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Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania = The End

I wouldn’t have a boar for love nor money.   WAAAY too much aggression there.   And way too much food and mucking out.   I’d rent a trailer to transport a sow, and make sure its cleaned out properly before handing it in.

If, and I suppose when, it becomes necessary to seriously consider a world without transport, I rather suspect there will be other people around you in the same position….

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Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part VIIII

Read Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part VIII

This is Courvoisier. French cognac. Nutsy expensive: around $45 a 750 cl bottle. My husband gets one for Christmas. His brothers and friends drool over it. He shares very infrequently.

Muffins are cooked at 350F for about 25 minutes in very well greased muffin tins. Mix everything well, then gently add the blueberries at the last moment and hardly mix in at all.

The water witch is exactly as you said. He giggles, he twinkles, and loves his work. He’s a pleasure to have around. I enlarged the photograph of him with his divining rods and then had it enlarged and framed. He just bounced with delight. He hovers over a well as its being dug, and can obviously hardly wait until they hit a wet area in the soil. When it starts to flow, he’s right there encouraging them to dig further, dig fast, get buckets down to them faster to take out the soil and water. He’s found two wells for us. We have a third one that is very old, certainly over 100 years, and still producing. It fills as fast as we can empty it with a big bucket, and the standing water level is about three metres below ground level. Many people here have springs on their property so they can have fish ponds – for food, not entertainment. Our property is on the wrong side of the mountain for that… we’re stuck with wells. Even so, the water is pure and clean and tastes nice. The city water is lousy – tastes of old pipes and leaves a nasty after taste. Many many people in the city with family in the countryside take containers with them to fill with spring water for home. Water is a serious problem in this mid-Carpathian Mountain region right now. Seems more and more villages are having trouble. We’re extremely fortunate that one of ours is such a good producer – it takes the stress off the barn well during the summer.

It snowed yesterday and today, and now there’s a good 25 inches of fresh and quite packy snow outside. Happily it isn’t drifting, but its still coming down and we’re thrilled to have the water. It can snow all week if it wants to!

Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part VIII

My husband and one of our ‘girls’ plowed open a large corner of our garden to make a new berry patch last year.

Using horses for the fields is hard work, but rewarding. In August 2012, we were haying on a sultry hot summer afternoon. We were almost finished and glad of it because there were some decidedly ugly storm clouds heading in. We were pretty sure we had enough time to finish the field, and it was important because that particular field was very productive. It also has a massive tree at one end. We were bringing in the second year of an alfalfa stand – on good ground and if it’s planted right, there is no better winter feed. We have a big haywagon, with a front board about four feet high the width of the wagon, sitting right behind the seat. It stabilises a load of hay or bales, but it’s also a bit dangerous because in an emergency there is no way the driver can jump.

I was driving, we had a man up top, and my husband and two others were pitching hay up to him to arrange. I had the ‘girls’ in a nice leisurely plod, just finished rounding one end of the field, the one with the tree. Out of God’s blue and slightly grey heaven came down one Almightly deafening crack of thunder. The horses screamed, and then went off into their own little world of fear and there was absolutely no stopping them. They went from about 2 to 100 (well maybe not quite) in three seconds flat. The man on top of the load jumped, the load shifted and fell, but unfortunately the wagon righted so the girls and I went for a ride. I would have LOVED to jump, but the front board would have stopped me and I would have dropped down under the wagon wheels. Big field, with another big one coming up. We went through the ditch and into the next field, and although they weren’t going to stop until their were exhausted, they did respond ever so incredibly slowly to being turned. I pulled for all I was worth on the one set of reins, and we finally settled. I thought I was fine til I got off the wagon and my knees gave out.

These horses and I know each other very well. I’d been working them three years already, but I totally lost control. I have a point to make here…. every so often we come across some post where people talk about getting animals for the place of their dreams, or even perhaps in reality where they will go when TEOTWAWKI finally happens. I don’t understand how people can possibly think they can START at some point in the future. Short of a totally permaculture/forest garden or hunting and fishing lives, I truly believe feeding and caring for a family 1880’s style involves draught animals, and learning how to work them takes TIME.

This horse, half of our team, just adores my husband. I rather like him too… but I don’t go around nuzzling him every chance I get. Our girl can pull a plow and sniff him up without missing a step.

Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part VII

The long arm above the barn well  the well we use for the animals has a counterweight of bricks and old metal on one end to make it easy to draw up water with a bucket to be poured into the drain to run under the ground down to the cow tank. The ground has a strong slope here, so we just reach into the well a bit, upend the bucket so it pours into a drain at the back running down to the tank. It works a treat, although it is a lot of work. We did this for years, and then last year decided to splurge and there is now running water in the barn and to the tank with new plumbing and a small pump. Nothing wrong with labour saving.

The tripod is there to swing the cement rings, one by one, into the well. There are two men down in there to shepherd thering into place around them. Then one will get out, and the other will dig in a circle around underneath the ring to let it down even further. Generally they start dropping rings in when the hole is about 6 rings deep. The man down in there has a ladder with him and serious rope under his arms so if the sides cave in, he can be winched up through whatever dirt has collapsed on him. Its dangerous and hard work but this is how its done. The last ring to go in will have the full weight of the 8 above it to push it into place. Digging out below the bottom ring is talented work, and the gypsies who do it are in good demand. Three seasons a year that is. They go hungry a lot during the winter. No gardens. Chickens only animals. No planning ahead. AT ALL!!!

The Carpathian Mountains are honeycombed with springs and small rivers. The little man in the grey jacket is a water witch. He works for our village and the whole area around us. He won’t take money for finding water… but he will take ‘maintenance’, consisting of say, a basket of mixed meat and veg and a litre or two of palinka for finding water. Amazing how it works. He’s NEVER wrong. He wandered around the back garden for about an hour twitching, and finally said “Here. About 4 metres down, the well needs digging out to about 8 metres to be pure.” He was absolutely right.

My husband perched on the well lid (it’s in two pieces so we can fold open half to get to the bucket and drain. My daughter is fussing with the cows. The dog is one of two who run loose when we’re outside, and also during the night. A few years back, two gypsy lads managed to break into our back shed. The dogs heard it happen, and kicked up an Almighty storm out back. We went out to find that they had the lads stranded INSIDE the shed. Seems the boys managed to get in, but the dogs wouldn’t let them out. My husband got a couple of neighbors to come round, and they hauled both lads home… roughly. Very roughly. Gave them to their families and suggested next time the lads would be taken to hospital. Terribly embarrassing for the boys – they were caught. Easy for the family… no fines on the parents for their children’s’ bad behavior. Nice for the dogs – double portions of breakfast. And finally VERY nice for us to know the Rotties really do their job. The dogs should have been left to carry on… the lads came back months later and the same thing happened… except we phoned the police that time.

People’s property was confiscated by the state to start the Collective Farm movement. In 1989, when communism fell, SOME people were given land back. Often not the original parcels, often not as good. Because of this, small farms are now scattered all over the area. A field here, a smaller piece there. all involving people’s need to spend time on the road to get to the property and fields. Communism was pure and simple hell, and its legacy remains in a thousand different ways. Its my understanding not one Jewish person was given back land. I may be wrong on that, but don’t think so. Shameful.

Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part VI

We heat our home with a csempe. America has something like it, I believe you call it a masonry fireplace. Csempe’s are everywhere in Eastern Europe. They’re often beautiful, such as our Green Dragon, but they can also be small and plain as muck, yet all are incredibly efficient.

Men who build them are called ‘Maestro’. A csempe is built of firebricks, and then covered by fire glazed terracotta or tiles. There is a factory about 30 miles from us where we bought our tiles. They come in a vast variety of sizes, styles and colours, and the maestro will help design something appropriate to the home and the taste of the owner. The centre of the csempe is a firebox. Ours is about 2 and a half feet deep, and about 2 feet high inside. It will take a nice basket of wood – that’s enough I could carry into the house in one trip, and after the fire gets going with all that, then we put in a log maybe 2 feet long and a foot thick to burn until tomorrow. It will still be burning 48 hours late if everything is shut down tight. We’re having -15C outside right now (has snowed about 10 inches already today and we have another 5-8 inches in the forecast), and one load of the csempe has kept the house comfortable all day. The csempe is built like a huge maze inside. The smoke is pulled all through the tunnels, so after a few hours it is so hot on the outside no one could hold their hand on it for more than a few seconds. At least we want it that hot in the dead of winter. Spring and autumn I’m content for a small fire started early afternoon to keep the home warm in the evening. Then I’ll rely on the woodstove for the morning. Romania has vast forests, as well as small pockets of forest everywhere. People burn their own wood if they have it on their land, or buy it commercially, which is expensive by local standards, or buy it from the gypsies, who supply it cheap… but hot. Hot being stolen from the govt forests. The govt tries with pretty much total failure to regulate the forests and keep the gypsies out. Mobile telephones and inadequate policing make it a lost cause.

