Monday, November 14, 2011

Back to the Land'ers - Russian Style

It all started when Steve (my husband) came across an article on the Ria Novosti website. Yes, we read Russian news, I told you our taste was eclectic :)

It's an article about eco-villages where people try and life in harmony with nature. Here's the link and I'll see if I can post it too but check out the link because it includes video. Ok, it's posted at the bottom of this page.

This particular village is different from some. They are vegetarian, there is a buy in amount for a piece of land that other communities do not have and they do not use local natural resources. which seems very odd to me. Why buy in wood when you live beside a forest. I thought it was like a modern hippie commune. And after watching the videos I am thinking that it's a good basic idea that's been taken too far by this group in several ways, but that's just my opinion. Upon doing more research I found that there are literally dozens of communities based on all different sorts of living requirements and ecological philosophies and all over the world though there are certainly a lot in Russia. There really is something for practically everyone. But not me. I live in Canada and am too conservative to find something suited to my lifestyle and degree of independence. (I don't like being told what to do) But does that mean there aren't people in the West practicing this sort of lifestyle extreme? You only have to check out YouTube to find ideas for sustainable living. Here is one young guy in England and one floating home off the coast of Tofino, BC.

And here's another village in Russia.

It's important for our family to think about exactly what we want from our farmstead here in Nova Scotia. We plan on being here forever and that means making good choices now so that it saves us grief in the future. We don't know how the local community is going to grow up around us so having enough land to provide a buffer is one important aspect of our planning. We're not trying to avoid our neighbours, in fact we think that community relations are vital to our success because the community is where our customers live, but we do want to avoid things like complaints about the smell from muck spreading and animals. I remember in BC we got complaints once that our sheep were too noisy...all that grazing in a summer field...noisy stuff lol. But as more and more people find themselves living beside farms there's bound to be the odd conflict that has to be resolved. People move to the country with no real idea of what life is like out here. It doesn't smell 'country fresh' like that air freshener of yours, I can promise you that! And yes, sometimes you'll be stuck behind a tractor driving on the road or behind a flock of sheep being moved from one pasture to the next, that's the price you pay for having healthy local produce right on your doorstep.

So are we going to start hippie commune? NO Are we going to move to a radical eco-village and become vegetarian subsistence farmers? NO. Will we start our own village? No, but it might be nice to choose a couple of our neighbours. Are we going to do something unexpected? Quite likely, we'll keep you posted. But give us a while yet, we need to get the finances in order first and I have no intention of building in the winter thank you very much!

One of the things we are doing to get ready is connecting with local farmers. We've found a breeder of the goats we want and a supplier of milk. Now we have to figure out the rest of the livestock and somewhere to put them. One thing at a time. That;s why Winter was invented you we farmers could plan for next year and fix our fences.

We're getting more firewood this week and also staking out the garden area and maybe getting it tilled if the ground isn't too wet. It'll depend on the weather. Then I'll know the dimensions and I can figure out what we need for seeds. The new catalogues usually come out in December and I want some specific things so I'll be ordering early.

I just remembered that there is a great story/video about Dick Proenneke's year in the wilderness. Very peaceful, and amazing how good he is with his tools, making handles and swinging that axe with precision. That's the sign of a true craftsman, he cares for his tools and can use them with ease and skill. His is a unique perspective from a man not afraid to work. Loved this the first time I saw it with my Dad I think, years ago, and still like it.

By Yelena Kosova

Europeans were the first to start fleeing the city in the mid-1990s to establish eco-communities in the woods and fields. In Russia, the first eco-communities appeared eight to ten years ago. In this special environmental report from the Kaluga Region, Yelena Kosova seeks to find out why successful people are leaving cities to develop uncultivated land and grow their own vegetables, bake their own bread, and even make their own soap.

A cottager differs radically from a resident of an eco-community. The latter has an ideology, not just a cottage on six hundred square meters in a village. Eco-community residents create a family estate in nature for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Whether their descendants will continue living there will depend on whether they want to use solar panels for electricity, drink herbal tea instead of coffee, and eat steamed turnips instead of steak.

The first eco-communities appeared in Russia about ten years ago, but little is known about them.

Eco-community near Milyonki village

Milyonki village is located in the Kaluga Region, 220 km from Moscow.

In 2006, the administration of the Dzerzhinsky District offered 150 hectares of agricultural land to establish an eco-community. The land, which has not been cultivated for a long time, borders on a forest, which means that the families living on it almost live in the woods.

Each family owns 1.5-2 hectares of land. The land is owned communally, which means that no one has the right to sell it. Land can only be passed down to descendants.

Newcomers pay a fee of nearly 200,000 rubles. It was 40,000 rubles just five years ago. Still, this isn’t much given how much land they are given to cultivate. Moreover, the people who decided to move here are actually quite successful.

