Provision Transylvania: Lars and Robin

Lars and Robin are a beautiful couple I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few times who live in Alunisu (on the other side of Cluj). In this interview Lars does what he does so well … gently and compassionately painting a comprehensive picture of where we are and where we can choose to go from here.

lars

“Imagine if the financial sector would expand the definition of returns … and beside the financial return would also look at return of happiness and well-being of man and nature, then you can make money and capital into an instrument that serves the society.”

From Drill bits to Scythes

For many years I watched my father struggle as he drilled holes into concrete walls (you know, for hanging stuff around the house and what not). He would work very hard, put a lot of force into it, needed someone (sometimes me) to hold up the ladder so he could push into the wall. And when I grew up and began drilling my own holes in concrete walls I did the same. One day, as I was browsing the drill bits in a DIY store I came across some Bosch bits which were much more expensive than the cheaper bits. I purchased one and the next time I drilled into concrete I was blown away … the quality drill bit took on a lot of the work I was doing. Good tools are not cheap and good tools are … well … good … or at least much better than cheap junk tools. I’ve applied that lesson many times since.

Fast forward many years … we move out to Bhudeva. We find an old scythe (worn blade) in the barn and decide to buy a second one with a newer, hopefully better blade. In our shopping we found two kinds of blades: cheap and really cheap. We decided to splurge and went with the cheap. It looked nice but it really wasn’t impressive nor pleasant to work with.

Fortunately, during our first year I was gifted with an opportunity to watch a guy who really knew how to work with a scythe. He did it really well, elegantly, efficiently, with correct effort (he could go on and on). I picked up some stuff from watching him and from an occassional tip he was able to communicate to me. Though a scythe may seem like an obvious tool to use … most people use it bluntly (hacking away). He didn’t, he danced with it … I think it was a meditative experience for him.

But no matter how much I practiced I couldn’t seem to find my way into this dance. I got better … but something wasn’t working out. Then a few months ago I came across some information on scythe’s and eventually wrote this post about it. As I did so I found an Austrian company FUX that produces Scythes and has been doing so for hundreds of years (the same company!) – hand forged to this day. I emailed the company to ask if they had representation in Romania and they replied with two contacts. Liviu (who has been really helpful interfacing on my behalf with the Romanian speaking world around me) spoke to them and indeed they had FUX scythes. We ordered one and it has been here at Bhudeva for a couple of weeks.

During this time a couple of (local) people who saw the blade asked me if I was looking to create back problems for myself. They couldn’t understand why in this day and age of power tools (small and large) I would want to invest in a back-breaking scythe (all the way from Austria). So …

I purchased a snath (a long wooden handle onto which the blade is attached) and a binding ring in the village market. Today I finally got around to setting it up. The snath was properly sized to my height. The scythe blade was installed at a correct angle …  and I went swinging away … and I was immediately blown away. The blade flowed through the grass and weeds smoothly and with ease. It seemed like the grass was surrendering to the might of the blade and falling on its own, before the blade even reached it. What a pleasure to use.

When I finished playing around with it I wanted to wipe it clean and it slipped from my grip. I sent out a hand to catch the blade … mistake. In a fraction of a second it peeled a small patch of skin from one of my fingers. Later in the evening I also found that as I was playing around with the scythe it seamlessly cut through a power cord that runs through our yard (delivering power to the workshop). I found out because the same cable powers the electric fence that protects our chickens and ducks … and the fence wasn’t working.

It’s an amazing blade, so different from the cheap stuff that is so abundantly available. Thought I wouldn’t (for now?) want to cut down acres of grass with it, I do look forward to working and finding my groove with it. What a difference a good tool makes.

I was (again, as with the axes) disappointed that we couldn’t find a decent Romanian made scythe. I doubt there is a country on this planet where there is a higher scythe-per-capita ratio. Yet only junk is readily available here – no wonder people think it is back-breaking work! So now I have a Finnish axe and an Austrian scythe, both from companies who have been making them for hundreds of years. There should be Romanian companies who make axes & scythes (and many other such things). Everywhere I look I see so many opportunities to create meaningful things here in Romania 🙂

Toby Hemenway – Redesigning Civilization with Permaculture

When just over two years ago we came across permaculture we were overwhelmed by a flood of information. We couldn’t find anything to anchor us down, anything to help us make sense of it all. Fragments of information came at us from all directions and we didn’t know how to put it all together. We have since a few precious anchors to give us direction, but the day before yesterday we came across this by Toby Hemenway (author of a fairly well known in permaculture circles book Gaia’s Garden). We enjoyed every secon of this talk – one of the most clear and accessible introductions to permaculture we’ve come across. In it he gives an inspiring historical glimpse into the forces that shaped our modern day cilization and the difficulties we have been experiencing lately – especially with regard to food, but not just.

I wish we had come across this video earlier in our meeting with Permaculture.


This video also presents a welcomed and first opportunity to share Permaculture with others in our lives who’s lives have not yet presented a relevant invitation into this domain.

Farmstead Meatsmith

I don’t eat meat. But, to my surprise, I am learning to slaughter (so far chickens and Muscovites) while Andreea does butchering. Andreea eats some meat (not much) and we prefer to eat home-grown foods, including meat (I do enjoy eggs, and I do eat a morsel of meat from every animal that I slaughter, out of respect for the animal … and Muscovite meat is the best I’ve tasted in my entire life … I used to eat meat). The truth is that even if you keep chickens just for eggs, you will end up, eventually, with chickens that need to be slaughtered (old hens, too many roosters …).

My first visit to Romania took place during the holiday season, the time of year where many (if not most) villagers butcher a pig. Everywhere we visited people tried to impress me with their meats (a symbol of wealth) when all I really wanted was their potatoes ( a symbol of poverty) and other root vegetables. Andreea was constantly on the lookout to make sure that they didn’t fin a way to inject me with meat (like cooking Mamaliga in pork-fat, or mixing in a chopped pork for good measure). At the time, when this piece of meat was placed before me I couldn’t handle it and asked politely that it be moved away:

Fast forward two years and I found myself living in a Romanian village and documenting up close the slaughter of not one but three pigs. I got to witness how different people approach butchery in different ways and it was easy to spot the one doing the best job … even there quality was evident.

Slaughter and butchery is still common knowledge in Romania. Even many current city-dwellers have village-life in their pasts and they can take apart a large pig very efficiently. However there isn’t much quality and there isn’t much appreciation. It is another typical opportunistic action, something that’s done to provide food for the cold winter. Andreea has tasted quite a bit and she wasn’t very impressed by the cooking either.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I find Andreea drooling in front of her computer. She was watching the beautiful people at Farmstead Meatsmith. They are reviving meat harvesting in the USA. They do it with exceptional quality and care … from butchery through to cooking. Andreea was very hungry when we stopped watching.

I joined  her as we watched their introduction video (used to raise money on Kickstarter for more video productions):

<br/>And then this video, the first produced after their successful Kickstarter campaign:

<br/>Beautifully produced videos, by and of beautiful people doing beautiful work.