Preparing garden for the next year – harvesting, fields and deep beds
Since it was already halfway through October, in Sweden the weather was getting colder with each day and the days were getting also shorter. It was about time to prepare for the winter. I began harvesting carrots, beetroots, and broad beans and leaving a few plants like lettuce. As a big carrot lover I can honestly say that carrots from Prästabonnens Gård were the best I ever had; flavorous and juicy, deliciously crunchy, big and some times of funny shapes – perfect to me. Beetroots were super tasty too, so one evening I cooked two Polish dishes made of them. After harvesting I began to prepare the soil for the winter and next season – first I weeded it and later dug hole by hole of about 50 cm per 1 m length and 5 cm deep which I filled with a bit of compost, the soil previously dug out and after finishing the entire field, I covered it with fallen leaves. This way the organic matter enriches the soil and the leaves protect it from the weather, weeds and birds.
When it comes to raised deep beds, I dug deeper holes of about 10-20 cm depth, put the layer of compost, covered it with leaves and charcoal and the rest of the soil, finally spread on the top a layer of fallen leaves. This way the prepared fields and beds would wait for the planting season in spring. In the garden I also covered the surface around all the currant bushes with leaves.
We stored in the cellar most of the harvested carrots and beetroots. To keep them safe from rotting, slacks and other insects I put the veggies in plastic boxes with small holes on the bottom (for the air circulation) in repeated layers of veggies scattered with charcoal (for protection) and leaves spread on the top (to separate the layers.) Prepared like this, carrots and beetroots can be stored through autumn and winter without a problem, I was told.
I was impressed with the quality and richness of the soil made from the compost. Folke built his two-bin composter with removable bricks made of LECA (Light Expanded Clay Aggregate.) It was large and deep, divided in two sections with a net and protected with a sliding cover. First they use one of the bins and once it is full of organic matter they switch to the other one and scatter from time to time a bit of charcoal on top of it. Worms working from bottom to top easily can move between the sections, and to keep it moistened, if it doesn’t rain they water it a bit. Folke told me that in approximately 6 months, good and rich soil is created. When I used it for the fields I noticed that its composition was moist and there were many worms in it; it looked very good to me.
Aquaponics and sour dough bread
In Prästabonnens Gård I saw aquaponics for the first time. Folke designed this very curious construction. But what does aquaponics mean you probably wonder? Well basically it was a greenhouse with a design of a fish tank and connected to it pipes, which circulate the water between the bottom and upper section of plants that grow among little stones and bits of soil. Fish purify the water and add their droppings that enrich it with nutrients. In this way, my hosts cultivate tomatoes, peppers and physalis fruit. It looked really impressive.
As I mentioned before Folke is a really good cook and he likes also to make various preserves from fruits like apple mousse, cranberry syrups, jams, and pickled vegetables. Together we pickled beetroots and made sour dough bread. I have never before baked bread in my life and I was happy to find out that it is actually quite an easy job. In this case the crucial thing was to have the sour dough starter, which we used for the bread.
Bird and bat watchers
Since both of my hosts were bird and bat watchers and Suzanne was regularly registering her observations on birds’ migration, once she took me with her on her monthly round. We went on bikes stopping in the observation points previously marked by her and watched through binoculars the birds. The route was a couple kilometers long and very beautiful, circling around the lake and going into the woods. Later on, Suzanne wrote down her remarks and sent them back to the University of Lund where they were analyzed and registered together with reports from other parts of Sweden. Suzanne used to work at this University before, but teaching Linguistics. The other day she also took me to an old forest on the outskirts of Södra Rörum where we looked for trees where bats could live and placed in them bat-homes. It will help the ongoing research of bats that inhabit this part of the country. On the weekend of my departure my hosts were holding a reunion of their “bat friends” with whom they shared their observations and analyzed together their findings. We spoke about it on various occasions and I have to say that I never though that these creatures were so interesting.
Two weeks at Prästabonnens Gård went by in no time. Many times the thought of staying with Suzanne and Folke for a longer period crossed my mind. I definitely would love to do it and maybe one day I will ask them if that would be possible. In any case I hope to visit them again one day, as the experience was superb; they are wonderful and open-minded couple with vast knowledge on various topics and I really enjoyed spending time in their company. Encouraged and with my new motivation and skills I pushed forward to Copenhagen to complete my journey.