Nov 28, 2009

  "Thanksgiving Day on the Farm"

Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009

     This year we had a beautiful Thanksgiving Day.  The weather was still  mild, the iron planters in our yard are breathtaking with the winter heather in them, we had gone into the forest several days before and brought back our Advent tree for the farm for this season, and we had the two missionaries coming from Örnsköldsvik to spend the day with us. Here is a rundown of the activities and fun we had.... 
          The tree:  Each year the boys and Hans keep their eyes open for the "best" tree for Advent.  It must have a good shape, be large but not so big that we can't get to the top to put the lights on, be strong and healthy so it will last through the blustery winter days, etc.  It always stands in the center of the quad on the farm and should be up and lit by the fourth Sunday before Christmas which is Advent.
     On that morning Manny and Gustav went out to search at Östensjö where we found the tree last year.  Soon they were home to say they had found a good one so Nainy and Kezia went with them (Manny drove the tractor and Nainy, Kezia and Gustav followed in the car) to see it.  When we got there we decided to look a little farther than the one they had seen first and we found one that was even better,  just excellent!

The boys were amazing!  We found it.....  they chainsawed it down.... loaded it onto the trailer..... and hauled it home!

       By the time we got back to the farm and hoisted it into the hole where it was to stand, we were losing the light.  That was all we could do for that day. 

          On Thanksgiving Day, getting it up, shimmed straight, stabilized,  and the lights started were the top priorities.  We were so glad to have Elder Harris (St. George, Utah - only a few months left on his mission) and Elder Blaylock (Virginia - just arrived in Sweden) with us to help.  It was chilly and damp, but they braved it with wonderful spirits.  The challenge was how to get up high enough so that the top could be lighted.  The scoop on the tractor wouldn't reach. The four of them talked it over and here is the result...that's Manny in the picture on the left on the large ladder which they wedged through the space between the tractor body and the front bucket scoop so that he could reach high enough to start putting the lights on the very top.  Such a bunch of smarties!  On the right is Gustav with Elder Harris (left) and Elder Blaylock (right).

Not only did they work on the tree, but once that was rolling they split into two teams and Harris and Gustav also worked on capping the wood bags for the winter.

Then, while Kezia and I finished up the dinner the Elders went into Junsele to visit their investigators.  By the time they got back it was time to eat. 


          The Food: We had gone into the ICA grocery store in the village about two weeks ago to order turkeys (one for Thanksgiving and one for the day after Christmas).  Turkey is not common in Sweden so we thought we would get a jump on it.  To our surprise, Tomas, the butcher at ICA,  had already  anticipated our need and had two in for us!  So kind.  They weighed in at 10.5 pounds each.  We wondered how it would be, it seemed so small compared to what we were used to in the past,  but it was the perfect size when stuffed.
               We wanted to have the traditional dinner, but to take it a step farther, we also wanted to do the turkey in the woodstove for the first time.  Kezia had brought pumpkin, evaporated milk, fresh cranberries and other goodies in her suitcase. By a stroke of incredible luck, when she got to the Stockholm airport,  for some reason they didn't bother to check her through customs. 


We had turkey, gravy, stuffing, creamed onions & peas (from our garden), corn, mashed potatoes (also from our garden),  fresh cranberry/orange relish, red currant saft (from our bushes) and all the extras.  For dessert we had Mrs. Flounders' pumpkin pie and a beautiful apple crisp that Kezia made, both with whipped cream.  So delicious.  The biggest bonus of all was the turkey from the woodstove.  It was the most delicious and moist of any turkey we had ever eaten.  It was great to learn how to do it and have it turn out so successfully.
At each meal on the farm we always start by singing a hymn, praying and reading a chapter from the scriptures (this year it is Book of  Mormon in the morning, New Testament in the evening).  Elder Harris had served in Örnsköldsvik before and had been to the farm and eaten with us about a year ago, so he was familiar with the mealtime devotional.  It was so wonderful to hear him say quietly as we prepared to start, "I love this part", referring to the hymn/prayer/scripture reading tradition.  We love it too, and especially the wonderful spirit of peace it invites into our home each time. 
We sang, "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come",  prayed, and read.  Towards the end of the meal we went around the table and each one told something he or she was thankful for.   The only thing that could have made it more perfect was if Papa Hans would have been with us.  We missed him so much and felt grateful for his goodness as a husband, father and provider as the head of our home.  We are so blessed to have him!

Our hearts are filled with gratitude for a beautiful & memorable Thanksgiving Day!  We hope you had the same.

Nov 26, 2009

"All is Safely Gathered In"

Part 3: 
From Row to Root Cellar

    November is upon us and this has been a surprisingly mild Fall.  By now we are usually knee deep in snow, with ice covered ground, howling winds and power outages. Grandpa Hans tilled up the garden so it would be ready for next Spring and we have been busy getting everything into the root cellar, safe and sound.
    This year, as well as planting varieties that were specifically for winter storage, we also were able to talk with Margareta Magnusson, a wonderful woman from Kramfors who is an expert on root-cellaring and  who taught at the university in Umeå for many years.  She gave us valuable advice on methods that she had found to be successful in using the root cellar to the best advantage.
     In the village of Eden, root cellars are not vented at all.  That is uncommon, even in the surrounding villages, so in order to get the proper temperature for the root cellar to be loaded without becoming too warm (the vegetables themselves exude heat), we started in late September to open the door at night and close it in the daytime.  We were so interested in how the temperature dropped gradually until it was below 5 degrees celsius - an important point since above 5 degrees is when mold will grow.

