Monday, March 22, 2010

moving forward

it's been awhile since we've written here and much has happened. yesterday, we came to an agreement on a farm in jutland. we wouldn't have imagined when we first began to dream of a farm that it would be in jutland, but sometimes things happen and life takes you in another direction, one that you didn't foresee.

a number of the things we wanted in the beginning have gone by the wayside...we found out that it's really difficult to find someone to share a large farm with, so many of our ideas of shared living had to be abandoned in the face of the reality of the way modern families think. but we remain steadfast in our desire for a place where we can have a large garden, fruit trees, a place to make cider, space for a little gårdbutik and room for a horse. a place where we can live more sustainably.

last friday, we converged on a farm property with what must have seemed like all guns blazing to the poor lady who lived there. she was walking around the yard with her baby buggy, trying to get the baby to sleep when car after car pulled up and out came an architect, two carpenters, a 9-year-old with plans for a bunny hutch, a husband with a notebook full of sketches and a crazy lady in an orange coat who had a lot of opinions about how ceilings needed to be raised and floors lowered and kitchens ripped out. it must have seemed like an overwhelming show of force.

the view from the front - check out all those cars!
we proceeded to crawl around in every cobwebby attic, sending our favorite of the polish carpenters through a crawl space to check out the beams. he did crawl back out, so it was ok. we knocked on walls and cast critical glances at ceilings and roofs. 

the view from the back.
we debated where the sun would be when (since it wasn't obliging us by showing itself) and contemplated whether it would be possible to move it. we donned blue shoe protectors and traipsed through the inside, discussing the possibilities all the way. 

our lake.
we walked down to the lake. because yes, there is a lake that belongs to the property. or at least 1/3 of it does. and no one else who owns property down to the lake lives near it, so we'll pretty much have it to ourselves. and since it's at the far end of the 17 acres, it's far enough away that we hope mosquitoes won't be a problem, not that they're much of a problem in denmark anyway.

there are two old boats down by the lake.
the house was built in 1895 and the only thing in it that's halfway decent today is a relatively new furnace and a relatively new bathroom. the rest has to go and actually, the bathroom will eventually go as well. the first order of business will be a new roof. while we're at it, we'll raise it a bit and make the second floor of the main house usable, since it's never been used. otherwise, the 5 (or 10?)-year plan is to basically gut the house entirely, move the kitchen, raise the ceilings to roof-height in what is today their main living space (the "wing" on the right in the first picture above), build that second floor in the middle section, add two bathrooms. then, on the left-hand "wing," the entire upstairs will be my new blue room - 100m2 of space for creativity. downstairs, a 30m2 space for a shop and the other 70m2 devoted to furnace room and husband's workshop. 

husband spent the weekend sketching gardens and outbuildings, so we've got plans that should carry us easily through the next ten years without a single moment of boredom. and, with a may 1 move-in date, we'll even be able to plant a garden this year!

Monday, November 2, 2009

hurry up and wait

the house has been for sale for two weeks and four couples have looked at it so far. rumors abound on our street about why we're selling. whispers of divorce (do people lack imagination or what?) and of a turkish family with eight children having been among those who are interested (oops, guess their imaginations are pretty good) abound. and seriously, would that be so bad? the street could do with a bit of livening up.

i'm doing my best not to be offended when the realtor reports what people thought. the last ones complained that the house wasn't white enough. did they even look at the pictures? or realize you can buy paint and paint walls whatever color you like?

but seriously, i'm in no hurry. we get to live here and enjoy the house in the meantime, so it's ok if it takes awhile.

but at the same time, it feels a bit as if we're in a holding pattern, waiting for what's next. and while i sometimes like that liminal feeling, this time, it's left me sleepless and pondering in the middle of the night. maybe because it feels like a whole new life and a whole new lifestyle we will embark upon. and while i look forward to that, i'm also apprehensive and wondering how to keep my eyes trained on the goal. will i be able to do it? can we change our consumption habits (so far it hasn't proven that possible)? can we be more conscious of the way we live? and can we get started already now, before we move?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


things are moving much faster on our farm project that i had originally thought. our house is being prepared to be put up for sale, since it's necessary for us to sell in order to buy a new place and that means it's getting a "pudsning" which i guess is some form of stucco on the bricks, but not the swirly cake frosting kind.

