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.


Food Rules

As a followup to Food is not Cheap post I came across this interview with Michael Pollan (from 2010) who, if nothing else. has more credentials and has written a book about the subject:

Michael Pollan
Saturday - July 7, 2012

It’s been a long day and it’s also been a while since I’ve written a daily update … and so here goes πŸ™‚ Some days are, like this one, really long and don’t leave much space or energy to write … other days are long and restful/sleepy and also don’t leave much space or energy to write πŸ™‚

Yes, we’ve finally found some long overdue rest … the rest we were looking forward to but couldn’t find during winter has arrived in these long and hot summer days. Mornings and evenings are good time for working outside … the rest of the days is either indoors or in the workshop.

Most mornings I spend in a new foundation practice … chopping wood. We purchased 12 cubic meters of hardwood … it’s a lot … as is cutting it up. It can’t be put off too long because (a) we want the wood to dry well and (b) as weeks go by it does dry and harden up and become that much more difficult to cut. Cutting involves three jobs: chainsaw slicing, axe chopping and piling for storage. I’ve gotten much better at using and sharpening the chainsaw. For every session of chainsaw cutting I am left with 2 or 3 sessions of chopping and storing. I am also getting more creative in my chopping approach … I have different approaches depending on the size and shape of wood. I am not yet cutting the pieces to their final shape … long and relatively thin pieces suitable for rocket stoves … but stopping at thin enough slices which in the future I can slice into thinner strips as needed. The reason is that the current task is quite challenging and the additional slicing would make it even longer.

After a break we drove to a nearby forest andcame back with a car full of sacks filled with leaves. They are intended as mulch for the raised beds … which are suffering from lack of water (due to them having been built in late spring, not enough proper mulch available when we built them and hot days with no rain).

We came back and I went to the workshop. I completed preparing all the pieces for our bed headboard. It isn’t too complicated a project but it has some firsts. It includes fairly long boards and curves. Tomorrow (if weather permits) I can get started with finishing.

Then I joined Andreea and we went to the raised beds. We did some more weeding and mulching … using a combination of sheeps-wool and the leaves we brought from the forest. They weren’t enough for all the beds … but the part we did looks great. We wet it a bit (since our well is running low too) … and let’s hope for the best. We focused on the peppers which were looking the saddest.

We’ve showered – it was relatively easy to heat the boiler since it still had hot water from yesterday. The chickens and ducks are settled in for the night … going to feed the dogs. Andreea just handed me a slice of freshly baked bread … they are getting better every time πŸ™‚ Soon dinner … and … good night πŸ™‚

Go Around: Cutia Taranului & Romanian Politics

Romanian politics have managed to infiltrate into my consciouess through the very thin and filtered funnel of information that reaches me from the world. I know very little about Romanian government or politics. I don’t know more because every time I’ve thought about learning more I realized I don’t want nor feel a need to know more. In my mind there is practically no government in Romania. There is an inevitable beaurocratic system that runs parallel day to day life … beyond that there is a void.

Void’s tend to fill up and the void that was where a Romanian government should have been has indeed filled up with two powerful substances that are heating up and heading towards combustion. One lethal substance is corruption – a persistent residue left behind from communist and dicatorship times. The other lethal substance is corporate greed which has probably always been present but escalated dramatically since Romania joined the EU and became addicted to dependent on EU/IMF “bailout” funding. The bad news is that corruption and greed bind tightly to each other … the good news is that they also burn out together.

This burning out is apparent all over the world … even (and especially?) in so called democracies where corruption is not supposed to be as dominant a factor. Economic collapses, disasters and corruption are outranked only by the outraged voices speaking helplessly out against them. I assume that these economic waves have sent out ripples here in Romania as well, but it seems to me that to a lesser degree (I haven’t heard, yet?, of any banks collapsing in Romania).