There are hundreds of types of wood stoves, csempe and their woodburning cousins. One of the construction necessities, as far as my experience runs, is that a wood burner of ANY sort must have three very distinct doors. Two for the firebox, and another, smaller and lower door for access to the ash falling through a grate from the fire box above. The firebox has its glass door, and then inside another metal grill door to keep logs from rolling against the glass door (think house outside door and inside screen door.) The small door must provide a means of controlling the burn, not just through having it open or closed or somewhere in between, but also it must have a sliding bar to open or close large air holes in the door. I can’t imagine how a wood stove could be properly controlled hours at a time without a little door under the firebox. The smoke from a hard burning csempe is barely warm at all when it exits the chimney. Foxy

Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part V

Continued from
You will need a cow. Preferably a dual purpose animal such as Baltata Romaneasca. The calves are heavy and grow fast for slaughter, they live a good 8 years, have almost no problems with feet, get pregnant easily, are easy going, generally healthy, eat everything, and give maybe 16 litres a day on grass feed without supplement. That is one GREAT cow. Milk morning and night. Know how to care for a cow. This could be a steep learning curve if you didn’t grow up with them. Take a bucket of milk into the house at night. Let it sit til morning. Skim off the fat, something like about 4 cups, run it through the food processor til it separates into buttermilk and butter (about a cup and a half). Use the buttermilk in other recipes, or feed it to eternally grateful cats.

Sour Cream
Take enough of the top of the milk to fill a guart jar. Leave it sit – covered – in a windowsill for a couple of days. Lovely.

Take a long, leisurely drive up into the mountains around us in mid-summer, and pick your own. Or stop at one of the many, many roadside stands selling blueberries. Make sure you tip their container into yours so you know the bottom of their bucket doesn’t have afiller of half leaves and stems. Take it home, process into jars or freeze, or make it into jam. Frozen is best for baking because there is no sugar there yet and you can control sugar content in your baking. Four buckets full should provide for your home needs for the year. Last year it cost $4/bucket. (Romania remember. Average village salary less than $150/month. If you are unable to spend a day in the moutains (Poor you!), then wait for the mountain village folk to bring their produce down to the local markets. You will have to pay twice the price, and the berries will be a day or two old, but still enough for your needs.

Now follow the rest of whichever recipe you decided to use. Bake in a wood stove on medium high heat. Slather with fresh butter. Enjoy!!


Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part IIII

Baking Powder
Buy it in bulk.   Run out and use sodium bicarbonate with vinegar.   I haven’t the foggiest how to do without both at the same time.
Bought in huge rocks from the mine just west of us in Praid, Romania. A truck comes around every couple of weeks and sells salt blocks for the animals and cleaned stuff for the household.   Cheap as chips and don’t even have to shop for it.
Every first week of May, buy 75 one-day-old chickens from the people who have taken your order back in February.   Order a mix of meat birds and and at least a dozen egg layers.   Slaughter the meat chickens when they hit 5-7 pounds in weight.   Stuff the freezer, stuff them in canning jars, stuff them in the oven, all throughout the winter to next year.   Include the cockerels (roosters) of the egg laying type.   Let the egg layer chickens grow to adulthood and keep them 3 years.   They go in the pressure cooker and soup pot then, with a fair amount of their now slightly grizzly corpse being fed raw to the dogs as one of the ingredients in the dog food you make up regularly.   Eggs can be used fresh of course, but there is a huge glut of them in summer and autumn.   Freeze them.   (You might need an ice room for this if you have a problem with spending money on electricity, or arranging for power, or if your home doesn’t HAVE electricity in any form.   Chickens can be allowed to roam free from April through October, and do not need extra feed.   A bit of grain helps – but it isn’t essential.   You WILL have to feed them in winter, so calculate well just how many you want to overwinter.   I generally keep about 12-20 depending on the year and the quality of hen.  Sometimes a fox or a gypsy will get into somebody’s henhouse and clean it out in one night. Its good to have some extra to give to people to restart a flock. I’ve traded like this a few times with other people.

Grow sugar beets. See field preparation above for wheat.   Use a smaller field – maybe half an acre will provide all you need.   Planting and harvesting is horrid, backbreaking work, but at leastthey have the grace to grow without mollycoddling. Take the beets to the sugar factory 11 miles away.   You can do this with Jeep and trailer, or team and wagon.   Your choice.   The factory will weigh your beets, assess the sugar content, and pay you in big beautiful 25 kg bags of white sugar.   You can also take away what remained from pressing – a reddish/grey warm mass to feed to every critter on the farm from chickens to cows, pigs, horses.   Even the dogs will eat it.

Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part III

Castravet is the Romanian word for green dill pickle.   Oops.   Been here too long.   Aubergine is what we English call eggplant – those big dark purple globs to be made into a vinegar sauce for eating with pork rind or fried to go with ANYTHING.

We need very little bark, just a few bits from the inner bark of the tree.   Enough for a decent, fairly strong cup of tea would be if somehow you were to cover an area of about 2 inches square with bits of the thin inner bark.   Find a nice weeping willow tree.   Using a good sharp knife, scrape off the outer bark, or if in a hurry, just chop in lightly and peel down deep enough with a small axe to get enough of that inner brown bark. It LOOKS like normal tree inner bark.   Drop it in just barely simmering water, and let it sit there and steep for 15 minutes.   The pucker factor is enormous, so lace it well with honey or sugar.   I tried Stevia once but the aftertaste was horrid.   I keep bark in the freezer because it stays ‘fresh-ish’ and readily available.   I don’t want to prolongue the agony by fumbling about outside at the bottom of the garden when I have a headache.     It isn’t possible to get this wrong.   If you have outside bark bits in the cup along with the inner bark – doesn’t matter.   Well – the product is a bit darker and a bit more bitter, but that doesn’t matter.   You won’t poison yourself with this unless you drink more than a couple cups at a time and you shouldn’t be taking too many aspirin either.   Same thing.
Palinka is God’s happy answer to the alcoholic requirements of Hungarian men.   It’s made by distilling fruit – best quality is from apricots – in a backyard still.   Gypsies will make a perfectly respectable copper still for you costing about $400.   (There’s a perfectly understandable reason why gypsies strip telephone lines and church rooves of copper.)   My husband bought his years ago and its been going strong every year since.   He makes about 100 – 150 litres per year of 70 proof alcohol.   The best 20 litres or so is held back for household drinking and presents to family and friends.   The rest of it is watered down to about 50 proof and is used up annually in salary for gypsy workmen.   Gypsies are Eastern Europe’s day labourers:   an average summer day of haying costs the Romanian money equivalent of $10-15 for a 12 hour day with an hour off for mid-day lunch.   The meal is provided to them in the field and should be hearty, loaded with potatoes and meat and bread, water and the amount of palinka aka moonshine is negotiated – say two shots before starting work, another two with lunch, and three when the last load is in the haymow.   That 100 litres per year disappears fast.   It takes 100 litres of fruit, picked off the ground and off the tree fruit of any kind, unceremoniously dumped into big blue plastic barrels, left out in the sun in some corner or other of the garden, where it is allowed to slowly and disgustingly ferment over several months.   Early December or so – preferably in time for the holidays – it’s all run through the still.   It takes my husband and his son about three days of 24/7 monitoring the fire under the vat to do the whole lot.   They rig up a curtain of tarpaulin and assorted pieces of wood to make a shelter using one wall of the woodshed.   Yes I know how that sounds but they haven’t lit the shed yet.   They have a lot of water there – it takes enormous quantities of water to make moonshine.   I would imagine there have been some close calls to settingthe woodshed alight, but no one has admitted to it.   The men – I mean every man – has his own quality of palinka, and there is a lot of sampling going on throughout the winter.   Some stills are better than others, some men are better at maintaining a constant temperature.   Some use apricots and plums for a smoother drink, some use apple – both picked and fallen on the ground – which is foul but the workmen aren’t too choosy.   No fruit of any kind is too horrid to be distilled.   Our pigs just don’t get a sniff of the orchard until it has been picked over well and truly.   Given his choice, my husband would first drink Courvoisier, then his own best apricot Palinka, then everybody else’s apricot palinka before resorting to apple made.   I think he would need to feel he really needed a drink before he would get into the poorer stuff.   He just isn’t an alcoholic at heart  .

Palinka is also a currency.   Trade lucerne (alfalfa seed), wood, labour anything really, for negotiated amounts of Palinka – after a taste session of course to establish quality and quantity to meet a price.

It is legal to run a home still in Romania and sell the proceeds.   That is. up to some ridiculous amount of liquid like 3000 litres or something that no one would do at home because it would take a month of non-stop work.   The size of home stills is controlled, not the quantity or quality of produce.

