Holidays in Norway.

Christmas at the farm turned out to be a sweet, peaceful time. Most Norwegians celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but then they go ahead and celebrate on the 25th and 26th as well. And then also on the 27th this year because that was sunday. We had a wonderful dinner with the family and we opened presents and enjoyed some wonderful homemade beer. We got some wonderful and hilarious gifts and cards from home, including a full stock of wool socks, chocolate chip cookie supplies, and “The official Outlander coloring book”. Needless to say, I spent all of Christmas coloring, and yes, I know Im 27.

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Bard invited us to use the sauna, and have used it almost everyday since. Its a perfectly sized little room, with a wood-fired stove that gets hotter than I would have ever thought possible. Theres no electricity in the little building, so we light candles or oil lamps, but it makes  the whole experience feel so homey and comfortable.

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Last week we took a few days off to spend with Matteo, and we made a quick visit to Roger! We had a wonderful time seeing them both again, and of course playing as much as possible.

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We came back to Nodre Hestnes on Wednesday, and we got to help prepare for a big New Years party. We had a very sweet and fun family from India staying in the rental apartment, so they joined us, along with all of Bard’s family for the evening. We ate a huge meal of turkey and stuffing, some really wonderful red cabbage, and they asked me to make an “american punch” (shout out to Marlis Walter for teaching me how to make punch for CM parties). We enjoyed more homemade beer, and Tyler and I took the family out to see the lights and get some family photos.

I had no idea, but fireworks are a really big deal on New Years in Norway. And so, we rang in the new year standing around a fire in the little stone paddock, watching the fireworks and Northern lights. Not a bad start to the year, I’d say.

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I hope you all had a great Holiday season!!

P.S. Our 2016 resolution is to run a marathon, so we (along with some other amazing people) have signed up for the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromso, on June 18th. The race begins at 8:30pm, in the middle of the day. Training starts now!

Solstice in the Arctic.

The winter solstice is a particularly wonderful day of the year. Traditionally it is thought of as the first real day of winter, and it marks the point in the year when, finally, the days will be getting longer. 

I can’t believe how much darker it gets, its noticable within the days now. One morning, the alarm went off and it was completely night outside, even though at the same time the day before, there had been a light hue in the clouds. Its especially dark when its cloudy, which it always is. It gets fully “light” (about dusk at home) around 10:30am and it goes completly dark again at 1:30. 

Many of you know that I suffer from depression. I take medicine for it, and it helps a lot, but to be honest I was very concerned about what this lack of light would do to me. I feel it a little, mostly things just make me much more angry than they normally would; like if a car drives by while I’m photographing the northern lights, or slipping on the ice while feeding the horses. But more than that, I just feel tired all the time. It always seems like bed time. Even after getting a full 8 hours of sleep, your body just thinks you need to keep sleeping. 

Fortunately, there are some AMAZING things about Norway that helps stave off the winter blues. I thought I would show you a bit of what this time of year looks like, and how people deal with the lack of natural light.

First off, Norway does Christmas. They go all out. There isnt a house on our street that doesnt have lights at the very least on the outside railing. Most have trees lit up in the yard, and all have little candles (real or fake) in each window. Its beautiful, and it makes dark afternoon walks so pleasant. Even town goes crazy for Christmas.

 
And of course there are the non-sun, natural lights, such as the moon

  
And my personal favorite,

   
   
 But something even more amazing happened this week. Impossible, right? No. We had an incredible outbreak of something called Nacreous Clouds, which are a type of Polar Stratospheric Cloud (PSC). These clouds are extremely rare, and they only occur above the polar circles, in the Arctic and Antarctic. They are formed when the air at the bottom of the Stratosphere, very very high above our normal clouds, is super-cooled, -85C or lower, and the super tiny molecules fuse in a certain way. The angle of the light from the sun refracts the light through the cloud, making them positively glow in a prism. They are remarkably tricky circumstances, and they dont happen very often at all. So you can imagine my excitement when we saw them. I wasnt able to capture the full scene, but here are the best.
   
   
Happy Winter Solstice!!

Nordre Hestnes Gård

We have settled in to our new farm, Nordre Hestnes Gård. It was a sad goodbye with Roger and Liv, but I really feel very sure we will see them again. 

Our new farm is very different from Nordvoll. We spent our first night here in a bunk bed, sharing a room with another wwoofer. We worked that out though, and now we have our own room and our own bunk bed! 

