Quality over quantity

Smallholding, natural life, coexistence and LGDs

Quality over quantity; something which is often said and heard, and in my opinion this is true. Unfortunately in real life quality mostly isn’t a priority nowadays. Short term vision dominates the human world; fast money and huge quantities top quality and sustainability. Good things are presented as backwards or even bad, huge corporations rule our world without mercy, all for the sake of (their) money, control and power. These three belong to each other; they’re tightly connected and very addictive for mankind.

People are much alike, but also very different. Fortunately today, the world isn’t the same yet everywhere. There still are people who practice quality over quantity, sometimes because they have no other option, but often because they want to and believe in it. Every day it becomes more obvious that for the long term, we need sustainability which goes hand in hand with responsibility. A very interesting feature which is still present in traditional areas and returning to ‘modern’ areas is the smallholding. Originally the smallholding is a small farm where one family grows and produces their own food. When the conditions and approach are good, the smallholding provides enough food for the family to be self-sufficient, food wise. Today we see the smallholding is becoming a trend, or at least a desire, for quite some people in ‘modern’ civilization. I understand this very well and encourage those who want their lives to be quality over quantity. It isn’t easy, but well worth it for many reasons.

In Romania, Canine Efficiency’s prime working area and our true home, traditional/original smallholdings are still very common. We could say that almost all village inhabitants, or people who have some land, grow and produce their own food and maintain a traditional lifestyle, some more traditional than others, quite similar to the descriptions of this topic in history books. I’ve been in many small Romanian villages and also a guest in quite some smallholding households. They all have one thing in common; hard work, sober life, superb food and equally superb hospitality. Sharing what you have is normal here and quality time is the result. Don’t get me wrong, I am not romanticizing this lifestyle or closing my eyes for the reality of this tough life, on the contrary I recognize and support it and exactly that is what unites and encourages people. Romania is a unique country of huge contrasts. In front of a red traffic light, the waiting ‘vehicles’ can vary from the biggest and newest cars to the oldest Dacia’s (Romanian car brand) you can imagine, to horse and cart. It’s sometimes like a time machine without the machine, around every corner ‘another’ world can occur.

The Romanian soil, particularly the Transylvanian soil, is very fertile. Transylvania is a region in Romania which contains the Romanian Carpathian Mountains and literally means; land on the other side of the forest. Skilled and knowledgeable farmers produce plenty of high quality food, without needing to spend money in supermarkets or other food stores. The target is to feed their own family, when they have more they may give some away or trade it but often sell it on the local market in the nearest big town or city. The local market has the best, and most healthy, food for a good price and without the junk preservatives which the supermarket food contains. In addition it is almost always organic or biologic food; not GMO. The people eat healthy; their animals eat healthy, resulting into some fine quality meat as well.

Most Romanian smallholdings grow their own fruits and vegetables and have their own livestock varying from bees, chickens and other poultry, rabbits, pigs, sheep, goats, cow(s) to horses. The food for the animals comes from their own land. The range of products coming from the farm animals results in a variety of products filling the wonderful traditional Romanian (smallholding) cuisine. Don’t get me started. Because smallholdings mostly have more different kind of animals in small numbers, there is a lot of interspecies interaction; this is also a form of coexistence and resulting into very versatile LGDs.

The rural people here poses a vast knowledge about their direct, natural environment. Nature provides them in many things, such as; high quality vegetation for their livestock, medicinal/edible plants and herbs and numerous precious natural resources. Due to the fact that the traditional, rural people practice small scale farming and resource harvesting this lifestyle is still present and possible today. The connection to this subject and the people made our work a little easier. Very important is teaching this to our children in real life.

Many of our fieldtrips, to monitor wildlife/predator activity and shepherd camps (LGDs) in the mountains, are done on foot, but on several occasions local people took us with them with horse and cart to show us exactly what we are looking for. 

More important; this shows how much the people know about their home area, this is of vital importance, especially when living together with large predators. A shepherd needs to know what threats surround him to be able to protect it sufficiently.

Tracking and camera trapping are important features for Large Carnivore projects, but the funny thing is that the local people don’t need the technology since they often know exactly what predators there are in the area and where they can be found. This is very helpful for our data collection and plan of approach. The time we spend in the field teaches us so many things, good things and things which need improvement. One of the most important activities of Canine Efficiency is the improvement of LGD use, to obtain and maintain descent livestock/predator conflict prevention.

Everyone with a little common sense knows that quality over quantity is the only way to have a long term, sustainable future. For that we need large, intact nature areas with large predators, responsible harvest of natural resources and healthy, natural production and consuming of food. This brings us to the value and importance of the smallholding, natural life, coexistence and LGDs.

We monitored, in their working area, hundreds of different LGDs or shepherd dogs (Carpatins excluded) and quite some of them more than once. The remains of Ceausescu’s communist regime are still present in Romania and can be seen within various subjects.

One very important issue is the decrease of good LGDs and good LGD use during communism, which is why we are so actively working to (re)spread the good conserved LGDs, Ciobanesc Romanesc Carpatin, among shepherds. Our approach is also small scale; quality over quantity, long term solutions. Carpatins are very versatile and true experts in thick forested, mountainous terrain with high predator density, which the Romanian Carpathian Mountains are. 

As said, traditional rural Romanian villages consist mostly out of small family farms (smallholdings). In winter every farm has all animals on their farm/land. In spring, summer and autumn however the sheep, goats and cows graze outside the villages on the hill- and mountain meadows. Cows are grazed by a shepherd, often with LGDs, close by the villages, leaving early morning and returning home in the evening. They are milked after they come home and spend the night in the barn. 

Sheep and goats however are all going into the mountains with shepherds and LGDs, where they stay until late autumn/early winter. The base is a shepherd camp with wooden night pens, a hut for the making and storing of cheese and some shepherd beds. Every day the shepherds graze their sheep, starting from the camp and returning there before dusk. In this period LGDs are free on the shepherd camp, around the night pens, and walking with the grazing flock during the day. In this time of year and in this environment it is of vital importance to have good and enough LGDs, collaborating in a pack. 

In winter, the LGDs of the sheep flocks are on the farm in the village, together with all other farm animals. For most LGDs this is a quiet period, but in several areas and villages bears and wolves venture to farms as well. The LGDs of the sheep flocks are used to different setups; free in the mountains in the warm season and within fences on the farm in winter. 

In some cases the farm property is open in the back, which is also the case where some of Canine Efficiency’s Carpatins are. When treated and reared well they accept and respect what’s asked of them without problems and mostly stay close to the barn where the sheep are. 

The ancient traditions of rural Romania result into very valuable LGDs, used to live with a variety of livestock animals and in various setups. The demand for good all-round LGDs is increasing around the world and the Carpatin is slowly moving across the map to execute its skills abroad in various setups, often small holdings. 

Many Carpatin breeders have smallholdings, or they are shepherds which is very important. Because of this the Carpatin stays connected to its roots and utility now and in the future. In addition small scale, quality over quantity lifestyle is important for the long term future, all that comes with it and for the good of us all. We must respect and stay close to nature for Nature gives us everything we need to live, including ways to coexist. Everything is connected, one has to believe, recognize and preferably live a coexisting, sustainable way of life to gain experience, reaching the next levels. Absence of this is a direct blockade to obtain the desired and required results.