Most of the summer has passed, and if there is one thing that has filled up much of our time, it has been firewood splitting. We have also been on a short trip to Denmark, had a heat wave, celebrated Swedish Midsummer and seen a bear.
Let’s start from firewood- the ambition was to cut down trees for firewood by ourselves, but that project would have taken the whole summer… Firstly, because the snow remained until the end of May, and secondly, because of our lack of experience in tree felling. The actual transport from the forest to our home was also not something that could be done in a day or two. Instead, we ordered whole birch trees in amounts of approximately 20 cubic meters, which we had to saw for approx. 20 cm long pieces and then split them. And this was the hardest and heaviest job we have ever done. And then it was a time consuming project. It took 2.5 hours to split 1 cubic and the forces were only 2 cubic meters of wood per day. I would like to guess that a single tree piece can weigh up to 100 kg and there were about 200 of them.
It took us a whole month to split firewood for winter usage. We hope it’s enough for the whole winter – but it depends on how cold and long the winter will be. Firewood is our only source of heat. But the work is not over yet, because we still need to stack it inside. It must be done before the snow comes. Now the firewood is lying out for drying, unless there will be a weather forecast with heavy rains, then we’ll need to cover firewood.
In June I unfortunately lost a family member very unexpectedly, so we hurried to Denmark for the funeral. It was a sad occasion to travel and it became a very short stay. We had rented a trailer for a week, so we could take home the rest of our things on the way back. The whole drive to Denmark and back took us 4 days round trip. We had room for almost everything in the trailer, but still we had to leave a few boxes of books, because the trailer was dangerously close to overweight and the car was filled to the breaking point.
To my great frustration, but to the great delight of our guests, it turned out that our much-loved and absurdly expensive Dux bed, which we brought from Denmark, could not get up in our bedroom. It has now become a guest bed. But it happens we go to the other house just to sleep in our comfortable bed.
After all, it’s nice to be surrounded by our own things again, after living a year and a half in other people’s things and things we have not chosen by ourselves but they were part of the property. And so I have carpented a bookshelf, which I mean I managed to do quite good.
We returned from Denmark in mid-June to an unusual heat wave in this region. For over a week, the temperature rose up to 30 degrees Celsius, which is very unusual for such a long time. The water in the lake reached 24 degrees! It must be very close to a record. We could constantly swim in the lake those days. It was such a luxury to be able to get up and jump into the water without getting a cold shock. Now the water is back to a more normal 12 degrees Celsius.
In the middle of the heat wave, it was a celebration of midsummer. A very old Swedish tradition and an important event when people gather, eat herring and sing songs. Last year we were in Estonia on Midsummer’s Eve, so this year it was the first time for us in Sweden. We were visited by Anna, who has her summer house 4 kilometers from us, and she had brought herring, which is the traditional meal this day of the year. She both showed us and told us how this evening is being celebrated. However, we did not sing any songs, but we made a traditional midsummer sign. It was a cozy evening, where we could sit outside as long as we could tolerate mosquitoes and other insects. We are already looking forward to next year.
After midsummer the days start to get shorter. You think summer has just arrived, and then we face darker times. The evenings are slowly reappearing after two months of light 24 hours a day. I don’t know if we are completely ready for a long and dark winter again. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a solution for the electricity. We had hoped we could. A decision has not yet been made in the case and it seems that it may drag out. We do not have money for solar panels and batteries this year, so the winter will be like last year, with water from the lake that we have to pick up every day, oil lamps and a wood-burning stove. Fortunately , the summer is still here, so we are gradually getting used to the darkness and the cold. After all, we are more prepared this year and we have bought a used snow thrower machine so that this winter we can plow the road for snow and driving by car to and from our home. But I must honestly admit that I am a little nervous about the coming of winter and about what the job situation will look like. We take it one month at a time, trying to have confidence that it is going to be ok for us.
Right now we are enjoying that it is still summer. And the mosquitoes are gradually disappearing as we get closer to the autumn. Enjoying my home-grown lettuce and kale that is just growing and growing. Still waiting for the coarser vegetables like beets, carrots and leeks (which one of the dogs has been dug up halfway) to grow large and ready to eat. But what a privilege to be able to pick up your own fresh salad. I love it.