Our farmer is very nice, and our co-wwoofer, Rémi, is very knowledgable about the farm. It’s been wonderful to be back in the company of a dog, her name is Trulte, and she’s an absolute doll.

  
The farm work itself is actually a lot less than we are used to, in fact we find ourselves standing around a lot, feeling like we need to be doing something. Here at the farm we have one (huge and awesome) dog, 3 pigs, 9 Icelandic horses, 18 sheep, 25 hens, 1 Shetland pony (Doffen), and 9 cats (whom we have named Princess, Moriarty, Spookey II, Boots, the twins Fred and George, and the triplet baby kittens, One, Two, and, Three.) 

The day starts and ends with feeding, and as the farm is built on a fairly steep mountainside, this is an icy and dangerous challenge. Fortunately I have good help, as Fred likes to follow me around. 

 
Here are the sheep, one of them escaped from the pen and Tyler and Rémi had to sorta throw it back over the fence, stay tuned for a video!!

  
Here is princess with my favorite horse (so far), Gaia.  

 
It’s been an interesting few days, were excited to update you more!

Our Time at Nordvoll. 

Well our time at Nordvoll farm is drawing to a close, and I can’t believe how sad its going to be to leave this place. We will leave tomorrow morning for our new farm about an hour south, and I thought on our last night, I could give a little summary of our time here.

We arrived on August 31, nervous but excited at what we were about to experience and learn. I think the number one thing I said on those first few days was, “We live here?!” Everything was beautiful and new and different. The Strawberries themselves were unbelievable.  


But we fit in easily here. The people were kind, helpful, and funny. We laughed a lot. We worked hard, and believe me, the work was hard. Days off were typically not relaxing, because we had to play! Swimming…

   
Hiking insanely hard mountains,

  
Sometimes at night, 

 
Fishing,   

Staying up way too late to enjoy the view,  
 
Plus a million other things that happen when crazy people get to spend a lot of time together. 

We finished the strawberries in September, and we finished making a HUGE field for new strawberries, the biggest on the farm with a whopping 2,248!

The month of October was consumed with the harvest. We finished the carrots, potatoes, beans, and currants. we sorted, and sorted and sorted them. Then we started winterizing the farm, which involved cleaning up around the fields. But a warm spell in the middle of the month thawed the ground and we were able to dig the rows and plant an entire field of raspberry canes. 756 to be exact. 

 
November was the quiet month. It was just the three of us at the farm, Tyler, Matteo and myself. Although we had a visitor named Jeremy (who has the coolest job in the whole world, and lives an hour away now) for about half of the time. We started doing a lot of work inside during November, the guys constructed crosses that will be used to keep the rasperry plants in the new field up. This was an incredible amount of work, as each tree had to be stripped, sharpened, and the cross-poles screwed in. Oh, and we needed 120 of them. 

   

I did a few jobs in the big house, slamming the concrete wall, painting the doors inside, and then the walls, trim and bannister of the upstairs of the house. It was warm all the time, and I got to listen to my book, so no complaints from me!

   
We still played hard though, lots of sparking,

 Visits from beautiful friends (Jeremy and Alex, who came all the way from Nottingham for Thankgiving!),
 
Insanely dangerous hikes around stupid, huge mountains,

   
Playing with Herman, the ermine who lives in the wood shed,


And rolling giant snowballs down the mountain. 

In summary, these three months have been entirely amazing. Hard working, hard playing, and hard laughing.  We are really excited to see our new farm tomorrow, but for right now we are mostly sad to say goodbye to Roger and Nordvoll. The only reason Im not crying right now is because I know deep down that we will be back here again. 

Skål to Roger, and to Nordvoll!

 

Thanksgiving at Nordvoll.

(We are having such a good time, I keep forgetting to update you!)

This month has been blissfully quiet, and as it gets darker and darker every day, we are getting more and more used to spending our time inside. although we have to go play outside at least once a day. We have been spending a lot of our free time having snowball fights (which I hate), and Sparking (which I love). This is sparking, just in case you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t!

  
Its a little wooden sled, with metal runners. You stand on the runners and then kick off with one foot. Its fun because we take turns sitting on the sled. I should mention that the light in this picture is actually the moon, I havent seen the sun in a month an a half. 

