Blessed.

Summer is hanging on a bit, and it's nice, because the days are fresher than before, but you can still wear a summer dress at midday. I really like autumn though. The coziness of the fire, the dark evenings, the change of focus. 

The garden this year has been crazy. We have had so much growing in such enormous quantities, its been overwhelming. Someone must have sprinkled magic dust in the soil (thank you!). I can't help but feel blessed (although I am not a specifically religious person, but you can feel blessed anyway, right?). Things are going so well with my photography, I'm getting lots of jobs with great variety, the kids are happy, we are all doing well. And after my last post ("On choices"), I feel happy that I wrote it (I really did have my doubts whether I should) because I have received so much wonderful feedback from you lovely souls out there. Thank you so much, it means a lot. Keep writing.

Xxx

On choices.

I often think that our society has it all planned out for us, that the road is there and all we have to do is follow along. How our houses are supposed to look, how we raise our children, how we dress, how our bodies look, our work, how much money we are supposed to have, the food we eat - the patterns are all laid out for us. The main stream is easy to follow because the decisions have already been made. So what would happen if you suddenly decided to reinvent your life? If you removed all of those patterns and jumped off the beaten path? If you had to make all those decisions fresh and only based on you - without the expectations of the world around you, without other peoples standards, without the pressure to conform? How would your life look then, if you cleaned it all up?

When I met my husband, I immediately knew that I'd met someone who would go the lengths with me, who had the freedom in spirit to jump off the path with me. He was unattached to culture, wild and free and strong enough to stand his ground. Strong enough not to care. So gradually, we started changing things. We bought the farm, which had been desolate for many years and needed a whole lot of work. Our dream was to be as close to self-sufficient as possible and that the farm would provide food for us. We rebuilt the house, bought animals, cleared forest, put fences up, and not long after, the farm was a lively place again. We had babies, too, in the midst of this, and all that work plus our full time day jobs left us feeling tired. We were crammed in between our dream, so close we could smell it, and the stark and stressful reality of working day jobs and having our kids at day care. Gradually, our day jobs began feeling like something standing in the way of the life we really wanted, and it sucked the energy out of us. Until one evening. The kids were in bed, and we were talking about this, when I suddenly said to him "why don't you just quit your job?". We talked and talked, calculated how much money we would need, discussed it all, and realised that both of us having full time jobs wasn't really making us much money at all. In order to keep the life we had up and practically possible, we needed two cars, kids at day care, Ronja at the after school centre, we spent more money buying food because we didn't have time to make our own food. Working full time actually meant spending more money and losing time. Time with our kids, most importantly, and also time to use our farmland to its fullest so that we in turn could save money on food costs. Where's the sense in that? I saw this quote once, and I think there is truth in it: 

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it." (Ellen Goodman)

Cutting down on all of our luxurious costs (in example shopping, having two cars, holidays/concerts/restaurants), and reducing on the other expenses by becoming more self-sufficient in the food department, we saw that Mr. Payne easily could quit his job and stay home. That also meant that our little ones would stay home with him (Ronja had already started school). Having your children at home full time without the ambition to start kindergarten is very rare in Norway, and I have often felt that I have to defend our decision to others. Luckily, neither of us are very bothered about other peoples standards. What feels right for us and our children is best for us and our children. This subject is very touchy though - because I think many parents put their kids in daycare for many hours a day/week without really wanting to. I am not one to speak for others or generalise about other peoples lives - but I have picked up on that a lot from other mamas. They think they should because its good for the child, and they think they have to because of the family economy. After jumping off that grid and keeping our kids at home with us, my perspective on this has changed a lot. And this is where I have to weigh my words carefully: I do not want to hurt anybody, but I still think it should be possible to talk about other ways of living. I am not a better mother than anyone else. I have just chosen differently. 

