As we arrived back in Rzemien last week from our two day trip to the house, we were greeted by Gosias parents along with two of their grandchildren (aged 14 and 17); all sitting round the table, armed with knives, shelling walnuts. The task at hand was to come up with 3Kg of shelled walnuts for the cakes that would be made for the New Year celebrations; not a 5 minute task, believe me. And one of the thoughts that went through my head was what an unlikely scene this would be in the UK!
It was satisfying to know that the walnuts had come from our orchard back in Pstrągowa. Even though we had a bad year, we still collected over 50Kg and it was good to see them being put to good use. We also reserve them for making pesto as pine nuts are so expensive and as an experiment this year we made some DiacoNoino (an Italian Liquor). We did consider pickling some, but we have friends who are past masters at this so we left them too it, no doubt we will be making an exchange in the future.
It’s just another example of why I have come to love Poland so much, it’s the way of life.
I may have touched on it before in previous posts, but I think it worth sharing more detail about the collective farming that Gosias family are involved in. Along with Gosias Aunt and Uncle, her parents farm about 2 hectares of land which is jointly owned About half of the land is sown for various types of grain which is either turned to flour andor used as animal feed with any surplus sold or traded for other crops. A further half hectare is set aside for potatoes and the last half for a variety of vegetables; cabbage, carrots, beetroot, beans, celeriac, root parsley and onions to name but a few. This provides the bulk of the food for the family until next year.
Now you might think that this is quite lot of work for a small group of retired individuals? Well yes and no, because the key to their success is the way it’s farmed, not only do they recruit the help of the larger family group (English immigrants included) they also get help from the neighbours; especially when the big jobs are undertaken, such as harvesting the grain or potatoes. We took a day off the building this year to help out with the spuds and along with the neighbourhood volunteers we numbered about 15, needless to say the half hectare was cleared by mid afternoon; along with a bottle or two of vodka to celebrate:)
It is this collective and collaborative way of working that makes things possible and of course when it comes to the neighbours picking their potatoes then we all head over to their house; Gosias Uncle just happens to have a tractor which is used by many a household, but then of course they may well have some spare storage space to be able to keep the trailer or grain; it just works out, nobody is counting the pennies, they just get things done and more often than not with a smile on their face.
I may have mentioned our neighbour in Pstrągowa has helped out all year by shipping water back and forth to our building site, so when it came to picking his spuds we were on hand, ready and waiting with our baskets along with several other friends, and the job was completed in no time at all with the aid of several cans of beer (it was a hot day!)
Now it may be that all of this camaraderie is a result of communism, after all Poland has only been free since the early 1989, is it just a kick back from what the Kremlin advocated to its people? I doubt it, no I think it’s a result of a poor country making the best of what they have, working hard together to make sure they all had food in there stomachs and at the same time turning their backs on a regime they had no time for. And as I talk to older members of my own family it is not that far away from how things used to be in the UK back in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. A better time perhaps?
Of course as the first communist free generation starts to come through, flush with the money earned across Europe and the western ethos of spend, spend, borrow and spend fresh on their lips, it’s easy to see how a country can change in a very short period of time, But as an optimist with the fresh picture of a 17 year old shelling walnuts with his gran so she can make a cake for the family, I’m hopeful that some of the old ways will stay and stop Poland becoming yet another victim of consumerism.
Gosia’s father once said that when they were living under communism they had loads of money but nothing to spend it on, now as a free country, he can buy whatever he wants, but has no money 🙂