And now to the now, and the year ahead…
Just yesterday it started snowing like hell, and now the snow is knee deep, even for Freyfaxi. Today I went down on the field with him and the sled, to make a path for later on when we will have to bring up hay from the lower hay barn. It was SO deep considering it’s only been snowing for a day or so, in some places he was really struggling to wade through it. But we managed with zero scary incidents, unlike last year. By the evening part of the track had completely disappeared under drifting snow, and we had to take Freyfaxi down again, for fear of losing the path altogether. Now we have marked it with poles, so that even if that does happen we know where the safest route is.
Dan has resumed his “deforestation” project, as he likes to call it. What it really means is cutting down trees to restore old pastures, and make firewood and building materials. It also provides some fresh food for the animals, they love to forage on the spruce needles, and it keeps them busy between feedings. He cuts some willow or rowan branches now and then, because they all like to nibble the twigs and chew on the bark. We take some in to the rabbits too.
We have made flatbrød, a traditional norwegian kind of cracker, that they used to eat before they had yeast bread (and is still quite popular.) We make ours from barley flour (unfortunately not yet our own) and mashed potatoes. We make a dough two nights before and then roll it out as thin as possible and bake it on a griddle. We used the wood fired stove we got in the autumn for the first time and it worked well. It was hard to regulate the heat though, and some was undercooked which means it is REALLY hard to chew when its dry, and some was burnt. So more experimentation needed. The other thing was that the griddle is HUGE and its so hard to make flatbread that big without it being really thick, because if it’s too thin then it just breaks when you lift it. A couple of times i was just about to lay it on the griddle when it fell to pieces and landed in a pathetic mess…as they say, practise makes perfect.
On the topic of baking, (If you are not interested in baking, or sourdough bread please skip this whole section) I recently started my own sourdough culture, and have baked my first bread from it- the bread was really good, and it’s much easier than yeast doughs in many ways. The most obvious of corse is that you don’t have to buy yeast. Big plus. And…well… ok maybe not many ways, but I’m pretty sure it’s more healthy. Though I couldn’t tell you why. It’s pretty easy to make a starter, or at least it seems that way to me because I’ve only tried twice and I succeeded both times. I just mixed wholegrain rye flour with water in a big jar, until it’s a thickish paste, leave it in a warm place, and add more flour and water the next day, and keep doing this until you notice that it’s growing or bubbling inbetween feedings and then just keep doing that for a week or so to get a stable culture. (This is why it’s good to have a really BIG jar- then you won’t run out of space.) If you ever get mould on the surface you should throw it away and start again. Once your culture is stable, and it’s growing ALOT thn you are ready to make bread, just take the whole mixture and put it in a mixing bowl with about the same amount of flour and water and leave it in a warm place overnight or until it’s risen. Then just add as much flour and water as you need for your bread and take some out to save for your next starter. Then you can add the salt and whatever else you wanna add. Basically the longer you wait to bake it the more sour it will be. I prefer mine to be mild so i just left it for one night, and it rose as well as any yeast bread. I think the most important thing for a good bread is actually WHEN you bake it. You can’t just bake it whenever you want, you have to bake it when the bread is ready to be baked! So once you’ve put it in the baking tins you should wait until it’s risen again , but not fully, otherwise it will collapse in the oven, so it should be semi-risen i guess. When i baked mine i put it in a really hot oven and then went out to feed the animals and completely forgot about it and came back an hour and a half later and the fire had gone out but the bread looked ok so i just relit the fire and got the oven hot again and the bread turned out really well! As you have probably figured out by now I’m no expert and I never follow recipes so if you are really interested you’ve probably already stopped reading.
We have had a few interesting animal encounters….and by that I mean animals encountering each other… The sheep have made good friends with the horse (a wise move, as he is the one in a position to share hay) while the ram (i call him Ramson) had a fight with Hornfagr yesterday…heads down, (literally head to head), and bang! I’m pretty sure he won, too. Freki is trying to sweet-talk the chickens into sharing their food with him, while keeping out of the way of the cows, who chase cats at any opportunity, and make strange burping noises. The other day I was about to go down the hill with the horse and sled, but Freyfaxi thought it would be much more fun to just run up and down the farm before I had a chance to harness him. Meanwhile, Hornfagr was yelling, Freki was being sick and Gersemi was screaming at me from a window…how the hell did she get in there anyway? Sometimes I think this is some kind of mental institution, and I’m not entirely sure if I’m the doctor or one of the patients.
On Tuesday we will celebrate the old norse tradition of Jól. It was one of three big celebrations in the norse year, and marked midwinter. The festivities were meant to ensure a peacful and fertile year, and a good winter. No-one’s quite sure exactly when it was held, but one theory is that it was marked by the first new moon after winter solstice. Others think it was held on a fixed date (according to the solar year) which would be around the 18th-21st January in the gregorian calendar. As expected, it was a time for feasting and drinking (and the odd sacrifice), so we will be eating pinnekjøtt, our homemade salted lamb ribs. We need to soak them to get alot of the salt out, then boil them for quite a long time, and then put them in the oven to make them crispy and good! Unfortunately we haven’t made our own beer yet, so we will just drink wine and vodka!
The year ahead….
Well this year we plan to grow two extra types of grain, special varieties of rye and spelt, which are supposed to be able to grow here. We also intend to sow old varieties of oats and barley, which are closer to the grains they used to grow here.
Our cow Hornfagr will hopefully give birth in July, and then we will have our own fresh milk! (I am really starting to see that she’s pregnant now, she’s swelling at the rear!) We intended to inseminate her earlier, so that she would calve in the spring, but…well she was gallivanting in the forest with her mates… July is possibly the worst time for us, as that will be in the middle of haymaking, when we’re already pressed for time and hands… but thats the way it is. We hope to get one person to only do dairy work- milking, and making butter, cheese etc…still need alot of practise with the cheese….
Ofcourse, I intend to succeed at growing lots of onions, pumpkins and the other things that completely failed. When I go into the manure cellar and stand atop that steaming pile of s*** , i smile to myself, and wonder how i can possibly fail…I also want to do more seedsaving, LOADS of seeds, seeds are wealth, i want to bathe in seeds. Swedes, beetroot, kale, carrots hopefully more.
We will plant the fruit trees and pray to Freyja that they survive the winter!
And I welcome all the rediculous mistakes I am going to make, because mistakes are the best way to learn. I could go on, but I intended to post this last week or earlier.