Sudden Explosion in Bhudeva Residents

It’s almost 10pm and we just got back from a long day – we just arrived with two bee families. I don’t have much capacity to write … but did feel compelled to put out this one image of the two temporary  bee-hives. The coming days we are going to bust with completing their new top-bar-hives and then transitioning them and allowing them to settle into their long-term 🙂

Cutia Taranului: Reaching a Younger Generation

There seems to be in Romania a widespread movement of younger generations moving away from village life to a promise of a better life in a city. As a result most Romanian villages are either aging or altogether dying. When we moved out to a village we were moving against the currents typical here in Romania (though we are happy to say we are not the only ones). Given the typical village life here in Romania, where people are slaves to the land and animals, I can understand young people wanting to move away towards a better and more comfortable life. However I believe that such a life can be had in a Romanian village and that it is much for feasible, sustainable (and to me – pleasant) then city life.

During the first week of Cutia Taranului’s launch we were contacted by a few young people who were asking about Cutia Taranului for their peasant parents. We were very happy to witness Cutia Taranului evoke renewed interest in peasantry amongst a younger generation.

Yesterday we met with another peasant family who took an interest and invited us to learn more about Cutia Taranului. They first heard about the project from Ildi & Levente (who were the first peasant family on Cutia Taranului). But it turns out that it was their 25 year old son who lives in Cluj-Napoca who was the one who prompted them to contact us and give it a try. He was with us when we met with them (he comes home to the village on weekends). The meeting went quite well and their son had a supportive role in it. The couple were in disbelief … they simply could not imagine a regular customer base without the hassles of the expensive market place. It, to them, was just to good to be true (it almost is) … even though they’ve heard about it first hand from Ildi and Levente who’s boxes sold out in a week. Their son’s presence was very supportive.

Fortunately he also spoke english and at one point the conversation split. Andreea was speaking to the couple while I spoke to their son. He shared with me his admiration for the project and even spoke about moving back to the village. HE SPOKE ABOUT MOVING BACK TO THE VILLAGE. I cannot describe in words what I felt … it was a physical sensation … a vibration moving through me … maybe joy? pure joy?

We continued to speak and I shared with him my belief that he could both make a living here and do a  great service to his community. I believe there are many small producers in villages in our area who do not have enough produce nor the organizational skills to create an effective offering. However, if someone like him would come out here and organize a kind of peasant-collective … that they may actually be able to organize a very rich offering of peasant-boxes. He listened carefully and I sensed him taking it in and … well another seed has been planted … now I am curious to see what will grow from it 🙂

… and of course … if you are in Cluj-Napoca please stay tuned … we expect to announce in the coming days another 30 boxes 🙂

Inspiration: Sepp Holzer

If you haven’t already been touched by Sepp Holzer’s inspiring life and framing then this relatively new production with available subtitles (after you click play a “cc” button will appear and you need to click it and then ”english” to activate them) makes for a good introduction. Enjoy 🙂

Arrived in my life complements of Paul Wheaton

Tires Together

One of our core projects here at Bhudeva is building our future house. We have been doing a lot of research on sustainable and ecological construction and we have been facing many challenges in bringing existing knowledge into context for our life here in Romania. Our latest design envisions a mostly underground house that will provide us with a year-long steady temperature of 21c without any energy inputs (neither for cooling in the summer nor for heating in winter). The core of our design is based on the concept of Earthships. At the heart of Earthship construction are massive walls built of tires that are packed full of earth.

So for many months we’ve been looking and asking around about tires here in Romania and this is what we found out:

  • Most tire dealers and repair shops sell some used tires that barely have treads but can still just barely be driven for 15-20 ron a tire (just to be clear – they are sold to people with old cars who can’t afford new tires).
  • Tire dealers are required to “recycly” through the state (represented by licensed operators) a certain amount of tires to offset new tires that they import.
  • The dealers are paid a symbolic 50 ban per tire collected from them.
  • Most of the collected tires are then sold off to different uses . Some are recycled (yey!!) into products such as car mats … however …
  • Many (we suspect most) are sold at a premium of 10-20 ron per tire (purchased in quantities of tens of thousands) to cement manufacturing companies (and their likes) who use them as fuel (boo!!) – it seems that a single tire contains a equivalent of 7.5 liters of oil!
  • We know of at least one giant pile of tires in Cluj-Napoca that is just sitting there slowly decomposing in the sun. We assume that other such piles can be found all over Romania.

