Grain stats 2019

In December we finally managed to thresh our grain. We grow barley, wheat and oats for our own use. When we harvest the grain we tie it into sheaves, dry it in the field and stack it in the barn, before threshing in the winter. We use a handcranked threshing machine, which is a seriously efficient method compared to threshing with a flail! It’s still very hard work of corse, but much faster! (remember “hard work” is just “good exercise” in ugly packaging.)


The threshing room. Threshing machine at the back, winnowing machine on the right. This was taken after we were finished unfortunately!

This year we threshed in the newly renovated threshing room, so everything went very smoothly and swiftly compared to previous years. It didn’t take more than 5 full days to thresh and winnow all the grain. (With two people)

And here are the numbers:

Oats 33.5kg

Barley 178kg

Wheat 29.4kg

total 240.9 kg.                                                     Field size: 1600m2

Of this around 50kg wil go to sowing next spring, so we are left with 190kg to eat. This is around half our yearly grain needs, which we estimated to be 400kg.

Considering we had a relatively poor harvest last year, we can hope for quite alot more next time. We were a bit stingy with manure last spring and it did show.

The barley is our most important crop, we eat barley porridge every day for breakfast, made from barley flour and milk. Its very tasty (when we cook it right!) since it gets a natural sweetness as some of the starch breaks down into sugar during cooking.

The oats we grow are naked oats and we plan to use them mostly as boiled wholegrain (oat groats) instead of rice. This year we can only eat a few kilos since we have to save the rest for sowing in the spring, but next year….

The wheat we mill to flour and use in bread, but mix it with white flour, since the variety we grow isn’t really suitable for baking with industrial yeast strains. But it has a great flavour and makes wonderful bread mixed 50/50 with some other flour.

And the straw goes to lovely fresh bedding for the animals.



The gift of Winter

I am so grateful for winter.

Beforehand, I always dread it, thinking only of the lack of green plants, but when it finally comes, it is a blessing. After the frost sets in and the first thick layer of snow settles, a kind of peace dawns over the farm, and all that was won and lost over the season is forgotten. (Or at least buried). No harvest to worry about, no hay to turn, no seeds to sow.

Winter brings a comforting regularity, which differs from the everchanging nature of spring-summer-fall. A new daily life emerges, slow, spacious and sparkling.



It has a special almost etheric beauty, that makes summer seem gaudy and unrefined.

Winter is the space between the outbreath and the inbreath. It is stillness. It is potential. It is sleep, it is rest.

With no cows to milk we have the luxury of rising with the sun, not before her. The horse eats his breakfast outside, due to his impatient nature, while the sheep wait until after breakfast to greet the day. The chickens do not care for the cold, so they will not go out again before the spring. In the house, the fire is lit, the porridge is heated and breakfast awaits.

The days are shorter, the nights longer. Nature winds down, and so do we. But don’t get me wrong, we do not spend our whole winter waiting for spring! As ever, there is much to be done, it is the pace that changes. We have threshing to do, all the grain must be processed and stored safely where the mice can’t get it. There is firewood to make, and Dan intends to cut some trees for timber this year. We need alot of materials to fix our buildings, and hope to use our own forest resources. Fortunately, though it may be cold outside, this is all work that warms.

Due to our both being rather at the introvert end of the scale we spend quite alot of our long evenings absorbed in reading or handicrafts, and for my part at least, a good dose of introspection.

Winter is a gift, the gift of time and space.

To reflect, to re-connect and breathe deeply.

And to dream.


Post-cow life

Things are different.

No cows to milk, no milk to process, about one third less washing-up, two thirds less hay to make! Getting up one hour later! We have found time to set up a greenhouse, one of my longstanding dreams!

On the down-side: no fresh yellow grass-fed butter. No rømme. No more “i’ll just throw a bit of cream in that”.

But the time we have won back is immense. Much of that time now goes to the new centre of our lives, our little Embla. It is time well spent 🙂

We are suddenly a lot less self-sufficient. But. Much more milk-efficient. Before we used milk just because we had it. Now we use exactly as much as we need.

Haymaking went like a dream. Four scythers, three weeks of perfect weather, dried everything on the ground. This is the first year that we have not set up a single hayrack!


But without the cows we find ourselves with an over-abundance of grass. We only have the horse and ten sheep and no matter how fat they get the grass doesn’t seem to get any shorter! Much of the hayfield is left uncut. We had the luxury of only cutting the longest and easiest parts for hay, and after that tried to cut as much as we could for compost, but still there is hayfield standing. We do not have a good solution for that yet. We can’t just leave it every year otherwise soon it will no longer be hayfield, woody plants like fireweed (geiterams) and wild raspberry (villbringebær) will start to grow up and after that maybe rowan and willow. We intend to preserve the wildflower meadow for the sake of biodiversity, and the cultural landscape both of which are threatened. To do that it should be cut every year in the late summer, and the grass must be removed to prevent fertility building up. I would love to have all of it for compost, but it takes time to cut it all with a scythe! (Part of the reason we ended the cows was to save time on haymaking. We don’t really save time if we still have to cut the same amount of grass!)


