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We’ve been silent because 1) not too much has been happening and 2) Andreea was ill after which 3) I was shortly ill. We’re both much better now … though both bodies are still slowly recuperating.

We had a really nice today – March 1st is considered the official beginning of spring in Romania … and it really came off as such. After two freezing days, today was sunny and relatively warm. It’s a new sensational experience for me – white still being the dominant color in our south-facing hill across from the house … yet warm. The mud is a giveaway – white is slowly giving way to brown. I am not yet at peace with mud … especially ours which is clay-rich … so really slimy and extra muddy. It’s amazing (for me) to see puddles on exposed earth – indicating that the soil is saturated with water.

We went out to the village center for a small celebretory cake and coffee. We got before the guy who brings our milk (he usually leaves it there and we pick it up later in the day) and so we met with him too, paid him for the February milk and collected the fresh bottle. We spoke to my parents to let them know we are both well, picked up a couple of things in the hardware store, postoffice … and headed home. Andreea took in some sun while I changed to work clothes and got to work.

Yesteday Levente was here and helped me work on getting our water flow restored. I won’t bore you with the details … we made great progress (though still no running water) … and we had to protect everything from freezing again (as we may still get frosts during the night). That included covering the well itself with a temporary plastic cover – the well acts as a cold sink … and the pipe running down into the water can freeze. So today I headed into the workshop and got to work on a proper well-cover. I had a great time … hacked together a cover that is partly anchored and partly opening. Got it done and assembled and all went well. It was a f first “all nail” project … except for drilling the concrete (I really hate working with concrete) of the well-casing.

Meanwhile Andreea got to work on our deteriorating kitchen space and cleaned stuff up there. We are now indoors, the rocket is warming up the room, water is heating for a “Romanian village bath” … and evening is upon us.

It’s nice to be gradually coming out of winter hibernation. This will be out first spring here (we first saw the place in winter and moved here in the following summer). We’ve got a current list of projects to get started on … and as weather permits we are heading into another round of creation ๐Ÿ™‚

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today felt like the coldest morning so far … very subjective .. but there you have it

it took longer then usual for the rocket to warm up the room …

I went out after 10:30 to feed the dogs and release the flock and ran back inside … I went out again only around 12:30 … by the sun had overcome the freezing temperatures ย – probably brought them up to ~10deg celsius again ๐Ÿ™‚

The guy with the milk arrived and tried to help me start the car with his battery but that didn’t work either … still local wisdom says its the freezing temperatures and so … we’ll see … another neighbor will try to come out to see if he can help me get the car started ๐Ÿ™‚

So I spent the day cutting up more firewood from the scrap pile … and did some planing on boards that will become our bedside dressers … it isn’t an urgent project … especially in this cold … but the planer-dust/shavings are a bit urgent ย as we are running low and need them for the composting toilets.

Went inside, feeling nice, got organized to do the dishes … still thankful that the plumbing carrying out of the house is still working … nearly got the washing done … until water started to backup … the exit pipe has frozen too (though I don’t know why … it’s exposed and lifted from the ground where the water flows out) – too late for that tonight … I’ll try to defrost it tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚

mucho mucho patience ๐Ÿ™‚

rocket stove is burning and whispering, soup is warming up, dog food mashup is cooking, going to watch the other half of the movie I fell asleep on last night and relax … maybe do some more writing later … maybe not ๐Ÿ™‚

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It’s been cold here … physically and emotionally … the day before yesterday began with -17deg (celsius) and yesterday with -23. Peak temperatures, with a clear and sunny sky, have been -10 – though in the sun it can be quite pleasant.

