Reliably unpredictable was the forecast as the freezing winter turned into a decorative pattern of humble flowers and vast green expanses, eventually blanketed by an unexpected five inches of snow, delivered fashionably late - well past the middle of April.
The transformation of the landscape was gradual, from the ochre, sepia and russet hues to that of a verdant green which magically appeared overnight.
As spring slowly, but surely, takes the main stage, dandelions now cover random fields with a carpet of blazing yellow, while the lungwort and stinging nettles sit in the shade of fruit trees along boundary lines and fences. These unpresuming plants are waiting for the bees, and the humans respectively, to appreciate their pollen and essential minerals.
In village tradition, the gardens are being ploughed and turned with the use of horse power or tractor. The potatoes are slumbering in neat rows, waiting patiently for soil temperatures to rise; lettuce is planted closer to home, the peas and spinach too. Yet when we look beyond the conventional vegetable fare, we realize that extensive foraging is viable here in Romania. Beyond picking basketfuls of mushrooms and learning to recognize plants that are new to us, harvesting from the wild is also a wonderful way to interact with the land and the multitude of native plants it has to offer.
Already, we are adding alfalfa to salads, drinking hearty broths of raspberry stem tea (the leaves are just beginning to emerge) and dandelion leaves can be harvested by the bushelful – if only people knew what they were missing!
A warmer and sunnier spell in March saw us hiking halfway up to the crest to tap a stand of birch trees for water, apă de mesteacăn, which allowed us to taste for the first time the cleansing earthiness and energy of trees.
Red squirrels, still in their winter black fur, can be seen cracking the random walnut in the lower branches of fir trees, while the cuckoo calls from the depths of the woodlands where the sheep and shepherds roam. The hoopoe, Upupa epops, can be heard where the orchards sprawl to the west as they proclaim ownership to their territory.
All the while chickens are clucking and laying their daily farm fresh eggs, scythes are being honed, wooden rakes are carried on hardened shoulders and the work that stops only on Sundays and holidays, goes on at a steady pace, for there are always animals to feed, equipment to be repaired and seeds to be planted.
Nature is displaying her beguiling abundance with infinite blossoms as the bees and various flying insects do their best to keep up with the wind, the cold, the heat and the constantly changing weather. They must adapt, and so shall we, for although this spring is short and sweet, summer will be quickly upon us. One can already sense it by the amount of tourists coming to visit and fall in love with this quaint and delightful village of Breb.
As we experience one revitalizing season, then another, we know that patience for summer will reward us with fruits from the land and experiences to last a lifetime.
Cheryl is a freelance writer and blogger, dedicated to minimalism, sustainable simplicity and green living. Three times an expat, she is now living with her small family in northern Romania where the amount of haystacks greatly outnumber the villagers – Maramureș is a unique place where technology and craftsmanship collide. Discover her thoughts and photography at Handcrafted Travellers. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.