I am writing again. Journaling, letters, something that could turn into a novel – and here. All thanks to Julia Cameron’s The Right To Write – or thanks to my friend A., who lent me TRTW? Or thanks to the book launch of another friend that made me want to write again? Or maybe thanks to everyone and everything at once. Either way, I am grateful.
Where to pick up again after such a long absence? How about here and now…ish.
While we are spending more and more time dreaming about our new home, and especially the prospect of being closer to nature, we still do enjoy our balcony. Especially now that the plants are growing more and more, and you can see a change every day.
… and I wonder how far they will make it until it is time for us to pack.
We’re not there yet, though, so in the meantime …
I am going to skip the part where I comment on the lack of postage around here … and go straight to the wonderful pesto I have made from the herbs we gathered at Törnagården.
I looked up recipes online but I ended up playing it by ear for the most part. Basically, for pesto you just mix the herb of your choice (basil being the classic one) with olive oil, pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese. I used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts this time since pine nuts are pretty expensive here, and I needed a lot.
I found the recipe for the mint pesto on Martha Stewart’s, the one for the nettle pesto on chiliconkarin (in Swedish), and the dandelion pesto on a German page on healing herbs (so, yeah, this one’s in German, duh).
- Always rinse whatever herbs you’re using first (I don’t know, maybe I am stating the obvious here but just in case).
- In the recipe for the nettle pesto it said to boil the nettle leaves for 2 minutes in salt water before processing, which I did, although I can’t say that I have any idea why.
- I roasted the sunflower seeds after rinsing them (not the raw food way to go, I know!). I don’t know, I just somehow got the idea that it would be better to have as little water as possible in the pesto, so that it wouldn’t go bad so fast. I don’t even know if that’s true or not, I guess I was just acting on some sort of instinct here.
- Something I do know helps to make pesto last longer: make sure that there is a layer of oil on top.
I think that’s it. I can’t wait for the basil I am growing on my kitchen window sill to be big enough for some classic pesto. The simple things are really the best. I also want to try this cilantro pesto recipe I found on ByzantineFlowers … so I guess the pesto fest isn’t over yet.
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? …
Like I said, this trip inspired me. A lot. Our friend eats raw food and while we were there, so did Peter and I. I found eating raw food surprisingly diversified, digestible and filling. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel like I had to eat a lot to feel full – but for me that’s kind of a mental thing I need to get over. I am probably not going to go Green for Life, although I did find the book very interesting and sensible in a lot of ways. For now, however, I do feel like trying out some of the nutritious deliciousness our friend introduced us to.
My favorite – which I had tried and failed at before – was her almond milk.
Here’s how it goes:
- Take about two cups of almonds (makes about five cups of almond milk, less if you like it creamier), and let them soak in water over night.
- The next day, pour the water out, and pour boiling water over the almonds. Only let them sit for about a minute, this is just so that you can peel them more easily.
- Rinse the almonds.
- Put the almonds into a blender, add a little bit of water at first, blend.
- Gradually add more water until you’re satisfied with the texture.
- I added nothing else when I made this this morning. Our friend usually put in a banana (both for sweetness and texture), sometimes some agave syrup.
As for the health benefits and more detailed information, I unsurprisingly found something on my favorite health/food/diy blog.
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.
It has become sort of an institiution for me to make Swedish cinnamon buns when I visit anyone in Germany. But since my friends and I are meeting for dinner tonight (yes, you guessed right, this is a scheduled post – I am on the train to Frankfurt if you’re reading this right when it gets posted), and someone else is already taking care of dessert, I decided to make pizza buns instead.
The basic recipe and technique is the same, I just didn’t add any sugar this time, and instead of cardamon I used pizza spices. For the filling I took tomato purée, chopped up mushrooms and peppers. Topped off the buns with mozzarella cheese and salt. Et voila:
I deviate from recipes a lot. But this time I went so far (not all on purpose … unforeseen turn of events demanded improvisation!) that I think it’s fair to claim I made this one up. Kind of.
It started out with wanting to try to make scones but substitute the flour for ground almonds and hazelnuts. Then I thought: why not add some cocoa, and make them chocolate scones? Then I thought: why not use the hemp milk that Peter made instead of regular milk? The first batch sort of melted into one cake on the baking sheet (I later cut them into cookies but it got kind of messy). So for the second batch I poured the batter into muffin forms. Hence, I call them muffins. Gluten-free but not really low-carb (the sugar, I suppose you can exchange it for a low-carb sweetener), and due to the hazelnuts obviously not for those allergic to nuts. Do almond only, I guess.
For 12 muffins you need
- 2 3/4 cups (6,5 dl) ground almonds and hazelnuts (I went half and half)
- 1/2 cup (ca. 1dl) sugar
- 2 tsp baking poweder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cups (2 dl) firm butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup hemp milk (just search „hemp milk recipe“ – you’ll get a variation of the same: this, this, or this, … Peter used dried dates as sweetener)
- add raisins/fruit if desired (I didn’t, maybe next time – I imagine banana would taste great, and make the muffins even more juicy)
- I also added some psyllium (don’t know how much, though, maybe about a tablespoon), which is used in a lot of gluten-free cake recipes to make whatever you’re baking more fluffy, and keep it from getting so dry and compact
Mix the dry ingredients, cut butter into crumbs, add, stir in milk, knead until the texture is smooth. I let the batter stand for a couple of minutes (I think that it gets a little more „doughy“, less „liquid“ – I suck at speaking bake – my apologies!). Use spoons to fill the batter into muffin shapes, bake at 400°F/200°C for about 30 minutes.
Oh yeah: did I mention that they tasted really great? Well, they do.
Today started out …
I wasn’t very patient with the camera here, so it’s a little hard to see but …
Later my day turned …
And it ended …
Lucky (imagine me saying with a Napoleon Dynamite intonation).
I did make those burgers for dinner today – with homemade BBQ sauce and hamburger dressing and all. Only the ketchup and the mayonnaise in the dressing were not made from scratch, even though there were recipes for that in the Junk food book. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me this fast food faux pas.