Greetings from Valec

The project took place in:

Czech republic


Written by Almur Schlepper

December 2015

Hello everybody,
Today is our day off and the first rainy day so I got a chance to write. I am sitting in my tent, trying to keep it dry inside and the ants out. The tent is in the middle of an orchard with sheep bleeping all around me. I try to save the apples from them. The orchard is on a sort of organic farm below a beautiful castle in a park land with old trees and even older statues. You hear a woodpecker all the time and an owl at night. In the ruin of an old brewery 10 types of bats hibernate.

This is Valec, it’s old name was Waltsch, as it was inhabited mostly by Germans as we are in the middle of Sudetenland. That was the part of Czechoslovakia which was handed on a plate to Hitler in 1938 without defense, to preserve “peace in our time” which lasted a couple of months. So now you have got my bearings: about 100 km west of Prague, north of Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad).

Our work here is really diverse. Gardening is a real Sisyphus work as it seems to have less priority than the building work. We are laying the foundations for a new kitchen as the old one is just open and full of wasps, the sheep eat the carrots, the cat eats the cake. Moving a compost toilet was the least favorite task. Plastering with a mixture of clay, manure, straw – a bit smelly but good fun. Helping with cheese making, the cleanest place in this otherwise chaotic surrounding, I am glad to say, cutting the rind off and putting it through a mincer to make Brinza which is a sort of salty feta, delicious! With the whey we make risotto which I used to make my usual Quarkkeulchen which went like hot cakes. Yesterday we went to a neighbor to help with sheep shearing but in the end we just watched. It is such a difficult job, you throw the sheep on its back, then it is surprisingly docile because it hits some nerve which keeps it calm. And then of course there is kitchen duty which is quite a challenge under the circumstances. I did mine with Jirka, the Czech volunteer who did all the dishes so I could do the cooking. He is only 16 but surprisingly mature.

The other volunteers are a Swedish girl, bravely keeping up her Vegan diet, a quiet Japanese girl who made us Sushi, two Germans who worked in Ireland as volunteers, one with old alcoholics in the Simon community in Cork, the two “Spanish guys” as they call themselves although they speak Catalan with each other. They have been promising Tortilla. The last is a Belgian woman who is a bit older. Apparently they had a camp here for ”Seniori” organized by the Polish section .They left a great collection of jars with pickled pumpkins. Ivana, our gentle Czech camp leader, has just left. We are now waiting for another one, Stepan, who founded this organization called Tandjem, it means “There we go” which seems a good name for a voluntary organization.

The village is split in to fractions, the old communist guard who are long established and block every new initiative, and a group of young idealist ”blow ins” full of idealistic plans. We had a cinema night with them where they showed a musical by a Czech director Milos Forman, ”Hair”. I am sure some of you remember “The Age of Aquarius”. And some of that old hippy spirit seems to have survived here. They restore the old houses left by the Germans, doing organic farming, permaculture, planning bakeries and yoga weekends, keeping bees, spinning wool.

So the rain has stopped now and I hope we can go for swimming to a lake nearby which has white clay, great to put on your skin.

I hope you are all well and I will see you soon again to catch up with all your news.

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