Feb 22, 2010

Solving Problems - 121

...a few of the problems of farm life and their solutions...

Every day at Eden 121 we face a variety of problems on the farm.  That is one aspect of  farm life that can make it interesting AND challenging  at the same time.

Here are some examples of  normal, day-to-day, and also some abnormal and NOT  (thank heavens..) day to day situations that come up and how we have solved them.

The Problem:
     In the milk room we had to find a way to stop the water and milk that splashed onto the door frame leading into the adjacent unheated haybarn.  The moisture would  freeze and thaw, rotting the wood frame all the way through.
The Solution: 
      As simple as putting up a shower curtain (the doorway is behind it) so that when the splashing came - see the black lateral pipe under the big glass globe and the hose that leads from it? - that's where the splashing came from - it never hit the door frame,  just the shower curtain.  SO SIMPLE!

The Problem:
         Look very carefully at the tiny piece of black tail sticking out from behind the bottom of the barn door in the left picture. That tail belongs to Strima, our black barn cat, one member of the team of Strima and Missan-Bindi, the two cats on the farm.  She can open the main barn door by herself in the winter because the ice stops the upper hook from staying closed.  Then she and her cohort in crime sneak into the barn, hide in the billows of hay until we are gone and contaminate the hay, making the cows sick.  (Bad cats - lucky we love them...).

The Solution:
     Gustav bent a piece of metal and made an extender hook that fits through the permanent hook and makes it possible to keep the ice-laden door closed until we are finished in the barn.  Also simple, but BRILLIANT!

The Problem:

          "City Slickers" like me did not grow up learning to walk on uneven surfaces.  On the farm there are so many slippery and uneven places that within a six month period of time I broke BOTH arms! (Overnight my "good arm" became my "bad arm" and vice versa...).  The break on the right arm required a titanium plate (shown above in the X-ray) and yes, those are titanium pins traversing the bone.

The Solution: 
     Hans took my farm boots down to "Däckservice", the tire store and auto repair shop in the village,  and had Ulf, the resident Auto-Guru stud them just like a tire...NO MORE SLIPPING!

The Problem:
Örnsköldsvik Airport
Hans, the nature lover, has had a lifetime of travelling back and forth around the globe and home again.  He HATES airports.  When he is away teaching other doctors and caring for patients the part that is the hardest for him is the air travel. The Örnsköldsvik Airport, about an hour and a half from us, was beginning to feel like a second home.
The Solution:
We listed Gustav's outgrown Kawasaki on the Blocket (Sweden´s version of Ebay),  sold it in a hot second for a wonderful price, and on the same Blocket found this one-owner  1977 Volvo sedan in a village called Näsåker, only 25 minutes away from us.  Terrific!  It is like new, was never driven in the winter, had incredibly low mileage, and made it possible for Hans to take our family car with the CD player etc., and drive through his beloved forests to his assignments. And we had a reliable car here on the farm for our everyday needs and to get us to church and back every Sunday.  NO MORE AIRPORTS FOR PAPA!

As a sidenote -
The only possible drawback of this miracle vehicle was that,  in the interest of safety, as was customary in 1977, whenever you got into the car there was a weight-activated,  foghorn-like buzzer that would sound constantly until all seatbelts were fastened.  It was so loud it would split your head open.  We were pretty sick of it and the instant pressure it created to snap the seatbelt into it's sometimes-hard-to-find receptacle.
Gustav had hurt his behind in a sports accident a few days before and was being careful not to sit down too hard for fear of the pain.  So when I picked him up at the schoolbus one evening and he got into the new Volvo by supporting his weight on his heels and suspending himself above the front passenger's seat, I thought it was in deference to his tender bottom.  But no, he had discovered that by raising and lowering his trunk and barely touching the passenger's seat, he could "buzz out" a tune using his behind with the seat belt signal.  I have pleaded with him to allow me to make a video clip of him doing it for this blog, but he has declined....something about his reputation or something.....

And finally-
The Problem:

When Hans and I met and married three years ago we both knew it was the right decision.  We loved each other and were excited to be together.  We are both strong-willed people with definite opinions.  Perhaps that is why we have each survived some of life's greatest challenges.  But as we entered into this partnership, the changes in both our lives were enormous. With a new relationship, a blended family of 17 children and 24 grandchildren between us,  a new home and country and language for me, teenagers to raise and a farm to run,

there were bound to be stresses...

The Solution: 
     This post started with a picture of the kitchen sofa in the morning.  Below is a picture of the same sofa taken in the afternoon, with the light streaming through from a surprisingly far away window.

          Whenever there is a disagreement or a difference of opinion.. 
Whenever feelings are hurt or misunderstandings occur..
Whenever we feel far apart and it seems like it would be so much easier to just withdraw..
One of us always says: 

"We need to go to the kitchen sofa for a minute"

and we do. 

