Nov 22, 2010

"Hej Då!!"
(Swedish for "Good-Bye")

This past summer flew by faster than any we could remember.
Before we knew it Maxie's Dad, Kenneth, was coming to pick him up and take him back home again to get ready for the start of school.

While Hans and Kenneth talked about antiques, Maxie and Gustav reminisced about the fun times they had had together.....
 being showered with the pumphouse hose,
 wrestling by the red currants,

"netting up" from head to toe (literally) with the casings from the bluenet coverings that keep the birds off the berry bushes,
 and the day "on town" shopping for Gustav's new suit.

 Maxie spent his days working hard and learning so much:

feeding the animals and "doing the barn", creating his famous salad plates,

helping with all the farm implements,  learning to drive the tractor,

 haying and weeding,

and reading the manual for the new lawn tractor.

He was a great eater, had beautiful table manners, and loved ALL the food,

especially the långfil with fresh strawberries and cornflakes for breakfast,

and the rhubarb kräm and chocolate cake at the end of the workday on the farm.

For more fun:

there was a day with Gustav at Paradisbadet (the gigantic waterslide in Örnsköldsvik) which was judged a fantastic success by the number of times the man in charge told the two of them to "settle down", 
and the complete exhaustion displayed on the ride home.

Then there were the endless battles with the bows and arrows that Gustav constructed for them both to shoot each other all over the farmyard!

"Where you have life you have death"
is a truth that Maxie also came to grips with during his time with us.
He had to say "Hej Då" in a way we never would have expected.

When Gustav was out in the field one day he noticed this little bull calf was not doing too well so he brought him into the small animal barn.

                                                          Maxie cleaned one of the stalls and put down fresh hay,
 filled up a bucket with fresh water and another with grain,
and put both fresh grass and older hay down.


When the calf seemed too weak to eat or drink, he fed it with a bottle every day and rested it's head gently on the feeding board he had set up.

No animal ever received more tender care than this baby calf was given by Maxie.  He sat with it in the small animal barn for hours on end making every effort for it's comfort.
The little 'fur baby' lived for nine days and then quietly slipped away.
Gustav helped Maxie to make a grave in a grassy glen over by the fägata and they lined it all with flowers before laying the small body in and covering it over.
There are times in life when knowing that you did all you could is the only thing that can bring peace, and this seemed to be one of those times for Maxie.
We admired his gentleness and devotion so much.
Having Maxie was a wonderful experience for all of us.
He added a dimension to our life on the farm that we didn't even know we were missing.
He brought out the very best in Gustav who gave his all to make the summer
one that a 12 year old city boy would always remember.
We hated to see him go.

Hej Då Maxie!

Nov 4, 2010

"Keeping It All in Shape"

One of the surest signs of summer on the farm is the emergence of the
Volvo Duett from it's winter hibernation in the 'Duett garage' down by the new haybarn.
Manufactured in the year 1968, this sturdy work vehicle just goes and goes and goes and goes.
When it's time for repairing the fences or trimming the ditches on our property around the village, the Duett, with it's no-nonsense roof rack and open cavity back, is indispensable for both transportation and hauling tools and  implements.

Mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming, mowing and trimming.
No wonder one of the girls told me once that she even dreamed about more effective ways of trimming!
We kept track last year and just those two activities in the month of July and into the first week of August ate up over 260 man hours!

But it has to be done.

In this climate if the ditches and other areas aren't kept clear, before you know it small saplings shoot up and the forest has encroached. 
You can see vast areas, once open fields,  that in just a few years have become studded with full-sized birch trees.

And since everything grows so fast, the grass has to be mowed twice as often.
The boys were busy every day keeping it up!

For both the land and the equipment,
Maintenance is a must.

With the hay season over, the big vacuum had to be dismantled and taken down.  We were so appreciative when the missionaries volunteered to give us yet another service day and help us get it done.

Elder McRorie and Elder Rice were up the ladder in no time.

Because the pipes are heavy as well as cumbersome, they must be stabilized first.  Elder McRorie was the 'man of the hour' with his great height as an asset.  He had the prop up fast, then the sections could be taken apart.

Pappa provided the tractor and loader and Gustav provided the directions as each piece came down.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5...


 And next on the maintenance list....

While the elders attacked the strawberries, Gustav and Maxie addressed a problem with the Betesputs machine that is used for topping off the grazing fields if the grass gets too high.  The protection plates needed some "de-gunking"  so while Gustav assessed and did the initial scraping, Maxie built a stand out of woodchunks to put it up on.
Between the two of them they got it cleared and functioning again.

And finally....before food time:

The two older rows of strawberries within the kitchen garden had to be flanked with a barrier of thick straw to protect the new berries from molding on the wet ground.

Like most days in the summer,
It was a FULL day.