One great thing about Norway is that it lives up to all of the stereotypes I had about how much Scandinavians love Christmas. They decorate the whole town, and everyone has lights and candles in their windows, and its incredibly beautiful. 

  
There are christmas trees in the windows of almost every business, and every type of everything (chocolate, soda, beer, flour, etc.) comes in a Christmas variety. Its wonderful. 

We are so happy to be hosted by someone who cares about our silly traditions, and who got just as excited for Thanksgiving as we did. Roger spent hours trying to find us a turkey to cook, and he offically got the last turkey in Norway. Our dear friend Alex came to visit from England, and Jeremy came home to the farm from his job in town. 

We made everything! Turkey, stuffing, gravy, rolls, sweet potatoes, green beans, and even cranberry sauce! Except our cranberry sauce was made with lyngenberries instead. It was an amazing day, filled with laughter, cooking, decorating, drinking, eating, and of course being thankful.  

 
My favorite moment was at the end of the day, when we all said what we were thankful for, as is traditional. It brought to the forefront the thought that, even though we are far from home, we have found home here, and we have found family. It was an amazing evening, and I will never forget it. 

Another silly video.

One of the effects of living with a film maker is that your acting skills have to improve quickly. Or at least you have to use them a lot more. We made this video for Roger, who was teaching in Stavanger for two weeks. It worked, and he came home! I will explain (Wherever I can) what is going on.

  
15 reasons you should come back to Nordvoll:

1. Because There are too many people in the kitchen: Roger likes to cook alone. We all have to stay out of the kitchen when he’s cooking, it would be a disaster if we were all in there!

2. Because you have to fight us for bath time: This one probably doesnt need an explanation.

3. Because we are freezing: Roger and I agree about the heat; we both like it super warm! But everyone else says “Their contacts are melting”, and they “cant take off any more clothes and still be family friendly.”

4. Because cups are going to be destroyed: Roger hates it when we stir our coffee/tea/cereal too much, we just had to drive him crazy.

5. Because John is trying to tell us something: John is our neighbor. We love John, but we dont always understand him.

6. Because we are learning Nyorsk: Roger is a linguist, and he really doesnt like it when we learn Norwegian phrases in the southern dialect around Oslo and then try to speak it here in Tromsø. 

7. Because we are not good at telling stories: Roger is an amazing storyteller. dinner is not the same without him!

8. Because there is strange music in the kitchen: Roger loves a wide range of music…but not beyonce.

9. Because we lost the notebook: We have a notebook that tells us what to do when roger is gone. 

10. Because the cooking is going downhill: we joke that we should harvest and sell waterweed, because it grows so well! it doesn taste too good.

11. Because the witch is making trouble again: There is a person who lives near Nordvoll who is…a bit challenging. We should leave it at that.

12. Because there is silence: The three of us are quite happy with silence, but Roger loves to sing and talk and tell stories.

13. Because the nuns stopped praying for Nordvoll: We give the nuns some of our produce, and they pray for us. This is what would happen if that stopped.

14. Because there are no instructions for eating: Roger always tells us what goes with what and the history behind our dinner. Its so confusing when he’s gone!

15. Because we miss you! (said in Italian)

Here is the video, I hope you like it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GngaeTpjaHc&feature=youtu.be 

 Or click the pic!

 

Ulstinden Part 2. 

Its hard to believe how much work still needs to be done in the month of November on a farm in arctic Norway. The harvest has been  in for over a month, but it still has to be sorted, re-sorted, shuffled, washed and re-re-sorted. There are preparations that need to be made for next year’s carrot field, walls that need to be repaired, doors that need to be painted, and trees that need to be stripped of bark. Seaweed needs to be harvested from the ocean and piled on the shore to be used for next year’s fertilizer. 

Did I mention that there are only 3 of us now? It’s all fun work, and while it is all important, none of it is terribly urgent. So after a full week of working, we all three took off a day together to try out a new hike. This hike was to take us around the base of Mount Ulstinden, which you may recall from a previous post of that title. This mountian is not kidding around. I came home from that hike feeling like I had been hit by a train, and I had no feeling of sucess and accomplishment that usually surfaces after a hike of that nature. I thought hiking around the base of the thing would at least give me a little bit of my pride back. I was wrong.

Here is a map of our planned course of attack, the green line indicates where we thought we could hike. Its about 15 miles total, but we would be walking on the beach for most of it, so we figured it wouldnt take any more than about 6 hours.

