Sep 28, 2010

"Between the Hägg and the Syren"
Part II
Yes...they are reindeer!
You can see how green everything had gotten only one week after the blooming of the Hägg tree.  These furry guys suddenly found themselves down in the middle of the village instead of deep in the forest, but there was such a banquet of tender, delicious, grass springing up in the ditches that they took a minute to munch!
Quite a change of scene...

There were some changes happening on the farm-front as well.
Months ago, while the winter snows were still whirling in the air outside, we were woodstove-warm inside, counseling together as a family around the kitchen table. 
We knew we needed to have all our equipment for the farm work functional and dependable.  Because there is such an emphasis on proper maintenance (thanks to Pappa), our largest tractor was in excellent condition, but getting older.  We are in an area where servicing of vehicles is not always readily available should a problem occur. And if the tractor breaks down you are in real trouble on the farm.
Pappa did some calling around to determine what a fair market value might be for our old one, and was pleasantly surprised. 
With that information we decided to list it  for sale on Blocket 
 (a buying/selling site thoughout Sweden).
It had hardly hit the auction list when the calls started pouring in. 
Such a high level of immediate interest gave us the confidence to take the leap and order a new one that would give us the security of warranty coverage. It is understood here in Sweden that when you are dealing with an item on the Blocket you can ask to have it "reserved" until you make a decision - usually within a day or two.  Other callers are told that it is reserved and will always call back and check to see if the sale went through. 
This three-generation group were the first in line and were able to complete very quickly.  The Farfar (father's father), the Pappa and the Son all arrived to pick up their purchase.  They were THRILLED with it, it was perfect for their needs and they knew the price was reasonable considering the excellent condition and low hours of use.  In fact, if you look at the Grandpa, when we snapped the picture he was saying "Oy-Yoy-Yoy" in delight at the acquisition of the tractor.

And the very next day....

Pappa and I drove to Örnsköldsvik to the Lantmännen Maskin (tractor sales) to do the inspection of our new one. First was the general look-over and then came the 'up close and personal' part.
It seemed like it was going to work for us and WE were thrilled with our purchase as well.  A well-timed sales campaign in a slumped economy made the difference between what we got for our old one and what we paid for the new one smaller than we ever could have imagined.
Such a blessing.
We watched while they loaded it up and headed for Eden 121!

With that accomplished it was time for the serious business of:
'Getting the dung out'.
(Warning! parents strongly cautioned..)
  When I think of some of the aspects of farm life that have been an adjustment for me, this item would be near the top of the list. 
 I grasp the underlying logic, comprehend the rotational value of natural processes, admire the elements of stewardship, but...
it is still an enormous pile of dung!
It is a winter's worth from all the animals.
That is actually our good neighbor, Bo Anders Henriksson, who will be celebrating his 80th birthday soon, using the fork on his tractor to load the dung onto the spreader. He comes like clockwork to help us every year  which makes it possible to do in a few days what used to take a full week.
Once the dung is spread on the fields they can be harrowed (that's Gustav out there in the far left of the picture harrowing with the small tractor) and then they are ready to be seeded (those are the bags of seeds to the right below, all ordered and ready).  The growing grönfoder (green stuff) will provide food for the animals during the coming months. 

It's a big job, but not without it's moments of relaxation.
When I brought out this fika of pepper-beef sandwiches on knäckebröd, cheese-veggie sandwiches on homemade rye, sugared fruit buns, lemon bars, chocolate squares and red currant and rhubarb saft (fruit drinks), Bo surveyed the tray and said something I didn't understand in Swedish.
I asked Gustav what it was and he said,
We all had a good laugh over that.  I thought I was just doing what was expected but they thought it was Deluxe-O.
(the boys say it's the American in me..)
                                                         They ate, Gustav snuck a little snooze, then they went back to work and  finished up.
Last of all, the spreader had to be power-washed to remove any vestiges of dung which corrodes the metal.  Then it is put away "under roof" as they say, to keep it rust-free and ready to use again next year.

Before starting Part II of this post I read over the first installment.  I was surprised at the feeling of pressure/anxiety that was there even now, months later.  By the time we got to the point described in this post, I was
 feeling better, not so overwhelmed at the magnitude of what had to be done in such a short period of time. 
We were handling it well and there was a light at the end of the tunnel.                       
And we had our first bloom on the iris!
Now the only Big Job left was the garden.

Sep 21, 2010

"Between the Hägg and the Syren"
Part I

Our Hägg tree between the källarboden and the lillstuga, just starting to bloom.

Spring is such a beautiful season in the village of Eden,
and it seems to come overnight,
dispelling all the darkness and frigid temperatures of winter
in a surprisingly short time.

We go from snowpatches sliding off the roofs of the farm buildings...

to mini-lakes in the driveways and by the sides of the road...

to 'Quick! It's time to clean up the garden!'...

In a little under two weeks!

I am always amazed at how fast it happens.
Hans says that when the frost finally thaws in the ground it is like someone has pulled the plug in the bathtub...
and he is right!

