The new blog – May 1st 2023

It is not going eaxctly as I had planned – to write blogs at regular intervals. Too much time goes by in between chapters, so I almost never know where to start the next one. Maybe it shall be where I left off last time – in November 2022. So here comes our “spring” blog despite the fact that the snow is falling at the moment and we have had about 70 cm of snow in the last few days. And there’s more to come…

We actually had experienced few days of spring weather shortly before. High sun and double-digit plus temperatures with solar bathing on the terrace. And finally, you could see the soil and the colours. And the colours is exactly what I miss most after a long winter. We got running water in the pipelines system already in the beginning of April. This is a record and 3 weeks earlier than previous years. It’s a luxury you shouldn’t take for granted.

One highlight since our last blog is definitely our trip to Paris. When we lived in Copenhagen, we travelled to Paris every year in November to see the photo fair Paris Photo. Due to our tight economy it has simply not been possible to travel there in recent years, so it was an incredibly nice reunion with former tradition. And it’s impossible to describe how much I had missed seeing a lot of photographic art and other exhibitions as well as eating macarones ad libitum.

Of course, we had the dogs with us, and they attracted so much attention that we sometimes felt like celebrities. Wherever we went we were photographed. It was many times that we were filmed and taken pictures of by several people at once. It was overwhelming, but also just the fact that it has become a culture and completely acceptable to film everything and everyone completely without asking for permission first. We were also found on a major Parisian Instagram profile promoting the city. Not even they asked for permission. It was fun enough, except that I was revealed to have been inside the cake shop to buy cakes once again;-).

It was also a bit of a fun experience. One of the young street souvenirs sellers (those guys walking around selling “Eiffel Tower” souvenirs) came towards us and asked if our dogs were expensive. Of course, Orest promptly replied that they weren’t, adding that they are even so cheap that you can almost get them for free, and that they are also incredibly difficult to handle with. Without further communication and with disappointed face he turned and went his way. But you just got some thoughts that you could have got in troubles. Fortunately, no one stole ours dogs, but someone did steal one of our cell phones.

During our stay we met a couple who lived in the middle of Paris and who had a niece for our white dog  Zarwoe. We also met a couple from Mexico who had followed the dogs for a long time on Instagram. It was super nice to meet people in real life and we spent some memorable hours together.

The winter has been long and we have been challenged mentally in different ways. It has been particularly difficult for Orest to recognize that we have not had the opportunity to move forward – another winter in the house without running water and electricity. It was not the plan that we should live so primitively for several years. Even with a business that has never gone in “negative” but instead it has doubled every year, we are still completely left to ourselves without any form of safety network. We cannot take a loan from the bank, even though we do not owe a single Swedish krone. And a relatively little loan could make our income from guesthouse rental significantly higher because the season can be extended with some small renovations of facilities in the house. 

There have also been many positive things during the winter, but the slow progress is demotivating because you feel you are “treading the water” and something as simple as running water can be only seen to become a reality in the long perspective. Admittedly we do not have a “well-developed” business talent, so despite all the many positive things, it is still a very long and tough move for us.

But in mid-February we finally got our solar panels and batteries which had been missing in the post for 4 months (!). And it has elevated our off-grid home and workplace to a totally new level. It provides power so we can work without need to turn on the fuel generator to use a few photo lamps for example. And you have ordinary indoors lighting that provides a better light to work in than the petroleum lamps do. So, there is also a huge progress on this side.

What I have also used the wintertime for is the preparations for my upcoming art exhibition, which opens on 17th of May at Viborg Kunsthal in Denmark. It is an exhibition that has been a long time on its way and it will be my first exhibition in Denmark for several years. I’m excited and nervous, but I’m really looking forward to it. I am so grateful to have received a large grant from a Danish foundation, which has enabled the exhibition to be carried out exactly as I had dreamed of. There was a time when I had received quite a few rejections from foundations, and I began to doubt whether I could complete the exhibition at all. But now we are soon on our way to Denmark. The exhibition is called “JAGT” (“a Hunt”) and it is the result of a collaboration with the Swedish artist Anette Abrahamsson and the Norwegian artist Stine Kvam. I will show 8 new photographic works as well as 3 sculptures. This is the first time I am showing sculptural works.

Unlike previous projects, in this exhibition I have worked with our senses. Something that I have taken to my heart during the time we have lived here. I am obsessed by our desire as modern humans to have control and power over nature. I am fascinated by the instinctive reaction that occurs in us humans when we encounter a predator. A primal instinct that can make experienced hunters’ hands to shake uncontrolled when they meet a predator in the wilderness. When we humans are faced with a predator, we are confronted with our denial that a predator can take a human life and that we are also animals in that perspective, – a part of an ecosystem and thus also part of the “food chain”. I am confronted with this physical anxiety in my present daily life when I walk in the forest in one of the most bear-rich regions in Sweden. It is fascinating how the body instinctively reacts to sounds and how the adrenaline, alertness and senses are constantly activated. The artworks for the exhibition must therefore be seen as a form of self-portrait.

The sculptures are made of wool, and it has been a huge work. I had to trade the raw wool with family portraits I made. “Raw wool” means dung-dirty and smelly semi-wet wool with various faeces in it. And when it was really cold in the garage, I had to clean the wool off various residues and grass indoors in the living room…. Then it had to be washed and rinsed several times. Dried and then dyed. Being lazy, I have never put on sale a big old-fashioned outdoor washing tub, but it was a meaning and luck because it was the perfect solution to heat up the water in the 100-litre tub out in the garden for colouring the wool. But cleaning, washing, and colouring was not the biggest job. The slowest work was the wool carding. Carding of wool amount which can fill a blue IKEA bag takes about 30 hours. And it is very hard on my hands. But now it is ready to be installed and it has been an interesting physical process. We are traveling to Denmark on the 8th of May.

Since November we have also had a number of jobs for the Danish company Langkilde og Søn. It is always a privilege to work for them and we have done several photoshoots and small films in the area around our property. It has been super fun and at some moments a bit too cold. For example, we made a setup of the New Year’s table in the middle of the lake and among the birch trees. They will be shown in the autumn, but you just get a little sneak peek here. We are happy for our collaboration. Langkilde & Søn sends their products up here, we create setups with products and then film and photograph them. Such collaborations are of great value for us as we have the spectacular surroundings that can form the framework for unique set-ups. The biggest disadvantage of this collaboration is that they make such beautiful products that they are always difficult to send back after shooting sessions ;-).  You can see much more on their website

Our “little” puppy Azzo has grown up. Not to misunderstand here that he has become an “adult”, but he is doing incredibly well. I had feared that he would run on the ice and go on “adventures” on his own in the area, but he stayed on the property all winter until a month ago. Then he learned that it was a possibility. I guess that “somehow” he thought that there was still a lake around the property as he learned it from summer and autumn periods. But one day he realised that he can “walk” on ice, so he ran away two times and was gone for 30-45 minutes each time. Of course, it doesn’t work that way, so until the ice is totally gone, we have restricted his “freedom”. He can be free in the garden if we are there. But he is a happy dog with lots of healthy energy and has grown perfectly so far. Fortunately, he is not so obsessed with food anymore, but he was blamed for lack of food from the hallway (our temporary “fridge” in wintertime) for couple of times.  And it was a mistake – because we found out that the real thief was a white ermine who has moved into the garage just before the winter start, so now all doors are properly closed…

November 2022

Wow – it is already long ago since I wrote last blog! Do you remember when it was? That was in May and now we already have November. I feel guilty, but the reason for that is that we have been so busy all the summer. Yes – until now. And that is, in many ways, a good sign.