Our hayfield is full of character!


and so much more than just grass…

We have made several compost piles with half-dry hay and they seem to be working really well, so I’m excited to see how it turns out next year. We also have plenty of grass to mulch the garden with next year so that should help prevent the weeds growing and keep the soil happy. I will also use a thick layer in the greenhouse. Very excited to start growing in there next year!

It is a year of transition. I have to remind myself of that and not expect everything to be perfect all at once. We used the best part of June setting up the greenhouse, and it still isnt totally ready. I have to prepare the soil for growing, finish making ventillation, design a watering system! Next year I should be able to spend much more time actually growing and not just preparing and planning and thinking about it. The garden is somewhat neglected (again) but next year…

So it seems we have taken somewhat of a u-turn down the road of self-sufficiency. Maybe our most self-sufficient days have been and gone. Our focus is shifting away from producing as much of our own food as possible, turning rather to how we can earn a (small) living from the farm while following our interests and preserving the uniqeness of the place. Selling chickens is already going well, while I intend to try and start selling vegetables in the coming years. The past few years we have been so busy farming that we struggled to find time for repairing and taking care of the buildings, so we need to use more time on renovation too.

The core of our project remains: people scale, organic, low tech farming, where we think not only of what we can get from the land, but what we can give back.

P.S. 2018

22nd July 2018

After a slow and cold April, suddenly the warmth came and the snow was gone in just a couple of weeks. We got a great start to the year with a warm and dry spring which meant ploughing and sowing went fast, with virtually no interruptions by the rain.

But what started off as a blessing, soon turned into a curse. We found ourselves wondering when the rain would come. Fortunately we still had the stream so could water continuously with an automatic water sprinkler. This was a life-saver for the garden and the grain fields, but the hayfield was not so lucky. With so little rain, the grass was barely growing, but we always thought to ourselves “the rain must come soon!”.

Well, May turned to June and June turned to July and not only did the grass barely grow, but in some places dried up completely. We have had little more than one day of rain each month, for the whole spring and summer. Nothing but hot sun. Up until a few weeks ago we could still rely on the stream for watering the garden, but now it is virtually dry, with just a few small pools that seem to fill up from the ground. Now, for the first time, water has become a limited resource, and the word drought fallen into daily use.

On the bright side:

  • The garden has grown SO fast and germination was almost perfect. We have eaten tomatoes almost every day for the last few weeks (from only two plants!) and everything is going to be ready early. The berries are almost ripe now which is record early for us. In a bad summer we have not picked them until September!
  • We changed the roof of our house, so it was great to have dry weather! We also took the opportunity while we had no roof to fill the loft with sawdust for insulation.
  • This year we are only milking Audhumbla, so there is not so much pressure to process vast quantities of milk. We will sell Hornfagr hopefully, as a milking cow, before the end of the summer. Audhumbla will have to be slaughtered since we have had alot of problems with mastitis, and her mothering instincts are questionable.
  • Haymaking is going at record speed! Partly because the grass is so thin and short of corse, but also because the weather has been excellent for drying hay. We usually use a lot of time on building hayracks and hanging up the grass, but this year we have dried virtually everything on the ground. This also means we have been able to manage with less help, where we would have otherwise struggled.
  • Fortunately for us, we had already decided give up the cows. That means we only need about one third of the hay we would need if we wanted to keep them through the winter. So what would otherwise have been a huge crisis, may have very little impact on us. We should still have enough hay to feed the sheep and the horse.

The biggest problem we have now is that we are running out of pasture for the animals. Where we have cut hay, and where they have grazed the grass is just not growing back as it normally would. Instead it’s becoming crispy underfoot. Without rain, soon there will be nothing for them to eat. We will not have enough hay for the winter if we have to start feeding it before October, so we would rather have to send the cows away early and maybe butcher some of the sheep too. Farmers all over northern Europe are also suffering from drought, so there won’t be any possibility to buy hay.
We hope that since we will be finished with haymaking soon we can harvest and dry leaves from the trees, as we have done once before, which will be a valuable extra food source for the animals.

Otherwise, we are happy to see everything ripening early, and hope to finish most of the harvest work before the end of September, when we are expecting our first baby! I consider myself very lucky that I work at home, since it means I can have a more natural slowing down through my pregnancy. And of corse, my belly feels most at home in the garden, with the swelling pumpkins.

25th August

Not long after my last entry, the well dried up. Suddenly our only water supply was two tiny pools in the dried-up stream bed. Many times a day I climbed the steep path and siphoned off the precious water, which within minutes was gone. Every time I felt a profound unease as the hose slurped it’s final gulp, leaving nothing but wet rocks. Fortunately it was enough to see us through, but it meant alot of time spent carrying water to the animals and filling up barrels and buckets. Most of the barrels stood in the the farmyard all summer. I dared not use our precious reserves…I dreaded the stream drying up completely and feared for how we would get water for our animals. We watered the garden only with waste water from the house. The soil was bone dry until 15cm down, so the shallow rooted plants like onions really suffered, where most other things seemed to manage.


after we cut the hay, the field just dried up


The grain was already yellowing at the end of July! (usually end of August, sometimes later)

At the beginning of August the curse was lifted. Two days of heavy rain and the stream was flowing again! Never have I been so happy to hear the sound of running water. The weather has cooled considerably, and it seems to rain every day now. In the mornings there is the delicious smell and golden light of Autumn. Paradoxically, we have never had such lush pasture at this time of year! It is such a relief to see green fields again,  but the drought still haunts us like a ghost. The empty well and the scorched patches on the fields are hard to overlook.

