Life on a Swedish Farm

Rocking gently in a Harry Potter-esque train compartment, we were bound for the east coast of Sweden. We were heading for Ramsjögård farm in Björklinge, just outside of Uppsala and north of Stockholm, a lovely, organic, vegetable farm run by Anders and Karin.

The farm produces a wonderful array of delicious (and colourful!) vegetables, in addition to grains like wheat and rye. Since we arrived so late in the year most of the vegetables had already been harvested, but we did have a chance to pick some curly kale and brussels sprouts.

The storage rooms were a cornucopia of colour and nutrition, packed with onions (red and white), carrots (white, orange, purple), beets (red, polka, white), cabbage (purple, green), potatoes, leek, Jerusalem artichokes, rutabaga, and so many other riches.They make their own flour from their grains and have a fully equipped bakery right there on the property. Originally they ran a bakery in town during the winter and farmed in the summer, but in recent years the bakery has moved home and most of their baking is done for themselves, grateful WWOOFers, and occasionally the recipients of CSA baskets. Anders was generous enough to make lussekatter with Lien and I!

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The baskets contain a selection of tasty veggies that evolve with the seasons and are all grown right there on the property. Everyone Anders and Karin deliver to are in the nearby area, including some restaurants and preschools.

So what did our average day on the farm look like? At 8 am, Anders would join us in the WWOOFer house to fill us in on what would be going on that day. After that, away we would go to get things started. Depending on the day of the week and what orders were currently pending, we might spend the morning cleaning and/or preparing vegetables, packing orders, or chopping wood. When the clock made its way around to 11, it was “fika,” or coffee break time! We made a tradition of chowing down on fried onions, knacke bread, cheese, and jam (not necessarily but sometimes all together) washed down with some tea and coffee.

By noon it was back to work for most of us, except for the people in charge of the lunch or nightly fire. If you were cooking, off you went to the cooling room, where all the food for us was stored, to prepare lunch for everyone. If you were in charge of the fire, away you went to the wood shed to pile up a couple of wheelbarrows full of wood for that night. The two main houses were heated by a fire-fuelled boiler system, so every afternoon after lunch a fire was started so that everyone could finish their day in toasty warm comfort. Usually between two and three o’clock we would hear the lunch bell ring out across the property, and all race to see what tasty creation was waiting for us.

After lunch, we would head back to work for a bit before finishing our day at five. The work varied a bit depending on if we needed to go out to the fields to pick some of the last vegetables, to the forest to get more wood, or to town to tag along on a delivery.

Nathanael and I used some of our free time to explore the area surrounding the farm. In one of the fields was a rune stone that was put up around a thousand years ago; it read:

“Visäte och Jofur läto resä stennan till minne av Ofeg, sin fader.”

“Visate and Jofur raised this stone in memory of Ofeg, their father.”

The lines had been so worn away by time and the elements that only a hint of the original carving was visible for most of the stone.

The property also had several grave mounds that had been left undisturbed (for now) during the expansion of Björklinge. Anders pointed out one mound that belonged to a king, though he must not have been very well-liked because the mound was pretty small. On December 13th the WWOOFers all trekked to the church in Björklinge for the concert in honour of St. Lucia. One distracting thought that kept pestering me as the girls walked by was how the girl wearing the crown of candles kept the wax from falling into her hair…

Our last day was the perfect way to finish our time on the farm. We spent the morning stomping away in a muddy field picking the last of the kale and sprouts. After lunch, we had a chance to visit the forest owned by Anders. We nicknamed it the “troll” forest because of all the spongy moss, tall trees, and dark crevasses that looked as though a troll could be lurking around every corner.

After chopping up a couple of trees, we puttered away in the tractor back to the farmstead. Karin had prepared an unbelievable salmon dinner as a farewell present. After many hugs and a few more pictures, Nathanael and I bid the farm goodbye and hoped on a bus bound for Stockholm.

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