Where shall I begin from? Perhaps with the herb garden, because it has been as neglected as the blog.

I usually pre-plant vegetables indoors already from the end of April. Probably to say “usually” is not correct, because I have only done it the previous two years. It couldn’t be done this year, as we had got an exciting job in Uppsala, where we had to be away from home for a whole week in May month.

A week alone at home would be both too cold and of course everything would have dried out. The house can only be heated with the wood-burning stove, so it would easily be minus degrees inside the house. Instead of pre-sprouting, I sowed fast-growing vegetables. The salad turned out to be fine, the kale grew no more than 5 cm in height except for a single plant which was eaten by a deer, the radishes grew wildly. At least they were huge on the top, but the roots were microscopic, stringy, and bitter. The carrots again were planted too close to each other this year because I forgot to make more space between them, the strawberry bushes were eaten by animals except for two plants and the new plants from last year didn’t really produce any berries. The spring onions didn’t get thicker than a blade of grass, the beans withered and finally the peas, which became a success, but they weren’t big enough when we traveled to Denmark and when we were back home 2 weeks later there was a night frost and that was it. In addition, there have been many mice in the soil around plants and the dogs were hunting the mice, so you can perhaps imagine what our vegetables area looked alike.

When I mention the dogs, most of you have already seen that our family has expanded. In May, we picked up Azzo when he was 12 weeks old. He is from a Swedish breeder who lives no more than 300 km from us. It was not in the plans at all that we should have another dog. Not at that moment anyway. I had a lot of contact with Azzos’s breeder in connection with the dog we took care of at the end of winter. When we were on the way to hand over that dog in Stockholm, we drove by the breeder, who at that time had puppies. Not just puppies, but with a pedigree I found extremely interesting and puppies in the colors I had been interested in for a long time. We had fun with the puppies, and I told that we shouldn’t have a puppy and the financial situation was not that good that we could afford a puppy, but I said on the way out of the door: “Let me know if there will be someone interested in Azzo”. A week later the breeder wrote that someone from USA would like to have him and then I realized quite quickly that she shouldn’t have him. I got some money back in taxes and a small job running the Instagram profile for the Danish company Langkilde og Søn, so I scraped the money together. And then he has become an ambassador together with his siblings for Essential foods and Non-stop Dogwear, so we have no bigger expenses for food and equipment with his arrival in our family.

In addition, we changed insurance company from the extremely expensive “Agria” to “Folksam”, so it ended up being the same price for three dogs as we had for two. That was the practical side of the story.

Azzo is a beautiful one and he has a wonderful temperament and then he steals food completely unrestrained. In return, it has taught us to tidy up and keep the cupboards closed. But once it went wrong. In an unguarded moment, he ate 300 grams of walnuts mixed with onions. Fortunately, it happened while we were on holiday in Denmark and the vet was a few kilometers away. He was given a medicine making him throw up, and then he was otherwise ready to eat again… He thrives very well with the others and especially he and Láska play together an incredible amount of time. 

Of course, it has been a bit of a challenge to bring a puppy along to our shooting pojects. We had him for 10 days and then we had to drive to Uppsala for one week project. He managed the trip incredibly well. A lot of driving and waiting in the car. It was mostly me who had to work so that Orest could be with the dogs. I had to photograph fences. It sounds a bit special, but I learned that there are an incredible number of types of fences, skates, and gates as well as motorized gates. Horse fences, wild boar fences, industrial fences, etc. The pictures are to be used for a website that Orest is going to make.

Just two weeks later we were going to Swedish region Dalsland and worked on creating cisual content for their annual tourist magazine. With a Láska in heat, a puppy, and a male dog… I am deeply grateful that our partners at Visit Dalsland are the most dog-friendly people. This year, it was mostly photography content they needed so Orest could take care of the dogs again. He only had to make a few aerial video captions. It’s always great to work for them and you get so many wonderful and fun experiences home. Looking forward to seeing next year’s magazine.

The next project in our calendar was at home, but to be honest it was a project, where we had a full responsibility for. We had to create two commercials and photography content for the Scottish company Ooni, which produces pizza ovens. It was an absolutely cool project, where we were both responsible for creating the stories, filming and editing.

To be more precise – Orest was responsible for that part. We developed the story together and we had a freedom to act. We selected a team of 6 persons from the local community which consisted of 5 actors and a cook who also became a director’s assistant. The client became happy with the products, and it will be published in their products campaign next year around midsummer. Unfortunately, I cannot show you the films here, but you must be allowed to see a single photo. Possibly we will make films for them again this winter – at least they are keen to hear about our ideas based on our lifestyle. We hope it will result in new collaboration. 

In addition to these three projects, we spent time on preparing firewood, painting the neighbor’s house in exchange for a wilderness bath (hot tub), running our rental house and meeting interesting guests, working on my exhibition at “Viborg Kunsthal” in May month next year. And when we traveled to Denmark at the end of August we really hadn’t had a single weekend off since May.

We were in Denmark for 2 weeks. The first 10 days we stayed at one summer house in Gilleleje, which my friend and her husband generously lent us. The most beautiful summer house with a view over the sea. It was the ultimate luxury, and we are eternally grateful for that experience. It was a much-needed vacation break and it was a great time meeting with our good friends. The last 4 days we stayed at another location where we had to film and photograph for our regular partners Langkilde and Søn.

It was also a part of working together with them that I spent 10 days in Vietnam. They have a long term collaboration (for over 20 years) with one sewing production company in the country. A big contrast from life in Hanoi to life in the wilderness, but a wonderful trip in the lovely company.

On the work front, it has been a really good year – soon we will have to look at the annual accountings and our income as well as expenses has increased from last year. This means we can invest in a better solar panels system so the studio will function much better. It will let us to run the computer uninterrupted, the lamps can run and other technology we use in our work can work with no lack of electricity during the process as it has been the case so far. It will be a huge “workflow” improvement.

Of course, it has not been unconditionally positive, although many positive things have happened since the last blog. The war in Ukraine looms like a heavy shadow and every morning the news is the first thing on one’s mind. The whole Orest’s family is living in western Ukraine, which is considered as more stable part of the country. The family members have no plans to flee, but they have air raids every day and they never know what the future looks like. Will Russia bomb and fully destroy the energy infrastructure leaving civilians without electricity and indoors heating? Will there be water? Will they be alive?

It is difficult, especially for Orest, to navigate from a distance and to control the anger he has against the regime in Russia and difficult to find a place to place with the anxiety about the future.

And I was refused an art project support for the exhibition at Viborg Art hall, which has really hurt my project work. It is a super important exhibition for me, and the rejection makes me lose a bit of courage and for some moments doubt whether it can be carried out. Other moments I look at it more positively, but if I don’t get support from other foundations, the cost of the artworks will have to be reduced significantly and that will negatively affect the final products, as well as I won’t be able to show as many works as I have planned.

