vaguely familiar

...I have definitely been here at least two times before.
And as luck would have it, the universe has decreed I return again. Who am I to object to such things? In the grand scheme of it all, only a small amount of money is wasted on this unforeseen detour and I almost instantly turned a corner towards being so happy to spend just a little bit more time saying a slow and proper goodbye to my beloved country of Norway.
Ah, the best laid plans...

goodnight, goodbye

Can you believe we are already at the point where I have to say goodbye? Again?
Time seems to have simultaneously gone by so slowly and flown by far too quickly. I find it so difficult to imagine that after tomorrow I will not be waking up to be greeted with tiny finger nips from Sally, the jingle jangle of Svarte-Mari, Helen's cheerful whistling. I won't be able to wander out of my cozy cabin towards the main house while picking and eating freshly ripened raspberries. No more strange brown cheese atop this nutty wheat bread while I drink way too much coffee with warm cream that's just been separated moments before. No evening walk or cycle or swim tomorrow in this relentlessly beautiful, forested landscape.
Tomorrow I'll wake up and all my chores will be done for the last time.
It's finally time to go.
I get better at this every time but it's never going to be easy.

norwegian bender

So what does one do for fun around here? Maybe cycle to the old, abandoned, and rickety wooden ski jump, climb one billion stairs to the top and, you know, hang out for a few hours. Just one possibility. Not that I have been doing that almost every night for the last week or anything...

my super hot buns

I have come to love these ubiquitous raisin buns so much that I decided I had to make them myself. A recipe was sourced and a translation provided by my kind farmer host. Improvisation courtesy of yours truly. Bonus: you can use the same dough for cinnamon rolls. Which of course I did.


.5 liter milk
2 eggs
1 package yeast (50g)
100-150g melted butter
1.5 deciliters sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
1.5 teaspoon cardamom
1.3 liters white flour (approx.)

Melt butter in small saucepan. Add milk when melted, turn off heat. Pour into bowl. Add crumbled yeast, one egg, sugar, and cardamom. Mix well with a wooden spoon. While stirring, add flour to form a wettish dough. Add raisins. Knead by hand in bowl until all is incorporated. Cover with cloth and let sit until double in size. When doubled, form into balls (sized to your preference) and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Beat remaining egg in small bowl or cup and brush on tops. Sprinkle with additional cardamom, cinnamon, and sanding sugar as desired. Bake 10-12 minutes at 240 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) or until just turning golden on the top. Removed from over, cool on wire rack.
Cinnamon bun variation: Mix as above, but (optionally) skip the raisins. When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a well floured surface and stretch or roll into a flat oblong rectangle. Spread with butter and sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up lengthwise and cut with sharp knife to form rolls. The thickness of the dough and width you cut will determine their size (to each their own!). Place on parchment lined baking sheet, coat with beaten egg, and bake as above.
Enjoy warm, smeared with butter, dipped in coffee, for a midday delight, etc.
(To my American brethren out there you'll just have to do as I did and succumb to the measurements.)

dairy queen

In the past weeks, I have hand tested many a teat and hauled many a heavy milk jug. The end result? All my dairy dreams coming true.
Picture if you will, the most mouthwatering, perfectly (naturally) yellow, savory but sweet butter; crumbly Norwegian heritage cheese aged with caraway seeds; hard cheeses made with rennet, aged to suit, and salted to taste; buttermilk, yoghurt, creamiest of creams. I have at least dipped my hand in all of the above (literally and figuratively) and savored the delicious results. For the lactose tolerant among us, It doesn't get any better than this.

a desplattering

It's true, some jobs are more glamorous than others.
Yesterday I spent the greater part of an afternoon (with Sally at my side, naturally) hosing down and scraping cow shit off the walls. This dirty job needed doing and I was just the person to take it on. The next step is some good old fashioned white wash. Mix some powdered lime scape with some water and whenever you decide the consistency is right you slap it on the walls, devil my care. Don't even think to bother worrying about avoiding the floor or ceiling or wood trim. It will either wash off, or it doesn't matter because... it's a cowshed (not to mention destined to be poop speckled again within days or even hours). By the end I was covered from head to toe in white flecks, but the walls did sparkle and the dung a distant memory.
Will I ever tire of such tasks?

