Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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:

IMG_6295

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

IMG_6296

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…

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.

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…

1404417_10153793048120097_6668487753071028440_o

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…)

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!


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…

New House…


12309504_10153722358000097_3734883255667614278_o.jpg

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…

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!!!


When I visited my grandmother on Sunday, I took the chance to walk around her garden a few times. Sadly she doesn’t walk very well any more so she couldn’t join me, but I wanted to see what I wanted to “poach” from her garden in early spring.

(And walking gardens in November is when it comes in handy to have grown up with a mother and a grandmother who are both avid gardeners, because I can still see what’s what more or less, even when there are just a few withered leaves on the perennials.)

She is very happy to pass plants on to me, of course, because she can hardly walk and hardly see any more, and also she has this autumn become so frail that she doesn’t really go out unto her terraces without company. And she knows how much I enjoyed having some literal heirloom plants in the old garden and how plants from her garden are more important to me than the fanciest stuff I could buy in a plant store.

Some areas of her garden would be more sensitive to poaching than others. Because she doesn’t walk much these days, she will probably never make it into the lower part of her garden again, so that’s where I can really do my poaching without her or – more importantly, given her poor eye sight – her guests ever noticing. I want the upper garden around the house to still look nice and lush and presentable.

Still, some plants from the upper garden won’t show if I poach a huge quantity of them, especially her geraniums and her wild strawberries. They have such rampant growth that I can take as many as I want and it will still look lush a few weeks later, even to a 20/20 vision guest!

Storkenæb

In the lower garden there are some asters and daisies I could use, and of course lots and lots of biannuals like evening primrose.

Daisies

When I do poach/collect these plants, an interesting thing is that because my grandparents created this garden more or less from scratch, the original plans exist and were routinely updated until my grandfather died, so I can get actual species names for almost every single plant by consulting those plans. That is, I believe, a rarity when getting plants from established gardens.

My grandmother is, I hope, not much longer in this world. She is a kind and generous and loving person, and I hope that one morning she just won’t wake up. She is still mentally present to a great extent (okay, she repeats herself, but what she says is sensible and interesting) but her body is failing. And she is quite open about looking forward to dying.

Apart from getting some great plants for free, what I’ll also get is my own history imprinted on my little plot of land. A sense of belonging by virtue of sharing the garden with plants from my grandmother’s garden. I believe we’ll all be very happy in the rich soil of the island of Lolland!

I may have…


I may have ordered a few spring-flowering bulbs…

The present forecast makes it seem unlikely that we’ll see hard frost for the next month, so I should be able to get the bulbs in the ground in early December after I get the keys to the house and garden.

Oh, and when I say “a few” I obviously mean 798 bulbs.

(WHAT??? They were on sale!!!)

250 are tall dark-red tulips for the front garden. (Tulip Seadov)

Seadov

Against the white walls and dark-red windows of the house I think they will look rather spectacular, both when viewed from the road and when viewed from the entrance to the house.

I also bought – perhaps against my better judgement – 250 bulbs of Tulip Turkestanica…

Tulipa turkestanica

Those I don’t know where to put, though, but I’m sure I’ll find some spot for them in the back garden. They’d disappear behind the low wall in the front garden, so nobody would enjoy them there!

So that’s 500 tulips. That’s got to be enough, right? Except…

Queen

My mother had ‘Queen of the night’ by one corner of the house I grew up in, and I can’t help loving that dark, rich colour in a tulip. Or, in fact, in any flower! I got 50 bulbs, just so I would have some to plant somewhere…

fritillaire-persica-adyaman-54596-2

Okay, so I only got 8 of these bulbs, but I really love the look of this fritillaria persica adiyaman. They look like they will be spectacular, but like the ‘Queen of the Night’ tulips, these won’t go in the front garden; they are bought to be a bit special, so I need to find a special place for them where I can enjoy them the most.

These, though, will go in the front garden as they should bloom after the red tulips:

Alium

Alium Christophii – 40 of those – because the flowers are fireworks and can be dried and still be absolutely amazing. Since the inflorescence is around 6″ – 15cm – in diameter, even 40 of these should make quite a statement.

Oh, and there’s also something for the lawn.

Crocus

Crocus Ruby giant tommasianus – 200 of them – will be planted in clusters in the lawn. I love the look of crocus brightening up a winter lawn, and while I shan’t plant a complete blanket I can at least have a few dots here and there. QUITE a few dots…

But that was all I bought! Honestly! (And yes, I did cut back again and again to get the number of bulbs this low.

 

______________________________

 

Meanwhile, yesterday I visited my grandmother. Lovely woman, growing old and weary of life as an infirm, hence the need to visit her while she’s still there to be visited.

Her old garden at the farm was amazing, but now that my aunt and uncle live there with two full-time jobs AND a hobby farm, the garden gets less attention than it used to. And her new garden by her medium-sized one-floor house is still good, but perhaps less inspiring.

Still, it has its moments in term of the sheer multitude of plants that were put in that medium-sized garden when she and my grandfather moved there! Some have died away as the tending of the garden became more and more sporadic and eventually was left to some hired guy who does his best, but there are still so many basic plants I want to poach when I visit her the next time. That is, if there will ever be a next time. I love her, and for her sake I wish she could soon have a morning when she wouldn’t have to wake up to this world again.

