Work at the Szakál farmstead

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Countryside – Adventure Programme – The beginning

I'm searching for my tea half-asleep while the morning show of Radió1 is on. They are just laughing and laughing, so my mouth also curves to a smile. And then, the shreds of sounds are joining each other to form a piece of information that is very interesting for me. A young woman is talking about what kind of a programme will be started during the summer for urban youth to get to know and briefly have a taste of rural life.This opportunity seemed really sympathetic for me, but for now, I wasn't doing anything about it, because I had two hard exams left at the university. But I memorised the deadline of application. I knew that at the right time, Google will help me. ;)My exams were successful, and I also told some people about this opportunity, but everyone was waving in resignation, why do I need this, what do I see in this. (I must add that since I published the pictures taken so far on Facebook, and my experiences briefly, everyone realised how great and unforgettable experience is this, a real adventure.) The closing of the deadline was approaching with an alarming speed, and at one of the last moments, I submitted my application form. I was waiting excitedly for what I have really undertaken.E-mails were coming, everything was running smoothly and without an obstacle, and there was nothing left to do then to be at the audition and impress the committee – because by then, I was totally excited to get to know rural life partially.I was very excited and afraid about what was waiting for me. Because I had many job interviews, but never at a “farmer hearing”. I don't really know anything about this world, I am a totally urban girl, a university student, and my only experience was with a calf, when last year in Sweden we were wandering in the forest and we saw a black and white cow, we were so scared that we didn't dare to go further – and at the end, it turned out that we were only seeing a calf. :)))The hearing had been done in a good mood, but I left a bit sad because it seemed that I won't be selected. I was waiting for Monday with excitement – the result was promised by then.That day, I checked my e-mails several times, but no answer. I abandoned the whole idea when Tuesday morning I read with joy that “With the closing of the hearings and as the result of the evaluation after that, we hereby inform you that your application to our Countryside – Adventure Programme is accepted.”.I was very-very happy!! :)))

Thank you Agrya, Thank you Countryside – Adventure Programme !!!

The first encounter

We are standing at Heroes' Square Friday morning, a few minutes before seven o' clock. Everyone is sleepy, a bit tired, but the excitement is glinting in the eyes of everyone. The wather is not exactly helping for the first encounter with each other and the first rural farm, but Lajos Mikula helps to dissolve this “uptightness” and makes us smile broadly when he gives everyone a straw hat – just to make us similar to Texan farmers...On the way to Kecskemét, there is really big silence, everyone is sitting alone just as electrons. Nobody really knew what will wait for him or her that day. What was certain was that there will be cameras, a farm, tractors, chicken and cows. And of course some 30 urban youth. A real reality show. :)
We took off the bus a bit scared, we were getting to know Zsolt Hegedűs (one of the owners of Hegedűs Farm) who is a really helpful, nice young man. We divided to 2-3 groups, and the tasks began. Here, everyone was taken over by the craving for adventure!
As the first task, we could have seen two Valtra tractors that we had to direct, drive. We almost couldn't wait to try ourselves! It was really enjoyable to see from arm's length how easier it is to move straw bales than it seemed from the outside. Men, Women were both enthusiastic! We sat on straw bales, laughing, enjoying that we got out of the rut of urban existence and that we left every problem, trouble behind ourselves.
And after that, we got to know through an old Russian tractor, how these machines work. Despite being a woman, I was also interested, taken with itself. :)And then, the animals were next. We stroked a day-old calf, cows, we even got to know that they are buying a calf for a cow besides its own, because it can raise two – sometimes three. And we gained so many new information, a lot of small, funny and very edifying stories...I must frankly admit that when after that we checked the breeding bull, I was a bit scared. It didn't really like us, it mooed, scraped the earth and seemed to be everything but calm. I even left the place earlier than the others. It is better to be afraid than to be scared. Of course, there was no harm done, we were under protection.We were hungry and tired by then, it was hard to include us in an interactive discussion, but the thing somehow managed to get started. Maybe everyone was interested the most about what it feels like to be a farmer in the Hungarian society of today. We noticed with surprise that optimistically. :) There are some things to be learnt from Them.We experienced so many beautiful and good things that we didn't even expect to get a present: an engraved shot glass, and a certification with our names that we successfully finished the tractor training.We got on the bus tired, but we were not sitting without a pair anymore. :)
In Budapest, we participated in a fire and accident safety presentation, we had a good lunch, and then everyone left full of a bunch of new experiences and expectations about what will happen with him or her at that week with his or her farmer.
Thank you for this unforgettable day, the perfect organisation and the good programmes !!!

