Fruit trees, the cultivation of which entails a series of steps (e.g., grafting, plowing, trimming, spraying, irrigating, harvesting, etc.) constituted an important part of agricultural production in the region. The fruit of these trees supplemented the family’s diet, either as fresh fruit or as preserved sweets for the family and guests. In addition, they constituted sources of income for many families. Among the fruit trees, which thrive in the vicinity of Vlahokerasia (at an altitude of 850-1000 m.) are cherry (three varieties), chestnut, walnut, apple, pear, mulberry and fig trees, as well as grapevines in the yards of the houses.
From the Wells and the Natural Springs to the Central Water Supply
The principal sources of water for the Vlahokerasiotes, before the decade of the 1950s were the private draw-wells either in their yard or in their gardens. Except for the private, there were also public wells spread out at different neighborhoods for use by all villagers (e.g. Madreiko, Sabekeiko, Goneiko, Kouveli, Kopiteiko and the ‘public’ one behind the public school of Vlahokerasia). The wells, whether private or public, usually had a wooden cylinder and were manually-operated; they had two handles on the sides in order to draw larger quantities of water. Following the electrification of the village in the 1960s, water was drawn from the wells by motors and the traditional draw-wells became history. From the wells, Vlahokerasiotes drew the water for drinking, cooking, washing and the watering of gardens and the domestic animals.
The Vlahokerasiotes had farmlands, which were irrigated by the sources of Evrotas, primarily by the Valtena River and secondarily by a tributary stream called Vathyrema (“Deep Creek”). The Valtena River and Vathyrema constitute the northernmost sources of the Evrotas River, which empties into the Laconia Gulf. As we descend the banks of the Valtena River, we accost, right and left, tens of farmlands of Vlahokerasiotes, with various place-names: “Psili Rachi”, “Kanavopoti”, “Giditsa Rema”, “Lefkitsa” (or “Kryovrysi”), “Ntoumos”, ‘Ramos’ Vrysi” (or “Kastania”), “Vromovrysi”, “Perivoli”(or “Karatzas Mill”), “Michaleikos Mill”, “Bikouleikos Mill”, “Tzaveleikos Mill”, ”Moursia” , “Kalamakia”, “Nikolas’ Mill”, “Melissi”, “Blantoi”, “Liagas”(or “Daeika”), and “Propanti” (or “Lagada”).
Perhaps the present thematic unit should have another title, like the “Vineyards of our Parents and Grandparents”. Almost all the vineyards that were once cultivated by the Vlahokerasiotes in the vicinity of the villagehave been uprooted. In the worst scenario, the once cultivated lands have been abandoned and taken over by other vegetation, bushes and weeds. In the more optimistic scenario, which we think is the most valid; the younger generations (those born between 1935 and 1960) have planted chestnut and walnut trees, for family consumption and commercial purposes.
The cultivation of grains (e.g. corn, wheat, barley, fodder, vetch) secured the production of foods for the villagers and their domestic animals and constituted a significant economic activity for the Vlahokerasiotes farmers. Such grains were cultivated usually in arid (often terraced) farmlands located in the periphery of the village. Although less common, grain cultivation was also done in irrigated fields in the vicinity of the village as well as and in the winter settlements where almost every farmer had his own threshing floor.
Livestock raising has as an object the feeding, the reproduction and the exploitation of animals and their products for the satisfaction of human needs (food, clothing, transportation etc.). The present thematic category covers both the free-range animals (e.g. goats, sheep, cows etc.) and the domesticated ones (e.g. pigs, maltese goats, beasts of burden etc.). In the past (about 60 years ago), almost all the Vlahokerasiotes had herds of goats and/or sheep as well as domesticated animals. Today, the domesticated animals have mostly become history and the number of compatriots with herds (goats, sheep, cattle) is not more than 10 in a total of about 180-200 families.
Geographically, the “winter settlements” (Heimadia) of Vlahokerasiostes are located south of the village and on a lower altitude than Vlahokerasia. The weather conditions and the winter are much milder there than in the village. Vlahokerasiotes take their herds there during the winter and/or go there to harvest their olive trees. Although, as we said in the unit on stockbreeding, most of the villagers no longer have herds of goats and sheep, the overwhelming majority (mainly the descendants of the early 1900s generation) still cultivate their olive groves, as the olive constitutes one of the basic – if not the most basic – products of agricultural famines. However, even in the cultivation of olive trees, there has been a downsizing in the cultivated areas with the aging of the second generation cultivators.
...and other Occupations in Vlahokerasia
Before the decade of the 1960s, almost all Vlahokerasiotes were farmers or/and stockbreeders. As we already have described, they cultivated farmlands, vineyards, olive groves and fruit-bearing trees. A significant number of them also had a small business, flour mills, water mills, grocery stores, butcher shops, taverns, cafés, shoe shops, blacksmith shops (gyftika), utensil tinkering shops (peddlers), tailoring shops, carpenters workshops, saddle-making shops, and mule/donkey/horse shoeing shops. A smaller number worked in public services (local, provincial or state levels) as secretaries, rural constables, village constables, postmen etc).
In the preceding thematic units, we made a reference to the employment of Vlahokerasiotes, who live in the village and in various sectors of economic activity (e.g. farming, stockbreeding, businesses etc.). Aside from their narrow occupational interests, the residents of a mainly agricultural region usually get engaged in many other activities, in order to secure additional resources for the family, to broaden their interests, to test their skills, to reinforce local customs, to develop bonds of friendship or simply to enjoy themselves. The present thematic unit concentrates on these “other activities” which meet one or more of the above needs.