The story is this:
Jeppe and I first time met when we were teenagers. Many years later we reconnected and it didn´t take us long to get married (two months).
I had 3 children from previous marriage and soon we added a fourth to the bundle. From there on things got crazy.
“Normal life” had us screaming and shouting and crying and trembling- so one day we decided to run.
And ran we did.
Into the wild.
We ran to a little cabin in the woods called “Svensäter”. We had made an arrangement with the owner of the land- to live in that little cabin while we built ourselves a new one. From the ground. Out of natural materials.
Building a shelter seems to be the most basic of all human needs. We wanted to reconnect with the most basic of all human needs.
To do so we needed help. Someone to teach us the stuff you don´t learn in school. His name is Jo but we called him Captain. He lived 10 years in a tipi in these woods, as a wild man.
We reached out online- he grabbed our hands and he helped us. We owe him much.
He became our neighbour. He lived on a small farm nearby. Our vision was to create a community of families living in the forest, helping each other.
It was a time of great optimism and joy.
Every evening turned into nights around the fireplace. We were talking. As a family, for the first time, really talking.
We talked a lot about society and the life we had before.
Those were magic nights!
We wanted a garden, we wanted to grow most of our own food. Allthough Svensäter was a beautiful place, located in a river valley, surrounded by mountains from where the wolves did howl (I kid you not) – we soon came to realize that the soil in the Swedish forest is not at all like Denmark.
We learned that you must grow soil just as much as you must grow vegetables. We learned about forest farming, permaculture and hugelkultur raised beds.
These were our first crops. They were very green.
Our relations changed. The kids were not just kids, their efford mattered. We depended on their help.
They grew. They took care of each other.
I will, to this day, claim that children needs to be needed and that what we did changed their life to the better.
And what he did changed his life to the better.
Slowly a house began to emerge from the forest floor.
We were heroes.
But also, underneath all of this – a growing crisis. Who are we, what have we done, is this even allowed? We dealt with the past. And the present. And the future. In a way this experience was a full blown family therapy session that lasted for a whole year. It was very intense.
We had to figure out new ways of doing everything. The dustman don´t come to the forest, what to do with the trash? And the laundry? I washed it in the river and it took forever…. and then came autumn.
Everything became wet and foggy and cold. We had to hurry. Soon winter would come and 6 people living in Svensäter did seem quite unrealistic.
My sister came and lived with us for a couple of months. Everybody worked on the house. We had to get it done! (this is my sister and my daughter and some girlpower!)
And the people of the forest came to help us too.
Winter came. We lost morale. It was time to face some hard realizations. Friendships were put to a test.
Minus 25 degrees celcius. Six people at Svensäter. People from the forest would come to our place for coffee and cake. Every day.
We felt that we had to choose. Family first.
We decided to move. We left Svensäter and gave the almost finished building to the community.
Svensäter continues to be a place for many people. A portal into the parallel world of the forest.
It was hard to walk away. One of the hardest thing we´ve ever done.
In the midst of the hardest winter, on a dark cold winternight we had a family meeting. We decided to stay in Sweden and continue this lifestyle. But we would find another place that suited our needs better. Somewhere with better soil. Somewhere that was not the center of a community. Somewhere not quite as harsh.
We decided to enroll the kids in school. We decided to get electricity. We decided to get internet. We decided that we needed more space.
Our neighbours (hence forward called “the angels”) let us live in their guesthouse for a little while. We needed to regroup.
As the ice on the lake slowly began to melt (you have to listen to this. It is so beautiful!) we found our friendships again, we found each other again, we found…
an abandoned cabin the woods. And a barn. Facing south.
We were inspired…
… to begin again.
We would take down the cabin and the barn and use whatever material that wasn´t rotten. We would build ourselves a home.
He cut down trees and worked very hard- but he also remembered what raw experience had taught us. You cannot work too hard. You cannot drive yourself off the cliff.
Friends gave us two trailers and we created a trailerpark to live in, while we took down the old houses.
We had a gypsy home in the middle of the jungle.
And the work began.
Same procedure as last year.
A new era began. We were better. We knew more. We had learned from experience.
Everybody was in it together.
We had established ourselves in the forest and connected with the broader community.The younger kids began in school and part time daycare to learn the language and get some friends (also homeschooling is illegal in Sweden). We worked according to schedule, we knew what to do.
But then two things happened.
These boots were made for walking.
The twins turned 17 and it was time for them to enter High School. It was important for them to meet new friends so we enrolled them in a boarding school system they have here in Sweden. A “Folkhögskola”. They would only be home on the weekends.
I became very sick and had to undergo major surgery (removal of my uterus among other things). This completely immobilized me and I was tied to the couch. Getting a solar panel allowed me to be online and write some.
We advertised for help- and we got it. Our first “wilderness au pair” was the fabulous Christina. Then came Ann-Sophie and Mikkel, then Pernille and then Josephine. Thank you SOOOO much for your help!!!
Our neighbourgs also came one day, bringing with them a team of woofers (Willing Woorkers On Organic Farms).
Mother in law also came. Later she kindly donated money for rockwool insulation. We wouldn´t be here without her.
Meanwhile all these changes, people coming and going, sickness and sunshine… little Sigurd grew and a house grew behind him.
We used scrap material and everything we could find. As soon as the roof was on we moved in. That night, the first night….
…and the first time we lit the fire…
This house in now our home. This is where we live.
We taught our children to do things themselves, we taught them teamwork, we taught them how to overcome stuff and we taught them to be proud.
Here´s some pictures from our house.