Monday, May 30, 2011
We took a brief train to Malmo, and then transferred onto the inter-city train for a roughly 6 hour ride to Stockholm, which I used to sleep on. Sadly, there was no internet so I couldn't work, which was my first plan, but I haven't been sleeping that well since we left Canada, so it was good to get a few extra hours along the way.
We got into Stockholm at about 2 and walked to our hostel, which is on Gamla Stan, right in the midst of Old Town. It's a gorgeous city and a lovely hostel with several kitchens (and free pasta!), decent internet, and bunk beds tucked up and around cute rooms with exposed brick and some ancient beams--the building dates back to the 1400s! The hostel itself is an absolute warren, spanning three not-so-connected floors and with several rooms all over the place. It's quite lovely though, and if you need a cheap place to stay in Stockholm, I'd definitely recommend 'The Best Hostel Old Town'--they're even offering us free breakfast tomorrow.
We spent some time walking around looking for an ATM, and then further time walking around to find the ferry ticket office so that Hoka could pay for her reservation. While none of that was tourist-ing per se, it was a great chance to explore the city by foot, and also enjoy the first hot sunny day we've seen in ages. It was 20º and I was in a tank top and loving it!
We've all agreed we love Stockholm so far, and much more than Copenhagen. I wish we had more time here, but I've loved walking around in the older areas, with the great old buildings, looking at all the water (it's 14 islands linked by bridges) and enjoying the vibe of another proper city. This is definitely one where we got off the train and had an instant good feeling about it.
People are super friendly, too--Cecilia befriended a street performer who was playing a song she liked on her guitar and we chatted with her for a bit, and a random guy helped us find a bank--just little things, but people are generally lovely here. Lots of cute dogs, too!
For dinner, we took advantage of the free pasta and bought some chorizo sausages, sauce, and an onion for a delicious dinner in the hostel--one of the kitchens has big windows overlooking one of the rivers (canals?) it was lovely!
Tomorrow we have a big day planned: I'm getting up early to work, we are going to the Palace (Europe's largest that is still in use, with 608 rooms), the art museum, and then to our ferry, which leaves at 5pm and takes us to Riga.
Today was our single day in Copenhagen, and we were fairly busy! Neither of us slept exceptionally well, which isn’t entirely surprising given that we were bunked up with 60 other people who didn’t go to bed entirely, ever. We’re hoping tonight, given that it isn’t Saturday, we might get a little bit more sleep. Either way, we’ll be up at 6 to go to the train station, so it doesn’t really matter.
Anyway, this morning we were up by 8 and made some oatmeal before setting off for a canal tour of the city, which was a great way to start the day. We took an hour long, guided tour, for about 7$ each, and got a great overview of the city, seeing the old Stock Exchange, Parliament Buildings, opera house, theatre, new harbour (well new as in 1700s), lots of cute little houses, etc. After it finished, at around 11:30, we got a couple of souvenirs and then headed back to the hostel in search of Hoka, who was nowhere to be seen. She’d been having train delay issues, and since yesterday we had to go to a different hostel, and our internet wasn’t great, and the number I had for her wasn’t working, so we were a little worried about whether or not we’d end up seeing her at all.
We went back to the hostel and cooked ourselves lunch, and then tried to hunt Hoka down to no avail, so we left her a note on our bed and on facebook and via the front desk, and set off to climb to the top of Our Saviour’s Church, which we’d seen on our boat tour. It’s a gorgeous dark tower with a gold ball on the top, and a gold spiral staircase that wraps around the tower. We were about half way there when we saw Hoka from across an intersection. I yelled her name and she was rather relieved to have seen us as our frantic Facebook messages hadn’t reached her on her overnight train and she didn’t entirely know where we had ended up.
We took her back to our hostel to get her checked in and drop her bags off, and then started back towards the tower. It was a lovely climb and we got an amazing view of the city from the top, it was gorgeous and really cool to look down on all of the red-roofed buildings and see some of the buildings and statues we had learned about during our earlier canal tour. The climb up the tower also took us through the church bell tower, which was pretty cool to see, and up some very twisty windy wooden steps. It was lovely!
We then walked via an amazing bakery where we split a loaf dessert cake thing that was vaguely like a chocolate croissant, but huge. We continued our long wander of the surrounding area by checking out the sites of the Ameliaborg Palace, which was essentially several lovely buildings surrounding a huge square, patrolled by guards who looked very much like the British Beefeaters, but in navy blue as opposed to red.
We walked back to the hostel for dinner and then headed back out to Tivoli Gardens, which is the world’s second-oldest amusement park, or something like that. It’s a very charming midway-esque place built around a gorgeous park/garden complex that has several theatres/pantomime spaces/restaurants, shops, etc. It was a grey and windy Sunday, so not so many people were about, and there were no concerts or pantomimes going on, but we still spent a pleasant enough few hours walking around and taking it in. I could see how it would be magical on a Saturday afternoon with good weather, though. Cecilia was the only one of us brave enough to go on the big coaster, which had a couple of loop-d-loops, but she enjoyed it very much and we liked watching her cars go flying around the tracks. We tried to feed some carp, but the pushy birds got in the way, and other than that we mostly just walked around and didn’t go on rides or eat or anything. It’s a very charming place and you can easily imagine what it might have been like when it opened back in 1894.
After that it was back to the hostel to make plans for tomorrow and then head to sleep fairly soon, what with our multiple roommates and 5:45am wakeup call. Lovely!
Overall, I think we both liked Copenhagen and would have liked a bit more time here, though our wallets are happy that the Scandinavian part of our trip is going to be a quick one! It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I realized that I had let my idea of what Scandinavian design is now influence what I thought the city would be like, which is a bit silly given that it is nearly 1000 years old. I loved the canals though and the old buildings and cobblestone streets and the fact it has three times as many people in the city as Iceland does in its entirety. I’m looking forward to our first taste of long-distance European train travel tomorrow as well as 24 hours in Stockholm before we get on our ferry and head over to Riga to do workaway again.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
As ‘promised,’ we were woken by the Captain at 6:30 this morning, who reminded us that we required to leave our cabin by 7am. Yuck. We crawled out of bed and had gotten half way out of our room by 7:05, which wasn’t early enough for housekeeping, who all but kicked us out.
We took our bags down by where we’d be getting off, and settled in to wait, making a sign that said ‘we are two girls looking for a ride to Copenhagen. Please let us know if you’d like to help.’ While it didn’t get us a ride right off the bat, we did meet a lovely older couple from Cologne and had a nice chat with them. They weren’t headed in our direction or I think they would have taken us. We got off the ferry around 9 and were plopped into the most boring industrial port ever. And again, no customs just like in the Faeroes. We aren’t doing too well with getting our passports stamped! We decided to take our ‘Copenhagen’ sign to where all of the cars were driving off (we really didn’t want to spend 70$ on a train ticket and we’d read hitching in Denmark is considered safe and easy), put our thumbs out, and looked hopeful. After several members of the motorcycle club that were on the ferry jokingly offered us rides on the back of their bikes, a man in a truck with a trailer pulled up and offered us a ride. He was really nice, if quiet, and we had an uneventful ride with him for about five hours—he took us most of the way to Copenhagen, which was great. He lived in Denmark for 20 years, but is back in the Faeros now, with 1.5, 14, and 20 year-old children. I think he was a contractor or something similar to that.
We were laughing as we had started in Hirtshals, which is the VERY north of the country, and were aiming for the very bottom of the East coast. It was basically tantamount to walking off a ferry in Victoria, holding out a sign saying ‘St. John’s’ and hoping for the best. After he dropped us off at a big gas station/rest stop 70km out of Copenhagen, we had a brief snack and then headed back out to the road for another ride. It was only about 10 minutes before we got picked up again, and this time taken to within a 15 minute ride of the city centre. It was funny as the guy didn’t speak English, German, French, or Japanese, which are the languages we can offer, and our Danish is pretty shite, so we managed to say ‘chugga chugga choo choo’ and get dropped off at a station. 8$, four stops, and some free wifi on the train later, we were at the central Copenhagen Station. Not a bad price for traveling roughly 600km across the country! Probably the end of our hitching career, though, since we’re leaving Scandinavia soon and too chicken/smart to hitch into eastern Europe, as tempting as all of these free rides might be!
