A totally new chapter has started in our life. Although we have partially lived in our own house for some periods, we still had our “office” in the village. The office was what we called the house we rented for living. We have stopped renting it and thus also said goodbye to some privileges and facilities. From the First of March we have lived in our own house without electricity and water system. And yes – that is a challenge. The most basic things are both incredibly time consuming and physically demanding. We have to pick up firewood for warming house and water for the basic needs must be collected from the lake every day.
In other words, the hole must first be drilled in the ice, after that we pump water up by hand driven pump into 30 liters plastic reservoir and driven to the house by snowmobile. Then we have some water can be used to flush in the toilet. We collect snow in the garden and melt it and use for washing, cooking, bathing, as drinking water for the dogs etc. Do you know that filling a 10-liter pot with snow turns it into 3 cm layer of water in the same pot?
So it’s not just like catching a quick bath. In addition, the bathroom at this time of year is close to the freezing point and must first be heated with a gas heater.
Potentially, three stoves must be operated at one time. This means that you do not have many minutes to relax before you need to get up again to keep things done.
Our everyday life is not easier for us with that unbelievable amount of snow. Recently 1.8 meters of snow have been officially measured in the forest. We really can’t walk with our dogs without first riding a snowmobile track and wearing a pair of snowshoes. But the nature around us is really beautiful. It’s indeed absolutely beautiful, and it’s so quiet around us.
We wash our clothes at the community house in the Storsjö village. We have an old outdoor water warmer driven by firewood stove and when the snow is melted, we can use it to wash clothes in the spring and summer period.
And then we bought a washing machine, which we hopefully can use again, if we will manage to find possibility to install an off grid electric power supply system. In May, when the ice has melted, we will again have running water in the house. Then we can pump water from the lake into a 1000-liter tank. It is existing system and it only works when it is frost free, otherwise the pipes can be destroyed by water frozen inside of them.
It is wrong to say that we do not have electricity – we have couple of fuel generators we use for different purposes. The smallest one with 2.000 watt we turn on when we have to work with the computer, charge phones and other devices. The bigger generator is used for pumping water in the summer time and other equipment. Our big dream is to install an “off grid” system with solar panels in combination with energy storage battery system and back-up fuel generator, so we can be self-sufficient with electricity all year round. We have been in contact with several manufacturers and technical companies that offer “off grid” solutions. We have had to totally drop the idea to be connected to the local electric grid, owned by the regional company Härjeåns Nät AB. They have a “natural monopoly” on electricity distribution, which means, that they have manipulating with “solutions” they can offer for our property, so their final “proposal” and solution for the connection to the electric grid ended up at a very high price of 400,000 SEK (the story is described in our previous blog about “Swedish Wild West”). And this is excluding other technical work must be done for the connection to the property, so the full price can end up at 500.000 + SEK (!!!) – and this is just payment for the connection to the grid, and afterwards you pay for the “distribution” of electric power and maintenance of the system and, of course, for the electricity itself . On the opposite side our brief calculation for the “off grid” solution installation cost brings us to the amount of approx. 300,000 SEK. And then we can get electricity from solar panels and batteries free of charge during approx. 9 months during the year. During the darkest winter months, the batteries can be charged with our generator. And it of course will bring some cost of fuel, but still it will be much cheaper than the yearly cost of electricity sold and distributed via the local grid. We hope that the “off grid” can be installed already this summer! Only our economic situation can kill the dream, so keep our little media company Big Lake Media.se in mind if you need to create a website or know someone who could use our services. We are very competitive on price. Here is an example of the latest website we created for the local fishing community: https://www.storsjofisk.se
We have also decided to rent out one house this summer so that everyone interested can rent it until the artist refugee comes up and run. So if you want to spend the summer period in the wilderness in the authentic primitive conditions without electricity, you are welcome to get in touch with us. And if you have dog(s), they are also more than welcome!
The first week after we moved here we spent on decorating the house where we live. Until now everything was as when we bought the property. We have built wardrobe, sofa and computer desk. All from the recycled wood that we got with the property. We have put up shelves and removed some furniture. For summer we will paint in the rooms. Now it’s too cold and we can’t just open windows for ventilation. But we have been fine here, we think. And we are really proud that we have succeeded in furniture building project with our poor experience as craftsmen.
The next project is to make our second house ready and get some furniture into it. We also hope to have rooms on the first floor finished and use it as a studio. The floor in the rooms needs to be insulated and finished, so it can really become beautiful. As soon as the snow is melted, we want to build a sauna. The outdoor bio toilet will be rebuilt into the sauna. It is the best and authentic way to bath in the winter, and you can quickly heat a water tank in there so you can both enjoy the sweat sauna and finish it with a hot bath. We have all the wood we need so we are looking forward to getting started on that project. We have a busy spring☺
And now we have a little challenge with our original food cellar.
The entrance has been partially blocked because some large stones have been moved into the stairs entrance and they are close to collapse. Right now, it’s not a problem, because it’s still cold outside, but it needs to be repaired as soon as possible. When the snow is melted, we will have to get to move the ground from the outside of the entrance and move the stones back on their position and somehow to ensure that they won’t move again. No one has lived in the house for some years before we overtook the property, so we think it is the heating and vibration that have caused the stones to move. As a temporary solution, we have cut large blocks of ice out of the ice and placed them in a big freezer, which doesn’t have electricity.
Hope that solution will act as a refrigerator until the snow has melted and our food cellar can be repaired and ready for use again, where we can store our products in temperature with +3-4 degrees Celsius.
And it should also be mentioned that our car can’t be at our property right now, because the last 4 kilometers of the road is not cleaned for snow. I hope we can solve this issue for next winter. Now the car is parked on our former neighbors’ ground in the village and then we drive from and back on the snowmobile when we need to use the car.
All these challenges we have just to keep our daily life running is a long process. We knew well that with such a place we would have to deal with challenges and there is no time in between any completed project and a new project to be started. It is an exciting process, but it can certainly also cause concerns. And then we learn many new things every single day. For example fishing on ice.
I know many have wondered about the choice of the domain name on our blog. Why “petros.dk”? Petros is the name of a mountain in the Ukrainian mountain range Carpathians, where we met for over 18 years ago. In this blog I will talk about how we met at a train station in the small mountain town of Rakhiv.
In 2002, I was on my fourth year at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, and I was interested in places that were neither city nor countryside. Places where nature has taken over humanity and created its own order. Therefore, I wanted to photograph Chernobyl and the city of Pripjat in the closed radioactive zone.
It was the time when no tourists were in Ukraine and virtually no one had visited Chernobyl. I got permission to visit the area as a “Red Cross Employee”. It meant that I could move freely around alone and photograph wherever I wanted.
It was not where Orest and I met. After I photographed, I would travel with my cousin who was traveling with me, around in the country and hike in the Carpathians – a mountain range extending from the Slovakia, through Ukraine and to Romania. It was in these mountains that we met for 18 years ago.
My cousin and I had ended up in a very small mountain village and were what you call it “lost in translations”. No one could speak English or German and even no Spanish and everything was written in Cyrillic letters. In short, we couldn’t even spell a city name or ask a single person for help. In fact, we couldn’t figure out how to get from there until we saw two young guys with mountain bikes and backpacks at train station. We actually thought for a moment that we weren’t the only tourists in that town. One of these two young men was supposed to be Orest. He spoke fluent English and helped us with tickets. He was from a larger city and regional center, and we had an 8-hour stay the following day in his city. He offered to pick us up at the train station and show us around the city, because it was Ukraine’s Independence Day; a holiday where everyone is free and where there was music and partying in the streets.
