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 …
Apple trees … and worms
Ok, here it comes: I am pretty sure that we found our little corner of the world, our little farm in the prairie, the place where the heart is – you know: home.
I’ve actually felt that way ever since we saw it, which is how it’s supposed to start, right? By „saw it“ I mean the real thing, not the pictures, those gave me very mixed vibes: kitchen on the second floor? Weird, completely out of context wild west type front porch? What’s up with that? But apple trees, and a creek running through the yard! Plus, the price was right, too!
I am not the type to hold back on making (premature) announcements for fear of jinxing anything, I just say it how it is: that I think this is what’s going on but that it’s not a done deal yet. So, although everything isn’t settled yet, here is the story of our dream house and some pix thus far. It’s been quite a ride already …
It started with Peter’s mom, who obviously knew about our quest for a different place to live. One day in May we received an e-mail from her, saying that one of her colleagues wanted to sell a house. I already mentioned the pictures attached to that e-mail, and like I said, I was not sold right away. And anyways, moving back up north wasn’t really what we had had in mind, either. We wanted to stay at a distance from Gothenburg that would allow us to come visit regularly, and keep our circle(s) of friends! Also, when looking on the phone provider’s map of cell phone towers in the area, it wasn’t looking too hot, either … (no, not too few – too many, but that’s a story for another time). On top of it, we were supposed to make a fast call, since the owner had been trying to seel the house for a year, and was about to hand it over to a real estate agent, meaning a higher starting price plus a possible bidding war … So, yeah, we were doubtful.
At this point, I feel like I should insert a short lesson on Swedish geography, which makes the pickle we found ourselves in understandable:
- Sweden is a long country. A very long country.
- The drive from Gothenburg (which is where we live right now) to Sundsvall (where Peter’s family lives, and where the house is) takes nine hours.
- The place in Dalarna, where the family reunion for summer solstice was held, is a six-hour drive from Gothenburg, and a three-hour drive from Sundsvall.
We decided to take the „real estate agency risk“, and stick with our original plan to go check out the house after the family reunion. If the house was truly supposed to be ours, it would wait for us. If it suddenly, after being up for sale for a year, would find new owners, it just wasn’t meant to be. And like I said: we had had our doubts anyway, so we were mainly going to look at it so that we wouldn’t end up asking ourselves „What if …?“
Well, since I already spoiled it for you, the question at this point obviously isn’t whether this house turned out to be a „yay“ or a „nay“. I suppose you are more interested in how it went from „Hm“ to „Home!“.
Since it was on the way in to Sundsvall (the house is actually located in a village about 40 minutes outside), and Peter had spotted it’s location on the map, we decided to stop and sneak a peek from the outside. In all fairness: I wasn’t all that willing to make another stop, there had been so many delays and pit-stops on the way, and it was getting late. But we did, and my instant feeling was „This is where I want to live, we have to buy this house!“. It just felt right.
Just the area we drove through to get there was really beautiful: very rural, hills/small mountains with lakes in between, forest and fields, beautiful „old school“ farms and houses. The last bit of the way to the house is a dirt road, giving it that remote feel that I have been longing for.
We almost missed the house, there are bushes ans trees surrounding its property, which is also perfect. We recognized it by it’s „trademark“ – that funky front porch.
What I was iffy about when i saw the pictures suddenly came through – this place was really charming! The little creek (coming from a pond where apparently you can go fishing) was running through the land behind the house. A small bridge was leading across it, and on the other side stood the barn – also part of the property. In front of the barn was even a little decking, so I immediately saw myself sitting there, having dinners in the evening sun, enjoying the beautiful view over the field of the neighboring farm.
All curtains were closed, so we couldn’t get a look at the inside but that didn’t change me feeling that we’d come to a good place was. What followed was a major fight, what else. I guess my all out exhilaration and unreserved euphoria brought out the opposite in Peter. In an attempt to get my head out of the clouds (not a deliberate one, I would say, it felt more like an instinctive, compulsive pessimism at the time …), he went right to the opposite end of the scale. Well, if his intentions had been to prevent me from getting my hopes up too high, he certainly succeeded. It seemed like the life I had been picturing was never going to be possible with „Mr. Monday“ …
The ride into Sundsvall started out fast and furious (I was driving, still completely pissed) but despite all the „You always …“ and „You will never …“ we somehow managed to smoothe things over, and make it home in one piece. At night, I started having second thoughts of my own. Was this really it? The property did seem awfully small in retrospect, and half the point of moving to the country-side was to grow our own vegetables, possibly have hens and goats and whatnot! Yet I was also a bit worried about the fact that a real estate agency actually had become involved. We had seen an ad for the house in the local paper – already at a slightly higher asking price!
