Apr 30, 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice

With the calves coming on thick and fast we had to have another "Play Group" stall in the young animal barn to corral them for bottle feeding (eight to a stall is about the limit).  We already had several mellankalvar (teenage heifers born last year) occupying the only available place. They would be going out to pasture with the young bull for breeding when it was warmer, but for now they had to be in a sheltered spot. So Papa had the idea to borrow some metal gates from Arne Ericsson, a friend in another village, and make a two-chamber area out in the new haybarn - one part for the young bull and ram and the other part for the mellankalvar until it was time for them to go out into the field.
He talked to Arne who was so generous and willing to lend his equipment. A time was arranged for us to go and pick up the 8-10 gates we would need.   We attached the large tractor wagon to the tractor and were on our way.

At Ericsson's, about forty minutes from us by tractor, Gustav was "Mr. Muscle" getting all ten metal gates loaded up
 (at about 45 kilos - 90 lbs. - each) and strapped down.  He headed home and I followed for part of the distance in the car to make sure all was as it should be.
Of course the tractor was much slower at 30 kilometers per hour than the car, so I made it into Junsele ahead of time. 
I saw the clock as I entered the village - it was 2:45 P.M. -  and
I had an idea.

We had been so pressed for time with the long days of calfing that even the supply of baked goods I had made ahead and put in the freezer was depleted.  I knew it would be a trick to get the gates home, to form the enclosure, do the barn chores, and get into the house and eat even a regular dinner before bedtime.
  At the end of each day on the farm, it is the tradition to sit together with a snack or dessert of some kind and relax as a family.  I hoped there would be something at the bakery that would meet that need on such a busy day for us.

They were just getting ready to close and had these four "bakelser" left.  They looked like something Gustav would love.
I hurried out of the bakery -
10 minutes to 3:00 - and then something caught my eye. 

On the sidewalk,  just a few doors away from the bakery, in front of the building supply store, was this sandwich-board sign.
It advertised a Flea Market sale going on until 3:00 o'clock that very afternoon only one short block away at The Forum, the Community Center in Junsele.
What luck! 
Flea Markets in Sweden are second to none.  The culture that says you must take good care of everything you own, produces well-kept articles that often make it to an auction or a  "Loppis" sale somewhere when the owner passes away.  On more than one occasion for me, that has meant several fabulous items for very little money. 
"Loppis" very quickly became one of my favorite Swedish words.

 I had been into The Forum once before when there was a school program for the parents to attend, so I knew just where it was.  And since the sale was only open until 3:00 o'clock, if I was quick, I could run in, browse the tables, zero in on any fabulous treasure(s) I was sure would be there, and be home in time to meet Gustav with the gates and help him unload.  Again, it was...
I wish I had a picture of the two ladies who were sitting at a table just inside the door as I rushed in. 
I said breathlessly, "Am I too late?" and the older of the two said,
"Oh no, Dear!  You're right on time!"
( could I be "right on time" when there were only 7 or 8 minutes left until it closed at 3:00 o'clock?)
"And it will be 50Kr to get in."
(Strange again...why would they charge to get into a Loppis?)
"And THIS LADY (pointing very importantly to the woman next to her),
(Strange for the third time...why would there be a pianist at the Loppis?
It must be for charity...and they are maybe trying to make it especially pleasant by having someone playing soft music in the background while people browse...that's kind of nice....)
"Would you like to buy one of our CD's? It's all Swedish folk music and only 150 Kr".

(Well, that clinches it.. it IS a charity event of some kind and this is the fund raiser.)
Of course I bought the CD.

With my Swedish folk music in hand, I was directed downstairs.
 I would really have to hurry to get a look at what they had at the Loppis.  I hoped they wouldn't be packing up already.

The pianist had gone somewhere a few minutes before, probably to close up her things I supposed, since the sale must be coming to an end.  I comforted myself in the knowledge that of course they would let me take a run through since I had already paid, and even purchased the CD.
(Interesting, I don't remember another room downstairs in the Forum, just the auditorium part...there must be another door I didn't notice where they're having the Loppis.)

