In the previous edition of The Ewe Turn I began recounting my trip to Denmark, which covered the last week of August and the first week of September. I finished the first chapter with my stay near Silkeborg. This time I hope to complete the tale. Sadly I did have to leave very good friends and equally good “family”. As I left Hinge on the morning of August 30th it was dark and cloudy. Before I could drive past Silkeborg the heavens opened up. For the next couple of hours I drove through a deluge over the entire route south to Ribe, the home of Jens, one of my other Danish “brothers”. We had discussed ahead of time that we would plan our activities together once I arrived. As the downpour continued throughout the afternoon, we decided to just sit tight, have pleasant conversation and await the arrival home of Jen’s partner, Kirsten. Together we had a lovely dinner, which Jens prepared, followed by further conversation. The previous day and today had more than its share of talk, all på dansk. I finally felt by late evening that my brain was over-taxed with conversational Danish. This phenomenon occurs every time I return to Denmark; it takes a while for the language to “kick in” with my brain and begin to feel comfortable. I was not quite there yet by this evening! Within a couple more days I realized that I was again thinking in Danish. That is always a very gratifying emotion!
At least the next day, the language felt better and the weather started to clear. Jens and I spent the morning walking the streets of Ribe (one of Denmark’s oldest towns). Eventually, we spent a couple of hours at the Ribe Viking Museum, viewing an exhibit from Ribe’s sister city in China, which contained artifacts from 200 AD to 1200 AD. All of a sudden old Viking culture did not seem so old!
In the afternoon we drove south along the coast of the North Sea or as this section is known, Vadehavet, or the Wadden Sea. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our destination was the Vadehavs Center or Wadden Sea Center. The Center is devoted to the natural history of the area, especially as it relates to the huge migratory bird activity that occurs here. If you are ever in this area it is well worth the visit! Plan on spending lots of time there. The center has been recently expanded and rebuilt. The new structure’s facade is covered in a traditional Danish roofing material: thatch! However the scale of the thatch work is stupendous. In late afternoon Jens and I closed down the Vadehav Center. Before heading home we drove out to the dike which protects the low coastline of Jutland from the sea. The sides of the dike are grazed by sheep. A wonderful scene and perfect pasture for hundreds of sheep. Most of these sheep seem to be predominantly Texel sheep, but I would also guess that there is often a bit of Danish Pelsfår. My final evening with Jens and Kirsten was spent over a wonderful dinner in an old restaurant in downtown Ribe. The inn, Weis Stue, was “only” built in 1600. It was good to again be with close friends and family and sadly such a short visit.
The following day I traveled east, eventually landing on the island of Lolland. My original plan was to “island hop”, taking three different ferries from Jylland to Als, then to Fyn and finally to Lolland. Once I calculated the travel time, I decided to drive a less direct route, which would however take much less time (driving over three bridges and taking only the final ferry to Lolland. I would have much preferred the leisurely travel with the three ferries, but time often disappears when one is on a short visit. At least I was still able to enjoy the sail from Spodsberg on Langeland to Tårs on Lolland. The little harbor in Spodsberg is always a colorful sight when some of the commercial fishing boats are in the harbor.
My goal on Lolland was the large organic farm/estate known as Knuthenlund. My special interest in Knuthenlund is their large flock of dairy sheep. The main genetic element of the flock is the East Friesian Milk Sheep. The flock numbers in the hundreds. The flock is rotationally grazed through a number of large, luscious pastures. They are milked once a day in the afternoon in a superb parlor. Their milk is made into cheese and yogurt on the farm and sold there in their own farm butik. Many of their various varieties of cheeses have won international awards. Sadly, none of them are available in the United States. In addition to their milking flock, the farm is now raising one of the original old Danish breeds of dairy cows, the Danish Reds. Their milk is also made into a variety of cheeses. It is a wonderful sight to see the Danish Reds grazing in pastures immediately adjacent to the sheep. It is especially gratifying to me to see this now rare breed of cow. Fifty years ago I remember them in much larger numbers on the dairy farms of Fyn.
