Sheep Milking

After the spring sale of the young sheep the rest are grazing all around the place. They have a fenced roundup area which has to be moved periodically so that the ground does not get overcome with their urine and manure (just the right amount means it will flourish like crazy next year) … and they moved it right next to our place so one evening I went out to see their milking … it’s done twice a day 6am and 6pm. First the sheep are brough into the fenced area:

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The guy carrying the stick is the shepherd (Choban in Romanian). He seems slightly drunk most of the day and very drunk at other parts of the day. This is what he does. He gets paid per season (essentially a year, though he typically has the winter months “off”) per head.

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There are still a few suckling youngsters in the herd:P1060419

The milking process is efficiently executed using a smaller separate enclosure. They try to herd into it only those sheep that need to be milked though a few others slip in too and skipped (it is important not to miss any of those that do need to be milked). Ricky always gets very excited when sheep are herded and always wants in on the action … though not always useful:

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Once all the sheep-to-be-milked have been collected into the separate fenced area it is closed offP1060425

And then their only way out is through the milking station which stands between them and “freedom”P1060426

Hand are washed (the two guys on the right are the owners of the herd and the one on the left is the shepherd)P1060428

And the sheep start flowing through. Notice that the shepherdΒ  is taking his time … he will start after the other two and his milking pot will be filled when the other two are only half full … he’s the professional in the groupP1060430

You have to be alert, the sheep are happy to just run through to their freedom without being milked. They are usually caught by the tale or a hind legP1060432

And milked. There’s isn’t much milk in a sheep … they milk ~130 sheep and will have a yield of about 40-50 liters total … these are grass-and-weeds-fed-only animals. I asked but my Romanian is not good enough to receive an explanation of the purpose of the cup hanging in the milking pot.P1060434

On the other side of the wall the sheep are so crowded that they are practially lined up to pass through

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Though there is a guy with a stick to prod and remind them and keep them packed against the two-passages. He can be (too!) fierce.

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And all three are in full-milking modeP1060441

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And slowly the herd flows from the smaller enclosure to the larger one (which is wide open … yet the sheep stay inside).P1060449

Clean shoes are awaiting their ownerP1060451

Knees are used to keep keen sheep from passing through before they are invited in.P1060453

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Beer is VERY big in Romanian villages … almost everybody drinks .. alotP1060459

But when you are the guy with the stick … you have to stay on the job otherwiseP1060460

When the milking pots are filled the process is paused and the milk is transferred into large (25 liter) aluminum containers

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And the guy with the stick gets “busy” as fewer sheep are left:

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And this happens twice a day

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Hands are washed Β  P1060477

The pots are also washed and the milky-water is given to the dogs who happily make it disappear really fastP1060479

Some males showing off malesP1060480

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The “structure” in the background is the “hut” in which the shepherd lives.P1060487

And this his dinner:P1060490

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Some of the milk goes to personal consumption (including ours) and the rest is sold (via collection trucks) to one of the large national dairy-producers. There are other flocks whos milk is processed into cheese products. The milk containers fit perfectly into the trunk of an old Dacia … as if its trunk was designed FOR the milk containers. The Dacia needs to push-(as in by people)-started

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Unlike horses and carriages (true 4×4) which for the most part start very reliably P1060495

Started the day with a walk to Ildi & Levente go give them stuff for Andreea. The day before yesterday I was invited to a cherry picking … so yesterday I made my first Vishinitsa (Romanian Tsuika with cherry syrup) … came out very nice. So I sent some to Andreea together with a jar of the leftover cherry-mush – also yummy!

Then I did another coat of paint on the pieces of wood that can now be constructed into the bases for the 6 new solar dehydrators.

Potential rain tomorrow … so I headed out to collect the hay I cut into a pile (keeping for winter, when we use it as bedding for the flock). Since I don’t have a horse & carriage nor a carriage to hook up the car it was either do a lot of walking with hay stuck on the fork … or … I tried to use the wheel-barrow to create larger piles. I think it looked ridiculous but it worked. I managed to load and esily transport in a single wheel-barrow 4 or 5 times the amount I would have been able to carry by fork. A nice pile is standing next to the barn … proud … its my first … cut, turned, collected and piled on my own. I even brushed the sides so that the rain would wash off (though I will probably cover it with a tarp too). It’s already starting to look less impressive as it settles into place.

Took a break, ate, snoozed a bit … then didn’t really feel like working more. So I did some kitchen-cleaning, did my on-the-mat Yoga practice and …

… went outside to check the beehives. Good news is that the pre-emptive split we did about a month ago (there were signs of potential swarming … lots of males and queen cells) looks to have taken well – plenty of activity, brood, construction and honey collection – though still a small family. I hope they are able to get strong enough and collect enough honey to make it through winter. However I have a feeling that the original hive also swarmed. I saw two swarms .. one was just around the time ours should have … so it may have … and the other just today. I couldn’t spot the queen (but I can rarely do that), the hive is still very active, plenty of honey but I also did not see sign of brood. I did see two queen-cells … so … looks like swarming (the colony split and many left with the queen and honey stores to form a new colony) may have happened.

The flock is set for the night, dogs are fed, all the wood from the finishing stand has been brought inside, dinner is cooking … and I am calling it a day.

Today started grey and wet … a nice fall rain … light and long πŸ™‚ I did not feel like going out at all … and so I didn’t … unti I felt like going out and so I went out … and the weather cleared and the sun came out and even some blue skies later in the day πŸ™‚

I started in the workshop … I buit a platform on wheels … which is actually a part of the second rocket stove project. Before I can buid the new rocket stove I first have to move out the old metal stove which is very heavy (takes an effort for three strong guys to lift). So my idea is to leg by leg lift it onto the platform and then roll out it out … so that is done.

I then went on to chop some more firewood … filled and stored another wheel-barrow … and then went out to clean up and mulch another of the raised beds. I was happy to find yet another small batch of small tomatoes … perfect for the solar dehydrator … shoud we get a decent day of sun πŸ™‚

And another day gone by:)

I am sitting happily warm after firing up the rocket stove for the first time this season. The past few nights have been cold here and I’ve had to do an imitation of Andreea (layers of clothes and a blanket) … well no more. I modified the rocket a bit and we have not applied finishing yet. I was worried that without the finishing some unwelcome gasses would be released into the room. So I fired it up today in the middle of the day when the house was still open and there was natural ventillation … and all is good … and I am warm … which is VERY good πŸ™‚

Over the past few days I’ve watched as neighbors coppiced some very old willows. I have to admit I was a bit jealous because (a) of the amount of easy to cut down wood they took away and (b) because we hope that in the next few years to acquire that land and we kind of already view it as ours … and so … you get it πŸ™‚

Anyways they left lots of willow cuttings … some quite large … and with their permission I took some of those cuttings and today planted a few on our property … a small boulevard πŸ™‚ I gave it priority because the weather forecast includes rain in the coming days … and I wanted them to benefit from the rain. I still hope to go back and collect all of the cuttings left on the ground. That wood is negligent if you have a regular wood stove, but if you have a rocket stove (as we do) it’s great burning material.

I’ve also started work on the second rocket stove … the one that will hopefully heat our living room this winter (last year we spent most of the winter in one room). Yesterday I cut open the barrel and burned off the paint and the remains of whatever was in the barrel. Today I sanded it clean and it is ready to go. This rocket is going to a bit more complicated as it will include said radiating barrel and an additional “firebrick barrel” as a heat-battery that will also have a baking stove in it. I am also considering installing a water heating coil inside the rocket (though we will hook it up the water boiler only next year … long story).

I cutΒ  to cut more firewood everyday and we have quite a good winter-store ready to go.

Now dinner and a movie in a warm bedroom πŸ™‚

I am finding space again to do some short daily updates … that signifies a good thing for me πŸ™‚

Andreea is still away attending to another home-birth in Bucharest. There are signs that birth is nearing … so hopefully she’ll be home again in a few days (before heading out to another birth … and then another).

Today I finished assembly and finishing of our new winter door. It’s an outer door in addition to the existing door. Currently in its place we have a light summer-door – which is a framed net to keep flying things out during the summer. The new winter door is essentially a wooden box (though with a few neat, for me, tricks) which houses a 5cm thick layer of insulation. Maybe this year out kitchen won’t kitchen/hall won’t freeze like it did last year.

I’ve almost finished insulating the water pipes inside the house. It has turned to be a mean project. I had to take apart quite a bit (almost everything) to get the insulation on properly. This seemed to lead to a leak from the main water supply into the house (the whole thing was already fragile from freezing last winter) from both the main connection and from the flow-splitter attached to it. I’ve assembled a replacement assembly for this … now waiting for someone to be here with me so that I can disconnect the old assembly and put in the new one without pushing the water supply hose outside.

A couple weeks ago I finished insulation the grey-water line existing the house. Today I built an ad-hoc cover (from scrap wood) to our “hole-in-the-ground” grey water treatment facility. Next it will be covered by straw-bales and plastic to keep the rain off … so hopefully that doesn’t freeze either.

There is still some insulation work to do on the concrete man-hole boxes (one with the pump next to the well, the other where there the supply is splite to numerous destinations).Β  A guy was supposed to come here today to help me do that (in exchange for some work I let him do in my workshop) …. he didn’t show up πŸ™ Except for a few small touches that should keep us with running water through the freezing winter … I hope!

In the coming days I hope to resume the last big project for this year … the second rocket stove for our day-room (last year we spent almost the entire winter in the bedroom). I have almost all the materials … but I need to get back into the “rocket zone” to do this properly.

And all the time cutting more wood … some of it for this winter, some of it for future winters (unlike typical Romanians we prefer to feed our rocket stoves with dry wood).

Also collected another batch of dried apples from our solar driers … great stuff … if the sun comes out tomorrow I hope to get another batch in πŸ™‚

Flock is fed and watered, dog are fed … I am hungry … so off to whip something up for dinner and take a load off.

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 toΒ  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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ This time of year is probably their favorite πŸ™‚ The color of their poop changes according to what we are making … on a day like today … it gets reddish πŸ™‚ 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.