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.

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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!!

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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this is about one fifth of the garlic harvest

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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.

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

Is that cheese?

4th April 2016

Audhumbla (one of our cows) had her first calf at the end of February. (For the post about the birth see here: Audhumbla’s first calf) Now she gives us around 12 liters of milk per day,  and Hornfagr gives us about 3 liters so it’s been alot of work processing it all! I’ve started making hard cheese again, and have finally succeeded in making brunost! For those of you who still don’t know what that is, I will explain. When you make cheese, you have to coagulate milk in one way or another. For a hard cheese with fresh milk I use rennet, which is an enzyme that naturally occurs in the stomach of a calf. We haven’t tried making our own yet, so we buy it.

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Here you can see the the curds in the whey after stirring to break it up with a “tvare” a traditional norwegian stirring implement!

After the milk has set it forms a soft jelly-like curd, which you either cut or stir to break it up, and allow the whey to be released. The whey is the liquid, and accounts for most of the mass of milk. Thus from 15 liters of milk i got around 1.5 kilos of cheese, and about 13 liters of whey! Often, whey is seen as a waste product, but the norwegians discovered a clever way to utilise it. Whey is full of lactose, which is milk sugar, so still contains quite alot of energy. The problem is all that water! So what they did (and what i do) is to boil the whey down to evaporate the water, until it is thick and brown at which point the sugars are concentrated and caramelised to create a sweet and delicious bread topping! Usually it is eaten in the form of a solid block which you can slice with a cheese slicer. But if you take it off the heat a bit earlier you get “prim” which is a spreadable version. We make brown cheese in a huge iron pot, and we have to boil it for at least 6 hours, depending on how much whey we have.

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When it is near the end, we have to stir it all the time to stop it burning, and we add a whole lot of fresh cream too, which makes it more creamy and mild (and fatty). After we take it off the heat, we continue stirring until it is cool as this stops it from becoming hard and sandy. Our homemade brown cheese is somewhat saltier and more sour than the shop-bought variety, but in a way it is sweeter too.

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8th April

The other crazy norwegian cheese we are trying to make is Gamalost. It is a very old type of cheese, and dates back to the viking age. It looks like a block of orange-brown coloured crumbs, and tastes a bit sour and bitter and the texture is more like a stale cookie than cheese. But of corse it’s nothing like a stale cookie either. It is made from sour milk, which means we sour the milk every day and save it up in big containers where it matures until we have enough to make cheese. It’s great because sour milk keeps forever really and doesn’t need to be kept cool (due to the lactic acid which is what makes it sour). This means we can save up a lot more milk than if we were making a cheese from fresh milk. When we have enough, we transfer the sour milk into a huge iron pot, and heat it slowly until it boils. Then we scoop out the curds into a cheese mold and leave them to drain. The next day we take the cheese out of the mold and paint on a gamalost solution (just gamalost mixed with water) as this contains the mould nessecary for the cheese. The primary mould is called mucor, and grows visibly on the cheese after a few days in a humid environment.

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The fur-like mold has to be stroked down after about two days, and a couple of times after that until it no longer grows back. It then grows into the cheese, imparting a whole new colour and flavour. The mold turns the cheese orange/brown, and after a month or two it is ready to eat. I think the cool thing about this cheese it that it is essentially half cheese, half mushroom! Gamalost is special in that it is 50% protein, and it’s meant to be extremely healthy.

12 April

Asides cheese, the house is also filling up with seedlings of all kinds. This year I made my own potting compost, which is extremely satisfying, and the plants are thriving just as well as if i had sown them into specially formulated nutrient balanced expensive shop-bought compost! I mean, it is essentially just soil, right? All I did was mix roughly 50% well rotted garden compost, which had a good deal of manure in it, with some spent compost from previous years, and a bit of garden soil. I sifted everything to get the rocks and lumps out, and to make a nice fine textured soil for the seeds to start off in.  I also pasteurised the compost by heating it to 70-80 degrees celcius for roughly an hour. I had it in a large basin over a huge pot of water on a wood fired stove. I had it only 2-3 inches thick to make sure the heat was even throughout, and measured the temperature with a thermometer. Once it reached 70 on the bottom I would stir it and leave it for another half hour before taking it off, and putting the next lot on. It does take some time to pasteurise it all, but I use ALOT of compost every spring, to raise a years worth of cabbage, brussels srpouts, lettuce, leeks etc. The good thing about making your own compost is that it means your plants are already used to the kind of soil you have in your garden, which means they should adapt quicker and easier when you plant them out.

