Not sure what more there is to say about chopping firewood. I'm repeating my own imagery of it being a repeating cycle.. a ritualistic life support system.. an essential task.. a necessary meditation. I'm caught in a worm oroborus of preparing wood and writing about preparing wood.
Ah, well, it's food and warmth and shelter and safety and a light in the dark.
It's September now and the long nights approach.
My wife went on a Scything course recently and brought back a brand new Austrian Fux, which we've already put to good use in the meadow.
The amount of land you can clear with one good slice of this thing is fucking insane — providing you can use it skilfully, which is far more of a challenge than you probably imagine it to be.
This particular Scythe is made in the 'continental style', which is the most readily available and widely used variety around today. It differs from the traditional English and Anglo-American types mostly in the thickness of its blade, and thus too in the weight of the body that supports it. This Austrian style Scythe is lighter and easier to begin working with, and its blade requires far fewer trips to the grindstone than its siblings and precursors.
The ultimate low-tech tool, the beauty of the Scythe isn't purely found in its efficiency and sustainability, though those certainly factor into its continued use. No, the true worth of the Scythe is in its expansion of the body — to skilfully wield the Scythe is to allow it to transcend the realm of the object, to allow it to merge with the entirety of form. To become an expert, one must come to know the Scythe as a tendril of the mind, reaching out to touch the Earth. This flowing, focused experience is hard to describe and it doesn't all come at once, it takes practice, clarity, and a unique wholeness of being. If it can be effortlessly mastered, the user may find that with it comes a new awareness of the blurred boundaries between the self and the land.
“The longer Levin went on mowing, the oftener he experienced those moments of oblivion when his arms no longer seemed to swing the scythe, but the scythe itself his whole body, so conscious and full of life; and as if by magic, regularly and definitely without a thought being given to it, the work accomplished itself of its own accord. These were blessed moments.” (Anna Karenina)
Been slacking on the updates here the last few months.. it's a cycle of harvesting / preparing / storing and freezing.
We're considering getting a fruit press so we can start producing cider. We fucked up some Elderflower Wine during the Spring, but we do have a bucket of Rosehip Sherry on the go and it already smells like it could kill a horse.. so that's promising. One thing you learn quickly out here is that you can make booze from anything.
Away from liquids and onto solids.. it's been a while since we drove into town to pick anything up in the shop. Most meals are patched together from the kitchen garden, save for staples like rice and pasta. We usually have an ample of supply of every spice on the face of the planet and that takes care of most culinary needs.
We for sure let some of the zucchini grow far too big. It's easy to miss the bloody things in the jungle of leaves, and one day is all it takes for them to develop to kaiju size. This means there's been a lot of “Let's make zucchini sauce / pesto / bread / cake / stuffed / roasted / crispy stir-fried”, but ya know that's cool, it's a versatile plant and it gives a ton of produce. The Italian variety we're growing also tastes way better than the hardier but blander type you see exported to supermarket shelves.
All this means that we've been getting a good baseline for how much we want to grow next year to sustain us for a longer period, and how much space we'll need to expand into to start building resiliency. We probs get through garlic and onion and chilli the fastest — and if we run out of those there's gonna be a riot up in here — while the other crops come and go at different times and it's pretty easy to adapt cooking around that.
The dreaded potato blight — that rot black fungus that once spread so much misery throughout Europe — took hold of our tomatoes last week. Had to destroy around two-thirds of our crop, wiping out my dreams of an immense Arabiatta stockpile. We managed to save a decent amount of uninfected green tomatoes though, and with a little luck they'll ripen indoors. The rest of the crop was farther away in the garden and seems to have been protected.. so far.
Blight is always a risk when you're growing both potatoes and tomatoes in the same space, although its possible the fungus/microorganism is already lurking in the land even when you aren't growing potatoes. It's a common risk so it wasn't entirely unexpected.. it's especially likely when you're growing tomatoes outdoors and not in a greenhouse where it's easier to control the environment. Unfortunately Sweden often also has the perfect moist and cool conditions for the Blight to prosper and take hold.
