It is hard to narrow down my experience in Stanciova to one blog post. I have numerous little stories about people, sights and experiences that could fuel a small novel. Alas, I will begin with what I know best: food.
I recall my first day in Stanciova and our arrival at Thomas and Teodora’s home. It was early April, a tricky time for eating locally because it is too early for fresh veggies, and the stockpile of winter preserves has normally run out. Well, that is usually the case – but not at Teodora’s! When she showed us the preserves cupboard during the ‘welcome tour’, I felt like I had entered some sort of food preservation Disneyland.
There were shelves galore of various sauces, jams, pickled goods and other tasty delights in glass jars. We were instructed to eat as much as we could to make space for another year’s worth of preserves that would soon follow. Eager to help out with this very important task, I delighted in trying out each of the different colourful spreads including zacusca de vinete, zacusca de fasole, pasta de gogosari. The spreads, typically used on bread (or in my case, on a rice cake), varied between tangy and sweet and left my mind whirling in a new world of canning possibilities. How had I not known of these things before?!
Now five months later, I can only imagine how the tomatoes and peppers I had helped transplant in April were transformed into a temporary forest of food that has probably fully re-stocked Teodora’s food cupboard. There is a huge part of me that would have loved to help out with what would have been a tremendous amount of work watering, weeding, harvesting, preparing and preserving. Although it was very sad to have left such a learning-utopia before the real learning and real work began, I still came away with some fantastic ideas and things to look into. I also carried away with me some souvenirs insights about rural and community living.
For me, the wonderful folks in Stanciova demonstrated how a small community of like-minded people can create sustainable, meaningful and joyfully fulfilling lives for themselves within a traditional rural village. This was absolutely not a situation where relatively wealthy, well educated youth moved into the country with their fancy cars and satellite TV’s to live a more „simple” life completely disconnected from their neighbours. The people I met were actively engaged within their village and genuinely cared about it’s people. In many ways Stanciova is a beautiful story of how old meets new, where modern knowledge and tools peacefully coexist with, and support traditional wisdom and farming techniques. I witnessed horses pulling ploughs to plant rows of corn, and I also saw methods of permaculture. There were mud brick houses without electricity, and there are some houses equipped with wireless internet and MacBook Pro computers. Teodora and her friends demonstrated to me that perhaps one really can have their lifestyle cake and eat it too, and that a balanced approach to homesteading and country living somewhere in between ‘completely modern’ and totally ‘old-school can yield an even happier and more comfortably balanced life.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I gained from my time in Stanciova was seeing how important it is to have a support network of friends and neighbours that ‘get-it’. It was inspiring to see people with different skills and resources working together and forming arrangements to better all of their lives. I saw first-hand how beneficial it is to develop a harmonious working relationship with one’s neighbours and that there is tremendous benefit to having like-minded friends with homes within walking distance. Farming and living off the land is hard work no matter how you do it, but working together increases productivity and joy, and I saw how nice it can be to know that you can count on each other when you need it. If you are going to bust your butt all day, you had better have some friends and neighbours to share in the fun and fruits of your collective labour after the sun sets!
Though I felt that I could have spent much more time in Stanciova, my relatively short time there significantly changed my life. Seeing happy, healthy and dedicated young individuals doing what they loved and creating their own versions of paradise on their land made me come to the surprising realization that rather than continue traveling indefinitely, I too wanted to settle down, find my own community and have my own garden. I expected to come to Stanciova and learn some things about food production, but I went away with a mind full of exciting possibilities and a clear idea of what I truly want. I am grateful to the beautiful people in Stanciova and I wish them all so well in continuing their important work of inspiring others to live their own meaningful lives by simply living their own.
Kat comes from Canada and she joined us in April 2012. More impressions from Stanciova on her travel blog