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 www.storsjofisk.se .

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 thegreenfootprint.se 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 Media.se 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.

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: https://thegreenfootprint.se

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.

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 😉

1

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?

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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.

7

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.

One year with our home Green Footprint

Hello and “what’s up?” . Orest is here and I have got the opportunity to write the next chapter of our story. So the writing style will be a little bit different from what you are used to. 

The summer 2020 is officially a history and it’s already one year since we got our new home the green footprint. It remembers clearly how excited we were when we received a bunch of keys to numerous facilities in the property. So many things to try and learn, and so many things to be changed ! So many ideas! 

No doubt, we are still very excited about our new home and many ide@s have become more clear for us. But realisation of them takes time. Longer than one year. Much longer than I expected. 

In this chapter I wanna cover some of those main projects we managed to do during this summer and, of course, tell about expectations, which have to wait . 

Firewood 

Distance between th firewood depot and storage place in the house

Story about our firewood didn’t end up in the last chapter. After we were finished with cutting and chopping 20 cubic meters of wood it had to be stored outside to have possibility to dry as much as possible it should be moved inside of one of the storage buildings. And the main storage room has a volume for approx 12-14 cubic meters of firewood. So Lykke motivated herself properly and carried most of the firewood with help of little wheel trailer and did it 140 times covering 70 meters each way. That took time… rest of the firewood she placed close to another little building and it was a shorter way for transportation.

We actually can’t say how long time the whole project  “firewood “ took us from the beginning to the “final product “, but we really hope that we have enough of firewood for the cold period of the year.

Grass .

It’s a huge difference between 70 sq meters in Copenhagen apartment and 20.000 sq meters of land and two houses on it. A lot of place to care about… and the most of the land is a nice grassy field. And of course it’s so pleasant to watch on a freshly mowed grassy area. We have a tractor and a grass mower to it. It sounds straight forward, isn’t it? But it takes time… first I had to learn how to safely operate that machine, and after that  it takes around 5 hours to mow the most of grass . And afterwards I collect the whole grass manually and move it to a dedicated to it place in the forest on our property. Spending 1-2 hours each day it takes me around 10-14 days to remove whole grass away… maybe it’s a waist of time, but it looks so beautiful afterwords! And it’s a natural physical training on fresh air. “Natural gym”. 

Compost and the waste issue in general 

We did tell before about the missing municipal service with emptying our waste container on our property. In the beginning the municipality said it was possible for the service truck to drive to us, but at the end we received a message that the truck can’t make last 4 kilometres to our place. So we wanted to find a solution for us. We evaluated in details our waste we produce living here and we started to separate different kinds of waste and sort it into groups. 20 km from us there is a public depot – a place where you can deliver recycled waste . There are categories of common paper, packing paper, glass, cans , plastic and used batteries. Sorting in that way reduced our waste , but still we had a lot of organic waste. And of course you straight think about composting. We know nothing about it, so we tried to read about it and about those plastic compost containers you can find on the market. But they are quite expensive. And then we had an idea : “ why not to build our own compost container from that wood we have and why shall we buy the plastic one?” . So we built it, and now we hope that the exciting composting process will start before the organic waste will freeze in the winter. 

A food cellar

Entrance to our food cellar was totally destroyed last winter due to probably permafrost, which moved walls together and it was no passage down to the cellar. Thanks our friend’s help we managed to move the stones in the walls on their original place and now we can use our cellar again. It’s very practical and it keeps temperatures around 4-7 degrees inside the cellar year around and the humid air in there keeps vegetables fresh for a long time. Just think – it is cool to have a huge environmentally friendly “walk in” refrigerator . Smart thing .

Something what I personally had issues with this summer, was expectations. Especially those expectations that weren’t realised this summer , because they obviously require more time. And these expectations about making our everyday living more comfortable. 

Electricity 

Electricity. As you know, our property is not connected to a local network and we live “off grid”. We have diesel and gasoline generators to produce electricity for various purposes.

We have told about the unpleasant case with a local energy company, which owns electricity network grid and which has a monopoly on the distribution of electricity to customers. They have abused their monopoly and have cheated us several times with the price they want to charge us for connecting to their network. Although the Swedish Energy Market Inspectorate, the authority that controls fair prices on the energy market, agreed with us and confirmed that the price for connection must not exceed approx. 80,000 Swedish kroner (against the company’s “offer” 450,000 kroner!), the energy company Härjeåns Nät AB appealed the decision in a court, so the case is further delayed. And, if the court wants to give the right to the Energy Market Inspectorate, then the electricity company has countless opportunities to delay and not connect our property to their network. It may take several years. So we explore alternatives. And as we said earlier, we are very excited about the idea of ​​establishing an “off grid” system, consisting of solar cell systems, battery storage and a “backup” petrol generator for the winter months when solar cell system will not produce enough electricity due to lack of sun light. I have spent a lot of time finding a solution – there are ideas, but most require more products from different manufacturers. And none of them could guarantee that the system will live up to our wishes 100%. Now I have found and established contact with a Danish company that works on designing and developing “hybrid generators” for industrial use, but they were enthusiastic about our new lifestyle and property and they promised to come with a proposal and of course they have to calculate the price for the possible solution.

Water

As we mentioned earlier, our two houses have a primitive water system, which works ok in summer period, but all pipes can be destroyed by Frost in winter and in the period when you have constant minus degrees outdoors. This is a problem and the entire water supply system needs to be redesigned so that we have running water in pipelines all year round. A well must be drilled and pipelines must be laid and frost-proved. This is not so much about smart solutions, but about money that must be paid to carry out the work.

So the problem of expectations is very much related to the last two projects, which were not realized due to lack of money. We have tried to reach out to several banks and other institutions, but they cannot loan us the money needed to improve our standard of living. We do not have a stable income during this  period when we are in the process of establishing ourselves as self-employed, so we have to get ready for the new season with a lack of water and a small petrol generator, which we hope can give us light and electricity in the winter. And Winter is on its way.

Summer has reached The Green Footprint

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.

Our First Meeting

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.

Hiking somewhere in the mountains

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.

Chernobyl. 2002

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.

Ukraine

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.

Jasper, BC, Canada. 2012

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.

Armenia. 2009

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.

Bornholm, Denmark. 2017

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.

Skåne, Sweden.

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.

Copenhagen Cityhall. 2004
Copenhagen Cityhall. 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.

Rakchiv. Ukraine. 2009
Rakchiv, Ukraine. 2009
Rakchiv, Ukraine. 2009

That was the story of how we met.We share some pictures with you from our wedding and our travels and life in Denmark.

Nepal. 2010
Wadi Ru desert, Jordan. 2017
Anapurna. Nepal. 2010

Merry Christmas

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.

Bergs Municipality (Kommun) – the new Wild West of Sweden

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. 

Our daily life

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.