Annual Report 2022
Quote from one of the volunteers –
’ If the earth is my home, Opsal Gård would be my favourite room’
Volunteers – 71, over 1026 workdays and more than 5130 hours
In addition to Georgiana, several volunteers come to the farm through the ’Workaway’ and ’Wwwoof’ organisations. Some also came through the ‘Opsal gårds venner’ association. Other family members and friends of Georgiana, interested in biodiversity, also came to support the project. Most of the volunteers work 25 hours a week. They live on the farm and get food, housing and courses/social activities. We are part of the ’Farm as a place of education’ (’Gård som utdanningsarena’) from the Studieforbundet Solidaritet.
Below you can find the day plan we have followed this year, with some small variations.
08:00 Meditation (voluntary)
09:00 First work session
11:30 Tea break
12:00 Second work session
14:30 Lunch (Warm meal)
Afternoon – free
Food and hygiene
Each one of us is responsible for one day in the kitchen. We plan, prepare food for the day, and clean. In addition to using vegetables from the garden, we also do ’Dumpster diving’ – finding food that has been thrown in the dumpster. In that way we save money and also reduce our carbon emissions. Part of this food is used to feed the pigs.
Every Friday we have a cleaning and washing session where we focus on a room.
We sometimes visit the swimming pool for warm showers. Many have learned to wash themselves in a basin!
Some of the areas we have worked with during this year :
We have applied to the county administrator Innlandet for voluntary protection of the western part of the forest. This is a sloping area consisting of ash and hazel, and the western part is spruce forest. If it is accepted, there will be a ban on felling in the forest, but we may graze and harvest in the area and county specialists will remove the spruce forest little by little. We have been working on pruning hazel to strengthen existing trees.
We have started to remove part of the spruce forest. The aim is to reduce the biggest monoculture and thanks to a young Frenchman we started last year. He learned the art of chopping with only a handsaw and an axe and has made a not so tiny clearing. Wood is carried down with a new sledge made from old skis for the stoves for next year. Larger timber is neatly stacked.
We are also well underway with clearing spruce from the eastern pasture. Everyone who comes receives a safety briefing.
Spruce is starting to take over and now those who have been here longer were able to help the newcomers with identification of tree species and how we clear so that we create piles where insects and small rodents can hide.
At the same time, we have continued with the establishment of the forest garden in an area that was cultivated land. An area of approx. 2 acres where we plant edible plants, nut trees and berry bushes and nitrogen-fixing plants.
HERBARIUM 6 – 9 June
We have collected several flowers from the yard area, and are in the process of creating a Herbarium to have a mapping study of the flora on the farm as it is today. This winter, these were entered into the book and work will continue this summer. A survey of the forest has also begun.
BIRDS AND ANIMALS
A number of birdhouses have been set up and we are making a track map, where we start to record tracks and track signs such as droppings (excrement), gulps and urine. These are particularly clear and useful to study. Other tracks are linked to food: gnawing and grazing marks on trunks, branches, leaves, cones or nuts, remains after meals (animal and plant remains) and marks after hunting and catching prey. Other track signs are burrowing activity, roosting sites (rents), traces of antler sweeping, rut pits, claw marks and more. Hair is also a trace sign that can be found in beds or where the animal has rubbed.
We have created a map of the area and a digital map where we record discoveries.
We have gotten 2 wool piglets. They are fenced but receive regular exercise to get outside. They have started digging and will have the task of digging in the forest and preparing the ground for a new potato garden. In addition, the suckling cows that graze here come every summer. We have fenced off an area and converted a cabin into a stable and hope to get a horse during 2023.
THE MAIN FARMHOUSE
The farmhouse has been excavated and drained on the south-east side. In that room there is an insulated ceiling with cellulose insulation and a wall with wood fiber and a floor with fiberglass. The windows have been restored. It has been backfilled so that the veranda door can be used, the floor is in place and a new soapstone oven has been installed. Work has begun on the pipes and new wood stove in several rooms. We are very grateful to have received support from the Kulturminnefondet, Stange municipality and the Unistiftelsen to contribute to this work.
The glass veranda has been stabilised, most of the windows have been restored and half of the farmhouse has been painted with linseed oil paint. During this period, we have continued with the restoration of windows, including glass cutting. There are a huge number of windows in the house and now the glass veranda is to be restored, which involves a lot of windows. We did it thoroughly, took out old dirt, the glass, linseed oil under and back with glass, new staples, new linseed oil dirt and then paint. Each window is quite extensive and it also involves learning how to cut glass.