But I never give up and, in my world, anything can work out. Including this exhibition. I am happy and excited about it will become reality. 

I don’t know if I dare to promise that it won’t be half a year before the next blog, but I know Orest has a topic about the forest industry that he wants to write about.

Also I must admit that our Sunday-nice-in-clothes evenings have been a little bit neglected due to constant work and puppy, but they must be resumed as soon as possible.

Winter Hibernation 2022

It was not meant that you had to wait that long for a follow-up on the previous post. In fact, it should have already been written and posted in January. I also can’t say exactly what the time has gone with. We’ve been asking ourselves what we’ve really been so busy with through all winter, but there’s not really an unequivocal answer, but it felt like we were pretty busy. I will tell you a little about it, but first and as promised, I will tell about the end of the trial in the court with Härjeåns Nät AB company. And I promise, this will be the last time we mention this case.

Those of you, who have followed from the beginning, know that we have been fighting against the local electricity provider and monopoly carrier, Härjeåns Nät AB,  for almost 3 years. Or, more correctly, – it was the Swedish Energy Markets Inspectorate Authority (EI) has run the cases for us in the diverse court institutions. The case ended up in the highest court, where the energy company finally lost it. So they have lost 3 out of 3 trials. The price was confirmed to that amount that Orest had calculated from the beginning – namely SEK 67,000 against the company’s price of SEK 450,000. It seems more like it’s a ”business model” and local “know how”, than a “calculation error”. ” If it goes, then it goes”. They lied through the whole process, – they always came up with confronting explanations and so on. First things couldn’t be done by technical reasons – then it could anyway be done (if we paid more), etc. We were literally shocked by their foolish and childish explanations, which basically meant lack of intelligence and respect for residents. ’’

But during these years, while we have been waiting for a decision, we’ve used to living in “off grid” conditions. There has also been a huge technological development of alternative energy suppliers and “off grid” systems, so we have decided to go in that direction. Also considering the uncertainty that currently is present on the energy market with higher prices as well as our lack of confidence in such provider as Härjeåns Nät AB with no moral and no competitors in the area. The price for connection to the electric grid including everything ( burying of wires, VAT, installation for the house itself ) will be about SEK 150,000 and for the same amount you can get an efficient system with batteries and solar cells. And then you have no cost of electricity for approx. 9 months a year. The darkest 3 months the batteries must be charged with a generator, but it will still be more cost-efficient solution in the longer perspective. 

What were we actually doing all the winter months ? I will start with December, when we were 3 weeks in Denmark. Both to celebrate Christmas but also to work. We stayed most of the time with my aunt in North Jutland. Or more correctly – we borrowed her neighbor’s house so that we had plenty of space and peace of mind. It was tremendously nice to swap environments for a period of time, – nice to have electricity and running waterand all other civilized facilities. And then we were treated so well by Aunt Hanne. It could hardly be more luxurious and privileged. We also spent Christmas with the family, which we haven’t done the previous 3 Christmases, so it was great not just being the two of us and the dogs. A scenario we could well imagine doing again next year. Now I don’t know if my aunt reads along and agrees with that decision 😉

One of the things we worked on at Christmas time was our company’s new website. It took a little longer than planned and some obstacles raised along the way. If you are curious, you can visit the Big Lake Media website. It is only in Danish and Swedish so apologies to our international readers. We think it has become good. We’ve also spent time doing an advertising campaign and we contacted some companies we’d love to work with. We hope there will be a positive response because we still need more projects and new collaborations. But we are also proud that for the second year in a row with a completely new start-up company, we have a result that went in plus. Not with the very large amount, but there has also been possibility to make some investments in the company.

We have also been on a number of shorter trips to regions Vesterbotten and Lapland. I sold one of my artworks ”Floating tourist III” to the new psychiatric hospital in Umeå. You can see it and my other works on my website.  And as part of the trip, we reviewed a dog-friendly hotel for Rhonda’s Choice in the city of Umeå. It is an interesting initiative and concept, that has a mission to gather reviews of dog friendly hotels around the world. The hotels are judged by how suitable they are for dogs and how well both dogs and their owners feel welcome at the place. These are hotels in the exclusive category, but it is a great idea and we are very proud to be able to contribute to it. We have also been in Stockholm for some days on the same mission.

Another trip to Lapland was because we should pick up a dog at one shelter for dogs. A sad case in which 13 dogs had been removed from the “breeder” due to repeated cases of dogs mistreat. 8 of the dogs were Borzoi as ours and one of them was the aunt (Aunt Vasja of 8 years) to our white male dog Zarwoe. Vasja’s original breeder in Estonia, where she was born and lived for the first 4 months of her life, wanted her back so shecould give her a safe and stable life for the  rest of her days. Because the dog didn’t have the necessary vaccinations, including rabies, which had to be at least 21 days old for being valid, the breeder could not take Vasja directly to Estonia. That’s why we offered that she could stay with us for that period. And it went beyond all expectations. She was sweet and easy and quickly got used to our place and both Zarwoe and Láska were incredibly happy for her. Láska actually became so upset when Vasja had to leave, that she didn’t really want to eat for 3 days. This is in light of the fact that Láska has never left as much as a single crumb in her bowl for her entire life. But Vasja had to go home and we know she will have a good retirement life where she is now. We get frequently images from her daily life.

However, it won’t last for a long time for our dogs to be only two – in 3 weeks a little puppy will join them. Azzo is his name and he is a borzoi like the others. It was, on the one hand, a quick decision, but on the other hand, also something we had been talking about for a long time. I actually would liked to have had two dogs more that were relatively close to each other age-wise, but only when Zarwoe and Láska should have become a few years older. But I also realized that 4 dogs would be too much. Not in everyday life but when we have to travel around and visit family and friends and when we have to take them to work. After all, we have no one to look after them so they follow us everywhere. For most people it would be a little too overwhelming to get a visit by us with 4 large dogs. They might think same about 3 dogs 😉 So if we were only going to have 3 we wouldn’t have to wait too long. Partly because the other two still are young enough so they want to play and that’s important since we live so isolated and can’t make playdates with other puppy owners every other day. We must socialize the new puppy as best as we can, even though we know it can be a challenge. But fortunately, summer is just around the corner and we get many guests who have rented our guesthouse and most of them will bring their dogs with. And many of the guests are “returning guests” so we know they have kind dogs.

By the way, there are still few weeks left free for reservations in our guest house as we have recently received a cancellation in June. You can read more about our guesthouse on website

This winter has been relatively warm. At least significantly warmer than last year. And there hasn’t been a lot of snow either, which made Orest feel quite happy. It is always a concern whether the old tractor can keep running,  when the snow has to be plowed. 

Sure, we have had lots of worries during this winter. But nothing will compare with the worries about the Russian war in Ukraine and how it will affect the rest of Europe and the world. When the war started, we were almost paralyzed for 2 weeks, constantly reading news. We checked news also at night – we both woke up every hour, so after 2 weeks we were really exhausted. It was especially hard for Orest to accept not being able to help from distance and we realized that we had to try to live our own lives as normal as it was possible. Perhaps not all of you know that Orest is from Ukraine and his mother and his brother with family live in the western part of the country. They have chosen to stay, but no one can predict how things will develop. It is relatively quiet in their region, but every day having to deal with air alarms is the psychological pressure by itself. Some of our friends have offered help and we and the family are deeply grateful for that – it gave a feeling of peace and hope and a hint of security in all the uncertainty. Thank you and you know who you are. 

