News in times of Corona

Carpathian Water Buffaloes In The Narziss Valley Of The Biosphere Reservation In The Carpathians

Buffaloes as landscaping designers

Since the 15. 05. 2020 a cooperation between our company "Nomadic Brown" and the Biosphere Reservation in the Carpathian Mountains, represented by Rybak Mykola Petrovich, has begun. So we are pasturing our seven carpathian buffaloes, the bull Pauliko, the cows Karolina, Katka and Jafin and the calfs Lady, Mirabella and Joshua in around 40 hectar of the 250 hectar in the Narziss valley to transform them into grassland, covered with narzisses again. Every two weeks, we change an electric fence that contains up to five hectars. One of the aims is that the buffaloes will eat the young willow trees and other bushes that have begun to grow when people stopped making hey. Also the areas where people illegally burnt dried grass and bushes our baffoles can regenerate.

We give our animals to the Narziss Valley for free, because we hope to built them a future by showing their abilities and taking part in this pilot project. Because the population of the Carpathian Buffaloes is still too small, we try to find partners who will also keep a herd. So our biggest wish is to overcome the genetic bottleneck. Also all of our work with the Biosphere Reservation is unsalaried. But still we need money to afford hey for the winter.

So a donation is very welcome and we are looking forward for your support.

Konto: Michel Jacobi,

IBAN: DE10 4306 0967 7904 1568 00,




Maybe you want to become a sponsor for one of our animals?



Community Idea And Volunteering

About us and our mission

we are a german ecologists (Michel) and a german downshifter (Rike) who love animals and simple, older ways of life and community. 

Eleven years ago I (Michel)  visited this part of western Ukraine and immediately fell in love with the land, animals and people and have lived here ever since, managing and working a few different pieces of land.

I (Rike) came here one year ago and don´t want to miss the freedom and our animal friends we have here anymore.

On our farm we work to keep the Hucul (European Tarpan) horses, the Carpathian Mountain Rishca Cow, and the Carpathian Water Buffalo breeds alive, remembered and from going extinct. The buffalos are the northern most Water Buffalo population in the world. We do these things through my NGO, small scale commercial cheese making and the support of the traditional community here. We work together with the locals to maintain and respect their traditions and ways of life.

Our goals a

  • Supporting the unique biodiversity of the domestic and wild Carpathian Mountains

  • Maintaining nomadic shepherd based farms with rare breeds that aim to be fossil free and

    locally sustainable through production and trade

  • Maintaining a small farmer local economy

  • Support people seeking a simple, natural, alternative way to live seperate from the dominant

    culture of the west

Natural herding is dying out here as capitalism gets stronger and we are making my small attempt at keeping it alive.  There is always much work to do and we are only two people so that is where you as a volunteer are needed and welcome! On our farm you have the opportunity to get to know our wonderful buffaloes, horses and cows, explore the local Carpathian mountains and valleys and have cultural exchange and contact with the local population.  You will not just work on a farm here, you will help to preserve the unique biodiversity and cultural integrity of this truly magnificent region!

We are located in the foothills between the Carpathians and at the shores of the beautiful river Tisa. The region is known as both Zakarpattia and Ruthenia.


Our website:

Our Facebook:

Local history and cultural context:


We are most keen on volunteers who are interested in a farming lifestyle living close to nature and the elements and are considering living long term with animals and farming whether it be here in Ukraine with us or back in their own world. Living on farms in this way can seem as if the work is endless!  But we understand that not everyone who work trades wants endless work ;). We also welcome more casual volunteers who just want a taste of this way of being but please come willing to work and learn.

Given this, we ask that:

  • You are genuinely curious about the farming/ranching life and open to the reward

    of hard work,not just looking for a vacation or to consume an experience.

  • You stay at least two weeks, so you can gain a complete understanding of the farm

    and our work. If all goes well in the first two weeks, we can work out a longer stay

    and possibly even living and working here long term!

  • During your stay you  participate in a minimum of the below outlined daily routine

    (4-7 hours a day) 5 days a week and with 2 days a week off.  

We would love to have more people live here to adopt this lifestyle and these projects but it must be the right fit interpersonally and with the way of being. This takes time and commitment to figure out but we am interested and desiring to build a small farming community here!