Painting the outside of the house. It has obviously been a long time since the house was painted. Scraping, sanding and washing takes a long time and we have painted 3 coats of linseed oil paint. During the year we had about 50% of the house painted.
The pipes have been renewed internally with steel pipes and externally with new bricks. We have connected 4 new ovens including one in the kitchen which can be used for cooking and heating water.
We spent a lot of time this year mowing, raking and drying hay and all that entails with hedging, repairing and maintaining scythes, etc. Now the barn is filled with hay and we have learned a lot, although a lot more needs to be done!!!
Continuation of work with wood for the winter – We have cut the spruce that were fell in 2021 but were too narrow to build with. Wood is cut into suitable lengths and split. Woodwork from the house that cannot be reused is also cut. The goal is to have enough wood for the winter and eventually for the next winter.
ESTABLISHING THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
Hanne Tommelstad lived on the farm in the fall of 2021 and said he was willing to lead work to establish the vegetable garden. She has experience from having done this before and is a very interesting and curious Norwegian who gives a lot to the group.
The preparation work was to find cardboard that would cover the entire area, cover it with wood chips and compost, repair the fence, stock the gate, and buy organic seeds.
Hanne had designed a rotation where the garden is divided into potatoes, beans, nitrogen-demanding vegetables, and others – onions and carrots. We went through it together and adjusted it in relation to the garden and agreed to establish it in two different areas, one closer and one further from the house. Most of the participants had little experience but a lot of interest.
It was a dry summer so there was a lot of watering. The fences had to be renewed because we are regularly visited by two sheep mothers who are clearly convinced that it is they and not us who own the farm. Fortunately, the fences held.
COURSES AND EVENTS
We have held 13 open events on the farm. The volunteers have been given the opportunity to participate in the courses for free, and they have also helped with catering and accommodation support.
Window restoration volunteer/course 12 and 13 February
This workshop was based on an exchange of skills. After the educational workshop we had last year with Chris Nerdal, we met again to learn more about the basic understanding of the construction, function and maintenance of traditional windows.
The ones who have experience shared their knowledge about window restoration. We provided some tools and machines for window restoration.
We restored windows from the farm to learn. Everyone was given a booklet about window restoration published by the Historical Heritage Association.
Opsal Gard in the old days 25 Feb
Cozy time with local people who know the farm and its past. There was storytelling, knowledge sharing and pleasant conversation. Coffee/tea and muffins were served. We fired up the stove and the beautiful, old-fashioned surroundings helped the neighbors to share memories of the area and of the farm itself.
Door restoration module 1 with Ilker Dursun – March
In the first module we looked at the door to find out what it could tell us about the past. He gave a fascinating lecture about why and how the door had become the way it is today. We learned about the structure of a door, the principle of frame and filling and how wood moves. Then he touched on the problems that arise with age, why he always prefers restoration and why he wants to keep as much as possible of the original materials in the door itself.
For more information about the course, see separate report.
Door restoration module 2 with Ilker Dursun – March
Module 2 – The door as a system
During the week, some of the volunteers had continued to work on the doors as in module 1, and they almost finished the restoration work.
This weekend we learned about all the parts of the door and their function. Ilker used the kitchen doors to describe all the elements that make up the door’s function. Like most of the doors in the farmhouse, the kitchen doors are probably dated from the house’s origins, probably around 1820. They are made of great materials and are in good condition.
But the whole house has suffered a lot of damage, the roof has leaked and there has also been water damage in several places due to leakage from amateur plumbing. We could see that the house had moved around the doors. Thus, in various ways, all the frames are not where they were in 1820. Ilker explained to us many possible measures for the doors to work correctly, and asked us to be careful, so that we preserved the original materials as much as possible.
He also explained to us the use of locks, keys, handles, fittings and hinges. We discussed whether it was permissible to plane the frames.
Then we were divided into groups of two who each got their own frame. In total, we worked on six doors and frames, and it turned out that the frames were not planed. There was a great variety in the problems: from a door where it was only necessary to change the hinges, to the double entrance doors which had been completely impossible to close, and therefore required a lot of work.
