Dear family and friends,
Last year we had once again visitors from many corners of the world and were very busy around the ranch with new projects and some old ones. We learned new things and we taught things we know to visitors. You can read about some of these experiences in this letter. These were just a few that we need to mention, since we cannot write about everything and everyone; but we are thankful for all the precious company and help that was offered by all who joined us in 2016.
In 2016 we continued our Ranch Immersion Program and our Artist Residency Program as well. We had hard working and dedicated Ranch Immersion participants, who left a positive trace behind, and their hard work is visible in our new garden design, the art studio loft, the chicken coop and other construction projects. We ended our year in a good note, our last Ranch Immersion participants, a couple from Germany who came to Romania by canoe, did a great job with the extension of the little house. They made a movie about their travels down the Danube, you can watch it here: http://krikat.de/videos/
We also continued our Artist Retreat program. Quincy, one of our artists residents, a lyricist, producer and rap artist, shared inspiring stories with us from his life in Oregon, where he lives in close connection to the Native Americans, and many of his songs and videos express the importance of keeping the roots of the ancestors alive. During his stay he produced a music video and finished recordings of his upcoming album. You can see his video here.
One of the aims of our Artist Residency program is to share the inspiration of nature with others, and this was definitely a success in the case of Pierre, a Canadian artist living in Berlin, who recorded the sounds of the nearby waterfall and created wonderful music with it that you can listen to here.
We had a great time with Aron, a visiting guest of ours from Australia, who is not only a talented novelist, but he was also eager to join us in the community events and local festivals. He finished his historical novel about the Byzantine Empire in our Garden Room, a special room reserved for artists and guests.
Klaar, singer and music producer, was a hard working artist resident who joined us this spring. He spent his time creating music in the art loft, doing yoga, and he finished a music video at our place that you can see here. Klaar is a very promising young artist, next year we will perhaps see him at the Untold Festival!
In 2016 we started our Shepherding Program for community outreach, to help the local shepherds, a dying breed here in the mountains, which are in dire need of shepherding help. We had a surprisingly large amount of application for this position, and at the end after careful consideration we chose Guillhem, a French traveler who spent close to two months up in the mountains with the sheep. You can soon read about his experience in our blog at https://organicartranch.org/stories/
Through our Nature Retreat Program, 2016 was the year of families and couples, who have grown tired of the city and wished to reconnect with nature. Many of our nature retreat guests came with children, and loved the daily nature walks, the healthy, organic, and delicious food, and daily bonfires with storytelling and music.
In 2016 we continued our various ongoing workshops, such as birdwatching, gardening, and several events related to music. One of our newest workshops this year was the Introduction to Herbalism. During this workshop participant could create a connection with nature and understand what it has to offer us, and they could experience a true immersion into an environment where you can gain hands on experience. They learnt how to make tinctures, herbal cosmetic products, herbal honey, herbal vinegar and other items for the medicinal herb collection. Herbalism has become one of our focuses and we are already planning our next herbalism workshop for 2017.
We collaborated with Transylvanian Herb Garden (Gradina de Plante Medicinale din Ardeal), supporting sustainable collection of wild herbs in the area and offering a possibility to locals to learn more about using medicinal plants and collecting them. Through this connection we also had the honour to host medicinal herb collectors from various parts of the country as well as herbalists from Weleda, that use herbs for medicine and beauty products relying on anthroposophic principles.
We were also glad to work together with Sara and Douglas from Piata Huedin Market during two events, one offering information to locals about medicinal plants, and another tasting and the importance of supporting homemade local foods.
Spring wasn’t a good beginning for the garden, after some harsh weather in April and May we lost most of our fruit and even some seedlings in the greenhouse suffered. Surprisingly however, this year we had a very rich harvest, which left us with surplus of food and a full cellar. The reason for this was perhaps that we got more into practices of biodynamic agriculture, such as planting and harvesting according to the moon phases, and for the first time we are experimenting with horn manure, which is a biodynamic preparation, for the upcoming year.
We have always loved our little cellar where we kept preserves vegetables but also meat and cheese, and they stayed fresh for a long time. However, as we extended our gardens and the production has also grown, we realized that we need more space to organize all our produce and create space for the moonshine we started making. This was one of the reasons why we started the new cellar extension project. Hopefully next year it will be finished, it will have stone walls and we are also planning to incorporate old glass bottles into the design. For our ecological construction efforts and practices we were proud to be featured in the Architecture Magazine of Romania.
Our community has grown quite a bit. Not only that we adopted another cat, Mogwai, but we also got a brood of chickens from a neighbor in exchange for help with the hay. We have enjoyed their company since the beginning of summer, and since then they have roamed free around our fenceless lands. Only now that the snow has come have they decided to stay in the chicken coop and wait for spring. Now that we have seen how great it is to have chickens, we are thinking about extending and getting ducks or perhaps geese next year. The number of our sheep has also increased by three, giving us more fresh mountain cheese.
We would like to close this newsletter with warm wishes for 2017, and a quote from Northern Exposure, which paints very vividly what we feel often up here in the mountains:
“Life here is so elemental. So real. Without the interference of civilization you can really experience things like… silence. Silence and darkness in its purity. Right now, right outside my window all I can see is a black void. Endless darkness. It’s totally exhilarating, and I feel very lucky to be here. Very, very lucky.”
Roger and Zsuzsi