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A Day in the country

A pair of weathered wooden shutters on the side of an old house
Windows, Stanciova, Romania

Our new friends Gabi and Mike sent us an invitation late this week, asking Corie and me if we wanted to go to a garden party.

Before anyone gets the idea that this was the type of party where I would need to don my blazer and one of my ascots for an afternoon of champagne and cucumber sandwiches, let me dispel that notion right now. There was a dress code, but it was far less formal: work boots and garden gloves.

In the late 1990s, Gabi and her friend Cristina, fresh out of college, joined some of their college friends to set up an ecovillage in Stanciova, a small village 30 miles outside of Timișoara. Gabi’s friend Cristina and her husband Paul continue to run the sustainable farm they helped start almost four decades ago.

Ecovillages are joined by the shared vision of communities intentionally designed to promote social, cultural, ecological, and economic sustainability. Currently, there are six ecovillages in Romania and approximately 10,000 across the globe participating in an array of projects driven by their local communities.

Even though we had planned for a writing day, Corie and I were eager to get our hands dirty and spend the day working in the fresh air. We didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Unassuming Eastern Orthodox Church atop a grassy hill
Serbian Orthodox Church, Stanciova, Romania

Two dogs enthusiastically greeted us when we arrived at the farm and led us to Cristina and Paul who were already hard at work, getting ready for this spring’s school groups and other visitors who will visit to learn about sustainable building and farming.

After a short visit over a cup of freshly brewed coffee, the six of us got to work. Corie and Mike spent the morning setting up a drip irrigation system while Gabi and I painted an open-air shelter where Cristina and Paul will hold demonstrations for school groups.

As we worked, Gabi told me about their early days setting up the ecovillage, when the town’s residents weren’t wild about the idea of college students moving in, trying to change things. In those days, only six of the town’s 300 houses had flushing toilets, and the closest school was a half-hour drive. Since then, a new water system has been installed for the town, and the old schoolhouse has been restored.

As we talked, the faint sounds from the village–a lone tractor in a neighboring field, dogs barking, children playing–echoed through the gentle green hills.

Paul built a small fire and started cooking mici, log-shaped Romanian meatballs served with mustard.

The mici arrived to an already full table with roasted chicken, a hearty loaf of bread, beer, and a farm-fresh salad of cherry tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers. The meal was only surpassed by the leisurely conversation, hearing how the project grew and changed over the years.

With full bellies, we went back to work for another hour before Mike and Gabi took Corie and me on a walking tour of the village.

The days when the town’s residents had cautiously viewed Gabi, Cristina, and their friends as unwelcome outsiders had obviously passed. Friendly hellos from neighbors enjoying the brisk early-spring evening punctuated our walk as the four of us strolled along the recently paved road that circles through the village past colorful houses and the Serbian orthodox church.

Corie and I arrived back at our apartment later that evening, still stuffed from the generous lunch and tired from our day’s work. The day wasn’t what we had expected when we planned our Romanian move, but we were both grateful to experience it.

clay-tiled roof and chimney against a blue sky
Rooftop, Stanciova, Romania


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