Maria and Alina cutting me a piece of honeycomb; the bees take pollen from the diverse wild flowers in the mountain meadows
A good crop of midsummer hay from the wildflower meadows in Magura
As free-range as you can get, the black lamb has a good life here
Over 2,000m high, the Piatra Craiului ridge is the backdrop to village life
The house cow is part of the family
Diverse wildflower meadows are the pasture in Magura
Magura, 1,000 metres up in the Piatra Craiului National Park
Fred and Precious have drifts of dandelions to enjoy in the Spring
The Banu family scything hay the way it’s been done for a millennium
(L-R) Dragos, with the oxtail, Ionut and Nelu Banu parcelling up the beef slaughtered that morning
Ploughing the traditional way on Magura’s steep slopes
Free-range, organic beef and dairy farmed the traditional way
In a mountain village, 1,000 metres up, the animals are truly free-range, allowed to wander through hectares of wildflower meadows, kept inside only in the worst of the harsh winter. Most of the sheep and cattle are taken up to the high-altitude pastures for the summer, so the wildflower meadows in the villages can grow and blossom before being scythed for hay to keep the animals through the winter. The barns are mucked out through the winter, and the manure spread on the meadows in spring – a simple, sustainable way of farming that maintains diversity and natural health in soil, plant, animal and human.
Yesterday my neighbours slaughtered their heifer, partly because the calf hasn’t thrived and grown as well as she should have because of this summer’s drought; the lack of rainfall has also meant that there has been no second hay-making in September – the wildflower meadows never regrew after the midsummer cut and the winter hay is about half its normal volume. Lots of smallholders are having to slaughter animals because there isn’t the hay to keep them through the winter.
So Martica (born on a Tuesday) went on a Saturday, but swiftly, without fuss, in the pasture where she had spent her life. The slaughter and butchering was done by the family without intervention of transporters, processors, stress or fear.
The sad fact is that the EU is trying its best to destroy this healthy, sustainable, low-impact farming system, and now that Romania is a member, this will happen very quickly unless the EU is persuaded otherwise. Slow Food, if you’re listening, maybe you have some ideas…