Since arriving in Romania several weeks ago, I have been gifted with three jars of honey, several dozen fresh eggs, ten cucumbers and two jars of jam. Many people in this region are subsistence gardeners and tirelessly work their land during daylight hours. Yet, they are very generous with the fruit of that labor. I have been a blessed recipient of the goodness that comes from their land (and livestock).
Earlier this week I found out a neighbor sells fresh milk from their cow. Another neighbor sells eggs from her brood of 30 hens. For the equivalent of $2.50, I get ten eggs and and two liters of fresh milk delivered three times a week. I do have to pasteurize the milk myself, which is simple, but I will have to add that to my morning routine and ‘to-do’ list. Apparently, if I don’t overheat the milk and kill the proteins, and if I cool it quickly, it will will taste amazing. I’m envisioning cool winter mornings with ‘real’ hot chocolate or chai. It’ll be worth it.
I don’t have to buy fresh milk. The local stores sell plenty of milk (and eggs) at a decent price. Buying milk from a neighbor, however, is one small way I can support my neighborhood subsistence micro-economy. There is something special about knowing the cow and the owner you get your milk from.
Yesterday a neighbor gave us a tour of their ‘yard.’ Every square inch of the at-least acre plot was apportioned to either tomatoes, vineyards, carrots, the green house, pumpkin, corn, green beans, strawberries, four pigs in a pen and tens of chickens in a large coop. A line strung with laundry wound its way through the fruit trees and along the narrow path that divided the vineyard from the garden. It was, for all intents and purposes, a small farm. These dear people had been working this land for at least 40 years. They joyfully sat us down at a table outside and served us home-canned quince and plums. The kids mostly appreciated drinking the syrup out of the tea cups in which the fruit was served.
Sound idyllic? In one sense, it is. But in reality, gritty life exist here, as anywhere. All that local, organic agriculture with no pesticides? The veggies sure taste great, but lack of pest control means ticks, fleas, spiders and other bugs and bacteria thrive. And these are no hobby gardens. If people don’t work their land, can and preserve fruit and vegetables for winter, and grow their own seeds, and sell the excess, they may have no other income. It’s a hard life.
We are so privileged to be here for a year and live a country life alongside our Romanian neighbors. I know their country life, unlike mine, is one of hard labor. However, as a parent, neighbor and fellow human, we have plenty in common over which friendships can be forged. I’m looking forward to it.