This year I am trying outdoor tomatoes for the first time, so I got my hands on some early varieties. I’m going to have them against the south facing wall of the house where it’s very warm in the summer, so I hope they will like it there. I have my doubts after last summer, but I have to try! This year I am trying out five varieties of cabbage! One early cabbage which I have grown before which we eat up in the summer, and im trying out some others for autumn and winter storage, and for making sauerkraut! I also got some seeds of an old norwegian variety, just to see what it’s like. Oh, and I’m trying out perrenial kale.

Outside, the snow is melting fast, and my garden is rapidly emerging from it’s winter sleep. Already the first flowers are starting to bloom by the wall of the house and everywhere buds are getting ready to burst. The animals doze in the renewed warmth of spring, and the ewes prepare for motherhood once again. This year they are expecting 10 lambs, so it’s not long before the farm is filled with mischievious little ones! I look forward to their high-energy antics!

Audhumbla’s first calf

4th April

Audhumbla had her first calf at the end of February. She went into labour in the evening and I checked on her every half hour after that. I was nervous that something would go wrong, so once I saw the feet coming out I sat in the corner and watched her. Just to make sure. When an hour passed and the calf hadn’t come any further, I started to worry and went back to the house. I did some quick research and realised the calf was the wrong way round. The way to tell is that the feet should be pointing downwards. But they weren’t, they were pointing upwards.

I woke Dan, and we prepared to pull the calf out. I was scared, for the cow and the calf. I washed my arms up to the elbows and felt inside, to check the position. (First time for everything!) I felt the legs and yep, it was the back legs that were coming out first. The only thing to do was to pull it out, while she was contracting. For me it was an almost overwhelming experience, but Dan was calm and focused as ever. The calf was out in under 10 minutes. It was a beautiful, slimy heifer. I thought that once the calf was out, that was our job done. But I was wrong.

Audhumbla reacted very strangely to her baby. As soon as she saw it she started bellowing desperately, as if horrified by the helpless creature that just came out of her. She seemed extremely upset and was pushing the calf away violently. She was so crazy that we had to tie her while we rubbed the calf dry with some old towels. It was so sad to see her rejecting the calf, and it was so helpless! We tried many times to leave them together, just to see if she would come round, but every time she pushed the calf hard with her head and bellowed and roared at the poor thing. In the end we helped the calf to suckle and then took her to the house, as she was starting to shiver. We wrapped her up in woolen blankets to keep her warm, and I slept downstairs with her to keep the fire going. In the morning I was woken by stumbling and clattering noises. She was standing up and exploring the kitchen!

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The first day I carried her to the barn and had to tie Audhumbla so the little one could suckle. Then I milked Audhumbla, and took the calf back to the house. After that, when the calf was stronger, we kept her in a small enclosure next to her mother, where she was safe but they could see each other. We started to let Audhumbla outside again during the day, and her daughter could jump about in the large pen while mama was gone. It was wonderful to see her healthy and springing about, especially since our first calf (Hornfagr’s first calf) was so weak. Audhumbla did calm down in those first few days, but still made strange noises whenever she saw the calf! One day I decided to give her another chance, so I opened the door to the little pen and let her stick her head in to see the calf. She did a lot of sniffing and mooing and eventually licking, so I moved away and just stayed with them a bit, and realised finally she had accepted her baby! She still got a bit angry when the calf jumped around, but she wasn’t violent anymore and we could leave them together.