When I lived in Israel this, oh so typical, combination of local government corruption and global financial storms worried me. My life was tightly integrated and dependent on money which in turn was strongly influenced by both. However here in Romania, where both the corruption runs deeper and after the world economic crisis has continued to escalate, I am not worried. Not at all. I’m not worried because we live a village life. Plants are very sensitive to water (rains are expected this weekend and during next week) … however they are relatively immune to politics, economics and corruption. The same goes for chickens, cows, goats, sheep and pigs – they all continue to grow and produce regardless of any political or financial turmoil. Horses and carriages (unlike tractors) are unmoved by continue to move regardless of the rising prices of gas. Life here is resilient.

When I say “here” I don’t just mean our village … but village-life in Romania. Village life in Romania is not a neglibile phenomenon, it represents almost half of the population … it IS Romania. This makes Romania, as a country (in my mind) a relatively resilient place. Resilient enough to withstand corruption and greed? I don’t know and I am not waiting around to find out.

I prefer Romanian corruption to developed, western, industrialized/capitalized corruption. I prefer it because it is visible and blunt. It makes an easier target then, for example, western corruption where money and politics are in bed together behind close doors. Here in Romania politicians are childish compared to their western counterparts … they do everything out in the open.

The question is what to do about it? I am not one to go marching in the streets in protest. Protesting against something is not in my nature and, in my opinion, not enoughΒ (the current political situation in Romania is a direct result of the protests held here just a few months ago) … there has to be an alternative constructive path to complement destruction. Romanian politics have (in a few months) gone through most of the alternatives … and what we currently see is simply what is left. Upcoming national elections are practically meaningless if all you can do is choose between not choosing and choosing the best of the worst.

My opinion is that instead of picking an unwinnable fight, it is better to step back, regroup and to aim to completely circumvent existing problems.Β Cutia Taranului is an example of such a strategy.Β  Local grown Romanian produce has been pushed aside by many social, market and political forces. I am resisting a temptation to make a short list of these forces … I believe they all deserve deep caring inspection and attention. I will instead give one current example of a destructive policy about to go into effect.

If you are a Romanian peasant who, for example, saves tomatoe seeds (very easy to do) from this years tomatoes to plant next year, you may find that next year you will not be allowed to sell those tomatoes in markets (or any other official channel). Current legislation (I don’t know exactly where it is in the legislative process) will make it illegal to sell produce that was not grown from authorized purchased seeds (with proper paperwork to prove it) … making it illegal to sell produce grown from saved seeds. This is a direct product of greed (agro-businesses interested in selling their seeds) and corruption (local politicians making a profit from cooperating with agro-businesses). Mind you, this immoral, unsustainable, dangerous change is going to be perfectly “legal”.

Cutia Taranului was born when I asked myself what could be done about the current situation. I didn’t (and still don’t believe) in trying to fight or change the current reality. I did (and still do) believe in creating an alternate reality: if I am a peasant and you are a friend from the city, nothing can prevent me from giving you food I have grown and nothing can prevent you from paying me something in return for that food. No legal, social or political energy can prevent that from happening. It is in that spirit that Cutia Taranului was created. It is designed to go around all the existing obstacles directly into a new, simple and direct paradigm.

Cutia Taraului provides affordable food safety for city-dwellers and financial safety for peasants. It is a sustainable community that is resilient in the face of current and future political storms (and then some). It is also a strategy I would to see replicated on a national scale. I hope to be able to support and partake in an effort to create an alternative socio-political reality, in the spirit of Cutia Taranului, that will completely circumvent the existing and dominant socio-political forces and propel Romania into a new, simpler and more direct social paradigm.

Because of its immature political culture I believe Romania is a unique position not only to better itself but also to become a role model for other countries. In Greece there is talk of a “potato revolution” and people are turning to farming to escape economic collapse. In the midst of economic collapse Greece is trying to become, of all things, Romania! If you put on the right shade of glasses you will see that (a) Romania is in many ways ahead of the curve and (b) staying true to this course requires inventing a new future rather then expending energy on impossible obstacles.

Like it or not, our relationship to Earth is changing. Indeed, our consciousness has changed already … We all want ecological healing. We all want to enter into a new relationship to Earth. Our consciousness has shifted from the early-20th century ideal of conquering nature. However, our institutions, whether money or politics, are not yet in accordance with our changed consciousness. They trap us into behavior that no one really chooses and render us helpless to avert our collision course with catastrophe.

