Oct 24, 2009

The Garden of Eden

     In the village of Eden there were originally ten farms. Most were dairy farms, some also had sheep and other animals. Now, we are the only working dairy farm here. Only one generation ago the village was alive with families, children and activities. There was a school, a store, even a small cafe, all of which are now vacant.
     Although it was a farming community, kitchen gardens were rare. Each farm had a root cellar (jordkällare -- yord-shell-ah-ruh) attached to a log building called  källarboden (shell-arr-bo-din).  The jordkällare was used for storing potatoes, perhaps a few carrots or turnips, but nothing more. In the log building they stored the brined and salted pork in barrels, smoked goods hanging from the ceiling, fishing nets and tackle, churners, wooden milk buckets, bee-keeping supplies and all equipment related to food production.  There simply was not enough time when much of the farm work was still done by hand, to tend an extensive garden.

On our farm we have several gardens. A  large vegetable garden measuring 15x30 meters flanked with black and red currant bushes, and several gooseberry bushes. You can see some of them covered with the blue netting behind the garden to keep the birds away. There is also a 20x40 meter garden for potatoes and 1200 strawberry plants. On one side of the potato/strawberry field is a line of 31 mature rhubarb plants. On the other side are three rows of black currant bushes, about 100 in all. Out on the fägata (fair-gotta), the common pathway that was used by multiple farms for taking cows back and forth for grazing, there are wild raspberries.  In the surrounding forests, free for the picking, are lingonberries and wild blueberries, and in the bogs  there are hjortron (cloudberries) . They grow one berry on each plant - that's why they're called "Norrland Gold" - and they look like a small peach colored raspberry.  Along the roads in the village you can often see small wild berries that look like mini strawberries called åkerbär (fieldberries), growing freely.

      This year we had great success despite the cold, wet, summer (the wettest in fifty years in this area). Hans bought an Earthway Precision Garden Seeder which digs the trench, plants and spaces the seeds (so terrific when it comes time to thin), then covers them and firms the earth down all in one operation, as you walk along behind it. It was just great and made it possible for us to get our planting done very quickly and efficiently.  They say here that "Everything has to happen between the hägg and the syren".  The hägg is a beautiful tree with fragrant white flowers that blooms first in the Spring and the syren is the lilac.  You usually have about 10-12 days maximum between those two bloom times to get the garden plowed, fertilized, tilled and planted.  It is a real trick!  I kept track and from the rhubarb plants being completely under snow to them going to seed was 16 days one year!  You really have to move fast to get it all done. 

     Once the seeds are in the ground, the garden is covered entirely with large white net sheets called fiberduk (feeber-dook) to keep the warmth in until the seeds germinate, and also to provide protection from the birds who swoop down and peck out the seeds. When you see that the plants are safely up and thriving the fiberduk is removed and put away until next year.

     Another big change this year was that we ordered all our seeds from Lindblom's, an excellent ecological seed company in Kivik in southern Sweden. This insured that we were getting the right seeds for our part of the country climate-wise and also that we had the varieties that would store well in our root cellar for the winter months.  The advice and expertise that Lindblom's shared with us as we planned our garden was invaluable. We saw such a difference right from the beginning in that the seeds germinated faster and were much more vigorous.  This was a summer that would have been challenging for even the heartiest seeds and they performed beautifully.

     In the three summers I have been here we have experimented with various planting methods and found that some of our vegetables do very well with more densely planted wide rows (i.e. cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower) and some are more successful with the traditional single, dual or triple rows (i.e. carrots, spinach, beets, etc.)  We have had fun with some new vegetables and varieties that were unfamiliar to me,  like pink, white and yellow carrots (they were fun colors but they didn't taste good!), a herb garden - that's the basil in an earthenware planter in the picture below -  and a leafy green vegetable called Mangold which we loved.  If you look closely you can see that it is somewhere between spinach and chard in consistency, but has brilliant yellow spines and stems which makes it a beautiful addition to any salad bowl.  It can also be steamed as a hot vegetable.  In the herb garden we followed the advice of the Heirloom Gardener magazine and started small....we had basil, oregano, chives, rosemary, thyme and sage.  I loved having the fresh herbs right outside the door and learning to use them.  It made a delicious difference in our food.  And of course we also had the staples such as carrots, spinach, red and yellow onions, lettuces, leeks, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, peas, green and yellow beans, the huge field of potatoes, dill, parsley, kale, beets, parsnips, turnips, etc.                                      
Quite a project!!