other things that are happening are that our thinking is evolving. we're not sure it will be that easy to find others to share a place with and we're feeling a bit daunted by the thought of that. how to set it up so it's fair and equitable, but still dissolvable if the other party doesn't work out. there is a lot of thinking and investigation to be done. and how do you vet the people you would share your life with?

we don't have answers for these things, but yet we move ever forward. it's both exciting and a little bit scary.

Monday, August 31, 2009

an idyllic spot

those hills in the distance are the real watership down
berkshire, england
we're not looking for properties there.
it was just the most idyllic picture i had.
our project has progressed a long way since i last wrote. we've actually begun to look at properties to get an idea of what's out there. i can tell you it helps the process of imagination greatly to have a picture in your mind of a particular place, tho' we haven't yet found the right one. which is good, because we're not really that ready to make the move. we're taking it one step at a time.

we were discussing this idea with our very good friends the other day. most people we tell about it have some admiration for the notion, but everyone says they couldn't possibly do such a thing. because they couldn't stand to share some part of their house with someone else. there's even some hint of pride in people saying they're too selfish to consider such a thing.

but, that's where i think we're going wrong as a society. what we must do is wrap our heads around living more responsibly and less selfishly. why shouldn't we share the big things - furnace, kitchen, laundry facilities? you don't use your kitchen every minute anyway, so to have two families using one stove would be a kinder way to treat the planet and to get the best use out of that one stove.

i think we're going to have to change our minds and change our selfish ways of living and thinking only of ourselves. we owe it to our children. i shudder to think that sabin could potentially have a more difficult, harder life than we have had. the goal has always been that your children have a better life than you had. but the way we're using our resources and harming our planet, i really fear that it could be much more difficult for her as conflicts arise over scarce resources and space with rising sea levels. we have to take action now and it's difficult to see how we can do that as individuals, unless we change radically how we live our lives.

and i'm not at all saying that i'm good at it, i'm not. i'm still way too much of a consumer. but the will to change is there and it's coming in baby steps.

Monday, July 20, 2009

shifting thoughts

we've been discussing this notion of buying a farm with large enough buildings for several families every chance we get over the past week or so. imagining this or that aspect of it. talking about details of everything from how to construct it (should it be a company or what's called an andel in danish or something else?) to how it would work in practical everyday terms.

one of the things we envision is that although the buildings would support three, maybe four families living in separately, we would have one big kitchen that would be shared by all. because part of the whole idea is to get away from the notion that we need so much stuff. if we shared a big kitchen and passed around the cooking duties on a rotating basis, we'd make the burden lighter on ourselves and on the environment.

in discussing all of this, i've found myself thinking about how thinking shifts incrementally. the transition for being a single family in a single family dwelling to living together with several other families and sharing at least parts of the dwelling will be a big one. and how can we mentally make the leap--because that's what it will take to make the leap in actuality, right?

so i thought about the things i'm right now, at this very minute, willing to change:

  1. sharing the cooking duties. i find it difficult to be inspired to cook for three at times and think i would enjoy more cooking for a larger group, so i look forward to when it's "my" turn to do the cooking.
  2. sharing a car. i only find that i need the car a couple of times a week anyway, so i'm totally ready to be in a situation with a shared car. and as part of this, i'm completely cool with letting someone else decide what kind of car and all that jazz. 
  3. having a big kitchen garden and truly embracing eating more locally. eating and enjoying what's in season when it's in season appeals. big time.
these are the things that are a bit harder to imagine changing:
  1. what if the others don't take care when they're using "my" beloved kitchen-aid appliances?
  2. do i really want to share my starbucks mug collection and my favorite red plates with everyone? on the other hand, do i want to hide them away and NOT use them on an everyday basis just because i'm unwilling to share?
  3. what if someone objects to the colors of paint i like and the decorating style i would choose (what if they want everything white!!??)
and these are the things i'm really struggling with:
  1. giving up my beautiful blue room. it's my sanctuary. it's where i'm creative. it's perfect (to me) in every way. will i have a similar space to call my own? is it too selfish to think you need your own space?
  2. i don't want to live without a bathtub again....7 years was enough.
  3. i love having a job where i travel, but is that actually something i can defend in light of what we now know about global warming? i will miss jetting across the world. a lot.
  4. what if we don't find the right people--people we can share this living situation with and who we can be friends with and feel comfortable with long term? and how will we know that they're that when we commit to entering into the project together?
  5. i'm really not ready to leave this house yet. i've got a lot of mental shifting work do there. but hopefully it's already begun and by the time it happens (perhaps a year from now), i'll be ready.
if you're already in the midst of such a project, we'd love to hear from you and what your thoughts and fears were before you entered into it and how you dealt with those.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

