Thursday, 18 October 2012


When we drive along the main roads now there are obvious signs of how quickly Romania is changing and moving into the 21st Century.
Not just with the roads themselves, or the new motorways, or the number of cars, or the new building developments that are occurring everywhere, but also with what is happening on the land on either side of those roads.
Farming methods are changing, and they are changing perhaps more rapidly than anything else in this beautiful country.
For me, and many like me, who love this country for it's beauty and it's tradition, it is a real dilemma.
A large part of the beauty of the country comes from it's unspoilt nature. For hundreds of years farming has always been done on a small scale. Even the farming co-operatives of communist times were relatively small, and consisted mainly of individual family plots that were worked in unison, not enormous fields.
Individual families have used small plots of land to grow what they needed for themselves to eat, and then to sell any surplus at the daily markets in the towns. This is the way it has been literally forever, and it has greatly affected the way the countryside looks, because it hasn't been spoiled. Largely it is the land that is available that has been worked, not land cleared for the purpose. So, there are small triangles bounded by trees, streams and roads that are cultivated, and narrow strips of land that are planted, clear areas between hills and mountains and hillsides themselves. Land is used for what it is most suitable for as well, it isn't changed to make it suitable for another need. 

We are surrounded by such families. Our neighbour's in our village largely live this way
People who farm like this also want 'progress', I know. They want to make their very busy working days easier, just as anyone would do, so when new innovation becomes available, and they have the money for it, they use it.
That is why there are large numbers of ancient small tractors used by these 'family' farmers, and they trudge and trundle out  to the fields morning and night, towing their trailers, or with homemade implements for ploughing, raking, clearing, or seeding, hanging precariously from the back.

However, there are also still a large number of families who rely on their horses to do the same, and horses towing carts can still be seen in their hundreds on the roads around the villages, as well as in the main towns. They are one of 'the' sites of Romania, and at this time of year, Autumn, the horses are looking fat and well fed in readiness for the coming winter. Once they arrive at the fields those same horses will be hitched up to whatever is needed that day, to plough, or clear or carry, or pick produce from the fields. 

Horses are utilized here in just the same way as they have been for thousands of years, as man's partner. producing vital food.

Farming is almost entirely organic too, as everything that is used comes from what you can make yourself. Fertilizer's for example come from the animals that are also kept to feed families with eggs, milk, cheese and meat. There is very little money for shop bought insecticides or fertilizers so every family uses their own home-made recipes when they need pest control.
But, those enormous fields are arriving, with their enormous tractors and farm implements, and their 'more modern' way of doing things, but also employing less people because of greater, more 'efficient' mechanisation.
This only adds to the dilemma of people like me, who love to see the countryside for what it is now,and to see the small scale traditional farming methods that are used. 
Why is it a dilemma? Because we know that producing sufficient food for all of the people on this small planet is becoming a more and more difficult thing to do. Also the knowledge that Romania is a very fertile country, with enormous plains between the mountains and going down towards the Danube, and that with large scale 21st Century intensive farming methods, Romania may just be able to feed the whole of Europe. To achieve it though, Romania has to pay the heavy price of possibly destroying much of what gives it it's beauty, and changing a way of life that has succeeded in this country for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
It is also true to say that a number of the young people of Romania don't want to live life in the way their families have done for so many years before. They are being lured by the 'riches' and 'glamour' of the West. This is a subject worthy of a book on it's own, not just a simple Blog like mine. 
However, there are also a significant number of younger people who remain, who are staying at their family homes, moving into the villages, and who are maintaining this way of life. Hopefully, they are enough.
'Progress' has to come, but surely we have learned from other places all over the world that progress mustn't come at the expense of what is already here and working. Surely we have to realize that 'traditional' isn't a bad word, particularly when that tradition works on a family by family basis, and those traditions have to be protected, they have to be encouraged to remain.
The rewards for 'progress' are potentially enormous, but the cost of seeing these traditions whither and die because of this 'progress' may be too high, and may just destroy the Romania that we know and love, and destroy a way of life that has existed for thousands of years.

There is one thing that I can watch and count that will tell me exactly what is happening, and this was shown to me by a good Romanian friend. It is the traditional haystack. These are simple affairs created by a long pole standing vertically, supported by smaller poles, tripod fashion. Grass and weeds that are cut from the fields by hand are then stacked carefully up around the poles to dry and mature, ready to be used as winter feed. Once stacked they form a distinctive, elegant shape, a shape that is recognisably 'Romania'. 

These traditional hay stacks are my measure, as they disappear, I will know that a way of life that has succeeded for so long is dying with them. 

They are already being replaced by the enormous, ugly, plastic wrapped rolls of hay and straw that we see in the West, which can only be moved by even more large machinery.
At the moment there are only a few of the enormous barren fields here, like those that are seen in the 'more developed' parts of the West, and they have only arrived over the last few years, but they are arriving, and they are arriving rapidly.
This is a country that needs to be seen as it is now, and the traditional way of life needs to be maintained, encouraged to thrive, if Romania is not to be lost forever.


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