In addition to the milking sheep and cows, Knuthenlund raises the old Danish Landrace Black and White pig, (danske sortbrogede landracegris), a rare breed. The pigs farrow on pasture and graze on the pastures their entire life. Also completing the farm picture is a newer operation in which they are raising and grinding their own wheat and rye. All of the products produced on the farm can be purchased in a delightful store and cafe next to the milking parlor. Also in the store are a variety of other local foods produced by others in Lolland and the surrounding islands. It is truly a shame that Gretchen and I cannot avail ourselves of the good food sold at Knuthenlund. At least while I was there I had as my lunch for the day my own private wheel of sheep brie!I returned to Knuthenlund on the morning of my second day on Lolland. I was lucky enough to be there when they sponsored their annual harvest festival, which featured many of their products and those of their neighboring farmers. Later in the afternoon I headed to the Saksfjed-Hyllekrog Bird Reserve on the extreme south coast of the island. It is a major migration stop for birds heading farther south into Europe. There were lots of trails for hiking along the coast and adjacent marshes. It was obvious that some major migration was already occurring even though it was very early September. Common Cranes and a number of hawk species were very evident heading toward Germany.
After two days on Lolland it was time to head north to my final destination, the city of Roskilde, on the island of Sjælland. This was a return visit to Roskilde, primarily so that I could spend some more time at the Viking Ship Museum. However, to get to Roskilde I took a rather circuitous route. First I headed for Stevns on the east coast of Sjælland, primarily to see the caulk cliffs in the area. They were impressive but not nearly as grand and dramatic as those that I had visited on a couple of previous trips on the island of Møn farther to the south. As should now be apparent, my rental car should have a special sign attached which read something along the lines of “This car stops for all sheep sightings”. On my way toward Gammel Kalvehave I found this lovely, clover rich pasture, full of contented Texel sheep, with a classic Danish church in the background.
A few years ago I visited the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. At that time I was intrigued by the account of there reconstuction of a Viking longship that had been discovered, sunken in the waters of Roskilde Fjord. The reproduction of the ship, named Havhingsten fra Glendalough (Sea Stallion from Glendalough) was built on the museum grounds using tools and materials as similar as possible to those used by the vikings to build the original ship near Dublin Ireland in 1042 AD. Shortly before my first visit the Sea Stallion was sailed, under its own power (sail and oars) from Roskilde to Dublin and back. The account of the voyage was, for me, enthralling. I wanted to see the Sea Stallion and the other viking ships that the museum had built and are continuing to build. During my first visit I spent the better part of two days at the museum. Here is a view of the Sea Stallion docked at the museum. It is built of oak; is 30 meters long and 3.8 meters wide, displaces 26 tons fully equipped and required a crew of 65 to 70.
Prior to that first visit I did not realize that one could sail out onto Roskilde Fjord in one of the smaller reproductions. During that visit I could not schedule such an adventure. Nevertheless, since then such a sail was placed high on my “bucket list”. I made sure that as soon as the Museum opened on my first morning there that I reserved a place on one of the smaller ships. Sadly the day had dawned dark with heavy clouds, pretty strong winds and some rain. For a time it looked as though we might not go out. Eventually it was decided that we would give it a try. Here is my trusty boat, the Bjørnefjord, at the wharf (later in the day, in calmer weather) after our return.I lack many photos from our voyage, since I only took my i-Phone with me, fearing that my larger camera would get wet. I also correctly figured that I would not be able to use either camera if I was trying to row as part of the crew. Therefore many of the following images were taken from land of a subsequent trip out. The Bjørnefjord is small, as compared to the Sea Stallion. It is 10.2 meters long with a beam of 2.6 meters. It requires a maximum of 12 oars and a maximum crew of 13. Our crew was international: Danish captain and first mate, with the crew French, Mexican, German, English, Norwegian and one American (me). It was interesting how our crew, none of whom had ever rowed a boat together, managed to become pretty well coordinated with our rowing skills. We had to row out of the protection of the harbor into the open Fjord. Once out into open water we pulled in our oars and were able to raise the sail. With the stiff morning breeze it was amazing how the boat accelerated. It was also impressive how smooth and stable we sailed both out and back on the Fjord for at least a half an hour. These are truly magnificent boats, both small and large! Once under sail I could at least get a few pictures. Granted they were not large swells, but we encountered a significant chop out in the open; the boat did not seem to mind at all. So here is the erstwhile Viking, literally under sail on Roskilde Fjord. The “voyage” was all too short, but worth every minute. My respect for the sailing talents of the real Vikings only continues to grow. My day at the Viking Ship Museum continued well after the conclusion of the “voyage”. I finished the day with a lovely meal at a restaurant, Restaurant Snekken, on the wharf adjacent to the Museum. Fittingly, the highlight of the meal were local mussels in a white wine sauce. A nice ending to a special day!