     A big difference with the advice from Mrs. Magnusson was that she not only trims but washes her root vegetables - excluding potatoes -  in cold water before storing them for the winter.  The washing was contrary to every book and article we had previously read on root cellaring. We decided to try her methods this year as we are determined to use the root cellar to it's fullest!

     The building that houses our root cellar is one of the oldest on the farm, dating to the year 1200. 
 It is built of wood, two stories high, with an interior entrance to the below-ground vault.  The large mound on the outside right hand end of this picture shows the position. 

    Traversing these steps, centuries old, is a real trick! But once you make it, it is just a wonderful feeling to open the heavy wooden door and see the garden bounty all laid out before you.  Sacks of potatoes, bins of washed and trimmed carrots, parsnips, turnips and beets (both raw and pickled in jars and crocks), fresh, leafy cabbages and jars of sauerkraut, bottles of different kinds of saft---all lining shelves and stacked on pallets.  So far Mrs. Magnusson's advice seems to be just great.  The temperature has stayed below 5 degrees celsius and there is no sign at all of mold.  As we have used the vegetables they have been crisp and cool.  Terrific!
Here's what you see when you open the door:


The root cellar is full, the meats are in the freezers, the braided strands of yellow and red onions are hanging in the basement-cool and dry, the jellies, saft and sylts are sparkling in their glass containers. 

     This has been a singular experience and one that brings with it a great deal of understanding that one like Nainy, who was not raised on a farm,  simply could not have had before.  There is an imperitive order and sequence to it all that results in the enormous blessings of feeling secure and prepared for the coming winter season. 
     This post will go up on American Thanksgiving Day.  As a family we are filled with gratitude that "all is safely gathered in" and have the personal hope expressed in the final words of the hymn....

"Lord of harvest, grant that we, wholesome grain and pure may be". 

Nov 15, 2009

"All is Safely Gathered In"

Part 2:
From Grazing to Gravy (Calves)
From Bog to Brine (Pigs) 
From Field to Freezer (Sheep)

     Each Spring at calfing time we hope for a lot of heifers!  They are the mainstay of the dairy farmer's bread and butter - the pool from which the herd is developed and maintained.  For that reason, if a bull calf is born, some dairy farmers slaughter at birth.  We are so fortunate to have Papa, who loves all animals and reverences life in every form.  Because of that our bull calves have a glorious life and the tenderest care!  Just like the heifer calves, they are born safe and warm in an individual straw-filled pen with their mothers (we call it  "the Maternity Ward") in a separate barn where they are able to nurse off their mother for three days. 

     Then they are tagged and go into a calf box, sometimes with another calf to keep them company and snuggle up with.  In the calf box they have unlimited milk from their mother and they learn to drink from a bottle and become familiar with the humans who care for them.  We talk to them and pet them as we feed them so they feel safe and secure.  The next step is "Play Group" where several calves are in a pen together.  There, for the next eight weeks, they are bottle fed until it is time to wean them gradually onto grain, hay, and water in preparation for going out into the field for the summer.  We know them by name as well as number and as the first picture shows, they love their life in the sunny pasture in front of the farm. You can see both older calves (lying down) born at the beginning of calving and a much younger one (standing) that was born towards the end of the same calving season together in the field.
     By late Autumn, it is amazing how large they have grown.  They weigh about 120 kilos each (it's all that good grain and grass!).  
     Early November is slaughter time and again, we are so appreciative of Papa and his kind nature and devotion to humane treatment as the animals are put down.  This year we had the missionaries, Elder Holland (from Washington State) and Elder Barlow (from California, but most recently a student at Duke University in North Carolina), come to help us since Manny was away at a church conference .  We wondered how two city boys would do with the slaughtering experience.  As you can see from the pictures below, they did just fine!  That's Elder Holland on the bottom left helping Papa to hoist the carcass onto the hook in the building where it must hang until butchering time, and both Holland and Barlow top center positioning the meat to make room for the next load.  Finally on the bottom right the load is up!  We were grateful for their good help.  By all accounts it certainly was a learning experience for both of them. They acquitted themselves more than honorably in this unique adventure!

Here the men are hoisting the carcasses on the left and hanging them on the hooks on the right.
Everything up on the wooden supports
where they will hang for a week.
The elders had an appointment in Junsele to teach some investigators so they had to change.  That was a good opportunity for a fika break for hard-working men.  After that, the elders left then came back again, changed, and helped us finish up.

          The two butchers, Anders and Patrick, were also with us.  Each works full time at other another job, but during slaughter/butchering season they travel after hours from a village about 85 km away to work with us here in Eden.  That makes for a very long night for all of us...usually until close to midnight two nights in a row for the butchering alone. 

