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The sheepfold

  • Percolate the milk after being boiled
  • Preparing the curd
  • Nea Vasile preparing curd. He stood on his knees stirring for more than half an hour saying that "patience makes good cheese".
  • The whey is kept and usualy is used in preparing some foods or just to feed the other animals.
  • The cheese in its final form
  • Shepherd eating his simple breakfasts
  • Nea Vasile smoking a cigarette

Project details

Romania is one of the few countries in Europe where you can find sheepfolds on top of mountains, small settlements were shepherds produce cheese in an old traditional way.

You can  find Vasile Abloi’s sheepfold  on the top of Rarau Mountain from early Spring to late Autumn, the shepherds live there all through the summer far from their village, engrossed in this rhythm created by night and day; by milking, boiling and cheese making.

In an old ,small, shed looking shelter  they sleep, eat and produce cheese. There through the cracks the light penetrates and and it smells  of sheep, smoke and boiled milk in the background you can hear a faint radio on batteries that keeps the shepherds in contact with the reality of life down below.

The shepherds  seem to live a different life there, a life run by unwritten organic lows, organized after nature’s cycles.

The days start early, long before sunrise the sheep flock needs to be milked and send to graze. The milking is done by all of them, their hands work hard and quick, they are only 5 and they have 300 sheep and 28 cows to milk.
After the milk is gathered one takes the animals further away, helped by the dogs he leads the flock to richer grounds where  they can feed.
Back in the settlement the milk is boiled, the curd is made, the cheese is done,  everyone works from dawn till dusk.

It’s not a easy life here but they say it’s worth, earning enough in five months for the entire year. Some of them say that this life is addictive, it gives you peace, keeps you free and healthy.

Vasile Alboi runs this sheepfold for more than two decades, he is 76 now , his legs are not what it used to be and he  isn’t as strong as he was but he is hopeful knowing that he still know how to do good cheese. 2015 was his last year on top of the mountain, he is retiring from this life, his wife wants him home but  he believes that he will miss this life, the early mornings, the wind that whistle through the cracks, the cold mornings and the clean air of the mountain.

                                                                  

The images were captured in two years and four visits and I have to thank Sorin Onisor for taking me there for the first time.

Jungle in Paris wrote about this project here 

An image chosen fo#YourPlate at the National Geographic Museum

An image in the Daly Dozen – National Geographic 

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