LIFE ON THE
COUNTRYSIDE - MEMORIES FROM KONICE
Memories of his childhood on nature and nice moments with their loved ones in Konice by the ponds
during the various seasons, wrote Vojtěch Ullmann
W I N T E R
The first snow and ice
The leaves have mostly fallen and the branches are rising towards the gray sky, bare and dark. Only spruces, firs and pines become more noticeable with the distinctive greenery of their needles. Potatoes were excavated, beets are torn outand sliced, apples and pears were harvested, and sauerkraut and plums on plum brandy have already fermented in barrels. Small fires from the leaves and potato stem have burned out, we only remember the warmth and the taste and smell in the ashes of baked potatoes.
We enthusiastically welcome the first snowflakes and admire their fragile crystalline beauty. Dark earth and tree twigs are decorated with white dusting. Sometimes a little more snow fell at night and we woke up with surprise to the white beauty. More and more often, early frosts weave fog into lace hoarfrost and cover the water in the small puddles with shells of ice, which rattle so beautifully and crack when stepped on them. Even the ponds are already covered with thin ice, which will not hold anyone yet, but we are already trying and throwing stones and fallen apples on the ice. Their impact and reflections make a magical ringing-swishing sound.
At the beginning of December, the ice on the ponds intensified so much that for the first time we dare to go skating with it. We skate for a while, but other friends come and the ice cracks in several places and water gets on the ice through cracks. Some find themselves in cold water and have to run home to change. Instead of continuous ice, there are later individual ice floes on the pond, on which we do not skate as much as we jump from one to the other. In the end, we also "bathed" and the first skating ends with a cold.
On the eve of St. Nicholas used to be busy - several "St. Nicholas" walked around the village with an angel and a devil, the clanking of devil chains could be heard. As small children, we were very afraid, recited prayers and promised how worthy we would be. We got some nuts, apples, candies for that. When we were bigger, we disguised also ourselves as St. Nicholas or devils and tried to scare the smaller children as frightening as possible..
In mid-December, the ice on the ponds was usually so strong, that it was possible to not only skate, but also play hockey without fear - a lot of snow fell, so it was necessary to shovel it and make a "playground". Several rosehip bushes grew on the back embankment of the Kameňák pond, the branches of which leaned over the water. When we skated, we sometimes drove to the bushes and enjoyed the frozen darts. When the arrows go through the frost, their back part has a soft sweet pulp, while in front there are hard seeds and hairs. On frosty winter nights, the long, booming, dark crackling of ice on the ponds could be heard.
About two weeks before Christmas, Mom and Aunt baked cookies. They were mainly vanilla rolls, dark spicy paws, "chrousy" from nuts, sugar and whipped egg white, and a small number of some other species. An entire arsenal of different molds was used for this. While baking, the whole house smelled of vanilla, cocoa, nuts, and other scents heralding the approaching Christmas.
Into the winter forest for the Christmas tree
The day before Christmas, a lot of snow fell in the morning. My father and I went to the forest for a Christmas tree. There were no nice trees in the front part of the "Bor" forest, so we came to the "Shooting Range" ("Šištót") above the pond and went through the valley along the forest stream.
The forest trees were beautifully snowed, as if carved in marble. Each path, disappearing in the bluish shadow, seemed to lead to unknown mysterious worlds. Beneath the snow-covered branches of fir and spruce trees, suspended from the ground, darkened hiding places slept. The majestic silence seemed to carry to infinity ... We slowly climbed the almost imperceptible forest path through the high snow to the hill. My father was deciding whether to take spruce or fir or pine. He always tapped the tree with his wand, the fresh snow with sparkle fell down from it and the twigs straightened - it was better to see that the tree is symmetrically (regular) grown. In the end, we found a reasonably large, dense and well-grown fir tree. My father pulled a small garden saw from under his coat, we cut a tree, took a few more twigs and went home with the tree. After leaving the forest, we did not walk directly along the path, but up the hill behind the garden along the fence, so that no one could see us unnecessarily. Upstairs among the hazel bushes, my father loosened two or three poles in the fence from the outside, we climbed through this hole, my father roughly fastened the poles again, and then we went down with tree along the fir "Douglas", through the gate and on the way down to the yard.
At home, dad cut a small tree to the appropriate length with a small saw and also cut the lower end with a sharp gardening knife, so that the tree would fit into the stand. Then he sometimes drilled a trunk at the bottom and inserted one or two twigs into the tip of the pruning - as needed to make the tree pretty dense and symmetrical.
The day before Christmas, wide noodles were made for a thick fried mushroom soup, prunes, crucifers, nuts were brought from the chamber, apples and pears from the cellar. Everything was cleaned and prepared for Christmas.
On Christmas Day morning, we took boxes of Christmas decorations from the chamber - they were old Christmas decorations (stored in a strange ancient tea box), the glittering beauty of which I remember from my earliest years. We added chocolate christmas collections, various nuts on the thread and other decorations and my mother and I decorated the tree to make it as beautiful as possible and complete the mysterious charm of Christmas (as long as we were very small, the Christmas tree was secretly prepared so we wouldn't see it - it was from Santa ... ). Mom and aunt warned us that on Christmas Day, nothing should be eaten until dinner to see the "golden pig". But we still secretly ate some of the chocolate from the collection while decorating the tree...
My aunt and mom were preparing Christmas Eve dinner, and from the oven smelled a Christmas cake with raisins. "Go ice skating or sledding!" - Parents sent us in the afternoon so they could prepare presents in peace. So we took a sleigh and rode down a steep hill on the way from Kýrový house, between the fences to a frozen pond, where it jumped really hard from the shore. As it got dark, we were already hurrying impatiently home - for the festive dinner, gifts and nice Christmas Eve. The first stars appeared in the sky, the village fell silent, smoke rising from the chimneys, everything in the early evening in a kind of festive haze. However, it was not caused by the smoke from the chimneys, but by the atmosphere of the holidays of well-being, peace, joy - the most beautiful holidays of the year, the "Merry Christmas feast". However, both dinner and gifts were modest; our family lived a simple village life, money was never wasted...