She certainly wasn’t the best mother in the world, and behaved completely normally when she was separated from the calf. She didn’t seem to mind at all when we took the calf away after a week, to slaughter it. It was of corse a terrible thing to have to do, but that’s how it is if we want to have milk. And we got a good deal of meat too! We loved and cared for that baby as fully as we could, and when the time came, she died well. Now we have half a years worth of schnitzel and we boiled stock from the bones. The cats got the head, feet, lungs and tail. (They weren’t so keen on the latter). I made a rather good heart and kidney pie, and the liver is waiting in the freezer for inspiration.

Now Audhumbla gives us around 12 liters of milk per day, so it’s been alot of work processing it all! I’ve started making hard cheese again, and have finally succeeded in making brunost! We’re getting crazy amounts of butter too, and I’ve made cream cheese, cottage cheese and two norwegian cheeses Pultost and Gamalost. For more about my most recent cheese-making adventures, read my next post!

Winter, Wheat and Wool

29th January 2016

We are already a month into the new year, though it still feels like the beginning. With the arrival of our first woofer, the cycle begins again and we find ourselves looking towards another eleven months of hard work, new people and general chaos! Already, the skies are noticably brighter, and the haystack is nearing it’s halfway point. According to old norse tradition, midwinter was on the 24th of january, on the full moon. We celebrated with homemade pinnekjøtt (salted lamb ribs) and beer!

We have finally started threshing , and it’s been really exciting to see how the wheat turned out! It seems to be quite easy to thresh, and the husk comes away easily from the grain, leaving us with grain that’s husk free and ready to use! (After we winnow it and dry it that is.) The grain has been patiently waiting in the shed since we harvested it last autumn. It is stacked in the form of sheaves, which are just small bundles of grain, tied with a handful of straw. We have a simple hand-cranked threshing machine, which is essentially a large rotating drum inside a sturdy wooden box. The drum has metal spikes which pull the grain from the straw, when you turn the handle. One person stands and holds a sheaf into the machine and moves it around, to help loosen the grain, while the other person turns the handle. The grain comes out the other end, as does the straw when its done. After a few sheaves we beat the straw a bit with an old-school flail to remove any grain still in there, then remove the empty straw. We also have a hand cranked cleaning machine which removes remaining straw and other bits and pieces. When you turn the handle, there are two mesh trays that shake, which allow grain to fall through and roll down a fine mesh into a box. The larger pieces of straw and whole ears end up on the other side, and chaff is blown away by the fan, which is also powered by the handle. Dust falls out the bottom through the fine mesh. There is also a place at the side where grain ends up that was not threshed properly, i.e still attached to the ear. This we will feed to the animals.

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a wheat sheaf

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the cleaning machine

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the finished product!

After the grain is threshed, we still have to dry it for storage. We have a dedicated drying room, where we also dry alot of fruit in the summer. We have a big rack filled with mesh trays, where we spread out the grain. When it’s full we light a fire in the stove, and keep it burning until the grain is dry enough.

We pimped our small hand mill, so now it’s bike powered! This means that we can now mill grain in larger quantities, and faster. Though it’s still one hell of a work-out! I already milled some flour from our own wheat, and baked the first 100% homegrown bread! And yes, it was extremely good. It has so much more flavour than shop bought flour, and from what I’ve read, should be alot healthier. Firstly, because it’s homegrown (needless to say organic), secondly because our wheat is an old variety (dalalandhvete) which means it’s more nutritious, and thirdly because it’s freshly milled! Apparently there are some nutrients which degrade within hours of milling, so the fresher the better! So in general the wheat was a success, though the yield was low. We are hoping that this was due to the bad weather, and that we will get a better yield in future years. We certainly haven’t grown a year’s suppy, but i think i will just mix some homegrown flour into every dough. The current estimate is that we have about 36 kilos, but i will give you the figures when we know for sure.

February 6th

I have also started spinning the wool from last spring! My first project is to spin sock yarn, and knit some extremely hard wearing socks for Dan. He certainly needs it. Working all day in the forest is not something socks stand up to for very long! To make them extra strong I’m going to knit them very large and them felt them down to the right size- the felting really strengthens it, and will make them warmer too.