This unfortunate event meant we had to harvest our small potato patch earlier than we intended. The rest of the growing spaces are giving an abundance of produce so losing out on the full potential of these two crops isn't so bad. This is precisely why we — colloquially, in permaculture and growing circles — talk about cultivating a mix of crops, in an effort to build in resilience through variety, in case several crops have bad years or are lost entirely.
Overall, our project for this first season in the house/on the land was to have a functional kitchen garden — or, a garden that doesn't make you self-reliant, but provides a steady stream of daily ingredients — and we've easily succeeded my expectations there. Thankfully our freezer box is now installed out in the barn, so we can start preserving things like soft-fruits, jams and sauces. A lot of vegetables. especially root veg, will keep for up to around six months in a Jordkällare (EN: earth cellar or root cellar) garlic and onions will keep for even longer.
Further berry dispatches...
These bowls represent about 15-minutes gathering in the bushes crowded directly around the house. Mostly blueberries, red-currants and raspberries. Probs some gooseberries hidden underneath too.
The majority of the dense 'berry rich' outskirts of the forest remain untouched, because right now we don't have the space to store them all if we pick them. And lets be real, you can only eat so many berries every day! Our precious kitchen space is limited, and the fridge is already filled with jam.. and my partner keeps making more jam. Jam jam jam.
“Gonna make some more jam today” they exclaim, as I write this.
We got electricity installed in the barn the other week. This involved a laborious process of digging a trench from the house to said barn so we could run a cable across, occasionally having to manoeuvre through the fucking granite bedrock of the flat mountain and its impenetrable compressed layers of ice-age rock. This kind of landscape is why this area of Sweden has traditionally been so poor.. it's really, really difficult to work and farm land that's shot through with the rocky deposits of ice-age glaciers — but it's also a big part of why I love the landscape here so much.
Anyway. We did it, so now we have power in the barn, which means we can install a freezer box in there, making it much easier for us to store and preserve things like soft fruits in the future.
We still a pile of tree stumps over by the woodshed, and a ton of uneven scrap wood in the barn. Lately I've been combining them into these scrappy benches and tables to scatter around the garden, meadow and forest. They give us plenty of spots to sit and hang out in.. acting like navigational points.. wiring up the land.
This knife — like all my tools — was left behind by the previous owner and family. It'll probably be one of the first items I officially catalogue for the museum, as it's one of the first objects I picked up when we first came to view the house.
My woodworking skills are the bare minimum, but even I can manage to sand and oil.. we're using raw linseed oil for this, which takes longer to dry but is the most traditional method.
Cherries, blueberries, red currants, wild strawberries & wild raspberries from the meadow. Time to make some jam.
We've hit that sweet spot where we can harvest most of our lunches and dinners straight from the garden now, but we aren't yet overwhelmed by having too much stuff to store and preserve.
~ Today's lunch!
#growing #journal #permaculture
Updates from our first two growing spaces. In general things are looking good, with no real disappointments besides some slow developing aubergines and broad beans that didn't survive the dry spell [update: actually it turns out that half of them did survive!].
In these two spaces we've sown a mix of garlic, onion, tomatoes, mangetout, broad/runner/french & soya beans, corn, cabbage, beetroot, carrot, parsnip, turnip, artichoke, celeriac, zucchini & kohlrabi.
Elsewhere in the garden we have a potato patch, a smaller area for more beans, and about 40—50 other tomato plants, root veg, aubergine, wild garlic, peppers, chillis, asparagus and artichoke planted around amongst the wildflowers, wild strawberries and rasperberries, shrubs, fruit tree's and old ornamental garden plants.
The Swedish for this kind of practice is “Samplantering”. It gives a dense, lush forest garden vibe to the space, and it's fucking killer for biodiversity and getting your shit pollinated.
#growing #journal #permaculture
Honestly, it's a struggle to get anything done outside once the wild strawberries are out. They grow everywhere and I swear that for every one you eat, three more appear in their place the following day.
The cherries have also ripened this week. Most of the treeline from the meadow up to the fence around the garden is dense with cherry tree's, so we don't have to fight the blackbirds too much to gather them. There's almost too many to go around!
#cherry #meadow #journal