We had some nice hours together that day in August. We said goodbye and promised we should keep in touch. And as it is so often the case with journeys, “now” during traveling is transformed into everyday life when you are back home, and what felt like a most obvious thing at the moment, it’s been pushed into the background of everyday life fairly quickly. The days went by, and I never said thank for all the help we received. But fortunately, after 3 months, Orest wrote us to hear if we had a safe travel back home. Then we started writing letters to each other. My cousin and I agreed with Orest that we should hike together in Carpathians for Easter the following year. Then 10 months after the first meeting, we met again. It was a fantastic and very authentic hike we got together. Orest had been hiking in the mountains alone since he was 16, and knew some very beautiful areas as well as abandoned sheep shepherds cabins we could overnight at.
No, there was no romance in the air yet, but it was on that trip I started to fall in love. However, it was not completely mutual 😉 Before we left home, we had agreed that we should meet again already in the summer. We wanted to climb Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus. But since Elbrus is located 80 km from Grozny in Chechnya, which was a dangerous place at that time because of local war, the Danish Embassy strongly advised us not to travel there. If something were to happen to us, they would not be able to help us, as the situation was unstable in that region. When I was young I lived in Nicaragua, and I had sworn never to travel to a war-torn country again. So unfortunately we had to cancel that trip. Instead, we invited Orest to Denmark on a bicycle trip through the Jutland region, but he was so determined to climb that mountain in the Caucasus so he declined our invitation nicely.
It was a destiny, but the alpine club, who was organizing Elbrus trip, had to cancel that adventure. I don’t remember the reason, but that made Orest to come to Denmark and we had a great cycling holiday. It was on this trip that we started dating.
We spent the next year traveling back and forth. It was mostly me who had to travel to Ukraine, because it was a huge bureaucratic issue to get a visa to Denmark, which had introduced Europe’s most stringent visa and entry requirements from non-EU countries at that time. After one year’s long-distance relationship, Orest chose to move to Denmark. I still had a year left to study and living in Ukraine would be very cumbersome. Partly because of the language and partly that the salaries were so low that it would not even cover the payback fees on my student loans.
We got married on October 15, 2004.
It was a fun and quite disorganized wedding. The law required us to be married if Orest were to apply for a residence permit in Denmark. We had 3 weeks to arrange a wedding. Finding a place for the party, inviting guests and with a budget that could barely cover an Easter lunch for 3 people. But it succeeded in a rather alternative way. We went to the forest to pick up leaves and branches for party decorations. I found a dress in a secondhand shop. I had a student job in the Copenhagen Culture and Music House, where I could rent the most beautiful room for almost no money (as employees you were offered great deals). We wished no gifts, but instead we asked everyone to bring meals and food for the party. And it was a wonderful wedding and many of our friends are artists, so there was played and sung and improvised! Unfortunately, Orest’s family was unable to attend the wedding because of the visa rules, so when we were married for 5 years we celebrated it with a “5 years party” in the small mountain town in Ukraine, where we first met. There were both Danish friends and Orest’s Ukrainian family and friends. Despite language difficulties, it was the most funny party! People were already dancing after the entree, and so the evening continued until the bright morning – and the musicians were fueled with plenty of vodka.
That was the story of how we met.We share some pictures with you from our wedding and our travels and life in Denmark.
Winter is very long here and with a snow guarantee for many months. What we did not know was that our area has the cold record in Sweden. It is from 1988 when the temperature reached -52 degrees Celsius. We have not yet experienced such extreme frosts and honestly we don’t want to. We can understand from those who experienced it, that it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. So far we have only experienced a single winter and it was actually a mild one. This is our second winter. The coldest day we have experienced so far was last winter when the temperature reached -33 degrees Celsius.
The temperature is usually between -5 and -20 degrees. And the good thing is, that the air is usually dry and you don’t feel that cold in comparison with when it’s very humid air. In humid air you feel cold no matter how much warm clothes you have on – that was almost always in “humid” Copenhagen, while we lived there. The reason why it can get so cold here is the location – our area is the place in Sweden with the greatest distance to the sea coast. Of course, it bites in the cheeks when the temperature drops below -20, but you can still enjoy being outside. Our dogs are also really good at coping with the cold. The breed origins is from Russia and they love the cold more than the heat. Historically, it was not unusual for Borzoisto hunt for wolves and hares at –35 degrees. They choose to lie in the snow themselves and can enjoy themselves in the cold for hours.
The snow typically begins to fall at the end of November and stays until May.
Up in the mountains, the snow is all year round in some areas. Especially in recesses or places where the sun does not reach the groundsurface easily. Another typical thing with local winter is darkness, which many people find it hard to imagine. The shortest days are really short, but both sunrises and sunsets last longer, so to the shortest day length of 4 hours and 45 minutes you can add one hour of semi-darkness before total darkness in the evening and one hour after night before sunrise.
But when it’s 3 p.m., it’s dark. Very dark. None of us have had problems with winter depression or general depression when the days get shorter. The light gives energy, but there is something inexplicably magical in the darkness. To take a long walk in biting frost and come home when darkness falls, put more firewood in the stove and light candles. There are moments like these that we really appreciate. And maybe it also helps that the ground is white and not brown and muddy. And then we have a night sky, which is quite impressive because we see it without the slightest hint of artificial light pollution.
You can’t avoid the sense of infinity, with thousands of stars flashing right over your head and the sky is so big that you can see them all. Everyone can enjoy such a sky.
Winter has also challenges. If we suddenly experience some days with temperatures above zero degrees, the roads can become icy and the top layer of ice on the lake turns into water.
During those times it can be both dangerous to drive the car on the roads or use the snowmobile on the lake. Some roads are even closed. Therefore, it is important to always be updated on weather forecast and always have a small supply of food in the house. Snowfalls are also usual here, and it means a lot of snow. We were told that for two years ago some places there was a layer of snow up to 2 meters high. I think we had between 30-100 cm of snow during the winter last year and it seems there will be a similar amount of snow this winter. In general, people who have lived here for a long time, say that winters become warmer and warmer, and this means more snow falls. And the snow will remain some places until the end of May. Orest has his birthday on May 29 and we woke up to a regular snowstorm on his last birthday.
After 5-6 months of snow many people may think they become tired of snow. But actually it’s not the snow you’re tired of. What I get tired of is actually lack of colors. When the last spring snow began to melt in May, the first views of ground between the trees were so life affirming and it was a pleasure to see the colors again.
I didn’t think at all that missing colors was what became the biggest deprivation through a long and dark winter. April, by the way, is almost everyone’s favorite month here. The sun’s rays are warm, and you don’t need to wear warm clothes and the days are over 12 hours long, and at the same time you can still ski on snow. All months have their positive sides, but feeling the spring warmth and watching the sun high in the sky is a real enjoyment, which anyone can confirm.
Here we always have a White Christmas. Not just during the Christmas days, but also throughout the whole December month – landscapes are covered with a thick and beautiful layer of snow. On December 1stwe actually had so much snow that only the tree tops on our approximately 1 meter high fir trees in the garden (in the rented house) could be seen above the snow.
The Christmas lights we bought last year could therefore not be mounted on those trees this year. Maybe it’s for the best as last year they were hanging up in the trees until the end of May, when the snow had melted and we could remove wires.
Just wanted to say that we have the ultimate Christmas landscapes for a long period.
