...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...
...I have definitely been here at least two times before.
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.
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...
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.
RAISIN BUNS SCANDINADIA
.5 liter milk
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.)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.