Here Anders cuts, Gustav labels and packs, Patrick saws and we vacuum seal each cut. The meaty end pieces are ground and packaged in one kilo bags, also vacuum sealed.   It works like a charm. It took three sessions (a full day and two six-hour evenings) to slaughter, hang and butcher eleven calves, two large pigs  and nine sheep.  Later in December we have more sheep, another full-size heifer and a bull to slaughter and then we are done for this season.

Pappa mans the vacuum sealer,

while Patrick handles the saw.

Here are Fern and Charlotte in their bog.  When Nainy went down to take the picture of them she said, "OK girls, could you just come over here and stand by your hut for a picture?" And they walked right over from the other side of the pen!   The same with the sheep....she called them in their field and they came right away!
     Some of the pork is frozen and some brined and smoked.  The lamb is the same, a lot frozen and  also parts that are brined and smoked for sandwiches.  This year the pigs gave three large Christmas hams on each half which was unusual, as well as the chops and ground meat for sausages. 

    When Nainy first came to the farm almost three years ago, she was hesitant about slaughter time and butchering.  It was a big change for someone who has always bought her meats at the grocery store.  She still doesn't watch the slaughter, but she says that the phrase, "Ordained for the use of man" has taken on new significance for her in a very positive way.  She feels as we all do,  deeply grateful for the opportunity  to raise these animals for our use.  It is a lot of work, it's true, but we love them and are committed to giving them the best we have, just as they do for us.  It is a partnership with Heavenly Father, to learn and practice these skills of husbandry and responsibility and there is an indescribable blessing in knowing that what we eat is natural and healthful in every way. 

Texas John would be proud!

Nov 14, 2009

"All is Safely Gathered In"

Part 1:  From Bush to Bottle

     We have beautiful rhubarb, red currants, black currants and gooseberries on the farm. In the forests around us are cloudberries, blueberries and lingon.  Each year these fruits are picked, frozen and then  processed in various ways.  Last year Papa bought a  Hydro-press  from Germany and it was so slick to set it up and extract the juices from the rhubarb, red currants,  and black currants that are turned into fruit syrups called saft (pronounced "soft") as well as sparkling red currant jelly which is eaten with many meat dishes in Swedish cooking and sylts (soft-set jam toppings). 
     A few weeks ago it was time to take the cleaned and chopped rhubarb out of the freezers, thaw it in the large stainless steel bins, and hydro-press out the juice.  We had an abundant harvest this year, close to 180 litres of frozen rhubarb.  It was so bright and fresh  ranging from light green to brilliant pink all the way to deep red. 

Once it was thawed it went into the Hydro-press for the juice to be extracted.  The Hydro-press works on the principle of a large interior rubber bladder with all the fruit around it and a filtering net between the fruit and the perforated  outer metal sleeve.  As the bladder fills with water the fruit is pushed against the net and the juice flows through the holes in the sleeve, down into the moat and out the spout into a bucket.  It is clear and clean and works surprisingly quickly.

Here the fruit is loaded in all around the bladder. Then the liner is brought up and over,  the lid put on and bolted down, and the water turned on into the bladder.  In just a matter of minutes the juice begins to flow.

     We got about 90 litres of juice after all the pressing was finished. The  residual pulp of the rhubarb was squeezed almost dry inside the press. It could be lifted out and was something like squares of  a felt blanket. You can see the space between it and the bladder in the picture below. 

     Now some of the juice was ready to be made into rhubarb jelly so it was put aside in the cooler.  Sugar was added to the rest  and then it was boiled at lightening speed  in the 300 litre cooker in the dairy.  A very small amount of Atamon, a preservative, goes into the sweetened boiled juice, and  voila!  You have saft syrup - ready to bottle.  The cooker has a motorized tilt mechanisn  for easy pouring of the hot liquid and super easy cleanup afterward. 

Reconstituted at a ratio of one part saft syrup to six parts water, we will have more than enough of this refreshing beverage to last us through the winter and into the warm days of outside work in the fields during the upcoming Spring, Summer and Fall. 
     Rhubarb, lingon, and red currant saft are served with meals. Black currant saft is served with desserts in the evening or on special occasions.  Saftsås, a fruity dessert sauce that is poured over custards or puddings is also made from the saft syrup thickened with potatismjöl (potato flour).  It is just delicious.  And finally, the cloudberries, lingon, gooseberries and blueberries can be individually quick frozen for use in pies, muffins and other desserts or made into sylt and eaten on pancakes, hot cereals or with bread and cheese.

Here are some of the "fruits" of our labors, clockwise from center back... a brown glass storage bottle of red currant saft syrup, (all saft syrups are preserved in these bottles),  a pitcher of reconstituted rhubarb saft (it is actually a beautiful light pink when it is first bottled then changes with time to a golden beige color), red currant jelly, wild blueberry muffins, cloudberry sylt, and reconstituted black currant saft.  In the middle is lingonsylt in a two litre crock which is used on our breakfast porridge each day.
"From Bush to Bottle" has been so much fun this year!