When we were driving on the road, we wondered at this rustic sheepfold far away, on a forest clearing.
I could only imagine how beautiful it must be to go there! I wanted to own that view even just for a while.
Coincidence or not, a week later, we met Simion, a trumpeter who invited us to visit the sheepfold where he keeps his flock of sheep. He was talking about the same sheepfold that we saw a week ago! I just couldn’t believe it, until we climbed on that hill.
I could feel the sacredness of this land. “The forest is sacred itself. Whoever moves within the forest can partake directly of sacredness, touch the living branch and feel the sacredness”(Richard Nelson).
That day, I wanted to escape from it all, to stay with the shepherds, to have their freedom. And yet, their occupation requires a lot of effort and solitude.
Milking the Sheep
And so I met Nicanor, who has been breeding, tending and feeding herds of sheep since 1998.
He milks the sheep every morning, afternoon and evening, regardless of weather conditions.
The flock of 450 sheep from pastures is penned into an enclosure, which is separated from the sheepfold. They are waiting to get into the sheepfold through 3-4 openings (strunga).
Nicanor and his sons are waiting at every opening, milking each sheep by hand and releasing them into the sheepfold.
They use a cone shaped milking bucket, with a large base, which makes it hard to spill.
To catch the different unwanted stuff, like animal hair, straws and who knows what else, they place a milk pail strainer in the bucket.
Don’t imagine a peaceful milking, while listening to the birds! The sheep rush through the opening, trying to skip milking.
After a few times, your pants will be ripped off!
Throwing down some hearty swear words helps you stay calm and enjoy the milking routine.
Milking takes one and a half hours. The sheepfold is twice as larger. It is the place where sheep are kept during the night.
But they are not alone… The hut-keepers sleep in two watch boxes, placed near the sheepfold.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
The flock is protected by four Bucovina Shepherd Dogs. It is a large and strong rustic dog, with massive head and straight, thick, abundant hair on the body.
He’s not only protecting the sheep against predators, but also leads them, walking on the edge.
He lives peacefully with the sheep, but he’s not very friendly with the guests.
The most aggressive of them wasn’t even untied, because he would attack any stranger that happens to be in his path (someone like me). He’s released at night…
They are excellent guard dogs bred for fighting with bears..even if there aren’t too many bears in Bukowina, or, at least, that’s what the locals say.
But there are wolfs, a lot of them…Sooner or later, they will pay a visit.
We left before sunset, while they were still milking the sheep.
Maybe next time we will spend a night at a sheepfold and listen to some creepy stories…