15th October 2018

On the 5th October our baby girl was born at Lillehammer hospital. I had planned a home-birth, but things went a different way. We brought her home three days later. It was the most beautiful sunny day with the trees in their full autumn glory.  With her she has brought whole new dimensions to our lives: of joy, fear, and cuteness. (I thought cats were the cutest until I met my daughter).

20th October 2018

Sitting here on the brink of winter the drought seems like distant memory.  But it certainly won’t be easy to forget. I fear for the future of food production when summers like these can become more frequent. And I worry that many people do not understand just how dependant we all are on agriculture, and thus on the climate. We may need many more wake up calls like these.

The grain harvest was a disaster. The top field was especially thin, and we got maybe one quarter of the normal harvest. The bottom field was not hit quite so hard, since it’s position means it holds moisture a bit better. We may have even got less oats than we sowed, but we won’t know for sure until we have threshed and weighed it. The barley was not that bad, but still a disastrous harvest. If we had actually been dependant on the grain we grow, I’m sure we would be starving by the new year. But of corse we have the luxury of buying food in the supermarkets when our harvest is poor. The upside of it all was that the harvest was extremely early, so we actually got all the grain in before the end of August. (Usually we’re lucky to finish by October.)

In many ways the drought saved us alot of time: it was perfect hay drying weather so we managed to dry almost everything on the ground, thus we finished haymaking considerably early. That meant we had time to harvest and dry leaves for the animals as a food supplement for the winter (lauving). We brought down all the firewood we need for the coming year, fixed various fences. We harvested and stored all the root veg, and we are now finished digging potatoes.

Its been a great year for the vegetable garden. It’s amazing to see what a difference some warm weather can make- everything just grew that much faster and bigger. We had a bumper crop of peas, courgette, carrots, swede, sprouting broccoli…Plenty of cabbage, brussel sprouts, parsnips, beetroot… I also grew cauliflower for the first time with success and it was a great year for seedsaving too, since everything ripened early and dried perfectly on the plant. I’ve saved seed from four different types of pea, calendula, parsnip, nasturtium and poppies.

12th November

In the beginning of September we sent our our two cows Hornfagr and Audhumbla plus  Stutsi the calf to the slaughterhouse. We both had a bad conscience sending them there, but we couldnt sell them, and there’s no way we could have slaughtered them ourselves and proccessed all that meat. (BIG animals!) We have never had to send any of our animals to the slaughterhouse before, and hopefully never will again! We would have preferred to sell them as milking cows but Audhumbla had chronic mastitis and we didn’t find a buyer for Hornfagr. It was so sad to make that decision, I felt like I was betraying them, but we just couldn’t continue the way things were: It was far too much milk, too much work and such a huge time sink. (See my last post) As I mentioned above, we wouldn’t have had enough hay to feed them through the winter anyway. Their time had come. We are still using homemade butter, yoghurt and milk- we froze enough for several months!

With the cows gone, we had plently of pasture for the sheep and the horse. We had nine lambs this year, which we slaughtered here on the farm at the end of October. Now the freezer is full of the best meat in the world, and we have fenalår and pinnekjøtt hanging to dry. Slaughtering is always sad, but we take comfort that our sheep have good, free lives, and swift, stress-free deaths. They spend the summer months roaming free in the surrounding forest and pastures, coming home roughly once a week (usually on sunday!) to make a noise and hang out in the farmyard. In the winter the sheep are often outdoors, but have a cosy home in the barn when the winter is too tough, even for them.

Next year I look forward to focusing more on the garden, and I also plan to finally set up a greenhouse! Most of all I look forward to watching my daughter grow up here and run wild like the stream.




On the peak of the mountain

20th September 2017

At the end of summer I find myself standing on the peak of this mountain we’ve been climbing these past years, only to realise I’m far too tired to enjoy the view and the air is too thin. It’s time to descend.

I think I will always remember 2017 as the summer we realised we are doing too much. Let me explain.

In July Hornfagr calved, throwing us into a whirlwind of milky madness. Audhumbla had already been lactating since April, and suddenly we had two cows to milk, and 30litres a day to process. It was the first time we had both cows milking fully at the same time, and though I knew it would be a lot of work, I never thought to do the maths. It was always our intention to milk both cows over the summer and make cheese, butter etc for the rest of the year. Well, now we did. Turns out it’s still way too much milk. I had to make cheese every other day from 40litres, and the rest went to yoghurt and general use. I enjoy cheesemaking, but every other day is extreme, and meant I had no time for anything else. The garden has been all but neglected the whole summer and I had to cancel the gardening course I was running this year. Fortunately I had help once a week from one of our new neighbours, who has also been sharing the milking with us since the beginning of the year. Without the extra help I don’t know if we would have coped with all the work. (Thankyou Tea!) Now we have Audhumbla reunited with her calf so we only milk Hornfagr, and get a reasonable amount of milk again.