Kinds of work:

Farm work stay (3-4 spots)

Below are the main tasks/schedule to start for someone that is here the minimum of 2 weeks. They take on average between 4-7 hours a day.  We recognize that people are motivated to do what they love and we are happy to cater your tasks to what you love that we do here, whether it be cooking, milking or wood work. If you stay longer, there are also many more tasks that we can do based on your interests and skills.  Some of these are: construction of tiny houses, small scale commercial cheese production, making different kinds of cheese, sour cream making, yogurt making, tiny house independent nomadic shepherding, riding and training horses, husbandry.

Example schedule:

  • Wake at 7am

  • Start/feeding the fire in the stove

  • Give the animals hay and water if they are not on pasture

  • Milk the cow(s) and buffalo(s)

  • Move the animals to pasture or to fresh grass, building new electric fences

  • Split wood and re-stock the wood pile

  • Cooking and eating meals together, buying products in the village

  • Wash dishes and clean the house

  • Filter milk and make cheese
  • Clean animal stalls for composting

Shepherding (2 spots)

From 7am to 7pm you are out with the Carpathian water buffaloes and mountain horses keeping an eye on them and walking in the right areas where they can eat good grass and drink water all day.  You must be willing to work firmly with large animals with horns that can be intimidating.Sometimes here are other local shepherds who will help you but they are usually elders, quirky, sometimes hard of hearing, drink and smoke too much and only speak Ukrainian.  It is beautiful but tough work done in the old style of shepherding ancient breeds of animals on commonly owned land. This work is only for the toughest and hardiest of people who are ok with both physical and cultural/ language challenges.  But as with most things, lots of reward and learning will come from this challenge if you choose it and persevere.

Logistics and other things to consider

Accommodation and Food

In exchange for your work and life force contribution, we will provide you with all meals, snacks and food as well as a bed and good company!  

Depending on the number of volunteers or guests that are here, sometimes you will have your own room and sometimes you will have a shared room.

We have:

  • A room in the main house with 2 beds . Heated with the main house cooking

    fire stove.

  • A room under the roof, a bed in the entrance area, a tent

We cook on a woodfired stove in the main house as well. The house also has a dining room/kitchen/cheese making area, pantry/cheese aging area, sunroom and our bedroom.


  • We have running water in the bathroom

  • We process our own humanure.  

You may be thinking that all this sounds quite primitive, and it is in many ways but it is also all more sustainable and kind to the earth.  We take seriously doing things the old ways, which often means doing them slower and with more work. But again, we also gain more reward, connection, muscles and spiritual growth.


We Speak english, german and ukrainian. Almost no one locally speaks english but they almost all speak russian. Learning the local language is a sign of respect and essential part of any stay in another country especially to be accepted by the locals. It would be best that you learn some basic ukrainian phrases (hello, please, thank you etc.) and familiarize yourself with the pronunciation of the cyrillic alphabet before coming.  If you stay more than 2 weeks it is also important you keep wanting to learn ukrainian especially for your own independence.


It is part of the culture here that people stand closely and speak loudly, even aggressively from your perspective.  They do this even when they tell you how much they like your cheese. They cut in line, drink a lot, burn their trash, are frequently late or don't show up at all and don't often smile and if they do, you really earned it. It is a hard culture but it is also a beautiful one if you can push through the differences and your own prejudices to see and experience that beauty.  People are also immensely community minded, generous, truly helpful and sharing in ways they never are in the capitalist consumptive ‘developed’ countries. They cook you food and bring it over, bring you corn, apples and food scraps for your animals and say hello to you when they walk down the street.


In your free time you can explore our area full of natural beauty! We can help you to organize trips to the surrounding mountains and virgin forests, as well as rural communities to view traditional small farming. We are within walking distance of forest, lakes, wild places, the beautiful river Tisa and the foothills of the larger Carpathian mountains.You can ride bikes that I have into the forest and to the nearest towns and villages.  There is a National park nearby you can visit on off days.

Equipment List:

It gets up to 40C in the summer and down to -25C in the winter and you can expect either of these extremes in the Spring or Fall.  Please come prepared with clothes for the season you are here. Wool is best as it cools in the heat and warms in the cold and wet. Please expect your work clothes to get dirty with mud, poop and milk.

Make sure you bring the following:

  • Sturdy work boots or rubber boots

  • Headlamp

  • Lighter

  • Small knife (fixed blade or folding)

  • Maybe a sleeping bag and tent (depending on the number of volunteers

    and your desire to have privacy and your own space).


Getting to the region:

You can fly into Lviv, Khust or Satu Mare (in Romania).  There are also lots of busses and trains from all over Europe to Khust, the largest nearby city.  There are busses and trains that run up and down the highway H09 everyday between Bushtyno and Khust that can drop you in Steblivka or Sokyrnytsya.  