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As I have hinted, Dan is working in the forest making fence posts for the new pasture. We are in the process of clearing land, so that in the future the cows can get everything they need from grazing and we don’t have to feed them hay in the summer. It’s a big project, but  progress is being made. (Thanks to one, undeniably dedicated farmer.)

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Snøen har kommet

21 November 2015

It was an unusually warm and dry autumn, fortunately for us. (And our woofers, that they did not have to endure another freezing wet muddy hell of an autumn. (Viera, Bart, Sigurd, Janek- eternally grateful.) The frost came late this year, and suddenly there was snow. So now we inhabit this winter wonderland once again. These cold, sparkling months, that carry us slowly towards spring, are comforting in their consistency.  The animals have moved to their winter quarters, the comfort of the barn, where they slowly munch their way through a mountain of hay. This is how one horse, two cows and six sheep wile away their time.

13th December

Ramson (the ram) has been reunited with his ladies, after some time in solitary confinement. When we released him he made deep belching noises and ran over to the ewes, practically tripping over his own feet. They all gathered round him- it was a beautiful reunion until he started chasing them around with his tounge hanging out- that rather spoiled the romantic atmosphere. Hornfagr is still giving us milk- around 5 liters a day which is more than enough for us, and im starting to experiment with cheese again. Now I have perfected pultost and I have the luxury of excess cream, so I’m trying out a few different cream cheeses.

Im really looking forward to when Audhumbla calves so that we will have enough milk to make hard cheese and brunost. Even with the tiny amounts of milk we are getting from Hornfagr, we manage to make far too much cheese and butter and it’s started piling up! We have even started using whole milk in the porridge. We get about 1.5 kilos of butter a week. Sometimes I also make ghee, which is excellent for cooking. But I can make enough in one week to last several months- so basically I just throw some butter in everything i cook. Hey, it’s winter.

We found out that in Iceland they used to preserve large blocks of butter in sour whey, which naturally contains lactic acid, a well known preservative. You can also preserve cooked meat and vegetables in this way, and we have already done it- we cooked the lambs heads and preserved them for the cats. They loved it! We could also preserve it in salt, as was done in Norway in the past, but I am not too keen on using masses of salt, mainly because of the question of what we do with it afterwards! (With the salted lamb for example we end up with about 30 litres of brine!)

On the egg front, the chickens have beat their previous personal best (which i believe was 18 in a day) with 24 eggs! My god thats about two eggs per hour! Yes, we have an over-abundance of eggs now. There’s only so much scrambled egg you can eat in one day.

We’ve already done a bit of threshing, but we’ve been held back by injuries. (Dont worry, we still have all our limbs. But Dan impaled himself on a branch, and I rammed a nail into my hand!) We have threshed all the trysil barley, which we will use for sowing next year. We are hoping to thresh some wheat too, so we will have some REALLY homemade bread soon!

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Hornfagr out for a morning stroll

26 December

Im afraid I have to revoke my previous comment about the winter being “comforting in it’s consistency”. So far the winter has been nothing but uncomfortably inconsistent! It’s been far too warm, melting and dripping and slushing, then cold and dangerously icy. It’s very strange to see any sign of bare ground at christmas, but this year I keep seeing weeds poking out of the snow, and across the valley, the top half of the hill is practically bare, and there are even green fields!  Normally we would be knee deep in snow by now, instead we find ourselves hoping that it will come soon. The good thing is that it will be easier to do forestry work, and we don’t have to worry about the roofs! (At least for a while.) I’ve been told that we won’t necessarily get less snow, it will probably just all come at once…

The darkest day of the year has passed, and a now new cycle begins. So we find ourselves looking to the coming year and what needs to be done. Dan will carry on with his big forestry project- clearing land and making fence posts for a new pasture,  Next year we will really be pressed for grazing with Audhumbla milking too.

I still hope to fix a few more windows before spring, help with the firewood, and hopefully do some spinning and sewing!