small responsibilities

You may not be aware of this, but there are fifteen chickens, one rooster, and four fattening pigs in my charge as of late. Each morning I open the door to the chicken coop, distribute feed and inspire egg production. The rooster always crows loudly in my face the minute I walk in. They will stay behind the interior gate for another few hours until their egg deeds are done. The pigs will meanwhile get boiled potatoes, feed, water, and whey leftover from cheese making. Noontime is egg collecting and the chickens' release. The rooster will again crow the minute he is let out into the world. They will collectively stampede to claim any remains from the bird feeder and will then sprawl gracefully in the dusty patch by the porch. The pigs squeal and holler and pile all over eachother all day long. If we happen to be weeding or if the grass is mown, they'll have a bonus snack and chaos will ensue. In the evenings, just before cow milking, a repeat of the food is given for all. Usually the chickens could care less. The pigs will act as if they have never been fed before. Sometimes they fight and Sally barks at them from across the fence to keep them in line. Circa 10pm is usually bedtime for the chickens, typically after they have already assembled themselves in their hut for the night, and this time will gradually get earlier as the days continue to shorten. In the short time I have been here, this gang has gotten to know my tread and associate me with all the good things in life. It's definitely not rocket science, but it's one of the best jobs I have ever had.

our version of hiding under the covers

It was a bit hard to get started today. The news was turned on before breakfast and it felt impossible to peel ourselves away as the reports continued to roll in and a certain number ticked ever higher. The skies felt gloomy and my heart felt heavy. But farm life must go on and we collectively went out to split, stack, and sack the piles of wood for the following winter. And in the end, I am happy that we did. We of course came back to the subject looming over the day from time to time, but there was plenty of other discussion, plenty of other distraction. The birds chirped, Sally came and went as she pleased, and in the end we walked away to prepare lunch having completed nine and a half sacks, ready to be tarped and dried for another year. It's still so hard to imagine something so horrible having occurred but a few hours away, but today I have found so much comfort in the sort of work and continuity that a farm like this can provide. We'll soon gather around the table to feast on moose hash for lunch and life will continue moving forward.
Because it has to.

days of ore

Two days off meant a trip up north. Destination: Røros.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, little Røros was once a thriving mining town full of copper, smelt, and promise.
While word of a heat wave in New York circulated my twitter feeds and emails, the temperatures in Røros dropped steadily and I found myself in sweater, scarf, and jacket in the middle of July.
The majority of my time was spent exploring and hiking in the towns strangely obliterated outer landscapes. Hours upon tranquil hours walking on trails leading through UNESCO protected slag piles, deserts formed during the Ice Age, what was once forest since cut down for fuel or poisoned by sulpher and mine related activity. Eerily quiet, extremely peaceful.
On the final leg of my journey back to the farm, the bus driver would tell me of the horrible events that occured today in Oslo and Utøya. To say I was shocked and horrified is an understatement. My heart is broken for the people of Norway. Luckily, I am of course fine and following some email correspondence it seems everyone I have had the pleasure of meeting or getting to know in this country seems to be as well.

shake shack

Perhaps the last thing I expected whilst peacefully slumbering in Norway would be to be shaken awake by an EARTHQUAKE circa three in the morning. But that is exactly what happened. The radio reported it as a 3.3 with an epicenter several miles north. The farmers here were nonplussed though admitted it was a pretty rare occurrence.
Norway just continues to keep me on my toes as per usual?!

daily chores

Some mornings or even entire days are spent unwinding, winding, winding down and around just to wind up again. Farm work can often be nothing more than a series of repetitive tasks. Whatever you do today you will definitely have to do again tomorrow. Or eventually. So I try to remind myself just as repetitively appreciate and be grateful for the small things: pretty flowers, mist over the pastures, deliciously fresh kale, warm milk, the joy of being able to work outdoors when the sun is shining. And then go on repeating.

ready, set, milk


Twice a day, four lovely cows get called in from the fields to be milked. The evening time-slot is when my education most often occurs. My technique slowly but surely improves by the day.