Sadly I had to leave Denmark the next day. As has become my tradition I have lunch in the Copenhagen Airport at Aamann’s (famous for its smørrebrød). This time I had a Sild Smørrebrød: Pickled Herring on rye-bread accompanied by elderflowers, citrus, creme fraiche, pickled onions, apples and buckwheat. It was all washed down with a large glass of Tuborg Classic beer and a large Taffel Akvavit.
Skål Danmark, min gammel ven. Jeg håber at vi ses igen!
Those who have stuck with this blog over a number of years will probably remember that I have long term ties to the people and country of Denmark. I lived there as a foreign exchange student during 1965 and 1966. Since then, with one exception, I was not able to return to my second “home” until 2005. Luckily, since 2005 I have been able to spend between 10 and 14 days there every other year. I returned again this year in the last week of August for a two week stay. My narrative is out of sequence for the blog, but it has taken me a bit of time to edit photos, while catching up on farm chores that were neglected due to my absence. Hopefully I can cover my adventures with this and possibly a second posting. There are lots of details that I must neglect simply due to lack of time and space. For that I apologize!
Traveling to and from Denmark has become more and more difficult over the last 12 years. Airline connections between Green Bay and Chicago have become spottier, in addition to being more unreliable yet more expensive. This year we decided that I would rent a car and drive from Green Bay to Chicago (and reverse the procedure upon my return). The cost was not that much different. The traveling time was greater, but I was able to assure myself that I would arrive in Chicago on a timely basis and not suffer any lost baggage in the process. Once in Copenhagen, my travel conditions, as always, improved dramatically thanks in large part to the superb railroad system that exists in Denmark. Within moments of clearing customs I am able to purchase a railroad ticket, walk a few hundred feet below the terminal and get on a train headed to Odense, my “home”.
As I have done on each of my seven trips to Denmark since 2005 I have always begun my trip with a stay in Odense, on the island of Fyn. I have been lucky enough to stay in a B&B, Engvej Guesthouse, that is just two blocks away from the home in which I lived with my Danish host family. My old home is by far the oldest building in the neighborhood, built in the early 1700’s. My family had to move shortly after my departure. The house has changed since I lived there. It is painted a different color and the gardens around it are not nearly as beautiful as they were when I lived there. Nevertheless it is as close as I can get to returning home. Fifty two years ago, everyday, 6 days a week, I walked from home, down this street, (passed the house which is now a B&B), on my way to and from school, Sct Knuds Gymasium. There are still lots of memories that follow me around this neighborhood.
For this trip I would spend four days living in Odense. I had planned to revisit a number of places in the city and on the island that surrounds Odense. It was an attempt to revisit a lot of old memories and to see how things have possibly changed. My first full day was spent walking the streets of Odense, much as I had done years ago. In many places the town has retained its old character. In some areas the old houses have been wonderfully preserved. The homes are much like they would have looked 250 years ago. These particular homes, many of which are half-timbered, are in the old quarter near the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. The hollyhocks are so characteristic, and were still blooming in late August. The City Museum is located nearby in a cluster of old buildings. My day of walking around Odense was one of the few days in which I was rained upon. I was lucky in that regard, since Denmark had experienced one of the wettest and coldest summers on record. Half way through the trip I was drenched in rain as I drove to Ribe. Then, it was not until my last two days in Denmark that the weather turned dark and threatening.
Gretchen and I have (after many “interesting ” attempts) managed to master the art of baking Danish rye-bread (rugbrød), which is often one of the key ingredients in what are now classic Danish sandwiches (smørrebrød). In order to get out of the rain I stopped for lunch at one of the best smørrebrød restaurants in Denmark, Kong Volmer. Here is lunch, washed down with a good local dark craft beer. Shrimp on toasted franksbrød, with homemade mayonnaise, with caviar, lemon, fresh, crisp asparagus and red sweet peppers: Rejermad: a true Danish classic!
For my second day on Fyn I headed south toward the town of Faaborg. I would spend most of the day in the south. Part of the time I spent in the little town of Korinth, (the location of an agriculture school which housed our two week language school when the 16 of us Americans arrived in Denmark before we went to our various homes). The town is dominated by a magnificent manor house and church, much of which dates to the 1600’s and 1700’s. The church of Brahetrolleborg always seems magnificent.
The southwest corner of Fyn is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful regions of Denmark. This trip, Susanne, my B&B host, offered to show me her father’s very old Danish farm (from early 1700’s). Her father, Bent, is in his 90’s and still lives there. Recently the farm won second place in a national contest for the most beautiful farm in Denmark. It is a honor well deserved. I feel very honored to be able to visit the farm and also spend the afternoon with Susanne in this wonderful corner of Denmark. The image below is a view into the hills above Faaborg.
The following day was spent in my other favorite spot in Denmark, the northern coast of Fyn, more specifically on the narrow peninsula that defines Odense Fjord. Every visit I manage to walk at least half way out on the peninsula, Enebærodde. For me it is a sort of “pilgrimage” to one of the places that I remember with special memories from my year’s stay in Denmark. Odense Fjord is on the left and the Kattegat, over my shoulder to the right. Unlike the more famous fjords of Norway, the peninsula forming Odense Fjord is only a few feet above sea level. Nevertheless it has its own special beauty. On my first revisit in 2005 I kept a promise that I had made to myself in 1966 to walk the entire length of the peninsula (over 12 km or 7 miles round trip). This year I decided to make the journey again. In fact I hiked back out about half way after completing the round trip. Again I succeeded (and I hope that I get another chance in the future)!
On the 27th of August I left Fyn to travel west onto Jylland (Jutland). My home there for the first three days was in the county, just north of the city of Silkeborg (an area which in my mind comes close to rivaling Fyn for natural beauty). I stayed at my favorite Danish B&B, Pension Holm Mølle. It is always such a pleasure to visit with the owners and hosts Dorte and Nils Kærn. I now count them as some of my very best friends in Denmark. Their B&B is located in the home of an old water mill in the hills east of the small town of Hinge. Besides the pleasure of visiting with Dorte and Nils, they offer one of the best breakfasts I have in Denmark. It always includes very special cheeses made at a local organic diary farm, Osteriet Hinge. There is a delightful hiking path that follows the millstream toward the Alling River. Along the way I get to visit the resident flock of sheep. As an alternative I also love to walk the quiet country roads in the area, especially in the early morning before breakfast. Not too far to the west is a small herd of Galloway cows, who tend not to be at all interested in my presence. For my first full day on Jylland I traveled northeast and spent most of my time in Mols Bjerg National Park, in the area known as Djursland. Again a beautiful day devoted to lots of hiking, old castles and beautiful coast line scenery. The next day I returned to the Dollerup Bakke (hills), an area overlooking Hald Sø, one of the deepest lakes in Denmark. It is an area devoted to an ongoing restoration of the native health which once dominated the area. When first I visited the area sheep were being used to remove the invasive plants, later goats were employed, while currently the graziers are a herd of small horses. I am not sure how well the horses are doing in terms of preventing the trees and bushes to return, but the heath definitely looks the best that I have seen it. The heather was in full bloom and was quite dazzling. I spent my final afternoon and evening in Silkeborg, visiting with one of my oldest “brothers”, Axel and his wife KIrsten. We had afternoon coffee in their new home and later a wonderful dinner at a lovely restaurant next to the river in downtown Silkeborg. As always it is such a joy to spend time with these two. I truly feel like I am part of their wonderful family! The next morning I would leave Silkeborg to travel south the the old town of Ribe. I will continue the journey with my next edition of the Ewe Turn. Thanks for keeping me company!
As promised, I am attempting to get caught up with life at Whitefish Bay Farm. My previous entry covered the early portion of August. For convenience I will jump over late August and early September. I promise to return later with tales of daring Viking sailing voyages. But for the time being let’s get haying in 2017 finally out of the way!