Composition painting 3 and 4 May
Course leader Ida M. Ottersen
Ida M. Ottersen is a master painter, antiquarian and restauration worker from Oslo. She is Head of Department in the antiquarian department in Alliero. She is also part of the Heritage Association’s resource group for mediators within traditional crafts. Ida showed us how to cook paint, apply paint and gave a lecture on historical paint and materials. The participants were apprentices and very excited to experience being part of this process.
Storytelling and biodiversity 21 and 22 May
An inspiring course on storytelling and nature. The course was divided into three elements :
• To meet biodiversity and tell about it. This part is sensual and intuitive. We find relaxation and contact internally and then use speaking and listening externally. This is first a private experience and then we can share it with each other.
• Through already existing stories from the storytelling heritage, we highlight what is about biodiversity and retell the stories with a new focus. The narrative is born anew in relation to this moment and in the encounter with nature.
• Telling about one of the species found on Opsal farm. Spring is about to start and there are countless wildflowers, trees, butterflies and birds to meet. Here we also use research as a background and develop it into something that contains narrative and images.
During this weekend course, we sang, went for walks and enjoyed ourselves by the fireplace. The body and the voice brought stories to life and with it, what we also need to the greatest extent for storytelling – the heart. Storytelling created contact with the nature around us. It was a great group from many countries and with different backgrounds.
Sensory knowledge – a herbal course at Opsal farm on 18 and 19 June
This weekend we had a meditative tea ceremony, went for a walk and learned about a number of plants we met on the road. We picked some and cooked with wild plants. We had an immersion with a selection of plants and received a tailor-made booklet. We made some herbal products. We had a nice foot bath and researched how we can safely explore the botanical world through our own bodies. We discussed how to interweave literature and good sources with our own experiences in plant medicine.
Course leader: Mari Jerstad Mari is a member of the Norwegian Naturtherapists’ Main Organization (NNH). There she is the main contact for the phytotherapy specialist group. 9 participants
Introduction to Permaculture design on 10 July
The course was led by Helene Bøhler, who is passionate about changing the world towards a more sustainable society; socially, ecologically and economically. She guided us through the principles of permaculture, we got to know each other, and it was a day of many experiences. In line with the principles of permaculture, the resources on site also helped shape what we did during the day.
The mowing party was held at Opsal Gard on 20 and 21 July. Then the farm was open to anyone who wanted to try their hand at scything during the day. There will be a lesson in how to use a scythe from neighbor Erik Storhovden on 20 July. We learned how to use the scythe, and how to get into the satisfying dance that can occur. We learned how to sharpen the scythe and were bought a new large whetstone by another neighbour, and how to hang it on the hoists.
We also hope for a more lush meadow next spring, when we will sow local wildflower seeds. This year is perhaps the second year in a thousand years that this field is not under the plow and sown with grain or grass. Last year, almost not a single flower appeared here, even though there were an enormous amount of flowers elsewhere in the grazing areas. Already this year, there have been more wildflowers. Then came nectar for next year’s bumblebees, bees, butterflies and all kinds of winged insects. And thus more food for the baby birds.
Competition, concert and celebration
On 21 July we celebrated Slåtton (Hay mowing) with a concert and party from 18:00. The concert was with Oline Sofie Bakkom, with narration by Beata Frankowska. There was a great turnout and a great atmosphere. There were people of all ages and delicious food.
The event was free! We are grateful to have received support from Stange municipality, which helped us get Oline Sofie Bakkom to play for us. Oline Sofie Bakkom is one of our closest neighbours. She is a composer, fiddle player, lyricist, festival general, and sings beautifully as well. Raised in Rendalen, with musical roots from Østerdalen, now living in Vallset in Stange municipality, Oline is one of Norway’s foremost folk musicians on fiddle. In 2016, she celebrated her 20th anniversary as the first foreign woman to become Sweden’s National Spellman.
In addition, the group from Poland came on an artist visit with the narrator Beata Frankowska. We have collaborated with a festival they had called ‘Trees are more precious than gold.’ And they wanted to be inspired for further work by coming here to Opsal farm.
The speaker for the event was Georgiana Keable, who is responsible for developing the farm and weaving natural diversity together with art and cultural diversity. Georgiana Keable has been a pioneer for the storytelling renaissance in England and in Norway, founder of Storyteller House, Storyteller Festival and Storyteller Radio. She loves environmental stories – myths, botany, fairy tales or historical dramas.