And we have shelves full of cheese! We made “farmhouse cheddar” mostly and brunost, but I also tried Gouda, and experimented making skimmed and semi-skimmed milk cheeses. We have already started eating the ones I made first, after ageing them at least one month. Right now they are still very mild, and all quite unique. The first one reminded me of Jarlsberg, and the second was more like cheddar. It’s exciting to see what the next 15 taste like! All the brunost was different too, some very sweet, some more sour, some dark, some light. It’s a wonderful feeling to go to the storehouse and pick out a homemade cheese.

Here you can see the wonderful end products, but not my grumpy face when I got up 5.30, or the hours standing by a hot stove in a dark cellar when it was sunny outside, or the scrubbing of the pot for half an hour when I burnt the brunost…more than once.

We made about 20 cheeses all together, each between 3-4 kilos

The other big challenge of the summer was haymaking. This year we cut the entire field (19mål) by hand, (with scythes) for the first time. I say we, but Dan cut basically everything by himself. We tried to find scythers to help us mowing, but only three came in the end, so mostly Dan was mowing alone. Of corse we are very grateful for the help we did get, we got off to a good start in July with the help of two scythers from England and one from Norway. But we have realised now that being dependant on volunteer help is not really working for us, especially when the work is as urgent as haymaking. We ended up with too few hands and didnt finish haymaking until the end of August. This year it has been much harder to find volunteers, so its been a big push to carry out even the most urgent of tasks.

The root of the problem is that we are producing too much food! The reason we need extra help is because we need alot of hay to feed two cows through the winter, and two cows produce far more milk than we need. Two cows are enough to provide at least two families with dairy all year round- if we had more people living here it would be reasonable, both with respect to the food and the work. But as it is, it’s far too much of both. I calculated we spend at least one third of all our time working on dairy/cow related tasks. And we produce about double as much milk as we need. Right now we are giving alot of skimmed milk to the chickens, in the form of sour milk, which is a good source of protein for them, but of corse in terms of efficiency its completely absurd. We should rather produce less milk. Having only one cow is not an option for us, since we think it’s too sad for her to be alone. So now we have decided to sell the cows, and are thinking about getting milking sheep instead. Goats would be great, but i have a garden to think about! Having sheep rather than cows means we would be able to control the quantity of milk easier (5 sheep is roughly equal to one cow) and try to produce only as much as we need, while still trying to make as much cheese and butter as possible over the summer. I’m thinking maybe we wont be 100% self-sufficient in dairy, or maybe we will just have to consume less cheese and butter, but thats better than working too hard and producing too much.

The other thing we have decided to cut back on is the area of soil we cultivate each year. The past few years we have ploughed and sown roughly 3.5mål (0.35 hectares) (0.86 acres) with grain (barley, wheat and oats). It’s ALOT of work to plough and prepare the fields with the horse, along with harvesting of course and threshing in the winter. So far we have generally not used all the grain we have grown for a few reasons.

Lets start with wheat: wheat is very difficult to grow here and we have had problems with the fields falling flat and weeds then growing up over the wheat, ruining the crop. Last year that happened, meaning we ended up giving at least half of the wheat straight to the chickens on the straw. (It has improved this year). Even in a good year though the yield is lower than if we grew barley on the same area, so the logical thing with respect to efficiency is to grow less wheat and try to eat more barley instead.

barley field 2014

Then there is the oats: The first year we grew normal oats (avena sativa) and got a great yield but found we couldn’t realistically process the grain for human consumption. Oats have a thick husk that is very difficult to remove without specialised machinery, or an old-school stone mill. We only have an upright electric mill, and though we did find a method, it was far too energy- and time-consuming. Last year we grew naked oats (avena nuda) but during threshing realised they were only about 50% naked. Now we are trying to purify the seed by hand picking out naked oats for sowing, and then saving seed for the next couple of years. We intend to use the naked oats as a rice substitute, so will not need huge quantities.

Barley grows very well here and this is the grain we use the most. We make a porridge every day from barley flour and milk, which we have for breakfast with yoghurt. Even so we have generally produced more than we need. Now we have invented a way to use it also for lunch, by making a thick kind of flat bread made of barley flour and cooked potatoes.

We also tend to grow too many root vegetables, with the intention of feeding them to the animals in the winter. We give the cows turnips/swedes every day but even so we end up with alot that goes to waste. Last year we grew and stored maybe four wagon loads of root vegetables, which turned out to be far too much, so the surplus just rotted once the summer came.

So this winter we are having a serious think about the future of the farm, how much we really need to produce, how many volunteers we really need. We have both realised that having volunteers here 90% of the time is too much for us, so we want to try and produce less food, and have fewer volunteers in general. I’m very excited to see how things will change over the next couple of years, and curious if this is really going to make our lives easier,  or is this just a case of “the grass is greener on the other side”!?