Once called, they amble in slowly and line up in their spots, ready for a snack. They will all need to be cleaned and have their milk tested by hand. The machine will then be attached and the milk collected in what's called a bucket unit. First is the quickest which is Rosemary. She doesn't have much to grab on to, but she is patient. Linnea comes next. She is the greediest when it comes to pellets but easiest to milk because she is large in every way. Svarte-Mari is getting tapered off milking as she is due for a calf in the fall, but otherwise she would be next and is an apparent favorite to both cows and all those who milk her. She wears a beautiful bell from Italy as an indication of the respect she commands. Bonny is last and she has the most attitude. She will kick and swat her tail in your face, but she is otherwise a gentle soul with beautiful eyes circled in black. Slobbery Joe gets a portion of the warm milk via his bottle (soon in a trough) but he will never be satisfied and will as of late moo as though with a tiny horn the moment you walk away. And then the cows are let back out into the field. They always take their time and inspect every single thing that was there the day before, and the day before that. A very systematic cleaning of the machine will then take place and depending on the next morning's tasks, we will either use a machine to separate the milk from the cream for cheese making purposes that evening or leave it in the stream (literally) to stay cool for the night and to deal with in the morning. A fairly straight forward process but one requiring some finesse.

My fantasy future as a milkmaid on a summer farm in the hills of Norway looms ever closer meanwhile.

a friend indeed

It admittedly gets a bit lonely out here sometimes. For all my tales of blissed out, bucolic farm life, it isn't always easy. There are days and nights of sadness and self doubt, overall physical and mental exhaustion, occasional fear of the unknown. But here in the hills of Norway I feel as though I was serendipitously presented with my new best friend.

Sally. Black and white with a heart of gold; rare is the moment she is not at my side as of late. Partner in all walks, weeding, snacking, scraping, and shoveling. She greets me each morning, watches over me throughout the day, nuzzles me under tables, forever sits and sleeps as close as possible.

Oh Sally. What have I done to deserve such a friend? Loneliness is sure to once more rear its ugly head, but for the time being I'll know some furry reassurance is not far away.


I mean, it's not my official day off just yet. But FYI, this particular Sunday has entailed a trip to a spectacularly secluded fisherman's cabin, then another trip to a beautifully restored summer farm, sour cream porridge, a dip in an extremely cold lake, a hike up a mountain (hill?), a few glasses of wine, delicious pancakes, and all manner of cheese. You know, all in a day's work here in Norway...

this guy i know

Meet Slobbery Joe.

Son of Rosemary, destined for eventual slaughter; he's charming in his own special, frantic way. Three times a day he is bottle fed, at least two of those times by yours truly. He now knows my voice and will prance around his little pen excitedly until I emerge over his enclosure to offer him the goods. Morning and evening it's fresh from milking. Noontime I heat it up in hot water, as one would for a baby. He slobbers and slurps and sucks until it's fully drained, usually within a matter of seconds as opposed to minutes. Every single time, I feel almost as sad as he must feel to see his crestfallen, buggy eyes staring back when I have no more left to give.