And then to the famous potatoes. While I have been writing this blog, we have for the first time seen cranes dangerously close to our potatoes, and unfortunately it looks like they have already been there ..! Santa has obviously lost his authority, so now I want to go out and cut strips of plastic bags so that there is a little more “activity” in the field. Was actually afraid they would die, because suddenly the leaves started to turn yellow. They’ve obviously got a bit of night frost. We had two nights where it was minus degrees in the village on the other side of the lake, but I think we stayed around 0 degrees because we are so close to the water. The experienced local people say they should probably survive, so I bet that.
And then I will end this blog with, in my eyes, a great experience. I’ve met a bear ! A scenario I have seen for my inner self countless times, and it was certainly much more dramatic than it turned out to be in reality. I was out cycling with our “neighbour” Anna, and approx. 15 meters in front of us a bear jumped across the road. The bear was scared. We were not. We were actually more curious. It was not that big. Maybe between 1-2 years old. But psychologically, it has done a lot for me. I’m no longer afraid to walk alone in the woods, and I do not get scared of the slightest noise in the forest. It was a big experience.
Finally the snow is disappeared. One month later than usually. And the snow came even earlier this winter than it used to. So we had snow from late October to mid-May, and for us it was a great pleasure to see the grass again. There is still plenty of snow in the mountains. We have had so much snow this year that they expect the flood of water from the mountains to the lake to hit the record of year 1995. The snow is the rainfalls in our region so the warmer the winter is the more snow we get.
As soon as the snow disappeared we spent a lot of time and efforts working in the garden. Our garden is almost 2 acres, so although we don’t exactly have many flowerbeds, here is really a lot to do. Shrubs that grow as weeds and invade the grassland. They need to be removed and the thickest sawed over. We have several times made large fires for burning branches and twigs from the removed trees.
Moved on giant rocks that were on the bottom of the lake on our boat’s way from boathouse. The lake’s water level is controlled and lowered due to a dam 8 km from where we live, so we had to hurry to remove rocks before the water would rise again with spring flood of melting snow. The water rises quickly and on a hot day the water can rise by up to 30 cm. There are 4 meters between the highest and the lowest levels. Work is underway to restore the lake’s level permanent as it was before the dam was built. Furthermore, it will have a positive impact on wildlife in and around the lake and the ice in the spring will be much less dangerous and the dangerous cracks will be avoided.
The big project for spring and summer for me is growing vegetables. As a child, my family was very close to being self-sufficient, but unfortunately I have not been taught so much about the knowledge of growing vegetables. In short, I am a beginner and have had to ask the experienced people for advice. It is also different what can grow here and what can grow in Denmark. The summer here is really short. I started by growing the seeds indoors and then later planting the sprouts when the night froze is not an issue anymore.
I have built boxes with high edges. They are not straight and crooked but I am convinced they can make my vegetables grow.
I have sown beetroot, kale, carrots and leeks. And a lot of salad. “If you can’t make the salad grow, it’s bad,” they said in the plant shop … What a performance-enhancing comment but it was said with sweet optimism. And I have got cuttings for strawberries, which I cross all fingers for we will taste this year.
Then we’ve come to the potato chapter. They have almost caused a marital crisis. Orest, which grew up in Ukraine, where most of people in the cities had utility gardens at the times he was teen. Every year, his mother forced him to help with the cultivation of potatoes. As a teenager, he remembers nothing more embarrassing than being met on the street dragging 10 kilos of potatoes… Next was the location of the small potato field. It was suddenly impossible to find a space of 3×3 meters in our garden with the size of a smaller park. It should be mentioned that potatoes must be grown near the water edge; otherwise they will have difficulty growing. These are wise words from local people. They actually grew potatoes on the small-uninhabited islands in the old days.
Something about the ground is being warmer near the water. We finally found a location when I stubbornly refused to give up my potato project. But it was tough. It was done by hand and an old plow originally used with horses. We tightened the tractor to it instead. And just as potatoes were planted in the ground we are told that the cranes love potatoes, so we had to better hurry to have an installation made to scare them away. Then Santa cloths came into play, with the shiny wig. Think he does his job well – I haven’t seen the cranes … yet.
