Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Farm

A couple of weeks ago I went to a farm. Not a really big deal, since there are plenty of farms all over the world. But this one was interesting to me because it was so remote and because they farm in a very traditional way.

The farm is not reachable except with four-wheel drive vehicles in dry weather. I took a mini-bus to a small town and from there we found someone with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. We waited about an hour to get more passengers for a cheaper rate. I was surprised we made it in this vehicle or any vehicle because the terrain was so rough and rocky.

When we arrived, we found the farm to be 8 or 9 acres, but this is not a problem for livestock grazing, because the animals can graze on open land. The grasses grown for animal feed and to sell also appeared to be on open land. The home was old and made of fieldstone with a wooden roof, doors and windows, which were very dilapidated. There was no kitchen per se, but a place in one room for the electric oven and a propane gas tank. In another room the kitchen implements were kept.

The family was excited because they just got electricity, so they now have an electric oven for baking and don’t have to use the tandir wood-burning oven outside anymore. They can also turn the lights on and stay up late in the winter. They don’t have a refrigerator but they do have a satellite dish attached to the roof, although I didn’t see a TV. From May to September they could really use a refrigerator, but getting one there could be difficult. They also have no gas, but use the propane tank.

Water is outside--about 50 yards from the house. A small tap runs from a spring. There are these spring taps every ½ mile or so and people drink and use the ice-cold water without boiling it. Everyone says how healthy it is. At this tap, the family washes dishes, themselves and gets water to drink. The animals drink from it too.

There is a “barn”, which is a low building about the size of a garage. This is where the cows and sheep stay in the cold winter and eat the hay. The chickens must be kept warm to lay eggs, so they live in the tiny barn among the cows and sheep, which generate enough heat to keep them laying eggs.

The family was in the midst of harvesting long grass for the animals to eat. There are no machines to cut it and on the steep mountain slopes, machines may not be practical. So they use scythes and the farm is dotted with huge haystacks.

The animals are several cows, a few sheep, geese, chickens and turkeys. The geese were being plucked for down while I was there. It consists of chasing and grabbing a goose (done this time by a 6-year-old boy) and then handing it to a woman who yanked out the down for about 3-4 minutes for each goose. The geese screech the whole time. She collected enough for a couple of pillows

One of the sheep was slaughtered while I was there and it was quite an operation to get it cut up. They had to eat it in one day since there is no refrigerator.

One of the days, we took a walk and visited 5 different spring taps. It is traditional to drink out of each one and wash your face and put your feet in the water, which is considered good for sickness and to maintain good health. The sun was shining, the fields and mountains were lovely, sheep grazed, turkeys enjoyed the sunshine and small homes dotted the countryside.

One of the most interesting things we did was to find plants for making herbal tea. My family pointed out flowered bushes or smaller plants and we cut the flowers, leaves and branches from the plants. We laid them on a sheet on the ground back at the house and a couple of days later they were dry. I then cut them in one-inch lengths and put them in a box. We made the tea by filling about half a coffee press loosely with the cut up tea plant, added boiling water and waited for a few minutes. It was delicious.

Different varieties have different healing properties. The type we gathered and others are sold cheaply in our local bazaar by women who go to the country and gather the plants just as we did. But it was interesting to gather and process it ourselves. If you want me to mail some to you, email me.

The downside of this type of life is obviously the isolation, the huge amount of physical work involved, a lack of bathing facilities and no toilet--bucket baths are the norm and the outhouse is primitive even for an outhouse.

One of the huge advantages is the healthy environment. Even people in my city comment on how people who live in this area are rarely ill and about how many live to a long, productive old age. They drink mountain spring water, encounter no pesticides, don’t eat any processed food, eat freshly made yogurt, eggs and homegrown vegetables and fruits, work hard physically and have a low-stress life. They don’t multi-task, worry or even know about world events, get mail or worry about finding or losing a job.