The garden we left behind …

Slowly but surely we are beginning to see the early signs of spring in spite of -7ºC most of today – apparently it is going to stay quite cold for most of this week. There are bare patches around the trees on the slopes facing south and here and there the road down to the mail box shows gravel. Our thoughts are turning towards planning the garden on the farm and to the amount of work which we are facing in order to get it anything like the one we left behind. The area around the farm is huge compared to the little one we had before and the soil here needs a lot of attention. It is mostly very dense clay, with very little drainage, so it’s seems we must buy some compost soil and make raised beds.

The garden we left behind was lovely after years of good care, and we are really hoping that we will be able to create a similar atmosphere here. Can you see how intimate it was?

SONY DSCAnd how the plants seemed to thrive and be so happy?

SONY DSCWe really enjoyed this little garden with its many nooks and crannies.

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In early spring the forget-me-nots blossomed wherever its seeds had landed the previous year.

SONY DSC Later in the year we could pick chives and black currants.

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I can’t remember what these are called, but I did take some with me when we moved.

SONY DSCApart from these we didn’t take any plants with us as we were scared to contaminate this area with the dreadful brown slugs which are everywhere in Oslo. We managed to keep them at bay in our garden, but one or two did manage to get in now and then and their eggs are impossible to find.

Here on the farm we are hoping to have a kitchen garden and some fruit trees, but it will definitely be some time before we can harvest! I really enjoy making jams and jellies, especially when I know there hasn’t been any pesticides around.

And … there is nothing better than to go out into the garden and pick lots of fresh vegetables for a delicious lunch or dinner and to know the we have grown them ourselves!

Not any old brook …

Winter brookThis is a snow covered brook – but it is not any old brook. It is the brook that runs along the border of the farm on one side. It is lying there now quietly, preparing itself for the spring rush of water which is still some time off.

In spring it is all mossy and green – the ferns glistening in the damp spray of rain and humid air.

SONY DSCDown in the grooves of stone and moss is a fascinating world of colors and smells, the strong smell of disintegrating wood and earth will swirl around your nose. I like this smell, it is the smell of the earth and helps me to keep in touch with it.

SONY DSCIn autumn the the brook runs cheekily down its course, singing its merry song to all who take the time to listen and wonder. Sitting on a stone by its course it is easy to let the world stand still and to be present in the here and now. All worries are washed away and I am just where I am supposed to be.

SONY DSCAlthough the brook is beautiful in winter, I am longing for the time when it will wake up from its winter sleep, to let me once again listen to its merry song.

A symphony in ice

A short while before Christmas I went for a long walk in the area behind the farm. It was a freezing cold day (-20ºC) but clear and beautiful. The snow was sparkling and although it was cold it was great to be outside. I had brought my camera with me, but didn’t think to put the batteries somewhere warm to keep them charged.

In the corner of my eye, I suddenly saw some truly beautiful colors. The sun shone through the trees down on a frozen brook, and it glowed in a myriad of blues, brown, gold and beige. I had to clamber down through some trees in deep snow in order to find the right spot to take some pictures. I managed to get one before the battery was empty, and the second was no better!

But isn’t this a beautiful symphony in ice?

A symphony in iceAnd I’ve learnt to keep my batteries from the cold!

She drank deeply…

Something had woken her up. She lay there listening carefully, but no other sound than the deep, slow breathing of her husband beside her could be heard. Her hand stretched out, the fingers curled carefully around the glass, cold from the night air which had slipped into the room since they went to bed. Slowly the glass was raised to her lips. She drank deeply…

Her thoughts wandered to all the memories which had entered her life the past year. The gradual move to the farm, to all the kind souls who had helped in one way or another. The talking, the decisions, the waiting, the driving, the carrying.

She had broken her arm, the arm she uses most, trying to move some fallen trees. Six weeks the arm had been in a cast, six valuable weeks when she should have been able to help out with the move.

Her thoughts moved on to the death of her mother in June. Sitting at the bedside waiting for her last tortuous breath to be drawn. An experience she never had had before. She saw the coffin in her mind’s eye, covered in beautiful wild flowers. The simplicity of the funeral, just as her mother had wanted it. Warm voices filling the little church with the melody of childhood psalms.

Just a year before, the death of her father.

Then there was the final move. The sale of the house in town, the packing and the unpacking. The hour long drives back and forth, back and forth. Time to think, time to plan, time to make sure that the decisions they had made were right.

The arrival of their lovely animals. Another memorable moment, another momentous decision. The responsibility they had taken on was not to be taken lightly. When one of them miscarried, sadness enveloped their hearts and underlined the responsibility they had taken on. The little heart shaped stone covering the grave a silent reminder.

Through all this, her work ran on, demanding attention no matter what. The days were filled to the brim, with no time left over for creativity other than that which was needed for the project they had taken on.

There had never been a moment of doubt that they should make this move, and yet at times the words had been spoken «have we done the right thing?» Yes, they were sure. Over dinner last night they had talked about it again and both had expressed how comfortable they were with the decision. The words entered her heart and she felt settled. Yes, this was their home now, this is where they would stay. Hopefully for the rest of their lives.

She wondered if her readers would understand, if they could sense all that had happened in the months gone by and if they would come back to her once she had started to write again.

She now knew what had woken her up. The words were finally back and she had to get them down on paper before they were lost again. She carefully slipped out of bed, her feet touched the cold floor. Picking up her night gown, pad and pen she went downstairs to the kitchen and sat down to write.