Now, I have quit my day job too, so we are both home. That is, we are both freelance workers, so we take the work we can get and juggle it between us. If I have a photography job, he's at home with the kids. If he has a tree felling job, I'm at home. We make enough so we can feed ourselves and our animals, pay the mortgage and electricity and not worry about next month. Deciding not to be a part of the rat race means less luxury, but it is so liberating. Simplifying our life like this, cutting it right down to the bone, has made me see clearer and enjoy the beauty and freedom of nature so much more. I have everything I need. I have my children close, the forest outside my doorstep, and a life free of stress and painful expectations. 

I have heard many times how lucky I am to have this life, to have this farm, to have this man, to have all this time with my kids. It is not luck. Our life and our privileges are not a result of happenstance. We have been brave, made choices who felt scary but right, followed our hearts, not compromised and worked very hard. Out of all this comes this life we have: time and space to be together. This journey has been hard at times, but what it has taught me the most is that although our culture, the media or the corporate world expect us to keep up with their standards (spend most of your time at work, make money, spend money), we have a choice. We can govern our own lives, and there are many ways of doing it.

Freedom is there, but you have to search for it, you have to want it, and you have to be willing to make that change. 

This moment.

A moment of silence, of breathing, of letting go. Accessing new energy, cleaning the slate. Being, not doing. Just for a moment.

The best playground.

In the forest above our house, Mr. Payne - and the sheep - have done a whole lot of work. When we bought the farm, it had been desolate for many years, and the forest had regrown with a lot of grazing ground being lost. Now, it is gradually opening up and becoming a beautiful place to hang out, for both animals and humans. What better playground can you have, really?

Beginnings, again.

My heart is split in two: I am bursting with pride over my girl and all that she is, of how grown she has become, of how open she is to everything ahead. And then, I mourn a little for a childhood in passing, and for all those moments lost in time. 

But today, today was all about starting 5th grade, meeting friends after weeks of summer break, of fresh clothes and new beginnings. I am one proud mama.

Love of nature.

When I was little, or probably when I was Ronjas age, I used to think that I was so lucky to be Norwegian, I could hardly believe it. The fact that I was born into a wealthy (in global terms) family in one of the richest and safest countries in the world, was simply beyond me. It still is. Talk about winning the lottery.

For some reason, I thought about this today, when we were out in the forest picking blueberries. The beauty and lushness of the woods, the pleasant weather, feeling free and safe and comfortable at the same time, and being able to pick these tasty little fruity things from nature, it made me feel like that again. Like I carry a privilege in this life I have, and my kids too, and that we must cherish it and take care of it and preserve it. And I think one of the most important gifts I could ever give them, is love of nature and to appreciate it in its many forms. Like freshly picked blueberries on your evening porridge, for example. It doesn't get much better than that.

Today:

I surprised myself (and everyone else in the house) with sleeping until 10.30 this morning, and oh how I needed that. Thank you to Mr. Payne and the kids for leaving me alone. That little Mr. Payne has interrupted my sleep an unknown number of times every night the last couple weeks (I am talking about my son here!), and stuff like that takes its toll. He has four teeth breaking through simultaneously, and I have decided that this is why he wriggles and raves around in bed half of the night. So charging up on a bit of sleep does good for an old and weary soul like myself.

After lunch we headed out to the river, threw out a couple of fishing rods (well, the lines anyway), and went skinny dipping, wohoo! This summer seems to be coming to an end, there is that fresh autumnal draft in the air in the morning, and the heat isn't as pacifying as it was earlier. I have to admit, I like it, but it still is great to make the most of what's left and throw oneself into the water as much as possible. 

The afternoon was spent cooking up a lovely soup with garden veg, and then - finally! - our big girl came home after what feels like ages away from us. That feeling of being everyone again, it's hard to beat. 

It was a good day, this Sunday in August.

Lately: On elephants and other things.

The biggest kiddo has been on a trip to the mountains with her grandmother the last week, so it's just been the little ones at home. Which in some respects is more than enough! Falk is reminding me more and more of a herd of elephants on a wild rampage, so I've got my hands full with him at the moment. I'm glad it's the right season for just opening the door and turfing him out when it gets a bit intense. He is positively the most charming little rascal I have ever come across, god he melts my heart every day, despite the elephant resemblance.