Now we are waiting for the snow has melted and the colors will appear in the nature around us. While I’m sitting and writing now there is a stormoutside. Always at this time of year I am so incredibly tired of snow and I really need to see the grass again. But we don’t have to wait that much longer because in a month our surroundings will be an colorful explosion of vegetation.

And in 2 weeks we will have a small puppy that willguaranteed spread joy. 

Summer 2021

Summer is already over. The same is autumn and winter have already been on visit couple of times. I would have written one or more blogs during the summer, but I simply wasn’t been able to find time for this. I apologize a lot to those who have been waiting for an update from us and those who have thought they had missed a blog and spent time looking for it. So much has happened and we have been insanely busy all summer. But it has been an absolutely fantastic summer – both weather and our work. After being so financially distressed last winter and early spring, we are slowly beginning to believe that we can succeed in getting established and that our company will run for us.

This blog is a throwback to the last six months of our life and tells about what we have done until today. It’s been so long since I’ve written last so I barely remember where I left off, but I start in the late spring when we had our first rental guests.

The plans for the artist refuge are still on standby, as we do not know what will happen with the luxury hotel on the island in front of our home. So we decided to rent a guesthouse to those who want to live “off-grid” in the middle of the Swedish wilderness. And there were a lot of people who wanted to do so! It otherwise looked questionable in the spring, when we did not have very many bookings and some of the existing bookings were canceled again. But by the time we got to May, the house was pretty much booked through the whole summer. And we are only talking about a single day in the high season that was not booked, except for a few weeks in September.

September is one of our favorite months, so we are hoping for more guests next year that month. September is perfect for mountain hiking and at the same time the landscapes are insanely beautiful and colorful.

Our first guests arrived at the end of May and already a few hours after they had returned home, they booked another week at the end of August. Some wonderful people with whom we had gradually developed a good and friendly relationship. Overall we have had some absolutely amazing guests. With some of them we interacted really much, less with others but there weren’t any bad experiences and most of the guests were open and interested in the place and our lifestyle. We already have bookings for two months for the coming summer made by our “returning guests”. We take this as a very positive sign, and as an expression that people have been happy with their stay. We also got rid of some prejudices about fishermen. What we thought would be some young men drinking lots of beer turned out to be the biggest nature lovers and very environmentally conscious people. Great when you get an insight into other people’s passions and even learn new things by yourself. A fisherman even made the finest flies hooks from our dogs’ fur.

In June we traveled to Denmark for two weeks to work. It was two wonderful weeks of sun and heat. And one of the best partners we have worked with. We first had to photograph and film in the North Jutland – Skagen and Lønstrup.

Then we went to Copenhagen to make further recordings for the Danish company Langkilde og Søn. A brand we have worked with a lot over the last year. It has been a real pleasure for us. I have been allowed to post some pictures of their products, so you can see what both we and they do.

They have also sent their products up here several times, and some of the local people could try to be fashion models 😉

After a photoshoot in Copenhagen and the area around we returned to the Northern Jutland to make 3 small films and photographs for the online store, which is owned by my friend. It was a nice project to work on together.

There was also time to meet with friends, but unfortunately not as many as we wanted to meet. It is a reality that you can never manage to see everyone in such a few days’ visit. But it was a wonderful journey in every way.

We were home again in mid-June for guesthouse rentals and our “firewood” project. And speaking of firewood, it was actually a reason for panic. It turned out that it is incredibly difficult to obtain firewood for this season. It’s difficult to understand when you are surrounded by forest, but there was not much birch wood to find this spring. In addition, we were also so far into the year that the trees that could be bought were cut too late in the year and possibly they couldn’t get dry before the winter season. Trees must be cut in April before the snow melts and they begin to absorb water. But thanks to one of the residents in the village who allowed us to buy his trees he bought last year. It saved us for this winter, because as you know, firewood is the only heat source we have, so it is absolutely essential to be able to live here in the winter. In July, we received additional tree trunks delivered, so the next winter is secured. It’s a nice feeling to be prepared far ahead.

And it was split, too, and at a somewhat faster pace than last year. Last year we got the firewood split too small. When the sticks become too thin, it simply does not burn efficiently enough and also burns too fast. This year, the pieces of firewood are twice as big and we can already see the effect. And thanks for the help to our friends from Denmark who were recently visiting us, the firewood is almost stacked. They made the most of the work for us. Thank you.

It was a fantastic surprise for us to get a great project to work on in September. We were chosen to make photographs and film for Visit Dalsland. A region in Sweden where we were many times on holiday, and where we actually thought we would settle down when we planned our move to Sweden. I wrote about this in one of the first blogs. It was at relatively short notice, but they were extremely professional to work with, so everything ran smoothly. They had even taken care of the dogs and we were provided with the best accommodation. And then they were all really kind, so we could not dream of anything better. It was an interesting project, where we met many inspiring people who have made some interesting choices in their lives, and who are passionate about their business and the contribution they do to promote their region. We have just delivered the material from that trip and we just need to fix some things. We hope for more similar projects in the future.

And now about the project herb garden, which wasn’t a huge success this year. Although even earlier than last year I had sprouted some of the vegetables that did not grow big last year, they actually did not become a lot bigger this year. And the carrots were planted too densely and were also eaten by mice in two weeks. So, they ate rub and stump. Top as root. So I planted beets, artichokes, and leeks for the last time. But my kale was a success. The same was the salad and we got more than one handful of strawberries. It was glorious, and now the potato field is included as a strawberry ground for next year. Wise people say that you must not grow potatoes in the same place for several years in a row.

Another thing that we finally got the opportunity to do – was to paint our house interior. We have lived in the aesthetics of the previous owners with the flower wallpaper and brown panels. It was simply so nice to finally be able to make our own mark on our house. One begins to feel more and more at home, the more it begins to take shape according to our lives and tastes.

It has not just been pure happiness all summer. The planned luxury hotel building or conference center, which is planned to be built right in front of our house, has received the final building permit. All our appeals have been rejected, but no one yet knows for sure whether it will become a reality or not. And the local municipality doesn’t inform us about it. In addition, SCA – one of Sweden’s largest logging companies – has totally destroyed “our” forest- the relatively young forest was cut away. The most beautiful part of the forest, where we walked almost every day, remains today a landscape after the war tank battle. You can no longer move there at all due to large tractor tracks (talk is about a meter wide caterpillar feet), which have masted all the smaller trees and shrubs on their way.

And then there was left a waste as branches, which are scattered everywhere. They have been working more or less 24/7 (quite literally) for more than a month and have destroyed a gigantic area. And they are still working. It is tragic that this is allowed in Sweden, but the prices of wood have never been higher, and as the trend is right now, it looks like a ban on forest usage may come in the future. Therefore, it is now time to make the greatest possible profit. And our area the logging company removed 15 hectares of young trees, which is actually illegal. The company insisted that the trees were at age of 110-140 years old. Orest was in contact with one professor from Umeå University and sent photography evidence of what was done in the area. We are excited about what can come out of this communication.

