Making Hay

By Stephen Ewashkiw | June 18, 2013

It was market day in Nowy Sacz (pronounced no-vee sonj) and we needed to restock on food, so all of us piled into the rental car and headed to the big town. This area of Poland, like most areas we have travelled, is active farmland. Instead of being flat, however, the farms wander over the rolling foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. We assume this is why so many people are using horses to work the fields.

It’s hay making time in Poland, and seemingly everyone is out in the heat bringing in the hay.

Jane’s note: The scenes in the fields remind me of the Little House On The Prairie books, with men, boys, and women piling hand-cut hay onto tall carts. One person stands on top of the pile of hay and tramps it down to make room for more, just like Laura and Carrie did as girls.

We found the big market easily, but it was surprisingly not in the market square. There was a mix of shoes, clothes, wild mushrooms, imported fruits and vegetables, and a plethora of in-season fruits and veggies too: dill, cucumber, cauliflower, courgette, and strawberries galore…

grafitti in nowy sacz poland

Nowy Sacz graffiti.

A few errands were run, some more shopping was done, ice cream was eaten, and then it was time to head back to Łosie.

Grease Is The Word

The owner of our Agroturystyka, Anna Kłapyk, opened the local museum for us this afternoon. Anna, who is the head of the museum, took us to see Claudia, who seems to be the museum director. Zagroda Maziarska w Łosiu is housed on a typical turn-of-the-century grease merchant farm, with an outbuilding and a home dating from 1899.

museum in losie poland

The home at the museum.

One room of the house at the museum had photos of some of the inhabitants of Łosie from the early 20th century, and about a third of them were relatives who I have never seen before. It was quite incredible.

The Lemko, who were the sole inhabitants of Łosie around 1900, were famous grease merchants. My great-grandmother was Lemko and my grandfather lived his first 23 years here in Łosie, at a time when the grease trade was flourishing.

They used the pine forests from the hills around the town to produce a grease made of pine tar. They sold it far and wide, with routes all the way to Riga and deep into Russia. When I think of my ancestors travelling back and forth to Russia on a grease cart a hundred years ago, it makes our little adventure seem tame.

grease cart in poland

Horse-drawn grease cart.

We know very little about what life was like for Grandpa during those years as he didn’t talk about it much, so it’s fascinating to have this window into his early years.

Hot In Here

As soon as we crossed the border into Poland we noticed huge piles of coal for sale at all the Home Depot-type stores we passed. We also noticed many homes outside Kraków were burning coal, presumably to keep warm in the wintry weather we were having then.

Several homes in Łosie have been burning coal, seemingly all day long, even though summer has finally come to Europe. It’s in the mid-30s Celsius today, with humidity in the 80s. Translation: it’s friggin’ hot.

I asked Claudia about the coal burning and she said that some people still use it for cooking. As we walked home past one of the houses spewing black coal smoke, Anna said, “Ekologiczne,” as if to say, “Yes, we understand that this is not very ecological, but some people still live like this.”

As I sit here on the balcony in the stifling heat, two houses on either side of me have coal smoke billowing from their chimneys.

It is almost time to start preparing dinner, but cooking in this heat is the last thing I want to do. So glad I don’t have to do it over a coal fire!  

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  1. Comment by Rox

    Rox June 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Jane & Stephen!
    I was amazed to read the farmers were gathering/making hay manually and not using tractors. Not that I’m advocating the burning of more fossil fuels, but it was just a bit shocking to learn this, given the massive machinery available these days. Do you know if most Polish farming operations are organic?

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 23, 2013 at 7:19 am

      It see,s that almost all would be organic as they seem to use what is to hand, rather than buying huge quantities of fertiliser and pesticides. Manure appears to be the fertiliser of choice. Many farms do have tractors and threshers, but most farming we have seen has been manual labour of some sort – scythe to cut the hay, rake to collect it, someone to jump on it to tamp it down…

    • Comment by Rox

      Rox June 23, 2013 at 9:39 am

      That is just amazing (knowing first-hand how much work it is to make hay and in the heat!) and awesome. Very cool you two got to witness it.

    • Comment by Jane

      Jane June 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

      I know, crazy right? And it was at pretty much every farm. We were too hot to move from the air-conditioned car, and everyone else was out making hay.

  2. Comment by Cassie

    Cassie June 20, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Oof, can’t imagine cooking in that heat! And so, will you be delving into Jane’s genealogical past as well? Bummer about Russia – it’d be worth spending a couple of days there anyway, even if you can’t stay. Do you think you’ll skip it altogether? Cheers!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 23, 2013 at 7:21 am

      We have already done some of Jane’s past when we loved in England – been to her great-grandmother’s rooming house in Snow Hill and found old family gravestones in Scotland. Not sure we’ll make it to her grandmother’s old home of Odessa, but her mother was born in Hong Kong and we will likely get there.
      Here is hope for Russia yet. We may take a ferry from Helsinki which will allow us 72 hours in the city. Stay tuned.

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