Once upon a time, a romantic couple went to Norway on honeymoon, fell in love and never went back......

This may sound like a strange thing to do but, after many years of searching, Norway was the only place we felt we could live our dream of running a small farm. So here we are.

We bought our farm at Svoen just before Christmas 2009, and, after an agonizing wait to make sure nobody else who might have prior claim on the place wanted to take the farm (complicated Norwegian law), we moved in on Norway's national day, 17th May, 2010. And so the work began.

The farm had not been run for almost twenty years, but at least part of the barn was in good enough condition to allow us to buy 25 beautiful spælsau (old Norwegian breed of sheep) in the autumn of 2010. This autumn we plan to keep a number of their ewe lambs to increase our flock. They will, I am sure, feature regularly in this blog.

We feel very privileged to be able to build up this farm again and, despite the hard work, occasional disappointments and battles against the weather, we don't regret our decision for a moment and know that it will all be worth it!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A New Year at Svoen.

Isn't it strange how we often have a completely different view of ourselves than other people do?  A while ago somebody said to me "...but you like a challenge, don't you."  This surprised me somewhat, as I had never thought of myself in this way.  I thought I was "just getting on with it", coping with whatever was thrown at me.  Perhaps the onlooker's view was a more positive interpretation of my more passive approach, or maybe they have a point.  How else can I explain the fact that not only am I in a foreign country, I am doing two entirely new jobs (farming and teaching), trying to learn to drive and taking a two-year, degree level home-learning course - all at the same time.  Of course, the other alternative is that I am completely insane!

Anyway, my conscience has prodded me into writing another blog post, not only because my second term of this home-learning course has only just started and therefore I have a little time to update my posts here, but also because it is a course in English.  One of the modules this term has a pedagogic focus, concentrating on teaching (and encouraging) writing in schools.  Apparently, to teach writing I should be an active writer myself, so here I am.  I was also heartened to read that writing is hard, or at least requires hard work; something I have always found to be true.  Although I enjoy writing, a great deal of thought and time goes into what I write.  I am a slow writer; I agonise over word choice and sentence construction, this sentence being a perfect example!  It's just taken me nearly five minutes to decide on the words to use.  Before I get much older then, on to other things...

Christmas was, as usual, lovely here at Svoen.  You will probably notice from the pictures that I enjoy decorating the house!  I have included them here because my Mum wanted to see some pictures, particularly of the outside tree.  Since my first two English modules finished just before Christmas I had a nice, long, study-free break, which gave me ample time to indulge in some small sewing projects.  For some reason these Tilda projects are highly addictive.  The results are below, along with a two-month-old knitting project, finally completed.

Lastest knitting creation - a Rowan pattern knitted in 100% wool yarn.  It actually has a knitted belt, but the ribbon was for a more festive feel!  Not as difficult as it looks; perhaps I'm getting better at knitting!

Tilda Bambi, with some of my own additions.  I used a suede-effect fabric from an old blind instead of cotton and added buttons for spots.  Since the photo was taken he also got a little bell added to his bow
These Tilda mushrooms will make good pincushions.

The sheep are residing in their winter accommodation.  We have some beautiful, coloured ewe lambs this year and are hoping for more in spring.  They'll all be having their scans soon, so we'll know how many lambs to expect in a few weeks.  As usual, we are hoping for an early spring so that we can turn the sheep and lambs out as soon as there is grass on the fields.  A hundred or so lambs and forty nine sheep all stuck inside for weeks on end will not be ideal to say the least.

At the moment, the weather is being quite kind to us.  There is very little snow on the ground (sorry, I can't help grinning as I write this), which is making me optimistic about an early spring.  This is our fifth winter here and each one has been different.  This could be the year when all the snow has gone by May... couldn't it?  Perhaps optimism is another of my hidden qualities...

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Myrna's lambs
Sheep are not stupid.  Obstinate - yes. Infuriating - often.  But not stupid.  They know how to find their way around the mountains and how to get home again, they know where the best food is and they are accomplished escapologists.

We have spent most of the summer chasing around after a small flock who were particularly insistent that the grass is always greener on the other side, and that the grass at home is certainly greener than the grass up in the mountains...where they should have been!

