Redemption

There is redemption to be found on the farm, atonement from civilized life. No plastic, no preservatives, no veneer of authenticity but a true form of life. It exists in the dirt, and the great stones that rest quietly in the woods. It is a place to wear no shoes, to bathe in a frigid torrent with quartz running underfoot, to be silent in a room full of people, to enjoy the simple things and to laugh. Frugality replaces excess, hard work ousts boredom and laughter supplants loneliness. Met with life as soon as you wake, the farm is a binding force that I will miss as I move on, to continue my travels elsewhere.

In a tribute to the farm, this is what I will miss most about the old place, in no particular order:

  • The people, volunteers come and go and they are all spectacular people, but Dan and Hanna remain to be two of the most peaceful and wonderful people I have yet to meet – it was a perfect first experience on the farm.
  • The viking baths, the jaunt down to the great pool down below the farm and the heart-stopping cold that greets my body as I plunge under the water to wash off the sweat and dirt from the day’s work – a true Norse treat.
  • The food, the simple oat porridge in the morning and the bread at lunch with the multitude of condiments – the wonderful peer pressure to “try it before you knock it,” which is part of the reason I now love mackerel – yum!
  • The stones, mysterious and ubiquitous their presence is both massive and complacent. Covered in moss and stubborn with gravity, their giant bulks dot the landscape around the farm and tickle the imagination as homes of gnomes and fairies alike.
  • The mornings and their peaceful silences with the shadows in the valley rubbing across the hills below, until the screech of the rooster breaks through of course.
  • The animals, the rabbits with their oblivious demeanors, the chickens and their spunky attitudes and that gloriously pompous cockerel who I actually have come to like (until he attacks me and then all I want is fried chicken).
  • The work, yes the work. The reason I am there in the first place. From thinning vegetables, to mulching the garden, making tool handles and drying hay – all has made me a better man and a healthier human – hurrah!
  • The weather, a beating sun can quickly change to a torrential rain. This quick reversal makes me appreciate all forms of weather, and their incredible power, on the top of the mountain.
  • The nature, and its perplexing beauty. From the dense woods to the open meadows, nature is Norway’s greatest entity and I have faith that it will remain this way in the hands of people like Dan and Hanna.

The list, like making hay, could go on for a long time but for the sake your sanity and mine I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking as they so often do. For the moment, the fields are being cleared as hay season has come into full tilt. With an intensity that is only made greater by the beating Norwegian sun, all able hands flock to the fields to make hay out of grass.

With practiced skill and callused hands, grass is sliced under the roaring hum of the antique tractor and scooped up with pitchforks, their handles worn smooth by decades of heavy use. Hay racks constructed from spruce saplings and wire, we often work in silence, only the sound of pitchfork tines scraping the tough stalks of grass and the occasional sneeze from the hay dust drifting in the air.

My travels are taking me next to Croatia – the land of my ancestors – and to a much warmer, Mediterranean climate. As much as I cannot wait to see this new place and gain new knowledge and experience, it is the farm that I must enjoy to the fullest now.

As always, be mindful, live in the moment and travel well.

~BF.

Advertisements

Duck!

Whack!

Muttering a stream of curses under my breath, as my forehead makes contact with the solid doorway frame above, I stumble out of the barn in a daze. Bucket in hand, I set out to find some fresh greens for the animals that eagerly await my return.

Such is the typical morning at the farm, open my eyes and fumble around for my glasses whilst knocking over a candlestick and the book beside it. Smeared and dusty, I huff and I puff to rub them clean and then haphazardly place them on my head. The scene that lays before me in perfect detail, is my room. Spartan in nature. there is a hand-crafted bed, a hastily constructed set of shelving, a table and chair and a Jotul wood stove. The walls are barren except for a small mirror for shaving my near beardless face, and a sun-drenched picture of a young girl in a garden.

I get up with a groan and look at my phone, its 0730 and time to feed the animals. I hastily throw on some clothes, bringing them to my nose in order to test their cleanliness.

Sniff. What is that, horse? Dirty bin.

Sniff. Ehh, wood sap? That will do. With a shrug I throw them on and turn towards the door, my mind still in a daze from the strange dreams I continue to have in the night.

Thwack! 

Ahhh! Owwww! I bellow in the morning stillness, I am sure the farm on the opposing side of the valley can here my cries of surprised pain. I shake my head, my cerebrum throbbing and leer angrily at the top of the door frame. With a deep breath, I set off to work.

Living in the moment is an important part of life in the farm, from stepping around the moss draped stones to throwing split wood in the shed – it is important to be mindful of all your actions – a lesson I am quickly learning as each and every day yields a different bruise, cut, or welt. It also doesn’t help to be a tall figure on a farm that presumably was built for dwarves, I digress.

I realize how reckless I have allowed myself to become, still having that naive sense of invincibility that often exists in youth. The tasks I set out to perform are varied and relatively precarious and my ability to heal has slowed down as I collect more days in my life. Climbing steep hills with jagged stone to harvest moss, kicking off my boots and stepping into the ice-cold stream slippery with algae to wash up, or just simply walking out of doors – a skill that apparently is learned the hard way.

And yet, I am making improvements. Stepping lighter and not allowing my heels to slam back with habitual laziness, an action which makes all the loose instruments hanging from the walls in the two-hundred year old farmhouse, tremble under my tread. Also, there is stepping gingerly through the fields, my eyes scanning the undergrowth for the tell-tale sign of Stinging Nettle, and circling their spiky bunches if spotted.

The most recent lesson is one that entails a much sharper edge. The farm, at this moment is gearing up for hay season, which will most likely see me out for the rest of my tenure here at Nordre Stuksrud. The crafting of tools to use in the field is priority, rake handles, axe handles, and scythe handles to name a few. So it was carving another axe-handle that I learned an important lesson.

Shaving, chipping, shaping, carving. I sat on a stump, tooling my newest creation when I had the misfortune to slip with my knife, I’ll spare the gritty details but I nicked myself pretty good.

Don’t worry! All digits are good, it was a clean and very sharp knife so it was a clean cut. The wound is healing rather rapidly after being cleaned and wrapped several times a day by our resident first aid tech, Kim. I am in good hands. But after that moment, as I was sitting on the floor my room with my first aid kit in strewn across my legs (I was sure glad I checked it before my trip!) and my hand in the air above my heart, I knew I had to quit being such a damn troll and change my ways.

Defeat is not in my vocabulary. Despite this setback, the next day I finished the axe-handle and made another rake handle to top it off. I look at the healing, scabbing wound I caused myself, and realize that perhaps this scar will be a constant reminder to live in the moment from now on.

That and those damn low-hanging doorways…

All else is well at the farm, wounds heal and life goes on. As for now, I may pick up another cup of black coffee and read Timeline in the shade of that big maple here at the park in Lillehammer.

Safe Travels and Be Mindful!

BF.