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

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A charming new-old book

The latest of my finds, The Romanian Furrow is Donald Hall’s delightful tale of life and work among peasant families in Transylvania. Written in 1933, at about the same that Patrick Leigh-Fermor was tramping amongst the castles and manor houses of the Carpathians, Hall was working in the fields alongside his hosts, living a thousand-year-old tradition of the seasons and the cycle of natural life. The book deserves to be better known – and is not entirely an echo of a forgotten tradition: even in Magura much of the seasonal cycle still rules families and village life. Attitudes and values remain much the same as they were 83 years ago. The perfect read for travellers who might be Transylvania-bound. Read more…

Romania Transylvania peasant life between the wars

Cover of The Romanian Furrow, by Donald Hall (1933)

New video links

I’ve now loaded up a few links to videos about Magura and the surrounding area. Some of them are images of the village with no voiceover, some are mini-documentaries in Romanian, and there are a couple of American-voiced Dracula-based vids. If you make or find any good vids, do please let me know and I’ll be happy to post them here.

One of my favourites is the real-time drive from the edge of Zarnesti up to Magura – the road I take every time I need any shopping, or have to head off to Brasov, Bucharest or further afield. I love this road, but it can be a challenge if you’re not concentrating. If you’re thinking of hiring a car for your Magura visit, I’d get a high-wheel based 4×4…

What’s your favourite image here?

Enjoy!

Home, or gold?

rosia montana europa nostra_0This year’s Fân Fest, in the Transylvanian village of Rosia Montana, is on 15-18 August, so get your skates on.

The festival programme promises fun and serious pleasure, but there’s a battle being waged behind the scenes.  Big corporate interests want to mine the gold deposits below the village, but this will mean the place being destroyed and people losing their homes, families being evicted after generations.

What do you think? Have you heard about this? Take a long weekend, join the festival fun and lend your support to Rosia Montana.

 

Spring is (almost) here

The cockerels are announcing the coming of Spring, and with new lambs heralding the beginning of life in the fields and woods around us, we can be sure that Mother Nature is busy.

Even though it doesn’t feel like it… Like Britain, Romania is still in the grip of a winter that doesn’t want to let go. It keeps snowing and melting, snowing and melting, and the winds blow, and the clouds lower. Work must begin on the vegetable gardens and the pastures, but it’s hard in the zero degree temperatures.

But this is what is around the corner – blue skies, wild flowers, life green, fresh and colourful. We can’t wait!

What’s the weather like where you are?

Vegetarians, look away now

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…