Of men, animals and contrasts, in the countryside

The rooster sings his song early in the morning, announcing the start of a new day. The first rays of light slowly make their way into the houses of a quiet village in northern Moldova. Nature wakes up from a good night’s sleep, as well as all the animals in the backyard. An old man and woman wake up once again in their small bed by the stove and quickly place pot of coffee on the fire. They put on their work clothes and go out in the back to fill up a few buckets of water from the fountain. One goes to the cow, another one to the pig pigsty and the rest is used in the household. The old lady opens the door to the hen house and lets the chickens out. After all these tasks are fulfilled, the two can finally have breakfast. They take out some slices of salted cheese they prepared last week, some homemade bread from last night and tomatoes and onions from the garden. They talk about what else needs to be done and the day continues.

The old man decides it’s time to head out to the mill. He has two sacks of wheat and three of corn from last summer. So he talks to his neighbor and they both share a cart to the center of the village. There are other people waiting in line at the mill and the noise of the machines could be heard from a distance. Part of the grains is left for the miller to keep, the rest is turned into flour and hominy. On the way back he stops at the shop to buy some yeast. Their grandsons are coming to visit and the old lady wants to greet them with a pie.

At lunch time they open a bucket with meat in lard and heat up two portions. After eating and having a quick rest, the old lady goes into the cellar and takes out the milk from last night and puts it on the stove. She adds clot and the milk thickens. She pours the contents of the pot into a thin cloth, ties a knot and leaves it all to drain for a while. When it’s dry enough, she takes it all out. The cheese is ready. She leaves a piece for them to eat fresh and she puts the rest away to salt.

In the afternoon, the old man and woman once again go back to the fountain. They have to water the plants in the garden. It’s a terrible drought. It hasn’t rained in two months and it’s also unusually hot. They try to save what they can, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green beans and the vine. They also have corn and sunflower planted on their land on the fields, but the entire culture is already compromised.

After seven o’clock in the afternoon they are getting ready for their cow to return from the pasture. The gate is left open and a bucket of water is placed on the ground for the animal to drink when it enters the yard. Then, a piece of rope is tied around the cow’s horns and it is taken in the stable, where it is fed with corn cobs. Although it spends the whole day on the field, the cow returns home hungry and thirsty. The drought burnt all the grass and the animals have nothing left to eat. The villagers now send their cattle along with the herd just for the exercise. Nobody was prepared for this and all the fodder is almost finished. What will happen next, nobody knows. The old man grabs a little chair, uses a piece of string to tie the tail so that it doesn’t move around, sits down and begins to milk the cow. Soon, the bucket is already filled with fresh milk. It is carefully taken to the front, covered with a lid so that flies can’t get in, and put in a safe place until the milk is either boiled, turned into cheese, sour cream or yoghurt.

All work is done and it’s the end of another day. Finally, the sun hid away behind the hills and night’s cool air is setting in. While resting in the garden, the two hear a car stopping in front of the house. Their grandsons have arrived after a long ride. All the fatigue vanishes and they go out to welcome them. The old man takes out a bottle of last year’s wine from the cellar and puts it on the table. The old lady comes along with slices of warm pie. After a glass of wine, they all become more high-spirited, thoughts keep flowing with no inhibitions. Another year has gone by. Time is old people’s worst enemy. The grandparents think back upon their youth and smile. They soon remember that tomorrow another hard day awaits and they just feel weaker. They worry that soon they will not be able to work anymore. On the opposite side of the table, the grandsons have many good news. The year has been full of achievements. One of them has had his second child and the other has just got married. Their life has just begun…

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