Life at the Szakál farmstead (Part 1)

After the weeks of leaning above chemistry book during the exam period, I decided to spend a week of my well-deserved summer vacation this time not in Budapest, but I'll rather get to know the misteries of rural life and work. Countryside – Adventure Programme provided me with an excellent opportunity, during which different rural farms hosted interested and open-minded youth like me for a week. Hajdúdorog, the Szakál-farmstead was chosen for me, to a big dairy farm. I was very happy for that – as it turned out later, this was justified. :)I arrived at the railroad station of Debrecen at July 17 Sunday afternoon, and I felt a bit like Kathleen Turner in Romancing The Stone, since surely not a lot of people thought after my dressing that I will spend next week at the Szakál farmstead in  Hajdúdorog. Because I have been waiting for  Szakál Ottó, my host who told me before my arrival that he will be late a bit in high-heeled shoes, yellow short skirt and white top, with my nails painted. I always found it to be important to make a good first impression, amd I wanted them to know that they are dealing with a real woman, and I also knew that I will prove them that I am not spoilt and manual labor is not demeaning for me.
I don't deny that I was very nervous, but wouldn't have been before such an adventure and challenge. Of course, this didn't last for too long because fifteen minutes later, a giant Toyota off-road vehicle drifted into the parking lot, and the farmer license plate behind the windshield helped me to identify that it could only be my farmer and mentor, Ottó, under whose hand I will spend the few days ahead of us with busy work.
The trip to Hajdúdorog lasted about half an hour, and after the introductions, we instantly stroke up a conversation in the car. The trip was spent in a good mood, albeit still a bit stiff, and after our arrival, I was introduced to the family: Péter Szakál and “aunt Marika” Szakálné were the proud parents, and among their children Péter in his thirties, while the twenty-something Tamás is the most young, and Ottó is the middle child in the family.
They showed me my room, the house, and I was just happy again that I happened to be at such a beautiful place.Last night, everyone was a bit reserved, but during bacon roasting, the delicious home-made pálinka [typical Hungarian spirit made of fruits] turned up, which made everyone more talkative and I was immediately sucked in by the special atmosphere of the Szakál farm. But this would have been not enough in itself to let me feel well and relieved, but since every member of the family received me so nicely, I had the more and more strong feeling during the more and more relieved familiarisation with each other that I got to the best possible place since everyone without an exception was very nice and respectful, I got to know really honest and honourable people with them.Social life became more and more intensive and good-mooded after the first familiarising night, so while looking back, I know that these common get-togethers of us full of love I will never forget. Monday morning for example, we made “slambuc” [a pasta and potato-based shepherd dish] orchestrated by aunt Marika, which was very delicious and because I made friends with everyone by then, the mood was so casual as if we have known each other for years. Tuesday evening, the eldest Szakál-boy, Péter held a smaller party where the sausages turned up with which I posed as a real farmer girl, and we were laughing so much during this that we shed tears and and we hugged and pecked as real friends.At Thursday, a lot of young farmers were invited in my honor, and even a priest appeared at the event for which I felt very good. The stew was cooking in the cauldron from eight kilograms of meat, we clinked our glasses a lot while talking about the everyday things and joys of life, and by dawn, spirits were so high that we even started to dance among a lot of fun and laughing – it is no accident that I constantly had the feeling that I am one of the characters of a folk tale who happened to come across a fairy wedding.At Saturday, the day of bidding farewell came, and I sadly had to acknowledge that these few days went so quickly. But the unforgettable experiences didn't came to an end a bit, because I was taken to the eco-days of Hajdúnánás, where I was able to taste such a marvelous meat soup after which the Szinbád of Gyula Krúdy would also have licked his ten fingers while begging for another portion to the host lady, and I had a chance to visit the mayor in my pretty summer dress who was very nice with me as everyone else was.For the trip, I got a lot of treats, and at the railroad station of Debrecen, I won't deny it, I shed some tears in my sadness that I will have to return to my regular life, to Budapest while I would like to have stayed with them. Because although I had some ideas of what kind of experiences will wait for me during this week, those that i eventually happened to be a part of surpassed every fantasy of mine. They weren't holdning back anything from me and shared with me everything without a restriction, and I didn't say “no” if they offered me something. But how I could have said “no” to these generous, caring and perceptive people representing a real treasure, whom many people could take as examples how to raise, supply and keep together a big family, how to work hard, enthusiastically and effectively, and not to even mention how they care for each other and love them, of which we unfortunately tend do forget very fast and lightheadedly.After my arrival at home, I had many conversations with them via phone, I told them about me and they told me about them, and I know that I will return to them next summer, because I gained such touching experiences and useful information that I will keep in my heart for long years.

