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.
Besides uploading pictures and doing laundry, I also used my free day to finally do what I have been wanting to do for weeks but put off on accounts of the sucky weather – not that that’s changed but I’ve really had it! Yes, I sowed some seeds. Look:
As you can tell, I used egg cartons to pre-grow seedlings. Even felt compelled to make some labels. Here they are, in case you want plant labels in Swedish/German/English for cilantro, parsley, basil, nasturtium, morning glory (love the name), and tomato. I just printed the page twice and glued them together with a stick I made from cardboard in between.
We’ll see how this grows, I hope.
Well, ok, it wasn’t a completely selfless act, I do dig these kind of diys. I have been meaning to write this post since last Wednesday (that’s when I tried some recipes) but I wanted to wait till I had some pictures. As most of the times, I am not completely happy with them but I am afraid if I wait until I am, I will never share this with you. And that would be sad because trying out these recipes really was a revelation for me. So: do try this at home!
The soap nut shampoo I simply did because I had those nuts (that are berries) at hand. It’s actually what we’ve been using to do the laundry with, I had no idea you could use them as shampoo. Boiling the soap nuts in water for 30 minutes, preparing the shampoo every time you want to use it rather than storing it – the procedure is simple yet somewhat time-consuming, so I am not sure I will stick with this one in the long run. The liquid does have a distinct smell, which I find neither particularly unpleasant nor particularly pleasant. It’s ok. As to whether this shampoo worked or not – I find it hard to say. I mean, my hair did get clean and looked nice but I can’t say for sure that it was the soap nuts, or simply washing my hair (after all, some do use water only), or …
… The green tea conditioner. Now this one I loved. My hair usually is very hard to comb (I don’t even use a brush). I have gotten used to it and don’t even think about the discomfort anymore but those days are over! I was skeptical, and wondered how this was supposed to work, after all, the green tea is water, and won’t that just run down before I even got a chance to rub it in? I have no clue how it worked – but it did. My hair was super-easy to comb, and it did look nice (again, I can’t know for sure what to contribute that part to).
The real revelation however was the coffee scrub. It is easy to make, relatively cheap yet it feels really expensive (which is the best, right?), feels nice, and makes you smell so good! I only deviated from the original recipe in so far as I used coconut fat instead of olive oil. Again: because it was at hand – and also because it is supposed to be good for Pitta (yup, I just had to sneak in something Ayurveda). Also I used vanilla sugar instead of regular since I had prepared a jar full a while ago (you just put a vanilla bean in a jar with sugar and let it sit), which we don’t use anymore (the sugar being white). Same goes for the coffee: we haven’t been drinking any lately, so this is the perfect way for me to enjoy its smell anyway.
In the original recipe it says it’s against cellulite but I just went ahead and used it as a full body scrub. Peter was concerned that maybe that way I’ll just end up spreading cellulite. Very good point, so I will keep you posted as to whether I suddenly develop cellulite on my nose or something.
I have been combining using this scrub with the Ayurveda massage technique from the morning routine, so I fancy myself getting the benefits from both. I am no expert though, so I don’t know, I am just going with my gut here. Another thing that’s great about this scrub (yes, there is more!) is that the coconut fat (or whatever fat/oil you’re using) keeps your skin from drying out in the shower. At the same time, you don’t get so sticky that your towel or clothes feel greasy after using them. Your skin just feels really nice and smells like coffee – how cool is that?!
FYI: all this coming from someone who normally doesn’t use more than shampoo and soap in the shower – read: I don’t get excited about beauty products very easily. Yesterday I even managed to get Peter excited about this coffee scrub. His only concern was that he was going to a lecture, and that the coffee addicts among the guests might be tempted to start licking his skin. No reports of the sort have been filed, so I guess this delicious scrub is safe for use in public. Well, maybe not the actual use but you know what I mean.
Mission completed! I did enough to be able to abandon this project, and show some after pictures that don’t reveal everything I didn’t do. Success! Oh yeah, and I tried out some more no poo methods which I now can recommend with a clean conscience.
I cleaned the stove according to this recipe: Sprinkle some baking soda onto the plates, add some drops of white vinegar, let it sit while you do the rest of the cleaning. Then you just wipe it off. Before wiping the stuff off, I used one of those metal brushes (I don’t know what the technical term is, they are specifically for these kind of stoves). I found the recipe for this on a Swedish site, they had a lot more useful tips on cleaning, mostly also no poo: Bästa städtipsen för ett fint hem.
For all of the surfaces (cupboard doors, tiles, working spaces, mopping the floor) I used the white vinegar/lemon/water mixture again. For the sink I just cut a lemon in half, rubbed it in and let it sit for a while before rinsing with water. Again, I am really satisfied with the results, so I am definitely done with the poo that we have standing around here.
I found another link with no poo cleaning methods on ByzantineFlowers (I really find this blog inspiring, makes me wnat to try out a bunch of their recipes!): DIY Citrus Cleaner – you’ll find a lot more no poo alternatives than what the title reveals.
Although I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, I still got the chance to try out some no poo cleaning techniques – and can therefore make some actual recommendations:
- Oil and a mix of vinegar, water and lemon (roughly equal parts) turned out to be my best cleaning friends, I didn’t use much besides that. When it comes to oil and grease stains, it’s really a fighting-fire-with-fire kind of method – and it works, too! The spice rack being located above the stove was covered in a sticky layer of cooking grease and dust. I just dabbed some paper towel in oil and wiped the sticky surfaces. Just use the cheapest you have/can get, doesn’t need to be you precious EVOO. This is obviously only step one, unless you’re content with replacing the old grease layer with a new one (that will get yucky in a few weeks). This is were the lemon/water mixture comes into play. Why not use that one first? Well, I guess you can, but when I tried it felt like I needed to use much more force with that one – using oil was a lot easier.
- I tried out the recipe for cleaning the oven (actually started with that one since you’re supposed to let it sit for 8 hours). I found that the ratio in the recipe made the mix to dry, so I just went with my instinct and added more water until it took on a „wasabi-like“ texture (if you were to conclude from this that I have a sushi-related problem you’d be right on). Also, I used about double the amount of the original recipe. I got good results – I am telling myself that the stuff that I couldn’t get of has been there even when we moved in. This recipe is perfect for me since I am not a very patient person. I tend to get sloppy at the end of a task but luckily, with this recipe, I do not need to worry about whether I am going to die from the next meal I prepare in the oven after cleaning it. Sometimes you can have the cake and eat it, too!
- Oh yeah, maybe the most useful piece of advice that I managed to ignore once more after already having made the mistake: filter the lemon juice before you pour it into a spray bottle. Otherwise the pulp will clog up the pipe/spray head thingy. Or: don’t use a spray bottle, just dab the cleaning rag in the liquid.
The urge to spring clean has overcome me early this year. And I am not even going to work my way up, I am going to start with the kitchen. Cleaning, and rearranging, and throwing out stuff we never use, and all that jazz. So, you probably won’t hear from me the rest of the day. Or ever again because this might take a long time.
This is what it looks like right now:
Here’s to hoping that it’ll look better by tonight, that I won’t get fed up in the middle of it, and just eat take-out from paper plates for the rest of my life.
If this makes anyone go „This is what I should be doing but I really don’t feel like it“, I recommend Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. It is an easy and inspirational read, and it’ll motivate you.
Basically, if you want things to happen in your life, new things to arrive, you have to make room by getting rid of old stuff that you have no use for anymore, that only sits there and steals your energy. Sound familiar? That’s right.
So let’s let go of the old and make room for the new.