Just to give you an idea of how cold … this is what the handle on the door to the house (leads into our unheated hallway / kitchen) looks like in the morning … an excellent lesson in thermal conductivity – metal conducting heat out and coolth in

and in that hallway/kitchen there were ย two buckets of water (see below for explanation of why they are there) … the one on the tiles has already developed a thin layer of ice … the one on the carpet took a while longer:

Yesterday the car wouldn’t start when I wanted to go and pick up guests from the village. They had a pleasant walk instead. Then when they left the car changed mood (or got warmed up!?) and decided to start and ran quite fine. Today it wouldn’t start again and stayed that way … I had a long walk with Andreea as she had began her journey to Bucharest (where she will be teaching her second and sold-out doula course) … it wasn’t very pleasant because we were carrying bags, slippery ice is everywhere ย and we set out as the sun was going down and temperatures come crashing down. For me it was a two way trip … on the way back I managed to almost strike up a conversation with a neighbor.

A few days ago we lost water pressure in the morning. After some fishing around it seemed that the pump was running but not getting up to pressure. First diagnosis is a failing return valve … we decided to call an excellent and friendly plumber … he came the next day and by then the pipes going in and out of the pump were frozen solid. So it probably isn’t the valve. He pulled the pump and parts of the piping that can be taken out and we placed them in the house to next to the rocket stove to thaw. He then instructed me us on how to get it back in working order (more on that soon) then told us that he wasn’t in the plumbing business anymore … so it was really kind of him to come out and help anyway (he is a really pleasant and positive individual). He has moved into the milk business … running a family business of 9 cows which takes all of his time. So we are now buying milk from him.

Actually he was supposed to deliver our milk tomorrow at the village bar. But we called him and said the car was not starting and asked to delay our order for next week. He said no problem, he will be coming over to deliver the milk tomorrow and will bring cables to help me start the car (it’s probably a run down battery issue in this cold weather). How super-uber-cool-and-friendly is that?

Today I spent the day getting the pipes next to the wall to thaw. I made some progress … managed to clear out the parts of the pipes close to the pump … but not complete. There is still ice in the pipe from the well to the pipe … I don’t know what’s happening further down the pipe going from the pump towards the house. I was busy all day wrapping the pipes with warm rags and pouring into them hot water. I insulated all the pipes, placed the pump back in place and covered it with insulation … then covered the ย whole concrete box with hay. I tried to prime the pump with warm water but it wouldn’t go into the pipe going down into the well. I called it a day … we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

And finally our chainsaw has been in repair for over a week and the guy still hasn’t even looked at it. We really enjoyed purchasing from him but his service has been quite a bummer of an experience. It’s cold and we need to cut wood for heating and that’s hard to do without a chainsaw. Instead I’ve been working through our scrap wood pile … slow and unpleasant work … ย lot’s of nails, odd shaped pieces … messy … but thankfully we have it available to us (we’ll be much better organized with wood for next winter).

I’m pretty pleased we didn’t get snow chains … that would have been an expensive insurance policy. It seems though that it would have been a good idea to get a car-battery and charger for these cold cold days.

I’m also trying to empty/arrange the garage so I can move the car inside … and I was looking forward to a restful winter ๐Ÿ™‚

So no car, no running water and no chainsaw … and I am alone at home for almost a week … and … I am proud and happy to say that though there is some discomfort … all is good and well and for the most part there is a smile on my face ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

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One dollar, one vote. The industry cares now a whit about our tender feelings for the environment: The dollar we plunk down at the supermarket checkout is first and foremost a vote – for more of the same.

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Freezing temperatures have arrived together with clear blue skies and a white blanketed earth. I took a walk up the hill today with Loui (who is still not completely at peace with a leash):

and this is what we saw

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How to Pile Hay?

The other day Andreea decided to clean out the barn where we currently house our flock. She had setup it up with areas covered with hay which the flock really liked. Over time the hay accumulates moisture, droppings and food scraps and had become … less attractive. So she pulled it all out and dumped it outside (which turned into a magical playground for the flock who explored the hay as if it was heaven). Then she went to bring new hay from one of our piles … and then called for help.