Directions to our house

We live in the village Sokyrnytsya just to the north and up the hills looking out over the Tisa river valley.

Michel Jacobi and Rike de Vries

Phone: +380 983949702

Email: jacobi.michel(a)

One day in autumn

First the alarm wakes me up, then the thirst for action. What can I do today? What do I feel like doing? What do I need today? When can I relax with absolute satisfaction? A balancing act between commitment and boundless freedom. The basic needs of the animals want to be satisfied and at the same time this is this will give the only structure. As a first act we release the dogs and chickens, make fire in the stove of the kitchen, the smell of Yogi tea and roasted bread surrounds us. First of all, breathe in and out deeply. Relax. Then we start milking. Collect all utensils and pick up our horses. I say ‚hello‘ to Bujan with a nasal butt, breathe in his familiar smell, sending peace and serenity and feel surrounded by security and familiarity. I urge him to come with me, try to motivate him to stay with me and not be distracted by lush green tufts of grass. Patiently and lovingly I wait for him, I call him, ask him for something and try different ways with the effort not to scare Bujan. When both horses are harnessed, we start our journey. With lots of "cha", cluck, "terap", "gallop" "ho", "shearing" and "brrrrr", put on and released brakes we reach our buffaloes and cows. As soon as they have recognized us, they greet us with their shouts and flock around us and the watering place into which we fill water. In the pasture, I look for the quietest of our milking cows, pet them a bit and start milking them. I only accompany them in their current activity, eating, ruminating or drinking. Finally, I pay a little attention to each buffalo and check how they are doing. With hands painted black by stroking, we make our way back through the numerous, dismembered autumnal fields. Barely accustomed to road traffic, Bujan would like to run away in hunting gallop from each of the big trucks, which are leaving behind a huge cloud of dust and the stench of unfiltered exhaust fumes. His tension transfers to me and even until late in the evening, a cloud of smog hangs in the air. Sometimes the blasts shake our little wooden clay house and with sadness our gaze sweeps over the abused hill, which has arched over a zeolite vein, a trace of long-extinct, mighty volcanoes. At home again, we devote ourselves to various projects, which mostly serve the construction and preservation of our little farm. We prepare the winter; build stables, organize hay and straw, try to lease land and set up sleeping arrangements for volunteers and visitors. Or we continue to spin our dreams, process them in discussions, articles and interviews. I go within and ask myself, `How do I want to live? `. And in front of my inner eye is our small yard, the house completely restored, surrounded by fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, a herb garden, vegetable loft and our stable. An ocean of possibilities. A unique type of cheese is waiting to be further created, the fruits and vegetables want to be canned and stored, the horses are looking forward to work with us , a buffalo wants to be in front of the plow, the herbs invite us to use their medical wisdom and to enjoy their taste. Children play around the house, climbing trees, building tree houses and caves, feeling the soil of mother earth and snacking on wild berries. And around all that, adults gather and preserve that little idyll. They create the base where animal-friendly and philanthropic life is allowed to grow.

We're leaving to the new summer pasture

Carpathian buffalos are well-known for their love of freedom, fresh grass and water. That's why Michel Jacobi with a help of shepards, every year takes buffalos, horses, cows and goats to the summer pasture.


They won't attend Tchumalevo this summer. Their new location will be the Svydovets range.

Read more

0. Introduction

1. About our work

2. Carpathian Buffalo breeding Project

3. Mountain Hucul

4. Rishca the old mountain cow from the Carpathians

5. Developments in Synevirski National Park


Read more

Since July 2014 we are engaging in the rescue of the last remnants of the ancient "Mocanitsa" cow of the Carpathians.

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Collecting Garbage

Together with students of the elementary school in Steblivka we could successfully collect garbage close to the Tysa river.

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Newsletter Summer 2013

Dear friends of diversity,

Here in the Ukrainian Carpathians our initiative has been agitating for some of the important remnants of middle European history for five years. We are talking about the...

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Autumn in Saldobosch

Autumn has now fully arrived in the Carpathian Mountains. After a few freezing nights, the October turned out to be wonderfully mild, with sunny days and warm nights. The buffalos and horses are enjoying the autumn days out on the fields together with our shepherds and preparations for the winter have started. Hay and corn plants are being stored, wood is being gathered, and we might even soon get electricity, to long the short winter days in our house a little bit.

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