So far, so good!June 8, 2019 in Sweden ⋅ 🌧 15 °C
We ended up in Silverhöjdens for tonight
We ended up in Silverhöjdens for tonight
We have made a 15minute video of our time at Jan-Ols: https://youtu.be/MOIvfxdfOY0
We hope you like it!
14 months spent mostly by ourselves was a long time. By staying with Mikaela, Tobbe and Olivia at Jan-Ols Gården we'd hoped to gain some sense of what it was like to live as a family in Sweden, but we were also nervous about the fact we'd committed ourselves to spending so much time around people didn't know.
Right from the beginning we knew we'd struck lucky with our choice of farm. The welcome we received was warm but relaxed so we began to feel at home very quickly. Mikaela and Tobbe didn't eat any carbs but bought in pasta, potatoes, bread and biscuits for us WWOOFers and we were encouraged just to help ourselves from the fridge and explore the cupboards in the spacious country kitchen come dining room to find out where everything was kept.
Conversation was easy because most of the time we had a purpose to get a job done and were working alongside people to do it. Spending from 8am to about 10:30pm each day with the family, Salomé and Mikael, we got to know them quickly and fell easily into being around them.
Mikaela directed the morning and evening work with the goats and horses. Because the work was so familiar to her, she wouldn't always explain tasks in depth but we became Salomé and Mikael's apprentices and could always ask Mikaela if we weren't sure. She was passionate about animal welfare and seemed to know everything there was to know about the horses and goats. With just a little encouragement she would talk in detail about their histories, characters and how she worked with them and kept them happy.
Tobbe was on holiday from his job at the Kopparberg Brewery when we arrived and directed the work on the clearance and fence at Olivia's house. He also spent a lot of time working on his and other people's cars in his garage, a converted farm building at the back of the house. When he had a spare minute he would help with the jobs around the farm. Tobbe seemed quiet at first but we soon discovered he had a great sense of humour, was open, patient and thoughtful towards others, despite having a lot on his mind.
We didn't see as much of Tobbe's daughter Olivia because she was out working for a ventilation company each weekday and would often visit her grandparents and Mum at the weekends. She would return from her day job and not even take time to change before beginning work on the farm. Like Tobbe she was open, with her own distinctive humour and would keep a caring eye out, taking time to help us if we looked lost or unsure. It was a pleasure to take her out in the canoe on the lake at sunset where she learned very quickly how to paddle well and relax, enjoying the view.
Olivia had a super relationship with her Grandad Roger, who we worked with on many days, putting up fence posts around her house. Will and Roger, who was nearly 75, got on particularly well and we were tempted with his suggestion that we stay an extra 2 months, finish the fencing with him and learn Swedish while teaching him English! He helped Tobbe, Mikaela and Olivia out almost every day (apart from when important sports events were scheduled). Although we didn't see Tobbe's Mum more than once (when collecting rasberries for the family and WWOOFers) her presence was felt at home through the saucepan trivets, socks and wooly jumpers she'd knitted. Howie the Afghan hound even sported a pirate jumper she'd made specially! It gave us a warm feeling to see the close relationships they had and made us keen to make the most of our time with our own family when we return to the UK.
The other WWOOFers only added to the feeling of family. Mikael was on his second visit and had been there the longest, so he knew a lot about the routines and how best to do the jobs, but he was easy going and funny. He returned home to France 8 days after we arrived but had plans to get a job in Sweden and we doubted it would be long before he would be back. We spent the most time with sprightly Salomé. At 19 she was the youngest in the group but determined, independent and hardworking. We don't know where she got the energy to run between jobs but we suspect it had something to do with the copious amounts of bread she loved to eat! Her English was excellent and leagues better than our French but she insisted we correct her slight misspronunciations and teach her new words. She claimed she'd fallen in love with Olivia (for her beautiful house in the forest and the land around it) and asked her to marry her, even presenting her with a ring made of plaited hay on the final day. She was a great person to be around! On the day she left, Julia arrived. She was taking time out between study and a job teaching Art in secondary school back in Germany. We spent two full days with Julia but the impression we got was of a warm, friendly person with an appetite to learn about the world and to help those in it.