in an ideal world

when i think of the world that our daughter will inherit, i get a little overwhelmed. there's a lot of talk of C02, global warming, rising sea levels, oil shortages, cap & trade, quotas...and it's hard to sort it all out. and if it's hard for me, when i write about that stuff for a living, then i can imagine that people feel really overwhelmed and we begin to wonder what we can do.

we were wondering about that and discussing it a lot at our house. and the conclusion that we've come to is that although it's pretty overwhelming, we've got to do something about it. as us. as individuals. because that's the only way to begin to make a difference while governments tussle over how to decide and figure this stuff out in a meaningful way. because if we don't start doing stuff ourselves, it may be too late for our 8-year-old and the world she will inherit. we've got to change now. we have to consume less and get a totally different relationship to the world we live in. or there won't be a world to live in--at least not one that's a nice place to be.

so if i could imagine how i would begin to make this change, here's what it would look like:
  1. hillary clinton was right when she wrote her book, it takes a village. although she was talking about raising children into productive adults, this is a meaningful notion--because only together can we make a difference.
  2. we would live on a farm with 2-3 other families - a place with enough space to raise a lot of our own food and become as self-sufficient as is possible in today's world, while still maintaining our regular world jobs (not intending to become farmers). 
  3. being locovores--using what's in season and grown locally--being conscious about the CO2 footprint of the food we eat. inspired by barbara kingsolver's animal, vegetable, miracle.
  4. wind energy - generating as much of our electricity as possible via renewable wind energy.
  5. sharing a car - let's face it, we need a car only some of the time, so the families on the farm could share.
  6. public transport - using it as much as possible.
  7. being conscious of water usage.
  8. being conscious of CO2 footprint.
  9. eating less meat.
  10. eating organic, ecological produce.
these are just my own initial thoughts on this project. if you are like-minded, please do leave us a comment, we'd love to start a dialogue on how to begin to make this change.

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NOTE: this blog is a collaboration between a dane and an american who have been together for a decade--which explains the danish/english mix. we're looking for like-minded people to enter into this project together with us. we've been looking at farm properties, but have only just begun. email us at if you're interested.

are we frog or human?

Lige siden mennesket for omkring 10.000 år siden fik den geniale idé at kaste sig ud i landbrugets ædle kunst, har den menneskelige udviklingshistorie for store dele af menneskeheden været en lang rejse mod bedre tider. De dele af menneskeheden, der ikke er nået lige så langt, som den industrialiserede verden (eller den fejludviklede verden som jeg også har set den benævnt), halser efter det bedste de har lært.

Disse bedre tider har for en stor dels vedkommende været kendetegnet ved at opbygge et stadigt voksende forbrug af Jordens ressourcer. Et ressourceforbrug, som nogen mener, er blevet så voldsomt, at det er blevet en trussel mod menneskeheden selv.

Truslen består væsentligst i form af kemikalier, der ødelægger vores evne til at forplante os eller bare gør os syge, manglen på energi eller råstoffer, der gør at nogen har materielle goder og andre har ikke, eller klimaforandringer, der truer med at ødelægge menneskers eksistensgrundlag.