 

We left at 10 am, and we were feeling happy and relaxed. I havent seen the sun in over a month, and I almost got to sort of see it at the beginning of the day.

  
It wasn’t particularly challenging hiking, but it wasn’t a stroll on the beach. We were soon clambering over boulders and slipping on moss covered rocks. A few places were entirely impossible to navigate and we were pushed into the forest. This wasn’t worrisome, we had almost 4 hours of daylight left. 

  
We talked and told jokes, I found out that Matteo really likes riddles so we started sharing our favorites. Before we knew it, it was getting dark, and we had no idea how far away the little fishing village of Oldervik was. We reasoned that it would be better to keep going than to turn around though, so we pushed on.

  
The view, at least as long as it was visible, was stunning. 

 
But Ulstinden is a huge mountain, and darkness falls quickly in the Arctic. By 3 in the afternoon we were trying to climb over slippery rocks and cross creeks in the pitch black. there are no trails, and no roads, and no lights anywhere near. We had a head lamp, but it almost made trying to navigate the wet rocks even more difficult. We constantly had to trek into the forest to get around the places where the rock had crumbled into the ocean, and the forest was dark and wet. 

The forest had no trail to follow, and really no simple way to maintain distance between the mountain and the beach. More than once we would step into a hole we didnt see, or slip off  a moss covered rock we didnt know we were standing on. One time, I slipped and caught myself on a branch, and heard a distinct growl come from somewhere near my foot. The speed with which I evacuated the area would make you think I temporarily had wings.

At 5 o’clock we were all soaked to the knees  and quite ready to be done walking. Fortunately we came across an old cabin situated on the shore of a beautiful sandy beach, and we got to walk on flat ground for the first time in 7 hours. While we were resting on the beach, the Auroras came out to keep us company, and it was amazing how comforting it was to have them. This is where I took this picture, which I think may be my favorite photo Ive ever taken, and made the entire hike worth it. 

  
Shortly after this was taken was the low-point in the day. After realizing that we couldnt go any further on the beach because of a huge cliff and a not-so-small mountain, we were forced into a valley. But we reasoned that if we went back to the cabin there would have to be a road. I dont know how many horror movies you’ve seen, but this is just about how every single one of them starts. 

We determined that the cabin was empty, but we failed to find anything resembling a road. While we were standing there in the dark debating what we should do, the ground under my feet gave out, and I fell arm-pit deep into a hole that could have been made to trap me, and me alone. Im pleased to say that my scream could have been directly out of a horror movie, and not even one of those cheap, low-budget ones.   

Once I had been rescued from the hole, we turned on the headlamp to see that right behind the place where the hole was, was a man-made tunnel, that led in the general direction of the cabin. This is where it occured to me that, hey, this is how people die.  Im not even talking about the very improbable death caused by an ax murderer, or the even more improbable death by troll. Death by hypothermia, or in my case hysteria. Fortunately, Tyler and Matteo didnt want to talk about horror movies or death, because my brain was doing a great job all by itself. 

Right before I could start crying and suggesting that we write down what happened so that someone could tell our families, we found a tiny  road. The effect of this tiny road was amazing. we all felt lighter than air, and the air itself felt warmer. The tiny road led to a bigger road, the the bigger road led to a paved road, and the paved road led to town. Here is a picture of me and Matteo looking all confident and cocky like we had some clue what the hell was going on the whole hike.   


We fortunately know someone who lives in Oldervik, and we showed up on his doorstep, freezing, soaking, and more than a little grateful to be alive, and he let us come in a warm up, and then gave us a ride.

Here is a rough sketch of our actual path.

 And that is the story of the second time I almost died on that freaking mountain.
  

How to Survive in the Arctic. part 1

The question I get more than any other is how we can stand the cold in Norway. The simplest way to answer that is that we just stay inside whenever possible. We have lots of blankets, an excellent wood stove, and enough chopped wood to see us through the next ice age. Sometimes however, freezing cold outside work is unavoidable. For those situations, I have prepared a guide on how to dress appropriately. 

Arctic work requires four layers, I’ve included visual aids for your convenience. 

Layer 1. Synthetic

  

This is your average base-layer. A synthetic long sleeve shirt and pants. These should fit fairly tight, as there are four more layers and you have to squish them all into a coat.

Layer 2. Wool

Add on a layer of wool.  

  
This step is V. important. I didn’t take this one seriously enough when I heard it, and I’ve spent hours at the salvation army trying to fix this mistake. YOU NEED WOOL. Get the wool, all the wool. 

Layer 3. The Snowflake Layer.

Alright, I don’t actually get this one. For some reason, Norwegian clothes that have snowflakes on them are completely cold-proof. This layer is all wool, but the more snowflakes you can get in there, the better.

  
I know, its not cute. But when in doubt, go head-to-toe snowflakes.

Layer 4. Waterproof.

  
Squish all the wool and snowflakes into anything waterproof you can find. I was able to buy rubber pants at the salvation army, and our hands are kept dry by covering our work gloves with a layer of latex gloves. Rubber boots are a must! 

Now you are at least physically ready to face the challenge of surviving in the Arctic!

A week of laughter.

Its not a secret that we laugh a lot here. Most days my voice cracks when I talk, and my laugh sounds more like the bark of a seal, or a fog-horn (just for you Bess). But this week was especially hilarious. Carolyn was in Oslo visiting friends, and Roger had gone to Stavanger for work, so it was just “us kids” at the farm. I should mention that we are all between the ages of 25 and 38. We got a surprising amount of work done though, as we didnt get the rain and terrible weather we were promised. Its been a little something like this actually.

 
It has warmed up so much, in fact, that we were able to finish creating the raspberry field! This was a huge accomplishment, as Roger didnt think we would even be able to start it this year. Here’s a picture of the final product.

  
30 rows of plants, 60 meters of digging, and over 650 raspberry plants. 

The laughter this week was exceptional. Our group consisted of Tyler, myself, Matteo from Italy, Pierre from France, and Carole from Switzerland. We understandably have a lot of funny language barriers, and it brings us endless delight to talk about our differences in language and culture. My favorite this week was when Matteo was telling me about a movement in Italy in the 90’s called “Be Unique”. With the way he said it though, it took me a while to realize that he had not said “Be Eunuch”.

We also had some wonderful light shows, and Matteo had a brilliant idea of how to video the northern lights, as you cant just film it the normal way. His idea was to take a series of photos right in a row and then complie them into a sort of fast-moving flip book. The crazy thing is that it takes 25 photos to make one second of film, so on our first try we had a 2.5 second movie that took us 35 minutes to make.  But we were able to slow it down a little, and here is the result! We’re really excited about this, and I’m sure youre going to be seeing a lot more of these little movies.

  
Thats it for my weekly update!

What we do when we’re not working.

Here is another video by the amazingly talented Matteo that we (especially Matteo) have been working on for a week. This is a great example of what happens when you ask silly people to do something silly. Our friend Jeremy went home to visit his family for a couple weeks, and this is us giving him reasons to come back.

Warning, this video is full of inside-jokes and mildly inappropriate humor. Most of this video wont make any sense to you, so even though it will not be the same for you, I will try to explain each reason so you don’t feel left out. 

   

Click on the picture or click Here!

Reason 1. We have your guitar- he left his guitar. This one probably makes sense.

Reason 2. The cheese is getting moldy- Jeremy really likes cheese.

Reason 3. India- the guys play Fifa (a soccer video game) a lot, but Jeremy is too good, so they make him play with India instead of a European team. He still always wins. 

Reason 4. We have chocolate and ice cake.- he loves chocolate. Ice cake is this unbelieveable ice cream cake that tastes like frozen heaven. 

Reason 5. Because its fun to fish in the sound. -Jeremy drives the boat

Reason 6. Save us from the parsley- We grow parsley here, and even though the frost has come, it is still growing. So we put it in everything. Jeremy doesnt like parsley, and he’s the only one brave enough to say it out loud. (This part is performed by our hilarious host, Roger. If you’re drooling over the food you see, I dont blame you.)

Reason 7. The Americans are invading Spain- Spain is the name of the raspberry field that we are building. Its funny because Jeremy always looks at the rows we dig and says something like, “not bad…for Americans

Reason 8. Roger is making threats- Roger jokes about vegans a lot. He loves them, but he loves teasing just as much. 

Reason 9. We have troubles to understand eachother- The first part makes sense. Jeremy is French, and so are Pierre and Carole, so he helps us all communicate. The second part is because one time Jeremy and I walked in the house while Roger was making waffles, and Jeremy said, “it smells like a penis.” because he forgot the H in happiness. #frenchtroubles

Reason 10. … Because we miss him.