The hay piles had accumulated a substantial snow cover. One of the piles, the one we made and also the one closest to the barn, was not arranged very well so that moisture (and now frost) had found its way deeper into it then the other piles. So it was much harder work then we thought it would be. We managed to get the barn re-done and I began to appreciate the skill that goes into properly arranging a pile of hay in such a way that it will hold, be protected from the weather, and comfortable to take apart. I still don’t know how to do this … and this post will not provide a thorough answer. However …

I then sat at the computer and decided to search for some information on this. The search results were astonishing:

  • First there was a generic and superficial article about hay at Wikipedia.
  • Then there was an article about how to stack bales of hay (which needs to be done properly so that the stacks do not collapse).
  • Then there was information (articles and videos mind you) about how to stack hay in Farmville (an online game).

Only after digging deeper into the search results did I find a photo-blog of someone who documented travels in Romania giving some information about how peasants make a haystack and how they take it apart. There is much more to it the these pages show … or should I say endless more details that are hard to describe unless you actually do it

The world has changed, and though I believe overall it has done so for the better, there a few weeds I would definitely pull out of the ground. Precious (as in the kind that feeds cows for meat and milk) knowledge is being lost and replaced superficiality and ignorance.

Our personal experience, so far, is driving a horse and carriage, loading it up in the field and unloading into a somewhat messy haystack.

I don’t know if our hay-skills will improve much as we hope to decrease our need for harvested hay, reduce the amount of land where it grows and probably hire machinery to cut it down and bale it for us in the interim.

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Numbers in the Village

We went out to make a few arrangement in the village today.

300

We stopped in the village office building to pay our yearly taxes. There was an elderly man at the payment window. He was holding a thick pile of money all 1 lei bills. I am pretty sure he worked hard for everyone of those bills. His taxes came to just less then 300 lei. He was holding 3 packs of 100 1 lei bills. He handed them over to the lady behind the window and she began to count.

When the money was counted she handed him back his change. He was polite and humurous and said he had just enough left for a drink. She didn’t laugh.

We then paid our taxes and as she returned our change she said that there wasn’t enough for us to get a drink.

We then stopped at one of the bars to pick up a pack of cigarettes for our neigbor – and indeed the old man was there holding a drink.

We then went into a shop to get bread of our neighbor … and we decided to splurge and buy a (soft) drink too ๐Ÿ™‚

6

Our yearly taxes came to a total of 1260 lei (it was actually a bit more because we got a few discounts for paying early in the year) which included:

  • Car: 936 lei
  • House: 6 lei
  • Yard: 71 lei (this supposedly includes some terrain around the house + the others structures on it).
  • Terrain: 301 lei (this includes the rest of the almost 9 hectares of land we own).
  • Fire Department: 12 lei (we’ve seen what looks like an old firetruck drive through the village center once or twice).

I am tempted to draw a few conclusions from this, but I am not interested enough to actually think them through and put them in writing. I leave you to it.

2

We then went to pick up 4 liters of milk – 2 for us and 2 for our neighbors (not the cigarette neighbor – different ones). The going village price of a liter of fresh milk (milked from the cow the same day) is 2 lei.

6000

We stopped at our neighbors to deliver their milk and chatted for a while. We are exploring with them a possibility to market their produce directly to customers instead of selling at the city markets (as they currently do). We learned that they pay over 6000 lei a year for renting a space in two of the city markets for 2 or 3 days a week. That probably accounts for at least 70-80 percent of their profits.

It wasn’t always like this. The markets used to be open-spaces where farmers paid a symbolic fee for selling their produce. Then the city decided to create better markets. It took away the open spaces, put them in the hands of private business-people who built closed spaces and now charge farmers a tremendous fee that eats most of their income.

You do the math. I started to, but I am to angered by it to actually sort it out and put it in writing. I leave you to it.

I can tell you this … if city people were to depend on me for growing food for them in this economic configuration, they would be going hungry.

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Strange and powerful day today … started out beautiful snow white and sunshine.