This year I kept a record and our Hägg tree bloomed
during the first week in June.
You could smell the sweet scent of it the minute you opened the door, even before the flowers appeared.

It was so wonderful to run out and cut an armfull for the kitchen table.

The perfume filled the whole house.

There is a tradition in this area of Sweden 
that sometimes feels almost like a command.
With the older people it is inviolate, and there is a good reason for that...
because it is TRUE.
They say:
"Everything must be in the ground between the Hägg and the Syren."
That means that all planting and seeding must be accomplished between the first blooms of the Hägg (Bird Cherry) tree and the blooming of the Syren (Lilac bush).

For us as a family this year, "everything" included much more than just planting and seeding.  As you read through this post you will see many other tasks that had to be completed during the same time period. 
I will freely admit that there were more than a few moments when it seemed,
in a word, 

But it had to be done,
and here is the list:

Clean up, fertilize and till the kitchen garden.
 (15m X 30m - roughly 45' X 90')
Remove all the old weeds from last Fall and any winter debris, spread it with dung from the dung heap and get it tilled in and raked smooth.

These iris, lily and peony plants were brought from the ancestral home of a family friend in the very northernmost area of Sweden and put into the ground at one end of our kitchen garden.  Of course the hope was that they would survive the transplanting process and eventually bloom.
Both the iris and lilies fulfilled that hope, but for three Springs we had watched in vain for any sign of flowering from the peonies. Before we could dung or till, we had to untangle all the plants from the clutches of last Fall's weeds, by hand, one step at a time.

The strawberry plants that are right next to them were slated to be plowed under but we decided to give them one more year so they also needed to be cleaned up and weeded.
With that done the rest of the garden was ready to be dunged and tilled. 

Prepare the hay barn for the new crop.

While I was working in the garden the boys were in the hay barn removing all the old hay that was left from last season and sweeping the entire place clean.  Before we knew it haying season would be upon us and we had to have the barn ready to receive the new hay for the coming winter.
These pictures show about half of the hay area in the barn, so it is a big job to clean it and haul out the residue.
Check the ventilation fan in the main barn to make sure it was working properly. 
When we did this we discovered that it WASN'T. 
That meant a trip to the village of Åsmon, about forty five minutes away where the small engine repair shop, MEAB, is located. 

Run by a father and son team who are incredibly expert at their craft, they had the fan up on the bench and looked over in a jiffy. They started right in on the repair.
I was reminded again how important it is to check and maintain every piece of equipment on the farm BEFORE there is a problem. 

Bring in all the sheep and shear each one.  

 Hans is the master in this department.  The animals love him and trust him.  Shearing them not only keeps them cleaner and more comfortable, it actually affects their metabolism as well. This was our first time to try out the new shearing table that we ordered and it worked like a charm.  No more wrestling them to the ground and trying to hold them still while they were being clipped.  Slick as a whistle.

  Put all the seed potatoes into slatted boxes by type and set the boxes by a sunny window for sprouting.
This is NOT the way it is usually done.
Normally, the seed potatoes are taken from the earthen cellar at the first of May and put into the boxes, then set in the carpentry, covered with old carpets to keep them dark.
With that method they are sprouted and ready to plant within three to four weeks.
But this year we were out of time.  We needed a 'quick fix', so we put them by a sunny window in the tank room, uncovered, where there was plenty of light and just the right temperature.

While we forged ahead with the other responsibilities on the list,
 these were warming up, and in one short week they were sprouting "eyes",   and ready to plant.
It wasn't optimal,

(..feeling overwhelmed yet?)
Take the yearly trip to Genbäck's Plantskola to get all the bedding plants, small vegetable sets and herbs.

Genbäck's is always a great experience.  In a small village called Åsele, about an hour away, it is run by a multi-generational family who have been there for close to eighty years.  We always get excellent products and service from them, but this year we got even more than usual.
As well as the normal veggies and flowers, one of the younger members of the Genbäck family, a girl in her late teens who was working in the greenhouse, showed us a beautiful young Hägg tree and a pallet full of thriving lilac bushes.
It was perfect timing for us.
Hans had marked a spot for a new Hägg closer to the main house a full year ago but that's as far as we got.  We had tried several times to get a man to come with his digger so we could divide some of the lilacs we already had on the farm and transplant them over to make a hedge along one of the fences, but our small job was so far down the priority list that it also just never happened.  We came home that day with the new Hägg and seven lilacs.  Gustav (great young man that he is), planted them all right up.

and finally for Part I:

Remove all the lights from the Advent tree, take it down and cut it up for firewood.

We had to wait for a dry, sunny day to do this one as it is slippery to try and balance in the scoop of the tractor.  But between Hans and Gustav they got'er  done!

To this point... 
we felt we were keeping up, but just barely.
The pressure was very real. 
We missed Manny more than ever at such a busy time, but also felt happy for his success and sterling accomplishments on his mission in Latvia.
We knew he was where he should be, doing what he should be doing.
And that was and is a great comfort.
Pappa always says,
"Do what is right, let the consequence follow".
So we did.

(Stay tuned for Part II)