Man kan naturligvis enten hævde at dette blot er et skæmmebillede, der er skabt af medier og moderne dommedagsmænd, eller man kan være overbevidst at videnskaben nok skal redde os. I så tilfælde kan alle I små Bjørn Lomborg'ere godt stoppe med at læse her!

Vi tror at nedenstående billede fra berlingske's tegner lars andersen er meget sigende for situationen lige nu, for det går jo meget godt, verdenshavene stiger kun 3 mm om året, finanskrisen har alt andet lige ikke været en katastrofe, men "bare" bragt os tilbage til en økonomisk normaltilstand, og vi kan købe øko-mælk på den lokale tankstation, hvilket faktisk er et fremskridt ... men alt dette og meget meget mere er jo lige nu, hvad med fremtiden og den planet vi efterlader til vores børn?

Man kan så spørge, hvordan det er kommet så vidt, at den vestlige kultur har bragt menneskeheden i en situation, hvor vi skal diskutere og forholde os til murens ankomst. For det er naturligvis muren der rammer os og ikke omvendt, for det ville jo placere et ansvar hos os mennesker og det skal vi ikke have noget af.

Der er skrevet mange og meget tykke bøger om dette emne, men den ultrakorte version er i vores øjne følgende...

Udviklingsmæssige er dyret "mennesket" stukket af fra andre dyrearter bl.a. på grund af menneskets evne til at opstille hypoteser, så som "hvad nu hvis man byggede et hus, så ville man ikke fryse om vinteren," "hvad nu hvis man satte stigbøjler på hesten, så ville man sidde sikrere i sadlen" eller "hvad nu hvis man indførte McDonalds i Danmark, så behøvede man ikke at have velopdragne børn for at kunne gå på restaurant og man kunne samtidig få noget at spise, der er af så lav kvalitet at det jf. svenske myndigheder ikke kan kategoriseres som fødevare (altså menneskelig innovation når det er bedst)" osv og osv.

Drivkraften bag denne udvikling er, hvad nogen har kaldt paradis-genet. Paradis-genet er en genetisk drift, der driver os mod det behagelige, det er derfor vi har svært ved at udgå sukkerholdig eller fed kost, selvom vi godt ved at det gør os overvægtige og kan forårsage sukkersyge mv. Det er derfor vi lige bliver lidt længere under den varme bruser, selvom vi godt ved, at det indebærer ekstra CO2 udledning og forbrug af knappe vandressourcer etc.

Det er netop dette dilemma, der udgør menneskehedens problem, for hvordan skal politikere kunne fortælle de befolkninger, der skal genvælge dem, at de skal reducere deres forbrug, når nu et flertal så gerne vil have mere af alting og helst til den halve pris.

Man kan så mene, at det oplyste menneske, er et rationelt menneske, og som sådan i stand til individuelt at træffe de for Moder Jord og menneskeheden rigtige beslutninger.

Der er efter sigende lavet forsøg, hvor man har taget en frø, puttet den ned i koldt vand og langsomt varmet vandet op til kogepunktet. Frøen skulle efter sigende ikke have opdaget hvad, der foregik og langsomt lidt koge-døden. Hvorimod hvis frøen blev præsenteret for allerede kogende vand, så vidste frøen, at det skulle den ikke ned i, for det er frøer jo som bekendt ikke skabt til at bade i.

Vi tror, at så længe muren kommer snigende som i tilfældet med frøen der bliver puttet ned i koldt vand, så vil paradis-genet samlet set vinde over fornuften. Mens hvis muren derimod kommer flyvende i form af en balje kogende vand, så vil mennesket reagere rationelt. Vores konklusion er, at skal mennesker i den nuværende situation, hvor vandet stadigt er koldt, udvise rationel adfærd, så kan vi ikke gøre det alene eller som isolerede familier, og når nu politikerne ikke vil hjælpe os i kampen mod paradis-genets tilbøjelighed for det behagelige, så må vi gøre noget andet.

Denne blog har til formål at diskutere, hvad vi som rationelle og oplyste frøer, der stadig befinder os i koldt vand, kan gøre for at vende udviklingen eller afbøde effekterne af murens ankomst.