But what a pleasure to enjoy the warm weather has come. Our canoes and boat have been launched into the water for the first time. We have white nights these days. This means we have light all day round for the next two months. There is something magical about these days. You get so much energy from the light. Paddling on mirror calm water surface on a late night or early morning is, for me, the most calming and relaxing I can do. We have always paddled a lot on holidays and it has simply become a sacred ritual and one of life’s best moments.
We use the motorboat when we go to the village to pick up our post. It is definitely the fastest way to sail across the lake. And the dogs love to join us in the boat.
Before it becomes too romantic storytelling I get presented here, it must also be mentioned that the mosquitoes are crazy here…. It is always exciting, whether it is a mosquito year or a moderate mosquito year. So far it has been more acceptable, but we have also couple of ideas about mosquitos. Among others we think that we have far fewer mosquitoes here than when we lived in the rented house in the village.
The beech sprouted on June 1 and here it has grown green with record speed. And if you have not yet planned a summer vacation, we still have available periods in our rental house.
Many have asked us if we have experienced any changes, caused by the COVID-19 crisis. We certainly have, but just not in the same physical way as most of people we know have. We are so isolated where we live and Sweden has not had the same restrictions and actions as many other countries have. We have been able to move freely and it doesn’t seem that people feel unsafe by socializing with each other in our small town of less than 100 inhabitants. But you are, on the other hand, afraid of people coming from outside, – of those who have summer cottages here in the area and who usually come every year at Easter vacation break. Many stayed home this year to protect the residents in the village, most of whom are over 70 years old.
Our everyday life has not been affected, but it is not every day that we meet other people. Once in a while, a snowmobile comes by on the lake or we have to go to town to pick up mail and buy food. In some way, we live in a little isolation where COVID-19 is something distant and what we read about in the news and media. When you don’t feel it on your own body, it’s hard to relate to it. But financially we get hit. We had just decided to rent out one house during this summer. There were several interested people, but a few days later COVID-19 crisis came with its restrictions and many countries decided to limit travelling for their citizens. We hope that the borders will open soon again and that people still want to spend summer holidays in our beautiful surroundings.
Also not many companies, who is willing to order our services – video products or new photographs during this uncertain time. Such products as websites and art are not items of the highest priority nowadays and people won’t invest in that. Our potential customers work primarily with tourism and it is those who are most severely affected. Yes, we are very concerned about how things are going these days. Fortunately, there are also some positive actions. I have been selected as one of the region’s artists to make a 20-minute long film about my art. An effort has been made to support artists who are losing revenue on their art due to closed exhibitions, theaters and venues. It will be shown around the region in the near future. I am excited about how it will be received and whether people will be able to understand my Swedish language with the very strong Danish accent. I was also assigned to write an article in one art magazine, and as an artist there is an opportunity to apply for emergency artist grants. Some very nice actions actually. I have some applications for some decorating tasks. There are many about the bid, but certainly this is not impossible. I hope all I can.
Those who have been following the blog for a long time know that we have had a rather unpleasant case with the regional energy company Härjeåns Nät AB, which has a monopoly on supplying electricity to customers in our region. At the moment we live off grid and get power from a generator. This is not a viable solution in the long run. Therefore, we were curious to get prices for to be connected to the local grid. The first price we got was 125,000 SEK. Orest had difficulty with understanding their calculation according to the provided “proce calculator”. In his calculation, the price would be significantly lower – below 90,000 SEK. Therefore, he sent the material to an independent state inspection, which verifies that the prices from the regional companies who have regional monopoly are correct. His query resulted in that the energy company changed its technical solution and the price raised up to 300,000 SEK in the first raw, and afterwards it ended up at 430,000 SEK. We actually thought it was the final price offer, but then we got the final decision from the Energy Market Inspection and they mean that the price must be below 90,000 SEK, as Orest thought according to the calculation method. This is a nice victory for us, but this is also scary that such a company deliberately goes after scoring a profit using unclear methods. Of course, Härjeåns Nät AB has appealed the decision, so that is the case in the curt now. In the meantime, we have completely lost the desire to be connected to the electric grid, which also has sky-high charges and fees and who wants to buy service from the provider, which has not subsequently promoted its own credibility. Now it is all about an off grid solution with solar panels and battery bank system. But this is just not so easy with our dark winters. The batteries and power inverter setup that we have been recommended were recently withdrawn from the market as it was found out that they may destroy the fuel generators – this is an option in our case – the generator must be used in the dark period for charging the batteries. So, as it seems now, everything suggests that we have to wait another year before we get a solution with energy supply setup. And unfortunately it is also a matter of economy for us – we don’t have that amount of money for the installation – approx. 300,000 SEK . But it is also a market that we are predicting has great future and there are many companies working on off grid solutions. It is actually a very exciting world to gain insight into.