Used tires is a waste product we (especially those of us who drive cars) are all responsible for creating. The concept of Earthships (built with earth-packed tires) was born out of recognition that this huge source of waste (available all over the planet) can be put to good use in creating houses (which it would seem are also needed all over the planet). Any recycling of tires requires high energy inputs (often starting with shredding). The thought of all the toxicity released when tires are burned as fuel (a single tire contains a equivalent of 7.5 liters of oil!) is mind-boggling. When used to build Earthships the tires are used as is and because they are completely buried they do not decompose or release any toxic gases (which they do when exposed to the sun).

Whenever we speak to someone in Romania about needing tires we quickly encounter an opportunistic greed. Regardless of the “asking-price-per-tire” we would also need to find a solution to sort through tires and have them brought over to our place which incur additional expenses. All this caused us to rethink about construction with tires – suddenly it seemed that concrete blocks that easily snap together would be much cheaper (and way faster to build with) then working with tires. However we really don’t want to resort to massive construction with concrete … so we scratched our heads and though of you … yes you 🙂

Inspired by the awesome waves of goodness we encountered with the introduction of Cutia Taranului we decided to once again try collaborating with you – our fellow Romanians. Also in the spirit of Cutia Taranului we realized that the best way to get tires would be to go around the existing system rather than through it. It boils down to this … the next time you buy tires we would like to ask that you keep your old tires, don’t leave them to be used opportunistically as fuel.

Now look at your old tires … what do you see? Look closely … you are holding a personal invitation to visit with us at Bhudeva including at least a pleasant conversation, a tour and a tasty cup of herbal tea … and best of all you have become a contributer to a unique experiment in sustainable construction taking place here in Romania.

For our house we are going to need about 2000 tires (though we have other structures planned … so we will try to collect much more). Tires come in different sizes which are indicated with a combination of numbers printed on them. All you need to look at is the first number – the one that has the letter “R” in front of it. We need tires that are labeled as either “R15” or “R16′”. The larger “R16” tires will be used for the base of our walls and the “R15” tires will be used on top of them for most of the wall.

Lastly … since we are talking about garbage 🙂  We are also going to need empty cans, empty wine bottles and used cardboard boxes. So if you are already holding on to tires an invitation to visit Bhudeva then please  hang on to these things you may be tempted to throw out 🙂

Since tires are not often changed this initiative may move a bit slow so … please do spread the word to your family and friends 🙂

 

Land of Peasants

I am writing this post sitting in my parents living room in Israel after watching Andreea in a live appearance on Romanian TV to speak about Cutia Taranului (I’ll update this post with the vide of the interview once it becomes available).

Since we launched Cutia Taranului we have been swept up by waves of goodness. All of Ildi & Levente’s boxes have found a home with families in Cluj; kind friends wrote about the project with their unique personal perspective and helped to spread the word (thank you Sam, Nora and Gina); a TV and news crew came out to inquire and help spread the word; we have been contacted by people from all over Romania asking when boxes will be available in their cities; we have been contacted by other peasants and are slowly helping them put together additional boxes (40 more boxes for Cluj will be announced in the coming days); Ildi and Levente have discovered a supportive and embracing group of customers new family amongst their fellow Romanians in Cluj; we have discovered that this country that is looked down at by other countries and too often its own citizens as being poor and corrupt is able to demonstrate qualities of trust, faith and support that have touched my heart and sent shivers down my spine … and I could probably go on and on.

However there is one interesting feedback that has popped out 2 or 3 times that surprised me and I believe deserves to be addressed. There are people for whom the word “peasant” comes with negative connotations … for them peasants is equated with a simple, primitive and poor life. As a result, when we speak of “peasants delivering fresh food directly to your doorstep” these people perceive us as patronizing … as if we, the foreigners playing “little house on the Romanian prairie” are taking advantage of the poorness of peasants.

In Romanian the word for peasant is Taran (spoken “tsaran”) for men and Taranka (“tsaranka”) for women. The meaning of that word is not “simple, primitive, poor people who live a shabby life in a shabby house growing their own food”. The meaning of the word is “man of the earth”. The Romanian language is not particularly pleasant to my ear, it’s a fairly “functional” language, it doesn’t have the depth of Hebrew – my mother tongue. However it has this one beautiful word that simply means “man of the earth”. I look forward to earning the right to label myself as “man of the earth” and I have nothing but awe and respect for people who are “of the earth”.

