tisdag, september 09, 2014

What a summer....

The weather this summer has been very strange I must say. Late June, around midsummer, the weather in this part of Sweden has been cold and wet. At some point there was a minimum temperature lower than the overnight low on Christmas night.
But when July started the weather became hot, dry and sunny for over one month. The forest fire in the area of Sala was a direct consequence of the weather. And then we had a pretty early arrival of ‘autumn leaves’ with the first frosty nights in the third week of August.

The results of this are clearly noticeable in our garden, of course. We have plants, like corn, which for the first time, gave results. Squash/zucchini and pumpkin on the other hand have produced not even 10% of what we harvested last year.

During the dry period I haven´t added any water to my plants. It probably had an influence, but I´m pretty sure that adding moisture would not have given much better results. Instead we did as we have learned at Yggdrasil: to make the plants stronger and let them retrieve water themselves from deeper levels below. Their roots are able to handle these "extremes" a lot better than we might expect. Of course you need to keep mulching all the time to slow down the evaporation - that goes without saying.

Now that the first leaves are falling I can say that our garden has been a great success again. I´m very glad we invested so much time during the last months in redesigning. The effect of looking at the garden, without even thinking of the results, has made me, along with many visitors, a happy person. We shouldn´t underestimate this effect of nature and what it does to mankind, to my humble opinion...

The next question for me now is what will happen if the next winter will be cold. We had an extremely warm winter and summer. Will our plants be able to deal with temperatures below -20°? We´ll see... Now time has come to slow down and harvest. Later on in September the process of analysing will become number one on our priority list…

måndag, juli 07, 2014

Climatezones in Sweden

Gardening in Sweden is just a little more complex than it is in Belgium. When you go out to buy plants in a garden centre, you will see that they are all divided into different climate zones. And if you think about how quickly the climate is changing, you will understand the importance of picking the right ones for your garden. You need to be very conscious of which types of plants to buy. Don’t go driving south to a plant shop if you count on gardening in the north of the country – it simply won’t work…

As you will see on the map, the difference between Stockholm (zone 2) and Åmot (zone 6) is rather big, while the distance covers merely 200 km. Bearing this in mind, I bought an apple and a cherry tree for climate zone 5 and a plum tree for climate zone 6, since I couldn´t find all types of trees for climate zone 6... Hard to imagine at first, since it was only 1 zone apart from ours, yet I should have known better. After almost 4 years I still have no single apple and our sweet cherry tree almost froze to death. Yet for the first time this year we have 2 plums – pretty impressing.

The seeds I used for our vegetables are a mixture of local seeds and seeds I bought in Belgium. I must say I’m very curious about the results of this little experiment. The Belgian seeds I used in the greenhouse are doing very well. The small ones we planted in our garden late May went through a very tough time midst of June. On June 21st for example, we had some minor frost so most of our delicious beans and potatoes froze. We do realise this climate is not the easiest to deal with...

söndag, juni 15, 2014

New garden design

During the last 3 years I´ve been mixing perma-culture with a more traditional style of gardening. I was looking for a smooth design first, but after 3 years I was getting bored with straight lines. So in line with one of the main designprinciples of permaculture I redesigned the garden. On the Picture you will see that I´ve moved towards a design that is closer to nature. In nature you won´t find straight lines. The spiral-looking beds are not only more fun to look at, they should also bring more energy to my garden. It is on the borders of the spirals that the most energy can be found. It is on the edges and borders that things are happening. Not only in my garden, but in all aspects in life, the marginal elements are interesting objects.

The redesigning was very intense. I noticed that after 3 years a design seems to "settle". Plants that were there since 3 years and that survived the harsh winters, are still in place. It makes no sense to re-plant them. So we had to develop the new design with these plants in place. On the old pathways we put carton and straw. On top of that came compost. In the end this resulted in 1 big bed. The next step was that we created new paths, resulting in what you see on the image.

About 2 weeks ago we started planting and today we can see the first plants coming up.
The danger with this way of working is that when the weather is dry, you need to add a lot of water. The rainwater sinks down very quickly through the compost and straw.

This new design will show its effect in the next couple of weeks. But I already know that it will take Another 1 to 2 years to settle.

Next year I hope to integrate a next area in my garden, which will make it 50% larger as today.

tisdag, maj 13, 2014

Winter or spring?

Also in Sweden the climate is changing...
 Last Winter has been one of the warmest in record, with lack of snow in many areas, many stormy Days, a very early start of spring, but also the opposite very cold weather.
In the image below you can see how strange the weather has been recently here in Åmot. While having very early spring (summer-like) weather in March and April, we had a very cold start of May. Even snow was no exception in the first 2 weeks of May.