In the kind darkness of the pleasantly heated room, there was the smell of forest needles, candy, and candle wax. There was a decorated Christmas tree on the table by the window, with candles burning. The room was mysteriously dark, lit only by candles casting flickering shadows and reflections. In addition to the candles, sparklers were also lit; I liked to watch the sizzling stars glitter in the ornaments on the christmas tree.
After dinner, carols were sung and gifts "from baby Jesus" were handed out (when we were still very little and went to bed early in the evening, we found the presents under the tree in the morning - at night "baby Jesus" gave them there). Old Christmas customs were being carried out - nuts were cracked and their shells with candle, like small boats, were launched on the water, apples were sliced, lead was poured. Then various events were told (dad mostly forest and hunting), parents remembered the "old times" and those who were no longer with us. Christmas Eve passed in quiet and joyful peace under the glow of a Christmas tree. And we all expressed the wish that we would all meet again in good health in a year ..
Later evening, when we were falling asleep, often only one last candle slowly burn out on the christmas tree. In its light, the twigs of the tree cast long magical shadows all over the ceiling and walls of the room - it was ghostly beautiful and mysterious... On this holy night we fell asleep happily with gifts on the pillow.
On the morning of 1st Christmas holliday, we had breakfast under the tree - cocoa or tea, Christmas cookies, canned raspberries, some chocolate that we "plucked" from the tree. Dad also had a small glass of plum brandy or liqueur, which he received as a gift.
When we were little, we didn't go to midnight Mass, but my mother took us to the church at a solemn Mass in the morning for the "birth of God ". We didn't have it far to the church (as you can see below in the picture on the left), so we didn't have to get up early. But people from the surrounding villages had to get up very early when they went to the morning, and as early as five o'clock in the morning they went out into the night, often in the bitter frost, when the snow creaked sharply under their boots. The houses were still asleep, there used to be a lot of snow, and on the way to the church the lights flickered like fireflies - the old grandmothers lit them on the way with lanterns (later also flashlights), so that they do not fall. The church used to be full, there were a lot of candles, there were old large cancionales on the pews. The music of the organ, the scent of incense, candles, the nativity scene and the singing of parishioners completed the Christmas atmosphere in our souls with the charm of an ancient legend.
During our childhood, on the day of St. Stephan was no longer caroling. But there was a walk in short visits "to the plum brandy", while various stories were told, mostly humorous. The second Christmas holiday was also important for hunters - the traditional St. Stephen's Hunt took place in the woods and fields around Konice.
I liked to go to the snowy forest, sometimes with a bag of hay and a small bag of grain for game feeders. During the heavy snowfall, the world seemed to disappear, there seems to be nothing but this majestic silence with gently whispering flakes of snow depositing on the branches of trees.
Around the feast of Three Kings used to be a harsh winter and a lot of snow. Carolers Kaspar, Melichar, Baltazar came, sang "We three kings are coming to you, good luck ..." and wrote "K + M + B " in chalk on the door. After the Three Kings, the main Christmas season ended, the chistmas tree was taken to the next room, where it was left for a few more weeks. In the evenings, feathers were torn, with many different stories of real or fiction, with legends and fairy tales, mostly scary...
Burning - distillation - plum brandy
Winter was also the period when plum brandy was burned (distilled) - sometimes in November or early December, but often only after Christmas. The barrels of plum yeast were loaded on a siding (usually a group of several guys arranged) and drove to the distillery. We burned in Vilémov (about 15 km from Konice towards Litovel), where the distillery was run for many years by Mr. Rec. An unpleasant accident occured once. A group of the guys from Konice were returning from Vilémov from the burning. They had the finished burned-distilled plum brandy in metal cans and glass demijohns on the siding, along with empty barrels. When descending the hill (of which there are more than enough on the way to Vilémov), they did not brake on the icy road and the siding overturned into a ditch. Most of the demijohns broke and the plum brandy spilled into the snow, with only metal cans (originally intended for milk) survived. The angry mens picked and eate the snow soaked in plum brandy, to at lest taste something of it - they came home drunk...
There was also one tragic event. In the evening, a Konice citizen brought burnt plum brandy. He was so looking forward to it and it smelled so good, that he build a big kettle with plum brandy (about 60%) beside to the bed, lay down, gradually picked it up by a glass and drank. He was found dead in the morning - he died of alcohol poisoning.
Mostly after Christmas, sometimes before the New Year, sometimes in January, another important event of our rural life took place - the pig slaughter. The day before, onions and garlic were peeled, carrots, parsley and celery were cleaned, two large pots of groats were boiled, rosin was beaten, and salt and spices were prepared. On the day of the slaughterhouse, very early in the morning (around 5 o'clock) it was flooded under water boilers. Then, usually in the dark, a butcher came (Mr. Hampl used to come to us most often), led the pig out of the barn by the rope, and his own killing took place.
The bristly skin of the slaughtered pig was dusted with rosin, sprinkled with hot water, and the bristles were torn off with bell-shaped scrapers until the skin remained smooth and clean. It put the most work around the legs and on the head. Everywhere was full of steam and the smell of rosin. Then the pig hung by a chain on a thick beam in the threshing floor, the butcher threw out the entrails, turned and cleaned the intestines, and then washed thoroughly it with a broom in the water in large wooden necks.
The butcher, meanwhile, sliced the meat and bacon. What was intended for smoking was cut into "chips" and taken to the chamber - the next day the father pickle in brine them. Meat and offal (kidneys, liver, lungs) intended for brawn and tripe sausage could be cooked in boilers together with spices (pepper, marjoram, garlic, new spices), onions, carrots and celery. Different types of meat and offal are cooked separately in two boilers during the slaughter. About three buckets of clean water are poured into each of them and it is heavily heated with wood under them.
Knees, legs, ears, fat lobes, shoulders and a few pieces of skin can be cooked in one of them, where there will be a light "broth" soup. In addition to salt, add a few onions, cloves of garlic, carrots, parsley, celery, pepper seasoning. In the second cauldron, intended for dark soup, you can cook a halved head (from which the cerebellum is previously removed), liver, spleen, tongue, heart, kidneys, lungs. It is cooked for about 2 hours, but some pieces, especially the softer entrails, are removed earlier. Part of the cuticles is cooked separately in a smaller pot, it will serve as a material for the aspic in the brawn and tripe sausage.