Anyway! Her garden, due to its relatively low level of maintenance these days, has a lot of spreading ground-covers. Strawberries of various kinds in particular. Clearly I need to get my hands on some shoots of those! But she also has hellebores to spare, and violas and rudbeckias and roses.

But… What I meant to say was that I poached a few seeds yesterday… I took more than a handful of seeds from her bladdernut (Staphylea pinnata – European bladdernut):

Staphylea pinnata

-Only after doing that did I read that some sources recommend 180 days of warm stratification, followed by 90 days of cold stratification… THAT’S not happening!!! I’ll plunk the seeds in pots in the greenhouse of the new garden and then see what happens.

It’s a lovely shrub, though, so I’d rather like one of the seeds to grow, but otherwise I should be able to get cuttings or sucklings from my grandmother’s bladdernut.

Anyway, I guess this is all for now… 14 days from now I’ll have a house and a garden!!!

Over-active Imagination…


I’m spending the day imagining things…

It’s been so long since I saw the garden – and I only saw it twice, so I have a very vague concept of what the layout really is and what it looks like, apart from an old aerial from when global online mapping began.

Brydebjergvejmap

Still, it gives me a map of where the buildings and the main trees/shrubs are. Judging by the shadows, this picture was taken around 5pm, and the vegetable garden is clearly where it ought to be but some larger shrubs will have to come down to open up the garden. Also, the Eastern side of the garden is very open, which means I could plant fruit trees there to benefit from the shelter of the high trees on the Western side without their shade.

The prevalent wind in Denmark is from the west, so the trees on the Western edge will be staying – at worst I’ll top-cut some of them, though really they seem to be in proportion to the garden so for now they can remain as they are. In this surrounding of fields it’s quite nice to have some tall trees – and of course the big tree by the drive is an absolute treasure.

Brydebjergvej1

I want to go completely mad with the front garden. (It’s already a little bit mad with that low wall and the ornamental concrete balls… The balls might have to go, or perhaps I’ll embrace them in time.) I want to get rid of the shrubs, and then I’m considering filling the space with either roses, peonies or daylilies. A big, brash, show of flowers, and considering its south-south-eastern exposure I suspect it to be quite a prime plot in the garden, even if I’ll rarely enjoy it myself. When looking out of the front room windows, the eye is drawn not to the front garden, but to the rolling fields on the other side of the road and the church tower in the distance…

Inside the garden proper, though, the white square nearest the house on the aerial photo is a caravan and its awning. That needs to go. Further down the garden (i.e. further North, so “up” in the picture) is a large shed built of cinder blocks and with a roof partially in rusty metal and partially in white polycarbonate. To the south of it is a lean-to in white polycarbonate that currently houses the wood store, but there would be room for this inside the shed so I could get rid of this and use the south-facing wall for anything that might need that little bit of extra warmth.

(Or, y’know, if I’m dreaming… Building a small lean-to greenhouse…)

The main shrub/tree that will need to go is the one just to the north of one corner of the house. Partly because it makes the garden seem smaller when viewed from the house and partly because it blocks a lot of light into the “garden room” – an indoor-outdoor room built on to the house with access through the small sitting room that will eventually be part of the kitchen.

Cutting down those shrubs and digging up the roots will also mean a large hole in the ground will have to be dug anyway, so… Pond? As the garden itself is fairly flat but slopes marginally away from the house, this would mean I would have a pond at the head of the stream, which is obviously not the standard way of doing a stream in a garden, but I think it could work. It would mean I could have all the “business” tucked away at the end of the stream (pump, filter and so on), rather than near the pond itself.

I loved my “Puddles” in the old garden, but they definitely gave me a taste for more. Not that the local area is lacking in water areas, as there are lots of small lakes and bogs only a few hundred meters to the north of the new garden, but of course that also means that if I create a pond and a stream through the garden, animals WILL come in absolutely no time. And this can just be on a completely different scale from The Puddles, which should make it easier to manage the ecosystem. (Also, if I’m a bit clever I can lead the rainwater from the shed roof into the lower pond so the system tops itself up automatically… It’s around 30 square metres/300sqf of roof, so that should give an ample water supply.)

The Puddles in the old garden were just plastic tubs sunk into the ground with tiny solar-powered pumps to provide a little water movement, but for an actual stream I obviously need something a bit more powerful, which is why it’s actually quite handy to have the lower pond at the back of the garden. Because no, I won’t be wasting fossil-fuel-based electricity on a water feature in my garden. It will once again be a solar-powered pump, but this time I will need a larger pump – and a larger panel. And who wants to look at solar panels? Sure, it means there will not always be a continuous flow in the stream, but as the garden is nearly flat it can be designed to look all right even when the water is not moving.

I had so much fun with The Puddles. Building them, planting around them, seeing how life took hold in them… It was so rewarding, and I want to do the same in the new garden. Only… This time the only limit is my physical ability to dig!

I may or may not have gone a bit silly and already ordered the pump system for this project. Mind you, my silliness does have its boundaries so I shan’t order the pond liner until the ponds and the stream have been dug out. There was just an offer I couldn’t refuse… (Because I am weak!)