When I was a child, I dreamed of a white Christmas
and as I am in Boževce, I realized how much the melted snow could be mud.
Winter in Boževce: How we live…
First, we cut wood in order to warm the two houses – the kitchen, the living room, the 1st floor of the ‘red house’ (still in construction) and the volunteer’s rooms. We bought the wood from neighbours and when the weather is good, we can hear the chainsaw, and the sound of cutting, in all the valley.
Sometimes, there are electricity cuts in our village, so we bring our candles and we continue our tasks. The water pump works with electricity, so if we need it during cuts, we take a bucket with a rope and we go to the well. When you are pulling up the full bucket, you can understand how life in the past was and conclude you are in a good situation, as you might not have a well in the property, or you have to do it all the time. And when electricity comes back, you appreciate it more.
For the purpose of planning the food forest…
What is a food forest?
A food forest is a living system in which you plant multiple levels of plants that are all edible.
We planted trees (plums, cherries, apples, even apricots!) and now we are preparing for planting bushes (raspberries, hazelnuts, gooseberries…), and later we will plant strawberries and comfrey, to cover the ground, some herbs (sage, lavender, rosemary and others), some beans to produce nitrogen, some vegetables also.
It’s just the beginning, we’re still searching what is best for us!
And of course, in order to be as self-sufficient as possible, we are building a new greenhouse for this summer.
As you know, in Boževce, we do natural construction!
Besides adding ‘mass’ on the Rocket Mass Heater,
we plastered the living room.
We took out all the carpets, table, couch, we filled in the holes with cob – a mix of clay, sand and straw, and we put the plaster. Plaster is made with filtered clay, filtered sand, filtered straw (1.2 of clay – 3 of sand -1 of straw). We started by the ceiling, and we continued with the walls. Now we have a beautiful living room, and we’re waiting for it to get completely dry, to fill it back in!
In my point of view, winter is a getting fat season.
There are not so many vegetables in the garden, and those sold on the local market consist of potatoes, onions, cabbage, leek, garlic and if we’re lucky, dried paprika, pickles, ajvar and spinach.
So we buy eggs, cheese and milk from the neighbours and we try to diversify meals with the same ingredients.
Thanks to the supermarket, we can also buy pasta, rice, lentils and oats. Interesting, isn’t it?
Fortunately, we have winter food in jars, full of “hunters” salad, ajvar and others pickles, from last summer.
Besides that, we have sour cabbage!
The sour cabbage, it’s one month fermented cabbage. People from Alsace can say it’s choucroute, or sauekraut, but here we say holy sour cabbage.
We ordered 100kg of this beautiful vegetable. We cut it in fine pieces,
then we put one layer in a big CLEAN barrel
and we put coarse salt on it,
we put a new layer of cabbage,
new layer of salt,
sometimes some bay leaf and pepper,
You also can put full cabbage inside. You have just to make a little hole on the bottom of the cabbage head and fill it with coarse salt. At the end, we add water until the top and we let it ferment at least 1 month.
The sour cabbage is very healthy, rich in vitamin C, the sailor used to take it on the ship to avoid the scurvy (you see this disease who get lost your tooth). It’s also rich in fibre and it’s antioxidant.
What to do with all this sour cabbage ?
Apart from simmering it with dried paprika and red onions, the most famous usage of cabbage is SARMA.
To begin, you have to take a full leaf of sour cabbage (the big one) and you fill it with the stuffing you prepared; traditionally it’s rice and meat, but we did it with rice, lentils and vegetables. You roll this leaf and you put in a big pot. Between each layer, put some cabbage. In the end, cover with water and some tomato sauce and let it bake for 2-3 hours. At the end, you can cover it with some fried garlic and paprika.
We did it for New Year’s Eve, that was delicious.
As I said, sometimes we bought milk and cheese from the neighbours. We visit them in the morning – before they milk the cow/the goat – and we have a coffee (and rakija) together. We speak about weather (imate zima?) and people in Boževce. It’s nice to meet other people than European volunteers. And in winter we don’t hang out so much.
To speak with local people, we need to learn Serbian. So in winter we have more time to study and to go more often to our classes, in Rajanovce, the village closeby.
To conclude, winter is mainly a season to take rest just as nature does. The sun goes down around 4 PM, so the outdoor activities also finish earlier.
We stay inside, our roots grow, we plan the future sitting on the warm Rocket Mass Heater, we eat good food and drink the good beverages.
A new year is coming,
What we want to do,
what we have to do,
where will we do it,
Winter is a good time to speak and explore the possibilities. We planned the constructions for 2020 (to finish the red house upper floor and down floor, to build a new food production house), planned a garden (to build the new greenhouse, to see which seeds we want to plant), to develop some personal project (Nema Struja Boževce Band).
But now spring is coming and all the houses in the village have a lot to do!
Your new reporter from Boževce,
Agathe Me-v, March 2020