Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Willy the "nilly-pilly"

Gather all you dear folks for I will tell you a little secret on how to begin a friendship.

Step1: Volunteer to build tents in a carneval.
Step 2: Climb up a ladder to build roof for a yurt
Step 3: Drop a 3 meter long bamboo stick on the subject's nose and dance away to make up for it later...

Or so how it worked with this wonderful man called Willy, the Nilly Pilly.

Willy Palm. A Swed born and raised in Africa (photo: V-man)

We met in Kultural Karneval on a warm May evening in 2010. I was volunteering in a colorful event of music and colors and was looking forward to meeting neo-hippies that I like to classify myself as. Seeing my giant self, massive muscles and super strength (I am about 5ft 2in and weigh 50kg and have back problems), I was entrusted to pitch big tents for the carnival... of course with help of others. So, here I was putting sticks together to form a yurt that was to be eventually used as a children's corner, a kind-faced, soft spoken gentleman approached to lend me a hand with three meter long sticks. His name was Willy (something that reminded me of the my childhood game Monkey Island with Willy the pirate child who cries a lot but never mind here... lets mosey along). We hummed our tunes, laid the sticks to the roofs until I accidentally dropped one right on his nose and watched it bleed. Ouch!

Fika time with butter and cheese sandwiches... Willy's staple diet

He is one of the closest friends I have in Uppsala. This post is to celebrate his contribution in my life both here on a farm and just life in its own...

V-man's caravan comes to town

Willy building one of our caravans

The very first thing (after the friendship itself, of course) that he did was sell his caravan to V-man last year. It is almost identical to mine in size and shape. It now serves as our library+study+office. Through Willy's help and V-man's non-stop work (I've rarely seen someone more dedicated than him when he's working) they turned that red box into something that now resembles an indian bride; covered in yellow and red.

I like to call this one 'Dulhan' (bride in Urdu/Hindi)

But it's not just the big things but the small ones that made quite a lot of difference the life on the farm. He is a proud owner of assortment of stuff (stuff to build, stuff to furnish with, stuff for office, house, insulation, from wood to stove to glass jars, spoon, and I swear I saw the red cricket ball somewhere as well). He likes to use this huge collection of confusion into projects that make a lot of sense... and are close to his values.

Keeping warm in winter (photo: V-man)

Little old things that mark a memorable experience... The drum you see me getting into can be usd to wash your clothes in, heat water for a bath or dishes. It has a place to light a fire with the wood and a lid to keep water warm and bug/leaf-free.

An outdoor bathtub (photo: Olle Stevenholt, Wooden frame for the tub: V-man, View: Nature)

Have you ever bathed (yup, the whole shebangs with a bubble bath) outside over looking a pasture with a forest in the foreground? Birds singing, wind blowing and few cups of tea! It's worth having cold dark winter

But it's so much more than the stuff he shares with us. His African heart allows him to visit me and his friends, cook for them, houses anyone who wants to sleep at his house boat, money for those rare burglars he's had (you wouldn't believe the stories... he's remarkable). You've got to meet this creative soul to believe he exists. He can be found in celebrations around Uppsala where some creativity is needed, be it Kulturnatten,Kultur Karneval, or just a holiday celebration. If you ever see him, give him a hug. He'd love it.

Unlike the silly phrase I call him (Willy the nilly pilly), this crazy old hippie is a wonderful friend who is nether nilly nor pilly. One needs people who share your values to help you succeed in how you want to live.

So, here is to friendship, love, and community. Hip hip hurray!

Easter flowers that I found in my home... courtesy Willy Palm 

P.S.: No, Willy Palm is not dead or sick or missing that I celebrate here... he is probably fixing a car or welding some metal for a cargo boat somewhere... having a blast or just dancing with someone. When I see him again, I'll tell him you said hello.

Monday, December 5, 2011

287 days later...