By mid August we had only managed to get about 725 small bales made without them being ruined by unexpected rains. That number, plus the amount still unused from 2016 left us at least 2000 bales short of what we figured was necessary to get us safely through the winter and spring of 2018. Time was fast running out. Finally, a window of opportunity presented itself. With a forecast for at least 5 days of sun (and no rain) I cut the entire 5 acres of pasture #3. Normally we graze #3, but the grass growth was so rapid that we bypassed that field in the hopes that I could bale it instead. I figured that this field alone would yield 500 to 600 bales. After two days of drying it got rained upon, not enough to ruin the hay, but enough to extend the necessary drying time. After another two dry days we were clobbered with 1.3 inches of rain. All of what was undoubtedly the best hay I had seen all year was rendered useless.
I had a trip scheduled and planned for less than a week later and still about 25 acres of uncut hay. In final desperation, we made arrangements with a neighboring farmer to cut and bale those 25 acres if the weather allowed sometime in the 2 weeks of my absence. He had a large haybine, with rotary cutters, which would make faster work of what was becoming a tangled mess of down hay. In addition he had a large round baler, which, if the conditions allowed, would mean that the entire field could be baled in a day. All we needed was a successful window of opportunity.
I departed the country and Gretchen and Tom (our neighbor) watched the weather. In a fortuitous period in late August Tom got the field cut, dried and baled. As soon as the bales were made, it began again to rain. At least the bales’ structure would allow some rain before major damage would occur to them. So here they are, 141 large round bales, each weighing about 800 pounds.
Upon my return on the 6th of September, we were now faced with how we should handle the bales. Cut this late in the season, their nutritional value would not be great, but they would certainly provide enough hay for the flock until next year. Our problem was that we are not set up to store and feed large round bales. Our barn was build before any type of baled hay was used. It is not set up for storing these monsters. In addition, the areas in which the sheep spend much of the winter (the lower level of the barn) lack doorways large enough to bring a bale inside. The ceiling clearance is so low that, even if we could get a bale inside, we could not flip it on its side to get it placed in a round bale feeder. There was enough clearance to get a number of round bales into the addition that we had built for the barn in 1998. We re-arranged the ram’s pen in the addition so there was space to get bales in next to them. (It should be noted that the rams are not happy with the arrangement, but they are making do with it!) We managed to get 16 bales into this space and still leave enough space to be able to take them apart. The routine for the entire late fall and all winter and spring will be for the two of us to manually unroll one large bale at a time and tear the rolls into small enough portions that we can carry those portions into the old barn and fill 14 small feeders. Neither of us look forward to that prospect!
Here is how the bales move from the field to storage. The smaller of our two tractors is fitted with a removable bale spear. I can load 6 bales on a wagon which I then drive down the hill (to our new access road). Once next to the barn each bale is moved inside. We managed to fit another 22 bales into our machine shed (on top of three of our hay wagons). With this arrangement all of our equipment can still be stored out of the elements especially during the winter.
Being very cautious, we calculated that we would need a total of between 64 and 68 bales to safely see us through the next three seasons. Doing the math, that meant that we still needed to store another 30 bales. We invested in used wooden pallets and two heavy duty tarps. The final 30 bales are now lined up next to the machine shed as protected as we can make them. We will feed them first, leaving the bales that are under-roof until last, since they will be better protected.
That leaves us with an additional 73 bales. As of this week I have all the bales removed from the hay field. The remaining 73 are lined up, end to end just off the edge of the field. It would be nice to be able to sell them, but the prospect, this late in the year is not good. We also are making an attempt to donate them to farms struck by the extreme drought in the Dakota and Montana. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a major, coordinated effort to move hay from Wisconsin in that direction. (The key missing element in this picture is the donation of semi-trailer trucking to handle the transport.) If there is anyone reading this who desperately needs hay or who knows of someone in such need, and you can arrange trucking, the hay is yours. We would truly be saddened if that much hay slowly rots away without any takers. One final note: It is very obvious, looking at the above image that the grass is still growing vigorously! It is difficult to believe that this field was cut less than two weeks before this picture was taken.