Herb walk 10 September
A two-hour herbal walk with Mari Jerstad. Mari Jerstad has a bachelor’s degree in herbal medicine from the University of Lincoln, UK and an MA in international medicine. She took us on a walk where we learned about gathering and traditional Norwegian everyday use of plants and trees. Many local people came and we learned a lot! 21 participants
The big Christmas tree clearing day on 25 and 26 September
There were 13 participants and we cleared over 1,000 trees. This is something we have been doing regularly during the year, but it was nice to have an extra session these days.
Oar making course part 1 26 and 27 November with Bendik Skogvold
The project started with chopping and splitting logs together with course participants. There was a focus on technique with a chainsaw and splitting logs without a saw. There was also a lot of focus on material quality, and how you can see the quality of the wood on the outside of the tree. How to read branch placement, bark texture, tapering, the shape of the tree, and see if it is suitable or not.
It was divided into two 6 hour days.
On day one, a lot of information will be given on what to look for in a good oar log, this will also be combined with a small chainsaw course on felling and safety. Then there will be marking of trees and felling.
On day two, the trees were felled, and we set about splitting them with wedges and sledgehammers. The logs are split where they lie in the forest, so shipping was the easiest possible. The logs were laid out to dry until the oar maker course in the spring at the Akerselva wooden boat association. There were 11 participants.
Christmas tree felling and Christmas party. December 9
It was a great party with many more participants than last year, mostly adults and some children. Everyone had something to share. We sang merry Christmas carols from many countries and played the drawing game.
We had made small herbal tea bags to give away to the guests and some, who had come a long way, stayed overnight.
Other activities during the year.
We have made two new containers so that when the toilet is emptied, it can stay there for several years and pathogens will disappear. It is of course an important job to empty the outhouse, two of the girls who have worked on a sheep farm noted that it smelled less! It is perhaps because of all the sawdust we use. We have emptied maybe 3 times during the year.
Pruning the old apple orchard and using apple wood around the forest garden to dampen wind and nourish the soil.
Study circles outside working hours:
Several people have wanted to join the morning meditation before breakfast
Drawing, we had several sessions where we researched drawing together. This was inspired by Marion who is very skilled at drawing and interested in drawing together.
There was a hairdressing salon several evenings and they cut each other’s hair.
I usually ask if they are interested in developing their English knowledge and they often are.
All during this period we have visited other farms and there is a lot of knowledge sharing around this, also for me. We took a trip to a local farm where they work with horses to learn and ponder before getting a horse here. We have also visited farms that raise pigs and goats. A visit to the summer festival at Alm Østre was very inspiring. We were invited by our neighbor Geir to see sheep shearing, as he does it himself.
In addition, we tend to celebrate when someone comes and goes. And we’ve played self-made games. There will eventually be many, for example where you write the name of a famous person on each other’s forehead and have to guess who it is, adverb game where you have to do an activity in a exagerated way – slowly for example and the others have to guess what adverb it is.
Another popular leisure activity is chess, for those who knew it before and those who are beginners. And the Viking game.
Many people have been allowed to paint their own bird box and set it up in the forest.
Some have made track sign maps for the different wild animals and hunt for tracks.
In an old house that has been more or less unoccupied for 50 years, there is a lot that doesn’t work. Some have done small repairs to cupboards and shelves.
We have experienced the northern lights!
We have decorated old furniture with paint
We have held a storytelling evening about our grandparents
Some people have been very good at taking the picture – two have won the competition in Stangeavisa and have helped with updating the Instagram and Facebook account
Someone put stairs over the electric fence so that you can get to the ash forest
Philosophical dialogue (Socratic dialogue). The topic was climate change.
Since most of the volunteers don’t speak norwegian, most of the books used are in english.
‘Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 2017
Personal and inspirational, Wilding is an astonishing account of the beauty and strength of nature, when it is given as much freedom as possible
Etangled life av Merlin Sheldrake
How fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures
Forlag – Penguin 2020
Hope beneath our feet edited by Martin Keogh
An anthology about Restoring our place in the natural world. Forlag North Atlantic books 2010
Being Salmon, Being Human av Martin Lee Mueller (Oslo University)
Chelsea Green forlag 2017
Grounded – A gardeners journey to abundance and self-sufficiencey by Liz Zorab
Forlag Permanent publications 2021
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The One-Straw revolution by Masanobu Fokuoka (A classic for permaculture)
The Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture by Nader Ardalan, Laleh Bakhtiar
The Time to act is now by Carola Rackete ( Carola was a volunteer on the farm and sent us some copies of her book on climate and the immigration crisis)