mother. We move the shelter around to keep them on as much green as possible. We let them graze freely a bit at the beginning of the day (on their way into the shelter) and at the end of the day  (on their way back home to the barn) – they stay together and make the journey either way pretty much on their own. During two “end-of-the-day” journeys we lost 5 ducklings (2 the first time and 4 the second). We’ve been keeping a closer watch.

Side story: My grandmother on my father’s  side used to make a typical Romanian dish … a kind of gelatinous pie made from boiled chicken feet. It has some chicken meat in it and is much loved in our family. My grandmother on mother’s side was Polish … she didn’t really like cooking but did enjoy having the family over. She was also in a kind of popularity competition with my other grandmother. At some point she too started making the same Romanian dish. However since she didn’t really care for cooking this dish came out a bit more “dangerous” when she made it because it had some pieces of bone in it … you had to eat it carefully. My younger sister was very small and I recall feeling discomfort whenever she ate the “dangerous” version of the dish. She was used to eating it in a care free way because my Romanian grandmother was very pedantic in her cooking … there were no bones. But I would cringe every time she ate the “dangerous” version in the same care-free way.

Ducks, being water fowl, are fairly clumsy walkers (compared to chickens). They are relatively heavy and strong animals and have impressive/massive webbed feet. Mother duck trampled two of her ducklings. One we found stiff-dead with a broken neck,  the other we found lying on its side and managed to recuperate. I used to think it was cute the way the little ducklings follow their mother around in a single line. Now I cringe, much like I did for my younger sister, for the ducklings directly behind their mother afraid she will crush them without even blinking. Oh well.

Dogs and Bites

Andreea has mostly healed from her encounter with Rex the latest member in our pack of dogs. During the first days he was tied but now he is free most of the time. He is a great dog. He is very responsive, very energetic and very soft (even when he is bursting with energy). There is still friction between him and Loui … both will soon be castrated and that should help them get along better. For now we have to be attentive to them and let them know that neither one of them is in charge … that we are. Loui is usually the instigator … so he usually gets most of the attention.

When they share a common enemy the dogs are a very cohesive pack. They run out into the field together, attack together and bark together during the night. Rickyhas “grown” but is still a ridiculous excuse for a dog. A few days ago I found a dead fox lying in the grass between the house and the raised beds. I felt (a) sorry for the fox; (b) proud of our dogs; (c) relieved for our flock. The fox has been tossed into the compost pile (as was the dead chick).

Bees and Honey

The first of our hives is very well established. We have added and the bees have populated many frames. When I inspected it a couple of weeks ago there were quite a few frames filled with honey – even though we have had a rough season bee-wise (too much rain in the spring, disappoint acacia tree blooms, too hot in the summer).

A few days ago when I went out to harvest a couple of frames I was surprised to find that the bees had consumed quite a bit of honey. I decided not to take any for now. We’ll check again in a month or so and see what is available. Our priority is to leave the bees all the honey they need for winter so we don’t know if we’ll get any for ourselves this year.

The second hive is also coming along quite well. It is lagging behind the first hive because we made its transition a few after the first hive. There isn’t too much honey production but there is quite a lot of brood and they are making very nice progress building foundation. If necessary we will transfer some of the honey bars from the first hive to the second one to make sure they get through winter OK.

The third hive did not catch on. There are still some bees in it but there isn’t a queen and not much brood left. There was some brood and signs that the bees were trying to raise a queen but it doesn’t look like that worked out well.