When it was cooked, came the most pleasant moment of the slaughterhouse - pulling out of the cauldrons, tasting, slicing and grinding into headcheese. The smell of spices and cooked meat was characteristic everywhere. The meat is carefully removed from the soup and allowed to cool slightly on trays before being removed from the bones and further processed. The light brewed soup will be decanted for further use (the boiler will be used at the end of the slaughterhouse to make lard), the dark soup will be left in the second boiler - later it will be cooked with sausages. Basic slaughterhouse delicacies are prepared from cooked meat and offal -:
- Brawn (headcheese, pressure): In a larger bowl, cut lean and fatter cooked meat, tongue, part of the kidneys, ears, liver, heart (all cooked) into larger and smaller pieces. Pour the light soup and especially the water in which the cuticles were boiled, some of which are also cut into the brawn, some of which are grind. Season with ground pepper, marjoram, new spices, add ground garlic. Everything is mixed well and the warm mixture fills a well-cleaned pork stomach (the lower opening in the intestine is tied up) , the bladder, but most often a sleeve made of solid parchment paper. After filling, the holes are sealed and tied with a solid string.
- White pudding (tripe sausage): Pieces of meat, lobe, lungs, spleen, cuticles, a piece of raw liver are ground in a grinder. Seasoned with ground pepper, marjoram, minced garlic, fried onion is added. The tripe sausage mixture is mixed well and, if necessary, diluted with soup. It is filled by means of a cylinder with a piston into well-cleaned, thinner casings, which are closed with skewers at both ends.
- Black pudding (blood sausage): Boiled barley groats is poured into a container from the white pudding. They are mixed with a little hot soup, minced meat, greaves from "intestinal" lard and red-fried onions are added. Salt, seasoned with black pepper, ground cloves, marjoram. Finally, the cleaned pork blood is poured, the mixture is mixed well and the thicker intestines are filled with this red mixture in a similar way as in thewhite pudding, including skewers.
The headcheese, white pudding and black pudding were then boiled in the same water as the meat and offal before, in a cauldron of dark soup, but for different lengths of time. Headcheese are cooked for the longest time - at least an hour, white pudding about 15-20 minutes, black pudding about 1/2 hour. Well-cooked white pudding and black pudding can be identified by they float out and swimming on the surface of the soup. The finished headcheeses, white puddings and black puddings were spread out on the chamber to cool, while turning twice.
When cooking, it often happens that some white pudding or black pudding bursts. If it's one or two pieces, it's not a big pity - their contents are overcook in a soup, which gains in flavor and density. It's worse when some brawn bursts...
- Pig-slaughter soup: The water in which it all boiled was then made into a slaughterhouse soup - either light "boiled pork, bouillon", but the most delicious was the brown-black "blood sausage". After cooking the headcheese, white pudding and black pudding, the dark soup acquires a very spicy and dense taste, which is further enhanced by the addition of the remaining black pudding blood mixture and seasoned with pepper, marjoram and garlic. It is relatively thick and very nutritious. After thorough boiling, it lasts in the boiler for 14 days in winter weather.
In the evening, our task was to distribute a "slagthering delicaties" to our relatives - a couple of white puddings and black puddings, a piece of meat and a teapot with slaughterhouse soup.
- Lard , greaves: In the evening or the next day, the lard was fried ("dissolved") in the cauldron after the light boillon soup -this was mostly done by the mother. The melted hot lard was drained into pots, allowed to cool, and stored in a chamber. Similarly tasty golden greaves.
- Smoking: Last - and very pleasant! - slaughter phase took place in about 3-4 weeks. At that time,the meat and bacon pickled in brine, are already properly soaked with salt and garlic, similarly sliced and minced meat, which is used to fill sausages. Early in the morning, my father lit a ffire in the smokehouse, which we have we built into the wall, originally as part of a chimney. Part of the meat was hung on hooks, halves of bacon or. they laid on perches or hung sausages. It is slowly melted with clean wood and the meat and bacon are smoked in the smoke. After noon, we walk around the smokehouse, cut and taste the ends of smoked meat - these are the most delicious. The smoking ends until evening, the meat and bacon (or sausages) are allowed to cool and then hung on the chamber.
I remember one incident that happened while smoking. My brother and I wanted to have fun, so we started shouting that meat had caught and burned in the smokehouse. My father ran quickly, but when he found out that nothing was happening and we were laughing, he rebuked us so that we would not lie and make fools. He put more wood into the firebox and went to the kitchen to do some more work. About half an hour later, we heard a strange crackling and hissing crackle from the smokehouse. We went to look and found that three chips of bacon tore off, fell into the fireplace and began to burn. We hurried to the kitchen to tell Dad what happened. But he said, "You bastards, you're kidding, I don't believe you." Only when we insisted and kept shouting that the meat in the smokehouse was really burning did my father go to see - and at "twelve o'clock"! The high flame was already licking the other meat and bacon, it would all burn! His father quickly grabbed a shovel, scooped up snow in the yard, and threw him through the smokehouse door, and we helped him. So it was extinguished, there was smoke everywhere and the three pieces of bacon were burned. The others were saved, cleared of swirling ashes, and the smoking was finished in order.
A worse incident happened to our uncle, who had a full smokehouse from two pigs. No one watched for a long time, the fire burned too much, the dripping fat ignited, and then all the contents of the smokehouse. Everything burned down, including the smokehouse, my uncle was so crazy that he wanted to go to the forest to hang himself, but they discouraged him from this intention...
The pig slaughterhouse was one of the most pleasant of the rural way of life, not only in terms of gastronomy, but also for its color and atmosphere (including a glass of plum brandy for heating...). However, I was increasingly bothered by the moral aspect of it : that it was based on the cruel killing of a living creature! Before, people didn't realize it that way, it's been a matter of course since time immemorial. However, if we want to cultivate and refine our relationship with living beings and nature in general, perhaps we should renounce this cruel behavior..?..