This year we will be holding our first Christmas at Lövnäset.
Without electricity, but with lots of candles, fireplace and wood burning stove. We will find our own little Christmas tree in our own little forest. It will be decorated with my mother’s Christmas decorations, which I inherited, and our hand-painted Christmas decorations – we bought them during some years on our annual trips to Paris. And we are just four of us for Christmas evening – Orest, me and our two dogs.
In the morning on December 24thwe will meet with the inhabitants of Big Lake Village in a small wooden hut with an open fireplace in the middle. Yes, we are actually so few, that the whole village population can be gathered around the fire in this little hut. Then we taste each other’s Christmas cookies, drink coffee made on an open fire and wish each other Merry Christmas. A tradition they have had for many years and which we were so lucky to become a part of from last year. This year we bring brownies.
Our Christmas menu is vegetarian. We will bake khachapuri and make a “rice a la manda”. Khachapuri is a Georgian national cheese bread. Orest has worked hard to learn how to make it and he is mastering it. A dish we fell in love with when we traveled in Georgia for 10 years ago.
The cheese is Turkish and is only available in the big cities so our friends and family who visit us bring the cheese so we always have some amount available. “Rice a la manda” is a classic and traditional Danish Christmas dessert. Consisting of cooked porridge rice mixed with cream, small pieces of almonds, vanilla and of course sugar. In the porridge there is also a single whole almond, and the one who gets that whole almond wins a gift.
On Christmas days we will go for long walks in the snowy forest and on ice on the lake. Probably take a ride with the snowmobile up the mountains, and I definitely need to take some photos as well.
We are happy to have been allowed to borrow a snowmobile from our new friends Janne and Johanna. Hope we can afford it next year and buy our own. We have got so much snow that we have abandoned cleaning the road to Lövnäset this winter, but fortunately the fastest and most beautiful way to get there is across the lake on a snowmobile.
We would also like to thank to all of you who read our story and who have followed our telling. And thank to our friends and family for the support, and we are also thankful to people in the Big Lake Village for their help and openness. Finally, a very special thanks to Hege and Jan for their decision to sell us their wonderful place, Lövnäset.
Merry Christmas from us and despite some negative issues with the regional municipality, we are optimistic about our future. Next year will be a great year.
In the last blog I wrote about our everyday life and challenges of living in the wilderness. One thing we did not mention was a Swedish bureaucracy and that some companies, which you depend on, can make your life quite difficult and sometimes even unsafe. These companies have a “natural monopoly” in the region they operate, so you can’t just pick and choose another one. And it’s obvious that “good service” is not a concept the local companies deal with. This blog is not a romantic picture of life in the wilderness, so if you don’t want to read about worries then skip it now.
Sweden is well known for its socialism and cohesion, but we have encountered a bureaucracy and obstructions from our small regional municipality with just 7,000 inhabitants. The municipality, that wants and needs more newcomers, and who calls itself to be the second best municipality where you can start your business. A municipality, whose employees seem to protect each other and their contractors. Maybe because everyone knows each other for many years and all are connected to each other? Maybe this is because they don’t like to be asked critical questions? In any case, there is a pattern of an unhealthy power structure in the regional municipality.
When we moved here, we were warned by local people not to argue to the municipality. “The municipality has power and you will have to ask them for some permissions in the future”, – the reason was. We did not think about that specifically at that moment, because rules and laws are same for everyone and we live in a transparent and democratic society.
We were curious to meet employees from the municipality and the first meeting we had with them was really positive. We felt to be heard heard and they were interested in our ideas. But unfortunately it should turn out to be a short pleasure.
Project “Island” – how the municipality (don’t) communicate the upcoming projects, which can affect the local life.
Before we bought our house, Lövnäset, we had heard about a Swiss architectural project on an island in neighborhood, but as we heard from local people, that technically it was impossible for that project to be realized because of restrictions on establishing a drainage system on isolated island and it seemed to be impossible to solve it. The island where the project is meant to be is located just in front of Lövnäset (350 meters), so of course we had a natural interest in following the development closely.
The project is a modern architectural project and can accommodate up to 20 guests at a time. The former owner of Lövnäset had thoroughly familiarized himself with the laws on nature protection and how the planned facilities would have affected the environment, and he asked the municipality some very relevant and critical questions about the implementation of the project and the consequences for the environment. The municipality decided not to answer him. And this kind of tactics as it showed up later on, is a tendency, not just a single case.
We took over the house on September 1st and with the conviction that we would be the only real neighbors to be heard before giving permission to build the hotel right in vicinity of our property. We knew that there had been a meeting on August 22nd, when the architects had to elaborate on the possible solutions for the drainage system. We were convinced that we would be involved afterwards. That is why we wrote to the municipality the first week in September with inquire about the “neighbors hearing”, but we were told that they (the municipality) had decided to draw a “distance line” of 200 meters, so we should not be heard, because our property is located 350 meters from the planned project. This is not entirely consistent with the fact that other house owners were contacted and asked by municipality – even if their houses were located one kilometer away from the project. Furthermore, municipality corrected me on that I used the wrong term “hotel” project, because in reality it was just a “small campsite”. A “campsite”, consisting of 6 houses, a library (to be more correct it’s a whiskey bar), two saunas – one of them had to be at the end of a long bridge, a boat arrival hall and a dining room on a bridge. Based on drawings from the architect company this is a fairly large and complex construction. In addition, the municipality announced that there was still a long way for the project to be approved, and there was not a big chance, that it would be approved. A few days later we found the architect company on Instagram, where they in one post were happy to announce that they had been granted a building permit and the building phase of project should start as early as in 2020. The conclusion here must be that one of the parties is lying.
Orest started a little research about those who owned the neighboring island and the building project, and he came across some very compromising material. A married Swiss couple who owns several holding companies. Some of them are under liquidation. Two of companies have identical websites, where you can only find a few anonymous lines about what those companies deal with. There is no board of directors in any of those companies and only one company has a balance of CHF 20,000. It is very suspicious as those companies run million-class luxury building projects both in Hollywood and Saint Tropez as well as other expensive locations. Orest should also find that the hotel on our neighboring island must be a place for members of a closed club for reach businessmen. A club, where you can only get membership, if you are recommended by one of the already existing members and in that way you can pass the “admission test”. A club, where members help each other to invest money in profitable businesses. The club, where rich people from Russia, China and India are more than welcome. All this researched material, in our eyes, reminds about well-organized money laundering structure. One person, we know and who has in-depth knowledge of such cases, also confirmed our theory. Therefor we sent our concerns and the material about our potential neighbors to the municipality. Unfortunately, they have chosen not to return on our inquiry.
1stCase: with a local contractor who holds regional monopoly on their services.
Another case that is of less serious character, but it still describes the problem of the regional municipality who has too many “hats on” and too much power in one hands. The case is about something, as little attractive as sludge removal from sewage tank at a private property. And here we have two ugly cases.