So, nine months later, a new winter is dancing upon us. The winds are cold, the sun pale, and the sky glows pink but the snow is no where in sight. The lazy princess is still lazy as ever, the handsome prince is now a butler/carpenter/cowman, the king is over-worked, the cows are multiplying and the queen has decided to move on and settle in a city. (She will be missed).

The caravans are multiplying. What started of as an experiment now has turned into a lavish house. My partner and I are living in two caravans with a cosy (but under construction) kitchen, a bedroom, a living, storage and a study/library. There is still a dream for chickens, a self-sustaining food cycle, and motherhood. All of those will be realized... all in their due time.

Here is how the farm looks like now...

Our village Philantropia (photo: Olle Stevenholt)

The caravan with blue windows is a new addition. A woman and her new born baby (expected around new year) will be living there. Our very first village baby brings a new perspective on life. However, it's not just the caravans but also the big house where the king abides that will soon have more occupants. We are looking forward to hosting five new free-spirits in our village caravans and houses.

King Olle's palace 
After last March, the Styrofoam refrigerators gave away to electronic ones this summer but they will be back this winter. So will the butter cups and frozen pipes. I have a fancier (regular) sink now so the freezing problems will be much more icier than the last year. New solutions will have to be thought of... new plans to keep us busy living simply in the dark winters.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oh the frozen pipes and fun inventions

There are many small adventures unfortunately eluded by city life. The smalls surprises of reverse drains, strange air-flows and funny sounds in the night. Over past few months, I have been exposed to many small surprises that both amused and confused me...

Have you ever wondered how a pipe 5cm in diameter that drains my sink, does not extend beyond the caravan base, all wide, all clean, often results in icicles? No, there is no 'tip'-'tip'-'tip'-'tip' from my tap, no waste bits, ... just this strange Swedish winter that freezes water in the strangest places...

This bucket collects water from my sink pipes

Usually the bucket turns into a big block of ice within few hours. An electric kettle is one of my best friends here. Half liter of boiling water at the proper angles and you'll watch it go 'plop'! Little things that I never know I'll be pondering about. I tell you one thing, my day dreaming sessions are so well spent coming up with smallest innovations that no one cares about. I think Vilhelm and I can write a book on 101 uses of common toilet paper and styrofoam.

One of the fun things living like this is finding and experimenting with the alternatives to our city luxuries... the fridge. I spent weeks and weeks of figuring out ways to keep my food from spoiling indoors and freezing outdoors. One idea was to open one of the base ventilators that I had previously closed to keep the cold air coming in (as my caravan was heated with gas in the past, there are a lot of ventilators to clear out accumulated carbon monoxide) and stick a box with the hole. But that didn't seem fool proof. It is too cold to put food outside. One day, I forgot my milk and took a whole day to thaw it.

Frigolit fridge

Eventually, Vilhelm finds a big box of styrofoam with a lid, we put my food in it, put it outside, and viola! It's perfect. Only when the nights are below -20C that the milk freezes a little bit. Otherwise, it's brilliant! My cheese, butter, milk and leftovers love it. It's incredible how much insulation there is in a 5cm thick polystyrene foam provides. So much garbage being thrown out everyday... so much building material being wasted with it. Anyone here heard of Dan Philips? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9JkPk0CIo4).

Here is another valuable advise passed through a friend's grandmother to me...keeping butter soft and fresh as room temperature for weeks... Put your butter in a bowl, make sure it sticks well to the bowl it's in. Take a bigger bowl and put some water (about a centimeter) in it. Place the butter bowl upside down in the water. The water makes a tight seal and becomes a temperature regulator...

The butter fridge

Small little things that make life easier... Pay attention to your grandparents stories... there is a lot there we dismiss. They had different lives from us, minus most the inventions we have. They are a walking-talking encyclopedia on survival. And they don't even know it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The vegetarian conundrum

As strange as it may sound, I have been thinking and reading and researching about the food choices, and I must accept, that we humans are omnivores. The whole sanctity of life business is full of contradictions and conflicts. I have been a vegetarian for a long time and a vegan for few months, it feels great, I feel as if I am detoxing, but by the end of the day, I feel as if I am going against nature. My intestines, teeth, nature, as a human is designed for a balanced meat and vegetable diet. However, in no way at all would I support the industrial meat market and non-organic meat.

