Home, sweet Swedish, home
by Jan Wheatcroft
Many think that a “man’s” home is his castle, but I have just spent a week with a couple that strive to make their home a castle. Susanna and Christer live in a country house outside of the Swedish city of Uppsala, north of Stockholm.
At first they lived in a communal situation as part of an educational institution south of Stockholm, and then moved together to Stockholm, which is more crowded as well as more expensive. Finally they found their bit of paradise further north in the countryside and have been busily working to improve the house and land for the past 7 years.
The house is a big red traditional Swedish home with a lovely large kitchen where much of the daily living takes place. My guest bedroom is next door, across from Christer’s office. There is a huge shower room with a “pool” in the center and Susanna, a painter, has created a 3-walled mural of sea and country life in shades of blues and greens. Very soothing. On the other side of the walls is a series of storage and work rooms.
Upstairs, with lovely views, is the living room, Susanna’s painting studio and the large bedroom/sitting area equipped with a built in child’s bed. We called it a Dutch Bed when I was a child. It is hard to crawl into and make up, but one can imagine a few small children sleeping in the room all tucked up in this cozy bed.
The views from upstairs are of the garden in the back and the fields of grazing cows in the front. Although they are on a road, it is a country road and there is not a great deal of traffic, aside from a few cars, a mail van, bike riders, tractors and horse riders moving to and from their farms.
The area is surrounded by small farms of cows, fields of yellow rapeseed, woods and forests where they go to gather up wild mushrooms in the fall, or collect the best and purest water from springs hidden from popular view. To buy eggs from neighbors, visit someone close or even to collect the spring water they will bike on a daily basis.
The pride of their “castle-home” is the garden. In the front is a small cottage, which can be a guest house or a rental if necessary as it is complete with kitchen and bath, living and sleeping space. This would mean someone living quite close by and they are not really ready for that at the present time. However, the garden is where they are putting all of their effort and have done so for the past 7 years. Each time I come to visit I notice great changes besides the house painting.
New stones are laid and paths created. Huge areas are opened with trees cut out and weeds dug up and cleared away. There are garden plots planted with edibles, rhubarb being one of the favorites.
In the first years we always had at least one pie but now Christer has begun to make a rhubarb lemonade, which is delicious and refreshing as well. They have planted fruit trees: cherry, apple, plum and pear; trees which can weather the cold Swedish winters. The cherry tree has died, sadly. Apparently the plum tree was full of fat, juicy, ripe plums last year and every one of them was eaten by fat, plump wasps.
Susanna and Christer walk through their garden many times a day when not working in it to examine everything minutely with great enjoyment and pleasure. They have many different types of roses, poppies and lovely flowers that would wither in our hot climate but are a joy for me to discover. They have their porch filled with batches of seedlings that are being prepared for introduction to the garden. There are also a number of outbuildings that Christer has been busily clearing up and repurposing from storage into a workroom for himself and a covered outside studio for Susanna. As he works he discovers old parts of furniture that were left behind. I call him “The Archaeologist” as he tries to discover what they actually are, then reconditions them and figures out how they fit together. He often rushes out in the morning and can be gone for hours puttering about in a creative and satisfying manner, lost to the world.
He has also designed and built a pond where the water circulates and flows from a top covered in plants into the pond itself. It is a satisfying sound and a cool place to sit on a blue reconditioned bench during the Swedish summer.
In the middle of the garden is a large, white table with bench and chairs where meals are taken and drinks are sipped and where mosquitoes come to enjoy their share of us. Every inch of their land is either used or planned for future use and every bit is examined daily. They walk together sharing their views and their dreams, enjoying the good weather when it comes and gearing up with boots and rain ware when necessary, even in the summertime. They are always accompanied by their cat, Moses, a sweet young man who patrols the property, as do they, keeping a close watch over the life of the area.
Birds nest yearly in the bird houses lodged in trees, kept up by both of them and happily lived in by families each year.
Most people who have gardens enjoy them and have fun puttering about digging and planting, but with Susanna and Christer it is a passion that blooms in the warmer summer months because of hard work expended both daily and yearly.
I have seen many changes over the years and always find it an adventure to discover new ones but the joy remains as they work together to actually make their home into their castle.