We figured out where our hostel was, and set off, wandering for around 25 minutes through the city with our fairly big packs before we discovered that the hostel we had wanted to stay in was fully booked. We had chosen not to book anything in Copenhagen because we hadn’t known if we’d been getting out of Iceland, and then hadn’t been near a computer with internet, so we didn’t have a bed, oops. The woman in that hostel was really nice and called a couple of close hostels for us, so we ended up walking to City Youth Hostel, where for about 23$ a night, we are the proud renters of bunks in a 66-bed (!) mixed dorm. It’s somewhat like staying in a semi-permanent shelter in a high school, but it should be OK for two nights. As a bonus, there was a free pot of newly-cooked and very tasty pot of spaghetti in the kitchen! Almost makes up for the 8$ diet coke I accidentally bought tonight. Sadly, the wifi is down so we’ve had very limited internet access all around. We did end up going to a café with wifi, but I didn’t have very much battery power, so we really only had time to book a ferry ticket to get to Riga and fail at booking our train tickets for Monday (I don’t think it like our Canadian cards). Back at the hostel, I downloaded some photos and wrote this for later posting—we’ll be getting an early start tomorrow as it’s our only day in the city, so I should probably get going…
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
We did our last morning cow chores this morning, with nothing too exciting that I can remember, and then found out we were going to to Dun Haghi (the other farm) for breakfast. They are such sweethearts over there and we had a lovely breakfast! There was salmon and cream cheese on this funny slightly-sweet, slightly puffy bread they have here (which I avoided thanks to the salmon), but there was also this really amazing baked bread/egg/herb thing, which was a bit like a savoury bread pudding or something, I'm not entirely sure how to describe it. We had chunks of it on bread with homemade jam, and it was delicious! She also made hot chocolate on the stove with fresh cream; lovely! They are such a sweet couple and we gave them one of the postcards from home we are using as thank you cards, and asked them to come visit us :)
Then it was back to our farm to string a semi-permanent electric fence around about two acres of grass immediately surrounding the house. It was pretty easy since they have corner posts that live there year-round, and some that go through a little forest (where we discovered a tire swing!) so we just had to fill in the blanks with the plastic electric sticks. Plus we had new wire, which meant that nothing got tangled, and our hands didn't die a slow death from little bits of wire peeling off the main strand.
The weather was finally much nicer today, too, so we put the mares in so that the stud could come out for some playtime and then headed in for lunch.
After lunch we bundled up all of the kids and grabbed our cameras to head out to put the cows out to pasture for the afternoon. This was pretty much the most hilarious thing ever! We were given sticks asnd areas to guard, and tried not to die laughing as the excited, bucking, cantering, udder-swinging bovines came popping out of the milk barn and then circled and butted and frolicked around in confusion. A cantering herd of milk cows, udders a flapping, is quite the site! After quite some time we got them all in their field and secured and then Cecilia and I were allowed to pick two of our favourite horses and go for a couple of rides, which was really nice--we wanted to get some last-minute tolting in! It's so much easier to go riding here. We haul a saddle and a bridle down to the paddock, and one brush, catch the ponies in their bridles and tell them to stay (they do). A quick brushing, saddles on, and off we go. We stored the curry combs in the mail boxes to avoid them getting stolen by the puppies (who steal EVERYTHING) but we just realised we may have left them in there by accident. Oops! That will be a surprise for someone when they check the mail next haha.
I took Emil first, who I've been horse-handling at the pony rides and he was great, as usual, especially his lovely canter, which has so much power, but only when you want it. Our second ride wasn't quite as fun because Loki, who I was on, and Mynt, who Cecilia was riding, both decided to be a little bit 'up' and so it wasn't such a relaxing ride, especially when Cecilia's stirrup fell off her saddle and Mynt decided that would be a good moment to get jumpy. Compared to lots of horses at home, this was absolutely nothing, but compared to the perfect horses we have gotten spoiled with here it was a bit of a surprise to see them spook and feel them be a little bit tense. To be fair, they've been cooped up inside or on grass or going for wild gallops through hill and dale and standing around in -5 weather until today, when it warmed way up, to maybe 8? It was lovely!
As we were walking back down to turn Loki out, we noticed a long stream of cows wandering sedately down the road. Our cows. All 26 of them had decided to wander out of their fence (the hot wire one we had just built) and go walk about. Since this wasn't our fault, and there were no Loppa dogs on the case, we died laughing before we went to get sticks to try and herd them home. There is no funnier sight than a bunch of middle aged lady cows wandering down the street, especially when one of them is walking down the street humping the other, and an SUV is trying to get through. It was made even funnier when one car that had to drive through the herd was the neighbour who told us we'd broken his fence. He gave us the most 'omg you useless girls' look, it was sooo funny! We were trying to run down the road after them, but laughing so hard we could barely breathe.
B was out and about in the tractor, and he raced down the road after them and drove through the herd, turned around, and started honking to get them to head home. We got them into the cow barn OK, but then we had to play a good game of moooo-cow duck-duck-goose to get them all re homed correctly in their tie stalls. A couple of them went 'home' automatically, but a good bunch of them completely lost the plot, and I said they looked like the most disorganised school group I'd ever seen! We divided and conquered, taking one cow between one or two of us and beat/herded/pulled/pushed/willed and cajoled the stupid things into their homes before petting them and clipping them back in. It was completely hilarious and ridiculous and took far longer than it should have. We discovered that cows can't run on slick concrete too well and were treated to some entertaining Eeyore on Iceskates moments.
After we'd collected our cows and our breath, we headed up for snack and then went down, nearly two hours late, for cow chores. With everyone doing it, it didn't take too long, and I had time to take photos of most of the chores for a post I'm hoping to do on 'what exactly are the cow chores' soon.
We had dinner of hotdogs, which are very Icelandic (no, actually), and then watched Rocky Horror Picture Show with B. It was the first time I'd seen it, but I'll have to watch again, as I kept falling asleep. While we were busy with that, we washed our cow clothes twice, and while they are still drying, they seem to be back to their original colors, which is a minor miracle--they were pretty grim after 20 days of cow chores without a wash. T said my pants could stand up on their own, which probably wasn't too far off!
I'm getting a start on packing tonight, but will finish in the morning once our clothes are dry, and then we head out at 7:30 to catch an 8:30am bus--we hope. Right now some passes are closed between us and the ferry due to snow and so we might not be able to get there. The ferry is in port, but they aren't letting people off it until they clear the roads because of all the cars coming over having summer tires and whatnot. So tomorrow is generally a bit up in the air, but we are hoping for CALM wind and water and no snow so we can head over to Copenhagen as planned!
I may not have internet for the next couple of days, but we'll see how things go.
Monday, May 23, 2011
We did our chores (including moving the ponies successfully) and headed up to the house and after breakfast just did some laundry and cleaned tack, and then had lunch, which was yummy meat stew and potatoes and rice. And a bowl of cereal just for good measure haha.
We were given some time off, which I used to work on something for Toryn, send some work emails, and watch Friends with Cecilia, and then we took oldest to soccer and in the hour he was there, we stocked up on anti-nausea medication for C for the ferry (given the weather here we are getting a little worried!), I picked up a used book for the ferry, and picked up lots of food for our trip. I'm going to be very disappointed if I'm too seasick to eat my skyr! At this point, though, the pass to the town where the ferry leaves from is closed and we're not entirely sure what we will do if it hasn't opened back up again by Wednesday. Perhaps a few more days here or a few days at the barley farm. We'll play it by ear over the next 24 hours and then make a plan depending on what is going on with the weather.
After we got back from town it was time for snack and then cow chores. We did the first half of it and then b and t did all the milking so that we could build a new horse fence in the minus five degree snow and wind. With all the clothing I was wearing (three pairs of pants, two shirts, 2 fleeces, a jacket, 2 buffs, a toque and gloves) I was actually warm, which was a small miracle.
During cow chores Cecilia was getting followed around by a new calf that was butting our legs and sides looking for milk. She followed c around at every step, which was pretty cute, if a little annoying.
We also saw youngest inadvertently giving one of the puppies what can only be described as a blow job. She had the puppy flopped over on his back and was kissing him and blowing raspberries all over his little puppy penis. It was absolutely hilarious and we tried not to laugh too hard in front of her, because I don't think she had any idea what she was doing.
After chores we came up for a light dinner and then basically stayed hunkered down during the wind and sideways snow we've been, um, enjoying.
Tomorrow we are building fences and moving cows, who apparently will 'explode' if they go out in the sun, so it's good that it will cloudy tomorrow.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Our first stop was the nature baths, which were the main purpose of our visit. It was quite pretty but snowing sideways, which isn't exactly the weather you want when you are visiting a hotsprings! Our muscles were so excited for the chance to relax a bit in the supposedly-healing waters that we weren't going to say no, though! It was a bit strange in the lagoon, as they had a couple of hot water output pipes running into it from the borehole they get it from, I guess, and if you got close to them, it was absolutely boiling, but if you got too far away it was pretty cool, and since the wind was blowing something fierce, it was hard to stay/find/keep in a good position. Eventually we found a relatively protected small lagoon that was pretty good, and then we finally discovered the hot tub, which was lagoon water, but in a man-made, temperature-controlled concrete tub, and sat in there for awhile, which was lovely.
Once we were finally thoroughly cooked, we got dressed again and headed to a little cafe for a snack, hoping to find Geysir Bread, which is a specialty bread baked underground using only the heat of the geothermal energy in the area to bake it. We ended up at a cute little place called the cowshed cafe, which from the outside doesn't look like much at all, but is a lovely little cafe and giftshop that they have recently re-done on the inside. They are nestled near the lake and have tons of windows to take advantage of their gorgeous view. One of the windows is in the gift shop and looks out into their cow barn, which is quite funny. We were saying that a month ago we would have been excited to see the cows and go meet them, but today we just tried to figure out how milking system worked as compared to ours.