Spring has also arrived in our region. We start to see our ground under the snow, and my transplanted rhubarb sprouts are alive – a big win since I have virtually no experience with plants.
The ice on the lake is getting thin and unsafe. We are excited to see when the ice breaks up and the ice surface will turn into water again.
Our dogs must not be left alone these weeks because they can be seriously injured if they break through the ice or fall into one of many crevices in the ice. Of course, they think it’s pretty frustrating to be limited in their freedom. They are used to be able to go in and out of the house as much as they will. We enjoy seeing the colors again after a long “white period”. Streams appear and become wider and more full of water every single day. The swans and cranes have already arrived. The mosquitoes are not here yet and the first bear tracks in the region were spotted….
The days are already very long and soon we will have the bright nights.
We have got running water in the houses again and the washing machine has been connected and it works! The ultimate upgrade of our residence- running water is the wildest luxury!
Now we wait for the snow to melt so we can use the shorter road for driving car. Orest used the tractor and he managed to make the longer road to us around the lake drivable for the car and we actually made all the way by car recently – 8 km in almost 3 hours – in the snow with chains on tires…
And so I read about herb gardens and growing vegetables in the climate we live in. It will be my project for this summer. My parents had horticulture, but I somehow managed not to keep that knowledge. I start from scratch and have to try myself. We have cut our first trees, but only as a “clean-up” in the birch trees garden.
We will soon have to cut down trees in the woods for firewood, but having to cut 25 cubic as a beginner seems overwhelming, so we ordered wood as long trees, we by ourselves have to split them. 25 cubic is approx. 3-400 birch trees. We may also need chickens, but it depends on whether we can get electricity because otherwise they will freeze in winter…
This month’s blog is dedicated to wildlife, which we have to deal with in a completely different way than we have been used to. The animals are everywhere – they move freely and you meet them every day.
I want to start with the wolf. We had been looking forward to hearing the wolves’ growl at night. I have always been so fascinated by the wolf, but I have never seen or heard one, even though we have wandered so much in the wolf’s areas in many different countries. But what we quickly learned was: ” wolves – you don’t talk about them – you shoot them”. We live in the middle of the Sami land, so where the reindeers are kept, there is no place for wolves. There may be a single one wolf, but otherwise there are no wolves in the area. So the hopes of someday meeting one are probably more luck than reality. In the fall, however, we saw traces of a wolf very close to where we live. I still romanticize the wolf… but after seeing how big a paw it had, the romantic part has waned a bit.
And now when we’re talking about predators, there’s abear – the Scandinavian brown bear. This is my personal big fright. I am really afraid to meet a bear, and I know that chances are high, because we have chosen to live in the most bear-rich area in the Nordic region. This was something I found out first after we moved. And people see them. And this happens quiet often. At this period during spring, almost daily, you hear that he or she has seen a bear in the region. And today we even walked past a freshly made blackberry. It’s a nice reminder that you have to look over your shoulder…. Fortunately, they sleep half the year, so you have a breath. But when you walk in the woods every day, the bear is always in your mind. If the dogs stop because they have heard something, my heart beats really hard and fast and the blood disappears from the head. In the summer months the dogs are on a leash in the dense forest and where there are far from settlements, and then they wear bells. Alone for the reason that they must not surprise a bear. The Nordic brown bear is the most peaceful of its kind. After all, it’s a comfort even if a man was attacked in the area a month before we moved here. No, – attacks on humans are incredibly rare, but more frequent, when dogs are involved. Some dogs try to escape from a bear, while others stay and challenge it, and we do not know how our dogs will react at such a situation, and we will do everything possible not to find it out. But it is always a compromise between free life and “protection”, you are giving your dogs. The worst thing a dog can do is get scared and run away towards its owner. It makes the bear run after the dog. If, on the other hand, the dog starts barking and running around, the bear will be “pacified”. Our dogs are of the breed borzoi and they are sprinters. They can run 60km / h against a bear’s 40km / h but when it comes to endurance, I don’t think if our dogs win … But even though I’m very scared to meet a bear, something pretty magical happens when you walk in the woods. I’m less scared when I’m out there than when I’m sitting at home and imagining it. It’s all the time I am afraid while walking in the forest, but when the dogs hear something and the forest is tight, then the only thing I think is BEAR. Orest is more relaxed regarding bears. He sometimes goes alone on a hike with overnight. I would never dare to do the same.
