Sep 8, 2012

(Summer 2011 - Part II)
 "Three to Get Ready"
From left to right: 
Gustav, Marien, Romain

Working separately or together, these three made it possible for us to complete projects on the farm that we had been trying to do for years.

  We needed a temporary storage room near the pack room
 for paper supplies, plastic bags, food items, saft bottles, etc.  These are all things that we use on a regular basis but we didn't have a convenient place to store them. 
We needed to solve a problem upstairs in the main barn
 where the pump for the milking machines is located. 
In the cold winter months it would sometimes freeze interfering with the milking of the dairy cows.   We needed a room up there with an insulated enclosure to prevent it from freezing.
We needed to clear the land where we graze our "mellankalvar" (teenager heifers) to protect the pasture against encroaching growth from birch trees and thick brush and bushes.

When we saw the capabilities of Marien and the willingness of Romain, we coupled them with the experience of Gustav and  had a winning combination. 

For the first project,  Marien and Romain sectioned off an area in the old machine hall where we park our cars, with a common wall to the pack room. They measured it all out then built a base for a floor and  framed up studs for the walls. Their work was precise and in just a few days the room took shape.  It was large enough for the storage we needed but still left us enough room to park the cars. 

When they finished it on one side, Gustav measured on the other side and he and Pappa  cut a doorway through from the pack room.  It worked perfectly and has been such a convenience for us.  No more running from one storage building to another for various items.  Everything is in one place and close to hand when we need it.

Next on the agenda was the freeze-proof enclosure that housed the machinery for the pumping mechanism in the main barn.
The trick here was that the location of that pump is
in the "nosebleed section" of the hay barn.
The picture above is of Gustav's feet standing on one of the rafters at the height where the building was to take place.

Again, they did it and they did it well.  Marien was impressive, doing the honors in cutting the boards to make the facing walls with a cavity for insulation.  A doorway was constructed, a small "room" created and the wiring put in place.
It was a formidable undertaking to say the least, and we loved this picture of Romain in a rare moment of just sitting and thinking, contemplating the next step and what would be the best way to accomplish the goal.
An insulated enclosure around the pump within an insulated room. 
We've been through an icy, sub-zero winter since then and never had even one incident of the pump freezing.
It is  total heaven.
And what was next?
Clearing the pasture where the mellankalvar were grazing.

The three of them took the tractor out there and surveyed the situation. 

Heading deep into the underbrush they had a system where Marien cut, Romain dragged and Gustav hauled off.
It worked beautifully and soon a pile of debris  began to emerge. If you look closely at the right hand picture you can see the heifers all lying there keeping the workers company!
And what a result...acres cleared, ready to be gathered up and put in the burn pile for the Autumn cleanup.
This shot of Marien heading home with the chain saw, walking past the stumps of what used to be birch trees and bushes, says it all.
Yes, they did other things....everyday things around the farm:
they emptied the urine pit with Gustav, they worked in the garden with Blanca and Maxie,  and after days of picking and picking in the surrounding forests outside the village of Eden,

they worked tirelessly cleaning and packaging  blueberries. And with all that, Gustav spent hours organizing small hardware in the new wall system Pappa had installed in the workshop.
They helped us so much.
Because of their efforts  they made us
for the cold months that were ahead
in a way we had never been before.
And we loved them!

Sep 5, 2012

(Summer 2011 - Part I)
"The 'FAB FOUR' and a few more!" 
From front left clockwise around the table:
Maxie, Marien, Romain, Blanca, Gustav
We could never have known what lay in store for us last summer when we got these four to help us. 
Gustav was the in-house  leader for the farm work
and the others  pulled their weight above and beyond the call of duty. 
They brought with them such a happy  and cooperative spirit that
every day was fun, even though the work load was great.
Maxie was back for another summer and we were so happy to have this boy that we have come to love like he was our own son.  Each year he  learned more and more about farm life and each year it seemed like when he was with us he had always been here.   He had to leave a little early to meet with some of his relatives from Eastern Europe who had come to visit but while he was on the farm he was one busy guy! He and Blanca were always together, working on one assignment after another, and talking and laughing it up the whole time.

The day Marien arrived we were not home.  We drove in and all we saw was a huge motocycle with various pieces of clothing, boots, a helmet and other paraphernalia attached.  He had driven it all the way from his home in France.  When we found him down by the barn it only took a few minutes and we felt that this young man, with his quiet but incredibly self-assured manner, was going to make a huge difference in what we got accomplished during the summer.  We were right. 

If energy and enthusiasm could be bottled and sold Romain would be a billionaire.  An elementary school teacher originally from Corsica, he was ready and willing to try anything. We joked that if Napoleon could have had Romain with him there  would have been a vastly different outcome at  Waterloo.  Before he left the farm he had made no end of wood projects in his spare time, (even with all the work that was done in the regular farm schedule), not the least of which was a hanging mobile that included various Christmas  motifs and small moose heads. And he LOVED making "buttoor spuns" (butter spoons).  He was a ton of fun from start to finish.