Charles Einstein

Cutia Taranului is not enough but I think it is facing in the right direction … and it is no coincidence that it has taken root so well in, of all places, Romania πŸ™‚


Big Water Ouch

The day before yesterday I was watering our raised beds. We shouldn’t need to water the raised beds but we do because (a) we built them late in spring (its best to build them in the fall) so they did not have an opportunity to fully absorb water; (b) because they are still not properly mulched. As I was moving through the beds the water pressure in the hose began to drop and quickly diminished. With some trepidation I went to check the problem.

First I checked that we still had electricity. Check. Then I went to make sure that the pump was not idling (struggling to pressurize) and it was. I unplugged it and plugged it back in and after some struggling it managed to pressurize. Check. Then I looked into the well and it was empty. Not check. Ouch. Big Ouch.

We thought that maybe the springs in the well had gotten clogged and needed to be cleaned. First thing, I took a bunch of empty plastic bottles and went to bring drinking water. Then Andreea called Sammy – the guy who cleaned our well last year – and asked him to come again. He came yesterday evening. We most of the remaining water on the raised beds and Sammy went down to check things out. He did a bit of cleaning up … there wasn’t much.

We overused our well. It is our only water source. It is summer. It was fine last year but last year we weren’t watering raised beds and we weren’t showering much. The showering isn’t nearly as demanding as the watering … so my assumption is that the watering drained our well.

Most people here do not water their fields. They simply can’t. Those that do dig small lakes … deep enough to penetrate the aquifer and draw water from it Β … they don’t do it from their house wells. Though our raised beds are a relatively small garden … watering them is simply not possible with the supply of water that we currently have. This is where the rubber meets the road … how resilient will mulched raised beds turn out to be? Time will tell.

The well is filling up again … but it isn’t reaching the level we know it to be. Painful lesson learned.


Today I took a break from physically demanding work and stuck with physical work … in the shade … in the workshop.

I finally cut the first board that will be at the top of our bed headboard. It is the top board – and rounded … a huge radius … but I got a decent enough result πŸ™‚

Then I moved back to working on more frames for the solar dehydrators. I liked going back to this task because it brought with repetition that carried over from the first, more erratic batch.

Now … we have swallows all over the place … they even tried to build a nest inside the house.

One of the swallow nests sits right above my mitre saw. So I found myself cutting away while a mother bird kept flying in with what looked like spiders to feed 4 apparently hungry chicks … funny looking chicks with flat heads and … mohawks.

Due to the repetitive tasks I had I was able to move into ” the zone” …Β  thoughts flowing rapidly and creatively all over the place. My thoughts went back to the Cutia Taranului information system and some ideas that came from it … without going into boring details I’ll refer to it is AppYours.

Then my perspective shot way out … and I saw myself … woodworking under flying swallows thinking about information systems … it doesn’t get any … richer then that πŸ™‚

The “I Told You So” Bread Post

The first peasant-boxes that have been delivered to both Cluj & Bucharest have been of baked goods – primarily bread with an addition of something sweet and/or something salty. They come in two sizes and most people ordered the smaller box. It includes Β two 1kg loafs of bread. Romanians eat a lot of bread so this amount is actually quite ordinary. However a few people let us know that it was just too much bread for them to consume!

We also purchased bread from Iulian and what happened is exactly what I wrote about in the “Food is not cheap” post. The bread is so rich and so fulfilling that we, and probably many others, ended up eating much less of it. When we are hungry we can go through 3 (or even 4) slices of regular bread each … but we have a hard time taking in 2 slices of Iulian’s bread. It is that much more nourishing than typical bread.

