On Thursday I returned to one of my most beloved places in the world, Lindestrømgård. This was my grandparents’ farm, and my uncle has since taken it over. It used to be a large farm, but standards have changed and eventually it was just not possible for my uncle and aunt to make ends meet, even with my aunt working full time, so they had to sell off the land and give up the pigs so my uncle, too, could get a job rather than “just” being a farmer. These days, the only farms that seem to make a profit are vast compared to what was considered a large farm back in the 1960′s.
My aunt and uncle have only retained the two fields nearest to the farm, as well as the cherry plantation and the small piece of woodland that we call “the forest”, though it’s barely 200 meters across.
The field in the front has been planted with more cherry trees so the orchard reaches almost down to the barn, and to the right where you can see my grandmother’s old vegetable garden there is now a large shed for machinery and my aunt’s Icelandic horses.
In 1981 or 1982 the outbuildings – barns, stables, garages et cetera – burnt to the ground and were replaced with the current buildings that form the three wings of the complex. Fortunately the fire didn’t spread to the house, but all the old timber-frame buildings went up in the flames at a time when I was too young to remember them, so these early-80′s farm buildings have a charm to me that they probably don’t have to anybody else, since this was my childhood farm.
(No people or livestock perished in the fire, as all the pigs were swiftly herded outside. The alarm was raised on a Sunday morning during the church service, and I have heard tales of priceless scenes of the local vicar – still in his robes – chasing pigs in the surrounding fields. Now, ANYBODY who has ever chased pigs through open fields will know that they are rather quick when they want to be, and even in trousers it can be hard enough to keep up with them, so I can only imagine a priest in full cassock doing his best to keep up with them…)
We spent at least a week there every summer – and most often two weeks – and especially the last week of the summer holidays was special, because that was when my two brothers and I were sent down to the farm while my parents returned to work. We’d get up early and help my Grandfather feed the pigs before going inside for breakfast at the long oak table in the dining room.
Yes. We were happy as the proverbial pig in muck (okay, so my older brother is moping in the photo above, but he never liked cameras…) and as you can see I (on the left) had a certain chubby resemblance to a well-fed piglet.
It was the first place I ever got to drive a motorized vehicle – a tractor, of course – and where I learned to drive a combine harvester and keep it aligned with the tractor pulling the grain wagon, and it was where I first saw a living creature being born – and saw a living creature being killed. It was the place where I went running in the pea fields and ate so many peas I got a tummy ache, and the place where I ate so many cherries that I – well… You get the picture.
In autumn the whole family gathered on the farm – as we still do, thanks to my uncle and aunt’s decision to continue this hospitality – to make apple juice in copious quantities, enough to last us all through the year and then some to give away to friends. We got up early in the morning, worked throughout the day interrupted by 7 meals – morning coffee, breakfast, mid-morning coffee, lunch, afternoon coffee, dinner, evening coffee, and of course everything that includes the word “coffee” also included some sort of home-baked goods; rolls, cakes, you name it – and in the evening my grandfather would take his fiddle off the wall and my aunt would bring our her accordion and then there’d be folk dancing in the middle of the living room.
The autumn juice making still takes place now that my uncle and his wife have taken over the farm, but of course service levels have dropped since there is no longer a full-time housewife to feed the 20-something people and clean up after them. There’s a kitchen rota, and the whole assembly ends with a communal cleaning-session on the last day so we leave the place as we found it.
The village has changed, of course. It is no longer a small village, but rather a commuter suburb to surrounding towns. When I was a child it was the sort of place where we could shop at the local co-op on my grandmother’s account simply by bringing with us her rather distinctive tartan cloth shopping bags, and anyway the cashiers would know our faces and know that we came from the Lindestrømgård farm – so we couldn’t just go down there and buy sweets on the account!
Still, the farm is on the edge of the village, and though the actual farm house only dates back to the 1870′s the actual farm probably pre-dates the farming reforms in 1788 when the village system of strip farming was replaced by the system of wider fields as we know it today. At that time, many farms were moved from the villages out onto their allotted area of land, so since the farm is still just on the edge of the old village – the 12th century church is just a few hundred meters away – it is safe to guess that it has been the site of that farm for a very long time.
The village church is almost the stereotype of a Danish country church; whitewashed walls, the choir slightly lover than the nave, and a tower with the stepped gables that were all the riot back in the 16th century. I can still remember going up the tower when I was 5 or 6 and getting so afraid of the steep stairs/ladders that my Mum had to carry me down – pretty tough going, as anybody who has carried a 5-year-old on steep steps will know.
Mind you, its history as my family farm is quite recent. My grandfather bought it in the 1960′s after his ancestral farm (the black and white photo above) had been expropriated to build a large-scale concrete housing estate. (Now one of the most infamous “ghettos” / “especially vulnerable public housing areas” in Denmark, Vollsmose.) My grandfather augmented the landholding by buying three other farms and incorporating them into the farm, selling off the buildings of one as a small-hold and keeping the buildings of another as part of the farm while renting out the house.
I love Lindestrømgård. (Lime Stream Farm, though to the best of my knowledge there has been neither limes nor a stream near the farm for ages…) I used to dream of one day living there, and at times I still do. The outbuildings might be dull 1980′s buildings, but the house itself is wonderful; it is large (7 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a huge sitting room, a dining room, a vast kitchen and an equally large so-called “weaving room” which is where my grandmother used to keep her large loom), but it’s a welcoming home, and part of the reason I love our apartment is that it reminds me of that house. A beautiful home to be lived in, to welcome guests, to embrace you and give you space.
And it remains, in some way, my home. I never lived there, but I know every nook and cranny of that house, I feel at home there and I know the gardens, the lands, the buildings. I know what the soil feels like between my fingers. The house might be in need of a serious overhauling to get it up to modern standards, but that would cost a small fortune so it won’t happen any time soon. At least my aunt and uncle have ripped out all the pig sties of the farm buildings and converted some to storage space and some to horse stables which they rent out to earn some extra money; it is nice to see that those vast buildings are not just a white elephant that will eventually take a lot of money to either renovate or pull down, but are instead used for practical purposes.
Tomorrow I will bring you a step-by-step instruction on how to make apple juice, family style. It involves a couple of tons of apples, some octogenarian machinery and lots and lots of people.
Oh, and if anybody is passing through Funen on a bicycle it’s possible to spend the night at lindestrømgård in the garden or the surrounding grounds. For more details, please see this link.