Romania is literally a land of peasants. It’s not an opinion, it’s not a romantic description … it is a fact. Practically half of the Romanian population are peasants. It isn’t a land of wonderous cities (it is a land where cities are basic functional creatures of necessity that rely on and support peasants). It isn’t a land of industries (however it was once the world leader in production of hemp and hemp products). It is a land of peasants. So much so that I have a feeling that when industrial forces swept across the planet during the previous century, some core quality of Romania (it’s nature?) resisted. Even now when it is under attack by unrelenting foreign financial powers, it, in its own way, is resisting change (though I am not sure it will be able to hold out much longer).

Maybe this is why in many ways Romania is a “backwards” country – where the village market parking lot is packed full of horse-carriages and not cars? Maybe this is why it has historically manufactured Dacia cars which are ridiculed by the west but perfect for a land of peasants – cars that are simple, cheap, long lasting (you can see many very old cars moving around Romania) and super easy to fix for local village technicians (qualities that were for the most part lost when Dacia became ambitious about expanding into European markets). Maybe this is why Romanian population is in decline – as if preferring to fade away instead of betraying its true nature?

After Andreea’s interview the show aired a story about some 40,000 euros of EU funding that, if I understood correctly, were intended to support local farming. I was amused (and slighty offended) when they used the images they shot for Cutia Taranului (at our place and at Ildi & Levente’s home) to illustrate their point. In that piece two people were interviewed, both officials who work in government agencies charged with distribution of EU funds to farmers and peasants. Both were wearing suites and ties and looked, to me, like aliens in a land of peasants. THERE, in them, I could sense a lack-of-interest at best and patronizing attitude at worst towards the “simple, poor peasants who should be grateful for the EU funds that come to their rescue”.

Then … 🙂 there was another live english speaking interview (I could barely follow it because of the simultaneous translation) with an english speaking professor and a colleague from the UK. They were praising Transilvania and its food and spoke about food-tourism and all sorts of things – they love the place (Transilvania) and support and promote it. It was a very positive and supportive interview. One of the last questions presented by the interviewers was something like “What would be your one recommendation for us to grow in this direction?”. The answer was direct and simple “support your local producers”. I most definitely agree 🙂

I am so relieved and proud that we were able to establish our life in the village and to breathe life into Cutia Taranului without any EU or other public funding (which we did consider when we first set out). Call me crazy but wouldn’t it be fantastic if Cutia Taranului could reach peasants and city-dwellers all over Romania? If it could recreate a traditional and sustainable coexistence of village and city? If it could remind Romanians of the natural abundance that is available to them? If it could recreate a sense of personal security (for both peasants and city-dwellers) in these unclear and unstable times? Wouldn’t it be super-awesome-cool if instead of hemorrhaging money to greedy foreign banks, Romania could softly gravitate, literally from the ground up, towards a natural economy that would enable it to get over its past mistakes (pay its debts) and keep its copper and all its other god-given natural resources?

 

Springing into Spring

I have fallen behind reporting on our most recent happening  … not because there haven’t been any but because there have been sooooo many.

We were blessed with a local gypsy worker who was all around excellent. He has helped us quite a bit over recent days. At first he helped us to clean out the area in front of the house. This included more destruction, cleaning and organizing. We now have a large open space and a huge and fairly organized pile of scrap wood.

Then we asked him to stay another day and help us clean out the large prune orchard behind the house. It was overgrown and overpopulated. We took down many unhealthy trees and provided better space for the remaining trees. Meanwhile I used the tree cuttings to build large Sepp Holzer style Hugelkultur raised beds of which there are 5 … with plenty of wood still hanging around (more on this project in a separate post).

Then we had him help us fix the rear (north wall of the house). It was in bad shape and we decided not to deal with it last year. Then a few weeks ago Andreea noticed a cool draft of air coming in through the wall above her head. So the wall has been fixed and hopefully will hold out for a long time (more on this in a separate pose).