As well as the people like us who were staying at Jan-Ols, there was a lively community of riders, some women who kept their horses at the farm and girls in their teens, who ensured the place rarely felt empty. Mikaela had everyone care for the horses and ponies they rode so every day at least a few, but usually about a dozen people were involved in mucking out the horses' and ponies' fields, feeding, riding and calling 'Hej Hej' when they passed us.
We thrived on being part of the Jan-Ols Gården community, engaging with others and working alongside them. It felt good to be relied upon and for people to know who we were and why we were there. We were exhausted by the physical work, and being 'on call' for the long days but we got used to it quickly and the time to say goodbye seemed to come around too soon.
After leaving we found for a few days that we had little motivation to do things and it felt strange being just the two of us and Poppy again. The experience had been good for our fitness but had also given us a really refreshing mental break.Read more
We drove the short distance between our stopover and the farm that would be our home for the next two weeks. Jan-ols Gården was reached via a gravel track off the main road. We parked beside the riding school ring and jumped out to meet Mikaela who was there to greet us. Walking up to the house there was a field of small ponies on our right and a field with the larger ponies and horses on our left. The goats were in their field at the bottom of the hill.
We met Salomé then Mikael, both WWOOFers from France who had been at Jan-ols Gården for a number of weeks (Mikael was on his second placement there). In the house we were introduced to Tobbe, Mikaela's partner, their Saluki Charlie and Afghan Hound Howie. We later met Olivia, (Tobbe's daughter) and the two house cats, one of which was an extremely affectionate Rag Doll called Luva. Vicky felt wonderful being around so many animals and Will loved having new people to chat to!
That afternoon we drove the short way to Olivia's house that the family was in the process of renovating to make it fit to live in. Poppy sat out under the shade of a tree while we shifted a huge pile of branches and small trees and created a stack ready for a bonfire. We enjoyed the work until near the end when we discovered 2 Adders who appeared to have made a home out of our assigned project! We switched to removing the electric fence from the posts surrounding the field and returned, hoping they'd moved house!
After a while Tobbe's parents came over and introduced themselves, before picking a bucket of rasberries for the family and WWOOFers. They chatted with us for a while, with Tobbe's Dad Roger, using 'Svenglish' (a cross between Swedish and English!) We enjoyed feeling part of a team again.
We returned to the farm in the afternoon and ate lunch in a relaxed and jovial atmosphere. Later we walked back to Olivia's house and finished shifting the wood and dismantling the electric fence so that a sturdy wire mesh could be erected to protect the goats from wolves roaming the surrounding forest.
Back at the farm we put the goats on leads and led them from the field to the stable. When we say we 'led' the goats, what we actually did was to hang on to their leads while they pulled us towards any tasty looking foliage. They were a lot stronger than expected and we sometimes felt we were being drawn and quartered, but it was lots of fun, especially when the kids came running in after them and we had to round up the stragglers by picking up the little balls of soft fur and carrying them in!
Around 9:30pm the 6 of us shared a meal of pasta bolognaise in the large country kitchen and dining room before returning to the stables, giving the goats more warm water and carrying the kids to their separate pen with a bag of hay for the night, so the nannies would be ready for milking in the morning.Read more
One of the pleasures of staying at Jan-ols Gården was the new things we learned, using and improving our existing skills and knowledge.
We'd both had a little experience of goats but were shown what amazingly affectionate creatures they could be when treated with love and respect as they were here. Will's face as he sat in the stable getting his neck licked by one of them, bore an expression of pure delight. He was taught how to attach the milking machine and we learned what the goats needed to physically thrive and produce quality milk (warm water to drink, good hay and bark to eat, exercise outside and a warm dry stable at night with brush bristles to scratch themselves on). Our favourite times with the goats were running alongside the kids when they were released from their pen and fled together to the field to find their Mums. Just before bed we'd often go and sit in the stable and they'd climb all over us, nibbling and nuzzling. Vicky lost quite a bit of hair to their teeth but it was probably replaced by the hay which got embedded in her dreads. A real highlight was the fresh warm milk we'd have every morning and the feta and cream cheese we got to eat, knowing it had been produced by the same goats we were caring for.