Sloes are hard blue black fruit of a bush growing here in Europe.   It has horrid spines, but happily a bucket of sloes will make a good two gallons of 35 proof alcoholic liquor.   Look up sloes on the net.   I’d post a photo, but that little bit of technology still eludes me.   I also make wild cherry liquor and it is gorgeous.   I hoard it – share it out with female friends only.   Not to mention it is the finest cough syrup known.

Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part I

I’ll start ‘from scratch’ here.   Most sites have a core of people who regularly post there, and this one is no different.   We’re all nicely acquainted, but for those who are occasional posters, or the browsers, I think this needs a bit of background.

I’m English. My husband is Hungarian from Romania, and we have a small homestead in Transylvania,   Romania.   Long story how this happened… but it did… and although most of the time I’m very happy with the situation, sometimes I swear I’ll go home to England and H*** will freeze over before I come back.

We had a farm in our family when I was a child, and I spent a great deal of time there ‘messing about’ and getting in everyone’s way.   Because I loved it there, a fair amount of information soaked in.   They say farm children take the life of farming into their souls, and although I don’t strictly qualify, certainly I learned to love the place, the animals, the life.

When my husband and I married, we decided to buy land at his village, and start this small farm.   We built a home, the barn, the outbuildings.   The place is small… by British standards.

And not modern… at all.   Think 1880, with intermittent   (lousy service) electricity for the milking machine and lights in the barn.   We have only 10 cows, but that puts us as 3rd highest producer amongst the **Edit** local community.  We have a generator for back up and could not farm sensibly this many cows without it.   Most people in this ‘old country’ have between one and three cows.   Our ten makes us filthy rich by local standards.

We have the 10 cows, and since cows must be pregnant every year in order to produce milk, we also have calves.   We generally raise them on their mothers’ milk and a small amount of grain and hay, to about four months old, and then slaughter them for our freezer.   Every so often we keep one longer, either to raise up and add to the herd, or to sell just before her first calf, when it is most financially advantageous.

Our milk is sold to a dairy.   There is a milk truck coming to the village every day, and it picks up from a central collection point – a big tank at the bar where everyone takes their milk in canisters on little carts.   We generally have about 8 cows in milk at any one time, they give on average 17 litres per day.   Nothing like in America or England, but these cows are dual purpose – both milk and meat.   They’re called Baltata Romaneasca, and they are superb animals.   They aren’t ‘pushed’ to produce, so they live up to 8 years, some as long as ten years.   They don’t go lame and they get pregnant without fuss:   something no western farmer can boast.

We milk with a portable milking machine.   It takes us about 2 hours morning and night.   Whilst one of us milks, the other prepares the cows for milking by brushing them a bit and washing udders. There’s also the need to clean out the stalls   (lots of wheelbarrows of lovely manure for the fields and garden) give calves their bottles and muck out their pen, share out the 2-3 litres of milk for the cats, let everyone out to go to the water tank and put down fresh straw for them for bedding because right now in winter they can’t stay out too long.   Just enough to drink and stretch their legs.

On the weekends, my teenaged daughter helps milk, and very often one of our neighbour men shows up.   I love it when he does – I drop everything and disappear into the house.   I have enough housework to do here to keep me well and truly busy without needing to work in the barn too!   He isn’t married, so as part thank you, when he milks mornings, I make him a huge breakfast. Seems to make every happy – my husband has help, I can stay in the house, he gets a super nice cooked breakfast.

There’s also the pigs to feed and muck out.

Horses the same – feed and brush them, let them out for awhile, clean their stalls and put down fresh straw.   These are working horses, semi-heavy, 7 and 8 year old ladies and we work the fields with them.   They also pull the farm cart and in general do everything a huge industrial farm would do with a tractor.

Right.   End of introduction and I have housework to do.

P.P.S I started out thinking I would go into details of how to make moonshine – the national sport of all Hungarian men in romania – but decided an introduction was more important. I’ll get to the Moonshine next time! Promise!

Extract A Tooth In A Survival Situation

We all know that tooth pain is one of the most intense pains you can face. What if someone in your group or family gets a tooth broken or needs to be extracted for whatever reason? If a broken tooth becomes infected it could be deadly. Anyone have experience in dental work who could explain the do’s and dont’s of home tooth extraction?

As far as a natural pain killer for this….at the bottom of the leaves of the cattail plant is a sticky substance which is a powerful anesthetic and will numb your mouth almost comparable to novocaine….(almost). I know that certain teeth have to be pulled in certain ways in order to prevent jaw breakage or fracture. Anyone?