Blanca was and always will be " Our Ray of Spanish Sunshine".  Everyone's unqualified favorite with a happy disposition and an unflagging work ethic.  She told us that the day she was born in Madrid  it snowed.  It was so unusual to have that happen that her parents named her Blanca (Spanish for 'white') in honor of the event.  She was studying to be an ornothologist and  memorized 273 "beard" (bird) calls during the time she was with us in preparation for the exam she would take when she went home to Spain. She wrote later to tell us she had passed with flying colors.  Not a surprise.

We loved them all!
Maxie and Blanca were seldom apart:

On the day the two little piglets were due to arrive,  M & B headed on down the road that leads to the grassy field where the porkers stay for the summer.   

But first they filled a galvanized bucket with a warm, soapy, water solution and grabbed their brushes so they could scrub out the stone feeder and have everything in order for  "Henry and Wilbur"

These two were really into it, upending the trough that would hold the vasle (whey left over from the cheesemaking that the pigs absolutely love to slurp up), and sparkling it to the moon and back!
No piggies ever had it any better.
And were Henry and Wilbur appreciative as well as  cute? 
They sure were!!

While Blanca mucked out in the barn here at home, Maxie's new-found skills were plied turning hay with the tractor at Östansjö, a small village nearby where the mellankalvar (young heifers who graze with the young bull and will get pregnant for the first time during the summer) are kept for the season.

Each morning they manned the water wagon together, traversing the farm and watering all the flowering window boxes and planters,

and twice a day they took turns feeding "Independence" a little heifer calf that was born on the 4th of July and whose mother died shortly afterward.  This baby calf had to be bottle fed for two full months and needed the rich milk a mother gives immediately after birth.  Fortunately, we had saved some from the other milk cows who had given birth earlier and we had it in the freezer for an emergency.  It was only to thaw it and heat it to the right temperature slowly and then Blanca and Maxie would take it out to her.  One little sidenote that gave us so much pleasure throughout the summer was that we only had to go to the fence and call, ",", and no matter where Independence was, she would come running from the farthest corner of the field for her bottle.  You can see her in the above picture in the field following Maxie, looking for a little playtime after she had drained her two liter meal.

They took out the cows after milking....

they picked strawberries together at the village of Åsmon,

they threw up their hands with joy after weeding the ENTIRE potato field,

and they scrubbed and painted the cooling rooms in the dairy in preparation for the cheesemaking.

 Both were interested in history so we took them  on an afternoon trip to the ancient stone carvings in Näsåker, a half hour away, where our Belfast-born Irish/Swedish guide regaled us in English with all the facts about the past inhabitants of that area and their hunting practices. 
It was so fascinating.
And rain or no rain, Maxie and Blanca went with Gustav for a fun day at the Junsele Market, complete with all it's outdoor booths and displays. 
Maxie loved to  cuddle and pet the new kittens from Strima, the black cat -
she had TEN!! 
 (Remember the former post where she was laying in the main aisle of the barn so hugely pregnant in the Spring?)

And Blanca was incredible one day
on the narrow stairway of the källarboden (root cellar building)
 where there was a frightened bird trapped. 
She caught it barehanded in flight and was able to gently take it out to safety unharmed.

While Maxie was tractoring it up in the fields, Blanca was helping Gustav with the rototilling in the kitchen garden,
or making cheeses with Pappa in the dairy.

Whether they were working together or playing together, they were a... 

"Terrific  Twosome" 
in every respect,  
 and we loved them! 

"Princess Summerfall Winterspring"

 Judy Tyler as Princess Summerfall Winterspring
Growing up on the East Coast of the U.S. in the 50's, my little brother, Mark,  loved to sit in his small blue and yellow webbed beach chair and watch...
'The Howdy Doody Show'.
A mixture of marionettes and actual humans made up the cast of characters. Among others there was Howdy Doody himself dangling from the puppeteer's strings, and Buffalo Bob - a living, breathing,
'30-something' guy in a cowboy suit. 
 They were joined intermittently according to the situation by:
 Phineas T. Bluster - the mayor of Doodyville,
Flubadub (a composite of 8 different animals),
Dilly Dally, and 
Clarabelle the Clown.
There were others, but none important enough for me to remember now,
more than a half a century later.
While laying in bed one night, wondering how in the world I could find the time to chronicle the events I wanted to in this blog,
 (I am woefully behind and there is no sign of a let-up in my farm chores...),
the memory of those days when I would walk by
 and only casually glance
at the round-screened console TV in our living room,
came flooding back. 
And suddenly, the impression that was the strongest
 was that of me standing behind that small beach chair,
 with my pre-teen ponytail and thick white bobby sox,
 discovering the most beautiful character of all...
Princess Summerfall Winterspring.
(pay close attention to her name...) 
I think this may be the answer.
Let's see if it works!
(read on.....)