Just Plain Funny

A couple of days ago I am standing on the gravel road that leads to Bhudeva and all four dogs are all around me. Suddenly, out of the weeds/grass appears a small creature that looked like a cross between a ferret and a mouse. In it’s mouth was a beautiful green lizard it had probably just caught. It shot into the middle of the road,  found itself amongst 4 dogs and a giant (me) and there was a looooong moment of silence. The creature dropped the lizard … still silence. Then everyone snapped … some of the dogs went after the creature, some stayed to examine the lizard. I called out to Andreea to come and see the lizard in the middle of the road … and most of us lived happily ever after 🙂

Farmageddon

Farmageddon is one example of what THEM can do … AND THEY COME WITH GUNS … this is what “naturally” comes together with “comfortable” supermarket chains and their agro-businesses cousins:

Again I am thankful that Romania is “far behind” enough to still try reaching away from and beyond such grotesque aberrations.

As I write these words the entire movie is available for viewing:

Last Minute Cacellations

It’s summer time and people are naturally moving around more … goin away on vacation … and this has generated some friction with Cutia Taranului. People have been making last minute cancellations. Sometimes the cancellation is done responsibly … the peasant is notified a week in advance or by email. But sometimes they are occuring irresponsibly … cancelling by telephone or email a day or two before delivery or even not being at home and not answering a phone when delivery is already in progress.

It is fairly clear, to me and I hope to others, that the irresponsible behavior is … well irresponsible, inexcusable, disrepsectul … and should simply not happen. That is easy and obvious. However it is the “responsible” cancellation that I want to address.

Cutia Taranului is about fostering a mutual, complimentary and stable relationship between peasants and members. That last part … stable is a key ingredient. It is a peasant’s responsibility to grow and deliver food regularly … that is obvious to everyone (though it is far from trivial). But what about a member’s responsibility to stablity? If this is to be a mutual and reciprocal relationship … how should a member who goes on vacation for a week behave? The easy and again obvious solution is to cancel the delivery for that week. But is there a better solution … one that is built around a mutual aspiration for stabiity and reliability? For example, if you are going out of town for a week how about giving your box to a neighbor or family relative? Maybe they will enjoy it so much that they too will want to join the box?

If you shop in the supermarket then one of the inherent luxuries is that you only shop when you need and want to. Is it obvious that this behavior should be applied to Cutia Taranului? We can tell you for a fact that in some cases peasants DO NOT sell available produce in city markets because they prioritize and set it aside for their Cutia Taranului boxes. We can tell you for a fact that some products such as baked goods begin days in advance … the boxes are prepared fresh and by order. How can you, as box members reciprocate this commitment? Should you? I don’t have a clear answer … but I do believe that the question needs to be asked and that conscious and responsible decisions can be valuable. Don’t you?

If you have udeas on how to deal with this situation responsibly as a box-member then please leave a comment so that others may benefit from your approach to this issue.

 

You don’t discipline a fearful dog

Yesterday started out as a regular day. We did a neighbor round in the morning – starting with fresh milk, then some vegetables from Ildi and a short visit with Maria. By the time we got home it was too hot to work outside so I continued working on the Cutia Taranului information system.

I do need to mention that we have a fourth dog … our neighbors wanted to get rid of him (irresponsibly … as dogs are usually treated here in villages) … so we decided to take him in. This happened the day before yesterday. He is a beautiful dog and very responsive … but he needs to get used to the new place (he got away twice and ended back at his previous home) and to us. He was tied up his whole life and continues to be tied up here … though we do take him for short walks … and he will eventually be free like our other dogs. His name is Rex.

So back to yesterday … in the early afternoon Andreea went outside for a “stale bread round” … treating all the animals … flock and dogs. Her last stop was Rex. She went to him and as we treat our other dogs assertively requested that he sit and be calm before receiving the bread. However she did it with a hand gesture … The dog panicked and attacked and bit her … right through to the bone. Indy came to Andreea’s rescue (she was already nearby … as she always is when food is involved) and attacked Rex … he then diverted his attention from Andreea to Indy.

Andreea called out to me panicked … I ran out and found her barely standing and her left arm punctured in numerous places … with at least one gushing blood. She moved inside and we wrapped a towel to stop the bleeding … which fortunately worked. But then shock kicked in … she was experiencing both excruciating pain and fear. Then her hand began to go numb … which reduced the pain but increased the fear. I improvised something to stabilize her arm and we decided to finally pay a visit to the emergency room in Cluj.