As newcomers in the local environment, you are a little bit unsure how to do things in a correct way. Naturally I needed help and I wrote back in June to the company responsible for the sludge emptying, that we wanted to book time for sludge removal in the house we rent this coming autumn. It was the time of year, as we heard the company would come to our little remote village. I got an email from a person “B.H.”, who I thought was an employee of the sludge disposal company, where he wrote that I should call on a given phone number. I called a few times but no one answered or returned back on messages I left. However, I was unsure whether our order left on the answering machine had been noted, so I talked to a sludge man I met while he was on a job in the neighbor village. He was helpful, and wrote everything down, promising it was going to be fine, and they would come in the fall. It was autumn and the sludge service came to our village to many properties, but unfortunately ours was not serviced. Then I wrote again to B.H. and asked when they would come. I got a message back with notice, that I did not ordered service and I only I could do was to order an emergency service with price 3 times higher than normal rate… I showed B.H. the email that I had written and asked him for the service, but he responded that he didn’t receive anything from me. I wondered because I thought I remembered his name. Fortunately, I found the mails where B.H. himself replied to the same mail he claimed he never received. When I confronted him on that fact, the answer was again the same – that I can order emergency service for a higher price. No comments, no excuses, that they may have made a mistake by themselves.
Unfortunately described episode with that company was not the only one for us. It was even more absurd in another episode with the property we bought this year. The former owner of Lövnäset ordered sludge removal service. The emptying had to take place shortly after our takeover of the property and we were told that we would be contacted before the company’s vehicle should arrive to the property. But no one called us and after two weeks after planned date, there were no signs of that somebody was on our property. Track signs on the grass after a 10-tons heavy truck which had to turn around – guaranteed we had to see those signs, because even our SUV with its weight of 2.5 tons lefts always tracks on the grass. And the sewage tank of approx. 2000 liters was full. We contacted the company, to hear when they had planned to come and to our surprise we were told by “B.H.” that the truck was on our property and job was done one week before. Convinced that there was a mistake and that they may have been emptied on a wrong property, we sent them pictures of the sewage tank filled and wrote that it would be impossible to have such a heavy truck on the ground without leaving a single sign on grass. With no comments on our arguments B.H. repeated his words – the truck was on your property and job was done. In addition it was mentioned, that driver experienced difficulties during the job: “The water was constantly running into the tank from the house – it seemed that there were some problems with pump.” Physically the described situation couldn’t happen on our property because of the specifics of the system – the property doesn’t have electricity and there was no chance that water was constantly running from the house. We manually pump water from the lake into a plastic tank of 1000 liters and that water is used during about two weeks. Absurd and direct lies from that company. We therefore asked B.H. to provide any GPS log data files, and more important – headers with main metadata from those. No real data was provided, but a single screenshot from GPS recording device in the truck. And, surprisingly, exactly at Lövnäset the position of truck was manually edited. B.H. pointed, that the position can only be edited manually, when the truck is actually located at the location which is being edited.
Kind of funny explanation, and it was more absurd for Orest, as he worked many years with location recording systems and he didn’t buy that one explanation. He just asked again for the data he required, but no comments from B.H. were received – only the same thing repeated: “they did their job”. At the end B.H. sent an “update” – with recorded times of service provided on neighboring properties and, as it was funny – the time of “job done” at our property didn’t match the previously given data. Previous owner of the property has to pay for the “done job” and he will do it – he doesn’t have any choice – it is an absurd situation. Anyway, the lies and missing job may stay on their conscience. But the real issue is that fact that the company has a monopoly on that service in the region and next time we are dependent on them again. And even more serious problem here is , that the person B.H. is employed by the municipality and in his role as public employee he acts as a defense lawyer for a private company and he is directly interested in that the company can earn money on us. This is a sign of power abuse.
2ndcase with another local company, who holds a “Natural Monopoly” for services in the region.Härjeåns Nät AB
Are you still reading this? Let’s step to the next one. And the next issue is electricity, and unfortunately, this is much more serious thing for us and can have negative consequences for our future. Our new house is not connected to the local electricity grid, and even before we bought the property, we were assisted by the municipality to calculate the price of establishing connection to the grid line, which is located 280 meters from the house. Municipal employee “L.H.” was very helpful – she contacted the company “Härjeåns Nät AB”, who owns the electric grid facilities and who has “a natural monopoly” in the region, and she got an offer with price of 125,000 SEK. When we one month later bought the house, we contacted “Härjeåns Nät AB” in order to confirm the offer for the job to be done. They returned with a price of around 145,000 SEK, including VAT, – so it was well matched with the price that the municipality had received. Orest is curious by his nature and he found out, that the prices are calculated according to the method, provided by the public authority “Energy Market Inspection”, which has a function to control the market prices level. And according to their own example, Orest calculated that the price of service should be significantly lower of the given offer – less than 80,000 SEK including VAT. Therefore, he wrote to the Energy Market Inspection with request to check the offer – this is “Inspection’s” function. The “Inspection” sent our request further to the Härjeåns Nät AB (!), and the answer was … that the price is now 300,000 SEK !!!! No explanation about previous offers, but the last one was based on calculation for a much longer distance to the power line, based on conclusion “that other alternatives are not possible in this case”. We just can’t express here, how shocked we are. We wrote back both to the company and the “Inspection” with request to explain the situation and that fact that the two first offers were twice as cheap as the last one. Is this just a punishment for one’s curiosity? Three weeks later we still haven’t heard from any of them. In addition to the 300,000 SEK we have to pay for an electrician for the actual connection the distribution power line to the property and other expenses related to the power line costs. So we can end up with a bill, equal to more than half value of the property itself. This fact is not inline with the municipality’s ambition to attract more families to move to the Bergs region. As a newcomer here you have no protection against what you can call “wild west” laws, – you are totally dependent on those who has a “natural monopoly” on services you can’t live without.
We just want end this blog by saying that we have set up our company BigLakeMedia.se and it’s supposed to get “massive support” from the Berg municipality – the statistics say that this region is Sweden’s second best municipality to start a new business in. It actually did start positively with a constructive conversation with one person from an agency, which in collaboration with the municipality help new businesses to establish themselves. That person also offered us to find answers to some questions she couldn’t answer at the meeting and that we were always welcome to contact her for advices. But… she never returned and today it’s almost two months later, we still have nothing heard and she does not respond on our reminding emails. It turned out that she works in close collaboration with the municipality, so we actually begin to worry that there is some reason reason why she has stopped communicating with us. Do those guys discuss us as unwanted newcomers? Do we ask too many questions, they don’t like? You may think we are paranoiac, but we feel that we are “black listed” and the regional officials are just bullying us. But the warning we received from local people in the village begins to show its true face. When we ask people in the village if we will get a building permit from the municipality (when we will need it), everybody is convinced, that the municipality won’t give us any permission.
We both are used to discuss any questions openly and directly with all involved parts, but in this case there is no discussion, because the Bergs Municipality has chosen to ignore our requests.
All this could be a coincidence, but you return back to one Swedish classic quote: “When people with power stop listening to common people, then it’s time to take the given power from them”.Welcome to the Wild West of Sweden.
In this blog I will try to answer a question we have been asked countless times. Questions about how we manage the company of each other and being together in everything 24/7. I will also talk about what our everyday life looks like. Of course, there are variations depending on whether and if it’s summer or winter. And after we bought the house, our everyday life has also become a little different.
I will start with description of our everyday life. Like most other peoples ours is not much different. In the dark winter days, the sun rises between 9-10 a.m., so we can’t get out for a walk with the dogs before 10am. There is no bakery in the village and we bake our own bread every second day.
And the usual housekeeping routine as everyone has – cooking, washing and cleaning. In the winters we get up quite late – between 8-9 a.m. On the other hand, we work until late in the evenings almost every day. It is a luxury to be able to control your workday and enjoy the few bright hours. We spend the light hours as much as possible outdoors – taking photography, filming, skiing and walking with our dogs. And not to forget – removing snow. This winter is our first season with the new house. It is remotely located and the last 4 km of unpaved road to the house are not plowed by the municipal services, so it is us who has to clean it – and it is time-consuming duty.