August is upon us, and it's been a grey and rainy day today. I have to admit it's refreshing, although I hope summer isn't quite over yet. Another dip in the ocean and a camping weekend would be perfect before autumn embraces us. From a farmers perspective, this rain is more than welcome. The fields really need it, and when Mr. Payne checked our well today, the water was very low. Yikes! We might have to resort to self-cleansing methods in the near future (meaning no showers or baths). Maybe our cats can teach us a trick or two.

Xxx

Blown away.

I drove through a thunderstorm on Saturday night to witness the birth of a beautiful and strong baby girl. Welcome Saga, your journey earthside is imprinted in my heart.

(The whole story will be posted on my birth photography website www.birth.no - when I've worked through the hundreds of photos. You shall be given notice.)

These days.

The heat is consistent and lets us really soak in the delight of summer, it's filling up our reservoirs to go through another winter, it tans our skins and lightens our hair, the soil goes dry and the ever panting dog seeks refuge in the dark coolness of the hall during the day. We have already picked our redcurrant bush almost bare, and made juice from it with the freshest taste of summer, I bake bread every other day, just to do something sensible during the hottest hours, and apart from that we mostly hang around in the shade, play games, listen to the radio, read. In the cooler afternoons we go for a dip in the local swimming pond, before we head back for a home cooked evening meal with lovely produce from our gardens. 

I'm on call for a birth, I've got my camera all packed and ready, and the magic and intensity of what I'm about to witness, contrasts heavily with the lightness of these days. How lucky I am, to have this electric contrast in my life, to be invited into such a space, and to wait for it so pleasantly. These summer days, they are freedom encapsulated.

Explosion.

It still completely puzzles me, that the tiny little seeds we put into soil in spring, now have transformed into this huge variation of amazing plants. And they even feed us! How something so complex can be programmed in those small seeds, is nothing short of a miracle. The garden is in full bloom, and our meals nowadays consist of a huge part from the garden. What luxury!

The real Mr. Payne.

Happy birthday to my father-in-law, my husbands dad, my childrens granddad - the real Mr. Payne! We wish we could have been there to celebrate your big day, but we promise to make it up to you. You are such an inspiration, you have a big heart and you are a wonderful example to us and our children. Lots and lots of love from all of us!

xxx

(Check out the handsome farmer below! I see so much of my Mr. Payne in him. And the kids on the roof are my husband and his brother helping their dad out, just like our kids help us on the farm. Good things are passed on.)

rob.jpg
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This guy.

Just about to turn one and a half, this little monkey melts his mamas heart every day. He is such a cheeky charmer, using those big eyes with the long lashes for what they are worth to get away with his little schemes. 

Right now he is the only kid in the house, because his sisters went with my dad to the mountains today. A couple of days of hiking and fishing awaits, and they were more than mildly excited when they took off this morning. Lucky them for having such a granddad! And lucky me for getting some alone-time with this little guy. Although I miss my girls already, it is nice to be able to focus completely on Falk for a while. He is the loveliest little rascal a mother could ever ask for. Sigh.

Days of summer.

We usually go on holiday to England and Portugal in the summer, to visit Mr. Paynes parents and brother with family. It's always been a lovely break, but at the same time we have felt it strange to leave home at the prettiest time of year, when our garden is in bloom and we can finally eat from it, the weather usually is lovely, and we can enjoy life to the fullest here. Also, we are building kennels on the farm to start a dog motel (cats too eventually), and we have a cow to milk twice a day. So we're staying home. Next year we'll probably go, but in the autumn. This summer then, is spent in ways reminiscent of my childhood summers - with trips to the coast. We are so lucky, we have friends who share their luxuries with us, so we can climb aboard a boat and travel out to sea, stopping at an island to spend the day.

What better way to spend a hot sunny day? I can't think of any.

(Ps. Remember my holiday films from last year (this and this and this)? Well, I'm making another one from one of these days. Coming up!)