The consequences for our garden are visable, with leaves arriving almost 2 weeks later as last year, my plants that had started growing in April, now being slowed down, etc.

I´m very glad I started using the permaculture model from the very start. It has helped me to understand the Environment I´m working and living in much better. The model hasn´t provided me with sollutiona, but it has learned to be "mindful" or to use my senses. Nature is not only a brain-thing or a feeling-thing. It is both. Using my senses and therefor growing my understanding has been the best way to deal with the changes taking Place at a very high rate.

In the next update on this blog I want to talk about how permaculture model has helped me also implement its principles in growing my business.

måndag, april 07, 2014

Silence as a product

Is it allowed to sell silence? Well that’s a difficult one... Silence, just like light or fresh air, shouldn’t be a product you have to buy, right? It is the kind of thing everyone should be able to have access to freely, at any time.
Unfortunately the way of the world has changed a lot. We have turned the world into a place where man dominates practically everything. Even deep in the Swedish forest, one can tell that people have taken over.
About a month ago, we bought 1,2 ha of forest in Åmot. We are determined: this piece of forest will get its freedom back! We won´t be cutting trees to make money, we will start selling silence instead. We understand that silence, yes even silence, has become a product now. So, one might ask, why do we do this? Why sell a ‘product’ that we believe should not be a product, yet a freely accessible (re)source to everyone?
First of all, we will not be selling silence as such. Silence is hardly the thing you can giftwrap or sell at the market, right? When we say we will be selling silence, we actually want to ‘offer’ people the opportunity to spend time in complete silence. We create the circumstances for our guests to experience the world (read: nature) without any distraction created by mankind.
Another motivation to us is the strong belief that silence is a product that can only be sold in remote areas. Åmot, a small town near the edges of the Swedish forests, doesn´t have many big assets which many other tourist destinations have. But if we think about what people are looking for when going on a holiday, we notice that silence is a hot item nowadays. Experiencing silence will be a growing trend in the next years, just because it is no longer accessible to us.
We wish to cater to people’s need, in a way that respects nature. So we fully believe in our "product" - we are doing the right thing by selling Swedish silence.
We’ll keep you posted...

tisdag, mars 11, 2014

And then spring arrived...

Compared to last year, spring arrived 2 (!) months earlier this year. All the snow and ice have melted by now (we note March 11th) and one would make the mistake to start growing vegetables right away. The garlic planted in October is popping up because of the extremely mild temperatures, so this is out of my hands of course. However, I will not start planting any seeds until the middle of May, since we are not completely safe from frost until June 15th.
But that doesn’t mean the garden planning hasn’t started. The sunlight not only stimulates the animals, it also tickles my brain to start putting into practice all these ideas that have been growing in my mind during wintertime.

I will focus more this year, not only in my garden. I will have less variety in types of vegetables, but aim for better volumes. The last 3 years we had people who wanted to buy, but couldn´t, because I was sold out... This year we really want to cater to the need of our customers.

Another plan I have, is to merge all the different zones in my garden into one.  Small pathways will make the area perfectly accessible. We would also love to expand the area where we grow our vegetables by  40%.

Last but not least, I wish to increase my livestock (hens) by 150%. The hen house was built for many more!  The buy-in of 3 new hens should help us in expanding our hen family.

Sam, Vera and myself will spend more time in the garden so that we will be able to store the profit better than in the recent years. Our permaculture garden has been producing much more than we could eat! So I feel it is time to use this "profit" in a better way. More about this next time!

måndag, februari 03, 2014

What a strange winter...

OK, ok, yes we have snow and ice and dull Days, but this year is very strange. We had to wait until early January to have the first real snow, but even now with almost 50 cm of snow on the ground I find this Winter very mild. The other thing is that we have had almost no sunshine, making this Winter almost the opposite of last year´s Winter.
Now that they Days are getting longer, we have gained about 3 hours of Daylight since christmas, I´m turning into a Belgian again. I need to start thinking of my garden again.
The first objectives are: Not as many different types of vegetables as last year, start using a new part of my garden and different Shapes of the beds. The good thing is that we will have volunteers working here again from May until mid August.
Another objective is to start picking more berries in the Forests. We need to build up a stock for our guests. I was inspired by a Finnish neighbour that showed me his impressive stock of blueberries.
This is why central Europeans come to Sweden and Åmot, live Close to nature including experiencing its tastes...
Maybe this Winter will lead to an explosion of fruits and vegetables later this year?