We did indeed find the bread, which is thick and moist, and dark, and had a little bit of it with mozzarella from their own milk and tomatoes and a side salad, it was quite lovely. By that point the snow had stopped and things were brightening up a bit, so we got instructions on how to get to the nearby crater you can see from miles around (Hverfall), and drove through some very surreal volcanic surroundings to get to it. We took the 'easy' trail to get up, and while we made it just fine, it was still a pretty decent hike to the top of the crater. It was basically just a tromped-down path up the side of the volcanoe, and we were laughing that at home there would be rails and warning signs and pay parking and info boards and here we were basically just turned loose. It was shaped roughly as you would expect a volcano to be, and according to one of the brochures we picked up, it's a Tephra crater, which is quite a rare type, but occurs quite often in this particular area. We took some pictures but were getting pretty wind-blown, so we didn't stay up there for too long before heading back down to our car.
Next up it was over to some crazy lava formations at Dimmuborgir that we walked around in. A totally surreal Middle-Earth like place where the Icelandic Yule Lads live. We weren't at all surprised to be warned to avoid trolls and elves in this area, you could completely imagine how some little creature might pop out of a volcanic cave.
After that, we decided to complete our day in Mytvan by heading to Krafla, where you can see bubbling lava, but we ended up going onto a mountain pass on our road that was pretty snowy, and deciding not to send the station wagon sliding off the road, so we turned around before we got there, at a huge geothermal power plant that we happened along. Between the snow, black and white landscape, and huge industrial steaming plant, it was all very end of the earth/apocolyptic, and I was pretty happy to get out of there. We stopped at an info point to take a quick photo of some steaming earth kind of nearby, and then headed home.
On the way back, we stopped at Detifoss, which is Europe's most powerful waterfall. It was pretty funny as we approached it, there was a gorgeous view from the highway, and so we stopped, on the middle of a one lane bridge, turned on the flashers, and took our photo out of the window. Of course, that was the minute a car decided to turn up (the highway is always super quiet!) so I had to quickly start and get off the bridge, but it was probably my best start all day.
The waterfall was gorgeous, but we are so spoiled in Canada that it wasn't exceptionally impressive in size, but it is lovely and it was very pretty! After that we finished driving back to Akureryi and put 40$ worth of gas in the car, which only got us 16L of gas!
On the way back to the farm we stopped to look at the local church where B and T's family go. It was very cute and very pretty nestled in the valley. We had a look around the church and through the graveyard, which seemed to start with people born in the mid 1800s and then headed towards home. We actually kept going past the farm and parked at the side of the road about a mile up to do a couple of walks we had wanted to do for a while-one up to a waterfall on the side of the road which was really pretty, and then in the bottom of the valley we walked past an old sheep corral made out of volcanic rock, and then down to a river that runs through the valley.
Back home around 10, we had time to chat with Toryn for a bit, and then off to bed. Only two more days of farm chores to go!
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Anyway, today started with the discovery that there was a new calf down in the barn, who had just been born overnight and who is quite drunk on her feet still. Very cute even though her mom is a bit of a biatch!
After morning chores we came up for breakfast and then T asked us to move the ponies from their stall back to their permanent paddock (as opposed to the one we keep rebuilding every other day) and build a new fence for them to graze in. This would have been easier had there not been heavy plastic from the roundbales all over the barn floor, and a huge tractor in the door, leaving us exactly only pony's width and two people trying to move six horses. In the end, I took one horse through and then Cecilia put the reigns over the heads of the next three horses, slapped their bums, and sent them to me to snag as they walked through the door. I was holding four horses as she backed Osk through, while leading another pony. Osk managed to wrap her hind leg up in plastic and didn't even flinch, or really seem to notice for that matter. And no one spooked at the massive tractor or walking over the plastic. Amazing horses!
We were also put in charge of sorting a pile of socks about as big as we are, which took the better part of an hour; some of the kids have the same socks in different sizes, which was confusing, and there were just soooooo many. Like a ridiculous game of memory!
But all in all an easy morning, and after a couple of hours we came in for lunch--sausage patties and mashed potatoes, which was great! We had a couple of hours to clean some more tack and watch Friends, and then it was time for snack and afternoon cow chores.
We were all eager to get done as C and I were going out, and B and T had a birthday party to get to, but of course the best laid plans...
T asked Cecilia and I to take the ponies from the permanent paddock into the new paddock, which is basically in the grassy verge across the road from the farm. We usually use a system of non-electrified hot wire to make a pathway for the horses to follow, but we didn't have enough wire, and it was looking a bit iffy for us to get them in their paddock from the start. I was going to open the gate and let them out, driving them towards C, and then she was going to funnel them into their paddock. But then Loppa, the over-enthusiastic loose cannon of a collie got involved and all hell broke seriously loose. Not knowing where exactly to go, and with a herding snapping canine at their hocks they all took off galloping into the neighbours' field, and sprinted around and around a couple of times before heading back to us, or so we thought. As we prepared to divert them into our paddock, they completely ignored us and kept galloping out one gate and across a driveway into another field we hadn't even noticed, Loppa still in hot pursuit.
At this point we were alternating between hysterical laughter and bellowing at Loppa so loudly it was bouncing off the mountains on the other side of the valley, but she was completely and utterly ignoring us. After a couple of laps of this second, also very large field, they bolted back into the first field for another lap and then eventually came back. C was trying to keep them from going back into the second big field and in the process convinced them not to come through the gate at all, but with Loppa at their heels, they decided it would be a good idea to go over/through the fence and then home, with the exception of two ponies. One who stayed where the grass was, being circled by Loppa, and one who actually ended up, by some miracle, where it was supposed to be. We looked at everyone in the paddock and to our great relief no one seemed to be lame or spurting blood, but right then a neighbour showed up and was unimpressed as he told us we had destroyed his fence. Oops. I finally had a chance to get T at that point, and was somewhat terrified of what her reaction would be, but she just said 'Loppa was not tied up?' and came to help us move the horses. We both apologised after and she just smiled and said 'it's not a problem. shit happens.' It sure does! Turns out the fence is B's, because he leases that land anyway, so we can still have tomorrow off, and we'll fix it on Monday.
We realised that between us, T, and the 9 year old, this is the fifth time one or more horses has been lose in like six days. Things here are different when it comes to ponies!
T and B went off to their birthday party with the cow that they are giving as a present, and apparently made a bow to put on him, we're hoping for photos! As for us, we took advantage of it being Saturday and not having cows to do tomorrow in order to go into Akureryi to what is quickly becoming our favourite cafe for dessert and then downstairs to the attached pub to see a father/daughter band combo. They were good and the pub was great--really cute and relaxed, and Cecilia's Viking-brand beer came out of a saxaphone!
Here's the daughter doing something solo:
They were good fun :)
We got home just before B and T, who told us that the cow had gone over well, even though it peed all over the floor in the house as they were presenting it, and now we're off to bed, as we're heading to the hotsprings tomorrow and we don't want to get *too* late a start.
Friday, May 20, 2011
We did the cow chores this morning with nothing too exciting to report, and then headed back up to the house for oatmeal. After we'd cleared the table, Cecilia hesitantly asked what the plan was for this morning and we both nearly fell over with shock when T told us we could do whatever we wanted to until it was time to pick up the youngest two from kindergarten at 1.
We watched two episodes of Friends and then both managed to shower AND wash our hair for the first time in a scarily long time, before heading off to the local pool we've been wanting to try for days. My back is such a mess that breathing was painful yesterday and I'm desperate to loosen it up, so we figured the hot tub would be a good idea. That was cut short, though, when we realised that A) the pool is only for the school until 5pm and B) outside. We didn't feel like hot tubbing in the snow, so we went into town and looked into bus tickets to get east for our ferry on Wednesday, and then went for lunch at the same cafe we went to last time we ate in Akueryi. This time we were there early enough for the lunch buffet special, which was so good! For about 9.50 Cdn we got salad (greens!), cream of cauliflower soup, several types of bread, and a lightly curried pasta. It was all amazing! It was also pretty cool as we ran into the couple from the pony ride farm--we're practically locals, apparently!
We zipped over to school to pick up the littles and put 10$ worth of gas in the car, which didn't even move the gauge--at 2.39 a litre, it really wouldn't!
We got back to the farm and left the three youngest (the one with the broken arm had another day off school today) up in the house while we went down to the barn to watch Friends, eat cookies, and clean tack for a couple of hours. It was a pleasant way to spend the day, tucked up in the office with the kittens and the snow coming down outside.
At 3:30ish, we drove oldest to soccer, in one of the most beautiful complexes! You go into a team building with the changerooms and everything, and then take a tunnel into an indoor, full-sized rubber-based turf. It is amazing! There were tons of kids training and the level of play seemed really good, nice fast soccer. I SO wanted to get out there!
We couldn't stay too long, though, as we had cows to do, so we headed home, fed the three we'd left behind (only here could a 9-y-old with a broken arm take care of the 6 and 4 year olds!) and then went down to start chores. When T came down, she brought youngest with her, and while we waited for T to do the hay (the cows get fed with hay she delivers by tractor) we had a great time climbing around on the round bales with youngest and Loppa, the collie mum. Youngest jumped on her pony, Osk, and lounged around and stood on her back, all while Osk was loose in a stall with 6 other ponies trying to eat her supper. Remarkable. I want to vault on her little 4-beat canter so badly! Chores took ages today, but they were fun since we got to play and I got to feed the calf. It would normally be old enough to 'graduate' to the sheep and calf pen where it would have an automatic milker, but it is a birthday present for a neighbour tomorrow, and we're trying to keep it clean.
We got back to the house around 8 to discover B singing and BBQing in the snow, which seemed somehow exactly what B would do, and had a great dinner. We checked in with Toryn via skype, who was sunbathing and also BBQing, but without the snow, and I'm heading to bed soon. No idea what is in store tomorrow during the day, but T is trying to organise a night out for Cecilia and me tomorrow--two neighbouring farms have girls staying with them right now, one from Switzerland and one from Denmark, and the four of us are meant to meet up in the evening.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
"Hey B, we found your horses!" She called over to him as he milked. His response was basically along the lines of 'well that's good. They were there when I got home at 2am." He'd been out so late because poor second-oldest did indeed break her elbow yesterday and had to have surgery and get pins put in. She and T spent the night at the hospital.
After we finished cleaning cows, B sent us up to the house early to eat breakfast and then get ready for riding--there were pony rides this morning. We ate quickly and layered up for a brisk mid-May tolt down the road. I wore a black unitard, knee-high socks, spandex leggings, more knee high socks, MEC pants, jodhpur boots, a long sleeved t, a short sleeved t, a light sweater, a long sleeved fleece, a sleeveless vest, a helly hansen windbreaker, gloves, a buff, and a toque and it was just about right as we headed out into the blowing snow and hail. We drove the SUV down to where the ponies had put themselves and collected our two horses that we needed for pony rides. B was pretty funny as he goes 'be careful. they are out of their safety zone.' and then rustled a plastic bag of bread at them. We grabbed our two and tacked them up from the back of the car and then headed off to the next farm, feeling very Iclelandic indeed as we travelled along the windswept road. Amazing ponies though! We are falling in love with these little horses.
Pony rides were good, and luckily short given the weather. We met a kid named Emil, which was notable since the horse I was handling was also named Emil, and the kid had been riding him at the farm every year for five years. The mom, who spoke good English, confessed that they thought he would be dead by now. Poor guy is only 18 and has plenty of spunk left in him!
We rode the horses home and put them out in their un-destroyed paddock. They were a little perturbed to be separated from the rest of the herd, whom we had left at the neighbours until further notice.
It was about 11am at this point and B was in town picking up the girls, so C and I sat down on our bed and thought we would rest for 'just five minutes' and then looked at the clock again to discover that it was 2pm. It was the best sleep I've had since we left Canada, and we both needed it so badly! B and the kids were still out when we woke up, and second-oldest (A) was watching Toy Story while T was napping (super woman needs a break too! amazing!) so C and I had a light lunch and fed A, then bundled back up and went to collect the ponies. We took an armload of headstalls with us and hiked down the road, where C used her horse whispering skills to collect us four ponies to lead back. Once we hiked back again, the four that were left were glued to the gate, wondering where their buddies had gone. One of the puppies, red dog, came with us, and was so windswept he was walking like he was drunk. Very cute!
Once we got all of the horses back from the next farm we got called in for a snack, which was 'feel better chocolate cake' and then headed down to tend to the cows, who were SO loud! We are expecting more bad weather and temperatures into the - numbers, so we shut up the barn, which included bringing all ten horses in to an area totaling maybe ten by thirty feet and collecting some lambs.
Soooo yea. Basically we were told which numbers to get, but the numbers are tiny and on their ears, and generally waved in the correct direction, at which point we lunged through their snowing, windy, muddy paddock to grab a lamb. If we had the correct one, we then went and waved it in front of its mother, to encourage the mom to follow along so that we could get the selected sheep and lambs into the barn. If this sounds too easy to be true you'd be right. Holy crap it was hard to get some of those sheep to follow us! They were totally ready to throw their lambs under the bus and let them go wherever, while running for their own lives. We got good at holding wriggling little lambs though! They are sooo cute! Eventually many of the mums got caught by the horns and hauled inside; much easier.
B had a couple to ear clip (like a brand, but cutting into the ear) and tag, which we helped with. He knew I was squeamish about holding the lamb for it, so he told me I would just be giving it to him...and then definitely made me hold it so he could cut its ear. He gave C the earring maker though, and she put a whole in a lamb's ear and tagged it. T just looked at me and went 'I guess you don't want to be here in the fall when we slaughter the lambs?' Um, no. Thanks though.
We had to bring them water, and instead of undoing the hose to fill up their bucket, as would have been logical, C decided to give me the bucket to hold against my chest (there was no handle) and fill it up for me to carry. Except we didn't think through how the combined effect of me laughing hysterically and walking might create a small tidal wave effect, losing a couple of inches of water all over me. B just looked at us and went, dryly: "That wasn't very smart. In fact it was almost stupid." T was busy trying not to laugh, it was pretty funny. She is really growing on us as we get to know her more. She's definitely super woman, it's quite nuts.
After milking, which was unremarkable except that I got kicked once and C got kicked twice (all glancing blows), we headed up for a light dinner of pourable yogurt, fruit, and egg, and some cereal, and then T gave us an impromptu lesson in Iceland. We learned a bunch of animals, and then 'My name is...What is your name?' 'I'm from Canada' and 'I don't understand Icelandic.' The last one would have been handy around all these pony ride kids!
Even though we aren't nearly so tired thanks to our nap, I think we're still going to try for an early night. 6am for me and 7am for Cecilia comes very early around here, especially with such busy days! After evening chores we came in and were both like 'wow, we didn't have to do any work today!' but then we counted up and realised we still did at least 9 hours of chores and work. Crazy. If nothing else, we'll be fit!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Anyway, morning chores were fairly typical except for the discovery of the lamb in lamb's clothing. We noticed a little lamb who looked like it's skin was several sizes too big and when we asked T what had happened to the poor thing she was like 'I don't think you want to know' but Cecilia pressed her for it and we found out that the little lamb is wearing the skin of another lamb that died. The momma sheep lost both her babies and at a farm down the road this lamb lost its mommy, so they skinned one of the dead sheep from our farm and put it on like a coat around the little live lamb so that the momma sheep here will accept it. It's gross and cute all at the same time. Though we were saying it actually didn't really phase us at all, which it probably would have 2 weeks ago.
After breakfast, we headed back down to do the 'shitty' job, which we started last week--using planks to create a mucky slurry of cow crap to wash down the channels into the deeper pit. We spent a couple of hours doing that while T used the tractor to muck out the young bull pit, removing the 2 feet of crap they've been standing in in several massive loads. While she was scraping and moving, Cecilia was on bull control duty but they didn't want to leave too badly, apparently, so she didn't have to whack anyone on the head. T also used the tractor to muck out the horses's stalls, which is certainly one way to do it!
For lunch we had 'slauuter,' which is basically a meat/fat meatloaf/sausage like product, made from lamb. At B's family lunch we had it's cousin made with blood. Anyway, I'm not a massive fan, but they make a lovely sweet milk gravy, and combined with mashed potatos and enough gravy and the hunger of two hours of shit slurry-ing, one can quite happily eat anything!
After lunch we quite guiltily enjoyed a five minute break and then headed back out to do more of the crap moving as well as milk machine cleaning and floor scrubbing in the barn's office. The milk machine was interesting--it's an automatic feeder for the calves, who are weaned from their mothers immediately and then fed milk from a bucket until they are a few days old and then are moved into the pen with the other babies and the sheep and lambs. In that pen, they can walk up to an automatic feeder and suck down some milk. We were cleaning that part of the machinery and discovered that inside, the small metal panel that pushes the milk around in a circle is making butter in there. Bizarre.
At 4, thorouhly bored even though we'd been listening to podcasts, we abandoned our planks and headed up to the house for snack, which was way better than normal because T, who is clearly super-woman, was pulling out two loaves of home made coffee cake/bread and also whipping up a big batch of crepes to go with our typical bread/cheese/crackers/cookies/milk snack. It's hilarious the things that two weeks ago would have phased us, which are totally normal now: getting sent down to the barn to get milk from the massive holding tank (if this goes wrong it would be 5-1500L of milk on the floor), youngest trying to eat the entire block of cheese, second-youngest chewing a pen until he exploded it over himself and then poked it in the butter, kids running away with knives (only a cause for concern if it's not a butter knife), toasting their chocolate-covered digestives, licking the top of a tin can etc. At the barn it's nuts too--standing on ponies, crawling around cows, drinking sheep water out of the bucket...I make it sound like they're neglected kids, but they aren't--they're just allowed to run around and be crazy kids. And the parents are so busy there isn't too much time for anything different, anyway.
Night chores were late, because of the epic snack, but generally went well until right at the very end when second-oldest managed to hurt herself (we have no idea how, but maybe using the hay as a gymnastics mat was a silly idea) and had to be taken to hospital by her parents, leaving us to feed the kids and put them to bed, which they were actually fairly happy to do.
I'm exhausted so basically counting down the minutes until bed. I wish cows granted snow days!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Up at 7 for cows--the first time we've done them in a few days, actually, so it was a bit strange to get back to that routine, but good in some ways, too.
After oatmeal for breakfast we saddled up Undri, Emil, and Osk and headed down to the other farm for a group of pre-schoolers. It was coooold today! Hailing and miserable while we were doing the pony rides, but these kids sure know how to dress for the weather around here, it's pretty amazing! We tolted home and then Cecilia and I moved the pony electric fencing around again (they go out at night for grass, and every couple of days we need to move the pen around so they have enough grass as this is all they are eating. Interestingly, they went from a dirt paddock to green grass 12 hours a day with no switching over period at all. Horse people from home can continue to cringe as I say that there is a small heap of garbage and crap including loose wire fencing in the new paddock we made today. Horse care is certainly different around here!).
Then it was up to the house to thaw out and watch an episode of Friends, and then time for a yummy yummy lunch of lamb steaks, roast potatos and a milk-based gravy. B also melted together cheese, salsa, and pizza sauce into a casserole dish and we used it like a dip for Doritos. Oh and there was salad!!! Very exciting! Lunch is typically the best meal around here, we're discovering, and when they actually cook, it's typically very good.
After lunch we got all bundled up and headed back out into the cold Icelandic afternoon. I have a picture to post after of C, me, and youngest all wrapped up. I had leggings, pants, a long sleeved shirt, t shirt, long sleeved fleece, fleece vest, wind breaker, buff, toque, and gloves on. I NEVER wear that much clothing! Youngest had three pairs of pants and two pairs of socks, plus the most adorable woolen sweater with all sorts of animals knit into it.
We went down the road to one of the fields they lease and set about fixing the fence for sheep, who will push through anything. We went down the line of stock fencing and anywhere there was a gap, we took scraps of wood and nails and made bent-over-nail fencing staples to attach the fence to the wood, making a sort of wooden barrier at the bottom. It was just the sort of heathed together, reused fence mom would love to make! :p
By the time we quit, it was already 4:30, so once we had our snack and headed out to the barn after 5, the poor cows were hungry! (Cows start at 4 in the afternoon, usually). We did all the evening chores without anything too exciting going on, and then T went back to work on her fence while C and I fed the kids. We were planning on grilled ham and cheese sandos for them, which they eventually did eat, but while we were cooking they chaotically got their own food. Oldest (10) went for caviar in a tube, while youngest made a sandwhich of ketchup, cheese, and cocktail sauce. Second-youngest, who refuses to eat when his parents are around but is just fine at getting the bread and cheese down when they aren't, went one up on her and had bread and ketchup, and that's it.
I played a quick game of indoor soccer with the boys, updated the blog, and am heading to bed. Tomorrow I'll get up early to keep doing the work I was doing today whenever I had a second, too. A 16-hour day sounds fabulous to me :p
Monday, May 16, 2011
No one got much sleep last night, so we left a bit later than we wanted to this morning, and therefore were rushing to get to a ferry we didn't know the location of, ooops! Luckily no towns are very big here and we managed to find the ferry terminal, run across the dockyard to get our tickets, and jog back on to the boat in time to set off on the 9am sailing. After an hour, we were probably wishing we'd missed the boat--even in the fjord the going was a bit rough, and by the time we hit the open ocean, C wasn't the only one to re-see her breakfast. I'm SO glad I don't get seasick! I was a bit unnerved by the rolling and pitching of the boat, but not nauseous, which was a plus in all of that! The seas were only about two metres (they only cancel the sailing if they hit six), but messy, so we were pitching up and down both from bow to stern and side to side. It was rough enough that when I went below decks to find C some paper towel, the ground moved a good couple of feet from where I expected it to be and I hit the ground in a great, ungraceful heap.
We stayed glued to a railing for basically the entire three-hour crossing, and were checked on a few times by the SWEETEST lady who worked for the company and spent the entire crossing dealing with sick people, from the sounds of it. She lent us an absolutely gorgeous wool blanket for the crossing, that had viking ships and Iceland woven into the pattern. Gorgeous.
With great relief and touch of hypothermia we shivered our way onto shore and headed up to the tiny settlement. Only about 87 people live on the island, so it's pretty compact! We discovered that The Shop (it's proper name) was closed for another couple of hours, so we went to the pub and had a surprisingly good and reasonably-priced lunch amongst half of the boat's occupants, and thawed out at least partially.
Then it was down to business: we had three hours and three goals--the arctic circle, puffins, and handicrafts.
First off was the handicraft store in order to get directions and also have a look at the lovely knit things on offer. We chatted for a few minutes and then hiked past the teeny tiny airport and beyond a yellow guest house to the small statue that demarcates the line of the Arctic Circle. We shiveringly took a few pictures and I decided to do a handstand leanding up against the pole of the Arctic Circle. I managed to kick up in the wrong place, but because I was expecting to hit the pole, I didn't pay any attention to anything at all, until suddenly I was in a bridge, and then a heap; having not caught myself in the air at all. I tried again and eventually ended up with a photo of me with my legs sort of hugging the sign. Haha oh well!
That job crossed off the list, we walked for about an hour, examining some cliffs which are used by birds to make colonies of nests in. They were stunning! They looked kind of like Hawaii in some ways, which makes sense, due to the volcanic nature of the whole thing, but it was rather colder up here! We saw lots of puffins though! They are adorable little guys, if tough to photograph! They seem to nest in little hollows in the cliffs, and some flew out quite close to us and then put on a flying show around us, pretty cool!
Once we'd exhausted the body heat we'd stored up at the pub, we walked back to the other end of town and saw the very cute but sadly under construction church, and then wandered back to the craft store, where we bought some postcards as well as certificates to prove we had indeed crossed the Arctic Circle. After mailing the cards in 'The Store' we hesitantly got back on the boat. Our favourite crew member was there and she assured us that it was going to be much better, because even though we still had some swells to deal with, the roll was only going to be side to side, not forward and back, and also the wind was behind us this time (and the sun was out). True to her word, it was infinitely better. Knowing we liked to be on deck, she gave us each a wool blanket, and between that, our wind breakers, and our borrowed buffs, we were semi-OK. Frozen, but not seasick. We did get rather wet a few times from the spray over the sides, and eventually I buried myself entirely under the blanket and did some reading through the kindle app on my phone.
It was so much better this time that we managed to go inside for the last 45 minutes or so and thawed out and watched the end of the movie they had showing--Along Came Polly.
We grudgingly gave our blankets back when we got to the end of the ferry trip and made a brief stop for a drink and a personal-sized skyr to add to the sandwiches we'd packed for lunch and never gotten a chance to eat during the day, and stopped in a pull off overlooking a fjord to eat a late-ish dinner before heading back to the farm. It was around 9 when we got home, so we just did some emails, photo uploading, work, blogging, etc., and it will be time for bed soon--back to 7am cows tomorrow.
We've both been surprised as to how this farm has come to feel quite comfortable over the past few days, to the point where, while on the boat and completely green around the gills, Cecilia said 'I want to get back to the farm!' I wouldn't say that I'm loving it here, exactly, but I'm appreciating the time we have here and having lots of fun moments. I can't wait to move back to a bigger city, and am hoping Riga will be that, but there's something to be said for going down to the barn and knowing almost exactly what the routine will be for the next two hours, and then looking forward to the sweet oatmeal after for breakfast, or the bread and cheese for every other meal. (Well not quite any more, but...)
Anyway, more tomorrow.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Yesterday (Saturday) we were allowed to sleep in and skip morning chores, though we didn't sleep too late as we wanted to get going and head into town! Our first stop was a local gymnastics competition, which we had heard about because two of the extra people kicking around the house on Friday were competing in it. We had no idea what to expect, but showed up at a local gymnasium and watched for a couple of hours. It was pretty interesting! Instead of the events we do, they had a vault and mini tramp event (two events but considered as part of one), a power tumbling event, and a team dance event. On the first two events, everyone went one right after the other (some very close together!) and then they lined up and saluted as a team. The dance thing was interesting too--it seemed like they all needed some elements, such as a full turn, a cartwheel, a prone-fall, and a couple of other bits and pieces, and other than that it was just a dance routine; not so interesting to be honest. The vault was a loooooot of front handsprings, with some half-ons. The hardest vault I saw was a tsuk 1/1.
On minitramp, mostly they were layout 1/1 with some double fulls. Strangely, no one really seemed to try and stick anything, even the things they totally could have. On the power tumbling strip, we saw front tuck to cartwheel, ro, bhs, bhs; ro, bhs, blo, etc. Oh and a couple of front layouts with a full twist that were sooooo low and forward it was like if a whip back was sent forwards and they managed to get a full twist in. It was pretty cute.
After that we had lunch at Bonus which is a supermarket kind of like a mini costco. We had wanted to eat in their cafe, but it turned out to be surprisingly expensive given how cheap Bonus is, so we ended up buying a few groceries--individually-sized skyr, thick digestives, cheese buns, and diet coke. mmmmm bubbles.
After lunch we went to the mall to try and return my mobile data stick from vodafone that doens't work out here on the farm, but without a receipt, she wouldn't help me. We picked up some half-price candy and then took that out to one of the big Icelandic horse breeding farms to watch a show. It was really interesting. Two horses at a time went out onto a track and started at diagonally-opposite corners. They then tolted around (this was a tolt-only class) until they were told to reverse. On the reverse rein they would tolt with extension along the long side and collection around the short ends. After about 3-5 minutes the class would be over and they would each get a score and then move on to the next pair.
We came back to the farm for SUPER quick chores (lots of extra people helped) so that the family could be ready to go in time for Eurovision. But before that we had time to help T take 4 kids on a trail ride. Three of the kids from here came plus one of their friends who was SO funny. He's never really ridden before and spent the whole time using his crop like a jockey and yelling 'hup, hup, yeeehaw!' while smacking and pulling and bouncing along. Osk was an absolute star and did exactly what she thought would be best for him, which was a nice slow trot. Emil and I stayed close to jump in if needs be, but she was an utter star. That pony is amazing. We've walked in on the kids standing on her back while she was in a stall with another pony, as well as lounging around on her back, dropping the reins and leaving her wherever, etc. She's pretty great!
C and I changed back into our city clothes and went into town for dinner. We had yummy burgers at a little burger place and watched about half of the Eurovision contestants before walking around Akureryi and heading home in time to find out that Azerbaijan, of all the European countries, was the winner this year. We had never experienced Eurovision up until this point, but we're both quite well into it now and planning on getting the CD of all the finalists (like 45 of them) to listen to on our Alberta road trip later this summer.
Today (Sunday) was relaxed. We got to sleep in again, because it was Sunday, and when we woke up, everyone else had gone to church, so C read for a bit and I did some work, and then when they got home around 1 we headed out, to the most kitschy place in all of Iceland, probably--it's a funny little Christmas town that is really just a big Christmas store, a few little buildings, the 'world's largest advent calendar' (situated in a faux medieval tower, of course), the cutest little outhouse you've ever seen, and lots of Christmas cheer. Naturally I loved it!
Driving back into town we noticed how the airport here is built right into the fjord--it must be a craaaazy landing! We had planned to go to the visitor's centre to see about our options for getting to our ferry next week and also about visiting Lake Mytvan, which is supposed to be amazing, but they were closed, so we had lunch in a lovely little cafe in a bright blue building and then came back for cows. After cows was dinner and then a bit of low key babysitting before bed. C is asleep now, but I'm working (uploading and the internet is slooooow, so it's taking forever) and updating the blog for you guys. There will be photos eventually Grampy, I promise.
Tomorrow: The Arctic Circle. Also: NO COWS!
Friday, May 13, 2011
• Woke up at 6, worked for 45 minutes, got up C, went to the cows.
• T accidentally flicked shit onto my forehead when I was cleaning a cow.
• I asked her why one of the cows wears a harness-like thing for milking and she said "well it kicks when you milk, but if you tie her up like the others [there are a couple that get bailing-twine ankle restraints while milking] she goes crazy and bucks, so she needs to wear the rope. She's a very boring cow." I'm pretty sure boring wasn't quite the word she was looking for!
• We went to our new favourite neighbour's farm for pony rides. It was the two youngest's kindergarten so everyone knew everyone.
• B, who is 6'+ and 200" + got on 14.2 hh Emil, in his capri-length jeans, and tolted around the field.
• We ate lunch with all the kids at the farm and then C and I had a lovely tolt home ponying Osk with us so that T could drive home.
• We cleaned house. OMG. Excavation city. At LEAST 20 loads of laundry was collected from ALL OVER THE PLACE. Including under the cat, who likes to sleep disguised in clothing, which is why C stepped on it a couple of days ago and got bitten in return.
• I separated a ridiculous number of toys into five categories: "dolls, animals, blocks, cars, guns."
• Second-youngest (six) and I had a bit of a wrestling match over the crystal I was trying to dust. He's a bit of a terror and managed to steal a commemorative flute from 2000 and abscond with it to a bunk bed. I had to send his mother after him to collect it.
• We discovered T, who is an absolute force, is only 29.
• Many, many extra people showed up, some of whom seem to be staying here. There is a mum and three girls and maybe a boy? Who knows. This place is so chaotic it's easy to lose people. BUT they are here for a gymnastics meet! And we get to watch!
• Cow chores were ridiculous: we had forgotten to turn on the milk cleaning system this morning, B half-flooded the milk room by not opening a valve, T had forgotten to give the cows hay this morning so they were all moan-y about that, B broke a milking machine, C got a serious electric shock on the bulls and got peed on...
• starting to build a fence at 8:30pm when you've been going for 13 hours and are freezing is a recipe for meltdown.
• some days, meltdowns mean days off the next day.
• we get to watch gymnastics and Icelandic pony shows and Eurovision tomorrow. We only have to do night chores!!!
• B made amazing pizza
• B and T went out, but the random adult who seems to be staying here is babysitting :)
• we get to sleep in tomorrow
• we get to sleep in tomorrow
• did I mention we get to sleep in tomorrow????
• it's midnight and it's only just now starting to get somewhere close to dark. The sun will rise again in around 2 hours.
• I will be asleep at 7:01 tomorrow. And then I will be in town. Near gymnastics. And maybe coffee. And veggies and fruit and bubbly drinks.
Finally a good day :) We did morning chores as usual and then trudged up for breakfast and asked when we might be able to leave the farm at some point and were basically told ‘not today but whenever you want,’ which was a bit hard to reconcile with the ‘work, work, work’ that had been going on and left us feeling a bit less than impressed. Things perked up, though, as we headed back to the neighbour’s farm for more pony rides, which are always cute and pretty easy. One kid got on my pony, Emil, and promptly started crying, but other than that, all was good.
After the morning of pony rides, we were told to untack the horses and put them in a field at the neighbour’s farm, as we would be eating lunch there and then doing another school group in the afternoon. Good news on so many levels! More pony rides, less work, new people! And then it just got better as the soup, which was delicious, included real vegetables! Of a few varieties! The people were really really sweet too—the middle aged couple that owns the farm, and another couple who live on the property but don’t farm it, and then B and T as well. It was a relaxed lunch and the people there were really friendly with us, which was nice! B and T aren’t unfriendly, exactly, they just don’t really talk about much of anything or engage in too many conversations, even if we try and start them, so it was nice to be around some enthusiastic people. They also have a really nice house, which was a welcome relief from the absolute chaos of this place.
Partway through lunch I asked the woman who owns the farm what place in the area she would recommend for us to see, and this started a spirited conversation about a few places we could go, including Mytvan, which is a lake B and T had mentioned. I think this whole conversation helped to remind B and T that we are tourists as well as farm hands, and the woman seemed to encourage them to let us go, at least a little bit. At the very least, it put it on the table. We found out around then that T wouldn’t be doing the afternoon group with us, so we weren’t entirely sure what to do with ourselves for the hour before that school showed up, but then the woman at the new farm was like ‘why don’t you borrow our car and drive down the fjord for a little bit?’ T didn’t like that idea so much as it didn’t work with the car situation at our farm, because our ponies are staying overnight at the farm tonight and we needed a way to get home, but the way things were worded, they basically had no choice but to give us that hour off. We went home and got in the farm car, giddy with the prospect of a bit of free time, and completely re-engerised zipped into town. We got a bit lost and only had about 20 minutes at the mall, which was enough time to get ice cream and re-stock our emergency granola bar supply, but it was still very exciting! It was the first time we’d been to town on our own since last Friday, and we were drunk with freedom haha.
We headed back to the other farm to do the pony rides, which went really well, and were then offered coffee and some funny little donut-like things they (and we) love around here. They continued to be super-friendly and offered us the chance to hang out with them while they worked with the sheep for a bit, which we took until we had to head back to the farm for our own cow chores. After having basically not worked the whole rest of the day, the three hours in the evening felt like nothing, and were punctuated by Bryndis giving me another epic bath, and Asia giving birth to the cutest calf ever! It was so fast, too, she popped the sucker out in like 5 minutes!
After we headed up from the barn, we played on the trampoline with the youngest for a bit, and then came in for a supper of BBQ’d hotdogs, Icelandic-style. T gave us a lesson in Icelandic pronunciation, giving us a guide to the horses’ names as a practice sheet.
I even got some work done!
The next few days are looking up too: tomorrow is more pony rides in the morning followed by house cleaning (far preferable to cleaning the cows’ house or wrangling bulls!), Saturday after chores we are going into town to have dinner and watch the Eurovision finals on TV, Sunday we get to sleep in (and will probably try and borrow the car for a couple of hours), and Monday we are going to Grimsey, which is an island 45 miles north of us bisected by the Arctic Circle. Then we’ll just have a week and a bit left to go and our stint as dairy farmers will be behind us!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Today started at 5 so that I could have a meeting with Caroline, as the time difference for us is really awkward and the cows are rather needy during the hours the two of us are generally awake. It was good to 'see' her!
We headed down to the barn for 7, did the cow chores, which again involved pulling some lambs out of a sheep (oh, and the iffy one from yesterday is OK!) and headed up for our usual oatmeal around 9. We had a few minutes of free time, during which we went down to our bedrooms and promptly passed out for about half an hour until B yelled for us and we went out to the barn to play with the bulls, which is about exactly as fun/terrifying as it sounds like it should be.
