Horse Carrots and Chocolate Cake

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Where I stayed
Taby Gard

Flag of Sweden  , Swedish Lakeland,
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm up late again, watching the clock tick over before making myself useful and starting to pack up my things. I feel angry this morning, it may be another lack of iron thing but I’m getting sick being here. I am ready to leave. Joelle beats me to the animals, and she can tell something is up. Before breakfast I go out into the forest alone and sit down amongst the trees. Laughter is really the best medicine. I can’t think of what was so funny in the first place, but my sounds startle a squirrel and a woodpecker, both escaping in different directions. I leave the forest ready to face the day. First on the list of jobs the Solar heating for the pool. This was mentioned when I first arrived as something Carl and Staffan would be fixing on a weekend somewhere, but Carl said he didn’t want to. He told his parents he simply does not enjoy that kind of physical labour, and if he wanted to spend time with his father they should go for a bike ride or do something fun. Surely Jason is much more suited to doing this sort of thing. Thankfully he studies like a machine, and at least he’s honest.

Snow has built up and collapsed one side of the solar heating bay, cracking some of the black plastic strips and bending nails every which way. Staffan looks at it as I slowly dismantle the broken parts, and decides we’ll just do a quick fix job for now until he thinks of a different way to build it. Or until winter when it collapses again. He never wanted the pool, couldn’t see a need for it. Carl and Christopher suggested it, saying they would use it every day during summer and it would be a great thing to have. It is not intended for guests, but to instead remain a family place. They a Cicci pressed until he gave in. All four of them worked on it together, running into a few troubles along the way with sinking corners and the leaking pond beside it, but it’s done, finished, and looks really good and professional. But now Christopher and Carl are not at home, the pool is rarely used, and left for Staffan to maintain.

Upon entering Taby Gard a big Copper Red barn with a stone ramp to the send floor flanks the left side. Along the bottom of the barn sit six black double doors. Many of these are bent in and breaking off their hinges. At first I thought it was the doors doing the bad, but when you look closer you can see the walls of the barn itself have begun to push out. Inside the foundation rocks are moving, sinking in the soft earth and slowly beginning to slide away. The barn may only have a few more years in it, the earth beneath it is damp and slowly destroys all the artifacts they keep here. Staffan and I spend a good half of the morning clearing out that, which cannot be saved, saving that which can on bricks, and loading up the car with more rubbish and junk.

Together we set about realigning the doors to the doorframe, so while they don’t always sit straight with the ground they line up with the walls and appear a little more normal. The hinges are the rusty iron kind that remind me of Sovereign Hill, made by blacksmiths and tapped into the wood with a sledgehammer.

With the barn done I head back to my house to have a go fixing the gutters. Getting a ladder I’m able to see the problem properly. I’m not sure if they have ever cleaned out these things. The leaf litter has built up and decayed and solidified in places into a mass of dirt like particles. I remember when I cleaned next how confused I WAS at how much dirt could appear on one’s roof – it’s not like the stuff blows around in the wind. The decomposition process didn’t sink in until I talked about it onstage at a gig in Melbourne. Boy was my face red.

Staffan bends the gutters up and around with e wooden pole from the deck, while I try to stop the damn thing popping off the side of the roof completely, this proves to work better than I expected, the water flowing in the right direction and no longer marooned between metal gutter and leaf litter dam wall. Staffan calls break time (really we’re done here, so I don’t know if technically it’s a break) when I look over the sheep field and see a new black spot. Baby lamb ho!!!! Ahoy! I call down the Staffan and rush to get Joelle. New baby lamb baby lamb baby lamb baby lamb!

We’re out in the field watching them. At first I thought Sisyphus had pushed in to get a piece of the action, then I notice him off to one side with his mum. Two new baby lambs!!!! Twins!! By right it’s only fair that Joelle name’s both of them. Staffan rushed down on the phone to Cicci, we can all see everything is fine as the mother cleans the two newbies. Staffan says we should wait until Cicci comes back to move them into a pen on their own. They seem perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, this time without a crazy second pretend mum wanting to claim responsibility for them.

After  watching them for about half an hour – I swear it’s almost hypnotic – we set up Fika on the verandah. Sebastian the bumblebee is back, buzzing against the window like a crazy kid or a moth (same thing really), relentless in his quest for the purple flowers beyond the glass.

When Cicci does get back she is adamant in handling the new lambs, she and Staffan move them to a pen and Cicci shows the babies where to drink from, their milky white lips showing us they may already be aware.

I move around to the other side of the house to get another gutter sealed. This one may take a little longer, and the rain is about to set in. Over lunch Cicci talks about the good things coming out of the community church, how the people are wanting to get more out of their place of worship, seeking out group outings and activities. One such activity is Taby Gard. It’s a slow process, but the fact the church is showing interest is a step in the right direction. Things are hard in Sweden, and have been for years. There was a documentary made on life in Sweden. Contraception didn’t sound like it existed, so families could have up to seven or kids, all of them sons. The father was impressed – he had more free labour – until he was on his death bed and divided up the land between them Each son was given little or none, the space divided barley enough to live on as it is. The actual documentary is based on many of the Swedish poor immigrating to America during 1846 and the talks they sent back home about the new foreign land. One family loved hearing so much about their son’s future prospects and all the money and fame and wonderful life, that they sold all their belongings and got on a boat to find him and share in his glory. After what sounds like a tremendous ordeal of the boat, the travel, the millstone they brought as a present that cracked and all other troubles, they do finally happen upon their son. He is a drunk, sleeping in his clothes, in a small shack of a house hat he cannot afford. Welcome to the lucky country, this is not Sweden. And I believe that’s how the movie ends. Talk about depressing.