But I suppose you can't blame them; they are just obeying their sheep instincts.  And this is where
Billie and her three lambs
the key lies.  Just because an animal doesn't do what we want it to, doesn't mean it is stupid.  Our demands are probably the exact opposite of what their instincts are telling them.  Perhaps if we tried to understand their behaviour and communicate in their language, life would be easier for all concerned.
Pretty ram lambs

This seems to be a popular approach with horses, dogs and even cats these days.  "But you're talking about sheep" I hear you say.  It did come as a surprise to me that sheep would follow you for a bucket of nuts and come when you whistled, but it's true.  Many of my sheep love to come for a cuddle and a good scratch under their chests.  They even wiggle their tails and close their eyes with pleasure.  Some of the cheekier ones even tap you with their front leg if they think you aren't giving them enough attention.  All true!

So you see, I get as much pleasure from being with my sheep as I do from being with any other domestic animal.  Well, most of the time.......

Monday, August 26, 2013

Peter and the Porsche.

Vintage tractor charm.

Glossing over the fact that it is over a year since I last posted, I shall continue seamlessly with this next post.  Summer is silo time and while the sheep holiday in the mountains we make their winter feed.  I am relieved to say that as of today we have finished this daunting task.  The barn is filled with hay and tasty dried birch leaf snacks, and the added bonus is that Chloe the cat will smell of summer the whole winter after making a cosy nest in the hay.  As the above pictures suggest, Peter had fun using his newly restored vintage tractor to help with the job.

We had a very successful lambing in spring and the plan is to keep more lambs to bring the total number of ewes up to fifty.  Are we mad? Perhaps. I'll let you know next spring when we have 100 plus lambs bouncing around!  Nearly half of the girls have returned from the mountains already, having been disgusted with what has passed for a summer this year.  We still have the other half to bring back, so no doubt there will be plenty of sheep pictures in the next post.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spring at Svoen; truly an example of the triumph of hope over experience!  I have always looked forward to spring, after the grey and dreary English winter, however I cannot describe to those of you not snow-bound throughout the winter months, the joy when the white blanket finally begins to recede. The first snowdrops in April are a welcome sight.  Not at Svoen, I hasten to add, but perhaps in the future I will be able to persuade a little colony to survive.  As signs of life begin to appear, you allow yourself to hope that now, spring is really here.  Unfortunately, this year extra snowfalls around Peter's birthday in the middle of April, and again at the beginning of May have put us behind somewhat.  Low temperatures (some days no more than 3 degrees) have meant that the grass is reluctant to grow, so the sheep and their lambs are still incarcerated in the barn.  I'm not sure who will be the happiest when they get turned out; them or us!

As release day for the sheep arrives, I thought I would post some pictures of the lambs.  Generally it all went very well this year, with the minimum of casualties.  We now have some nice lambs who spend their time skipping up and down the feed passage and playing leapfrog with each other.  It will be so nice to see them playing outside finally. 

Kay being very patient!

Now that the snow has gone we have been very busy burning branches and generally tidying up after cutting down the fir trees at the side of the house.  Other projects include ditching and fencing, so we will once again have a very busy spring/summer ahead of us.  For me, there are only another five weeks of school term left, and I am looking forward to the long summer holiday.  Still, no rest for the wicked.....

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's been a while since my last update; the first of April already!  Winter is not a particularly exciting time progress-wise.  There's not a great deal can be done outside with everything underneath one and a half metres of snow.  We have been lucky this winter to have a metre less snow than last year, but our hopes of an earlier spring have been dashed by a new delivery of snow this weekend.  Perhaps the weather gods are playing an April Fools joke on us?

In sheep news, at the end of January the girls had a scan to see how many lambs they are having.  It might sound a little odd, but it's definitely worth knowing for all kinds of practical, economical and other farmer-y reasons.  They've also had their winter shearing and their immunisations, and we're now a week away from the first ones lambing.  Most of the sheep are having two lambs, so we should be very busy over the next month.