Only time will tell. Meanwhile I will try to keep you filled in!



The joy of spring

Some people live for the weekend. I live for spring.

This is my greatest joy:

Breathing the first hint of forest after the thaw,

hearing the stream break out after a winter muffled by ice and snow,

the sound of cranes,

three day old lambs bouncing with all the joy of creation,

the first blades of grass,

the feel of a warm breeze on bare skin,

blue skies and torrential downpours,

the sound of cows munching on fresh grass,

the strength in his eyes

long days on the fields, with soil

the colour green,

good meals around a big table and knowing we earned every bite.










The passing of winter

As the sun rises higher in the sky each day, winter is gradually replaced by spring. Some days the birds sing joyfully, seemingly to announce each drip from the roof, each water droplet freed from it’s crystalline form, each new rock that emerges from beneath the snow. Spring is on it’s way, but winter still rears it’s head regularly. Some days all is still and grey, the cold takes hold once again, and snow falls slowly from the sky.

The farm awakens from it’s slumber, and animals and people fill the farmyard with life. The animals mainly stand around lazily, while the people move back and forth carrying things here and there and conversing with one another. If we look closer we can see the trees also busying themselves within, mobilising for a new surge of growth.


3rd April

Threshing is finished, and two stacks of freshly split wood are growing rapidly on the edge of the forest. We had very little snow this winter (only about 1 metre haha) so it seems as though it will finish melting earlier this year. Already a strip of ground on the south side of the house is bare, which doesn’t usually happen until mid april.

Threshing went fast this year with the new threshing machine. We also found a way to remove the awn from the barley, by cranking the threshing machine really fast and passing the threshed grain back through, twice. After that, nearly all of the barley is awn-free. Now we are just about finished with drying the grain, and that’s all the grain-proccessing until next harvest!

Last year we grew naked oats, but when we threshed we found there were quite alot with husks on. We think maybe the seed was not completely pure, and there were some hulled varieties mixed in. Now we have a project to sort at least 2kilos of naked oats, for sowing this year. We are removing all the ones with husks, and will only sow 100% naked oats, to get some pure seed for sowing again next year. Then hopefully in about 3 years we will have enough for a field of almost pure naked oats. I also spent some time experimenting with removing the husk from the oats. In the end I found the best way with the equipment we have, is to mill it twice very coarsely, and then winnow it. That way you get rid of most of the husk, then when I want to use it I throw it into a pan of water and scoop off any remaining husk, which will float, while the oats sink. Now we can have homegrown oat porridge again!



Before and after proccessing.


A few weeks ago we slaughtered our much loved ram Ramson. He had become too strong for his own good, and was breaking alot of gates and escaping, which meant we could no longer keep him outside, and had to lock him in the ram cage. We thought it better to slaughter him than keep him confined like that, and either way we want to get a new ram, so we can increase the flock a little. He died well, and though it’s always sad to kill, we feel it was the right thing. I made haggis from the lungs, liver and heart, and the meat went in the freezer. The meat is good and quite different from lamb. It has more texture and flavour somehow, though not the same juicy tenderness of corse.

We tanned the skin, though it was very difficult to scrape since it was completely fresh. With the lambs we butcher in the fall, we nail the skins up to dry them, then moisten them a little before scraping them. This method is considerably easier from our experience, and it means we can tan whenever we have time. We tanned our first sheep skins last month, three so so far, and we have about 9 left to do! The first one went a bit wrong as the wool loosened from the skin when I was washing it, but the other two are good. I will try to put together a post soon about how we do it.

There is alot of natural variation in our sheep, since they are an old breed (vilsau). It makes for really interesting sheepskins!

Auðhumbla had her second calf almost a week ago. The calf is strong and lively and independant. This time, to our surprise, she gave birth by herself and everything went well, but her mothering skills didn’t seem to have improved much on last year. (See Audhumbla’s first calf) She was crazy, bellowing angrily and pushing the calf away and we had to tie her so the calf could suckle. Then we put the calf in a separate pen and milked the cow. Just two days later she had calmed down and seemed more interested in the calf than afraid of it, so I let them be together. She mooed alot but perhaps in a motherly way, and let the calf suckle. It was amazing to see her change so fast, and become a loving mother, after last year.

Now we have them together in the morning, evening and night, but separate them during the day, so we can also train the calf to bottle feed. We saved all the colostrum and milk from the first 4 days that the calf didn’t need, and soured it to feed to her later. We milk Auðhumbla twice a day, but let the calf feed first, and right now we can take about 12litres a day. It’s great to have milk again after four months without it! Yesterday I made cottage cheese, and now we have started to eat porridge again. Fortunately, we have been well stocked with butter over the winter, since we saved alot of butter from last year. We still have about 10 kilos left in the freezer!

We plan to keep the calf at least until July, when Hornfagr will calve too. Then maybe we will slaughter them both, or keep the youngest. When we have both cows milking (finally! (hopefully!)) then we will try to make lots of hard cheese and brunost for the winter. It will be the first time with both cows milking during the summer, so it’s exciting, but a big challenge. Especially since it will begin in July, when we also plan to cut our hayfield entirely by hand for the first time!