This afternoon Cicci is taking Jo and I to meet Maryanne, the lady responsible for getting her onto Wwoofing in the first place. She was once a Arboga resident, but moved further out to a farm she could afford. The drive is about an hour and I do that thing where I think I’m listening then realise I’ve been sleeping for a while. Sometimes me and moving cars or public transport don’t mix. As we travel further away from Medaker it seems the village names get longer and longer, and more and more unpronounceable. A few end in the same "Delihad" or something similar, but many I cannot even begin to comprehend.

As we go the rain begins to fall, the day turns cold and wet, not the favourite times to be out on an open field. The factories we pass look even darker and more imposing against the dirty pale green of the pine trees. All the houses carry the similar Red/White combination for which Sweden is known, once or twice breaking it with a dash of Yellow. In Brosarp I remember catching a Purple house in Maria – the break sticks in your mind forever.

The corner piece of land stretches far, and keeps between the road and the river until the far barn closes it in. As we park the car Cicci catches sight of Maja, an old friend she has not seen for ten years. She lives in another town not too far from where we are now, currently roughing it in a Hay/Earth house she built herself. She’s seventy and built like a brick shithouse, later Staffan will speak of her as the surviving winter kind.

Standing in the doorway of the small house is the tall and lanky blonde frame of Maryanne. Her designer glasses don’t match her grubby overalls as she welcomes us into the house. The circular table takes up most of the kitchen, as we’re all seated around it, conversation breaking off into Swedish for the most part. Her husband is a quiet man, sticking to Swedish for the most part with Maja’s husband. When they do join in on the English it is to talk about a Russian wild dog they have that has begun migrating here. It’s small and eats rats and squirrels but their main concern is the diseases it’s carrying. Apparently it’s much like rabies, but the dogs don’t catch, only carry it. It’s passed onto the ground where they stand, sleep and live. They are yet to learn how long the parasite can live without a host, but it’s worrying many of the locals as this areas is perfect for picking berries and mushrooms up the in the forests. Maryanne’s husband smiles darkly as he’s talking about the disease “It goes like, in the brain. You never get rid of it.” I’ll be damned if it’s a small Russian dog that stops me from eating wild berries. The Swede’s eyes glaze over when they talk of the all the wild fruits berries and other foods they find and live off in the forests. It’s amazing that this doesn’t eventually lead to over farming and aloes of the wildlife altogether. But there is a different mentality here. There is an idea that you should leave some for other people.

Maryanne is looking forward to her wwoofers she has coming on Monday morning. Because of the cold winter all the work has been pushed back several weeks so now she needs to fight to catch up and make the most of the time she has. Those coming this time around are Swedish, as she will need someone to work in the shop while she is out on the field. The gift of language strikes again. She has had helpers on her farms, both here and at the old farm space she rented, for several years now. Cicci only began to have wwoofers a year or so ago, having heard and seen the opportunities on Maryanne’s farm. Farm work at the moment is quite stressful, as because of the late winter the bracket she has to plant in is rather small, they may not get everything in the ground on time.

After eating we’re taken on a small tour of the farm. The green house is a long and plastic sheet; much like one I remember Oma and Opa having when they began their farming. The dividing walls are up, keeping the smaller seedlings of tomato, leek, brussel sprouts and more separate from the larger plants, not requiring as much heat.

The barn is long and L shaped. When they first bought the place the building was about to fall down, in desperate need of a restumping. Maryanne recounts the perplexing thought of jacking up the building to put the new stones in, watching the barn lift slowly until there was light showing underneath. Beside the barn is the chicken house, a number of smaller hens and a large black rooster. His name is Barry White, but he doesn’t sing round us.

Strawberry fields, blue berry, potatoes and make up the plot, all of which rotate spaces every two years or so.

The rain picks up again so we don’t stay out too long, but it all looks like a lot of work, work that will never stop. Maryanne knows but wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

The drive home is made longer with Cicci showing the long route home. Like a slalom track the road weaves back and fourth between the paddocks and farms. Years ago this was a sheep trail taken by Shepard’s and farmers to market, but has since been paved and made suitable for vehicles. Along the way we discover a Buddhist temple out in the middle of nowhere. Inside the main room is a bell with a wheel that rotates. Each rotation is one thousand moments held by a wish for another, that karma will bring back when the time is right. I give it a few spins, but the actually bell part appears to have broken some time ago. The dog appears a little freaked out by the place, the wind carrying strange and new smells over the land and out of the doorways. We don’t stay too long.

The a farmers goodwill box from which we collect a sack of carrots for the horses. It seems to be out in the middle of nowhere and contains everything the farm can’t sell to distributors – carrots that are the wrong size and shape, eggs that are too small and more. I’m reminded of the small low-key shop Sara Lee cakes used to have in front of their factory for similar reasons. Only there is a very very big difference between horse carrots and chocolate cake.

Carl is doing great at school, it appears his commitment o stud on the weekends and every chance he gets is paying off. He has been receiving top marks for projects all semester, so tonight we toast his good work with the most amazing cherry snapps I have ever tasted. Skull! Tonight is my cooking night, so after such a sweet alcohol to sugar up the palette I blow eveyone’s tongues off with a wicked curry. Presentation with carrot bits and everything, Carl is surprised to find it to be vegetarian. HSFB Jason can cook.
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