Just before Christmas the house (first stage) was completed.  We've also finished cutting down the enormous fir trees at the side of the house, so already it feels like a completely new place!  My Easter project is now painting the window frames inside (among other things).

 The huge storm we had on Christmas Day, when we lost the electricity for nearly two days, sealed the fate of the fir trees.  The risk of one or more of them falling over in a storm and smashing through the house was too great, so down they came.

Despite the loss of the trees we're getting a lot of visitors to the bird feeder, which I can watch from the kitchen window.  We have daily visits by bluetits, great tits and coal tits, as well as occasional visits by chaffinches, greenfinches, jays and a robin.

Winter is also a good time to get on with some arts and crafts, so I have been making good use of my time.  Here is a collection of my projects.
A Rowan pattern I've had my eye on for ages.

Knitting project: a challenge in cable and lace patterns.

Leftover wool project.

"Tilda" sewing projects.
My own invention: a Bo Peep angel.
The 1950s sewing angel, minus accessories.

Full collection including sewing case, pin cushion and scissors case (my own invention).

Well, I must get on with painting the window frames now.  Downstairs is all complete, but I need to finish upstairs now.  Happy Easter, or, god påske.  Perhaps it might even stop snowing......

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Christmas

Christmas is a time for traditions, and making a new life here in Norway has brought about our very own, new Yuletide traditions; a kind of "Norglish" Christmas.  Whilst we simply can't open our presents until Christmas day, we have embraced the Norwegian tradition of Advent candles, where a new one is lit each of the four Sundays in Advent, and Advent stars, hung in the windows to illuminate the depths of mid-winter.  Though mincepies and traditional Christmas cake are still a must, so too is the Norwegian riskrem and pepperkake (a rice pudding and cream dessert served with raspberry sauce, and gingerbread with black pepper added to the mix, respectively).  Cranberry sauce is replaced by lingonberry (tyttebær) sauce, and I'm really trying to like cloudberries.  Along with the essential roast potatoes we have also adopted the traditonal Norwegian vegetable accompaniments of kålrotstappe and rødkål.  This, coupled with being able to go out and cut one's own Christmas tree, a roaring log fire and real snow, in my opinion combine to create the perfect blending of traditions for the perfect Yule or jul!  I hope you enjoy your own traditions and have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.  God jul og godt nytt år!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October.  Don't be fooled by the pictures here; it has rained practically none stop for the past week, but a day like today was the perfect opportunity to take a few snaps.  As you will notice, Sandfjell has a sprinkling of snow already, so we are both relieved that all the sheep are home.
A pastoral scene.

Many years ago, I used to watch the television programme All Creatures Great and Small, and recent events have put me in mind of the episode which features the pig farmer who cries every time he sends one of his pigs to slaughter.  A few weeks ago we delivered eleven of the biggest lambs and, I have to say, it was a very tearful experience for me.  Although I appreciate that this is the life of a sheep farmer, in my defense, they were our first ever lambs and I do find it very difficult not to be moved by their liquid brown eyes.  The rest are due to go during next week and I anticipate a similar reaction!  We do however still have nine ewe lambs, and today they went back outside to join their mothers after a brief separation.

 Constance at the front as usual.

All together again.

Today was also an exciting day for our ram John (Rambo), as he was introduced to his new cell mate, as yet nameless.

John and friend.

In non-sheep related news, we are looking forward to having a warmer house this winter when we get two sides of the house insulated and re-cladded.  My main job at the moment (besides teaching and looking after Peter) is painting the boards, which are all down in the cellar.  We are both sick of the smell of paint I can tell you!  The colour is rather attractively, if somewhat inaccurately, named "Dark Moss" (i.e. green) and the window frames are going to be "Lily-of-the-Valley" (white with a tinge of green), but unfortunately it will be next spring before they are painted.  Of course, pictures will follow when there is enough progress worth looking at!

It is now the start of half-term, so I am looking forward, if not to getting a rest, at least to not having to get up at six in the morning for a whole week.  Peter has taken a weeks holiday too so perhaps by my next posting we will be rejuvenated and relaxed.  Here's hoping!
Autumn in the mountains - pre snow.