Just as we were looking forward to winter with all its joys and beauties (we didn't notice the worries and difficulties too much - they lay on our parents' shoulders), the winter seemed a little long to us at the end. In the highlands around Konice, spring came at least a week later than in the plains around Prostějov.
The first signs of early spring were seen in February on the branches of trees with bark and buds and slowly growing catkins. Later, the sun is gaining strength, the snow, which used to be a lot, disappears day after day, on the slopes under the layers of snow you can hear the murmur of water. However, the actual arrival of spring was sometimes quite sudden - the gentle wind first melted the snow from the branches of the trees, then the snow melted in the sun on the slopes and fields, and finally even the deep snow in the forests left only islands. Streams of water rushed in the ditches under the ice shell. The first tiny flowers and green blades of grass appeared beneath the melting snow. But most of the land was still dark, covered with withered leaves and dry grass.
Each furrow turned into a small gurgling stream, even the ponds overflowed sometimes. When the thaw and snow melting came suddenly, the water flooded the ice on the ponds; as we skated and fell there, a geyser splattered around our noses. The ice was sometimes fragile with vents, especially around the tributary, so we regularly bathed in icy water ....
This is how early spring manifested itself in nature. At home, however, the coming spring was known even earlier: my father, as a gardener, was still setting up new soil with manure in the hotbeds and in the greenhouse, cutting chrysanthemums, preparing plant seeds and testing their germination. We also had some seeds germinated and we were very happy about them.
Liverworts bloomed in the garden under Douglas fir trees, and my father founded a hotbed and graft fruit trees. The scent of violets wafted through the air and mingled with the earthy fumes, dew glistening in the young lush grass in the morning. A short April snowstorm sometimes flew across the landscape, but right after that the sun smiled at us again. Day by day, the earth opened more and the spring - breathing more and more fresh - could no longer be stopped.
Before we knew it, Easter had arrived. Sometimes the remnants of snow were still bleaching on the northern slopes of the hills and in the shady corners of the woods, but at the bottom the grass was already green, daisies were blooming, trees and bushes were beginning to sprout. Nature is already awakening to a joyful life, to a new beauty. It is spring here again, the whole nature sings and breathes the fresh air, smelling of budding leaves and the first flowers. According to religious legends, it is Easter the feasts of the crucifixion and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, but in general they are the feasts of the resurrection of nature from hibernation. Easter is a "moving" holiday (unlike Christmas). Their date in the calendar is derived from the lunar phases: Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first spring full moon, which occurs after the vernal equinox on March 21. This creates a relatively large calendar range of Easter in individual years (Easter Sunday from March 22 to April 25), which contributes to the variety of weather - sometimes it is still white with snow, other times it is already blooming spring. When six Sundays are subtracted from this Easter Sunday, we get a week called "Remains", on which the Shrovetide ends on Tuesday and by Ash Wednesday (Ashes, the date of Ash Wednesday ranges from February 4 to March 10), the Easter fast begins. On the last Saturday or Sunday before the end of Shrovetide, carnival festivities such as "leading a bear" it was took place. And on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the so-called "burial of the bass" - all the music must be silenced throughout the 6-week fasting period. I remember more from the parents' story. We children took part in the custom of the fifth Sunday of Lent, so "Deadly":
At that time, the "carrying away of death" took place - a aranged straw figure of maiden, into which all the bad things that the winter period brought (winter, darkness, illness, lack of food, anxiety) were symbolically embodied. The skeleton of the death was two wooden sticks (shorter and longer), which folded over each other in the shape of a cross and tied tightly with string. A ball with a diameter of about 20 cm is rolled out of straw or hay, it hits the top of the cross and it is covered with white cloth. The eyes, nose and toothy mouth of the Death Eater are marked on it in black. The arms and torso are modeled around the sticks and tied out from long straw, preferably rye. A scarf is tied on the head, a white blouse around the torso, and a colorful skirt at the bottom. Sometimes a cord with empty shells from blown eggs hangs around the neck. In the procession and chanting "I carry death from the village, a new summer to the village..." death was taken to the pond "Nohávka" to the place where tributary flows (below the picture in the middle it is about the place on the shore, from where the smoke from the small fire rises); there the death was set on fire and thown into the water.
On the "black- soot sweep" Wednesday, the pre-holiday cleaning took place. Mom rolled up her sleeves, soaped her hands up to her elbows, and swept soot from inside the tiled stove with a small whisk. On Green Thursday, Good Friday and White Saturday we went "knocking" and "growling" (the bells "flew to Rome"). Until we were very small, only for afternoon patrols, but then even early in the morning for about 6 o'clock. We didn't want to get up, but it had its special atmosphere to walk in the dark through the deserted streets of Konice, including the castle and the arcades around the church, where the sound of clattering wood was magically heard. The larger boys sometimes rode with a large "growl" from a wheelbarrow, equipped with a gear wheel, into the teeth of which a wooden spring plate fitted. Or they attached the growl to an old bicycle whose rim powered the growl's sprocket. It was often a hellish rumble!
Sometimes there was a fight between the two groups of the "clatters" about districts collecting money for the knocking. I remember that once we knocked around the church, we met the second party, while suddenly two ministers in the chasubles came out of the church (otherwise they went to knocked with the other party), swore vulgarly and provoked a fight. However, these were only minor irregularities, otherwise everything went well.
On Easter Sunday, Mom and Aunt dyed eggs. The most common way was to cook the eggs in water with onion skins - the eggs turned reddish-brown, which was further accentuated by polishing with a cloth soaked in a small amount of lard. Other eggs were painted with wax, some with prints. We boys knitted a rod (tatar, flogging) from four, six and sometimes eight long willow twigs.
On Easter Monday, we went to "carol of whipping" ("whipping ", "flogging", czech "mrskut", "šibačka" ...), especially to our aunts. Especially with Aunt Anna in "Zádvoří", we received beautifully painted eggs, lots of sweets and kind words and greetings to parents in the pleasantly heated living kitchen with a nice tiled stove. At Aunt Otilka at Střelnice ("Šištóta" - see "Memories - interesting places and people") we got nice yellow rolls sprinkled with crystal sugar.