Oh Joe. I can't help but know that it's a fact of life that you will be delicious one day. I shall love you so even still.

this here hay

Well, what do you know...
This pocket of Norwegian farmland just happens to be experiencing the perfect weather for hay making! Can you believe my fortune?!
Actually, this time around, it's no BFD. It's hard, dusty, and extremely sweaty as per usual, but my attitude has shifted to one of confidence and appreciation for hard labor at this point.
No, seriously!
(And there's a lot less hay...)
The way it's done here is, generally speaking, a less grueling process. The hay was cut some weeks ago and tediously hung on wire fences to dry (I missed the labor intensive pleasure of this task, thank you very much!). In my opinion, this would be the best way to do things if you're a small, self sustaining farmer worried about it raining a few times beforethe hay's had time to fully dry. Or if you are over seeing an open air museum reflective of farm life in olden times.
So. When you get a few sunny days like the ones we just had, you can do a test on the innermost, bottom hay to see if it's brittle enough. If I haven't yet illuminated you on the ways of hay storage yet, you should know now that damp hay is likely to spontaneously combust within your barn if not sufficiently dried. Just FYI.
If it's ready, you bring out your workhorses or maybe a tractor and you load it up. You then drop it off in the barn, spread it around evenly, walk around on it to flatten it down some, and then salt it - both to continue the drying process and give the cows salt for their hay which is provides nutrients they'll later need.
You will then be exhausted, covered in dust, and have hay everywhere you can think of (and places you can't). Please enjoy a beer and some strawberries and cream. Wake up with a full body ache but feel total mental and physical satisfaction.


Day one: Norway continues to dazzle and amuse.
This morning at breakfast, Helen (the farmer here) receives a call that some rogue cows have been spotted near the road. Are they hers? No. All have been recently milked and accounted for. But they could be the neighbor's. Calls are placed but no one admits ownership. Helen schemes a reconnaissance mission involving us biking to the alleged spot of the cow sighting, luring at least one with a bucket of pellets, reading its ear tag and therefore identifying their owner.
And so we put down our coffees and cycled an unplanned but beautiful few hilly kilometers and are soon intercepted by the official cow witness. He leads us to them (two heifers, two calves) and Helen is able to successfully seduce and charm into coming closer. I will stand by at a non-threatening distance with pencil and paper at the ready, awaiting the numbers to be shouted my way. Meanwhile, motorists will be concerned at a random young woman on the side of the road; confusion ensues. But the numbers are read and wouldn't you know, the cows belong to the first guy she'd called. Another call is placed and a plan is made for a trailer to be fetched in order to bring the gang home. Helen attempted and almost convinced the belled alpha-cow to follow her home, but one minute on asphalt and that gal was understandably having none of it.
Later Helen will be summoned to help again, but by the time she arrives, the cows have been chased off by less experienced and gentle coaxing. We are assuming they managed to eventually canoodle them back to where they belong, but we had enough to do on this sunny day such that we couldn't wait to find out. Rest assured, as these things go, we are likely to hear the result via the gossip mill by lunch tomorrow. We're assuming at least ten people lost a morning's worth of productivity thanks to these adventuresome ladies.
Ah, country life. How I've missed you!

home again

It's a beautiful, sunny day in south eastern Norway. I am surrounded by hills, lakes, rivers and coniferous forests. Nestled in there somewhere is my tiny, serene dairy farm and I have at last arrived at what will be my home for the next few weeks. I find myself with my own private cabin by the garden (my very own outhouse within sight included!) and warm, kind farm hosts. Currently feeling nothing but contentment at being back in the countryside.

one last walkabout

My final hours in Oslo provided one last sunny stroll through Vigeland Park in the pleasant company of the lovely K.B. and one adorable puppy. We stopped off for a delicious latte and a raisin bun; she went to work and I went to yet another museum. Then it was time to pack my bags and make my way yet again. It's admittedly pretty nerve wracking to try to imagine starting over at another farm, but I am feeling restored, energized, and ready to continue basking in Norway's varied glory. And of course, getting these hands of mine nice and dirty all over again.

oslo: takes one and two

In a matter of days: contemporary art museums, modern art collections, ship museums, open air museums, maritime museums, exploration museums, history museums. Nobel Peace Center, Den Norkse Opera and Ballett. Ferries, fjords, palaces, castles, islands, trams, stairs, walking paths. Beaches, courtyards, plazas, roofs. Sushi, curry, wine, espresso.
Oslo, we have really done it all.