The world situation this year, that inevitably also affected Romania beginning of March, made us reconsider our options when we heard rumors about a possible lock-down, with being allowed to only go out to get supplies. With a 5 year-old in the house, the kindergarten closed, us both working remote, full time, we had to figure something out that would allow us to spend time outdoors and to keep our daughter busy while we had to be in front of computers 8 hours a day.
So we packed our stuff and moved out from Sibiu for more than two months, in the country side, where I was born and raised and where my parents live now. It was a decision we took with a bit of mixed feelings – first the thought that living with my parents again wouldn’t be that easy, after having been living on my own for almost 20 years now. But in the same time, I felt that it was the perfect opportunity for me to spend a bit more time with them and for our daughter to build and strengthen her relationship with her grandparents.
As we got there somewhere end of March, we quickly adapted to our new lifestyle and tried as much as possible to enjoy what the village life has to offer, first for us, to be relaxed and in peace, but also for our daughter – to allow her to discover nature, villages and traditions. It was the perfect timing to move there as nature was slowly starting its spring cycle, everything was turning green, weather was warm and nice, the garden was ready to be planted.
Buleta is a village some 10 km from Ramnicu Valcea, in the South of Romania, in a hills area. It’s where I was born and lived for the first 18 years of my life (with going to school in Ramnicu Valcea). Childhood memories are pleasant and still strong. My grandparents loved me and cared for my well-being. I spent summers with them and enjoyed the village life at its best – wondering on the hills, picking wild berries for jams, planting vegetables and harvesting them (oh, the taste of fresh tomatoes and roasted corn), milking cows, playing with the neighbors’ kids on the streets without fear that cars would speed up and hit us, riding our bicycles for a full day. And then winters with enjoying the snow, sleighing all day and then getting inside when night would fall and being hit by the pleasant smell of roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.
I wanted to recreate the same setting for my daughter, but I did it also for me as I wanted to relive my childhood, to rediscover my origins and the beauty of this place. It turned out I discovered more, as we went places I never went as a child. I also wanted to turn this experience into a learning experience for my daughter, to tell her about and grow her interest in nature, in the beauty it offers, in how useful are the natural resources it provides, in how relaxing and beneficial is for the mind and soul to be surrounded by trees and flowers, in how peaceful you feel when you spend time outdoors, with not so much urban noise, with dirt instead of concrete, with small houses and people you know instead of strangers and tall blocks of apartments.
Weekends were for hiking
We made a habit of exploring the surroundings of the village each weekend. We would spend both days on the road, going over the pastures or through the forests and stopping for a nice picnic. There were places I already knew, but we also had some very nice surprises as to discover some I didn’t know too much about. Luckily the village has lots to offer – a beautiful pine trees forest,orchards, a big area with pastures for cows, sheep and goats, hardwood forests, a hunting tree house and a hill with the most beautiful view ever for me – a panoramic view of the Middle Carpathians, on a clear sky seeing as far as Retezat, Parang and Fagaras Mountains. Hikes were a perfect opportunity to get used to physical effort outdoor, to enjoy walks and nature, to explore all around.
Spring and its flowers
As we spent April and May in the village we also took the time to explore, during our weekend trips, all the beautiful flowers that show their faces during the spring months. We had a plant guide with us and a plant identification app that we used. Some of the beautiful flowers we discovered ended up in a beautiful herbarium we worked on during our stay in the village.
Herbs for tea and spices
Of course herbs were also present and we had to make some winter supplies. It’s a great activity for kids, learning to identify them and harvest them. Nettle leaves and flowers, wild thyme, chamomile flowers (one of my favorite tea), mint leaves, all fresh, harvested, dried and put aside in dark places for winter.
We involved granddad into this activity, building an insect hotel. He built the frame and we did the filling in each room – leaves, tree moss, small tree branches, dirt, anything that would attract insects. It wasn’t so successful, as no insect moved in, but we would see sometimes ants or butterflies wondering around. The hotel still stands still in my parents’ orchard so we visit it every time we go back there.
Planting and harvesting the vegetable garden
Spring is also for planting vegetables, so we took the time to plant some seeds. For kids it’s a perfect opportunity to learn life cycles of plants. Plus, they become more curious in tasting what has grown out of their hands. It was a true pleasure to see how spring onions, radish or parsley had grown out of their planting a month before.
Learning about mushrooms
We also took the time to learn more about mushrooms. I knew a couple of things about them, but not enough as to actually pick them up from a forest and eat them. We learned together about them, we took a mushroom guide with us during the hikes and tried to figure out which is which, if it’s toxic or edible. The process is still ongoing, but we did manage to attract our daughter into this and make her curious about the mushroom kingdom. Now every time we go into forests, we are always searching for mushrooms.
Observing insects and other animals
As for flowers and other plants, insects also got back to life during spring. We would always hear them and see them – beautiful and colorful butterflies, beetles, ants, busy bees gathering nectar from flowers, stag beetles, ladybugs and all sorts of other bugs. We would touch them, observe them, see how they move, where they are going, what’s their purpose.
Rediscovering mother’s recipes
This was probably one of my happiest moments – rediscovering my mother’s cooking recipes. Most of them brought back so many happy childhood memories. Starting with all the spring soups made with freshly picked plants – nettles, sorrel, orache spinach or curly dock. Plus all the homemade deserts, the super delicious corn pie and a local recipe called polenta’s sister. And of course the Easter Menu that we prepared together – lamb stew, coloring eggs and making the local recipe of sweet bread, traditional for all major holidays in Romania.
This lock-down was for sure full of events, learning experiences for both us and our daughter, plus a perfect time for bonding, in all directions in our family. It was also a time of uncertainty, of course, but being outdoor for so much time for sure made a difference for our state of mind, for us being more calm, relaxed, open-minded and confident that all the bad things will go away if we stay together and build strong relationships.