Darkness has set in and it’s time for us to move into the rental house for the winter. There we live in a single room, which is easier to heat and much more economical in relation to the firewood consumption. In a way, it may well be called “overwintering”.

These days we are considering the possibility of traveling to Denmark in December. We have been alone on Christmas for the last 3 years, so this year it could be great to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. But we also have to be able to work on several projects that have been a bit neglected and that require constant electricity. Our small generator can not run 10 hours a day and with so high petrol prices of 20 SEK per liter, it becomes a costly affair. Nothing is certain yet, but I hope it can become reality.

I will end this blog with yesterday’s decision from the Swedish Court of Appeal. Together with Energy market inspection (state authority who regulates prices on the energy market), we have won the case over the monopoly company Härjeåns Nät AB (the company that supplies electricity to the customers in the region). It has taken over two years and been through 3 rounds of appeals, which they have all lost. It has been an amateur show from the company’s side. But much more about it in the next blog. I promise you will not have to wait 6 months for it again.

Spring 2021

Spring has come again and we enjoy that the snow is starting to melt and that days are longer than nights. The earth and the colors appear from under the snow. I miss very much the colors when we come to this time of year and everything has been white for a very-very long time. It is the absence of colors that I think is the biggest challenge for me. Not the cold or the short days, but the absence of the colors. I can feel completely euphoric when I see the first spot of soil and grass.

Another strong sign of spring is when the Sami people move their reindeers down from the mountains to their calving areas. This is one of my favorite moments. Seeing hundreds of reindeers cross the frozen lake in one large herd.

In April, the cranes also arrive and so do the great singing swans. April is also the month where, the bears wake up from their winter hibernation. They have youngsters with and there is no vegetable food for them to find, so we definitely need to be more careful when we move in the forest. I can feel the body is a little more on alert when you hear a sound from the forest. The dogs must be on a leash unless the area has been examined.

And to our great joy, small buds have appeared in the three birch trees we planted in the autumn. I had never thought so, because we had destroyed most of the big roots when we dug them up. But it gets so nice when leaves will appear. The birch trees usually spring out in late May here.

Even though I come from a gardening family, I do not have “green fingers” and growing my own vegetables is for me a learning process. Last year I made the mistake of sowing my vegetables way too late. Because the summer is so short, you have to sow plants indoors before getting the germinated vegetables in the ground when there are no more night frost forecasts. It is usually not before June. This year I have propagated much earlier and hope to get a little bigger vegetables when we reach August. The leeks and beets were miniature vegetables last year, while the kale and lettuce grew fine and large. It is unusually delicious with fresh vegetables when you can’t expect to find fresh vegetables in local stores. This year I have sown beets, lots of kale, leeks, lettuce, horse beans and artichokes (which may have been sown too late though). The carrots are planted out directly in the ground and so do the potatoes. Of course, we also need herbs like parsley, rosemary and chives.

If it is a success, it will never be known whether the range will be expanded next year. I would like to try my luck with cabbage too.

Spring has also brought Covid-19 here. So far we have been living distant to the virus that has affected the whole world and we have lived as if the world has not changed at all. It was a bit of an eye opener and one suddenly became aware of one’s and others’ actions. Fortunately, there were only two small outbreaks and no serious illnesses.

Since I work as a substitute at the small school in the neighboring village, I had a daily contact with people during that period.

I have been lucky enough to get a small temporary job at the local school, where I do a little bit of everything- cooking in the kitchen, working in the kindergarten and at the after-school center, teaching visual arts and little cleaning. It is super cozy and there are only 14 children divided between school students and kindergarten children. It also provides some security on the economic front after a slightly harsh fall and winter periods.

We have also had a couple of really exciting assignments. Orest has made a film for the fishing association’s website. You can see it here below and visit their website on .

We have made pictures and small videos of the Nordic countries’ flags for the Danish company Langkilde & Søn. Now there is not a single flagpole in the whole area we have not noticed or borrowed. We have to make new flag pictures in the summer country, so it is a task we are very much looking forward to work with.

We have also started with a little spring-cleaning in the garden. We have felled quite a few trees again this year. Even though we felled about 100 small trees last year, there is still a need to thin out a bit so that the remaining ones can grow larger. And in a few weeks, the snow will hopefully melt so much that we can burn twigs and branches and other wood waste.

When the heat comes we also get running water back in the house. It is a luxury that one learns to appreciate very much living this lifestyle. We look forward to the summer and to meeting the guests who already have booked our guesthouse. If you have considered visiting us, there are still weeks available and Orest has created a website where you can read more about what we can offer to our guests.

And then we have another good news to share. Our first financial result in our little company Big Lake have gone in plus. Not much, but still with a profit. This is very good as it is the company’s first year. But before we got there, the whole that financial accounting could cost us our marriage. We did not really have a system, no experience in the “art of accounting” in a new for us taxation system and unknown Swedish words. But it was like it was sent from heaven, we came in contact with someone who has a “cottage” some distance from us. She is an accountant, and she has simply helped us so much – both with reporting VAT and tax. We would not have been able to do it without her help and we had no money to hire an accounting service on market. 

Enjoy the last month of spring. May is the month of silence here – no snowmobiles, as the ice is too unsafe to cross the lake to our side, no boats and no cars on our side of lake. It’s not because there are many cars passing by on the gravel road close to us, but it is so quiet here and you only hear the birds. We have a bird that sounds like a computer game. This year I have to find out which bird it is.

Off Grid Lifestyle

Time runs really fast  in the wilderness and now we have been living  “off grid” since March 2020. It’s 13 months in challenging conditions and we are Still alive ;-). The question is: what have we learned and how are we going to live further with these challenges ? 

Access to electricity is just natural for many people in the western world as access to water , so you probably wonder how we manage living without permanent electricity and not connected to the local grid network? 

Off grid “power station” – what we have at the moment

As we told before, living “off grid” was not our intention, but the reality is a result of unfair behaviour and mindset of the local energy company, who owns the grid and has the monopoly on distribution of electricity on the local market. You can read more about the conflict in our previous blog. But the fact is that the conflict is still ongoing and after almost two years of courts we now wait for the decision from the Swedish court of appeal. Even if the Swedish Energy Market Inspection ( a government authority who regulates prices on energy market) will win and defend our rights as customers, the energy company has many options to delay their work on connection our property to the grid. The company, 36 % of which is owned by the state, can just even deny to provide service to us.  Remember that we live in the real “Wild West “ of Sweden, where access to grid electricity is not a human right. So we can’t rely on that company and wait years for the distributed electricity. In our daily work we have to use computers, mobile internet router and other equipment running on electricity, so we use what we can afford at the moment, hoping for the better times. 

Present Reality – Basic “office “ needs for electricity: 

For our basic needs and daily work we have a little petroleum generator, which can provide 2 kW of power supply. It’s quite economic- it uses approx 0.5 – 1 litre fuel per hour, and it means it costs us up to 15 SEK per hour in our work. So you have to plan carefully what you are going to spend your money on and which tasks are the highest priority on your “to do” list. Some days we run it for 2-4 hours at a time , some days we don’t use the generator. The risk with this generator is not only the environmental impact or the cost of fuel , but you always have to be prepared that sometimes it just doesn’t want to start… then you have to go through a maintenance list – probably it’s time to change the engine oil, clean the fuel / air filter or you just spend time on finding “how to fix it” youtube videos… anyway, it has served us for a long time now … 

our primary electricity source for our “office needs”

20 years old solar system – still usable for charging electric devices. 