The next day, Peter’s mom arranged for us three to meet her colleague/friend at the house so we could get a look at the inside. No disappointments here. Sure, it was going to be work but we had wanted a project – nothing too advanced but still something we would make our own. Again, it seemed like we had come to the right place.
Regardless of what we want to do with this one (a summer cottage is my vision …) or when, we’re going to have to start out by doing damage control and take out the flooring
The best part was, that there was still a lot of old, charming details left:
The owner (rather, the daughter of the owners who’s managing the sale) was kind enough to let Peter and me borrow the key so that we could stay the night.
Why did we want to do that? Well, there is one issue that has made this quest for a place to live more than a life dream, and which overrules all our opinions, desires and reason: Peter is hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields. That can mean all kinds of things, in his case (and I am simplifying here), any sort of wireless signals (cell phones and cell phone towers, wireless internet, cordless phones, etc.) cause him physical pain. That obviously makes everyday life, uhm, a challenge. It gets even more confusing when you add to that that it takes his body a while to adjust to different environments. Meaning, while it obviously is worst when he is exposed to a lot of electro-magnetic signals, his body does get used to that situation, the pain becomes kind of a background noise. When he’s in an environment where there are very few emitters of electromagnetic signals, he feels a lot better – but just one device suddenly popping up can make the pain seem a lot more piercing.
He usually explains it with this metaphor: If you’re in a room full of people smoking, you stop noticing the fume after a while, and it won’t bother you (if you even can tell) when one additional cigarette is being lit. However, if you are in a place where nobody smokes, one cigarette being lit might bother you a lot, while technically, it is probably a lot less healthy for you to be in the room full of smokers.
So, perception is relative – but the health factor isn’t, which makes things very complicated. In an environment with few sources of electromagnetic signals (gosh, I am really bad with the terminology stuff, sorry to all of those who know better, feel free to correct me!), the one neighbor that is surfing the internet wireless, can pretty much make it impossible for us to live there. Let alone the cell phone towers that might be put up in the area, since that’s where we’re heading.
The house we’re interested in buying is fairly isolated, with only four neighbors at an ok distance – except for one, which is only about 25 yards away. The two times we were there for maybe an hour or so each, Peter felt good. But as hopefully has become clear, that’s not really enough. Therefore we asked to sleep there.
We drove back to Sundsvall to get our sleeping bags, and on the way back out, we saw the most amazing sun set:
We slept well that night – and we hadn’t even brought the silver net which we usually have up to shield Peter/us! Oh yeah, and it turned out that the contract with the real estate agency hadn’t been signed yet, so the owners could back out of that deal, meaning no competition for us, lower price, yet more money for the owners. Yup, the universe was definitely waving numerous of those giant foam hands, all pointing at that house.
Good things just kept coming: Peter’s sister and her husband came out to meet us the next morning. They had bought a house of their own a few years back, so they could give us advice and opinions that backed up our gut feeling (yeah, it turned out that Peter really did like this house, too, he was just more hesitant to express that in the beginning). The day after that, Peter’s aunt and uncle came to visit, and they have fixed up quite a few houses over the years, so their approval meant a lot.
We started looking up all that fun stuff that comes with these kind of endeavors – bank loans (both unemployed right now, yikes), jobs, costs and waiting time for an „official“ expert to give the house a check-up … the works.
Then the time came to return to Gothenburg, and so much had happened during that one week – we really were only gone from Thursday to Thursday!? – that it felt like months. Suddenly our outlook on the future had shifted from „What are we going to do? Where are we supposed to live? How are we ever going to figure this out?“ to „This is it!“.
And then, just as sudden, we hit a brick wall, and the whole thing came to a screeching halt: it looked like it would not be possible for us to have telephone, let alone internet there. I probably don’t need to point out that that is a terrifying prospect for someone who cannot use cell phones or wireless internet … Surely, this could not be happening??? How could the perfect house for us suddenly be brought down by (the lack of) a cable?
As absurd and unfathomable as that seemed, it looked like all the spots in the box that supplies the phone lines to the households in one area where taken up. And since the trend is towards wireless, the phone companies do not put any resources into expanding there … So, if we wanted to live there, we would apparently be „incommunicado“ indefinitely. Welcome to the absurd life of electromagnetic-hypersensitive people and their loved ones.
Anyway, don’t want to bore you with the details of this odyssey that had Peter in a loop, being sent back and forth between different companies. I’ll just skip right to the status quo: there seemed to have been a computer error, marking that box „no vacancy“ when there was just some other defect. Technical folks are heading out to the house on Tuesday, where Peter’s sister will let them in so they can check out what’s really going on. For now I am optimistic that we might be able to avoid total solitary confinement …
Without meaning to, this post somehow turned from „The house of my dreams“ into „My life with my electromagnetic-hypersensitive boyfriend“. Well, I hope you can embrace the eclecticism. Here, have another picture of the beautiful sunset: