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Raiding the Icebox a visit to countries in which I've often thought about living

work weeks, light rays, and bird chirps

ICELAND | Wednesday, 21 May 2008 | Views [1244]

Shot of the fields to the right of the house. That's the barley barn in the distance.

Shot of the fields to the right of the house. That's the barley barn in the distance.

I've been on a farm in eastern Iceland since Wednesday. The small town nearby is Egilsstaðir (the ð is a cross between a d and a th sound). I say small, but it's the largest town in the east - population of about 2000. The farm, Moðir Jörd (Mother Earth) is 10 miles out of town, and it's pretty large - 350 hectares, which if my conversions are right is almost 850 acres. Eymundur is the farm owner and he's been farming since 1979 and taking on WWOOFers since 2001. He's 53, with 3 kids - two grown and moved away, one teenager who lives with his mother in Reykjavik most of the year but spends summers on the farm. The farm produces potatoes, beets, lettuce, parsley, and other assorted veggies. His main crop, though, is barley. About half the farm is dedicated to barley.

Since arriving less than a week ago I have: constructed a greenhouse, transplanted beets and filled the greenhouses, watered those same beets and other starting-to-sprout plants, pruned Alaskan willows that line the fields and stacked the clipped branches, cooked dinner three times (one utter failure of stuffed peppers, and two mild successes involving 1) tomatoes and zucchini, and 2) potatoes, onions, apples, raisins, and brown sugar), and filled in a sunken grave (there´s a church next to the farm that goes unused, but Eymundur still keeps it looking nice). We work from around 9 to 6, but take many, many breaks: for lunch, for coffee, for water, whatever. We work about 6 hours a day. The meals are vegetarian, which will make my time here the longest I've gone without meat in a couple years.

When I got here, there were six other WWOOFers. All in their twenties, all interesting people, some from the US, some from Canada, one from Germany. As of this afternoon, however, it's just me. Which, as far as work goes, is fine, apparently. It's been colder and wetter than usual (so says Eymundur) and spring is late, so we haven't been able to/still can't do a lot of the planting that would normally be going on at this time of the year. We'll see what the next weeks hold. I'll be here until the 30th.

So much for the requisite introduction to the farm. There are two things that I really want to write about: daylight and waterfalls.

You often hear about northern parts of the world: Alaska, Scandanavia, Iceland - and how they get lots of light during the summer and no light during the winter. Nothing can prepare you for it, though. It's completely surreal. On Friday we (two Canadians, German and I) finished dinner around 9 and decided to go drive out to Hengifoss, a nearby waterfall, and hike to the top. We hiked from around 10pm to midnight... midnight! The sun 'sets' around 11 o'clock, though it stays dusk-light until about 2 when the sun rises again. The really wild part, though, is that the birds chip at all hours of the day. We got back from Hengifoss around 12:30 but stayed up until 2. As I was walking to my room, the birds were going wild. It's as if they decide a rotation of who gets to sleep and who has to chirp for the entire 24 hour day. It's pretty wonderful to be able to go and do things after work, though.

The other really remarkable thing about Iceland, is that water streams from every pore and orifice of this island. Saturday evening, we (German, Eymundur, and I) drove to Seyðisfjörður, a small(er), bohemian, costal town (along a fjord, hence fjörð in the name) with a cool arts scene. There were a couple exhibition openings and, as it turns out, Seyðisfjörður is also where one of Eymundur's daughters lives. Anyway, the drive was about twenty miles and we passed about 25 waterfalls on the way. And I'm talking big waterfalls. On top of that we must have passed countless streams and eddies of running water, not to mention the fjord itself. I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to live in a town that sits at the base of a 1500 foot mountain, on a strip of land that's maybe 200 yards wide (space between the mountain base and the water), which is sandwiched between a fjord and waterfalls.

Note: pictures are still slow to come. I'm on a dialup modem circa 1991. I've been able to add a few pictures of Reykjavik. I'll take some good farm ones and try to add them to. Anyway, that's why I linked to Henifoss and Seyðisfjörður.

Tags: egilsstaðir, wwoofing

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