Things generally take longer time, when you live the way as we do. It’s certainly not negatively mentioned, because I like and appreciates the slowness in daily routine. It’s impossible to hurry with anything here. If you are going to cook, firstly you have to get firewood; next the stove has to be warmed up. It takes around one hour for the wood stove is heated up to 200 degrees Celsius.
If we have to drive anywhere, we can’t just do it at the last minute, because there is a high chance that 20 cm of snow has fallen overnight and snow must be plowed off the road near house first. Additionally roads can be slippery and icy and you can’t drive faster than 50 km/h. In some places the roads can even be closed due to heavy winds and snowfall.
Our waste container has to be placed 200 meters away from house along the unpaved road, when it has to be emptied every fortnight (every second week). You begin to appreciate that slowness and you have to slow down. And if somebody thinks this brings stress, but it has actually an opposite effect – it gives peace and you accept that fact that things take time.
Then I haven’t mentioned major shopping in supermarkets, which take most of a day. We decided to take it as an adventure – road trip with tea in the thermo cups.
Often we have longer to-do lists. For example it can be a meeting in the bank office, a vaccination at the vet or a visit to a “do it yourself” shop. Such a trip to the supermarket we do approx. once every month.
In the summertime we have 24 hours of daylight. Last spring we woke up earlier and earlier every day because of earlier sunrises and at the end it was so early, that we had to invest in black curtains on windows to get a good night sleep again. I was sure before, that it would never be necessary. We are still enjoying our first summer in our new house, but we got a taste of how long time it will take to mow grass on a 1.8 hectares of land: it took me 4 hours to mow 25% of the lawn.
In addition, a lot of things have to be done in the house. In the summertime we go often hiking with tent overnights in the mountains. It is both pleasure and work at the same time. Orest creates videos and I take photos for both our partners and our own accounts on social media.
Social media is something I spend a lot of time on. And like so many others, maybe too much time too. It is a difficult balance when this is also part of your job. But SoMe is also a great pleasure and a way to feel connected to your friends and the rest of the world, especially when you are so far away and isolated.
Living so isolated, just Orest, myself and our two dogs, sharing everything 24 hours a day has been amazingly smooth. I was never really worried about that part, but think that if anyone saw us from the outside, they probably would think we were talking too much to the dogs and saying weird things. Orest clearly has a greater need for being alone than I do. Actually, we had made an agreement that he would go on a day’s hike alone one day a week, but often it was postponed because we have too much to do together. But especially when we are a little under pressure and things don’t really go as expected, he needs to get out on his own for a long walk.
It works great for him and his mood balance, to go on a hike all alone with a single or two nights stay in tent. And it’s also nice for me to be alone for a while, and healthier for both of us than staying together in a depressed mood, because we only have each other in such situations and that’s our way of solving it.
One thing that has been causing pressure on Orest is that his family has not understood the choice we made. Orest was born in Ukraine and raised in both Ukraine and Russia and he has parents, who had struggled all their lives to get away from the poverty in province in Soviet times and to move to the city, get an education and good jobs. A permanent job was a key to safety and security in their lives. It has been anxiety provoking and incomprehensible that we had chosen to move to something they have struggled to get away from. First to quit our good and safe jobs and then to move out into the woods as far away from the city as possible and cook food on “open fire”. Even though he is an adult and feels independent, it does still hurt him when his mom posts a “crying” smileys at every post he posted on Facebook. It does mainly characterize differences in generations. The younger generation of Ukrainians understands our choice, but they have also grown with relatively good wealth and with the Internet. They have been able to travel and have food on the table every day. But now we have bought a house (as it means “investment in property”), and this was accepted by Orest’s mother greatly and as a wise decision. She has even turned to the positive and enthusiastic about our new property Lövnäset as it brings positive memories of her childhood. And we even have a motorboat – as she remembers, that only the richest family had one in the village in Siberia, where she was grown up. Such a choice as we made is an “Industrial and wealth-country” choice. That kind of choice you make, when you have never suffered or never been in need and when you have traveled the world and realized yourself in many aspects. It is not a choice you make when you have never been able to afford a pair of new shoes.
Unfortunately, my parents are dead and I don’t know how they would have reacted to our choice.
Back to everyday life, many people ask what we spend the evenings on. That’s a pretty good question. We haven’t had TV in 15 years and I had actually told myself that I would start watching more TV. But that has not happened. We guess we watch TV approx. 10-20 hours a year. Now it’s around 9 p.m. while I’m writing this blog and Orest is sitting opposite to me and editing a video.
Soon our dogs should go out for a walk. Maybe you should take a bath and do some yoga exercises before sleep. This is what an ordinary evening typically looks like here.
But not on Sundays … I am return to the first blog and high heel shoes now! Sunday night is dedicated to a good food and glass of red wine. And then we take our nice clothes, I put on makeup and jump in my high heels.
It was a deal we made with each other on the way up here, because we knew that we would be wearing the ugliest and most practical clothes all the time every day. As Orest said the other day “When we lived in Copenhagen, we had the basement filled with the hiking equipment of highest quality”. It is constantly used now and all our fine “city” clothes are packed far away.
Today is November 1st and exactly one year since we moved here. It’s autumn again and so many things have happened during that year. But nature is still the same. The same beautiful colors, birds on their way to warmer lands, bears preparing for winter hibernation, the first frost and the first snow. The reindeers who leave the forest and moving higher into the mountains. The hunting season that starts and the days that get shorter and shorter every day at a rapid pace. The forest is full of mushrooms and berries. And not to forget that the mosquitoes have finally left us.
This blog is dedicated to the fall. The most beautiful season and perhaps the season we love most. But we also want to make a small statement about two things that we have learned by living here. Things that we hadn’t thought they could impact our minds while we lived in Copenhagen, but thye are so omnipresent. And talk is about impact of material things. I had thought that I was completely unaffected by that, but I am far from that. And I discovered that when we visited Copenhagen this year. Maybe you think it is a very strange comparison that I suddenly talk about expensive cars, when we now have chosen to live the way we do. But I like nice cars. So when one day I was standing on one street in Copenhagen and saw a Maserati driving along the street, my first thought was “God, yes such type of cars exist too”. I had completely forgotten about that. It no longer existed in my consciousness. When you are not exposed to others vehicles than average half-old practical Volvo on winter tires, you don’t remember about existance of other types of cars. But if you see a Maserati every day, you unconsciously start to imagine driving in such a car. And that goes for many things. Slowly you lose grip on what is modern, and if once you used to buy clothes in the shops at the nice end of Strøget (shopping pedestrian street in Copenhagen), now you buy practical clothes in an average store chain. And you “go shopping” only when you really need one thing, and you become happy for pair of really warm boots or socks that hold their form and not make a mess in the rubber high boot.
Another thing is longing or desire. An longing or desire to experience other places and countries. We have always traveled a lot. 4-5 times a year was a common for us. To big cities and to exotic destinations, and every time we returned back home from another trip, the next trip was already planned. We constantly had desire to experience the world. That longing or desire has completely disappeared. Sure, we may miss our annual trips to Paris, but just the thought about travelling for one month to Bangladesh makes us both very tired. I believe that when you live so much in the and with nature, you get so much peace, that many basic needs are met. And then there is also a “little” detail that we will not leave our two dogs, Zarwoe and Láska.
