I’d like to say I live a slow life. A slow life in the sleepy countryside. We are relatively detached from negative influences and time does not have a play in our lives. A slow life.
Preparing sourdough bread is a slow going and takes logistic insights, but it tastes awesome and is worth the work.
Definition ‘slow life’: 1. Unplug. 2. Enjoy silence. 3. Turn routine into ritual. 4. Make your own food from scratch. 5. Sit down at your meals. 6. Find a hobby and turn off the TV. 7. Just be present. 8. Get outdoors and go for a walk. 9. Slow down your music. 10. Get out a pen and paper. 11. Embrace boredom. 12. Do only what you love. 13. Read a book. 14. Declutter. 15. Don’t multitask.
The ‘slow living’ began in Italy with the slow food movement, which emphasizes traditional food production techniques in response to the emergence of fast food during the 1980s and 1990s.
I start to use oak galls as a tannin and as a color for dyeing cotton.
According the definition I live a slow life already since I quit my job as a food-photographer (that was when I started to travel age 29). Yet, I wonder: is it the same non-sense as stating that a cycling lifestyle is stress-free and equals freedom, or do I need to get into the groove first?
Gathering a salad made up from edible flower buds takes time. Not to mention some of the flower buds I found were supposingly inedible…
The farmer lifestyle, even the one without animals, is time absorbing. In our attempt to be a little more self sustainable I have to be a manager and use my logistical abilities to be able to keep up with the pace of nature, but only after I’d studied how to use these new green goods.
That means eating more cucumbers and chard than one really wants. Stuffing the mouth with gherkins, those big soppy ones, mainly because I am not sure whether my canning techniques are adequate. Probably not yet. I’d better sown only 3 gherkin plants, not 12.
Chard is easy, it grows fast, abundant and tastes mild. But again, I planted too much to be able to consume it all.
Preserving gherkins can be done with vinegar (use a high quality 5%) or with citric acid.
With the speed of cycling the Mauritanian Sahara desert (which means fast!) I need to learn preserving, canning, boiling down, raw pack, hot pack, drying, bundling, dehydrating, freezing, sterilizing and botulism as well as sowing, fertilizing, cutting, trimming, pruning, supporting, harvesting. All in the correct time, all the while juggling with soaring creativity and kickbike trips. A slow life? I think the definition is wrongly stated.
The countryside isn’t sleepy. Tractors roll by with bales of hay, pigs to be fattened and grain to be stored. Clouds of dusty drought earth rise to the hazy sky when soil is pulled over. Sunflowers turning their crowned heads from left to right in a day. The bleating of sheep, the calls of a rooster and the silent movements of a deer nearby. At night golden jackals may call out. Sometimes a Lada rolls past. A church bell ringing in the distance and the thud of our mail box: another tiny event in the street announced.
is finished and ready to send out SOLD. Price: € 30 price includes shipping.
Middle of June 2021
From public transport traveler to cyclist: it was a natural flow and only logic that the desire rose to be more independent thus away from travelers hubs. A cyclist was hard work, it took logistical insights and it required dependency of thriving on the unknown.
Our strawberries remained small, few and eventually quit delivering, yet their taste we will never forget.
From farmer, or cultivator, or, a word I picked up in Ecuador, perma-cultural worker without any knowledge to a manager of household in summer: the rapid flung from temperatures hovering around 35 degrees in spring makes me a slave of my own desires. I feel like a needy hamster with greedy inclinations to stock up for winter, more than she can consume. I roam the forests to find treasures because I want to learn all that I didn’t.
Between cultivating I search weeds, after I’d learned what it is I had an eye on. Elder flower is easy to spot, less so to pick, as the flowers grow high on trees. Nettles are simple, yet there are rules which one to pick. Cleavers announce themselves by sticking to your clothes but digging up their roots is a minutieus job which I aborted. Letting sour cherries going to waste was not an option so I dry them, keeping the pits in the process to make a cherry-pit pillow for the winter.
The photo above shows nettle syrup, one of the better drinks I ever tasted. See recipe here.
Yet, roaming mindlessly the forests has become a little less stress free. One of the reasons I love cats is for the fact that one closes the gate and off you are. No hassle like with a child or dog. Cats are independent, that’s what I love. Well, Hungarian breed is somehow different. They’d taken a liking to tag along. Skidding, side-hopping and whirling over the sandy tracks they huff and puff in the summer heat, their tongues dangling worryingly far out.