Years had passed since either of us had been on a horse but here we both got to go out riding. Will was disappointed he only got to go out once on a lead rein, but he did get to ride Aragon, Mikaela's amazing white Shire horse who was star of the show and who nobody else but Mikaela rode out while we were there. Vicky got 4 rides on Goliath (pronounced GooleeAt) a gorgeous forward going black horse belonging to Olivia, Oscar an Icelandic Pony (or Fjord horse as they are known in Sweden), who was sure footed and food orientated and finally a couple of rides on Merlin, the wonderful young dapple grey Shire horse who she fell in love with. The horses walked, trotted and galloped over steep hillsides covered in heather, lingonberry and bilberry bushes, bog and slippery sheet rock. We occasionally came across a fallen tree over which we jumped and on the narrow paths we needed to concentrate hard, duck and weave so as not to get whipped around the face with pine branches. Galloping through this terrain on Merlin was Vicky's highlight and something she'll remember for the rest of her life. There was however, quite a bit of learning to do in order to adapt to riding without a saddle and stirrups and using the loose rein technique of signalling to the horse what you would like it to do, instead of using your legs and heals as we'd both previously learned. At one point Merlin jumped up and kicked out when breaking into a canter and Vicky grabbed the handle attached to his back pad. The handle promptly came away in her hand, but on a quiet day she was able to put her sewing skills to use, fixing this and reattaching part of a sheepskin to another pad that had been in need of repair for some time.
The horses walked barefoot and because they had no metal shoes, Jan-ols Gården was able to maintain their hooves without the need for a blacksmith, cutting and filing back excess growth every 3 or so weeks. This was fascinating to watch but not as incredible as the Liberty Dressage Mikaela practiced with the two Shires, Aragon and Merlin and the little white Shetland Pony Indigo. When the horses heard the music that accompanied their training they became very excited. Using just hand signals and the direction of a stick, Mikaela rode without reins and from the ground she directed them to canter around the ring, kneel down and little Indigo even ran figures of eight underneath Aragon and Merlin before lying down on his side like a dog would! Incredible!
Will found his calling piling wooden fence posts into the ground with a lump hammer - something he was very good at. Tobbe's Dad Roger wanted him to stay 2 months so they could work together and complete the fence, teaching each other their languages. There often wasn't a lot of direction with tasks but Vicky had decided to go with the flow and got a real sense of achievement working together with Salomé to check, repair and replace some parts of the electric fence around the goats' field.
A huge change for us was the diet. We needed to eat a lot more than usual because we were working so hard, but we also ate a lot more meat than we ever normally would. Mikaela amd Tobbe didn't eat any carbs so cooked a lot of fish and mince. They bought the WOOFers bread, biscuits, rice, pasta, oats and fruit but these were kept and prepared separately.
We worked every day and didn't get time off to go anywhere by ourselves (which worked well for us) but we did get an evening where we all drove to one of the many nearby lakes and had a fire in one of the fire pits provided. Our hosts had made special meatballs and cabbage salad which we ate with bbq'd sausages in buns. Tobbe brought some beer and cider from the Kopparberg brewery where he was a service engineer and Mikaela and Olivia brought their fire poi and stick to put on a display that Will joined in with. We took Olivia, Mikael then Salome out in the canoe as the sun was setting and the moon rising. It was a beautifully still and clear evening and a light mist rolled over the surface of the water. The lack of cloud meant that it was cold but we got the best view of the stars we had for a long time, looking up with a border of silhouetted pines, we gazed at the Milky Way and saw a shooting star with a long tail whizz accross the sky- magic! Being used to only each others' company, it made it extra special to share the night with others.Read more
Before we left the UK we spent the majority of our time doing voluntary work. It gave us a great feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves and contributing towards something positive. When we began our journey we left that part of our lives behind, but we missed it, so began looking around for opportunities and came across WWOOF, (Worldwide Work Opportunities on Organic Farms). WWOOF originated in the UK back in the 1970s as Working Weekends On Organic Farms and Will had done a couple of placements in his younger days. After having been on the road for nearly 14 months, working only for ourselves, we were keen to get involved.