9th April

The chickens are laying alot of eggs now! We have just put 73 eggs in the incubator, so we’ll see how that goes. We want to try and sell some chicks, and also sell some hens later in the year. And the cockerels will most likely end up in the freezer again.

The house is filling up with seedlings of all kinds. Yesterday we transplanted four types of cabbage, brusselsprouts, romanseco, broccoli, lettuce and rocket; about 120 plants in all! I also have tomatoes, parsely and sage which I started from seed and I’m trying out an heirloom soybean variety which might possibly be able to grow here. I have no idea if it will come to anything, but it’s worth a try! Soon I will start off courgette, pumpkin, beans, and also a rare flint corn variety from north america/canada, which is one of the earliest I’ve heard of. Again, no idea if it will work. Last time I tried to grow corn it barely even flowered before the frost came.


This year I’m trying to grow onions and leeks from seed (again). The previous years have not been a great success especially with the onions. The first year I sowed masses, but at some point they seemed to just stop growing, and when I planted them out most of them died, or barely grew. Some though grew to full size, which gave me hope. The next year they seemed ok but once I planted them out they didn’t grow much, and ended up as baby onions. This year I hope to succeed! I found out the problem may well be that they didn’t get enough light as seedlings, so earlier in the year I bought some growing lights (LED grow panel) and they seem to be thriving! I also started them off much earlier this year (end of february), so hopefully they will be big and strong by the time I plant them out in may. The leeks I have in the window, and they seem to be doing fine there.

Recently I made the first sourdough bread from our own wheat. Previously I had experienced that the bread made from only homegrown wheat (dalalandhvete) was very sticky no matter how long I baked it. But with the sourdough the texture was much better! Last year we got a very poor harvest from the wheat, because so much of it collapsed on the field. We were advised that it mght be due to over-fertilisation, so this year we will use less manure and see if they manage to stand up until harvest!

Over the past few weeks Dan has been working up at our portable sawmill, sawing planks and materials for repairing the buildings. This winter he is working on the top of the hill, where the spruce trees are slow grown, which makes for very good quality timber. He is making new panels for the storehouse, and a new tabletop for the kitchen, among other things. Since he has been away in the forest sawing timber, he taught me to use the chainsaw so I can continue proccessing firewood. I thought I would hate using it, but it’s actually fine. (Though I much prefer splitting wood with an axe! Unfortunately the woofers get to do most of that.)

We have a Logosol portable sawmill, which consists of a chainsaw that runs along a rail, and an adjustable bed to hold the logs.

We are fortunate to own enough forest for all our firewood needs, as well as for building materials too. Over the past couple of winters Dan has cleared a patch of the forest close to the farm to make a new pasture for the cows. The rest of the forest we intend to manage sustainably, by taking trees here and there, rather than felling large areas. In this way we will be able to preserve the natural ecosystem while still supplying the farm with wood. The horse will play a big role, by dragging the logs out to a place where we can proccess them, and by bringing the wood back to the farm.

We are expecting lambs any day now, and hopefully two from each ewe. Previously we have only got one from each, so if all goes well we will have 10 lambs this year.






the new year

1 January 2017

We celebrated the new year with our own roast lamb and vegetables. And (selvfølgelig) homemade beer. At midnight we went outside and watched as the whole valley became an explosion of light and sound. From up here we are able to watch about 50 firework displays at once from Follebu all the way to Lillehammer, and over the hill at Hafjell. It’s magical.

I figured that since my posts are so infrequent now, it might be a bit difficult for you to follow what’s actually going on here, so here’s an overview of what we did in 2016 and a mish-mash of pictures.

Ploughed all our land with the horse

Hatched and raised about 60 chicks

Grew a year’s supply of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, garlic, swedes, turnips, barley

Roughly half a years supply of onions, cabbages, squashes, peas, wheat, oats

And satisfactory amounts of pumpkins, greens, lettuce, radishes, snow peas and grew outdoor tomatoes for the first time

Grew crazy amounts of parsnip seed, and pathetic amounts of carrot seed

Cleared forest for a new pasture and made 300 posts for the fence

Fenced in the new pasture

Made a year’s supply of firewood

Made enough hay in the traditional way to feed 1 horse, two cows and  6 sheep through the winter

Fixed part of the barn roof

Fixed part of the roof of the house and put up new gutters

Raised and butchered five lambs, made sausages and salted meat

Delivered a breached calf

Milked one of our cows for nine months and made a years worth of butter and pultost, plus made the first successful brunost and gamalost and some extremely dry hard cheese.