Amidst all this work we finally launched Cutia Taranului. It has been amazingly well recieved. Waves of goodness are spreading out and coming back to us. Ildi & Levente‘s boxes have almost sold out. We have had requests for boxes from people all over Romania. We have also been contacted by other peasants who wish to join the project to sell their produce. We are overwhelmed by the waves of good-will this project has stirred. Andreea has spent many hours responding to emails and speaking to people. Next week, while I’ll be away in Israel, Andreea together with Ildi and Levente will be interviewed for both newspaper and TV. Fantastic energy.

During the weekend, right after the launch of Cutia Taranului, we were visited by some friends from the city together with some really nice people from organizations that are working to support peasants in Romania.

Cutia Taranului is another loud and clear confirmation that we are finally on our correct path. We are catching up with our Dharma and where there was once bitter friction there is now sweet flow. A true blessing.

Today I started out with some wood chopping but realized that I am physically tired. So I went back inside and got back to doing some coding – something I haven’t done since SweetClarity. I’ve begun designing and building a web-application that will enable us to better manage and organize the information that is rapidly accumulating around Cutia Taranului.

I am beat but very content 🙂

Monday I am flying to Israel to visit my family (for the Jewish Passover holiday) in what is an almost historic family reunion. I’ll try to see some friends … but otherwise intend to rest. We have many things we want to do when I get back. This year is very different from last year. Last year we were in a race to finish preparations for winter. This year there is no race. Ahead of us is a vast space of exploration that we can now travel through and enjoy at our own pace. We are heading into a nice life 🙂

Cutia Taranului – Celebrating Romanian Peasants

During the time we’ve been here in Romania we have taken an interest in the way of life we have chosen for ourselves – a sustainable and abundant peasant(ish) life. One of my first impressions of Romania (from my first visit here in 2009) was of the market in Piatra Neamt – I was blown away by the abundance, quality and affordable prices of vegetable produce in Romania. My jaw literally dropped, especially when I realized what a heaven this could be for a vegetarian like myself. Mind you this was in December – winter time when there the market offerings are not nearly as rich as in spring and summer.

However when, less then a year later, we arrived in Cluj, my impression of the market was … disappointing, especially since I expected to find an even richer offering since Cluj is a larger city and in Transylvania (west Romania) which is considered a more economically and culturally developed then Moldova (east Romania). The market had much less to offer and the prices were much higher.

Since this is intended to be a celebratory post I will keep my rant short. The peasant way of life in Romania is under a relentless attack from many directions. However we believe that the peasant way of life is not just a wonderful path towards an abundant life but is a strategic national resource in terms of sustainability. Simply put: Romania is still a country that can feed itself and that makes it a rare and special place on this planet. We feel that should be nurtured and protected.

With that in mind and heart, and as a celebration of both spring and Romanian Peasants, we are excited and happy to share with you a project, one that has been slowly brewing for almost a year. At first it was just an idea we tossed around openly. Then, shortly after moving out to Mociu we met Ildi and Levente, neighbors and peasants from whom we purchased most of our winter food supply (an abundance we are still enjoying), who, despite their justified skepticism listened to what we had to say and ultimately agreed to partake in our little experiment. Our idea was to create an alternate sales channel that would enable peasants to directly bring their produce to city-customers in a simple, reliable and sustainable way (bypassing the existing obstacles and abuses peasants have to deal with). The code name for the project was “Peasant Box” which in Romanian translates into “Cutia Taranului”.

The idea isn’t original, it has been applied in various forms in many places around the world. Peasant families offer boxes of produce that are delivered directly to customers in the city. Customers in the city can choose a box they would like delivered to them but not it’s exact contents. The contents of these boxes are a result of a delicate and miraculous collaboration between a peasant family, their work and Mother Nature. Therefore it changes with the moods of nature and the seasons of the year. By joining a box customers get healthy fresh food and a direct, continuous and co-supportive relationship with a peasant family.

Currently the project is an experiment with one peasant family. All it takes is 50 families in the city of Cluj-Napoca for them to sell almost all of their produce (available as either a small or large box). It would guarantee them a steady and reliable income without having to pay the outragous fees of the city markets and without having to stand in the markets long days. There are other long term benefits – but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves 🙂 If this experiment works we hope to see many more boxes being offered by peasants to cities all over Romania.

All that is left is to invite you to have a look at Cutia Taranului, and if you live in Cluj-Napoca maybe you too can enjoy the wonderful produce that Ildi and Levente grow 🙂