Complementary and parallel to crop production, livestock farming provided a significant portion of family income.
Each family raised a flock of sheep or a herd of goats, depending on their ability to care for them.
A one floor barn
A two-story barn
They built barns in perfect harmony with the surroundings for animal housing.
They used traditional local materials, stonewalls, a slate roof, fir beams and boards for the ceiling, and cedar lintels. They were one or two-story. A two-story barn ensured animal shelter and food storage.
Pastures are the community’s grassland, mainly on the mountain, where they developed free-range livestock farming. Argyro Pigadi did not have huge flocks because the pastures in the area were not extensive.
The sheep drank water in the troughs,”kalania,” tree trunks near the springs, a valuable resource for traditional mountain livestock farming.
The shepherds gathered the sheep in corrals (strouga) to milk them, then freed them.
Every shepherd cares for his flock, knows all his animals, gives them names, and talks to them. Except for grazing, he is careful his animals not to cause damage to crops and not to pass on a property where that is prohibited and where there is usually a sign, the “samakoma.”
Kostas Konstantinidis with his sheep on the mountain
There is also a constant concern for protecting the flock from animal theft, especially in older times, and the attack of wild animals, mainly wolves. If a wolf appeared, they organized “paganas,” when many shepherds gathered holding their weapons to trap and kill the wolf.
Shepherds Eleni Karageorgou and Giannoula Dourou
Lucia Lisgara with the traditional milk container on her shoulder, “the galatologos or galatas.”
In the yard of her home and in the background the "vourtsa" -a traditional wooden utensil where they made butter from milk
Limited grassland caused friction among the shepherds of neighboring villages and the communities about their borders since they were the same as those of the pastures.
A striking example is the conflict between Kastania, Evritania, and Argyro Pigadi which led to an armed conflict in 1864.
“We had disagreements with Kastania. They wanted to come as far as Dimnia. There was a fight. Christos Nikolaou was a disabled person due to the Battle of Trihia,” recalls Yiannis Kotsalos.
Typically, the borders of the two villages, and therefore the pastures, are those of the ridges “where the water flow.”
Of course, the animals and the shepherds always wanted greater freedom of movement. Both sides acknowledged this, and that is why prudence forced them to reach a compromise and a special agreement in 1916, which since then has been respected, as stated in a lease agreement by the Community of Kastania, of the Kastania lands having common borders with Argyro Pigadi, to a Shepherd from Nerosyrti, in 1965.
“The tenant … will never drive out the shepherds of Argyro Pigadi Trichonidas at the borders, who have the right to enter 100 meters to our borders as the special agreement of 1916 determines…”
Livestock farming in mountain places was tough during the winter. Then the grass was scarce, and the snow covered the area for a while, forcing the shepherds to keep the animals in the barns.
So, they fed the animals with clover stored in the summer months and with leaves of evergreen fir trees, kermes oaks, “filikia,” etc., from which the inhabitants carefully cut only the side branches for animal feed.
Christos Zafrakas , the daily struggle
The size of the herd also determined if the family would stay or move to the lowlands because winter is harsh in the highlands. Usually, those who kept up to 30 or 40 animals could overwinter in the village.
Nicos G. Konstantinidis tells us:
“… There was a family named Tsiligiannis, relatives of the Lisgaras family, who kept ninety sheep in the village during winter, in the place “Sykies.”
But there was a time when the weather in March became so fierce, and it snowed so heavily at the place they lived. The snow was one meter high, usually snowing little or none. It was a major disaster, and the family left and never came back. They settled in Makrinia close to Messolonghi in a place now called Tsiligianneika.”
They grow clover and use the corn leaves and straw from cultivating corn and wheat for animal feed.
When the harvest is complete, the farmlands are free for livestock farming, with no ownership restrictions.
And vice versa, animal manure is used as a fertilizer. They carry it from the barns and the fixed corrals to the fields, or they make corrals in the fields, which they move regularly to cover as much land as possible.
In interviews held in 2010 as part of a tribute to the women of the village, the women highlighted the valuable presence of livestock and the products they provided in the daily life of the locals.
“We cooked. We had the animals. We had our milk, our cheese, our potatoes, our beans. We made pies. We gathered our corn, our wheat, our beans, our lentils, our chickpeas… »
“Beans, potatoes, whatever our land gave to us …
But we had animals. We lived on milk. We, sometimes, slaughtered an animal to eat … »
They boil the milk and eat it with bread. But they will also make the cheese of the year, butter, “katiki,” “myzithra,” “prentza,” sour milk, and thick milk.
They use salt as a preservative. They make the butter quite salty and keep it in glass containers while keeping the cheese in leather bags or wooden boxes,” talaria,” and barrels, in brine.
“Where did we put the milk? We slaughtered a young goat. We put ash into the skin, and the hair came out. We peeled off some strips of bark from a plane tree, which were red. We boiled the strips, and we put them into the skin. The skin became red, and it wasn’t easy to be pierced. We put milk in there.”
Animal wool is valuable for the household economy, especially sheep wool. The village women used a distaff to spin the wool into yarn. Then the worthy women of the village knitted undershirts, sweaters, capes, cardigans, and socks, “tsourapia.”
Vasiliki Karageorgou writes in her “Little Stories” about weaving in our village:
“Our mothers used to have in their dowry a spindle and a distaff.”
Spyridoula Konstantinidis spinning
The dowry also included the “trihia,” a woolen rope, with which they would carry on their back all kinds of loads throughout their life.
“The brides also brought the “trihia” as part of their dowry. A “trihia” and a distaff,”
says Rina Konstantinidis.
Carrying on her back…
In the small home workshop, the loom, they weaved their bedding: blankets like “mantanies,” “velentzes,” “flokates” but also carpets called “kilimia,” “tsolia,” “pantes,” everything that keeps the house warm through the cold winter months.
The colors and designs used highlight their art and aesthetics.
They also weave the sacks for carrying their goods and the smaller sacks, called “sakoulia,” which usually men and women hang on their shoulders containing small tools and their frugal meal.
Woven bedclothes and carpets are the central part of the bride’s dowry; she has usually made them herself, working on the loom since her teens. On a day before the wedding, they are carried in procession on decorated animals to the groom’s house to become the “gikos,” a pile whose beauty and height cause admiration and pride while showing the bride’s worthiness.
Each family had their hens and pig. They bought the pig in the spring and fed it until Christmas, when they slaughtered it.
So, the family ensured meat until the carnival before Easter. They preserved it by salting or smoking. In addition, they made sausages, “maties,” and “chigarides,” while they used the fat, “glina,” in their food.
Animal farming favors recycling since the food waste turns into feed. That’s why food waste was scarce or none.
They follow the same practice with old clothes. They weave the rags from their old clothes into carpets,”koureloudes,” valid for their home. Resource waste is out of their mind.
The traditional way of livestock farming in Argyro Pigadi remains today. However, they no longer leave livestock free-ranged on the mountains because the number of wolves has increased. They guard the flocks all day and keep them in barns at night.