Let me start to tell about the veggies I grow.
Basics: Geo and I bought seeds in the builders-market and gazdabolt, specialized garden shops. None of them are biological and might not be used again when saving the seeds once the plant produces fruits. But that is a problem for later on.
The Pea Story: apparantly, what I’d sown were peas (little round balls in a shell were beans in my ignorant opinion). Sandra, one who knows very much about growing, sustaining and preserving had to point me out my peas.
In my dream world I envisioned picking peas and beans all summer long. Fresh and succulent, viper green, straight off the branches. A crunch when my teeth crushed them and a sensation I never tasted before. Never buying frozen peas and not a fan of peas at all, I love my own produce.
Onions are easy to grow too, they hardly need watering (though they need weeding). Their freshnes is not to be found in supermarkets and therefore worth the effortless effort to plant them.
It certainly has charm to turn a tin of sugared tomato paste into a festive meal with a limp, spotty paprika and very sour olives, done day after day, a year on end in South America. But why did no one ever tell me how fantastic fresh veggies really are? To pick salad leaves from the plant is in itself an untold pleasure. So crisp, so delicate yet so firm. The color and the feel, it is beyond anything. I now instantly dislike supermarket vegetables.
Through a Facebook post of foreigners in Hungary I learned that peas and beans have to be harvested. All at once. Blanched. Frozen. Fresh produce into the freezer! My ignorance had my romantic vision of plucking peas all summer long shattered. Beyond their crisp greenness and starting to turn yellow, I realize I am rather late with my harvest.
Learned: peas and beans need to be harvested before the heat starts. Then the peas need to be unshelled and all blanched and made ready to be kept in the freezer. It is smarter to plant peas and beans in intervals so produce can be longer picked afresh.
Realization: fresh pea and bean produce is not that fresh once in the freezer. And it has lost all it’s charm as I can’t pluck them off the branches anymore.
Third part of June 2021
The Potato story: plants became brown and hung trying to imitate a weeping willow. Geo said the hail storm in May was to be blamed but I had suspicions they’d given up on life because water was hosed endlessly on the plants. Plants which need a dry, sandy soil. A dry, sandy soil is what we live on. In fact, the soil is so dry that farmers never settled in this region because of too dry a soil.
Perhaps the harvest season was near since I (always in the company of Judah, who’s an excellent assistent) dug up many beautiful potatoes. This was a first time in my life to have grown my own potatoes and I am proud. I made a little nest for them with our own freshly cut grass.
Ignorance is (not always) bliss
Learned: potatoes don’t need watering, as far as I can tell, but want a good storage after the harvest is a fact. We do not have such storage. Luckily, I am in my experimental year of growing veggies and all I plant is a test, and therefore only a little was planted.
Realization: growing own potatoes needs space and you need to grow a lot in order to sustain yourself all year long. It might not save you any money as potatoes are a cheap product to buy. I think trying to save money (or the earth, for that matter) should not be the reason to start growing veggies. I believe to be successful in anything should have a first grade egoistic reason: loving it yourself… the sheer fact that we eat own, homegrown, non-sprayed, super biological and most important, tasty stuff is what goes for me. And for others as well…
Upcoming posts from living a self sustainable lifestyle in Hungary are post 4: Swimming against the current, post 3: Travel & food: a happy marriage (summer 2021). Post 2: The juggling housewife (summer 2021). The little Dutch farmer shows winter and early spring when we had nothing going yet. A short update from the here and now shows our coming to Hungary.
My thoughts after our first kickbike trip in the USA did not extinguish my desire for this odd sort of transport. On the contrary: the kickbiking took off.
The teabags I carry hold sayings: ‘When was the last time you were proud of yourself?’, ‘When was the last time you challenged yourself?’, ‘What gives you energy?’, ‘What is a good characteristic of yours?’ and ‘Are you a dreamer, thinker or doer?’ To each saying I give clear answers. I learn a short trip does not necessarily have to be a success in order to be a success.
Um… just self indulgence, my own short comings, characteristics of a traveler. (Formerly: a write-up not to inspire you -oh, Lord, no- but to make you aware of the possible outcome of traveling long time solo. And also a little bit about to go your own way, to depend on your own gut feeling).
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Trying to be self-sustainable in the countryside of Hungary: weeds and wild, tours and talent included.