20 years old solar charge controller – still works…

Yes – we have actually a progressive technology implemented on our property and the principle of generating electricity from solar energy hasn’t changed for many years. But our old solar system is so outdated and inefficient as well as the battery storage bank has no capacity left after those  20 years… But still, using what we have available and adding the tractor start battery instead of the old ones helps us to use the solar energy for charging our electric devices like phones, iPad, small power banks, mobile broadband router and even more. We have also some lights in the house running on 12  volts and a 12 volt water pump used for circulation of the water in one of the houses in the summer period. 

the battery bank and inverter 12 v – 230 v
Little 12v – 230 v inverter of 100 watts – solar energy used for charging small devices

Electric dream – independent off grid sustainable energy production (at least for 8-9 months per year)

Any “electric” dream can be fulfilled by the existing technology and you can find many producers of the “off grid”  solar systems of any size and needs. There are lots of smart “plug in and play” products in many funny designs and configurations. All of those things are not that cheap. We may also start from a smaller system covering the absolute minimum of our need in electric power- computer and equipment we need for our work, as well if possible including a smaller refrigerator and water pump. I can also assemble the system by my self , but still the cost of the system with quality parts together with the reasonable battery storage capacity starts from 20- 25.000 SEK (2.500 euros). In comparison to the “dream off grid system” , covering all the needs of our property, which may cost 150- 200.000 SEK ( or up to 20.000 euros).  Plus cost of help from the professional electrician and cost of the newer and fuel consumption efficient generator to be used in winter period, where the solar panels can’t produce needed energy. Anyway – the cost is much lower than the cost to be connected to the local grid system – remember that the energy company required 390.000 SEK just for connection to the “end of our property “ ! And of course afterwards the cost of electricity distribution and other subscription fees and cost for the used electricity itself…. 

Any solution and configuration requires money. But we are glad that we have some job opportunities this period, so we can invest in the smaller solar system – still this feels like a great “upgrade “ in our daily life. 

Orest has written this blog and Lykke will tell about what has happen in our life last few months in her next blog. 

A cold time

Hope everyone has had a wonderful Christmas and has come well into the New Year. Of course we follow the news, so we know that many had been affected by restrictions and probably could not be with all those they wanted. I had actually planned to write a “Merry Christmas” blog, but time passed fast. Even up here, where time sometimes seems to stand still, it can also suddenly pass by. We had a nice Christmas, even though it was just two of us – and the dogs of course.

It was our 3rd Christmas where it was just we and I have to admit I was missing being back in Denmark. However, it passed quickly when you read about the Corona situation, because it was anyway forbidden to meet with all your friends and family. Hope it is possible to come to Denmark in the spring. Now we’ll see.

But we were not alone all Christmas. Already on the 28th of December we had a visit. It felt almost like home, because it was my friend from Denmark (who has lived in Stockholm for 12 years) and her husband and their son. They were here until after New Year and it was simply so cozy with visit from good friends. Our “neighbor”, who has a little hut 4 km from us, was also here for New Year’s Eve, so we were exactly the 6 people as it was limited by the Covid-19 restrictions. The New Year night here is completely different to what we used to and it’s utterly silent here – no rockets, no party noises – just silence in the moonlight. Our friends had some nice big Thai lamps – they flew to sky with a small flame in. It was so beautiful and peaceful. A New Year’s Eve we will not forget.

Otis spent some time in December getting our website ready so we can rent the house out for the summer. I hope you have all visited the website. Some of you might like to come up here for a summer vacation. In any case, there are still weeks available during the summer. We will soon post it on the larger rental portals, so we think we will get many bookings. The website’s address is:

Right now it is only in English, but the plan is that we will also have it translated to Swedish. No one has any idea what the Covid-19 situation will look like, so we have to focus on the Swedish market this year. We must not repeat the same mistake as last summer, when almost all foreign bookings went in the sink.

Until January 3rd, the winter had been astonishingly warm and we have largely had running water until then, with a few exceptions where we had to shut down temporarily. With the 4th of January the real frosts came and we have pretty much had between -20 and -30 degrees Celsius ever since. Some few moments it was cloudy and we had little warmer temperatures. There is an interesting phenomenon, which in English is called inversion and which is very obvious to observe here where we live. This means that the higher you get up in the mountains, the warmer it gets. And it is not uncommon that the difference can be up to 15-20 degrees. The cold air sinks into the valleys (we live in a valley) and pushes the warm air up. Therefore, we must always put around 10 degrees down off the weather forecast temperatures.

Such a cold is harsh in our supply of firewood. It should not keep freezing so hard, because then the supply of firewood will run out before we reach the spring. The cold also meant that it was finally over with having running water indoors, so now we are back on the lake with buckets and a water pump. It’s hard physical training, and this year we have no snowmobile to drive the water up to the house, so we go back and forth with the buckets. And walking in deep snow will make you feel it as a harder work. And many buckets are needed for our week’s water consumption. It also makes you very economical with water usage. The used dishwashing water is used, for example, to flush down the toilet. You really get certainty about how big a consumption we had when we lived in Copenhagen. Flushed down the toilet after every little visit, bathed at least once a day, washed clothes without it being really dirty and generally poured many liters of excess water directly into the sewer. The same thing has happened to us after we started sorting waste and composting. We have become so amazed that you can sort so much waste for recycling that you do not really need to have a waste container service. Paper / cardboard and plastic make up 60% of total waste, compost – 35% and the remaining 5% are bottles and cans. We take these things to the recycling station containers in the village. We have actually terminated the waste collection service provided by the municipal company. A scheme, that anyway did not work as they promised. They would not pick it up at our property as they had promised when we booked the service, but they wanted us to drive a smelly trash can in our car 4 km to our neighbor’s house. Some may remember the story of the lack of sludge emptying. It’s the same company. A completely hopeless and unreliable company, if any should be in doubt about our opinion.

This summer, Otis built a sauna in a small annex in the garden, where we previously had an outdoor bio toilet. It was an absolutely amazing and meaningful decision. We use it a couple of times a week to get properly warmed up and take a “shower”. It is absolutely wonderful that you get completely warmed up while there is severe frost outside. It is not that big, so it can reach 80-90 degrees in an hour even if it freezes -30 degrees outside. And going out and rolling in the snow and afterwards back into the heat feels like the best therapy for the body. All muscles get relaxed. This is the way people has bathed in these regions for generations.

This January, I have also been working on a fantastic assignment. I have photographed a Christmas collection for one Danish company. It has been exciting to play with setups and staging out in the snow. I am still not quite done with the task and Otis will also have to edit some small films, which will show the “behind the scenes”. I hope for more of these types of tasks in the future. When we moved up here, I had ATBO (a Danish furniture design company) as a customer, where they wanted original photographs of wood and nature. In any case, there is always a guarantee of real snow up to 6 months a year.