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I looked around for 'another door'.
There wasn't one.
So I stepped inside the auditorium doorway, only to be greeted by two lovely gentlemen and the pianist who were standing together.
"Välkommen! Välkommen! - We are SO glad you're here!"
Completely confused, I smiled at them all, scanned the auditorium and saw that it was empty except for the stage area which held an enormous polished grand piano and several short rows of chairs, 9 or 10 of which were occupied by octogenarians.  Every last one of them was staring at me as I stood frozen in the doorway. 
There was nothing I could do.
(The interior of The Forum - red seats and all.  I was sitting on the right hand end of the third row back. The grand piano was stage left and the rows of chairs were center stage.)
 I decided I would just sit down quietly at the end of one of the rows of red velvet seats in the floor section, then when the lights dimmed for whatever was going to happen on stage, I could slip out. 
Good plan.
My stomach was in a knot thinking of Gustav making his way home and me not being there to help him.

When I woke up early that morning I had the distinct feeling that something wonderful was going to happen to me that day.
This didn't seem to be it.
And my "plan" was about to be foiled completely.

As I took my seat in the red velvet chair, the pianist appeared on stage to polite applause.  Bowing slightly and ready to start her presentation, she happened to glance in my direction and seeing me sitting there, hesitated, then walked across the stage until she was within shouting distance and called to me
with incredible kindness:
"Oh no dear, don't sit down there all by yourself.  Please come up on stage and be with the group."  
The stage was lit up like a hockey rink between periods...
Again - no choice but to comply. 
 Anything else would have been disgustingly rude. 
 I gave up.

What happened next,( after I took my seat on stage), was truly 

The "Pianist" was Dutch-born Gerdien Sahlin, who with her husband Salmo Sahlin, also a gifted pianist, had contracted years ago with the Västernorrland Music Society", through the Swedish government, to take classical music to all the small villages in this area.  Her husband had been killed in a tragic car accident in 2005, but, with her children raised, she decided to continue on and to fulfill all their obligations on her own. 
Very brave.
Dressed in my farm clothes and knee-high rubber boots, I was inadvertently attending a Community Concert celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin.  It was the story of his life interspersed with renditions of some of his most memorable compositions,  and..
It was beautiful.
Her playing was exquisite, the music was beyond description, moving me to tears several times.  I found myself feeling sorry that there were not more people there to hear it in all its loveliness. 
The knot in my stomach began to untie.
It was, in fact, the wonderful thing that I thought was going to happen to me that day and it lasted only 45 minutes total.

I did make it home in time. Gustav had only been there a few minutes and we unloaded all the gates.
The two-chamber enclosure went up much more quickly than we would have anticipated.

 Fashioning a halter of sorts from three strips of baling twine that I braided together and Gustav slip-knotted appropriately, we "convinced" the mellankalvar to move into their new digs, despite their protestations.
Gustav provided the stamina, fortitude, and pulling.
 I provided the verbal encouragement...
"Come on Honey!  You can do it!  No, no, not back into the barn...the other the NEW hay barn!  You're gonna LOVE your new apartment! There's a REALLY cute boy bull next door."
And they did.

It was quite a day.  The "treasures" that I thought would be found at the Loppis (which had been held UPSTAIRS in the Forum, not dowstairs,) were found instead in a different way. 
At the end of the day we had the security of knowing the animals were all safely housed and we would be able to provide for the baby calves comfortably in another stall, thanks to the generosity of a good friend.
I was reminded again of Gustav's goodness and his willingness to do his part and more in the upkeep of the farm as we work together.
The inspiring beauty of the music of Chopin came alive, brought me great happiness, and  deepened my appreciation for the gifts and talents others have and are so willing to share.

It was a Better Laid Plan than we
ever could have known.

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