To end it, we had prepared a wonderful dinner for the missionaries so they could eat before they had to head back to Örnsköldsvik.
They had been so kind and had worked so hard, we wanted it to be especially nice for them. 

 We had roast beef and gravy, and mashed potatoes and peas - all produced here on the farm.  We had homemade bread and fresh creamery butter made in our own dairy and formed  in a special wooden antique mold.
We went the extra mile with pleasure to show them how much we appreciated their service and help.

For the salad we were in great shape!
Our radishes were terrific and we even had early carrots. 
I ran out and picked a bunch of all the fun lettuces I had planted at the start of the season.  The colors were so bright and our green onions gave  the plate a final little zip.

We were ready to eat.

Not too long ago someone asked us if our life on the farm could possibly be as perfect as it seems?

Here is proof positive that we are living with the foibles of mortality, just like everyone else.  
We had had an unusually rainy summer.  Because of that when I brought in the lettuces that day, as well as the other garden produce, I took special care to wash all of it very thoroughly.  I didn't want any grit or dirt to spoil our eating experience.

I may as well have saved myself the trouble.
As we sat around the table after a good day of work,  feeling so satisfied at what had been accomplished...feeling like we were "on top of it", that we really had it all "snapped together"..... riding the crest of the wave against all odds and really "keeping up" with the demands of the farm.....

To my complete horror:

crawled off a lettuce leaf on Elder McRorie's salad, across the edge of the plate and down onto the table.
Gustav could only point at it, speechless.
Hans and Elder Rice just stared. 
Elder McRorie said, "Oh no, no, it's fine, I can still eat it"
(the salad, not the worm,)
And when I snapped out of my shock, I jumped up quickly 
to take the salad away.

 Before I could,
that intrepid WORM stopped,
looked around,
and headed back for the salad.

Lithe, slippery, slinky and green,
perhaps HE was in the

Best Shape of All!

Nov 3, 2010


Manny and Gustav putting up the Midsommar Maypole last year.

Towards the end of June is the Midsommar holiday in Sweden.
The actual date changes each year but it is always a weekend close to the Summer Equinox around the 20th of June.
By that time we are into the 'May-through-August' 24-hour daylight period.

Outside at the ICA parking lot it is a hub of activity,
and inside, with all the visitors from other parts of Europe, the lines go from the cashier all the way to the back of the store.

For the first time, this young man (who had just taken over the family business from his father), brought his van all the way from Gideå on the other side of Örnsköldsvik to sell his smoked fish, sausages, turkey breast and other specialty meats, including "Renkorvar" (reindeer sausages).
Between the locals and the tourists he did a bang-up business!

There's an outdoor dance, 

and Classic Car enthusiasts from far and wide gather in the fields outside the village to show off their "wheels" and chat it up with other Auto Aficionados. This couple even brought their pull-behind Classic Trailer with them.

But perhaps the best of all was this "Classic".....
complete with foliage, flags AND bulletholes!

All over Sweden people dance around the Maypole and like this picture taken a few years ago of our beautiful daughter Louise, dress in the traditional costumes from the region where they live.             Ours is Ångermanland.

It's a time for families and fun and signals the beginning of the five week holiday season thoughout the entire country.

We all have fond memories of summer festivities linked with food.  Hot dogs and hamburgers, Sloppy Joes and barbequed chicken, potato salad and ice cream cones... you name it.

Midsommar in Sweden is no different in that respect, but the authentic foods associated with it tell much more of a story of the change of season and life on the farm that was so common only a few generations back.
(Hang on to your fork!)

Pickled herring (matjessill) a food item that every Swedish home has as a staple, new potatoes (ny potatis) just out of the ground in the early summer, sour cream (gräddfil) from the milk cows,  and chives (grässlök) the first perennial herb to peek through after the long winter, is the traditional meal for this celebration.
(Ready to give up your will to live?  Take heart...)

The dessert of choice is always strawberries that come fairly early in southern Sweden, and their most common usage is in a soft and luscious cake filled with berries and mountains of whipped cream.

We loved it a few years ago at Midsommar when the strawberries in our garden came on much earlier than usual since we are this far north,  and we had a granddaughter Kiki (on the left), and a daughter Hedda (on the right), in the kitchen constructing their masterpiece. 
It was delicious...
and the only thing prettier than the cake was the girls!

This year our Midsommar was kind of a relaxed, quiet time at home on the farm. 
 Manny is in Latvia on his mission, the older girls and Oskar are at school or working and so many of our children and grandchildren are living far away in various parts of Sweden, the U.S. and Canada.

We are half a world away and we miss them terribly.
 We were so glad we had Maxie and Gustav, laying around for a few minutes on the kitchen sofa during the holiday weekend,
reading a farm machinery manual together.
 (How appropriate!) 
Between the two of them this year,
they made for some

Very Sweet Memories.