We have trully become a little symbiosis after being together all 24 hours of the day for more than a whole year. Perhaps it may also be because our lives have been completely turned upside down. The fact that the last year we have experienced so many changes, so that having to relate to another country’s culture can be overwhelming for ones mind. I do not know, but I suppose that when you live such a simple life in the nature, you don’t desire something else. We just want to be here and go hiking in the mountains in neighbourhood.
Autumn begins September 1st and no – the local autumn is not an extension of summer.
In September you experience first night frosts and a single snowstorm is not that unusual. The leaves on trees turn yellow. And when you see the first yellow leaf, there are no many days will be before everything is in yellow, orange and red colors mixed with the green pinetrees. And it’s incredibly beautiful.
The large birds cranes gather in large flocks above in the sky before flying to the south. The reindeer, which have literally lived in our backyard during summer, look up into the mountains around October, when the mating season starts.
The moose seek away from the forest and into more open areas, where they find food during the autumn months. This is the best time to spot a moose. The bears go into winter hibernation around beginning of November, and then it feels more safe to walk in the woods and you do not get afraid the same way when your dogs hear a sound in the bushs.
It is also in September that we have to prepare firewood for winter season. It is still a little difficult for us to calculate how much we need. It seems when the shed is filled, there must be more than plenty, but you spend more than you think during entire winter, especially when our primary heat sources are the wood stove and fireplace. At Lövnäset it is our the only source of heat. We have become part of the forest when we bought our new house, so from next year we will have to cut and split our own firewood. It was not possible to cut and dry firewood this year, so it will be spring next year. Our neighbor has promised us a small course on how to prepare your own firewood. And then we must not forget our faithful helpers in getting firewood – the beavers. They cut as many trees around the lake as you can just pick up by boat.
The moose hunt starts on the first Monday in November, which is a date many in the area look forward to. People here have been hunters for many generations and the meat is an important part of the life. Here the whole animal is used and those parts which are not suitable for human food, go to the dogs. We also got a package from our neighbor with moose legs for our dogs. More organic meat does not exist. It is also in the fall that you hunt birds and bears. People say that even the most experienced hunter can have difficulties with holding the rifle stable, when preparing to shoot a bear. That’s the instinct being actived, which I also noticed, when my dogs respond to any sounds in the forest. Although even if the moose actually counts for more accidents than the bear, but you react by instinct differently to a predator.
The first two weeks of the moose hunt we must take some precautions. The dogs wear orange vests and they are on leash most of the time. Then you are happy for our 1.8 hectare garden so they can run free and stretch their muscles.
It is also towards the end of August that we get the evenings again after two months of light 24 hours of the day. And even the light gives a nice energy, it is also nice to experience the darkness again. The days are getting shorter and shorter. About 5 minutes shorter every day until December 21st. We know many people think it must be depressing to accept the fact that winter is coming, but we love the fall – its colors and evenings. And we enjoy the fact, that the mosquitoes are gone in the fall. And so are the small insects – mites or knots, as they are called in Swedish. It is actually an incredible relief to be outside and completely undisturbed by insects.
The snow usually settles in November, but this year it came early. Already in mid-October we got snow, so it probably will be a long winter this year. Winter is something very special and requires a whole blog for itself and I will be happy to tell you about it later on.
Sitting here in front of fireplace in our new home. I’ve been always dreaming to live in the house with fireplace. And with the private access to a lake. A dream, I have never thought could become real, but it did. In this chapter you will find the story about our new house(s) with two (!) fireplaces at the exceptional location.
After having been living in the Big Lake Village for a half of year, we have met many nice people and realised, that this region is one of the most beautiful places in Sweden. So we began to play with thought about staying here permanently. Though we wanted to live more apart and isolated away from the village, where we lived in the rented house. The last one is also beautifully located, but we have always been fascinated and tempted by the idea of living separately. We have never had a single desire to return back to the city. Of course, you can miss your friends, but the social media and digital communication helps a lot to keep you connected, especially when you decide to move far away.
We had heard some talks about that a place named “Lövnäset” probably would be sold in the future, and our neighbours thought, that the place was exactly what we were dreaming about. So, when the snow was almost gone off the road in late spring, we took on a little trip on another side of the lake. The road is not maintained in wintertime and you can get there only by snowmobile. We didn’t remember the name of that place, so when we turned on the first sideway to one property. It was an old house with really nice location and we were sure it was the right place. There were though other country houses around, but still it was away from anything else. I sent a picture of the place to our neighbours to show that we found it and to confirm that they had right, when they told us about the place. But the answer was a surprise for us – it was a wrong place we found, and we had to drive further if we wanted to see the “Lövnäset”. So we got in the car and drove few extra kilometres, before we saw another sideway with a wooden sign at entrance. And it stood “Lövnäset” on that sign. It was a right one this time. We felt as criminals, because we were going on a private property, where it was a sign “private” on entrance. But when we were standing on the ground, we both were blown away by the view – an isolated peninsula with two houses on it. And nothing else nearby. Only endless nature and silence. A place, we had never seen before, – something you only could dream about.
We went back home, but we were all the time thinking about the place we saw, and we both were convinced, that there is no any other similar place in the world. So, if it won’t be this one, than we never could be satisfied with any other places. And it was a strong feeling. We asked about the property’s owners, but nobody in the village knew them in person. Everyone could say, that owners were from Norway, but nobody could provide us with contact information. Somebody mentioned, that we could get help from the leader of one project “Move and live surrounded by nature”- a local initiative aimed at motivating families to move to the local villages. Help in getting in touch with owners of the property. And we wrote to the project leader and were excited to hear from her. But it was no answer. Neither after the second request we sent one month later. Fortunately we got help. Again from our neighbours. They managed to get an email address of the owners via their family members. We spent a few days, fighting with our feelings and trying to find out, what to write to unknown people. “Hi, we’ve heard, that you consider selling your property, and we would like to buy it…” We wrote a letter with a careful question, if they could rent the place out for us, or probably they considered selling it in the future. And we were waiting again… for only two days and they answered us. And it was even invitation to come and see the property.
And the owners were so kind and intelligent people. They had had the property for the last 15 years, but they decided to sell it within next 5 years. They are getting older and nobody of their children would have time and possibility to take care of the place, which requires constant care. The property has 1.8 hectares of land; so just mowing grass takes almost the whole day. The house, or to be more correct – the houses (there are two houses), are in great shape for their age of 200 years. Both houses are from 19th century, with some extensions built in 1930-ties. But the houses are quite primitive. Diesel generator in combination with a little solar panel produces electricity, water is being taken directly from the lake and pumped into the 1000 litres tank. It means, that in the frost weather the water can freeze in the pipes and there is no water supply until the beginning of summer.
The owners showed us the property, paying attention to that fact, that the place requires a lot of work and maintenance all the time. And you could feel, that they loved this place and it meant a lot for them. And if they had to sell it, the price was not the most important, but what next owners could bring to the place and the local society. Important, that the property won’t be totally rebuilt, but kept with its beautiful original design and elements. Just as an example- the main entrance reminds a museum of the ancient farmer house.
We returned home after a long introduction to the property, and we were even more excited about the place than before. But were aware, that a lot of things had to be done and repaired before we could live there all year round and use one of houses as artist refuge as it was planned. Even if they would sell it within next five years, we were not sure, if we could afford it. We agreed that all of us had to think about impressions we got, and that we could meet again after two weeks.