Fixed alot of fences and made alot of gates

Hosted 24 volunteers through wwoof norway

Treated both of our cows for mastitis

Made around 20litres wine and 40litres beer

Picked alot of blueberries and currants and made a year’s supply of jam

Moved portable sawmill to the forest and started cutting trees for timber

Sold the car and bought a moped

Finally succeeded in destroying the mower

Finally unblocked the drain!!! (had to get a digger to dig the pipe up, and fix it)

Had our first chimney fire!

made stock out of elk bones

Made two crockfulls of sauerkraut

Produced all our own eggs

Got a new threshing machine



At the year’s end…

23 December 2016

The darkest day of the year has been and gone, and so the sunrise makes it’s slow journey to the east, rising ever higher in the sky, and setting ever further to the west. Winter came early this year, and brought us a fiercly cold November, that felt more like january. And so somehow we ended up fixing the roof in -15°C. The roof over the front of the house was rotten, and the gutters were completely useless, so we took off the old roof plates and everything that was rotten and replaced it, with new gutters we got from a friend. It was bloody cold thats for sure, and took longer than expected, but now we have a shiny new roof. It’s really satisfying to know that we can restore the buildings ourselves, even if it’s not professional.

While Dan and I were working on the roof, our woofers were taking care of the firewood supply, bringing down all the wood we made last winter, and stacking it in the woodshed. This year gravity was on our side, and they could just throw the wood on a sled and pull it down to the farm. It was lucky we already had a good layer of snow too.

This year we branched out with the salted lamb, and made sausages too! It’s a kind of Norwegian sausage (spekepølse) that is salted and dried, and so you eat it on your bread (like salami i guess). We made some just from meat, and some from offal- liver, heart, kidney and lungs. They take some time before they’re ready, especially when it’s so cold, so i’ll let you know how it turns out. Besides the sausages we made the usual salted ribs (pinnekjøtt) and legs  (fenalår).

Our cow Audhumbla dried up at the end of November, so now for the first time in 16 months we dont have any milk! We should have been milking our other cow Hornfagr, but she had a miscarriage in the summer and so didn’t start producing in July like we had expected. Now we have to wait until April, when Audhumbla should calve again. Fortunately, we managed to save plenty of butter and pultost, for the next few months, but it is a pain not to have fresh milk, or cream. What is nice is that we don’t have to get up so early to milk, and there’s no dairy work at all, so that gives me quite a bit more time!

We had the vet here recently because both of the cows have some kind of infection in their hooves. At first I thought that Audhumbla was lame, and thought maybe she had just twisted her foot or something, but later I noticed that she had a nasty looking wound just above her heel, and there was some strange yellow crust all round. I checked her other hoof and it was not so bad, but had some kind of lesion. Hornfagr also had the same kind of crusty stuff on one of her hind feet. The vet advised to give them foot baths once a day and  try to keep their stalls as clean and dry as possible. It seems like it’s healing now, but slowly, so we just have to keep an eye on it. For me keeping animals is the most challenging part of the farm. I get so worried when I notice something is wrong, and it’s so hard to know if it’s serious or not. Animals are so complex!

On the day that the vet came, Ramson (our ram) disappeared. The sheep spend most of their time outside even in the winter, and it was mating season so we had him together with the ewes. He was there when i fed the animals in the morning, but after breakfast he had gone. He likes to explore so we didn’t think  much of it at first. And we thought he can’t have gone far, afterall, where would he possibly go?? Quite far it turns out! Not long after the vet had gone, we got a call from a farmer down in the valley. He wondered if we were missing a Ram.

We left as soon as we could, following the walking path down the snowy hill. He had rammed the gate until it broke, and toddled off  2km to the nearest sheep farm. By looking at his tracks in the snow, it was quite clear he knew where he was going.  When we got there we apologised to the farmer, remarking that he might get some interesting looking lambs in the spring (since our ram is an old breed with horns, and long black/grey wool). Oh that doesn’t matter, he said. Then came the long trek back home, with the frustrated ram on a lead. Fortunately he’s very tame, but that doesn’t mean he made it easy for us. He was naturally upset about having a rope tied around his horns. Or so we thought. Dan led him as far as he could bear, and asked me to take over. I was not keen, seeing how difficult it looked, but when I took the rope he followed politely after me, stopping now and then to nibble some snow. After that, it was only the hill we had to fight against.

When we got back to the farm, we closed off the large enclosure and reunited Ramson with his ladies. We covered the main gate with a tarp, because they don’t ram if they can’t see through it.

In the morning he was gone. Again. This time i went by myself, and not long after i left, i could hear the sound of bells, and far down in the valley there was a flock of sheep running round and round their enclosure.  As I led him back to the farm, I wondered how many perplexed people glanced out of their windows and spotted me walking my Ram.

Now we have shut him up in the barn. It’s sad and he hates it but we don’t have a choice. Our gates and fences are not designed to contain a determined fully grown ram- if he wants out, he just butts and butts until the gate cracks, or the post loosens or the catch breaks. Now we are thinking maybe it’s time to let him go, and get a younger, calmer version.


Ramson, (3yrs) enjoying his summer freedom. It cost us many gates.