I urge to to watch this eye-opener film "Earthlings". It's gruesome, excruciating and not be be seen alone. Find a friend to hold hands with and then turn it on... It opened my eyes towards the heinous insensitivities we put animals through... But that alone should not guide our morals. I am trying to appreciate the farmer who kills few of their sheep, cows and other animals few times a year to keep the herd strong and young. Also, the hunters and reindeer herders are facing Swedish govt. set boundaries of how many reindeer there can be. It is then necessary for them to hunt and keep the pack young and healthy. These animals have lived a full life, and their death is making them food... Just like my death will make me food to countless bacteria, worms, etc, to plants and so forth. The whole circle of life pops in front of me.

I have killed many worms, rodents, and not-so-cute animals that died in the agriculture, organic or not. Sure, pesticide are deadly, and I buy all my food local and organic (no bananas in winter, etc). Besides environment, their is a charm to wait for vegetable and fruit seasons, and savor when the time arrives. Their is a beauty in that I cherish. I don't need to eat mangoes all the time, no matter how delicious, in Sweden. Or the pepper and tomatoes coming from Holland and Spain as a result f massive monocultures. That too are a crime on animals, as thousands of them are displaced and killed due to large scale farming.

We are too many, but the populous parts of the world know sustainable food. They fish, hunt, grow and manage their limited means. However, the richer and more economically privileged few have a choice to either follow a lifestyle to for cost, or health, or environment. Yes, I feel great when I don't horde meat, but my reference frames are skewed. I am measuring my experience with mass produced deaths of animals and that affect on my morals and body. We humans are much more intuitively sensitive than we think. If you feel you want to truly enjoy your body and savor the food that universe has presented to you, I say eat everything, but organic. Life may be sacred, and but all life needs food to sustain. It's not fun to be food, but ultimately, we all are. The difference lies in how we managed to get that food.

I am still a vegetarian, (not a vegan anymore) but I am just waiting for an opportunity to kill an animal myself, feel the love, grace and empathy but not but completely swept by it and later let the butchery experts do that for me. In the meantime, I eat all those vegetables knowing they too resulted in a lot of killing.

All of this is only my point of view, and if you want to make your own decision, please look into Howard Lyman, a fourth generation cattle farmer who turned vegan for health reasons and later for the concern for ever spreading mad cow disease. Also, look into Daniel Vitalis (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSfAO7XBnZY) http://www.danielvitalis.com/), who was a raw food vegan for many many years but is now promoting the idea of eating meat and being more part of the environment. To me, their point of views are not very contradictory. They both speak to me about the hazard of industrial meat market and the importance of wholesome food. There is a great book in the market called "The Vegetarian Myth". Give it a shot. I am finding it a very balanced and non judgmental.

Hope you find more peace with your food and body.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's coming together

So after weeks of struggle, Olle, Vilhelm and Willy's support... Vilhelm's designing skills and compassion, Olle's eagerness to build, Willy's generous help through lada and many other things... I have managed to dig to a lovely home under a pile of gas fitted workshop wagon...

It all looked hopeless, smelly and kinda ugly...

All it needed was a dirty pink paint, loads of plants, shelves and some loving... and so I found a cosy kitchen...

A dark window, tattered paint and the lovely tool marks...

All gone under paint coats, strange curtains, lamps, plants and some more love... Looking forward to cook many many lovely meals for my friends... The view outside ain't so bad :)

The north side...
First, Olle and I took down the wall to make the space bigger...

I found a lovely home in these walls....

The other window...

... is now part of my bedroom after Olle built a big bed floating in air for me...