It seems that too much time has passed by since I last updated the Ewe Turn. There are many things about which I should write. Rather than try and include everything in a single post i will devote some time to each of the major events and, hopefully, cover the most important aspects of each over the next few days.
It sounds like a broken record, but the vast amount of this summer’s activities have hinged on the weather. Many things were planned, most of them were delayed or curtailed. The resulting levels of frustration were greater than ever expected. Early this spring we had made a decision to build a new road to our machine shed. A bit of history is needed to explain the need.
When this farm was originally sold around 1980, the total acreage was chopped into “convenient” 40 acre chunks. These chunks corresponded to the building blocks of land first outlined by the Homestead Act of 1892. In the case of this farm the original acreage consisted of six 40 acre squares immediately adjacent to each other. Not all of those squares proved suitable for farming. As the farm was developed, fields were cleared and made into pastures and ground suitable for tillage. Usually these fields (less than 40 acres in size) included portions of two adjacent 40 acre squares. From an agricultural standpoint these fields made perfectly good sense. However when the farm was sold about 75 years later, it was sold in 3 separate blocks, each corresponding to two of the 40 acre squares. Unfortunately a number of good fields were divided between the three separate buyers. Thus the 80 acres which Gretchen and I purchased in 1983 contained two pastures which overlapped onto adjacent land which we did not own. Over the years we become good friends with some of the owners of this adjacent land, most of which they used as a source of timber (cedar logs) and as hunting land. It was agreeable with them that we could use the pasture land that we “shared”. Most important of these pastures is the one we call “The Road Pasture”, since it abuts the County road that is our northern border. Use of this land was of great importance to us when the County “improved” the road, effectively cutting us off from being able to get our farm equipment onto the road from the shed located on this land. The only safe option was to drive off of our portion of the pasture to the east end where it was relatively safe to pull large farm equipment onto the road. It also meant that we could graze the sheep on the complete chunk of pasture rather than only the portion that we owned.
All of us grow old, and some of us have died since this pleasant gentleman’s agreement took place. The land east of us is now owned by a different and younger owner. Under the new ownership, the agreement no longer was viable. We offered to purchase at above market value the small portion of the “Road Pasture” which we did not own, but were turned down. Last fall it soon became clear that our access to the County road was soon not to be. Our only alternative was to build a road across our end of the pasture. The prospect was expensive. The road would not be nearly as safe as the old access. But it had to be done. This spring we contracted to have the road built. The work was tentatively scheduled for early June. Due to the excessively wet spring and early summer it was not until August 3rd that the contractor was able begin work. This was the scene on the morning that work began. The forecast for three consecutive dry days did not quite hold out, But the job was finished in three days, not without difficulty. On the morning of the second day, the first load of rubble was to be dumped off the edge of the County road to begin the more gradual slope that was necessary. Unfortunately, the box on the back of the truck came loose as the load was about to be dumped. Luckily the truck did not tip over, but the box ripped off the large hydraulic ram used to raise the box, spilling a large amount of hydraulic fuel, and seriously bending the frame of the truck. The entire morning was spent with damage control. Eventually the work could again resume late in the day. Here is a view of the first successful dump. By days end it poured unpredicted rain! In another two days the job was done. “All” that remained was for me to rebuild the pasture fence that I had to temporarily remove and then to build a new fence delineating the eastern edge of our property. Those tasks had to wait until September.
Now we have a nice, wide gravel roadway, with a even, gradual slope, which permits us to pull our largest equipment onto the road to head west to our major hay field. It is a blind intersection, so I now need Gretchen to stand at the top pf the hill to wave me and my equipment onto the road when there is no oncoming traffic. Sadly, a big chunk of very nice pasture is now covered with fill and gravel, no longer to be grazed by the sheep. I now wonder what the originally owner of the farm, Peter Graf, would think about all this. He and his family cleared this field of trees and stones and made it into a fully functional pasture. A great amount of work went into making this field useful. Now so much of that is gone. Seen from my own personal perspective I will miss the complete field. It was always a good place for the sheep to graze. The view of the sheep on the pasture, with the trees in fall color, up against the barn will never be as beautiful as it once was.