The average age of the residents of the eco-community is 30-35. All of them are families. Some are businessmen who used to have security guard. There are designers, doctors, and teachers. They lived in Kaluga, Moscow, and Yekaterinburg. There’s even a family from Greece.

Some lease their city apartments. Others sell herbs, mushrooms, berries gathered in the community. And some residents work as carpenters in the community.

Upon arriving here, urban residents learn to dig wells, build houses, and even bake bread.

Unanimous consent

Anyone can apply to live in the community, but if even one resident votes against you at the general council, you will have to look for another place for yourself and your family. There are rules that everyone must follow. There is no drinking, smoking, or cursing.

“We do not block off our land with fences, only with hedges, trees or shrubs. We do not slaughter animals either for food or sale. We all are vegetarians,” says eco-community resident Maria Dyachenko.

To wash dishes, it is recommended to use mustard, ashes, and cold process soap made by residents themselves.

All chemicals, even those used to grow crops, are prohibited in the community.

Though the earth is not ploughed, vegetables are eaten year round

An entertainment organizer demonstrates a Viking game and birch masks

The residents treat the earth with care. They do not plough it. Dung from the neighboring villages is used as fertilizer.

Thinly cut strips of white mushrooms are dried and eaten throughout the winter as chips. There are always nuts on the table. Residents have to buy them outside of the community for now, but a lot of Swiss pines have been planted, which means that in several years they will have their own nuts.

Cucumbers and tomatoes are salted in tubs, apples are soaked. Pumpkins are especially important here. Porridge is made in them. It is used for cream soup. Boiled pumpkin is eaten with honey.

There are currently 50 families in the eco-community. Only families who have already built houses or stood the test of winter in the country will remain in the community throughout the winter.

Newcomers usually arrive in early summer. At first, they live in tents. Forest trees are not even used for firewood, so when they do build a home, they have to purchase wood outside the community. Some residents build earthen homes. One family even lives in a yurt. The family of set designers from Moscow, Alexei and Yekaterina Sholosh, will spend their first winter there. They are now trying to insulate their yurta warmer using hay sacks. Everyone works – father, mother, and children.

Alexei has a small forge. Local boys spend nearly all their time there. Alexei teaches them how to smith. He volunteers as the local entertainment organizer. Among his many activities is an ancient Viking game.

“People are to blame for all their diseases. It has nothing to do with germs.”

Former doctor builds environmentally friendly yurt

There are teachers and doctors in the community. Pavel and Natalya Cherepanov used to be doctors in a first aid center before they came to live there. Now they are responsible for first aid in the community.

The Cherepanovs came two years ago from the Urals. Now the head of the family is building a wooden house modeled on a yurta.

“We came here for the sake of our children mostly,” Pavel says. “What did they breathe in the city? Exhaust from cars and plants? My wife and I were constantly afraid for our son and daughter. There is so much crime in the city. And so many dangerous temptations. Teenagers drink, smoke, and take drugs. And here all families like ours. There is nothing to fear.”

Living in the woods is certainly safer than in the city. Here, for example, cursing is not even allowed, let alone smoking from a young age or drinking beer. A healthy lifestyle is the focus in the community.

“My wife and I believe that people are to blame for all their diseases. It has nothing to do with germs. People should eat healthy food, breathe fresh air, condition themselves to the cold, and get away from the noisy city life. Here the rhythm of life is absolutely different,” Pavel Cherepanov says.

People who live in the city may find this environmentally friendly lifestyle extreme, but the people who live here disagree. They say city life is much more stressful, suitable for trained soldiers only. Children especially should not be exposed to this kind of stress.

Cartoons like Shrek are not welcome

In the community, fathers are typically present at the delivery of their babies. But each family makes its own choice. Women may also deliver in hospitals, or in the community under the supervision of a doctor.

Children feel free in the community. There is forest everywhere, and children feel safe in it. However, adults limit their food choices until they grow up. Eco-community residents eat healthy food without preservatives, artificial colors, thickeners, and other additives.

The common belief in the community is when children grow up, they may eat anything they want, but before that, parents can ensure that their children only use natural products.

Children in the community are all friends. Together they watch Soviet and Russian cartoons. As for children’s films, they generally like Russian ones but also know very well the Harry Potter saga.

Cartoons like Shrek are not welcome in the community along with commercials for sanitary pads and beer. Nevertheless half of the families have a computer.

Children are mostly homeschooled here. They are taught by their parents. Many adults living here have more than one degree. Once a month, parents take their children to school in the neighboring Luzhnoye village, where they can get credit. This is in keeping with education laws.

“When our children grow up, they will make their own choice as to whether to continue their education or not. Live here, or forever leave for the city. No one can restrict their choice of where to live,” Maria Dyachenko says.

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