I have been thinking about the blog a lot lately, but the task of trying to catch up on EVERYTHING that has happened since I last posted anything has been overwhelming. So I thought I’d let this feeling grow by waiting some more. And then, today, I thought I’ll just get going by not trying to catch up on EVERYTHING but just posting SOMETHING. Like pretty pictures of flowers. Voilà.
A visit to one of my co-workers inspired me …
… She had this table with lots of flower arrangements outside her front door …
… So I got all the vases/jars I had together and started picking flowers …
… and placed them everywhere on our veranda …
These are my favorites, by the way. „Skogsvioler“ in Swedish (forrest violets – a little more poetic than „common dog-violet“, donchathink?)
… apart from lupins, which are also my favorites.
This is my second year growing stuff on actual soil, not just a balcony and a kitchen window sill. Last year’s lesson: pregrow EVERYTHING. I learned that one by not pregrowing anything except for tomatoes. And those still didn’t ripen fast enough before it got too cold. In my defense, we talked to our neighbors before getting started, and they all said that they never pregrow anything, they plant right in the soil. The rule of thumb up here is not to plant before the summer solstice (21 June), since it can still get below freezing before that (doesn’t happen often but still). That’s cold, man! And obviously summer doesn’t last longer around here just because it starts late, so … you get the picture.
So yesterday I planted 192 plus seeds – melon, cucumber, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, egg plants, the works. Excited to see what lessons this year has in store for me. If I had to guess now it could be: don’t let your cats use the land you want to grow food on as a litter box during the winter if you don’t want them to do their business there during the summer … But hey, I might be wrong.
When I was growing tomatoes on the balcony of our apartment in Gothenburg, I decided that I would call it a success if I could get just one tomato out of it. I even insisted on taking the plants with us when we moved. They survived, and we got more than one tomato (not a lot more but hey). So I tried to approach this first year growing on our land with a similar attitude: I wanted to be happy with whatever we’d get, and take it as a sort of reference point for next year.
I am actually really pleased with the result, all things considered, and amazed by how much you get, even when you don’t put a lot of work into it, or sometimes not even any work at all. Like with all the lingon and rowan berries we picked and made jam from, or the two (!?) apple trees that produced so many apples this year that we couldn’t even process all of them.
I am beginning to suspect that this notion of scarcity is something less natural than I have been led to believe, maybe a result of the food industry as it is today. It seems to me that the natural state really is abundance. It might take me some time to get used to that, at this point I am pretty still mourning every single apple that’s lying on the ground, not being made into jam, sauce or chips …
I’m back. It feels weird being in our apartment again after wwoofing a week on the country-side. At least it’s finally green around here, too.
This past week was amazing and inspiring in so many ways. Initially we had planned on staying with two, maybe three different wwoof hosts. We ended up staying at Törnagården with Vanessa and Marcus the whole time. The perfect place for us.
I was pretty lousy at taking pictures. Sometimes it feels as if taking a photograph takes away something from the moment. Like you become aware that „this is a moment“ instead of just enjoying it’s existence. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I don’t have a better excuse for why I didn’t take more pictures of some of the amazing things I saw these past days. Like Törnagården itself. Like the awesome house on wheels that Marcus designed himself, and which he has been building petty much entirely from trees he himself cut down. Like the adorable baby clothes Vanessa has been knitting for the little bean that is due any day now. Like the great food she prepared for us every day. Like … you get the picture. Well, I guess you actually don’t in this case. Maybe some.
So, what have I been doing then instead of taking pictures (as I am putting together this post, I realize that I did take more pictures than I thought), and without internet for a week?
When we arrived on Wednesday, we could tell we had come to the right place by the house on wheels that was standing on the lawn in front of the house. We were greeted by two excited little bears who seemed like they could hardly pace themselves behind the fence (another proof of Marcuses‘ craftsmanship). They turned out to be Sophie and Lotte, the family dogs. A highly pregnant Vanessa pointed us to the front door, where she welcomed us warmly. After talking for a while, and Vanessa showing us around, Marcus showed up, too. He had been at his workshop (he is a finsnickare, a carpenter), where he had been – and where he would be for most of the days we were staying at Törnagården – working on a bed for the baby. With the due date rapidly approaching, this was obviously pretty high on the priority list.
