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New Beginnings


I’m moving out of my little shoe box apartment in Copenhagen and into my own apartment that I’ve had rented out while I was married. (I’m kind of glad I kept it now, even though at times it was a financial drain.)

However, I’ve decided that most of my belongings should go to the house, rather than the apartment, so today a man and two women came and moved it all for me.

IMG_6297 Most of the boxes are books, so they will remain boxed-up until I have renovated the sitting room (floor, walls and ceiling) and can get a nice book case to cover the entire end wall. There are just under 3,000 books in my library, so I kind of need a large book case. (Preferably with excess space, as my books tend to breed – or else I just happen to buy new books all the time.)

So far I have the impression that my furniture really fits the house. It is sort of old-ish (1890’s to 1960’s), and though most of it’s dark wood – oak, mahogany, teak – it is all in a scale where it will not overpower the space when the walls have been done up and there’s a wooden floor. It will be a bright and airy house, with plenty of open floor space – and perhaps very much a Scandinavian house.

In other news, the snow has melted:

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There are little aconites and snowdrops all over the garden, and this pleases me immensely.

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There are also several groups of arum italicum which I love, and the hellebores are fiercely large – though probably of the Easter-blooming variety. I have a feeling this garden and I will get along very well…

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Objects In The Garden


“I’m lucky enough to have inherited several garden gnomes with my new garden… Most of them have accidentally ended up in the trash, but one of them is 4ft high (including his pedestal) and made of solid concrete. He remains in situ until I get somebody to help me get rid of that dreadful thing… There’s also a lion holding a crest by the drive – perhaps suitable for a grander house, but hardly for a rather modest house in the countryside.

I believe you might have given me the inspiration for a new post…”

The above was my comment on a post in Jean’s Garden, and I could have gone on and on – but didn’t want to make a rambling, long comment about my own garden on her blog. Her post was about art objects in the garden, and while I dare say my garden gnomes are hardly art – nor remotely pretty – it made me think about something I’ve long wanted in the old garden, but that would be too costly.

I love stones and rocks… But in the old garden on a fjord meadow they didn’t seem appropriate. I placed some smaller stones around the garden – souvenirs from around the world – but didn’t buy actual large stones in.

The new garden, though, is surrounded by fields, and boulders seem to crop up in them out of nowhere. The recent freeze has pushed several boulders out of the ground, so I need to get in touch with the farmer and ask him if he would mind if I took them (he obviously won’t), or if he would place them by my rear garden gate when he removes them himself, which he will definitely have to do pretty soon before his winter barley gets too high and begins hiding them in spring.

Using local boulders – that sprung from the ground a mere, well, stone’s throw from the garden really appeals to me, because I want the garden to be firmly anchored in it’s surroundings. Most are in sizes I can carry – or at least lift into the wheelbarrow on my own – and some are just large enough that I can’t – but can roll them over the lawn to where I want them. So I could manage on my own – which is important.

They will mainly fit in around the pond when I get that dug out – and as obstructions in the small stream I’m planning. Not large features, but semi-submerged remnants from the landscape around the garden and reminders of how the landscape was formed during the last ice age. And how it apparently still moves and shifts under the surrounding fields!

I think local, natural stones will fit in better in my garden than actual pieces of art. After all, the house is enough of a man-made statement in the garden for me.

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Slowly, Slowly…


Things are progressing very slowly at my house in the country. Not frustratingly so, but rather lazily and relaxed.

I am still working on the walls of the small sitting room, and that’s okay; it’s a labour of love, and I don’t want it to be stressful. Still, I am looking forward to the day when I can stand in a finished room, look around me and say to myself “Yes, this is just as it should be!”

Perhaps that’s reflected in my latest purchase:

Kanvas

27 yards of canvas???

It’s for curtains for the house, and that greyish sage green, coarse fabric should, I hope, look good against rough walls of white, rendered bricks. The reason I ordered so much fabric is that I want the same curtains throughout the house, and a) there are a lot of windows in a house compared to a small apartment and b) it is a cheap fabric, so I’d rather have too much than too little of it so I don’t run out and find they don’t make the exact same colour or texture any more.

It will be quite a project, turning this huge pile of fabric into curtains, but there’s no rush. After all, I can live without curtains as long as I’m working on the house – and then get a friend down to help me with the task of cutting up this vast swathe of fabric and turning it into separate panes. Yeah, real men make their own curtains, right?