We didn't really believe in religious legends (it was probably all different, or it wasn't at all..?..), but we liked folklore customs and traditions and kept them ...
Another spring pastime was making spring whistles from cut willow twigs, from which the bark, into which a hole had previously been cut with a knife, had previously been loosened and peeled off. At one end a full peeled part of a branch was placed, at the other a cut piece; the resulting hole was blown. Later, when the reeds began to sprout more profusely, we made reed whistles.
Spring days run like seven-miles shoes. The water current in the silver streams, still rich in water after the spring thaw, ripples grains of sand and combes aquatic grasses. Clear water rushes in the stream, the winding banks turn green. The trees were clothed with young leaves, bright and fresh - each leaf is tender and shiny, as if varnished. In the morning sun, the edges of the leaves covered with fine hairs shimmer. The meadows and slopes were covered with green grass and carpets of flowers. Trees also bloomed - first blackthorns, then cherries, pears, apples. Our old garden, with its many trees, was white as in winter - but the scent of flowers wafted everywhere. And from dawn to evening, countless bird songs are heard. At the edge of the "Bor" forest (towards Zavadilka), the heavy raw smell of clay from the fields mixed with the light smell of herbs and flowers. Needles and resin smelled from the depths of the forest.
The May color atmosphere of that time also included 1.May Day parades, which in the countryside resembled folk festivities (rather than organized festivities as in cities) with flowers, allegorical chariots, costumes, songs; this is how we perceived them as children. And on the feast of liberation on the evening of May 9, lantern parades to the monument to the fallen, with a magical atmosphere and also with fun - when some lantern began to burn (either spontaneously or by our actions...).
Calm and warm evenings had a unique charm at that time. The sun sets behind the forest and the air is full of delicate scents. We sat under the garden by the pond, in the darkened surface of which blossoming cherries and later the stars were reflected. At times, the fish slapped on the surface, and the ducks from the reeds by the shore sounded. And most importantly a loud frog concert! These bluish spring evenings under the forest by the ponds, with the scent of flowers and frog singing, are among the most beautiful I can remember.
Later in the evening, the forests plunged into the mysterious gloom, the birdsong ceased, and cold dew began to fall on the meadows beneath the forest. A moon sailed across the vast bluish depths of the sky, in which moonlight glistened silvery bushes, dewy blades of grass, water in the creek and pond. Trees and shrubs cast sharp shadows. The whole country is flooded with silver and deep calm.
The ever warmer spring days gradually turned into summer. The
beginning of the summer was associated with the ripening of
raspberries, strawberries, cherries and sour cherries (however,
the early cherries of the "of May" were already eaten -
from us and from the birds). My mother and I conserve
raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and currants in jars.
These compotes were then an integral part of Christmas.
The garden smelled of peonies, lilies, jasmine and blooming lilacs, the school year was ending for us and the joyful time of the holidays was beginning. Since we lived by the ponds, summer was inextricably linked to swimming for us, especially in the "Kameňák" pond. While we were still small, we were not allowed into the deeper water and we "muddy" by the shore in the reeds. We watched with interest the various tadpoles, frogs, leeches, flatworms, divers, monstrous dragonfly larvae, algae and aquatic plants. However, we soon learned to swim and then the whole ponds "were ours". We swam, jumped into the water, dived, played water games with friends, threw mud at each other and so on. At the end of the school year, if the weather was good, teachers Kleveta and Továrek organized competitions on the pond "Kameňák" on boats, washtubs, barrels, boards, etc. It was great fun, it ended, of cours, with a bath in water.
But I most like to go to the water alone in the early evening. The air was warm and quiet. A frog concert was heard, the water smelled of mud and aquatic plants. I swam slowly over the calm surface and watched the smooth waves in front of me reflect the inverted and many times repetitive image of the church tower, the individual images shrinking and piling on top of each other as if the tower were growing; so it was when I swam in the direction of Konice (as can be seen in the opening image of the view of Konice across the pond). When I swam in the opposite direction, in the waves are stacked and growing the forest massif "Bor", already darkened and mysterious.
When I was larger and actively interested in the laws of nature, during this calm swimming I felt oneness with nature and meditated on the curved spacetime of the general theory of relativity, unitary theories of the field and the nature of matter. My ideas and thoughts flew from the interior of elementary particles to the farthest depths of the universe. And I dreamed that one day I would discover and understand the common innermost essence of "universe," some universal law of nature that governs it all. At the time, I had no idea how colossal and unfulfillable this task was! But dreaming about it was beautiful ...
As tadpoles grew up in the pond and turned into small frogs, they climbed ashore, and whole flocks jumped over the surrounding meadows and even down the slope in the woods in the rustling leaves. We had to walk very carefully so as not to step on any. The shores of the pond were overgrown with thick reeds and cattails on which "cigars" grew - we dried them and then lit them and "smoked" them. At one point on the shore of the "Kameňák" pond, a blackberry bush grew, the branches of which reached to the surface. When we swam in the pond in August, we swam to the place and picked ripe sweet blackberries directly from the water. Their scent mingled with the raw air of tha mud plants and greenish water.
Another great hobby for us in the summer was the forest. He attracted us not only with the richness of strawberries, blueberries and mushrooms, but also with his mysterious gloom, in which our fantasies could work. I often went to the forest very early in the morning. Pink blushes spread across the sky, the sun's rays rose higher and higher, gilding the tops of the trees, and finally the Sun appeared in its radiance and spread its light throughout the forest. The warm wind smelled of needles. In other places, an intoxicating and fragrant glade buzzing with insects. For us, summer nature was associated with sunny slopes and gloomy contemplative forests, green meadows with wetlands and warm fragrant borders, gurgling streams with mysterious shadows and depths of pools under inclined willows and alders. Or on a moonlit night, a mysterious forest, darkened, with forest streams bubbling in the moonlight.
