Summer in Norway is no time for idle contemplation. The days are endless, the entirety of the season is short, however, and there is no time to lose. You do not sit down to reflect in summer, especially on a farm. Summer is the time of growth. All the small plants need to go into the ground. Everything needs to be watered. The tomatoes and cucumbers demand pruning, the elder flower trees blossom, radishes, salads and spring onions want to be harvested. Then there is hey making, and all of a sudden the raspberries and black currants and blueberries are ripe and the tomatoes rotten away faster than you can blink. The orders of restaurants for produce grow ever longer and you try to make something of the two tons of squash that no one wants to buy: pickle it, ferment it, cook sauce, until everyone hates squash passionately and blames it for everything that has ever gone wrong in this world. Exhaustive amounts of work stretch ahead. Summer is the time of moving the water sprinkler over the fields until late at night, of going all in and tiring yourself out.
To me this summer felt like one constant stream of experiences, of encounters, of days melting into each other like a chocolate bar in the sun. The never-disappearing light added to the sense of continuity, combined with a feeling of having crazy amounts of energy and not needing to sleep much.
Summer is to blame
I appreciate this experience of flow, of just being in the moment and of intense communal effort. However, it is more in my nature to be taking time to stop and observe, to tune in into my thoughts and feelings, to perform an internal Checks and Balances every now and then. Reflecting on what is happening feels vital to my wellbeing and I did not get to do it over the summer months. There is no one to blame for this but summer itself.
Now that summer is on its last legs the harvesting season will still be going on for weeks. But I decided that it was time to partly snap out of the farm funk, to be taking more time off. With this decision also came the realization that I took over a lot of responsibility on the farm. I can see this as both a good and a challenging personality trait of mine. Being trusted with things is a boost for your self-esteem but it can become overwhelming.
I invested a lot of time and energy in learning about farm life, and on top of normal farm business I had my own project going on, a café I ran by myself on the weekends. Running Café Koselig meant prepping every Friday, baking numerous cakes and quiches, getting up very early on Saturdays to prepare some more, then serving guests all day and washing an endless amount of dishes. If I was lucky I had enough cake left for the usually slower Sundays, often I had to bake on Saturday nights after closing the café. On Sunday nights I would clean everything up and put away all the dish wear until next Friday, then crawling into bed, forgetting to take off my clothes. Monday mornings I went back to farm work. For all of summer I worked seven days a week. I had no desire and energy to read books or the news, although reading usually is a vital part of my life. I could have asked for a day off on the farm and somehow I didn’t. Self care is not my strong suit.
You can not get burned-out by volunteer work, can you?
There is something wicked about a group consciousness and the dynamics that arise in places where you work and live with a small group of people that you care about a lot. You know that there is an endless amount of work and that you have to divide it evenly. It never quite works out though. I had both a strong feeling of being able to power through a seven-week-day and letting people down if I took time off while everyone else had to work more because of that. In retrospective it is hard to say how consciously I made this decision, really. I did everything by choice, farm work just as much as the café. But by August I felt drained. A dear friend voiced concerns about me getting burned-out. I laughed it off. You can not get a burn-out from volunteer work, I remember saying. That is obviously wrong, as many people have experienced. Thankfully I hit the breaks before things went south.
The café was always thought as a summer pop up and I decided to close it down at the end of August. At the same time I feel an urge to come back to writing, partly. It is, after all, my preferred way of communicating, my mode of expression. I have been missing it a lot, it is a good feeling to be writing again. With writing comes thinking, reflecting and understanding.
I also realized that everyone on the farm felt drained of energy and of motivation and that we were all experiencing very similar emotions. We talked about it and now it feels good that I can say I am tired and it is being understood.
This is all I have to share for now but I promise it will be more busy on this site again soon.
I hope you’ve all had a good summer, that you swam in lakes and the sea and that the books you read collected some sand in between the pages. That you ate ice cream and got tan lines. I hope that you slept outside at least once and that you lay under a tree and watched the leaves. That you ate good food and nurtured your self in all kinds of ways.
So long from Norway…