Planning such a thing as curtains helps me see the house as it will be, and it will be lovely! As I look around me at the salmon-coloured walls of the large sitting room, the room transforms itself inside my head; the walls change colour and texture, the dropped faux-wood ceiling disappears and exposes the beams, the mangy old carpet turns into wooden flooring. Over there by the fire is where my great-grandmother’s sofa and armchairs will go, down here in the far end is where the large book case will cover the end wall and my desk will stand just there by the window. Under the desk will be my woollen rug so my feet are nice and warm when I sit there, and under the sofa arrangement will be a new rug that I haven’t quite imagined yet.

Bord

I’ve also bought the dining table for my large kitchen (when the wall to the small sitting room is knocked down): Solid oak, contemporary but still rustic. When the leaves are added to the ends it becomes nearly 10 feet long and easily seats 12-14 if needed, but it will also be my main work space in the kitchen – hence the need for something sturdy! And it came with a set of 12 solid oak chairs, though the chairs are lighter and more organic in their shape; somehow more welcoming to sit on than if they had had the same square, heavy style as the table.

Stole

The curves of the solid wood are so nice to touch…

All these pieces of the puzzle are still only put together in my mind – the dining table and the chairs are currently stored in the garage, my great-grandmother’s sofa set is in my aunt’s attic and so on, but I can somehow see it all coming together as a coherent, relaxed space.

Oh, and I bought myself another little trinket…

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Yes, Mr. I-Hate-Cars has bought a car. It’s a pretty, little thing – and would have felt dangerously small on Houston highways between pick-up trucks and SUVs, but in Denmark it fits in better. And 40 miles per gallon fits in nicely with my wallet…

A car simply makes it easier to have a house in the country. Easier to get down here, and easier to get around while I’m down here. Easier to bring a few friends down here – though of course I’d need a small bus if I were to provide transport for enough people to fill my dining table!

But… This house… I am so in love with it still! The project has expanded from merely redecorating to a rather more full-scale restoration with historic building materials and a “softly, softly” approach, so it will take me years to finish it – and that’s okay. Initially I thought I could have the internal walls repainted and the floors changed by Easter, but that’s not happening – and I really don’t mind. All delays are my own, and there are things I need to learn from scratch in order to achieve my vision (like rendering un-fired brick walls with lime-based render) but unskilled people have been working with these materials for thousands of years, so surely I can too!

(I won’t, though, be turning 27 yards of fabric into curtains by hand-sewing them! There must be limits, even for me…)

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OK for Christmas?


I may have just ordered a goose for my Christmas dinner…

Goose

A 12-pounder, to be exact… I do hope I will have some guests for dinner, because otherwise I’ll be eating confit of goose, goose paté, goose rillette and so on for ages to come! Though I suppose worse things could happen…

The goose will, though, be delivered quite dead and without feathers. (Or so I hope!)

In Denmark Christmas is in the evening on the 24th and really begins with the big Christmas dinner. It can be roast duck, roast pork or roast goose. The trimmings are the same: Braised and pickled red cabbage, boiled potatoes, caramelized small potatoes, gravy. And then you can add on as you like with other roast dinner trimmings. I like to do English roast potatoes instead of the boiled potatoes (because they’re SO much better, especially when roasted in goose fat), roasted Brussels sprouts, apple and prune stuffing for the goose, and maybe a waldorf salad.

After the roast comes dessert, which is risalamande, a Danish way of saying the French “riz á l’amande” – rice with almonds – though it has absolutely nothing to do with France. It’s a rice pudding with chopped almonds in it,and one whole almond that earns the winner of the almond a prize. The pudding is served with a warm cherry sauce, and I preserved some sour cherries just for this sauce in autumn after helping my uncle with his cherry harvest. Depending on who my Christmas guests are, the sauce will either be made with the cherries preserved in rum or the cherries preserved in syrup.

You see, I’m not quite sure who my guests will be… I’ve volunteered as a “Christmas host” with the Red Cross, so my guests could be lonely people who don’t have anybody to spend Christmas with, people who can’t afford to celebrate Christmas themselves or for that matter a group from the local refugee camp. (Hence the two options for the cherry sauce; Muslims are welcome at my rather secular Christmas where the star on the tree is really the only religious symbol, and that’s a fairly subtle one.)

I bought a tree last week, actually. It’s a bit smaller than what I got for Christmas in the old Copenhagen apartment, but my ceilings are lower and I still need room for the top star – and a safe distance from the upper-most candles on the tree to the ceiling! I mean, you didn’t expect me to put electric lights on my tree, did you?