Two weeks later we met again and we were surprised by their decision to sell the property to us, and if we could agree on price, we could get the property already this autumn. They were really honest people and we trusted in what they said, and they told in details about any existing and even possible issues the property had or could have in the future. They did everything in opposite to what a real estate agent would do – they wanted to be sure, that we were aware of any details and not just buying property because of the exceptional location.
It feels like everything what happened in connection to this place is magic. What chances are to find a place, having a feeling “this is only the only place you want to live at”? And that this place can be for sale and for exact that price we could afford? It was exactly as they say: “meant to be “. And we got the whole package – the canoes, motorboat, tractor, furniture, and many other things. “All inclusive”. Actually so many things, that we felt a little bit embarrassed of how generous these people were to us.
But, on September first the property became officially ours and we got a bundle with keys.
The next step is to connect the property to the local electric grid and find a better solution for water supply, so we could be able to use houses all year round. At the moment we live in the new house and we drive to the “office” in the rented house, where there is electricity for working on computer. We will keep doing it as long as we can until real frosts and deep snow come and we no longer can keep us warm or reach the new place by car. And as mentioned before, the idea is to use one of the new houses as artist refuge, where creative people can live and work for shorter or longer periods. We hope that we can be ready with that concept next summer/ fall. At the moment we just enjoy every moment at the new place. Every morning you awake and watch the fog rising above the lake surface, while listening to the nature. Nature is the only thing you hear and see here.
“But, what are you going to do for living out there? …” It was the first question, we heard every time we told about our plans to move in the Swedish wilderness. Yes – it’s a good question, and we haven’t found a clear answer to it yet, and of course this is a strong uncertainty in our life. But we have some ideas and things we are doing and believing they will bring us to the answer soon.
It’s not a secret that sometimes the uncertainty can give pain in stomach, but we moved to Sweden with great sum of money, we had on our bank account after our apartment was sold. We were lucky to buy the apartment at right time with lowest prices on market and sell it at the most right time for ourselves, when prices were highest. Money we got from the apartment could let us live for three years without any need for earnings and jobs. But for sure – nobody wants to sit and wait till the account is emptied – and we do our best to move things in the right direction – probably it moves too slowly at the moment.
When we moved to Sweden, I still had a solid collaboration with one Danish furniture design company ATBO. I worked on creating visual content, the company used for their catalogs and social media – they needed artistic nature photography of all four seasons. Unfortunately I only worked for a short period, because the company went bankrupt shortly after our collaboration started. When we moved, I was also participating in one art exhibition in one of the biggest art museums in central Denmark, where I got some honorary, so it was great. But as known, earnings are unstable for most of artists. The same it is in my case. Of course, you hope for better exhibition opportunities and earnings, but you can’t predict how it will go. By the way, recently I was contacted and invited to participate in one tender, where the biggest regional hospital wants to select one artist for decorating part of the interior in the hospital. I am really excited and I have applied for that tender – that chance could make myself more visible on the Swedish art scene as well as it could land a long-term contract with salary. So, crossing fingers and wishing so much to get this job.
Another possibility to reduce the cost of living is our dogs’ Instagram profile @zarwoe.oligarch. A profile, we started as joke, because of Zarwoe’s real name given by the breeder. Orest was convinced, that the name “Oligarch” would attract many female users on Instagram, willing to have relation with a rich man – as known, “Oligarch” in Russia means “a new rich Russian man”. And Zarwoe’s official name, given by breeder, is Oligarcha. I was not a great user of Instagram, but I thought it was a funny idea to start a profile for dogs – at least it was a good place, where we could collect and archive dogs pictures during their life. In the beginning we took occasional pictures with mobile phones only and without any actual storytelling, but pictures were popular as well as the profile. And more followers it got, more fun for us it was in taking pictures and we started to focus more on content and quality of images. And of course we began to research, what actually that storytelling could be used for. Orest has an analytical mindset and he researches things and reads about how things in SoMe world work, while I’m only interested in a visual side of our work. Later Instagram introduced video functionality, and Orest works on creating video content. If somebody asked us for years ago if wanted to become “influencers”, we would have laughed on it, as we didn’t even know the meaning of the word. But at the moment the account has over 24K active followers and still growing organically.
We have a permanent collaboration with two brands, and we contacted them by ourselves, because we already used their products and we were convinced in the high quality of products. And we wanted to be ambassadors for such brands with ethical values and great visions for their products. The first of them is Essential Foods, one of the world’s best producers of dogs meals, snacks and other ingredients, and at the same time one of the most ethical brands we’ve ever known.
The quality is the highest priority for them, and it’s above the profit. In addition they donate a lot of money to the pets charity programs as well as the owner is personally active in those programs. And we are absolutely proud to be their ambassadors. Another brand is Non-Stop Dogwear and their new subdivision, Non-Stop Polar (clothes for humans).
A Norwegian brand, which produces high quality accessories for outdoor activities for both dogs and their owners – vests, leashes, winter clothes- you name it. Products, which are used for hiking, running, skiing and more. Almost every week we receive collaboration offers from diverse brands via Instagram, but we made a simple rule for ourselves- say yes only to those products, which we would have bought by ourselves. So, we refuse many offers. When we are curious and have an interest for a specific product, we take an initiative and contact the brand. In most cases we get a positive response and we get possibility to test a product. But it’s still so much to learn and it is a long way to real earnings, we don’t have any agents, who probably could bring the whole thing on a professional level. And some of our “learning by doing” experiences were confusing. For example, once we were contacted by an American brand, producer of pet toys. They offered collaboration- they would send us couple of toy samples exchanged on 5 posts on our dogs’ Instagram profile. Our proposal was approx. 90% of what they expected, and we were sure, that they wouldn’t go for that deal. But surprisingly they said “yes” to our conditions and, afterwards we could see, that we fulled ourselves. It basically meant, that the company sent us two toys for pets, and we had to take pictures of our dogs playing with toys. Not just post or advertising, but the company got pictures of their toys for a small cost of approx. 30 Euros. It was learning for us.
Obviously, there is still much to learn and to get to the real profit-making tool, but that is not our priority in this case. We move ahead, so far our followers and we have fun with this profile, until Instagram keeps following their original principles of the community they created for years ago.
Back to our collaboration with Non-Stop Polar. They have designed their dawn jacket Jakka in collaboration with professional sports people, living in extreme winter conditions in the northern parts of Scandinavia. We had an opportunity to purchase them with 70% discount promo price and we used them during our first winter. They are just amazing and and absolutely must to have in our region. And of experimental quality. If it was a product of a famous brand, it could have costed twice as much of their normal price. They are not cheap, but we have an affiliate agreement with producer and if you are interested, you can visit their website and if you want to purchase it online, you can use our “code” word “zarwoe” and get 10% discount. Website www.non-stoppolar.no
Orest invested in drone just after our move and it was not only for fun. He creates videos, which we post on the dogs’ Instagram. He has also started creating small commercials – among others he made a little promo video for the recently opened local RV camping. He did it as a free of charge favour, which could be seen by others, and there is some interest from small local businesses, willing to make commercials for their products or services. This can probably become another way of earning money in the future. Making videos is his passion and he has been doing them for a long time. He can also find out to work with simple web design and can help people to start their websites, help with SEO and other website related details, as well as get other Social Media channels established. This is also possibility to get orders, and offering much lower prices, than it usually costs. We are going to launch a separate website for our services and hopefully there will be orders.