December has otherwise been very relaxing, and I’ve taken time to spin wool, and learn tablet weaving. It’s so nice to finally slow down and enjoy the long evenings indoors, with a fire, the cats and sackfulls of wool! Im experimenting with different techniques, and making different kinds of yarn. Until now I’ve only spun knitting yarn, but I’ve just started practising to spin weaving yarn too. The warp especially needs to be very strong, as it has to stand up to quite alot during weaving. In the olden days they had a special technique to prepare the wool where you use combs instead of carders, and it is spun slighly differently too, and often much tighter to make it extra strong. Dan knows alot about the old techniques they used in Norway, so I’ve learnt alot from him. The old norwegian sheep breeds have very different wool, made up of two layers. One is shorter, finer and crimped, and the other is longer, straight and coarse. These are called cover hairs and protect the sheep from rain, while the undercoat is mainly for warmth. They used to separate the wool to some degree and use most of the cover hairs in the warp, since it makes a much smoother, stronger yarn. The rest would be spun and used for weft. Until around the 1700s all yarn was spun on a spindle, rather than a spinning wheel. I was completely dumbfounded when Dan told me that the yarn used to make the sailcloth for the viking ships was spun on a spindle!!


this is my first tablet-woven band, with a two colour pattern


and these are the long awaited first socks from our own wool!


The harvest begins

1st September 2016

It’s been a long time since my last post, and much has changed. As we glide into autumn, we are met once again by the familiar sight of rowan trees laden with red berries, golden barley fields, swelling vegetables and ripening seeds. Nature offers her finest gifts to see us through the long, cold winter.

We’ve had a good season! We managed to finish haymaking earlier than the previous years, due to the good weather and also because we dried alot more on the ground than before. The grains are ready to be cut, and thanks to the warmer summer, we are harvesting one month earlier than last year! Thats how much weather matters.


this is an old norwegian barley variety called “trysil bygg”

The berries were alot earlier this year too, so we have already picked them all, and preserved them for the year ahead. I made alot of blueberry jam, since we still have tonnes of dried blueberries from last year, and from the redcurrants I made mainly juice, but we are also embarking on our first wine experiment!

In the garden the cabbages are growing to rediculous proportions, and I look forward to make crockfulls of sauerkraut, surkål and probably many fine heads for the cellar too. This year I’m seedsaving parsnip, carrot, chicory, parsley and an old norwegian pea called lomsert. The parsnip seed is almost ripe but the rest has a way to go. It’s enough for a whole field of parsnips!


The pumpkins are doing really well this year- I gave them some extra compost, mulched them, watered them, and also trimmed the vines. It worked! I found out that with our short growing season, there’s no point in letting them grow really big vines, because they will set more fruits than they can possibly ripen, so I just cut off the end of the vine once the first three fruits had set, and made sure to trim back any new growth after that. It also helps to hand-pollinate if the weather is bad, because often the pollinators dont come out if it’s raining, and if the flowers are not pollinated the little fruits just drop off.


The garlic is already harvested and hanging up on the wall of the house. It needs to cure for a few weeks before it is ready for storage. I think this year I have managed to grow a year’s supply, but only time will tell! I love growing garlic because it is so easy, and grows so well here! The first year i tried planting garlic from the supermarket, and when it didnt work, i thought i’d done something wrong . But then I realised that all the garlic in the supermarket is grown in China! There’s no wonder it didn’t want to grow here in Norway! After I got hold of a more local variety I saw a massive improvement. Hopefully we will never need to buy it again.

I have also harvested the first onions. I pull them up and cure them in the sun for a couple of days, and then  bring them in to dry them. This year I made a makeshift bunkbed/drying rack in the woofer room. Fortunately our german woofer loves onions! They need a few weeks in a warm dry place, to dry up the leaves and the skins. Then can trim the leaves and the roots and store them in net bags in the store house.


this is about one fifth of the garlic harvest


The bad news is that our cow Hornfagr who was supposed to calve at the beginning of August, must have had a miscarriage because there was no calf, and thus no milk! I started to have my doubts a couple of weeks before, when I realised she was not really fat enough to be carrying a calf, and her udders failed to swell as they should. We are not really sure when it happened but I don’t think it was too long before I noticed, because she definately was pregnant during the summer. Now we just have to manage with the milk we get from Audhumbla, until she dries up in the winter. Then we won’t have any milk until she calves again in April. We are trying to save up butter and cheese for that gap, and I think we will manage to make enough.

5th September 2016

Today the vet was here to inseminate Hornfagr again. If all goes well she should calve in June, which would be a great time for us, when we have just finished with spring work and before the madness of haymaking! There will be plenty of lovely fresh grass too, so we can make lots of golden butter, hard cheese and brunost!

10th September

In other news, the new pasture is rapidly being fenced in, which is quite a miracle considering how unbelievably rocky it is. In fact it is just rock, with a layer of humus on top. But somehow they managed to ram in about 200 posts! Some places it was just impossible so we will make a barrier from felled trees and branches. We will also lime the area to bring down the pH, and help to get the grass growing. It can take a long time for freshly cleared spruce forest to become a good pasture. Most of the areas around here which have been cleared in the past few years still do not have much grass, as it is acid loving plants like blueberries that thrive. The lime will just speed things up a bit. It will also help to graze animals in there, as they help the right plants to grow.


now we are finished with cutting the barley and oats. Only the wheat left to go.