The day has already become over an hour longer and the sun has risen higher in the sky. Each day lasts an average of 5 minutes longer. It’s half an hour a week so it feels almost completely “visible”, every single day.

Difference between integration processes in Denmark and Sweden

Orest is writing here and I want to tell about my experience of integration after two years of living in Sweden and compare that experience with the integration process in Denmark during the same period. I hope this is an interesting reading and there are some good “take aways” from my observations, and this is not intended to be understood as just criticism, but the attempt to show that there’s so much space for improvement in the integration area on the regional municipal level. 

I have had a dynamic life so far and I’ve been moving from country to country, since I was a little child. First it was with my parents – they moved several times between Russia and Ukraine. 

And during my “adult life “ I have had two integrations so far. First it was move from Ukraine to Denmark in 2004, and second one from Denmark to Sweden in 2018. And here I want to share my thoughts, comparing my two and so different experiences of integration into a new to me society. 

But first I would like to split the definition of the integration into three parts (at least how I understand it): 

  1. “Social” integration – interaction on individual level (and this one is probably the most important part for feeling of successful integration)
  2. “Official” integration- on municipal level – interaction with local authorities. In this case I will describe and compare my experiences I had with Copenhagen Kommune and Bergs Kommune ( “Kommune” is a municipal authority).
  3. Labour market integration – also kind of official one – this is about ability to find a job and being integrated that way

I will start from a positive experience

Social integration 

Social integration in Denmark was straightforward due to the fact that I was married with Lykke who is a Danish citizen. So all her family and friends naturally became my family and friends. And I am really thankful for that smooth and effortless integration. It’s much more difficult to integrate into a new society, when you move to a new country with your family- I know it from my former colleagues who were expats at Mærsk Oil in Copenhagen. 

It was actually not an issue for our “Danish” family, when we moved in Storsjö Kapell with its little community. Already from the beginning we could feel that we were welcome here by those who were curious and open to meet us. We are warmly called “Danes” here :-). Basically it was an additional reason for our decision to settle up here along with the main reason of our choice – outstanding nature in the area.

I want to add here, that the social integration is very different in the urban area and in the remote areas like here. Even if you share a staircase with neighbours in Copenhagen, you may not know each other’s names for a long period, but here everyone knows you – no matter how far you live from each other. We are well recognised even in the neighbouring village. 

The “Official “ integration. 

Here is unfortunately a huge difference between my two experiences. If I have to measure success of integration in percentage, then in case with Copenhagen Kommune I will say 100%, while Bergs Kommune is 0%. Let me try to explain it. When I officially was registered as resident in Denmark and I got my personal number, within two weeks I got an invitation from Copenhagen Kommune to the official introduction meeting. It was two hours long meeting in person, where I was interviewed about my background, education, ambitions for employment, as well as I was introduced to main services and professional organisations I could rely on and seek help from, including the right to learn Danish language paid by the Kommune. As well as a direct contact person in the Kommune if I needed any helps in the future. This was actually a solid starting point, which saved me a lot of time and efforts. A language course covered also introduction to the Danish culture, where we all from around the world including Swedes discussed the cultural differences between nations. 

 Sweden, Bergs Kommune. Two years after the official settlement I haven’t experienced any interest/ initiative from the authorities. Simply Zero. No introduction/ welcome or so on. Actually recently we heard from the local journalist how one of the Bergs Kommune’s employees said to him, that “Bergs Kommune is not good to integrate citizens from the Nordic countries “. Recognising the problem, but still doing nothing about it – this sounds like a cynical arrogance, doesn’t it? 

I have also a funny story to mention here. We had actually short interaction with the regional politician and it was in connection with some issues we had with the public municipal services (you may read here). We wanted to meet with that person, but as she explained she didn’t have time for that in her calendar. And then it happened a funny thing – while we waited for her response, one of Sweden’s biggest newspapers published a big interview with us (link here- it’s in Swedish) and, suddenly there was time in the politician’s calendar to meet with us. The main question the politician was worried about on the meeting – if there were planned another interviews with us. When we said “no”, the politician disappeared and she has been ignoring us since that meeting. Maybe we have to arrange couple of new interviews? 

Well, as you understand, there’s not much success in the “official “ integration in my second experience.  

But seen from my perspective, I just don’t understand why it should be such a huge difference in strategies between Copenhagen and Bergs Kommunes, especially in the reality where Bergs Kommunee is challenged by a critical demographic situation. You can’t rely on just paying money for a “branding” campaign for the region- it will not work, unless you create appropriate conditions for the efficient integration, which will pay back in the future. It is a “win-win” for both parts, and the best “branding” is a real case stories. 

Well, enough on this. 

Let’s move to the last part of integration- via labour market and employment. 

Probably in this part it is hard to draw parallels and make comparisons- as the difference between Copenhagen and Bergs Kommunee in this area is really huge. But I want to tell about one thing, where both of cases may have in common. I will talk about discrimination during job search process. 

While I was studying Danish language I had my first job as a craftsman in Copenhagen Kommune’s culture house. Unqualified job, but I had most amazing colleagues and managers.  Of course I dreamed to find a job according to my engineering degree from Ukraine. So during that period I had meetings with engineering professional association, who guided me through job searching procedures. And on one of the meetings I was told that it was strategically clever that I had changed my Ukrainian surname to a Danish one. Why? Because, if you have a “non-Danish” surname, your job application can be sorted out during the first evaluation round. “It’s just a reflex, many employers have“ – as I was explained. I said that it sounded like a racist discrimination. “You may call it that way, but this is still a fact” – the answer was. Later on I was lucky to get a job according to my education in the most prestigious company in Denmark at that time, A.P. Møller-Mærsk. And it was not because I was “Andersen”. It was actually a global corporation with many nationalities represented in the Copenhagen HQ office and with more than 120.000 employees around the world. 

Let’s get back to Sweden and the little local labour market. It’s natural that the job openings are very few. Ideally we want to be self-employed, but on the way to our dream we need other sources of income. What skills can I offer? I have a driving license and I can drive both car and truck. So I have applied twice for a job with the same local transport company. In the first case there was one response on my application, but the employer never responded on my further requests about status of the application… even no official: “thanks, but we have chosen another candidate “. 

During Second occasion it was better communication- I did apply immediately after the vacancy was posted on social media and I got a nice confirmation that my application was received as well as I got the job description with question if that fitted my expectations. I responded “yes”. After few weeks of waiting time and several queries about status I got a short message: “the vacancies were filled with another candidates”. On my question “why I was refused?” I got an answer: “there were others who applied before you”. I cannot understand that, as I heard from other people in the local society, that they still were looking for people after my application was sent. And I of course mentioned that to the employer, but there were no further explanations. What should I do in this case? Should I have changed “Andersen” on “Andersson” to succeed? Or are there some private reasons behind that? But in any case this is a worrying combination of the cultural aspect, where Swedes don’t say honestly what they mean, and the size of such a little community.


A period of two years is a lot in one’s life and more than enough to make one’s conclusions. Of course, it is disappointing for me to experience the “official” integration in Sweden in this way, but this is not new for me – this is very similar to what I remember and know from Ukraine, where people have given up having a vote in relation to the authorities. But the life goes on and there are many happy people in Ukraine as well as in Sweden, so I know that our integration is on the right track. Thanks to the positive experiences in the social part of the integration – in this one we trust.

