HOMESTEADING IN NORWAY
If we are going to spend our time in Norway volunteering on farms, we want to support and learn from a farm that holds the same values as ourselves. That's why we decided to leave the dairy farm and go back to help our new friends, Andreas and Elisabeth (A&E for simplicity). How to describe Elisabeth and Andreas? They are doers, not talkers. Andreas is a proof is in the pudding-no bullshit type of guy. He is smart as a whip and his ability to articulate himself is unparalleled, not to mention thought-provoking. Elisabeth is as down to earth as a girl can get. She is so incredibly kind, passionate and smart.
As we walk through the entrance of their big farm house on Sunday night, we feel back at home. Ignacio and Nicola, their current wooffer volunteers, are lounging on the couch in the main room playing guitar and reading about brewing. A & E are visiting their parents and won't be home until Tuesday, so we coordinate with them about the work that they need help with in their absence.
We wake up on Monday morning and begin the daily chores; we take care of the animals, make bread, gather twigs and small branches, cut the twigs into wood chips and place them over the divots in the driveway. We pick a copious amount of red currants and figure out different ways to eat and preserve them. Nicola (from Italy) and Ignacio (from Spain) are happy to have us to talk to and to help with the work load. After chores, I offer to make a lunch of spaghetti and salad, which Ignacio and Nicola seem curiously enthusiastic about. I ask them what they had been eating in the past few days without A&E’s help in the kitchen. In his Italian accent, Nicola remarks; "We eat spaghetti since A&E leave us. One night we cook a strange meat we find in basement, but we throw away after because it has a purple color." I sit there baffled at what kind of purple meat they might have cooked, until it dawns on me and I exclaim "LIVER!"
Like most 20 year old male millennials, Ignacio and Nicola have no idea how to cook. I decide to take Nicola on as a baking apprentice, so whenever I bake, I call on Nicola. I have a soft spot for him, since he reminds me of my little (big) brothers. During the upcoming week, I teach him how to make bread and peach cobbler. Anthony teaches him how to make pasta sauce and some other cooking basics.
When Andreas and Elisabeth return, Anthony and I take on the project to paint the cement floor of the bakery they are refurbishing in their basement. We plan to paint it on Friday morning with epoxy-like paint that they bought and that takes 4 hours to dry on cement. This was a perfect plan because we want to use the bakery to make wood fired pizza on saturday night for A & E's friends who are visiting, from Oslo, for the weekend.
Before Friday arrives, we keep on top of the farm chores and help with cooking and cleaning for the airbnb guests that come during the week. Anthony makes ice cream almost every night that week with Elisabeth’s help. Elisabeth loves ice cream and the two bond over their ice cream endeavors; I am happy Anthony found someone to share his enthusiasm with! I help Elisabeth make bread and to everyone’s enjoyment, perfect the recipe and the knot tying technique of challah. Which I soon thereafter, share with Elizabeth and Nicola.
On Wednesday night, A & E have airbnb guests; a family of four from Switzerland. Over braised lamb and seasoned vegetables, we talk about the educational system in Switzerland, parenting, and whether nature or nurture is more influential on the outcome of a person's disposition and character. We love staying with A & E because we get along great through intellectual conversation and an appreciation for good quality food. We finish the night with incredible homemade vanilla ice cream that Anthony and Elisabeth make.
We wake up early on Friday to begin painting the basement floor. Upstairs, friend upon friend come flowing through the doors throughout the day, bearing bathing suits, beer, homemade jams, an overflowing basket of fresh fruit, and a bustle of happy energy. A & E’s property rests on a beautiful wide river and the farm house turns into a resting ground from the summer sun. We decide to take on dessert duty for the night. Anthony prepares birch walnut ice cream for A&E’s Osloian friends, while Nicola and I bake a pear peach cobbler to accompany it.
The delicious dessert after dinner seems to break the ice dramatically with our new Osloian friends! We meet Vilde, who definitely stands out of the crowd. Come to think, Vilde would stand out of any crowd. She is warm, happy, and bubbly, her eyes light up not only when she speaks but when she listens to you as well. Her excitement is contagious. She poses no judgement towards anyone and loves whole heartedly. She unabashadely squeels at the smallest excitement and with a larger excitement, such as Anthony’s unbelievably delicious ice cream, she does not hesitate to, literally, scream, "Oh my God!!!" Anthony is at first taken aback by her enthusiasm, but as we get to know her true nature throughout the weekend, we begin to form a close bond.
JOAR & JOHANNE
We ask A & E’s friends if they know anywhere reasonable where we should stay while Oslo, because we are documenting a few stories next week. Vilde offers us her place and Joar and Johanna invite us to stay at a small apartment at their housing complex. Johanna explains that their apartment community came together and restored this ground floor apartment, which can now be rented out to friends and family for a small cleaning fee of $35/night.
Side note: Johanna is on the women's roller derby team in Oslo, so cool!!
We wake up early on Saturday to begin our second layer of paint in the basement. To our dread, the first coast of paint is not dry....at all! Hoping to speed the drying process up, we open up the big cellar doors and place a heater on the ground. Our new Osloian friends leave and in their place a couple from Copenhagen arrive through airbnb to spend the next two nights to experience farm life. We admire Andreas and Elisabeth for their ability to surround themselves with positive people and to constantly have visitors in their house.
By Sunday, the paint has still not dried leaving Anthony and I feeling responsible and guilty for the possible catastrophe of washing up the wet paint. We decide at one last attempt, which leaves us on our hands and knees armed with blow dryers. Happily and luckily, we succeed in drying the basement. We finish the second layer of paint on Monday and decide to treat ourselves to a walk to the top of the mountain, where we spend the majority of our excursion picking blueberries on hills which overlook the picturesque mountains, river, and valley. Our mouths are stained blue and our arms and clothes are tie dyed with grey paint...we cannot contain our smiles.
We come back to A & E preparing to butcher their chickens for meat. Both Anthony and I believe that there is a disconnect between the meat that is on our tables and the animal from which the sustenance comes from. We believe that there is a problem with the way that animals are being inhumanely processed in the majority of 1st world countries and we respect A & E’s care, appreciation and connection to their source of survival.
I spend the last hours of the night showing Elisabeth how to make and hang lebneh, a Lebanese strained yogurt. We wake up early the next morning to enjoy fresh bread and lebneh. We say a heartfelt goodbye to A & E, promising to visit them again (at their newly purchased farm in Austmarka). Aside from all the excitement throughout the week we are able to make progress for ourselves as we have a fully booked week ahead of us in Oslo. Check out the Recipe Hunters Adventures: Tuesday with Kristian and Bestemor Bread, Wednesday with Luca and his Beer, Thursday with Mats and Raspeball, Friday a Ferry to Haoya Survivor Island, and Saturday a Train to Stockholm!