Given what Andreea knows and what we’ve heard about Romanian hospitals the experience was surprsingly smooth and pleasant. The bite indeed went all the way to the bone and tore through a ligament … but the damage did not warrant any intervenion. It should heal on its own. Within just over an hour we left the hospital with Andreea’s arm bandaged.

We made a few additional stops. The first was in a pharmacy right across the street from the hospital to fill an antibiotics prescription. Second was in a natural products shop to pick up a few tinctures Andree wanted to apply herself. Third was to purchase some bread … since Andreea isn’t going to be baking any in the coming days. Last to pick up some wood-finishing materials we forgot to pick during the previous visit.

When we got home I sent Andreea inside and unloaded the car. During the last round I took too many things in my arms and dropped at the doorstep one of the wood-finishing material cans. It opened quite easily (as it never does when I want it too) and spilled … almost completely. I cursed … then took a breath … and then brough a piece of sponge and spread the finishing material on the doorstep itself (which was wood we put in but never got around to finishing) and on the bug-screen external door I recently added.

It was one of those days.

In the night the rains finally came … plentiful rains … I awoke to a cloudy and wet day. The rain felt like some kind of reset button … both for the thirsty plants and for emotional-me. Andreea will wake up soon and hopefully be feeling better too.

Cutia Taranului & Rain

We had a very wet spring this year. We had plenty of rain but less early warmth. Corn grew early and fast however vegetables were slower to grow.

IMPACT1: Field grown vegetables have been growing slower then last year.

But then the rain stopped and people got religious … some more then others. Some people have no irrigation solutions so they get really religious really fast as they watch their crops dry. Others have small water-holes created not by gathering rain but by excavating until they penetrates an aquifer so that springs create a small reservoire of water. They use gas-driven pumps to move water into the fields and have been watching the water level go way down … so their religion is a bit more laid back … but still … they too are praying for rains.

IMPACT2: Peasants income is late to appear and to a degree in doubt this year.
IMPACT3: Peasants live in fear.
IMPACT4: Cutia Taranului members need to be patient … investing more energy then they thought they would in this mutual relationship with their fellow peasants.

By now the corn too is starting to show signs of dryness. It had a great start but it too needs water to continue growing.

IMPACT5: There may be less yield of corn, less to feed the animals, more expenses in buying feed … coupled with less income from selling food = difficult.

The pastures have given good yield so far but may not continue to yield enough hay for another cutting. Hay needs to be cut in dry conditions so that it can dry in the sun before it is collected … so summer is pretty much the only time

IMPACT6: Gradually less and less small peasant families with 2 or 3 cows … much work, not enough value … and way too much trouble.

This morning we awoke to a hopeful drizzle. It paused and later turned into a promising summer rain … that lasted 20 minutes … then the sun came out and the hope went away. Within a couple of hours most of the earth was again dry. Rain … it is so immediate, so powerful, so far reaching. Of course the worries may be eased at least temporaily somewhat with a few rains … but the instablity and fears remain.

We hope Cutia Taranului will create stability for both consumers in the city and peasant producers. Yet we ar convinced that selling food is just one (though a critical) step on on the way. The way food is grown will have to change too … water supply is diminishing (water tables are dropping), the earth (yes, even AND especially the earth that will supply the wonderful vegetables that will begin delivery next week) is dying, work is getting harder and weather is becoming less predictable and more extreme (it isn’t global warming that worries peasants, it’s singular local events that threatens their livelihood).

For me, that’s the heart and motivation of Cutia Taranului. We live and grow our food in the same weather conditions, we face similar challenges. We have already begun to explore alternative approaches that create better and more resilient conditions and we hope, through Cutia Taranului, to both continue our exploration and then share our experiences in the hope that stability can be achieved in the face of coming uncertainties.