The beginning of the summer was associated with haymaking. In the afternoon, Dad carefully forged one or two scythes and sharpened them - they must have been razor sharp! The grass was always cut as soon as possible in the morning, often at 4 o'clock, so that there was dew for as long as possible (it is said that "the dew should be in the grass, not on the forehead"). From the meadows you could hear the characteristic hiss of a scythe while mowing and from time to time ringing sharpening of scythes. The choppers had two whetstones with them, a rough carborundum and a smoother stone, which they soaked into water during grinding in a shaped tin container called a "quiver" (scabbard for whetstone, with a bent holder), which they wore hung on a belt. Everywhere smelled cut grass and hay - in the meadows, in the gardens, in the summer wind. In the early morning, swaths of strong-smelling, dewy, and cooling grass scattered and shook. We had to turn it over and then rake the already dried hay and help my father to stacked in piles before the evening dew fell. We didn't like it much then, but it had its fragrant charm. The hay was stacked on wooden sticks ("dryers", "stems") so that there was free space inside the bottom. And it was an ideal place for us to play and sleep in the fragrant hay, we made "bunkers" there. Sometimes we hid in a haystack from the rain. We watched the silvery drops of rain sprinkle the blades of grass. It was felt entrust herbal smell ...
In the morning we stretched and went for a swim in the pond, even though the water seemed cold in the morning. Or we lay down on the hay in the early evening and watched the first stars light up in the darkening sky, tremling softly with their rays. It was beauty and well-being. Later, the sky completely darkened and was densely strewn with stars with the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. The sky was mirored in the water, the stars seeming to bathe in the black depths, trembling in gentle water tremors.
Dried and laid hay was loaded from the piles onto a cart, from more distant meadows even onto a horse-drawn ladder truck. Sometimes, when the sky was frowning in the early rain, it was necessary to hurry so that the hay could be loaded and brought to the barn in the dry, we often got wet ourselves. To prevent hay from falling when driving on bumpy roads, the hay ridge was loaded at the top and reinforced with a so-called pavéda - a long perch pulled by ropes at the ends. As boys, we liked to ride on a high ferry in fragrant hay. After arriving home, the father used a fork on a long bar to feed the hay from the cart to the roof space, the mother or aunt took it, we then carried the hay on the short forks under the beams and stacked them high under the roof, often on two or three "floors". We often made a "secret hiding place" under a hay in a hidden place.
At the time of the summer solstice, around the feast of St. John, there are beautiful warm nights, full of the scent of flowering meadows. On the eve and night of June 24, "Midsummer fires" were being prepared and lit, through which they then jumped. Geysers of sparks flew into the sky. And in the darkness of the meadows and under the forest, flying midsummer "flies" shone like sparks.
July was full of heat and often severe storms with dazzling lightning and the hellish roar of thunder. Even in the heavy downpour, Dad ran out to release the clogged streams from the rolling water. After the storm, we too ran out barefoot, waded in the puddles and mud and inhaling fresh air, smelling of ozone and earthy moisture. The forest smelled strongly of mushrooms.
Sometimes even in summer the sky frowned to heavier rainy weather, steam rose from the woods. In such inclement weather, we sometimes climbed under the roof, crawled through the plump and intoxicatingly scented hay to the bottom of the roof or to the rear window in the gable, from where you could see the garden and part of the forest. We inhaled the fresh, humid air mingling with the smell of hay, and listened in the dryness as the rain rained on the roof tiles. I remember once discovering a nest with about 60 eggs up to the top below the rafters, which I then handed to my brother several times in a wicker basket on the lower floor of the roof, and he again handed to his mother down the ladder. Mom and Aunt were happy because no one knew about the nest and the eggs would spoil or freeze and crack in the winter. Other times, however, we found only empty shells in the nest, the inside was eaten by a marten or a polecat.
The end of July gradually maturing rye, wheat and barley. The fields receive a golden hue with typical aromas and rustling sound. From the courtyards and sheds of the cottages, there was a knocking scythe again in the evening and in the morning. She was the haymaking of the second grass. And then the harvest of grain - before, the grain was often mowed by hand. The grain mower was equipped with a semicircular arch of cloths covered with canvas ("rake" or "kite"), which folded the mown grain into straight swaths or laying. The father slashed, the mother or aunt took the mown grain and tied it into sheaves. These were then folded into "shots" - mandellas of 16 sheaves. We were raking scattered spikelets with strange wide rakes with a large number of teeth.
After proper drying, the grain was taken home to the barn. The wooden steps to the chamber were carried away, and the entire barn was filled to the ceiling with sheaves of grain. Although I still experienced threshing with the flails, but only rye, where it was necessary to keep a long straight straw to bind the mats. Wheat, oats and barley were already threshed on the thresher. We had an old wooden thresher, the rotating drum of which was driven by a pulley and a long wide belt driven by a motor. The father always painted this belt properly with tar or rosin so that it would not slip. The father put the grain in the "swallower" of the thresher with a fast-spinning drum, the mother took the straw at the other end of the thresher from the vibrating "shakers", the aunt was raking out the falling grain from under the threshing machine. It was a hell of a noise, clouds of dust and the strange smell of straw and grain hovering everywhere.
The grain fell from the thresher with the chaff, it had to be cleaned; the next stage began - "blowing". We had an old wooden "blower", where large blades spun by hand in a drum, which drove a stream of air through vibrating screens, on which grain with chaff fell from the hopper from above. The stream of air carried the light husks and debris away, while the heavier grains of grain fell through the sieves and then through the troughs into the prepared containers. There was even more dust when the grain was blowing than when threshing, in addition to the dust, chaff and fluff from the flowers growing in the grain flew through the air. We especially liked the flying round fluff of thistles that we chased and caught. The clean grain was then poured into bags and placed on a chamber, the chaff was pulled onto the soil in a large "rugged" basket on a rope and poured over the barns, where they provided insulation in the winter. Part of the chaff was consumed in the feed during the winter.
