Greenly warmer

IMG_5406Spring is well sprung. Compared to last year, when the end of April saw me wading through knee-deep snow in late April, wrapped in thermal layers against the -8C freeze, this year it was sun, and no rain all month so we were beginning to face the horrible prospect of drought.

But early May has seen lots of gentle rain and the very occasional thunderstorm, which is perfect for the earth and growing things. ‘Nori si soare’ says the weather forecast. Occasional ‘furtuna’ warnings with lightning symbols lancing through the cloud, and so it’s proving. Perfect mixed weather for the cycle of wildflower meadows and sweet hay, and happy herbivores munching through lush spring grass. Glorious.

It’s white and cold – still February

This was today. This is winter in the village. Saturday – I woke up late (10am, shameful) to find more snow falling. Forecast is dire. Fridge close to empty, gas bottle getting light. If I don’t go down to Zarnesti NOW, I might be stuck for weeks. So…

Car under tarpaulin so that’s okay – no shovelling of snow off the vehicle. But the battery is dead as the proverbial dodo. Trudge up to the neighbour and beg for help. He’s happy, as ever, and cracks open the crocodile clips and the power pack with the longest cable imaginable – about half a mile of it, seemingly. Bonnet up, clips clipped to battery, men retire to shed, I sit in chilly car while juice flows to battery. Now then I try the ignition and slowly, slowly, there are signs of life. After 20 minutes, the ignition roars. I hoot for neighbours and they come back, unclip clips and carry on with their day. I owe them beer and more.

Off to Zarnesti. Gas bottle swapped (69 lei today), Husqvarna chainsaw chain not to be had anywhere, not even for ready money. Off to Lidl to stock up on cat food and me food, for a siege. Snow bucketing down, blotting out all but nearby buildings. Magura hills invisible under snowful low cloud. Shoppers scurrying in and out, wrapped in fleeces, hats, scarves, boots. Intent on doing only the necessary before retreating to warm homes.

Me too. Scurry to car, load up and flee. Not really cold, just -2.5C, so nothing is freezing yet. The car pootles unconcernedly into the national park and up the hairpin road, snow settling fast but not yet icing over. Even the north-facing track, with new snow on the old iced ruts, is no problem for my heroic little car.

Do I drive down to the house with my heavy shopping and the full gas bottle – and risk being snowed in for two weeks? Or drag the gas bottle down, then make two more journeys for the shopping? Lazy. Drive down, unload, and spread the tarpaulin.

Shopping in, then have to go out and get wood from shed to light fire. Feed cats, who missed lunch.

All urgent wintery chores done, it’s 3.30pm. On with my postponed working day….

Thunderstorm magic – cool down

Yesterday, Magura had the best of a gentle thunderstorm (must have been violent off to the south-west) with a hail shower, distant lightning and rumbling thunder. This cool, damp greenery makes for relaxing viewing in these two little vids. In the first, you can hear the huge hailstones clattering and bouncing off the house; in the second, the birds, animals and insects keep singing as the thunder growls over the Bucegi Mountains. A classic countryside moment to cool down all you overheated city dwellers, sticky with humidity and longing for the cold sting of rain…

DSCF1982_2 cloud and sun

Sun and shadow as the weather changes

Medicine Cabinet Salad (MCS)

My ‘lawn’, which is actually part of a virgin wildflower meadow, is crammed full of medicinal plants and herbs, so by eating my way through the lawn over the spring and summer, I should be bursting with health.

Today I had my first MCS – mostly salad things from the shop (celery, butter lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and toasted sesame seeds, with a squeeze of lime juice) but the final thawing of snow and a return to seasonal temperatures gave me a handful of chickweed to add to the much less nutritious commercial stuff.

Here’s a link to more information about chickweed‘s incredible list of nutrients and properties. No wonder chicks love it (and they do!). We’ll be competing for it…

Chickweed in my vegetable garden

The spinach bed is crammed with chickweed, which makes a tasty and highly nutritious salad…

Mixed salad in a bowl

My lunch – salad with sesame, feta… and chickweed fresh from the garden

Happy May Day!

After a wet, foggy weekend, 1st May is mild, still and dry, the sun trying to break through the hazy cloud and everyone about their Spring business.

How’s your Monday?

Fishy patterns on the hills

Snow melting in bright sun today. Fierce winds blowing from the north, but blue skies offer hope of a returning Spring.

The patterns of the melting snow remind me of shagreen – shark skin to be made into objects d’art. A green leopard shark, perhaps, or a coral reef-dwelling fish. Beautiful!

In limbo, longing for Spring

We’re not there yet… March is a limbo month: the winter snows have gone but the new grass and the colours of Spring are still waiting below ground, waiting waiting for the sun to warm the earth and give the signal to begin the growing season. But soon, soon!

Icy white Carpathian January

Forget frost – this is the real Transylvanian, Carpathian, Central European start to the New Year… Hard winter, knee deep powder, frozen pipes, icy fingers, cats by the fire, sun making diamond dust of the snow… Happy New Frozen Year!

Bliss to be warm

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After weeks of searching for firewood, I have enough to see me through till the New Year, at least. All too many people in rural Romania are struggling to find firewood this autumn, and those that find it have to pay twice or three times the normal price. It’s a scandal of old-fashioned proportions, with poor forestry management and pathetic governance of illegal logging.

So I’m extremely grateful, in this chilly start to autumn, that my neighbours have come to my rescue and found me a stock of logs for the winter. Tonight I’ve been cosying up to my soba and basking in the gentle warmth of a wood fire.

Shot across the bows

We’ve been warned! Yesterday we had our first taste of snow – wet and transient at village level, it left a dusting of powder on the higher forest slopes.

Magura, autumn colours, first snow, Transylvania

The first dusting of snow yesterday, above the first turning leaves

This morning, there was a proper covering of white ice on the mountain ridge and its rocky sides – hidden by cloud yesterday – but by the afternoon a warm sun had melted most of the snow. Bucegi was better covered, but still, not quite winter. But it’s coming!