Work at the Szakál farmstead (Part 2)

During the week that I spent at Szakál farmstead, I was not only having a chance to take a part in unforgettable evening get-togethers, discussions and parties, but I also had the chance to take a peak into the everyday life of a farm and to such interesting details of animal husbandry such as giving birth, milking or insemination. As with an urban girl, Ottó made clear in the beginning that a cow has one udder and four mammary glands, but he also made me to know that it only gives milk after giving birth. Basics are important, because without them, there is nothing to be built upon!
My rural inauguration was not exactly starting with an appetising scene, because Ottó literally put his hand covered with a latex glove to his elbow into the back of a sick animal, because it turned out that after giving birth, its uterus became inflamed. After the stimulus, a big load of pus came out of the animal's uterus, to which – what a delicious treat – dogs eagerly moved. At the end of the operation, Ottó sprayed an antiseptic with iodine to the cow's uterus to make it heal more fast. It's certain that I have never ever been part of such an experience and sight!
The eldest Szakál-boy, Péter brought me to neighboring farms after this on a motorbike, where I had the chance to get to know mangalica and domestic swine too. Everyone greeted me very nicely, and they showed me around in the family animal farm where I had the chance to hold a cute little mangalica pig and they showed me the testicles of one of them to let me know that I encountered one of the huge boars of the future! In the industrial animal husbandry, domestic swine had a lot less space to live, and one of the most shocking experience was the sight of a small dead pig, the sadness which I felt for it was made forgotten by the rambunctious running and noise of the tiny helmeted guineafowls.After this, I naively thought that the stressing experiences are over, but at Thursday came birthing that was without a doubt very rough. Because small calves are helped to be born with a so-called birth-rope, which was put into a liquid with iodine for the sake of hygiene. To help the process of birth, Otto put his hand really deep into the cow, he searched for the legs of the calf, tied the rope to it, and this way, they pulled the small animal to this world after which they immediately cleaned its nostrils and throat and poured water on it to make it fully regain its conscience sooner. I was a witness of a twin-birth, a little heifer was born after a bull, whom were fed with milk from a giant baby bottle – because after one-two days, they are separated from their mother.Compared to the abovementioned experiences, milking was really elavating, 12 cows were milked at the Szakál farm at once, in groups of six, after 12 hours each, the first round at around 2 AM, and the second one at 2 PM. The cows knew well what they had to do, they went to the milking room almost by themselves, where their udders were cleaned and the cups were attached to the mammary glands. Because there was an automatic milking system at the farm which sucked milk until they were drown, and then the cups detached, and uncle Pista, who was observing this process, put the glands into a green antiseptic, and the cows returned to their places after the job well done. By the way, their gift, milk was tasty, and its fat content was around 3,5-4%.
As their is no bull at the Szakál farm to cover the cows, artificial insemination was done by Ottó. The sperm of the bull is stored cooled in liquid nitrogen, and one can see on a table which sperm is from which bull. Ottó chose the most appropriate, placed it into the long syringe, and injected deeply into the reproductive organ of the cow. Begetting offsprings has therefore a lot less joy as with us, humans, but nevertheless, the cow tolerated the intervention quite well and patiently – if only it knew how more enjoyable this could be!
The small calves are living in a blue tin house, and blue is important because it keeps the flies away. Killing flies was taken very seriously in the whole farm, for example I almost haven't encountered the cheeky and nerve-racking insects during my time there. My favourite was the calf with the ear number 3535 5, who was a very friendly, active and cute little girl, it was hard to let it alone, but my journey continued because vaccination was still left.
Because it is very important to keep these animals healthy, their vaccination against TBC was just under way when I was a guest. Although I knew cows to be grateful, calm and meek animals so far, it turned out that they can also be nervous because they hate needles – just as we do! They had to endure two vaccinations, and some blood was drained from the basis of their tails. The animals had to excrete a lot because of nervousness, and they were sliding on the concrete back and forth, but at the end, with the help of experts, the animal doctor and his aide they, managed to do it accurately and well.Of course, farmers not only provide for the milking, reproduction, birthing and health of the cows, but also their feedstock. They like hay and alfalfa the most – the latter is collected to bales and packed in white foil to ferment there among anaerobic conditions, therefore they can eat these treats even well into the winter. The alfalfa bales are called silos, that are not exactly done in a simple way: alfalfa is cut on the fields, then comes a machine that organises them into rows, then comes the baler which collects the cut and organised alfalfa, then puts out the finished bale which is put on a trailer after that, brought into the farm, packed there and organised into rows. This was all nevertheless a nice scene, but when such a bag is opened, an unbelievably stinking smell comes out, since they really fermented during the months – and their smell is like nothing else.
I had such special and unforgettable experiences during the week that I spent at the farm of the Szakál Family. Thanks to them and the Countryside – Adventure Programme, I not only got to know a lot of lovable people but i gained experience from arm's length about what kind of serious, responsible and interesting work is done at a farm, about which I had no clue. I am grateful for Them because they admitted me with trust and love and made me part of experiences that I will never forget.

Judit Bajtai