 It is not particularly comfortable.  The seat is hard even with the pad and the sheepskins from our own sheep on it.  The pillows are thick but not particularly soft.  No matter what throw is there, it is always too short.

But it works every time.
It is The Solution because it represents a willingness to see the problem in a new light - re-setting it in the context of gospel principles, to talk and understand, to forgive and try again, and most of all, to remember what is the most important part of all of this - our love for each other and the amazing joy we feel in our life together.

Problem solved!

Feb 19, 2010

Dear Readers,
(a few words from Nainy...)

Thank you so much for all your kind comments, e-mails and letters regarding this blog.  At the outset it was essentially  a labor of love for our family members and loved ones far away, but it has been a  pleasant surprise to find it has gained a greater following than could ever have been imagined.  It  brings a lot of happiness to know that it is of interest to so many.

I love to do it, and hopefully am learning and improving with each new post...thanks to excellent suggestions, tutorials, and input from family and friends, AND a generous gift of a NEW CAMERA from one of our daughters - 12 megapixels instead of 3!

(Gee, do you think the pictures will be better....?)

When the blog was started last Fall I decided to write in the third person so that each member of our family could participate freely.  But the suggestion has been made that since I am the one who writes the blog (with input from all the family members and help with other responsibilities to make it possible time-wise), that it would be more true-to-life to write it as myself. 

From now on, I will be writing it in the first person.

  You have asked for posts that specifically include my own and my family's personal feelings about various aspects of living on the farm and our way of life here every day.  I am willing to try that.

Thank you for your warm responses and support for our blog. We're, oh wait,  I'M so glad you like it.


Feb 16, 2010



On the farm we make cheese.  Such a simple statement for such a complex and sensitive  process. Nainy and the boys take the main responsibility for the care of the animals and the barn work in producing the milk, and...
Papa makes the cheese.
When Eden was a thriving farming village, in the 50's, 60's, and 70's,
the average farm had five to eight cows.  Selling the milk at six crowns per liter (a little under a dollar at today's exchange rate) was enough to support the entire family comfortably.  Those were 1950's-1970's dollars...they bought a great deal more than a dollar today.
Now the price for milk is 2.4 crowns per liter, (a paltry $0.42 in today's dollars) and to add to the difficulty, the cost for feed, vitamins and minerals for the cows, electricity, machinery, diesel, and of course labor, has skyrocketed.

However,  if you turn your milk into cheese, the whole picture changes.
Your ability to sell your product at a reasonable profit
becomes a reality.  But cheesemaking requires skill, technical know-how, signifcant amounts of time and a LOT of work. 

For the last four years Papa has worked hard to perfect the wholemilk cheeses that we call Edhe Vit (ee-duh--veet) - a white dessert cheese that is delicious with fruit, Edhe Blå (ee-duh--blo) - a creamy blue cheese, and Edhe Guld (ee-duh--goold) - a smooth gouda type with a full-bodied taste rarely found in a cheese that is served everyday. He also  makes the Gammalost which is a skimmilk cheese, the by-product of which is homemade butter, utilizing the cream that is separated out in the process. 

Both Edhe Vit and Edhe Blå are self-pressing cheeses.  Once out of the forms the curd is stable and ready to be "sealed" on the surface with a knife. They then need only to be stored, turned consistently, and in the case of the Edhe Blå - pierced to let in the oxygen that results in the veining.  If you look closely at the picture  of the two whole Edhe Blå cheeses directly under the heading of this post you can see the pierce marks.  After that, their care is minimal as long as the temperature in the storage room is maintained correctly.

But the Edhe Guld (our most popular variety) is a different story....
It must be pressed on the stainless steel pressing table, salted in brine, then turned,  stored and worst of all, washed with a saline/linens (bacterial)  solution DAILY until the rind forms.  It is a long, time-consuming and meticulous process. 
When our daughter Kezia was visiting she worked in the dairy with Manny on the Edhe Guld and other cheeses.

                                                          The Edhe Guld is stored on plastic racks in the cheese maturing room  after it is pressed.  Manny is wheeling out the multi-layered racks and he and Kezia position them in the washing area of the dairy.  All the washing cloths must be boiled ahead of time for sterility then they are used to wash each cheese individually on all surfaces before the cheeses  are stacked up again by the guy with the muscles and go back into the storage rooms to mature.

These two were a great team!  Kezia loved learning from Manny,
and only a few day later, when Manny was sick, Kezia was able to go out to the dairy and do the whole process by herself - smarty pants!

When the maturing is done and the cheeses are ready to eat, they are cut and wrapped. 

The Final Products! 
 From left to right:
Edhe Vit, Edhe Blå, Edhe Guld


We are still learning...we know there is some tweaking to do on some of the varieties...we need another storage room, and that costs money...but
our cheeses are delicious!

