Self sufficiency in Transylvania

By March 15, 2016About Richiș

“I am documenting as much as possible before too many changes occur within this unique community situated within the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania. The Szekely are thought to be descendants of Attila the Hun who have followed a simple, traditional and sustainable life through the centuries. Their culture survived communism but will it survive capitalism? Since Romania joined the EU young people are leaving the village in droves to seek earnings in Denmark and Germany 10 times greater for the same amount of work received at home. September – It is not unusual to see whole fields slowly harvested using a hand held scythe. Produce is then gathered using a rake and loaded onto a horse drawn cart. 

With ever rising prices in local shops it pays to be as self sufficient as possible. Traditional farming methods are a well established part of rural life in Transylvania, with skills and knowledge past down through the generations. Everyone is busy making the most of the fair weather seasons in preparation for the long and harsh winter, which regularly plummets below -20oC. Each day is treated as a window of opportunity to get all the necessary chores completed, promoting the best harvest possible. Not only are fruit and vegetables grown in abundance but grass too. Once the grass is cut by hand using scythes, it is then left on the fields to dry before being gathered as hay. This is essential fodder for livestock housed through the long winter in large village barns.

The yards in Ojdula are full of domestic animals, which are a vital part of the villagers diet. The nearest supermarket is half an hours drive away and relatively expensive, so rearing your own animals makes a lot of sense. When a chicken dinner is prepared, you first hear the commotion of one of the family running around the yard to catch one first! September – Gyafi, my friend has one of the biggest sows in the village, estimated to weigh 300kgs! It is difficult to give scale to the size of this animal, but if an average man weighs 75kgs, then that should help. This sow gave birth to seven piglets two weeks ago which are putting on weight fast as you can see in the photos above.

There are several kinds of shepherds in Transylvania. Those that take their own animals to the hills which are mainly for their own consumption. Then there are roving transhumant shepherds that live outside with their animals in makeshift homes, which can be dismantled and moved to pastures new. The third type of shepherd is a man paid by other villagers to look after their livestock allowing them to do other work. There are no fences to prevent domestic livestock from roaming wherever they like, so whatever style of shepherding is adopted it is apparent that the livestock cannot be left to their own devices. For one the fields of crops would be constantly raided and there are also far too many predators such as wolves, lynx and bears which would pray on the flock. All shepherds have a pack of dogs with them to protect the creatures in their charge.”


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