By Arthur Sevestre
Almost ten years after the first vague plans started forming in conversations between Annika and myself during daily long coffee sessions in a student house in the Netherlands to one day form something we then called CUTE (Community University Tribe Education, I think it stood for), the first real tangible step to make that plan into reality was taken in August 2015, when, together with my mother, we bought a farm in Värmland, Sweden. From then on we have worked on the early stages of something I’d now call (but only because you have to call things something these days) “productive permaculture food forest place of learning”.
The name of the farm is Två Ekar Gård (Two Oak Farm), and that is somewhat indirectly to honour the fourth of the original quartet who were going to move to a Swedish farm, but who didn’t make it: Radja.
Mum’s and my white shepherd canine companion got pretty sick the second night that we arrived in Sweden. The next day we took him to Ultuna Djursjukhus, a veterinary university hospital near Uppsala. The vets did a few tests and then we had to wait very long while they got the results. I went out with Radja for a short walk, and at some point we walked past a few beautiful oaks on the property of the hospital, and there were quite a few acorns on the ground. I picked up a few, already with the intention of planting them one day on the farm we were looking for. At the moment it wasn’t a very big happening, as I’m usually keeping an eye open for seeds to take along and sow somewhere.
Radja and I went back inside a few minutes later, and…. less than an hour later Radja was no more… put to sleep after the vets worked out his lungs were riddled with tumours. Poor fellow. Such a long journey from Scotland to Sweden as such a senior dog, being so brave during the journey, seeing us into our new home, and departing two days later…
I planted some of the acorns in the garden very soon after, with a vague idea in my head of it being a link between the move, Radja, the loss, the sorrow and new life. A few of them I put in a pot which I placed in my bedroom (of all places) for some strange reason and then forgot about them to the point that I also planted an aloe vera in the same pot. The following spring, two beautiful oak seedlings pop out, and grew well and fast. In the late summer of 2015 we planted these two oaks by the entrance to the land.
Hence the name of our farm.
In the autumn of 2015, six muscovy ducks arrived on the farm. Two have unfortunately been taken by an unidentified predator in winter, but one baby duck was born in the spring of 2016. Now we have five duck friends. They were joined in the same spring by fourteen chickens. The ducks and chickens will have a base in the garden of the main house, and in a special part of the barn in winter, but they will spend much time on the meadow and some in the woodland, living off what is on offer there. In time, when more different kinds of animals will arrive, the ducks and chickens will become part of an intricate holistic grazing management scheme, which will help restore the land from a pretty poor and thin-soiled meadow into a much healthier and more diverse community of life.