I brought in the chainsaw, sharpened it and went to work. Finished a tank of gas and went to reload it. Couldn’t get it going again … it started but shut down numerous times … then wouldn’t start. Not good! Read the manual, searched online … couldn’t get it fixed.

I spent some really pleasant time in the workshop. Months ago I found a couple of old hardwood boards in the barn attic and I carried one of them down. Today I simply spent some time with it … no agenda, no rush … just planing and sanding a beautiful peace of wood … revealing and discovering it. It was a first-of-a-kind experience in the workshop … and I look forward to many more like it … hopefully … a whole lifetime ๐Ÿ™‚

I tried the chainsaw again … still no good.

Then at the end of the day I went to the summer kitchen to bring in some tea … and I found the large shelves filled with all of our winter preserves half collapsed. One side seemed to pull down on the whole thing … fortunately it was stopped by the large barrel of pickled cabbages. The shelves were loaded with ~150 jars of food. ย Three bottles of tomato sauce is all we lost. It was divine intervention … we should have lost almost all of our winter preserves … and yet only 3 bottles broke. Amazing. We took down many of the jars … to the point we could get it pushed back into place. Learned a woodworking lesson (more on that in a future post) and gifted with another generous share of gratefulness.

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It’s been three long days since I’ve gotten around to writing a short update.

They have been dominated by long days of work that culminated in completion of the last official wood-working project in preparation for winter. Two (rather large) open shelves with counter-tops are now assembled in the living room. The first one was assembled yesterday when the oil was almost completely dried on all its parts. The second took a short cut – it was assembled only half finished (oiled) and the remaining pieces (those I finished working on today) were oiled after assembly (this way they are drying in place instead of occupying a large space in the middle of the room – it should be dry by tomorrow.

Meanwhile Andreea has been mostly inside the house cleaning and organizing our stuff – all our clothes are in the new closet and tomorrow all the books and other stuff will go into the new shelves. Andreea also struggled with the old wood-stove. We haven’t used it in a few weeks (we spend all out times indoors in the bedroom) – so today she wanted to fire it up again – to get the room warm (helps the finish dry) and remove some of the moisture building up in it (moisture is a problem all year long and can cause much damage – so stoves need to be lit). Anyways, she lit up and again it began to smoke like crazy – it really bummed her out. I suggested she try using some heat-resistant silicon … and she worked on it for quite ย a while and got it all sealed off … fired it up again and this time heat without smoke! A big relieft.

It’s really starting to come together and it looks like we’ll be able to bring our Christmas tree indoors into a pleasant and clean house.

I’ll be spending most of tomorrow replenishing our fire-wood supply and if there will be time for it I will try to finish a few finishing pieces I want to add to the living room shelves. There are still a few projects but they are on the nice to have list – this includes a low-table for the living room, dressers and a headboard for the bed, another small creative cabinet in the hall kitchen for shoes, garbage and coats ๐Ÿ™‚ and on and on and on ๐Ÿ™‚

In the background of these 3 days has been a violent disturbance from the life we left behind in Israel. It is being resolved and hopefully will soon fade away from our consciousness.

 

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Woodworking all day today. It actually started last night as I drew the two living room units in my head and made a cut-list. It’s a fairly simple project though lots of wood-surface is involved. Today I managed to get all the wood out of storage and cut to size. More then half of the materials have been planed. Some of the larger pieces that were later cut into smaller pieces were also sanded (with a few hours of help from Andreea who took to with a rough and medium grit (it’s easier to get large surfaces sanded before they are cut into smaller parts). So all the parts have been cut. I will probably be spending a few hours with the planer tomorrow and then the next two days with the sander in hand ๐Ÿ™‚ But I expect that in two or three days one of the two units may already be constructed … then our books can come out of storage ๐Ÿ™‚ The place is really becoming comfortable and pleasant to the eye ๐Ÿ™‚