Since I arrived for volunteering in Kosovo in September, everybody is joking about winter coming and how, for us foreigner, it’s going to be hard to survive the cold and how challenge it will be for the daily routine.
You enjoy the last tomato of the garden; you chop the wood for heating and one day you wake up and there is twenty centimetres of snow quietly laying all around the property as far as the eyes can see.
First’of all you wander how you’re gonna work in a permaculture place/area but then you go to open and feed the chickens, them neither they don’t really dare to go out.
In fact, winter really began and it’s just another way of working, others priorities, a new atmosphere to live with and appreciate, you need to adapt.
Days can appear frustrating because at some point everything is slower, you take much more time because of the condition. You need to light few fires, or candles when there is electricity cut, you have to wear lot of layers, doors and fences are frozen, all the property is slippery.
These few precious months are just a break for doing all the things that you didn’t take the time to do regarding the rhythm of the other season.
It’s time to cook nice meal and appreciate the winter food that you prepared three months before or the year ago. Therefore, you can appreciate the taste of summer work and eat paprika, pickles, good tomato sauce thanks to the greenhouse that is empty and silent, rocket and radish are shyly growing under the white blanket on top of the plastic cover.
Cabbage is one the most relevant winter vegetables in the Balkan, you can see it everywhere in markets, on sides of roads, piled in a truck. In Bozevce we spent few hours to prepare a hundred kilo of sour cabbage. It’s a nice activity, some are pilling and removing the bad leaves, some are cutting it in tiny pieces, and then you must put it in a barrel with water, a good amount of salt and bay leaves. Step by step you burry and hit layers of cabbage with a wooden tool, it needs to be drawn in the water to get fermented, completely submerged to provide also bacteries to enter.
You can still take care of the garden preparing the beds while the snow melted, doing layers of cow manure and straw. Then you spent an evening to sort out the seeds and imagine how we can design the garden next year.
Winter is also the time of celebration, especially in a village with Serbian population, in orthodox religion family and village have Slava. Either you’re celebrating your Saint on the calendar, or it’s the Saint for your neighbourhood or you have inherit it from your father. However, it’s time to celebrate and drink a good amount of holy water, Saint Rakja. This year in Bozevce we celebrated Slava with Baba Stana a woman living close to us up to the property. And then we went to Nikola and Blagitsa, super kind couple, and we sang, we danced, we ate a lot of nice meal and of course you cannot expect your glass to be empty.
It’s actually really pleasant and touching to spend time with our neighbour, you have the impression to enjoy with your own grandparents that you are far from. We came a second time to celebrate new year eve, we stayed late watching some tv show special new year, which was hilarious, and we had again dance courses with Baba Blagitsa.
Conditions can be a bit harsh even more when there is electricity cut. Now that we have solar panels on top of the red house, one “emergency” plug is available during the day, it’s directly links to solar energy. Luckily in village life you can get water to the well, you heat spaces with wood and stove so you can as well still cook, lighted with candles, we brought some to neighbours, and check if everything goes well for them, you help them and practice Serbian.
In Bozevce, winter is also a lot of comfort according to me. I can be witnessing that straw bale houses are very well insulated, inside it’s nice and warm, the rocket mass heater is a good optimisation for heating even with minus 15 degrees outside and no fire during a day you keep a mild temperature inside. You can spend time to knit, sue, read, or play music with the cats sleeping all around but particularly where the warmest point is.
Winter is a bit like skying somehow, the work of plastering inside the new kitchen or building furniture are exiting, you play like child to create nice decoration.
A the end your even more tired than usual, you just want to go to sleep, drinks a hot soup (or hot Rakja) and hibernate until spring.