At the end of the barn there were wooden stairs leading to a massive door to the old chamber (a picture from this chamber is given in the " Christmas " section) . In addition to compotes, grain, flour, scrap, lard, blackthorn (jam), there were stored many things needed for the house - weight ("decimal"), weights, baskets, sieves, bowls, ... In the back of the chamber, under the window , was a large wooden box with compartments and a top lid. In the individual sections, the flour was smooth, semi-coarse and coarse, in the smaller compartments there was millet, semolina, peas, flaxseed. On the wall to the right of the chamber was a long hanger, on which hung old everyday (outdoor) coats and cloaks, ropes, spare belts for the threshing machine. There were also two old, larger coarse cloth backpacks, wit which my father went to more distant forests for mushrooms (and perhaps sometimes poaching ...) . Old wooden skis with a skip binding were then placed on top of the hanger. The chamber was also a place for us, games and secret nooks and interesting objects.
The warmed glades and meadows at the end of the summer, with blooming flowers and veils of cobwebs in the branches of trees and in the tall grass, smells like thyme and beginning wilting. However, on warm evenings after the harvest, when the sun was slowly setting, leaving a tepid softness, cold steam was already rising from the meadows by the stream below the forest. And in the morning, the water under the fog haze was already cold as in autumn ...
Indian summer, school
In nature, the end of summer and the onset of autumn are usually gradual and inconspicuous at the beginning. However, the goldenening of the leaves, the ripening of pears, plums and apples, the cold misty morning with dewy cobwebs on the bushes and meadows are an unmistakable sign that autumn is taking the government. With a unique scent of fields and forests, moss, leaves and ripening apples, smoke from potato fields, borders and gardens. With winds from stubble, kite-flying ...
For us, "compulsory school", however, the transition between summer and autumn was sudden: it was September 1 - the end of the holidays and the beginning of school. We didn't like the transition from holiday freedom to school duties, but on the other hand we were looking forward to friends and also to some teachers (for me it was especially Mr. Jáchym, but he wasn't the only one).
The first three classes we went to the old school above the hill by the church, under which a stream flowed in a tunnel "underground" - this was the place of our frequent games in a mysterious gloom and the gurgling of the water. Our dad already went to this old school and told even about the tunnel with a stream under the school in his stories (adventures). In the 4th and 5th grade we went to the new school in "Příhony", from the 6th to the 9th grade then to the old school "měšťanky" on the square. At school, I was fascinated by subjects in the office of physics, chemistry and biology - at that time I was attracted to everything related to nature, its laws, mysteries ... From 6th grade, "cross-country" students from Křemenec, Čunín, Jesence, Dzbel , Skripov. They were children from villages, used to living modestly and helping at home on the farm. I got along better with many of these boys, despite their certain "roughness", than with some "inflated from Konices" pampered by religious or well-to-do parents.
Yellowed leaves slowly fell from the trees, and with a slight rustle they fluttered to the ground. Especially after the first frosts, the fall of the leaves accelerated a lot. On the way to school, I watched heavy leaves, damp and frosted at the edges, fall quickly from a neighbor's walnut tree in the autumn mist. In the freezing morning the meadows turned white, each leaf of grass is decorated with hoarfrost of ice crystals.
Harvesting fruit, cooking plum jam,
pickling cabbage, burning plum brandy
Autumn is the harvest season of some crops - plums, apples, pears, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, parsley and celery, pumpkins, beets, ord. maize. For us, the potato harvest was mainly associated with little fires from the potato stem, in the ashes of which we baked potatoes. Such a potato made of ashes, with a blackened crust, warms pleasantly in the pocket and and its taste and smell is unforgettable!
Potatoes in the cellar, in the hall of a barrel of sauerkraut, plum jam cooked in the chamber - that was the basis of preparation for winter in every cottage.
Cooking plum jam - black jam
Plums, in addition to small amounts in cakes, dumplings or for compots, were used for cooking the plum jam and for ferment for plum brandy. The jam was cooked from high-quality shredded and well-ripened plums in a large cauldron, preferably copper. The plums were first boiled and the thin mixture was sifted with a whisk through a sieve - the pips and husks were removed (the pips were dried, then threshed and the kernels were used for candy). The clean boiled flesh, yellow - red and relatively thin - called "slurry" or "lollipop", then slowly evaporated and thickened with gentle boiling and constant stirring until excellent plum jam was formed. Finished plum jam, also called "black jam", must be thick and dark, blue-black in color. It was a very lengthy process, usually all day and night! And with constant stirring with a wooden hoof (so that the jam does not burn), which was manually turned by the crank; we also had to help and replace the parents. The finished plum jam was filled into larger earthenware pots. After cooling, a thin solid crust formed on the surface, which was sometimes smeared with plum brandy. The pots were covered and tied with cloth or parchment paper, black jam was gradually used for cakes and buns; in the chamber lasted all year, until cooking new jams.
Plum fermentation, burning - distillation - plum brandy
Fallen and shaken mature plums were collected and poured into barrels (kegs), left to ferment and in winter plum brandy was burned (distilled) from them. The wooden barrels were considerably "dried up" after the spring and summer, with the exception of one or two, which were used for rainwater. It was necessary to lift and knock the iron hoops, then we immersed them in the pond for about 2 days so that the boards soaked with water and sealing. After filling the barrels with plums, it was necessary to watch to see if the fermentation would be too stormy - in this case, it was necessary to remove a little ferment so that the foam and yeast did not overflow (after a few days it returned).
I mentioned some of the events from burning (distillation) plum brandy in the "Winter" chapter above. Another funny incident happened when it was still plum burning in the autumn, in dry weather. Along with a group of men, there was also a lady who liked to drink. And indeed, she "tasted" so abundantly during the burning that she got drunk and couldn't stay on her feet. What about her now? The men put her in one empty bigger wooden barrel in the siding, after a while she will go home and maintain her stability in the barrel. In the meantime, however, it began to rain heavily and the siding coincidentally stood under the roof of the distillery under the eaves. Fortunately, they drove in about half an hour, otherwise the lady in the barrel would have drowned! When they pulled her out of the barrel, she was all wet and her long hair was tangled and covered with skins of fermented plums, but apart from the cold, it turned out well ...