All in all we had a wonderful year with our garden.  We learned a lot and were so blessed!

Oct 16, 2009

(or.... Run, Sheepy, Run)

A few mornings ago we woke up to this...uh-oh.

Bringing home the sheep from their summer pasture in the village of Östensjö about 5 kilometers away had been near the top of the job list for us, but when we looked out the window and saw the snow that morning, we knew we had to move fast. Manny and Gustav are old pros at getting the sheep in for the winter and earlier they had tried to do it with the horse trailer, thinking they could bring them back that way. But the sheep had other ideas and every time the boys would get them into the corral, the sheep would run out again before they could be loaded in - (quite a circus) - so we were back to the old way - walking them home. After the dairy and barn chores and milking were done and breakfast over, the boys were dressed warmly and ready to go. They got a bucket of grain to shake (the sheep will follow the sound) and we drove them up to Östensjö.

It only took a few rattles of the grain bucket and the fluffy babies came trotting toward the gate right away.
The snow had started to melt off and we thought it would be a crisp, clear day for the long walk back. But as they came through the gate and onto the road, it suddenly it turned overcast and the sky darkened. I followed in the car and when they got out a little further onto the main road towards Eden THEY STARTED TO RUN! It's fortunate that Manny and Gustav are as physically fit as they are (it's all that wonderful farm work....), because it took some real endurance to keep up with the Puffballs all sprinting down the road through the village of Gösinge on their way back to the farm. That's Manny out in front with the grain bucket and Gustav bringing up the rear. It was pretty chilly by then.
When they had run themselves out (the sheep, not the boys) they finally slowed down a bit as they rounded the bend and made their way into the farmyard.

HERE THEY COME!!! We were so glad to see them all safely in. The boys did a great job as usual and it was one more step towards having everything done for the winter season.

(George Jefferson has nothing on us!) 

     Papa and the boys have been working on the upstairs of the storstuga (the main house-built in the 1860's) for as long as I have been here - two and a half years and before that as well.  During the winter when Papa was away, when we had finished the milking and the barn work, Manny and Gustav would go up for several hours after dinner and hammer away.  They ripped down walls, tore up the floor, insulated under it, and laid it down again,  insulated the outer walls and the area above the ceilings, drywalled and primed the rooms and more.  When Papa was home he worked right beside them and made certain that everything was in keeping with the age and style of the home historically. It was an amazing effort and we looked forward to the day when we could actually move out of our sleeping quarters in the vävstuga (weaving house) and sleep upstairs there in the main house (good-bye to the freezing hike every night and morning back and forth from the vävstuga.....brrrrrr.....quite a way to start and end your day!)

     This summer the happy moment finally arrived.  Although there is still much to do, it came to the point where we could bring in the beds and get it set up.  In case you are wondering if the motivation was strong enough, here is Gustav proving it was...that's the weaving house in the background and he is carrying the solid bottom of his bed over to the main house.  It weighed a ton! I saw him coming and grabbed my camera and then ran to open the door and helped him up the winding stairs with the bed.

     Another important move up came when Gustav graduated from ninth grade and moved into Gymnasium, which is tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades in Sweden.  This meant transferring to another school in Sollefteå about an hour away each day by bus.  Graduation from ninth grade is an important event for Swedish students and involves a graduation ceremony at the church, parties and celebrations with both family and school friends. Gustav worked hard and got excellent grades.  The high schools are specific to your career track and he chose building, carpentry and construction and because of his grades was well qualified to be accepted into the program.

The Swedish churches are absolutely beautiful inside and in this ceremony they had a wonderful children's choir singing the traditional songs for the occasion, as well as several individual musical numbers by some of the students.  The minister for the church in Junsele is a woman in her fifties who is in charge of several congregations in the area. She gave a very forceful talk on "The Need to Repent" which raised a few eyebrows.  There was also a talk by the principal and then  the presentation of the graduation certificates.
If you look closely you can see Gustav here in the line accepting his certificate.

We are so proud of him and how wonderfully he has done.

Congratulations Gustav....we sure love you!!