Even Master Cheese Makers from Sweden's finest are raving about them (not to mention our customers and merchandisers).
Papa has done a superb job, and at the end of the day it's thrilling for us to look at the beautiful results of our efforts and...

Say Cheese!

Feb 12, 2010

Our "Warmest Friend"

One of the unique features of living on the farm is cooking on and in the woodstove in the kitchen of the main house.  Although we are still working on the finishing of the room, (the wood floor has to be removed and reset, the walls papered and ceiling painted, the cabinets finished, etc.), it is still the coziest place to be on a cold winter's day. 

Lighting the stove is the first task to be done in the morning.  The surface must be scrubbed thoroughly  with a metal pad, then rinsed and wiped clean with a coarse linen cloth before the fire is built inside.
                                                                                                                                                             The ashes from the previous day are scraped out and dumped into the ash bucket to be carried outside to the ash heap behind the haybarn.
                                      Then 1,2, goes the crumpled paper, pieces of bark and small wood slivers, and finally logs graduating from small to large. 

Strike the match!

It burns and heats up while we are out in the barn so that when we come in again the cooking can begin immediately. That really matters because it is a tight schedule to get the breakfast prepared and on the table, the morning devotional of hymn singing, prayer, and scripture reading accomplished without rushing and Gustav off to the school bus in Junsele by 6:50 A.M.
Not an easy task....

When Nainy first came to the farm she had never cooked on a wood stove before.  She had to learn from scratch.  There are no dials to click on/off to regulate the heat on the surface or in the oven...that has to be done by the amount of wood in the firebox and the flow of the draft under the fire...a skill  gained only by practice, trial & error, and  finally, experience.  Cast iron and stainless steel are the utensils of choice on the farm.  With the exception of well-seasoned cast iron, there is NO non-stick anything on the farm.

At the beginning, there were a few "burn-o's" like this one accompanied by a fair amount of frustration, disappointment and occasionally even tears.  It was hard for her to have  failures when she had been used to cooking and baking well with such ease using an electric or gas cooktop and oven.
She told us later that one day, when things had been especially trying, she  wanted to stand in the middle of the kitchen and scream:

Could we please just get a normal stove?!!

But with time all that has changed...and here are a few examples:

Fruity yeast rolls, pineapple upside down cake,

Swedish pancake breakfast with bacon and eggs, Thanksgiving turkey,

The ingredients and final prep work for our traditional Sunday dinner of  oven roast covered with fresh herbs and fresh vegetables in cast iron, and spuds ready to be boiled in stainless steel and turned into "potato mash" as it is called in Sweden,

and, of course,  breads of every kind fresh from the stone-lined wood oven.  These are sunflower wheat, country french and sourdough rye, all made in the woodstove.

It's official:

We love our woodstove.
We love the warmth and cozy feeling it brings into our home from September to May each year.
Nainy loves the challenge and joy of making beautiful food for our family in it.

We wouldn't trade it for the world!

Feb 6, 2010

 NO, NO, NO.... YES!

No Smoking!

No Drinking!

    With Manny leaving soon for his mission, our work force on the farm was going to need some "beefing up".
But in this remote area of northern Sweden how could we find someone who was willing to meet our strict criteria of: 

1.  No Smoking
2.  No Drinking 
                                        3.  No Drugs   
It seemed unlikely, maybe even impossible.

 Hans decided  to do some looking around.  He felt that we should put out the feelers through friends, church leaders, and government programs to see if we could attract  young couples who had a real interest in farming and were willing to abide by the standards we had set.  And in just ONE DAY, we did!


This cute little family was the first to apply. 

     Robin, 22 and a city boy, went to the high school for those who would like to become farmers and completed his education on that track.  He was classroom trained in all aspects of farm life.  His wife, Nettan,  20, was raised on a farm, and attended the same high school doing Animal Husbandry.  They met and fell in love and live about an hour from our farm with their first little baby son,  Theo, who is three months old.
     Their mentor, a wonderful man named Madjid, himself an immigrant to Sweden from Iran,  matches up prospective employers with young people who are finished with their formal education and looking to gain the experience they need to start their careers.  We were so impressed with Madjid's professional abilities, but more importantly, it was evident from the beginning that Madjid had a deep desire to assist those he works with. 
They drove up one morning for the initial meeting, tour of the farm, and discussion of the project. 
We were excited...and a little nervous...

This was a new venture for us.  We wanted to do it right.  We wanted it to be good for all concerned.  We wanted those who love this way of living as much as we do and value the beauty and fulfillment of farm life. We wanted someone who is a "good fit" and has a desire to learn.  And after the tour and the talk and the fika....

It  felt like it went... really well.

So in a few days Robin, Nettan and baby Theo will arrive on the farm to  start a four to five day trial period.  Then we will sit down together again and evaluate how it went for each of us.  If we all feel good about it, the next trial period of two weeks to a month will begin in February followed by another evaluation.  In the meantime... 

     Stay tuned.