The heads of the late cabbage were stripped of their outer leaves, cleaned well, halved, and stiff brooms cut out; we cut out their delicate interiors and crunched them with gusto. Then the heads were grated on a large wooden grater with three flat oblique knives, over which a tray of cabbage slid. The grater was placed horizontally between two chairs. The heads had to be pressed, but carefully so as not to cut our fingers. Grated cabbage was filled into a barrel or keg (content of about 20-50 liters), while it was properly tamped - trampled. A small handful of salt, roughly chopped (or grated with cabbage) onions, twigs of dill and small apples are added to the cabbage in each layer. Alternatively, a few rounds of chopped horseradish are inserted. After a thorough compression, the cabbage releases water and begins to froth. When the barrel is full, the surface is covered with cabbage leaves, several currant or vine leaves may be attached. Hemispherical plates are placed and loaded with stones or weights. It is initially left in the warm kitchen. In about two days, a white foam appears, indicating good fermentation. The water ("infusion") from the barrel often overflows. After about 14 days, when the fermentation has stopped, the leaves and top layer are removed, the surface is cleaned and watered with slightly salt water. The barrel is moved to the pantry, to the cold. The cabbage is then gradually consumed throughout the winter, lasting through the spring often until the summer, until the new early cabbage in the garden (early cabbage is not suitable for pickling).
As the days shortened, the evenings lengthened with the damp scents of the fields and gardens. It began to drown in the old tiled stove, the resin log cracked loudly, flames shining through the doors and gaps in the hob - lights and shadows flickered on the walls and ceiling. The period of pleasant home evenings with storytelling and reading began.
Another significant autumn event was the fishing of ponds. Already a few days before the set date of the catch, the fishermen came with our father to agree on how quickly to release the ponds. The father then went to the sluices even at night and watched the rate of outflow and the drop in water level. Early in the morning before the catch, the water was drained so much that it remained only in a deeper place in the vicinity of the so-called "fishing ground", which was crowded with fish. Fishermen brought a large tub of water to the dam. Several of them waded in tall rubber boots in the mud, caught fish in nets and passed them to other fishermen, who sorted them by size and type and threw them in tubs of water. We childrens had small "weed" fish, which we let into the stream below the pond. However, my father put a few carp in the small pool in the garden that were so big that they seemed monstrous to us. After the catch, the sluice gates stopped again and by winter the ponds were filled again and ready for our skating. Sometimes, however, one of the ponds was left drained to clean and the mud froze, filling only in the spring; we were disappointed (sometimes we managed to stop the outflow and we filled the pond ourselves) ...
All Saints' Days (souls)
The important period of autumn in our country was the feast of the memory of the dead - "All Saints' Day" or "Memory of deceased". Our father, as a gardener, grew chrysanthemums and other flowers, and made bouquets and wreaths for the decoration of the cemetery. About 3 weeks before that, people used to go to the forest on moss, on coniferous twigs and on wicker. Other twigs were pruned in the garden from "Douglas fir" fir, then twigs of mahogany and some of the dried flowers were pruned. Our kitchen has been transformed into a gardening workshop. First, bales of moss were made, which settled and attached the wires to "twins" cut from the branches. Then spruce or fir twigs with pointed ends, mahogany and finally flowers (mostly chrysanthemums) on pointed pegs were inserted into the moss ball.
The whole kitchen, but also the side rooms, were filled with the scent of moss, needles and chrysanthemums - it was a bit like Christmas. In the end, wherever there was a place, finished wreaths and bouquets were stacked, or decorative baskets with twigs and flowers, for which customers then went.
We also decorated our family grave and in the evening we lit candles with our parents and remembered our grandfather and grandmother. The cemetery, lit by hundreds of candles, looked magical. My mother and I walked there for a long time, looking at the decoration of the graves and remembering the ones we knew (my mother knew them more, we were just looking at photographs, sometimes quite ancient). Sometimes we put a lighted cemetery candle on the water on a pond, where it then swam and shone for a long time (for the souls of drowned people..?..). We also dug out beets or gourds at that time, cut holes in the shape of eyes, nose and mouth, inserted a lighted candle, and hung such a haunting glowing skull so that it could be seen; small children were afraid of her.
After all the saints, autumn is already relentlessly inclined to winter. The leaves are mostly already fallen, the ponds are cold, the grass is white-frosted in the morning and shines wonderfully in the sun, which dissolves the hoarfrost until around noon. In the morning frosts, thin ice on the puddles rattles. The days are often dim and murky, the fields empty, forest and field roads deserted, forests darkened and pensive in a bluish haze, leaden clouds low above the ground. The first snow can't wait long, sometimes it covered the wreaths in the cemetery even on All Souls' Day.
One of the last autumn works used to be grating cabbage on a large wooden grater with sharp oblique knives. The grated cabbage was "trampled" into the barrel together with onions, dill, horseradish and small apples (described in more detail above) . It was left to ferment in the kitchen by the tiled stove (sometimes the foam escaped and the brine flowed over the entire kitchen) and then transferred to the pantry or cellar.
Continuously, until the Christmas cookies were baked, nuts (walnuts and hazelnuts) were cracked and plum, apricots and ryngles stones were smashed. We had a small chair with a carved oval hole in the middle - the kernels were placed in a bowl, the shells of nuts and seeds were placed in a basket and then placed in a tiled stove. The kernels were dried, then ground and used in Christmas cookies. Plum kernel kernels gave this candy a more pronounced spicy aroma and taste than if only walnuts or coconuts were used.
I wrote these
incomplete fragments of memories of how people lived in the
countryside during the individual seasons, mainly for my pleasure
and remembrance. Spending childhood years in a kind family and in
harmony with nature is a contribution from which one can draw a
lifetime; it beautifies us pleasant days and helps us even in
worse times. But maybe my peers, who have similar experiences,
will be interested in some of it, or perhaps someone from the
younger generation to compare the lifestyle of the past and now.
They are intended for those who look at the world attentively,
with joy and with love ...
An older narrative from the same places in Konica is contained in the article :
Memories of rural life are followed by the talk
" Interesting places and people "
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