One of the animals that we have never given a thought to is a capercaillie. A bird with the size of a pheasant and it is just fearless. More exact to say, that the male one during the mating season is absolutely fearless. The males are black and the females brown, which is making it easy to see the difference. We’ve heard stories about how they can attack anything that crosses their path, but didn’t really speculate on it until one day we met a male one standing in the middle of the road. Orest managed to slow down the car to approx. 10 km / h, but instead of flying away, it went directly into attack on our car, so the feathers flew to all sides. Some say it is especially targeted at red taillights. We don’t know if it survived, but it flew to the side and there was no blood on the car, but it had left a giant feather just as nicely mounted on the cooler.
The male capercaillie is a bird you see quite often, and not a bird to go and be afraid of, but just remember that it does not move out of the way during the mating season.
The moose – you can’t avoid it. They are a symbol of Sweden’s wildlife and a frequent visitor on the road. It’s not because you see them every other day, but you come across it at least 1-2 times a week. Most often it is a cow with calf. And how often you see them depends on the seasons and the vegetation. In the fall, it is not unusual for them to come close to settlements while in winter they are in the forests. The moose hunt starts on the first Monday in September. Some say the moose are so smart that at that point they search to the villages because they know they are protected. Maybe it’s just a joke.
The first time ourdogs met a moose, they reacted as it was something very exciting they could hear behind a hill close to our house, but when the moose came up, you could just see that the dogs were thinking: “shit… ..that’s a huge animal” , and they became completely disoriented about how to relate to it. Our dogs belong to the mouth group and they are the dogs that hunt with theirsight. None of our dogs follow tracks in the forest, and they live by the principle “out of sight- out of mind”.
The reindeer are not seen in winter, but they are everywhere in spring, summer and autumn.
I’m actually amazed byhow few accidents happen to them, because they walk on and along the roads. In the summer, the big males go around town. We see them outside our house every single day. They even go into people’s garages to find shade from the sun. They look after themselves and I’ve never heard of direct confrontations. They are not afraid of people, but they withdraw when you get too close. It is a fantastic sight to see the Sami gather the reindeersin large groups and migratethem up into the mountains in the spring. It is a great experience to attend.
In winter, the animals we see most are deers. You see them almost daily, but in the summer they are a rare sight. Spring is also when the snow hares show up for a brief remark. Suddenly they are here with their spotted fur when they lose their white winter costume, and just as suddenly they are gone again. Almost think we only saw them for 2-3 weeks. Rarely you see a fox. They are most commonly heard at night. The wolverine lives here too, butwe have seen it only once. Zarwoe, our white male dog, barked at it while ittried to find its way. Fortunately, there was no confrontation. The wolverine is known for its powerful bite.
Then here are the sea eagles that we have never seenthem byourselves,and this bird local peoplehave respect for. There is a story from ancient times that tells that a child was taken by a sea eagle and that the remains of the child were found in a nest. They then destroyed all the sea eagle nests in an attempt to drive the eagles away, buttheystillcan be seenhere. But people with smaller dogs are really scared for their dogs to be taken by an eagle, and some even say they can killareindeer, including the adults, by puncturing their lungs. We have never researched those stories, but we are sure that there is something about the talk.
There are, of course, many more animals. Mice we have become acquainted with, e.g. There are also cranes and other birds, but the ones mentioned are the ones we live with everyday. If you ever want to get on these edges, we would recommend seeing the great reindeer walks in the spring.
Well then there is a mosquito, but it is dedicated to its very own blog.
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.