Basically, we were supposed to help move eight teenage bulls from the end of the barn where they kind of hang out into another smaller pen on the other end of the (milk) cows. This meant moving them from the big pen, down the shoot between where the girl cows stick their heads to eat, and then into the pen. I was given a small stick and told to guard the whole length of pen A while B and T selected the ones they wanted and literally whacked them until they moved where they were supposed to. We lost a couple down to the wrong end of the barn, including one that decided it would be a great idea to attack the round bale of straw I was on the other side of. At this point in my overtired, slightly panicked stated I started half laughing, half crying, and madly stick waving until B came to my rescue. We did eventually get all but one of the bulls where it was supposed to be going (that one just wouldn't go to the new pen) and I only had to whack a couple of bulls in the head a couple of times, apologising under my breath while willing it not to kill me. At some point, B looked over at me, and said 'don't worry, they won't hurt you.' Uhuh. Likely story.
That excitement done I moved hay around for the cows while C helped with clipping the lambs ears and putting in their ear tags, and then I was sent up to the house to boil potatos for lunch. It was pretty funny as we have yet to be asked if we can, for example, wrangle bulls, handle studs, milk cows, etc., but I was asked with great seriousness if I knew how to boil potatoes before I headed up to the house. Seriously? THAT'S the skill I might not have come to Iceland with?
Anyway...after lunch we played musical ponies and then went for a ride on our own, I took a cute little paint pony, who is only 5 and a bit of a brat, and C rode a cute slightly older mare. We tried to take some ponies, but had limited success, given my prancing pony. Following our tolt, we went down into a field that they either own or lease and took down a bunch of hot wire to use for later in an absolutely biting wind, it was brutal!
Next, it was into the car to drive down to another field and collect more hotwire, and then back into one of the old abandoned houses on the property (what a funny place!!) to get hot wire fencing sticks, which we used to build a two-strand hot wire fence around some grass by the road.
Then it was snack time which was even more chaotic as usual, since we had four extra kids over, taking the snack total up to nine or something like that, even though not everyone was even home! T made some very yummy crepes to go with our usual bread/cheese/buns/milk snack, and then it was back down to do cows. We got sidetracked part way through when T asked us to help her move the ponies from their paddock into the grass field we had made. We had strings of electric to hold up as guides, but really against 15 excited ponies and 100 metres of distance to cover it was a bit futile. Two jumped my strand and headed off to a hill to graze and one jumped C's rope and headed off at a brisk tolt down the road, while the 13 or so who made it into the field took off at a mad assortment of quick gaits to the end of their new paddock, with the loose pony tolting down the road beside them. This was all semi-OK until he decided to jump into the paddock, but didn't really get off the ground, and took our lovely fence down with him as they all sprinted around a bit more. We quickly got their fence back together just in time for Loppa the absolutely gorgeous border collie mum around here to worry that her flock had moved and begin to herd everyone at an efficient and brisk pace back to the gate end of the paddock, which C and T were still building. Some jumping jacks from C and frantic calling from both T and me got the ponies to turn around and Loppa to finally stop nipping at their heels. She's a good herder that one, just a little mis-guided!!
After that exciting diversion, we headed in to milk, which was a little bit annoying as half the cows have their periods or whatever it is cows do, and therefore were being right stroppy, well, cows, as it happens. I did get a bath from Brynya, one of our favourites, who spent the entire time I was cleaning her neighbour giving me a thorough bath, which is all fine till she hits skin, at which point it's a little much--they have very cat-like rough tongues, except really, really big, so it's like a rather unexpected exfoliation!
Dinner of yogurt and fruit after that, and bed soon, yay!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
We woke up at 7 and did cow chores as normal, actually finishing about 45 minutes earlier than normal, and came in for breakfast at about 8:15. Instead of going straight out to do training rides like we'd done yesterday, this time we saddled up three of the very obliging ponies and tolted off down the road two farms down, where a preschool visit was happening. They call it kindergarten here, but I think it's closer to what we consider preschool. We took about 40 kids for little pony rides up and down a field, it was pretty fun and cute. All of the kids have adorable little headscarves that they wear, which we're thinking we might need to hunt down for ourselves--they seem like the ultimate multi-purpose tool.
After we walked them around, we got coffee, which was amazing thanks to the situation, and these funny, crispy cousins of donuts, which are pretty good.
We tolted back home and got our next ponies and headed back out for a regular training tolt. I was on Loki this time, who is so far my favourite, very sweet and lovely gaits.
After our second ride we played musical ponies so that the stud could go out (all of the mares need to come in), swept out the main loading bay of the barn, and then headed up for lunch which was an intriguing chocolate pudding in liquid form type of object, along with toast and hard-boiled eggs and cheese. There is no shortage of cheese and bread and milk around here!
Then it was back out to the barn for what T termed the 'shitty job.' Now there's an intro. Basically we put two by eight boards into the slats of the grates behind the cows, where the poo gets caught, and with the help of a running hose, mushed the whole thing around into a slurry, and slopped it off the edge half way down the length of the barn into the deeper holding tank. It was roughly as pleasant as it sounds.
I was lucky and got rescued half way through to go help put in fence posts for a field which I think will hold some kind of crop eventually. It was cool though as I held the fence posts and then T lowered the bucked of the tractor on top of them to push them into the field. Pain-free fence post pounding.
We finished up the fencing around 4 and rescued C from her slurry pushing to go up for a snack of bread and cheese and then back to the barn around 4:30 for cow chores, which included a side of musical ponies. T came to get Cecilia and asked her to hold a sheep while she stuck her hand up it and pulled out a half-dead lamb. After a LOT of swinging and hitting and rubbing and mouth-to-mouthing (!), T got it to be semi-breathing and sort of slightly happier looking. She spent about 20 minutes trying to rub some life into it, and then we left it in a new mommy stall with its mom, and we'll hope for the best in the morning.
Back to the house just after 8, T left immediately and in a bit of a panic because the two older kids were having a school concert that started at 8 and she wanted to get to part of it, therefore leaving us to babysit. The two younger ones were watching Eurovision semi-finals (Iceland got through!) and we took a break just before finding out the winners to feed them a quick dinner (our leftover lunch). Once it finished there was a bit of an argument to get the six year old to bed (it's REALLY hard to negotiate when neither of you speaks a word of the other's language!) but we tag teamed and things went down decently well. The 4 and 6 year olds share a queen sized bed and getting them to stay quiet is absolutely ridiculous.
Finally at about 9:45, T, who was at that point down at the barn helping another sheep lamb, came up to the house and sprung us, which is lovely, as I need to be up at 5 for work, and then 7 for chores...
Monday, May 09, 2011
We each rode a pony at a brisk tolt down the road and back, which was quite good fun, as our first horses were well trained and seemed mostly to be out and about for a conditioning jog. The saddles are quite funny (very flat dressage saddles) and sit very far back on the horses, with no saddle pads. The horses are also caught and groomed in the first part of a bridle (including bit), and then they add on what is essentially the nose band. They're all well behaved for the grooming and tacking up, and most of them stood obligingly for their grooming without being tied or held.
After our first ride, it was on to pony two, which for me was a bit more than I bargained for. T asked me if I'd ever ponied a horse before (essentially leading a horse from the horse you're riding) and I said no, but that I'd watched. She was like, OK, you'll try, and take this one. Which seemed fair enough, because since it seems we're mostly doing fitness jogs for our part, but then she put a surcingle on it, and went to catch the pony that seems to have been handled least, a gorgeous little buckskin paint mare. She got the bridle on it, and then clipped its head to the surcingle of my (second) pony, and proceeded to do some grooming while the young pony freaked out and the babysitter pony stayed remarkably calm. She then got me to mount my pony (A), giving me the reins to pony B, who was thoroughly attached to pony C, who decided to lean most of her weight on to the poor sandwiched pony, who decided to nip me to tell me about it, and trap my leg in the middle. Lovely. Actually, it went better than it might have, in that there were no major traumas, but half way down the road the pony I was on, who I was trying to neck rein with the reins in some sort of galloping bridge so as to free up an extra hand for the other two ponies, decided that we were doing a random circle, and I nearly lost the plot entirely. The rest of the ride was much improved when T took the two ponies off me, and I got to concentrate on riding my 18 year old school master with a big tolt.
Then we got a brief lunch break, which was lamb sausage and potatoes with a sweet milk-based gravy (if it can involve milk, it will, around here), and we did a bit of laundry, and then were settling in to watch Friends when T came in to tell us that it was back down to the barn for more pony time. This time I was on a gorgeous but green little paint, who decided she absolutely wasn't going to cross the rivers we had to get over on our ride. I got her over the first one, but it took two of us and quite some time to get her to cross the second one. Luckily we didn't have to cross the rivers on our way home!
After we got back to the barn, I went to saddle up pony two for the second time in order to pony the littlest on a short trail ride. She has a sweet, obliging paint that didn't do much except threaten to nibble my leg. The girl was funny as I looked back towards her and she had her eyes closed and was listing scarily to one side. It actually seemed like she was well on her way to falling asleep, which was pretty funny.
After that, I helped Cecilia complete the pony swapping she had been tasked with, which had included moving a stud from one part of the property to the other, and then moving the mares to the other part of the property so that his outing was completed, and no one was going to have babies on us.
Then it was straight up to the house for a quick snack of bread and cheese and to feed the two youngest kids the same, and then out to grab laundry and straight down to the barn for cow chores, which took 45 minutes longer than they should have because we had to wait for T to get back from taking the two oldest into town (soccer and gymnastics, I would have loved to have gone to either!!) in order to complete everything we need to do.
