Hej dear friends!
Winter is here and on this cold snowy morning we thought it would be a good time to write the latest update with a warm cup of coffee, rather than changing the runners on the snowmobile outside in the cold.
We wanted to start with a quote today from John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
It makes us think of how we had been planning for so long to move somewhere to become self-sustainable, that our own life (the one we were living in the ‘now’) was passing us by. It was rather depressing at times, but that was an experience that we had to go through and learn from to get us to where we are now. Planning is all good and well, but sometimes you just have to get on with it.
Well, this summer we definitely got on with it. Finally we got to work in our own garden that we had dreamed of for so long and we had a lot of fun while doing it. We didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves; this year was going to be a ‘training year’, where we could just experiment and learn from our mistakes.
First thing we wanted to do was invest in a greenhouse in order to extend the growing season, which is rather short up here. Our garden was still covered in snow at the end of April, so we couldn’t start digging and shaping our growing patch just yet, but we could measure the size of the greenhouse we wanted and we wanted to go big! We were looking to get a 30m², but before we placed the order we thought it wise to check up on Swedish laws (cause there are many). We won’t bore you too much with the details, but we did find out that it was best to go to the commune and seek advice/approval. We were helped by a very friendly man our age, who kept Amber entertained with a bunch of toys until she fell asleep in her mother’s arms. He told us we were allowed to build a temporary building, however looking at our land it was best to go a little bit smaller and not push the limits to avoid any complaints. If someone should ever complain about our greenhouse, we will then have to seek approval from the commune, who would grant it, but we’d have to take it down after 5 years. So far, no one has complained…
A few weeks later, we placed our order which arrived so fast that Caroline told the delivery man that he must’ve been mistaken. After all we had only placed our order 2 days ago with a Danish company. These massive packages standing on our drive-way surely couldn’t be ours! But they were and so the digging started. A few days later and Vince had dug out the patch for the greenhouse and the already existing growing patch that would be our outdoor growing area, which was an absolute nightmare thanks to thousands of roots (it was very overgrown and not touched in a few years) and millions of little stones. All those stones didn’t compare however to the giant boulder that we unearthed where the greenhouse was supposed to go. This was not good and would take away quite a lot of our growing space. We had to try and get rid of it, but the ratchet straps we owned were no match for this beast of a rock. Luckily we have a friend who owns a big front loader and who was due to come back from holidays the next day. I wrote him a message to tell him we had a fun project for him and he was standing in our garden, fresh off the plane, with his machine before we could say ‘boulder’. He replaced the front bucket with a fork lift and within 5 minutes the thing was out. It was quite epic!
Next job was to build our 24m² poly-carbonate greenhouse. It actually wasn’t too difficult. Vince managed to build the skeleton mostly by himself and the 2 of us then proceeded to put the hard plastic cover on, which was far more tricky as they were big sheets and some had to be cut to size. The most dangerous was the wind, which was blowing strong that day, but with careful handling and lots of rocks temporarily holding the plastic sheets down, we managed to get the job done.
Now we wanted to build raised beds inside of the greenhouse. We didn’t want to go for broke on this project (time will tell if that was a mistake or not) and thought we could probably source pallets from local businesses. The place where we had been buying our propane gas tanks all this time was actually happy for us to have his pallets, so he didn’t have to bring them all to the recycling himself, so he even lent Vince a trailer and after about 6 trips up and down, we had a huge pile of pallets standing in front of our house (some remain to this day… Vince went a little crazy with this project). We did a whole load more digging and building, but after another 3 days, we were finally ready to start planting… except for bags of growing soil. Yeah, we probably bought another 50 of those to top up the raised beds and the outside growing patch.
We have tried to grow many things and most of them would’ve worked, if we’d only started to plant things earlier than we did. Many things will need improving on our growing techniques in the greenhouse as well, but let’s not focus too much on the negatives here. What did work really well were potatoes, carrots, beets, garlic (which is still going as we speak), cauliflower, romanesco, kale, pumpkin, gherkin, salads and many different herbs.
We have learned a lot from this growing season and are well prepared for the next; we’ve got three huge compost piles going, trees have been cut that were blocking the sun too much and they will be used for firewood, Vince is currently working on a system to extend the growing season deep into winter (we’re using HPS and LED lamps for light and have a heating cable in the ground to keep the soil warm plus insulation foil is on the way to really keep the warmth in), our seed bank is ever-growing (we found a great supplier in Sweden that specialise in seeds hardy for these conditions) and our garden planner (https://www.myfrugalhome.com/printable-garden-planner/) is helping us get the best out of our gardening experience that we possibly can.
We still have the dream of owning a large piece of land with our own forest on it and raise animals, but this summer we just haven’t been able to find the right place. There was one beauty we did come across though, but during the bidding process the price went up fast and we didn’t feel comfortable putting ourselves in a financially tight position.
So we’re listening to the wise words of John Lennon and keep moving towards self-sustainability in our current place for as long as we have to.
All the growing and heating systems are using large amounts of electricity of course. Perhaps not the best choice in an energy crisis, but we got lucky with a fixed contract we took for 3 years when we moved in. This gives us some time to look into getting solar panels and a wind turbine together with a battery bank, which we hope to get installed next season. Our roof is now covered in around 40cm of snow, so this winter nothing will happen.
We also plan on having much more growing space outside and are looking into having chickens. A new terrace is needed and a new roof on the house would be nice. Plenty of jobs to keep us busy next summer!
Another thing we’re going to focus more on is fishing. We decided to buy a second hand boat with an 8 horsepower motor on it. So far we’ve only been ice-fishing and been rather successful actually. But fishing is a thing we can do all year round, unlike hunting and growing (although we’re working on that now), so it’s something we have to take advantage of. Not only is a boat good for fishing, but it can also take you to places where you can’t go by foot and adds to our sense for adventure.
We also needed a car that was suitable for the Nordic climate and one that could take us to remote locations, especially for when we do find that dream plot in the middle of nowhere. So we invested in a Volkswagen Amarok 4x4 with a huge closed boot, which has served us well up till now. It’s got special LED lights on the roof and on the front for the dark roads, especially for spotting animals on the road. It also has a diesel engine heater, so you can heat your car in advance before getting in. It’s more effective than just starting your car and uses little diesel. Very handy for the cold winter months!
That’s it for now folks. Hope you’ve all enjoyed your Christmas holidays and have a wonderful New Year!
We know we’re not keeping you up to date as much as some of you’d like, but we’re working on it. We’re starting to settle into our new life very well and Amber is blossoming into a beautiful, funny and cheeky little girl and the three of us are having a huge amount of fun and joy together, so more on that soon!
Love from us all,
Caroline, Vincent, Amber and Fraggle