Sunday, June 1, 2014

WWOOFing it in Sweden

Bataholms Gard, Laholm, Sweden

Results of WWOOFing, Week 1:
1 splendidly weeded potato patch
1 tar-painted wooden block 
15 kilos of honey
1 sheep pen
1 cleared sheep pasture
7 happy cows (the oreo kind)
1 sore old grandma
and 2 damn fine piles of wood

The sore old grandma, of course, is myself. Kind of like after going to the gym that first time, every day here I wake up and stumble my way through morning chores nursing the results of the previous day. I've been at Bataholms Gard for a full week and must say that I am pretty proud of my work, particularly my artful and impressive piles of wood. Down by the lake (yes, Bataholms Gard has half of a lake on its property which is the perfect temperature for swimming and is clean enough to drink from), I am working with two other WWOOFers to clear the area of trees and debris that fell during Sweden's winter storms. In a couple weeks, our hosts are going to bring the sheep down to pasture. By next year, grass will cover the area once blanketed with pine needles, carefully cleared and raked by yours truly.

Figure A: Wood Pile 1

Figure B: Wood Pile 2 (Now twice this size)

In any case, I am genuinely glad to be here. I had no idea what to expect, yet I cannot imagine getting luckier. To start, our hosts are both fabulous. I am potentially eating better than I have throughout my entire time in Europe and the accommodation is terrific. The WWOOFers live in a separate cottage on the farm with its own kitchen and bathroom. I have my own comfy bed to sleep in at night and I feel relatively safe. What's more, we are on the West Coast of Sweden, which means that if I get bitten by a tick (and I did, two days ago...wait, and also yesterday, and also today), I probably don't have to worry about my brain turning to mush from Tick-Borne Encephalitis. Those ticks, apparently, only hang out on the East Coast.

WWOOFing Accommodation

I could write a long post about every day here, but I suppose that's not what either of us wants to do (I write it, you read it). So, I suppose I'll describe the highlights. Every morning and evening, I circumnavigate the farm to walk out to the cows, where I then count them (hopefully there are 7), check the voltage in the electric fence (not with my bare hand--that's only happened a handful of times, once with my forehead), check the water tubs, and then check the pressure in the water pumps. That takes about 40 minutes. Then, I usually go down to the lake to clear the sheep pasture. I now have a slightly unhealthy obsession with piling wood, meaning I really want to get the pasture cleared before I leave. However, probably the most exciting thing I've done is some beekeeping. I got all dressed up in the astronaut suit, went out to the hives with Maria (one host), and took a few frames of honey. We pick the wax off with lice combs, then spin the frames in what looks like a really big colander. The pure honey collects on the sides of the basin and drains down, into a waiting bucket.

Gustav, Belinda, Ferdinand, Edvard, Olivia, Dick, and Gertrude 

On my day off, I biked with two other WWOOFers about 20 minutes into Laholm. We continued 20 minutes more from Laholm to the beach, where I partook of the scenic views and The Saltwater Cure. It was a fairly relaxing day, minus the part where I got separated from the group and lost a few times on the way back. Then, last night, I biked with the three other WWOOFers here to the festival grounds right outside of the village of Ysby, which is maybe only 10 minutes away. We had heard there was swing and traditional Swedish dancing. Yes, there was. Only it was a lesson and all of the instructions were in, surprise, Swedish! So we just kind of danced and did our own thing, and tried very hard not to bother the people around us.

Downtown Laholm

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