They showed us around some more – the green houses, which Marcus had built from parts he found on the property, and which were featured in an åter-article; Vätte, the cow, and her calf Edgar, and the two goats, Bogart and … I forgot the other one’s name. And they obviously gave us a tour of the house on wheels.
After lunch we started getting down to business. The business of shoveling
shitmanure namely. There was a big pile of it by the hen house, and it had to be moved in order to compost. After a while, we accompanied Marcus to his workshop. After we got a tour, we started cleaning up my the saw mill till dinner.
In the evening, Marcus and Vanessa tried to separate Edgar from Vätte over night, so that we would be able to get some milk in the morning. No success, though, or at least not for us. Edgar won this one.
On Thursday we all started the day by walking the dogs by a little pond in the woods nearby, Kvarndammen („kvarn“ means mill, and there was a little water mill).
Then it was back to the workshop, more cleaning. We had lunch at Törnagården, outside in the backyard. It was windy, so the salad had to be eaten fast, but still – we were eating outside, surrounded by nature. Sitting on our balcony here in town just doesn’t measure up to that.
All four of us went to the workshop in the afternoon. Peter and I cleaned some more, Vanessa was preparing the bars of the baby bed for sanding, Marcus kept building the bed. Later Vanessa, Peter and I sat outside in the sun and sanded the bars under Marcuses‘ (justifiedly) critical supervision. We ended up sitting there until after 8 pm. That was one of the most beautiful things for me during these past days: not having a watch with me – and no clocks on the walls. Just going with the flow, letting the daylight be my guide.
After we returned to Törnagården, Marcus went straight back to the workshop, the remaining three of us went to the neighboring farm to get some milk (how cool is that?!). Vanessa made pancakes for dinner, after which we sat and talked for a while. I was very tired, and the first to go to bed.
On Friday Marcus has to attend to a project for a customer, so Peter and I stay at Törnagården and finish of moving the manure from the hen house. We also clean the hen house a little, and I have to admit that the sight of maggots in the hen poo was quite the challenge for me. But the day wasn’t all work: I lay on the trampoline in the sun for quite some time, and in the afternoon Vanessa took Peter and me to a beautiful lake. I took my first „swim“ for the year (not sure if the few seconds I could make myself stay in the coldcoldcold water count).
Saturday Marcus had to finish up Friday’s project (sadly but not unsurprisingly that ate up quite a bit more time than planned). The rest of us went to Falköping. The thrift store Vanessa was going to show us was closed but we discovered one that she hadn’t been to, either, so it was a win for all three of us. Peter bought a beautiful old alarm clock, which ticks very loudly, and which has an alarm sound that I am not too crazy about, but which I hopefully will get used to.
In the evening the four of us went over to some friends of Vanessa’s and Marcuses‘ – Tonie, who was celebrating her 30th birthday, and Fabian. It was a beautiful evening, the first barbecue of the year, lots of interesting people with interesting stories; most of them wwoof hosts and wwoofers. Peter and I felt really welcome, and not like the tags-along (is that even a word?) we actually were.
Inspired by herbal savvy Vanessa, Peter and I went to gather some herbs to take with us to Gothenburg – dandelion, lady’s mantle, nettle, raspberry leaves. Peter wants to make wine from the dandelion blossoms, I have been browsing the net this morning for all kinds of recipes, and now it looks like there is going to be a pesto fest coming up (and thus probably some recipe posts, too).
In the afternoon, Peter and I went to Bossgården, a farm we had also considered wwoofing at, and which is actually the place where Vanessa and Marcus first were wwoofers themselves. At this point, we are trying to get into as many heads as possible of people who are doing what we hopefully will be doing ourselves some day in the not too distant future. Jonas, who runs Bossgården with his wife, Sanna, was kind enough to let us pick his brains over delicious homemade sour dough bread.
On Monday, Peter and I prepared two of the green houses by weeding and fertilizing them. I think I actually enjoyed this activity the most out of all our little wwoof-projects. Who knew that digging around in the dirt with my hands might turn out to be my thing?