Come by for a cup of tea if you feel like enjoying a bit of silence in Håga...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ode to the snowy winter (wonder)land

You're already here... and all the pipes are frozen. The poo bucket is lined with newspaper to make the crap feel cosy in media crap. The window I looked out from is all white and the door is hard to open as the cracks freeze up. The sink leaks into the house as the bottom of my van is icicles and it takes me a while to recognize my bike...

Snow! Yes, I know you're white, and shinny, and sometime you take my breath away. You make the air smell minty clean and add frost to my eyebrows. You make me wear 2 kgs clothes and thanks to you, I spend about 2 minutes layering up before going out even to pee. Which is a lucky feast because if I find myself in a land unploughed, squatting becomes a lightly freezing businesses... After all, burying one's behind in a mound of snow is surely a way for a woman to wish to be born a man... But on happy days, you make my fall deep in it and make snow angels.

Today is not a day to complain, for my uncertain heart finds bliss in a snowflake that lands in my mouth or when it tickles my face.

I wake up to this view every morning and find nature's grace within

Last week, the thermometers were shivering at -22C and the days are ... well, if there are any... are not more than 6 hours long... Somewhere deep down, I have a nagging feeling that Olle might be right when he said, winter is coming soon. Not yet, but soon...

They (Masaru Emoto and others) say every snow crystal is unique, formed through not just mere pressures, temperatures and other physical phenomenas but also the love, care, anger and frustrations formed around it... (http://www.unitedearth.com.au/watercrystals.html), my mind is confounded by the remider each snow flake brings, of the unlimited choices all around me.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Trailer tales...

Autumn in Håga gård

Once upon a time in a land 4km from Uppsala city center there lived a beautiful princess. Her tall height and her proper manners were known all over the imaginary land. There was just one itsy bitsy detail that seemed to get in the way... and that she was lazy. However, the times she wasn't lazy, she just wasn't bothered to bat an eyelash about it!

So the days went by and she watched her ever so vigilant and highly skillful neighbor build an enormous palace, with beautiful verandas, delicate windowsills, walls with wooden panels and a whole future of possibilities of the most beautiful palace in the village. She kept wishing she knew her way around a saw and hammer to enchant her palace as well...

Vilhelm, my crafty man, shaping the window panels

My neighbor's roofed veranda with a terrace and storage

Testing if the planks hold... they did

She toiled about, dared to venture into the world of paint brushes and toners and ended up with a mango bedroom, pink living room and a minty green kitchen. But that wasn't enough. She pondered over the possibility of a bed-in-air so she could pretend to levitate but the enormity of the project confounded her. She she sat about, musing and pondering over the delicate matters of finding the material, making plans...

Caravana coffee time... sitting on my neighbor's roof overlooking the fields with Domkyrkan in the background

and suddenly a handsome old farmer prince came to the rescue the princess and build her palace bigger and stronger and warmer...

Olle Stevenholt, our landlord

or at least that's what she thought. Within few minutes, he showed his true colors and contampelated to bring down the palace walls...

Olle bringing down the partition wall

And when that didn't work, he brought out the demonic chain saw from tool shed and continued his work... into wee hours of the afternoon.

The place looks bigger once the wall is removed

After the ordeal, the princess was amazed at the beautiful potential of a lovely home in the palace. But as it looked bigger, was painted in colors, and was easier to breath in, plus it came with a free broom, the handsome old prince proposed the higher rent of the palace... in jest of course (hopefully).

So when the evening came and the princess left to spend some time cooking Italian food with her lovely neighbor for 14 people, in another land not so far away, she smelled rumors of finally having a bed that floats in the air. But their was a siege in her palace! The handsome prince's beautiful wife had came down the palace and decided to occupy the princess's bed... for at least a while.

Eva Stevenholt testing if my bed holds in the air

So last night, the lucky princess, slept in her palace for the first time and felt at home thanks to the handsome old prince who is helping her make a grand palace.