It will still be around 7′, though, so not a tiny thing. It’s currently standing in the unheated garden room to keep fresh and will be taken inside in the morning of the 24th and decked out with paper ornaments of various forms – woven hearts, woven stars, woven cones for candy or cookies – and candles. I’ve been looking for nice baubles for a while but just didn’t find any that were my style, but I did find the perfect candle holders, which is more important.

Oh, how I look forward to Christmas… Even if spending Christmas with strangers turns out to be a nightmare I can always just put fresh candles on my tree and celebrate a second Christmas alone, and there’s BOUND to be some left-over goose!

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I’ve started tearing into my house. Literally.

Because I’ll be having guests for Christmas (part of a Red Cross scheme where you can offer to host Christmas for people who are either lonely or can’t afford to celebrate), the large front room will be left as-is for now. The carpet is ugly, the wallpapering poorly executed and the painting erratic, but it works as a large room to host a big dinner party with rooms for couches at one end.

So I am tackling the small sitting room off the kitchen first; the one I want to knock through into, so I don’t have to bee too careful.

6 layers of wallpaper… 6! Then a layer of wooden fibreboard – not ideal wall cladding in terms of fire hazards – and behind that half an inch of polystyrene as insulation – even worse in terms of fire hazards! Then another two layers of wall paper, a layer of concrete render to make the walls even and then…

So far I’ve only made a couple of 5″-diameter exploratory holes in the concrete render, but behind the concrete is an uneven, whitewashed wall. And it looks beautiful!

Tomorrow I plan to scratch off the whitewash to see what the actual fabric of the internal wall is, but this house is definitely rich in character and has the potential to become something quite amazing.

It feels so surreal to have actually peeled back the internal surface to the original wall, even if it’s just a few small holes so far. Attacking a house with a crowbar feel so violent, but it is also an act of love, because I want to know this house and make it as beautiful as it can be. Who knows what hides above the lowered ceilings!

The project is much bigger than expected, though, because there are so many layers before the actual wall. It will not be quick work, and it will not be easy.

So I’ve made a plan… There’s a gas cooker and a sink in the scullery, so if I start with the small sitting room and then move on to the kitchen I’ll still have a fully functioning house with a sitting room, cooking space and bedroom while I create my dream farmhouse kitchen. Bit by bit, this can be done.

I am so in love with this house. The generous space inside, the lovely garden outside and – of course – the views… Those views… When I stand in the shower I can see the local lake! Also when I do the dishes (NOT in the shower, obviously.) And the front room has a view of a field with a small clump of trees midway on its crest…

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New House…


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My first thought when I arrived at my new house: Oh, this isn’t so bad; I can work with this.

Second thought: Sheer panic and OH FUCK, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO???

Third thought: I think I might be in love with this house.

When I stand by the kitchen sink I look down through the garden, past the old laundry house and across the field down to the lake.

When I look out the windows in the front room I can see the top of one of the local church towers peaking up over the field across the road.

When I look in the mirror I can see a little boy grinning because Santa came early and brought him exactly what he wanted for Christmas.

Oh, and the garden… Hydrangeas, hellebores, grape vines, asters, roses, physalis, strawberries, apple trees, ferns, forsythia, perennial sweet-peas, kolkwitzia, and so much more that I will only slowly begin to discover! And those views… Fields, small woods, a lake…

I now know that if this project becomes too much I can scale it back to nothing but painting walls and ceilings and laying new carpet – and still be happy with the house. It’s nice to have a plan B – but I’ll still do my best to make plan A happen…

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Tomorrow…


I’ve set my alarm clock so I can be in town to pick up the rental car at 8AM sharp when the rental company opens, and then I’ll hurry home and start filling up the car with as much as possible before driving down to the house for 12PM when the estate agent will be there to do the meter readings and hand over the keys.

It feels very surreal that in 14 hours I’ll be outside my house, waiting for the estate agent to let me in and then leave me there.

Alone.

In my house. Set in my garden. Surrounded by fields on all sides.

It’s a little bit scary to think what I’ve thrown myself into. Renovating the summer house after the flood in December 2013 was such a huge project, and this house is in a way a bigger project because I will not only be ripping things out myself, but also replacing them myself, rather than affording to have builders do it.

But… If I feel happy when I stand outside that house tomorrow at noon, perhaps it will be worth a bit of stress and some aching muscles and joints.

I don’t know if I can sleep tonight. Who cares about Christmas; tomorrow I get a HOUSE!!!

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