My pleasure of digging around in the dirt however was surpassed by the joy of meeting someone else who has been doing that on a whole different scale – and for years: In the afternoon, Vanessa Peter and I went to see a guy that had been much talked about the previous evening. He was said to be building an earthship, and that was just way too interesting not to check out. The earthship turned out much more amazing than what I had imagined (and thanks to Vanessa, I remembered to take at least some pix this time). Kevin and the story of his earth ship were also really interesting, so if you ever happen to be in the Tidaholm area, I can only recommend that you stop by. We showed up unannounced (which we had been told was ok but somehow it still felt a little weird for me anyway), one of the kids had the stomach-flue – and we were still welcomed with open arms both by Sandra and Kevin. There is so much to be said about this earth ship, and the journey Kevin and his family have been on since they started building it. I am actually thinking that it is deserving of its own post, so for now we will have to make do with some pix.
Yesterday (Tuesday), we left – after one last look at the crib.
On the way home, we stopped by Hjo, one of the three cities in Sweden that have made it their goal to preserve as many of the old buildings as possible. It was beautiful, and – again – I took way too few pictures.
I felt really lucky when I found a little brochure at the tourist information about a place that sells locally grown white asparagus just outside Hjo. That has definitely been one of the things I miss about Germany, the measly little overpriced bundles you get at the grocery store here just don’t cut it. So I got to buy expensive but hopefully delicious „real“ asparagus for once. And whaddaya know, the guy running the place turned out to be from Germany originally. Driving by the fields, and seeing the workers (from Poland judging from the license plates of the cars parked at the farm), I couldn’t help but wonder about their wages, and I started thinking about Two Caravans and It’s a Free World … And then I started to think about my own hypocrisy, for after all: what about all the people involved in the process of producing my food that I buy at the grocery store, whose faces I don’t happen to see right in front of me? …
I am back from another trip. More inspired than ever! I do apologize, though, to certain friends (Lisa, you know who you are) who worried my offline-ness might translate to „something bad happened“.
Note to self: in the time and age of „There is no offline, there is only away from keyboard“, announce any awol from the virtual life (technically, is it „awl“ then?). At least for as long as there is no way to virtually transmit the bad smell coming from your apartment that might alarm your neighbors – who might not even care since you live in one of those anonymous big city shoe boxes – but not the ones who do care but don’t live close by. Another note to self: keep notes to self short…ish.
Anyway. Peter and I were visiting a friend who lives the way we hope to do one day – somewhere on the Swedish countryside, growing lots of her own food, with no stupid electro smog. There was no internet. It was beautiful. Not because or despite that fact. It just was. Although we were only there from Thursday through Tuesday, this trip was a real learning and healing experience – most of all, unsurprisingly, about myself; my current state (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, … in any way) as well as my wishes for my future.
I realized that …
- … a life closer to nature and more self-sufficient is not only what I imagine I want. It is what I do want.
- … the difference between life in the city and on the countryside is not to be underestimated. My body had a hard time adjusting to physical labor (which does not always allow for ergonomic execution), my mind had a hard time accepting that I/we took so many breaks. I felt very unproductive, although our host did not express any such complaints – or any complaints at all. Here at home I want to get through with everything I have to do as quickly as possible, there you spread out the (more physically exhausting) work over the entire days, take it slow, take time for conversations, contemplation, simply being.
- … I am especially unhappy with my job here at home.
- … the difference between the life I am currently leading, and the life I want is huge. I had an episode of deep depression the second day when I realized that gap. I had no idea how I should get from one to the other, and this uncertainty scared and frustrated me. I still don’t know but I am hopeful now.
When we came home I was excited to see if any of the seeds I had sown had grown anything during our absence. The score: two tomato plants are sprouting and I can see the beginning of morning glory.
Why even pretend to be modest. No, I don’t just want a room of my own, I want a house. Right now I have neither (who invented this bedroom-living-room situation for couples anyway?). What I do have is access to hemnet.se, a website where you can check out on a map which houses are for sale here in Sweden. I haven’t indulged in this kind of reverie in a while but Peter’s return from a visit to friends of ours who do live on the country-side, and most of all: the enthusiasm in his voice when he talked about it, led me back there. Who knows, maybe one of these is our future home???