When Iulian (Cluj) and Lucian Β (Bucharest) chose their box sizes they did so based on “average consumption”. We didn’t take into consideration that due to the nourishing qualities of the bread people would need less of it. We also didn’t want it to appear that the box did not have enough bread to feed a family. So we ended up with a box that simply has too much bread for some people πŸ™‚ It’s a great mistake to make πŸ™‚

The people who experienced too much bread also experienced “the box is tooΒ  expensive”. Iulian’s bread is a premium product and so it isn’t meant to be cheap … but if you have more then you can handle … then it surely can feel expensive. But what was actually unveiled was how expensive ordinary bread really is. It doesn’t feel expensive because you get quantitatively more of it … but nutrition wise you need to consume twice as much of it to satisfy your hunger (and again … I’m not even going into qualitative nutritional values which ordinary bread simple does not have … no matter how much of it you eat). So Iulian’s healthy nourishing bread only seems expensive but once you realize its true value you quickly realize it isn’t really expensive at all. In my mind Iulian’s bread is actually priceless …Β  you will be hard pressed to find anything like it in Romania in anything but rare specialty shops. However those people who joined the box have this priceless food delivered to their doorstep freshly baked every week.

However, Β I expect we will soon be announcing a third smaller and cheaper box for people who need less of it but still want to enjoy the amazing nourishment of quality bread πŸ™‚

Bread Party in Cluj

Last friday was a city day (first in quite a few weeks). We chose that day because it coincided with the first delivery day of Iulian’s bread-boxes in Cluj. We started the day by loading the car with 140 firebricks (quite an effort) and then went to pick up Iulian from the bus station and together goto the EcoRuralis offices.

There we were met by our friends at EcoRuralis and Elza – a reporter from TransylvaniaLive, the same reporter who originally interviewed Andreea together with Ildi and Levente. I dropped Andreea, Iulian and his son there and went off to park the car. By the time I got back to the EcoRuralis offices, the place was festive. Iulian’s giant suitcase was open and filled to the brim with bread. Some of the bread (the box EcoRuralis ordered) was already laid out on the windo-sill … and as a backdrop EcoRuralis’ exemplary city-garden was flourishing in the background.

Elza againt dedicated precious time and caring attention (unique in Romania’s poor journalistic landscape) we greatly appreciate and embrace. She interviewed Iulian, Otti of EcoRuralis and Andreea. That same day this article appeared online. Elza promised to meet us again when Ildi and Levente begin their delivery (if all goes well, within the next two weeks) … and then all the video footage will be assembled and broadcast in the news.

Then everyone went indoors and went at the amazingly delicious and diverse bread Iulian brought with him. There was happiness and abundance in the air. I could feel the energy in my heart expanding … a physical sensation that I don’t get to experience much. After months of work Cutia Taranului was becoming a festive reality (it actually started earlier in the week earlier in Bucharest with Lucian’s bread-boxes … but we weren’t there to witness it first hand). I am not a party goer … but this was turning out to be a real party.

Everyone present cared, embraced and rejoiced in Cutia Taranului. Everyone contributed to making it happen. We were happy together. Is that not a party?

As I write these words Lucian has already completed a 2nd delivery of boxes. Though not as exciting as the “first time” … it is hugely gratifying to see Cutia Taranului moving into a regular and recurring flow … as we imagined and hoped it would be.

We are now waiting for a 2nd first celebration with Ildi and Levente … which may very well mark the beginning of all 3 families that will be delivering vegetables to Cluj.

In addition, in the coming weeks we hope to announce a first box of milk products to Cluj and Andreea is continuously speaking to more peasants who are in the process of joining and offering their goods both in Cluj and other locations. It is wonerful to be a part of this awakening πŸ™‚

Update: we just found that a video has been published online at TransilvaniaLive … so have a look πŸ™‚

Laptop Chick Warmer

On to less serious matters … the weather has taken a sudden change … from a hot summer day it went to cloudy and humid … and now stormy … winds and rain. In the midst of this all … a small 3 day old chick was left behind outside … found cold and shivering … so Andreea brought him indoors and asked me to keep him warming. One option was to use both hands (which makes typing kind of difficult) … so I came with this solution. One hand for the chick … held up next to the heat exhaust … and voila … hot chick and another hand free to type: