The Calypso Effect

The farm is a seductively intelligent creature, a living and breathing entity that draws you in each day. First impressions were shock, awe, isolation, and later independence. Then as each sun sets, and each morning awakens, you find yourself drawn ever more deeper to the earth, the endless sky, and that crisp mountain wind. It sinks into your dreams and eventually you forget the outside world, the Calypso effect. This is until you have a dizzying moment of clarity and realize that you are in fact farming in fabled Norway.

That has been my life for the past ten days. I have only been in Norway for ten days, and yet I feel like it has been so much longer. The daily routine is typically wake up, care for the animals which include a motley assortment of piglets (norwegian and hampshire breeds), norwegian rabbits (adorable until you pick them up, they’re strength is incredible), and chickens.

The chickens are perhaps my least favorite, and the one animal that admittedly I need the most practice on. Their Alpha is a large, pompous Icelandic rooster, full of furious testosterone that is ever engaged in attack mode while I am feeding. Just yesterday, as I left them a loaf of bread and apples to munch on, he sprung at me as I turned my back, pecking furiously at my ankles. With a yelp, I jumped out of the coop and slammed the door. Rooster 1: Sean 0.

I was a little annoyed that he got the better of me, but it is in his nature and truth be told perhaps he is just trying to play. He is after all the only male in the coop, and I can’t imagine chicken conversation is very riveting. It was a good lesson learned, perhaps tonight I will begin a manly conversation about wood splitting, grilling, or beer with him – see how he reacts – Cock-a-doodle-doooo!!!

From the farm, one can see the town of Lillehammer and I am often struck by the temptation to just go back to civilization, to society and cleanliness. And then I look back at what I am doing and realize with a sense of pure satisfaction that I am really making a difference with my actions. I make something every day, whether it is thinning vegetables in the field, or making wooden shingles to shelter the silo from moisture, or tending to the animals. It is the small things that make my time worth it these days.

Observations and impressions from the farm and Norway thus far:

– My sister was right, I should have brought a smaller pair of pants with me because both pairs are falling off me and I am eating so much!

– Bathing is tough, the water is fit for a polar bear and I feel like an ice cube when I emerge from it, although on a hot day it is the most refreshing experience around.

– The days pass quickly, as the schedule at the farm is so structured. The work is honest and worthwhile, the food is plentiful and healthy, and the company is great – my hosts are awesome and the new volunteer, Kim from the Netherlands, is a refreshingly pure spirit and a great exploration partner.

– The price for alcohol, along with coffee is exorbitant, so its been a rather dry ten days but my body is thanking me constantly with new springy energy.

– Norwegian folk are best described in the words of my friend Quinn from the farm, shy at first but once you engage them they are curious and always interested in what you have to say. Also, they look you in the eye when they speak to you, a trait I hope to adopt.

– Nutella is expensive, Nugatti (its knock-off) is not. It has since become an addiction on bread for all meals of day.

– Lamb ribs are delicious, Kaviar in a toothpaste tube is not.

– Reading and writing by candlelight is a guilty pleasure, the flame emits a warm glow to the log-built walls of my lodgings – a 200 year old farmhouse.

– The farm is so isolated, and I admit that I feel a bit stir-crazy but this is only a month of my life and I plan on wandering afterwards.

– The sun never actually sets. I took at walk in the morning stillness at 0300. The clouds were intermingled with the tall spruces and it looked like a magical forest.

Life is good, working in the soil and standing among old stones. For now, I think I’ll have a beer to celebrate my remaining hours in civilization but look forward to my return to the wilderness and the tantalizing dreams that come with it.

Travel Well,

BF.

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Mountain Farm

Three days at the farm and I am coming to terms with “self-sustained” living. There is no trash bin only a compost heap, there is no fridge only a root cellar, there is no bathtub just a majestic waterfall from a mountain spring and water that will stop your heart its so cold! Coming from modern society with modern amenities, it has been a bit of a shock to suddenly be completely immersed in a life so different from my own. But every day that I wake up, I feel more at home upon this mountain ridge, the farm itself steeped in history and Norse myth.

After nearly 17 hours of constant travel I stepped foot on the mountain farm of Nordre Stuksrud – pronounced “Nor-dray-stook-srood”- ‘ya gotta’ roll that rrrrr! It is a spectacular sight, these century-old buildings built on dry-stacked stones the size of small cars up on top of a mountain! Actually, a large hill – but when does a large hill become a mountain? I digress.

I got out of the car, an avenue beaten up by the rocky road to the farm, where several parts I thought I was either going to have to push or bail out, but somehow we made it. Looking exactly like its my first time doing any of this ever, I shouldered my 40 pound backpack with a big “HUFF!” and walked on to meet the crew. Good folks all, Dan the proprietor is an interesting individual with a extensive schooling in the old Norse culture (Masters in Archaeology), he is living his dream farming and living the old way. Hanna, his partner, came here in October fell in love with the place and ended up staying. Quinn is a volunteer like myself, although he has traveled extensively and is full of helpful information and great stories.

The farm is situated just below the summit of the Western face of the Gudbrandsdalen Valley, this location is famous for its folklore traditions and is home to the famous Olympic town of Lillehammer, where I am currently sitting writing this entry. The farm’s internet is down at the moment so the only connection to the outside world lies 20 minutes away by car. But I reckon that is the point of this farming experience, to live traditionally and learn the old way.

The first day was rather difficult, as I was having these completely outrageous thoughts such as why the heck did I leave my perfectly good life in the states? These continued through dinner and when I finally collapsed after a whole day of travel and farm work, I forgot about my worries and let sleep consume me.

I woke up exactly at 0730 the next morning rested and energized, and from then on its been amazing here at the farm, no more thoughts of mutiny of self-betrayal. I have been much too busy for any of that. They put me right to work harvesting moss, which will be dried and eventually used for livestock bedding in the winter months. Quinn and myself traveled down the road, past old summer cottages with slate roofs and dragon-head peaks to a large stream where overhanging moss grew in great clumps, ripe for the taking. We collected nearly 500 lbs of moss in one day, hard work amidst verdant hills and raging rivers – totally worth the sweat.

Next day, Dan had me carve an axe shaft out of a fine piece of stunted spruce. Typically a soft and weak wood, this spruce had grown slowly in the shade of older trees thus giving it tight growth rings and a much a more rigid grain. I used a hatchet to first rough it down, a drawknife to shape it, and then a carving knife to finish it. Took me all day, but at the end, we have a working axe – sure beats the heck out of those fancy store-bought ones!

But that’s my life for the past few days and for several after I am sure. I already feel better and stronger too. The food is simple but good and healthy – exactly what is needed after a long days work. I miss home, my family and friends and comfort of a beer with Dad or a conversation with Mom, but I still have a long way yet to go before I come home and few more stories to put down. Internet is difficult to get at the farm, so these entries may be few and far between, but I cannot wait to see what this next week will yield.

Happy Harvesting!

BF.

Straight Shave

I was on my way home, driving back from the Farmer’s Market in Hamburg, NY, and I almost came straight home. But, in one moment of pure cognizance, it struck me that I am no longer an employee, I don’t have a schedule or a steady paying job – I am the Beardless Farmer, and I absolutely must play the part. So I turned around, parked my car, walked into the barber shop and into the hands of fate.

When speaking of coincidence, my dear Mother loves to remind me that no such thing exists, and that people cross our paths every day for reasons known and unknown. The moment that I made clear to myself that I would go learn to farm organically throughout Europe, this parallelism came into affect. And it was in this barber shop today, that I intercepted yet another extraordinary individual that I can easily call my friend. He sat me down, and we started talking. It was my first time getting a straight shave.

First, comes the prep. The neatly folded towels, bleached and cleaned. The pre-shave tonic and then the piping hot wet towel that smelled vaguely of orange zest, draped neatly and kindly upon the face to draw out the toxins and tickle the hairs soon to be trimmed. Then comes the warm, billowing sensation of the porcelain-smooth shave cream on my newly warmed skin, rubbed gently and thoroughly to cover my rigid scruff. The razor comes next, held in a steady hand tensed before a flourish like a maestro conducting an orchestra. With practiced skill, the razor sharp blade held at an angle neatly skims the surface of my epidermis and after, a clean slate. Shave it off, all of it. The dust, the dirt, the grime. Slice it all away and you are left with a blank slate, a new start.

In three days time, I will be flying across the Atlantic Ocean with the objective to farm organically in foreign zones. I will be learning permaculture (permanent agriculture) and biodynamics from a varied assortment of individuals whilst experiencing unfamiliar cultures, savoring local culinary delights and living a pure and fulfilling existence. It is to Norway that I begin my endeavors abroad, and from there to other territories in the European region, and on.

A blank slate, a straight shave, and new experiences to come. That is what I have coming in three days. I am both excited and nervous, the planning has been three months in advance and I am able to admit that I am truly confident in the weeks to follow. I am five and twenty years young and wish to shape a future with my own wit and wisdom, whatever that may be.

This is the first time in my life that I have decided and more importantly committed myself to something so bold, and I can only think that this is the right path – the one I am supposed to take. Ever since I made the final and impermeable decision to travel across the vast Atlantic to Norway, I have come in to contact with so many interesting and exceptional individuals – and I haven’t even begun my travels yet!

So before I post my first entry in a blog that I believe will bring me great joy and adventure, I want to say thank you to my Mom and Dad, who have been putting up with my overgrown self these past few years as our home turned from two adults and one child to three adults living in a beautiful form of harmony. To my dear sister Leah, who has been the driving and inspirational force behind me pursuing my dream of farming, since she herself is on the same path. To Tom, who provided me with a safe haven to have a beer and talk about life. Charles and Tiffany, the two friends who sparked my love of traveling and whom I will see on the other side of the pond. I am not the sort of guy to make broad sweeping gestures of thanks to a vague assortment of people, my thanks to you will come in time – I plan on writing for a long while yet!

As I close this up, crack a beer and go join my folks around the fire, I want to make a toast to freedom, unchained at last from the bindings of society and released into the vastness of the world, I am becoming my own man and carving my name into the scrolls of history.

Sincerely,

BF.