Denmark – Sweden 1-1

I am often asked about the difference between Swedes and Danes, so here I will try to describe a few of the differences I have experienced. Hope I do not offend anyone 😉


The first one I actually heard from another person in the area, but this must be included, because it is so precisely describes the culture. At least it refers to the local area. When people meet to discuss a real problem, then people start finding all the positive things about the problem so that in the end there is no problem at all. Isn’t this smart?


Swedes NEVER come late to a meeting. Better to arrive 5 minutes early. So don’t count on that you have the “academic quarter” of being late so you can use time to change clothes or set up the table.


Recently I attended an online art portfolio presentation meeting hosted by Networking North. 25 artists from all over the northern Sweden were selected to meet a number of art curators from around the world for a personal 30 minute talk about your artworks. This by itself can be fairly anxiety-raising event, so the organizers were incredibly pedagogical and said to us something like this: “We had a meeting with the curators yesterday and they are really sweet and they are really looking forward to talking to you. You must not be nervous”. If it was in Denmark, it would have sounded something like this: “You have 30 minutes each, so make sure you get maximum out of the meeting and you must do your very best, because you will not get this chance again.” I know which model I prefer and it is not the last one of the listed above.


The Swedes are incredibly bad at answering on e-mails. You go and wonder whether the e-mail may have ended up in the spam filter. After a week, you are convinced that this is the case and then you send a new e-mail with request to hear if it has not been received before. And then the answer is that it has been received. So far so good.


The Swedes are incredibly afraid of conflict. People don’t discuss. So if you come up with criticism because something is not working optimally and you mean that the things can be improved (that’s why you want to discuss it), then you are met by the remarkable silence. And as a Dane, a criticism is an introduction to a dialogue about the problem so that it can be solved at the end. And in opposite – there is NO ONE who would say that you have done or said something wrong, but you slowly begin to understand it, because you are simply being ignored. And when you ask directly “What’s wrong? “, then the answer with 100% certainty is: “Nothing”, but there is no doubt that you have “stepped on someone’s feet” . In my perspective, when you are not told what you are doing wrong, you do not have any chance to defend or explain yourself. This fake politeness I have a bit hard to deal with.


But in return, I love that the Swedes keep what they promise. The Danes can promise a lot and when it does not happen and you ask: “ Hey, have you not promised to help with that?” , then you can expect the usual reaction: “Shit, I forgot it! Can’t it be next week instead? ” And here it’s clear –  that it never be done.


Here in the area I have never heard a Danish standard reply: “I have only 5 minutes…” People take the time what it takes and you feel how the stress level drops. I love the Swedes for that.

Now I hope no one has been harmed here, but you may agree that it becomes more clear to understand, when you come with exaggeration in the examples.

Hard Times

It’s been a long time since I’ve written and the winter has already arrived. The days go by and time is filled with many small things, but I do not think we get done as much as we would like. We are in a period where things are not going as smoothly as we had hoped for and we are sometimes left in doubt about what the future will bring us and whether we have been too naive.

One reality is that our last appeal to the highest Nature and Environment Court has been rejected, and if they have not been “killed” by Covid-19 economic consequences, the Swiss owners of the island nearby now have full permission to build a luxury hotel just in front of our property.

It will destroy our dream of creating an artist refuge, because the completely unique natural silence will become a noise hell and the notion of living in harmony with nature is spoiled by tourist groups’ selection of entertainment activities depending on the season. Our drinking water from the lake will be undrinkable while such a large construction is underway. But almost worst of all is that all authorities try to downplay the scope of the construction to “just 6 small cabins for overnight stays”, knowing that the 6 cabins make up only approx. 25% of the total size of the complex. You feel powerless and we live in one of the absolute finest areas in Sweden. This is where you experience authentic life and an untouched nature. It’s obvious for many that ecotourism is the future here and then the authorities sell out of nature to foreign capital that wants luxury and entertainment facilities. It is an avalanche that can be difficult to stop. I have never experienced a municipality is ignoring local people that way like this little Bergs municipality does. One feels completely incapacitated. Right now I’m so frustrated as I have not been for a long time.

Next, – at the moment we are challenged financially like we have never been before. It’s really hard to get customers in the area where everything goes from “mouth to mouth”. And of course we do not have a large network. And I had expected the sale of my art works, which most likely will not turn into anything anyway. It was a large art piece for “Dansk Metal”, but suddenly the person with the decisive voice became in doubt and wanted more time and asked their art consultant to find something else for comparison. I have not yet received an official “no”, but what started out as a formality now hangs in a very thin thread. Another case, the regional hospital services have been interested in buying two of my art works, but the person who was responsible for the purchase has been reported sick for long period and what should have been in place by appointments in August has been postponed with no deadline in the future. It was these two sales we could have lived on for 8 months, so right now the financial part is a reason we don’t sleep well at night. Only hope is on a miracle.

In addition, due to Covid-19  we lost 90% of our guests who were interested in renting the house this summer and the few those from Sweden who had booked a stay, they cancelled it at the last minute, so we did not have the opportunity to find replacements. It was a lesson to us that in the future it would be a good idea to charge a deposit. In general, we were too late to catch on the Swedish tourists who were on holiday in their home country exactly because of Covid-19. Maybe everything is just a little bit “black” at the moment – and it is literally how it is physically. The days are short and we live in the glow of the candle. We have moved into the rental house to live there during the winter months. That was not the plan, but it works better. We live, sleep and cook in the same room so there is less space to heat up and here are a few lamps that run on three old batteries we have. However, there is not much sun but then the batteries can be charged with the generator when we work on the computer so we have light for approx. 30 minutes of usage. The batteries are old, but we do not even have money for new ones. And here in this house we have a toilet with a temperature that is not around freezing point as in the old house. Yes – we used a cupboard in the toilet as a fridge in the old house last winter…

It all does not have to be understood as we are about to give up even though it looks a bit “black” and it is by far the most difficult period we have had in many years. But In fact, our small company is doing quiet well, taking in consideration that we are completely new to another country and without any help, but the challenge is that we only have the company to live on. We cannot receive unemployment benefits or supplementary public support. I could not bring my unemployment benefits to Sweden, nor could I be transferred to a Swedish unemployment insurance fund without first having had a full-time job for a year. So we have nothing of any safety network like everyone else has.

And the never-ending story with Härjeåns Nät AB energy company and provider of electricity has received a decision after the appealed case and it has once again ended positively for us. However, the decision was that the price should be the one we got in the first offer – 116,000 SEK against the 450,000 SEK which energy company wanted. But the case is not over yet because the Energy Market Inspection has chosen to appeal the Linköping Court’s decision, so the story continues.

But here it’s a bit of some positive updtaes – I have been selected as one of 25 visual artists in the whole northern Sweden to show my art works to some selected curators from around the world. The renowned Bildmuseet in Umeå organizes an event. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also pretty nervous – I have been living a very long time in my own little universe.

Winter is upon us and we are waiting for the lake to freeze to ice and we will once again experience one of the most magical natural moments found here. This is the sound when the water is turning to ice. The sound is so violent, beautiful, and mysterious and would excite everyone to experience it just once in their life.

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