So, after three days it was up the mountain to mow a meadow ( actually about 30 acres). Seriously, we mowed 30 acres in about five hours- not bad at all considering we were supposed to get up at five but had gone to bed at four thirty in the morning after drinking, possibly a tad too much, palinka. Boy it was very difficult to get out of bed at 8am actually, let alone 5am. Still, the meadow had to be mown…
Perched some 800 metres above the valley we trudged up with heavy heads but, as we went, clouds of butterflies danced in the air- the marbled white butterfly (mottled black and white), the meadow brown, fritillaries of all sorts and a whole host of blues, browns, whites and coppers rose in front of our footsteps which traversed through a riot of colour and smell.
Each plot of land was marked with small posts, saplings and trees- these marked the boundary between individual owners. Once the hillside would have been forested but, over hundreds of years, the land was cleared and the hay cut to feed the cows which in turn provided milk to make the cheese which fed each and every family that worked the land. Under the trees we would come across all sorts of fungi but, best of all, we occasionally found a cep from the boletes family, an excellent prize to flavour our supper.
Flowers adorned the plots of land and insects abounded… best of all was the high density of field crickets which sang so loudly that you could hear them all over the mountain. Once they used to be reasonably common in England but alas, it is near extinction- modern agriculture has done for them although there has been a programme of re-introduction into suitable places.
At the bottom of the meadow we were cutting the mowing was good but further up the lush meadow turned into an upland Nardus strictus or matgrass- not very productive and of low food value for the cows. It wasn’t very easy to mow either.
Romania has undergone a period of rural depopulation and the effect has been quite dramatic. Scrub has started to encroach on the old mountain meadows and some land has been abandoned. This can sometimes be seen as an advantage at first but, if it continues, the meadows eventually fade away to a full forest canopy. At the moment it’s not so bad (and in fact could increase the wildlife value for a time )but, as young people seek better paid work further afield, only the older people are left. This has happened in the UK resulting in massive changes in agriculture, ownership and biodiversity. What to do to help Romania and the Eastern European counties through a difficult phase? They still have what we once had and lost and I’d rather like to help them keep the sparkling emerald jewel they have.
Land tenure in the Romanian mountains is somewhat like our open field system before enclosure- everyone has bits of land everywhere. Quite a bit of it starts at the bottom of the hill and goes straight up to the top. Sometimes it’s only 20 or so metres wide. One reason for this is you cut the lower slopes as these grow quickest and then work uphill. The advantage of this is that once you’re near the top it’s easier to roll the hay down the hill without so much effort. Oh, and by the way, in the Gyimes valley it appears that there are 100 acres to the hectare!!!!!!!! Yes I love this country each of us mowed SIX ACRES EACH IN FIVE HOURS beat that Mr Fairlie!!!!!
Finished that work so off to help milk the cows on the mountainside… but not before a palinka 🙂
This is what the mountain life is all about- spend the summer mowing grass to make hay to feed the cows through the winter, to milk the cows and make the cheese. Simple but so rewarding, less stress, back to nature and more productive.
Yes, I mustn’t forget the garbage disposal system- all that organic waste we waste in the West. In the East they turn it into pork and fat, a most useful energy source and one I actually really like (especially the smoked fat). Odd how people in the rural countryside can eat so much fat but don’t suffer many health issues,the hard work seems to burn the fat away…