The road forward

Snooping around on the hayloft

Spring has bounded in and the snow has melted faster than anyone has expected. Access to the hayloft in the barn has been blocked by hard packed snow which has fallen from the roof during winter. I knew there was lots of interesting things to take pictures of there, but I dreaded climbing ladders with photo equipment to get there.

Last week end I was able to press the barn doors slightly ajar behind the mound of hard packed snow and got in to see all the old machines and other equipment which has been stored up there for years and years.  It always surprises me to see how beautifully things were made even back then. In our arrogance we tend to think that we invented good design, but they certainly new how to create beautiful things in the past as well.

Just look at the fantastic colors and the design of this roller,

and how age has worked on the colors, making them even more beautiful.

See how the iron is bent to form this lovely figure attaching the wood to the iron.

Look at the lovely iron work on the trestle carrying the old sewing machine and how the sun shining through the slats of the walls creates a lovely pattern on the floor.

This wheel is about a meter and a half in diameter. I really wonder what it was used for.

The hay wagon has not been in use for at least 80 years and still the grass huddles close to its wheels. The swallows have been flying in and out  of the barn, their droppings unfortunately creating a mess.

Tucked away in a corner is an old machine of sorts, the burlap which was placed over for protection has gradually slipped way, uncovering muted colors and beautiful designs.

We find it hard to disturb these things and will most probably leave them here for the next generation to come and admire them. All these things carry with them the history of the place and we feel we need to give them due respect.

Helter skelter in the “stabbur”

“Stabbur” is the Norwegian name for the house where grains and other food were stored on the farms before the time of fridges and freezers. This was also where cured meats were hung to dry. These houses were built so that mice and other rodents couldn’t enter. Some are still in use for air drying meat and to keep a freezer or two, but mostly these houses are now used as storage space.

Our stabbur has definitely been used for storage, and the way things have been put down wherever there was some empty space has created a fascinating mess. No one seems to have tidied up or thought about sorting out things for the last 100 years or so. It is fascinating to go in there and just look and try to figure out what things have been used for. There are at least a thousand and one mysteries to solve. My thoughts also turn to the people who used these things; who used them, why, and why put things just there?

Snow shoes for the horse ...

I go into a kind of trance looking at these things, some of them are really beautiful. The wood planer is worn smooth and oiled by rough hands that have held it for hours on end. The handle on the meat grinder likewise.

An old door handle lies in the corner, the brass gone dull by not having been in use. Wooden strap-on skates hang from a nail, the curly tipped blades gone rusty.

Leather skistraps

Home made skies and sticks hang on a beam above my head. It is not hard to imagine the strength needed to move forward on these skies in unprepared tracks, whereas we glide along silky, smooth ski tracks on super light skis. I wonder who are the lucky ones? The ones who made the skies themselves and then conquered the snow slopes on skies they really could be proud of … or us who don’t have to struggle much for what we have.

A decrepid ladies bicycle stands in a corner – something must have been broken otherwise it wouldn’t have been carried up to the loft and tucked away in a corner, or perhaps the person who owned it was too old to use it?

In another corner are all kinds of carpentry tools, each one a wonder to behold. How on earth did they manage to get things done with these things? Things must have taken time – but then again by having to use time on making things, they probably appreciated them much more.

The women on the farm wove most of the linens. There are still beautiful items in some of the drawers. In the corner of the loft the old loom lies in pieces; it would be an interesting challenge to put it together again. Whether or not it can be put to use is a different matter.

It is nearly a shame to sort this out, but by cataloging it in pictures, some of the memories will hopefully be retained. We aim to try to sort this out one day and display the things on the farm where future generations can see what has gone on before them.

I wonder what Miss Piggy thinks of this, hanging there by the door, staring at intruders with her big eyes? Will she be there for the next generation?

The untouched cellar

For decades the cellar at the farm has remained untouched. Dust and decay has accumulated and most who enter would probably only see all the dirt and dust and stuff which needs to be cleared out.

I, on the other hand, found it fascinating from an artistic point of view and spent an hour down there yesterday looking for and trying to capture the essence of the place. I did not move a thing. Everything is exactly as I found it. I also only used the available light, which there was very little of, and therefore had to use a tripod. A bounce card would probably have cast a little more light on some of the darker elements, but as I didn’t have one on hand, I had to do without.

The brown bottles you see here are the milk bottles which were used in Norway several decades ago. I can still remember the foil caps and the feeling of pressing down on the centre of them to get the caps to loosen.

The walls of the cellar are about a meter thick and built of big chunks of rock. It’s not hard to imagine the hard physical labour which has gone into building this house.

In the cellar there is a cupboard. Can you see that the woodworms have been at work? Behind the door more treasure is uncovered; old jam jars – still with some contents, and  empty ones waiting to be cleaned and perhaps used again. Can you see the cobwebs?

Last fall I bought some blackberry plants, which are resting here waiting to be planted out in spring.

An old pump is making a splash of color –

On top of another cupboard is yet another still life –

On my way out the door I stopped to reflect on all the hard work that had gone into making this cellar, but not only that; this place has stored all the crops that have been grown on this farm; potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, and other vegetables as well as all kinds of berries, both those grown on the farm and picked in the nearby forest. Hours, and hours, and hours of hard work. The people who lived here were very self sufficient – I hope we can do this place justice! Thank you fate for giving us this opportunity to grow and learn and respect those who came before us.

And if after this, you think we are mad to take on a project like this – you may be right, but the house is very solid and it just needs a little care and attention and then I’m sure both we and the farm will be happy.