Another way of earning, I relied on before moving here, was a commercial photography like portraits, but even though my offers were much below a half price, there still was no interest for that. It seems, like getting a portrait is not the first priority, on which people would spend money. And if you want to find customers in bigger towns, then you would spend all earnings on fuel for your car – distances are really big in our region. This was another example on, how we were thinking things should work here, while we still were in Copenhagen. Instead we have a collection of selected images, placed here on site under Gallery, and any of those images can be purchased by sending request. This is not an art, but images as digital products and they can be used for any purpose. And for the future we have also another concrete project. We have just bought one property, which has an exceptional location. The property consists of two houses- one of them will be used as an artist refuge, and any artist can rent it for a period and live and work in it. Much more about our dream home in the next chapter – we are looking forward to telling you about it.
Can you imagine that feeling when you don’t own any keys? Well, we did have the key to our car, but it was the only one we had. And no other keys to anybody’s property – neither neighbors nor family. Indeed we had only the car key, when we were sitting in the car, parked on the street nearby our just sold apartment. It was a special feeling and we never before thought that the keys could have such a big meaning – a key symbolizes a relation to some place. Not having a key means you don’t have a physical relation to any property.
It was a plan to start this blog from day one after we reached Big Lake Village. But in reality our minds were exposed to so many new things around us and it was no chance to have a clear feelings about what was happening during the first period. So it is actually first now, one year after our arrival, our minds have used to a new situation, it is possible to see the whole picture from aside, and so we can start telling this story. And one year after we went through that huge change we can understand today, how big that change was.
The first period on new place was filled with many practical things, sometimes frustrating and ridiculously complicated. Such simple things like opening a bank account and paying bills were not that simple as you can imagine. But it was also time of great experiences.
We arrived to Big Lake Village on November 1st, in our car with trailer, filled with things- only those of the first priority. Including 10 pairs of my high heels shoes… They were brought all way up north just because I forgot to deliver them to the temporary storage of our things and furniture In Denmark. But later on those shoes got their positive role. The first thing we did on our arrival was to start the fire wood oven and prepare big portion of cheese fondue as well as to open a bottle of red wine. It was a long 13 hours drive and we were really tired. We were sitting in front of each other, euphoric and exhausted, and no doubt we both were thinking: “what the hell are we doing here? What have we done?”… But at the same time we were excited about the future. By the way, the house was kindly prepared for our arrival- the owner took a long way from where he lives in southern Sweden to make the house ready for rental. For us it was easier to have an overview of the property.
Next couple of days we moved all unneeded furniture and things from the living space we wanted to use. We decided to live on ground floor, and moved a lot of things on first floor. Living on ground floor was in our opinion more practical and could help us reduce costs spent on heating during cold winter months. Here there is a beautiful old firewood oven in the kitchen and electric heaters in small rooms. And in such old and energy inefficient house you can end up with high bill for electricity in a cold winter with temperatures below -40 degrees Celsius. In addition, our dogs don’t like stairs. Lastly, I love living in small space. The first floor we use for our things and for drying washed clothes, as well as there is a room for guests. We live basically on 50 square meters as well as we have a garden of approximately 2.000 square meters.
We decided to let us be “free” the first month – just to have time to acclimatize on a new place and observe surroundings, not being disturbed by any other activities. And of course to have time for the basic practical things – for example to find out where we could buy fire woods for winter season, which already had been started.
We landed at new place in November, where local people were already prepared for winter, but we were absolutely not ready for that. Basic thing like opening a bank account took a lot of time and efforts. Before you apply for bank account in Swedish bank you have to have a Swedish Identity card, and the Identity card can be issued only after you have got a Personal number from tax authorities. To get your Personal Number you have to wait some period after your application is registered. So, when you have your Personal Number issued, you can apply for the Identity Card, and after two weeks you can be lucky to get it and, after that you have to visit a bank office in person and apply for the smart thing, called the Bank ID (your digital identity). We chose our bank just because their office was closest to Big Lake Village – 165 km. We had to meet with bank guys couple of times, before the whole setup was ready to be used. So in practice it can take up to two months before you can optimally function as “digital citizen” with digital signature in the “digital society”, so you can order mobile broadband and basic things like to pay your bills. Thanks to my cousin during that long period – she paid all our bills, while we transferred money on her account. Maybe it is the same process in Denmark and elsewhere, when you are a new in country, but it feels complicated and unneeded bureaucracy, especially when we talk about digitalization of public services.
Many of you probably wonder if we have Internet connection. Yes, we do have it. We were actually impressed by the fact that Sweden has done great job for cohesion in the society, so nobody feels isolated. Even the smallest villages have good mobile network coverage. Of course, we had to purchase an external antenna for better signal, and it works fine so far. Though we don’t stream TV, but it’s not relevant for us – we have never watched TV. I actually was thinking, that I would watch TV after moving here, but it was only an idea.
We have to admire, that we had some prejudice about local people in the region, before we arrived, and we were convinced, that it was the same way back. There were for sure rumors about two Danes’ arrival to the village. Approx. 90 people live in the village, so everybody knows each other. Most of inhabitants are born here and most of them are hunters, and suddenly we together with our two dogs are moving here directly from Copenhagen. I was grown up in the countryside in northern part of Denmark, where people can be really unsocial, so my prejudice was based on that, and I expected that it would be the same here – even more extreme. But in reality it was absolutely opposite. We were welcome here from day one and almost everybody was open and curious to know more about us. And we could feel so much helpfulness – it is something you almost have forgotten it did exists after many years of life in Copenhagen. Here in Big Lake Village you don’t ask about help – here you think about what you could do for others to help them. As example – your neighbor comes and asks you, when you are back after a short trip, so he can get the snow off from the entrance to your house and you can get drive in late in the darkness when you arrive. Or in summertime you come back home and you know that flowers in the garden were taken care of, because neighbors took initiative to help you. This is a gesture, you value really much. We did also things in order to be open. One evening in the middle of December and 6 weeks after we moved in, we invited three closest neighbor families to our house to have some Danish typical before Christmas drinks and cookies. It was nice “ice-breaker” and cozy evening. And our fridge was quickly filled up with moose meat – invited guests here don’t bring flowers to hosts, but 1 kg of meat. I am vegetarian, but Otis was really happy as he before our move dropped his attempt to become vegetarian.
Another episode, which was important for us, happened the Christmas evening. We did choose to stay here for Christmas against of traditions. We have a small family – my parents are not alive anymore, and Otis has only his mom far away in Ukraine. So we were sitting alone, but suddenly somebody knocked on the door. It was one of our neighbors, who came to us with a little present for us. He excused because presents were not wrapped in, but we were so impressed by the thoughts of care about us, especially when you are new here, sitting alone Christmas Eve.
On the other hand we had a naïve idea about, how fantastic it would be – to just open the door and let our dogs run free around the house. When you have lived most of your life in apartment, and finally you got your garden, it was really exciting to think about that freedom for dogs. But there was no fence around garden, and it took about just one week for our dogs to find out, that there were parts of moose (bones, head etc.) hang up in the trees by neighbor in order to attract wild foxes closer, so he could shoot them. Of course, no way, that our dogs can run and eat that old meat, as they also get sick of it. And as it became obvious later on, there were many old rests of moose bones around in the area in the forest. Every time our dogs came proud with new found bone, we had to take it from the and place up in the tress, which was not easy, as our dogs are tall enough to reach bones up in the trees.
We know, that many wonder about the financial side of our adventure. What do we do for living in this place? We will touch that side of our life in the next blog.