We also hoped we may be able to learn some new skills, knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of Sweden through eating and working closely with our hosts. We'd paid €25 for a 1 year's membership of WWOOF Sweden before searching online for a host. Vicky has always loved animals, horses in particular and when she saw that Jan-ols Gården was a riding school with two shire horses and a herd of goats, she knew she wanted to work there. Will liked the sound of it and the farm needed help with a lot of tasks that we had experience of, so we applied to them and were really excited when they accepted our request!
Normally the organic farm offers accommodation (in our case a place to park the van) and provides meals in exchange for labour. No money changes hands. We suspected we might find it quite a shock to stay in one place for 2 whole weeks, working and living alongside people we'd never met, to a schedule that wasn't our own. We were used to spending only one or two nights at any one place and enjoying the occasional visit from good friends or family. However, we were really looking forward to doing something very different and to all the challenges and excitement that would inevitably come with it!
To find out more about WWOOF go to wwoof.netRead more
Over the next few days at the farm we settled into a routine. The hours were long with us grabbing a small bite to eat in the house from 8am and putting the kids to bed after 10pm. The first jobs would be to give hay and water to the billy goats and rabbit, before giving water to Indigo and Belle (the two shetland ponies in the garden), the ponies and the horses in the top fields. Next the milking nannies were released from their stable two by two in order. They'd run and leap up on the milking table where they would munch enthusiastically on oats while Mikaela cleaned them and attached the milking machine to their teats. When finished, the pair would jump down and drink some warm water before being led out to the paddock on their leads. Meanwhile, Albin and Joice, the horses kept near the goats, would be separated, fed and watered and the buckets in the goats' field would be filled with warm water. When the horses had finished breakfast we could lead the two castrated billy goats and the 6 young goats who weren't yet milking, to the paddock. Once all the adults were out of the stable we'd load their hay racks and when the last two mothers were in the field, we'd open the kids' pen and most of them would run to join their mums. We'd need to round up one or two stragglers and we'd always carry Vesla, a little grey kid whose mother wasn't that attentive. All of the goats were given Viking names, such as Olaf and Grimla.
After Mikaela washed the milking machine we all headed up to the house for breakfast. During the day we'd either go over to Olivia's place to work on scrub clearance and fencing or get on with jobs around the farm such as mucking out the ponies, clearing up, checking and repairing the electric fence, collecting pine branches from the forest for the goats and chopping the old branches so they could be used as firewood, moving breeze blocks to build a wall, loading hay bales into the barn or tying them up in nets for the horses.
We'd eat lunch around 3pm and carry on with work afterwards. We'd often have some time in the morning or afternoon to relax but it was difficult to know when this would be or for how long. During the week days riders would come for group lessons or a hack in the forest and Vicky got to join them a couple of times. Mikaela rides bareback and teaches her students to do the same. The horses have soft pads on their backs instead of leather saddles and stirrups. Many of the bridles don't have bits for their mouths and the reins are always held loosely. The horses' feet are unshod and the riders often go barefoot too. It was quite a different experience to the riding Vicky was used to and at first it was challenging to stay on at trot but it felt really good to be more in touch with the animals.
After the horses were taken care of by their riders and returned to their field, we would go as a group to collect, lead and herd the goats to their stable before eating a meal of fish, bolognaise or stew and relaxing a little until we completed the final job of the night; putting the kids to bed. This was one of the best jobs because we would often sit and stroke the goats, trying to keep our hair, buttons and buckles out of the inquisitive kids' mouths. Each goat had their own distinct personality, some preferred to stay outside and eat but many would enjoy a bit of a cuddle and willingly bond with you. The two castrated billys, Olaf and Ask and a white nanny Edda, with thick soft fur, fawn patches over her eyes and floppy ears were particularly affectionate.
Some nights Will would return to the rustic charm of the living room to relax and watch a British comedy film with Swedish subtitles. He even got treated to some delicious 25 year old homemade Vodka! Most nights Vicky went straight back to the van to spend time with Poppy after the hard day's work.Read more
Traveling on the b-roads all day. Setup camp with teams
44, 70, 10 and 04 and prepared for some rain.
You might also know this place by the following names:
Ljusnarsbergs Kommun, Ljusnarsberg Municipality