Back to the house at 7:45, we had time for very short but appreciated showers before dinner of museli and cheerios and pourable yogurt, which is a pretty cool product, especially when it is caramel flavoured!
Now its 9:20pm and definitely time to fall into bed, read for a bit, and get up at 7 to do some or all of that again. If anyone wants to fedex me a caramel macchiato or a diet coke, I'd love you forever!
Sunday, May 08, 2011
We were at loose ends a bit after lunch, but we ended up going for a nice walk down the road for about 45 minutes each way, and found a pretty little river and some old ruins, which T said was an old sheep-holding pen. It's all made out of rocks and quite cool. It would have been good to walk over there, but we weren't sure if we were allowed to traipse through someone else's fields. Unfortunately, though it is a gorgeous valley, there isn't really anywhere to go, so we just wandered till we got tired and turned around.
We had a companion on our walk--City Dog--who has been visiting the farm and doesn't have so much barn sense! He came along and went shooting across fields chasing birds and sheep and whatever else caught it's fancy; completely ignoring us as we yelled and yelled for it to stick close. He then turned tail and took off, luckily to the farm, where we saw him once we got home.
On the way back we also saw a cow licking a horse, which was pretty cute!
We got home, relaxed/worked for a bit, and then had a late lunch before heading down to the barn at 4.
We did the normal cow/sheep/horse chores, and then spent about half an hour shoving old round-bale wrappers into huuuuuuuge bags (you could easily fit 4-5 of me standing up in there). It was notable only because it was disgusting--the puppies use those bags as their bathrooms :/ I realised 20 minutes in what the smell was that I couldn't quite place--it exactly matched my old cleat bags haha.
Cow chores went as normal, though this time we did them with T, as B was ill today, not entirely sure with what, and trying to believe its not due to them getting home at 3am yesterday :p We got to learn how to shut off the milking system and set it up for cleaning, which was actually quite a bit more complicated than you might think, and there's no way I'll be able to do it again without getting shown once or twice more, but anyway...in the next couple of days, we're going to take pictures of every step of the way, so you can see the cow chores in action. I bet you can't wait! :p
After that, we came up to the house for spaghetti and then C called it an early night. I sent BAB to print and am blogging, etc., before sleeping early too--Up at 6:45 again tomorrow. At least we aren't getting up in the dark, though! It's only sunset from midnight to 2am right now, which means that by the time you rock through dawn and dusk, there is some light basically all the time up here on the 65th parallel. I love it!
Saturday, May 07, 2011
We left around 11:30 and headed to B's grandparent's house, where we had a traditional Saturday lunch with the three of them as well as two of the grandmothers' sisters and one of their brothers. Lunch was interesting and included dried fish, which you smushed through butter, lamb head-cheese, blood and lard sausage, and a very liquid-y rice pudding with cinnamon sugar, which was the main course. I can definitely get behind rice pudding as a main meal!
C and I had to fight desperately to stay awake after lunch as everyone was speaking Icelandic and it was warm and comfortable and we were full, couldn't tell what was going on, and also exhausted. It was a dangerous combination!
We got back to the house around 2, and B said he was exhausted and didn't feel like doing anything, so we got to nap until 3, which was great. We both fell fast asleep and rolled out of bed just in time to head down to the barn to do cow chores.
It was rather exciting as we discovered that one cow, Lus, was loose. I got her collar from her standing stall and put it back on her, and then we herded her back to her pen. Luckily, she was very obliging and basically meandered back in.
C also had to deal with the teenage bulls (who are just waiting to be slaughtered as far as we can tell), who had broken the bottom wire of their two-strand electric fence in their crush for the water bucket.
As we were almost done the cow chores, T and the kids showed up, delivering some more ponies as they did so. Three minutes after they showed up, Thordis (who is all of 5'1 and 110 pounds) had her hand in to her shoulder of a mother-to-be cow, and wrapped bailing twine around two of its legs, basically yanking it into the world, whether it wanted to come or not. Sadly, it didn't as it was still born. It was pretty, uh, gross the whole thing, to be honest, though C was fascinated. We both bolted once the dead cow was tipped upside down and disgorged a vast quantity of liquidious crap from his lungs.
Once we'd herded the sheep back into their pens, we headed up to the house and were left with the four kids, aged four to ten. There are two girls (4 and 9) and two boys (6 and 10) and though they are complete chaos, they are pretty cute! They came into the kitchen in a whirlwind to get themselves a dinner of skiyr (thick yogurt) and cookies, which to be fair, is what we ate too, and then scattered off to watch Eurovision and play barbies. We hung out with the four year old and braided her babies hair, and then got ridden around like ponies, flipped the two little ones around, and generally fooled around even though they speak no English and our Icelandic isn't so good really. The littlest one stole my glasses and then wore them for bit, but when when I wen to find her and get them back, I discovered she was washing them off in the bathroom sink for me. Very cute!
They're in bed now, though not asleep, so we're not entirely sure what to do about that...hopefully they conk out soon!
Best news of the day--we get to sleep in tomorrow!
Friday, May 06, 2011
We woke up just before 7 to do the cows, which wasn't quite as involved in the morning--we only have to scrape behind them and milk them, as well as feeding ponies and a few other things. Morning chores take about 2 hours. Then we had breakfast and did some folding and hanging of laundry for the family, and at about 10:30 got the fantastic news we were going to town!! We went straight to a bookstore with free internet and checked in with the world, and then wandered around Akureryi for a little bit. We had gorgeous weather again, and it really is a stunning little town on the fjord. We ate Icelandic hotdogs for lunch, with yummy crispy onions in them, and walked down to the little mall for icecream.
At about 1, we came back to the farm and spent a couple of hours taking photographs, watching TV, and taking in laundry, before starting evening chores at 4. These take nearly 3 hours, and will be fully documented later. After chores, a neighbour who is also in the play came over and we watched the news interview B had done on local TV with her. It included a clip of the play with a bunch of farmers in their skivvies. Very entertaining even though we didn't understand a word of the Icelandic!
We had a quick dinner (hotdogs again, haha) and then they were off to the performance, while C and I skyped with Toryn, watched Friends, did a bit of work, and are now gratefully getting an early night!
Thursday, May 05, 2011
We started the morning by dipping our feet in the sulphuric (all the water smells like rotten eggs here) hot tub behind the hostel and on the side of the fjord. We hit the road around 10 and drove for the next four and a half hours, through some amazing scenery—big mountains, valleys, rivers running alongside us, and blue skies throughout. We stopped briefly for a drink at Blundous, but continued straight to Akyureri, as we needed to have the car back for 1:00, and were running pretty late. At 1:40, we finally got to the rental agency, held our breath that they wouldn’t mind it being a bit late, and then sat on the curb to wait for our host/boss for the next 20 days, B.
So far he seems really friendly, and he took us on a little driving tour of the town, which is really cute and I hope we get to see it properly, and then up to their ski hill, which was not so impressive, in order to see the town, which certainly was. It’s an absolutely gorgeous view down the valley and into the fjord, especially today, which was lovely and sunny.
We then drove about 20 minutes back to the farm, which has been in his family for five generations, and which is nestled in another lovely valley. He showed us the farmhouse where we’ll be staying, which is a bit chaotic, but friendly none-the-less, and then after a lunch of fresh from their cows milk, bread, lamb spread (like liverwurst, it was great), we headed out to do chores for the evening.
There are quite a few animals here, starting with four absolutely adorable sheepdog puppies, some week-old kittens, a day-old lamb, and a day-old calf! There are about 50 cows in total, 30 in milking, and then a bunch more little ones and mysteriously separated ones. Maybe teenage boys going off to other things? There are about 30 sheep, including 2 rams, and then maybe 8 horses outside, one gorgeous paint stallion inside, and three young ones in training, also inside. Our chores were to feed and water the horses, feed the goats, water some of the cows, sweep the cow areas where they stand (in tie stalls), sweep all the walkways, scrape and wash down the grates behind the cows where they poo (yup, it’s lovely), and wash the cows’ udders as well as expressing some milk from each teat in preparation for milking, which is done with some pretty nifty automated machines. It’s a good thing C and I learned the basics of milking with Poppy, or we would never have had a hope!
I’m going to leave it at that for the animals and spread that out a bit over the next few posts, as otherwise I will have run out of things to say after two days, I imagine. The whole shebang took about 2.5 to 3 hours, and left us with no doubts that we will be fit at the end of our three-week stint as Icelandic dairy farmers.
We finished around 7 and headed back into the house, at which point B stripped down to his undies and left his barn clothes in the front hall before running upstairs. C and I were like, hey, uh….we’ll leave our clothes on, thanks. He jumped straight in the shower and then bolted off, as he’s performing in a play this evening, put on by a farmers association in the region. They’ve sold out 28 performances this year, and tonight and tomorrow are the last two. The play? The Full Monty! He showed us an ad for the play and they are all naked in the hay. All I could come up with to say was, ‘that must have been itchy.’ Haha. Apparently all the actors also made a calendar, and he promised to bring one home for us.
Left to our own devices, we made cheese sandwiches and ate some pear yogurt he left for us. It’s an Icelandic yogurt and it is really thick and creamy and amazing. We fought with the horrible internet some more, I tried to work, and we’re calling it a very early night now as the cows need to be milked at 7 tomorrow.