The day started sleepily, driving through the backstreets towards a local smallholding, aromatic coffee in hand.
When we arrived at the smallholding, the scene was not what I (and some other participants) had expected; being used to plush permaculture sites back in the UK, the farm seemed lifeless. However, hearing more of the farmer’s story of financial struggle, and his reluctance to pass the farm onto his son because of this hardship, I was soon in awe of his hard work and determination. I realised I was not in a position to project my privileged perspective onto his accomplished farm. He had built his polytunnels by hand, constructed an extensive well, and identified a desire for ‘hipster tomatoes’ (long and pepper-shaped) in Belgrade!
The walk to his tomato and pepper polytunnels in the blistering midday heat was quite a challenge, but the bonds we had made over the past week, and the lingering atmosphere from the Bastaliste party the night before, created a sense of solidarity and contentment, spurring us onwards.
After our visit we went back to Bastaliste to eat lunch and complete the projects we started at the beginning of the week: the compost toilet, compost bays, seed sowing, assembling a raised bed and creating a model cob oven.
But first things first – we needed sustenance! The wonderful project leaders heated up some homemade vegetarian stew in a cauldron over our newly assembled community fire pit. As I sat back with a bulging belly, I found myself falling asleep in a shaded spot of the garden. In fact, most of us fell asleep for a good hour or two! It was wonderful to see the group resting together on the ground; tired from working hard all week, and at ease in each other’s company.
Our late afternoon was slow but productive. It is amazing what a group of determined and passionate young people can achieve in such a short space of time. The compost toilet was completed, and a raised bed – biochar and all – assembled. I had a go at squelching clay between my feet for the cob oven, and enjoyed moulding the structure with my hands; it felt so good to be deeply immersed in the earth. Adrijana, one of the participants, moulded a beautiful dragon on top of the cob oven, a mystical reminder of our collective creativity and growth over the past week.
Around 7pm, we made our way to Ciglana, where we enjoyed wonderful music yet again, and ate delicious food (made especially by the chef) – a perfect end to a fun-packed and unforgettable week.
Thank you everyone; it’s been a blast.
September 10th, 2017