The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.


(Read the beginning of the story in the archives.  Note that several of the images were scavenged off the internet.  Click on the image to find its source.)


Norwegian milk goatsWhen Lisbeth found herself in the farm dooryard, with the different buildings all about her, she really had to stand still and gaze around. Oh, how large everything was!—quite on another scale from things at home. Why, the barn door was so broad and high that Peerout Castle could easily go right through it, and each windowpane in the big house was as large as their own whole window. And such a goat!—for just then she caught sight of Crookhorn, who had come warily up to the doorway, and who only saw fit to draw back as Bearhunter approached. Not that Crookhorn was afraid of Bearhunter,—no, indeed!

The goat was larger than most goats,—about as large as a good-sized calf. If the cows belonging to Hoel Farm were as much larger than ordinary cows, thought Lisbeth, they would be able to eat grass from the roof of Peerout Castle while standing, just as usual, on the ground. She glanced searchingly at the cow-house door. No, it was not larger than such doors usually were, so the cows were evidently no bigger than other cows.

Bearhunter had followed after Crookhorn until the latter was well out of the way; then he had come back again, and now stood wagging his tail and turning toward the house door as if coaxing Lisbeth to go in. Yes, she must attend to her errand and not stay out there staring at everything.

So she followed after Bearhunter and went into the hall way. She lifted the latch of the inner door, turned herself around carefully as she went in so as to make room for her bundle, fastened the door behind her—and there she stood inside the big kitchen at Hoel!

The big kitchen at Hoel Farm

There were only two people in the kitchen,—one a young servant maid in the middle of the room spinning, and the other the mistress herself, Kjersti Hoel, over by the white wall of the big open fireplace, grinding coffee.

Both looked up when they heard the door open.

Lisbeth Longfrock stood still for a moment, then made a deep courtesy under her long frock and said in a grown-up way, just as she had heard her mother say, "Good day, and God bless your work."

Kjersti Hoel had to smile when she saw the little roly-poly bundle over by the door, talking in such a grown-up fashion. But she answered as soberly as if she also were talking to a grown-up person: "Good day. Is this a young stranger out for a walk?"


"And what is the stranger's name, and where is she from? I see that I do not know her."

Lisbeth Longfrock"No, you could not be expected to. My mother and Jacob call me Lisbeth Longfrock, and I am from Peerout Castle. Mother sent me here with the woolen yarn she has spun for you. She told me to say that she could not come with it before, for she did not get the last spool wound until late last night."

"Indeed! Can it be a spinning woman we have here? And to think that I wholly forgot to ask you to sit down after your long walk! You really must take off your things and stay awhile."

What a pleasant woman Kjersti Hoel was! She got up from her own chair and set one forward for Lisbeth.

"Thank you; I shall be glad to sit down," said Lisbeth.

She took off the pail and the bundle of wool and put them down by the door, and then began to walk across the floor over to the chair. It seemed as if she would never get there, so far was it across the big kitchen,—nearly as far as from their own door to the cow-house door at Peerout Castle. At last, however, she reached the chair; but it was higher than the seats she was accustomed to and she could barely scramble up on one corner of it.

Kjersti Hoel came toward her.

"I really think I must open this roly-poly bundle and see what is in it," said she; and she began to take off Lisbeth's red mittens and to undo the knitted shawls. Soon Lisbeth sat there stripped of all her outer toggery, but nevertheless looking almost as plump and roly-poly as ever; for not only did her long frock barely clear the ground at the bottom, but its band reached almost up under her arms.

Kjersti stood and looked at her a moment.

"That is just what I thought,—that I should find a nice little girl inside all those clothes. You look like your mother."

At this Lisbeth grew so shy that she forgot all about being a spinning woman. She cast down her eyes and could not say a word.

"But what is the matter with Randi, your mother?" continued Kjersti. "Why could she not come herself?"

"She was a little poorly to-day."

"Indeed! Randi not well? And her health is generally so good. What ails her?"

"Oh, she thought that very likely drinking strong coffee without milk had not been good for her."

"So you have no milk at your house. Perhaps that is why you have brought a pail with you."

"Yes; what do you think! Bliros has stopped giving us milk this winter."

"Has she, indeed! That is rather inconvenient, isn't it? How long before she can be milked again?"

"Not until the beginning of summer, after she has had her calf."

"H'm," said Kjersti thoughtfully. By and by, as if to herself, she said: "I have often thought of going to see Randi, but have never done so. Before this spring is over, I must surely pay her a visit."

Lisbeth Longfrock stayed a long time at Hoel that day. Although she had come in the important character of spinning woman, she had never imagined that a great person like Kjersti Hoel would be so pleasant and kind to her. Kjersti treated her to coffee and cakes and milk and other good things, just as if she had been an invited guest, and chatted with her in such a way that Lisbeth forgot all about being shy. And oh, how many curious things Kjersti showed her!

The cow house was the finest of them all. There were so many cows that Lisbeth could scarcely count them. And then the pigs and sheep and goats! and hens, too, inside a big latticework inclosure,—nearly as many of them as there were crows in autumn up at Peerout!

And Kjersti wanted to know about everything,—whether Lisbeth could read and write (she could do both, for Jacob had taught her), and how they managed about food up at Peerout Castle, and how it went with the farming.

Lisbeth could tell her that in the autumn they had gathered three barrels of potatoes, and one barrel and three pecks of mixed grain; and that they had stripped off so many birch leaves that they had fodder enough to carry Bliros through the winter,—in fact, much more than enough.

Norwegian sheepWhen Kjersti had shown Lisbeth the sheep and the goats, she declared that she should certainly need a little girl to look after her flocks when spring came; and then Lisbeth, before she knew what she was saying, told Kjersti how she and Jacob used to look at the farms from the window at home, and how she had always chosen Hoel as the place where she should like to work when she was big enough.

"Should you really like to go out to work?" Kjersti inquired.

"Yes, indeed," Lisbeth said, "if it were not for leaving mother."

"Well, we will not think about that any more at present," said Kjersti, "but I will go up and talk with your mother about it some time in the spring. We certainly ought to go into the house now, so that you can have time to take a little food before leaving. It is drawing toward evening and you will have to start for home soon."

So they went into the house again, and Lisbeth had another feast of good things. While she was eating she noticed that Kjersti brought from the cellar some butter and cheese and other things and packed them in the dark cloth in which the wool had been tied. The milk pail she did not touch at all; but Lisbeth saw that she said something about it softly to the servant maid, after which the maid left the room.

When Lisbeth had eaten and had said "Thanks and praise for both food and drink," Kjersti remarked: "Now you must lift the bundle over there and see if you can carry it."

The bundle was rather heavy. Still, Lisbeth thought she could manage it. But the pail! Not a word did Kjersti say, even now, about the pail! She only added, kindly, "Come, and I will help you put on your things."

She drew on Lisbeth's mittens, wrapped her up snugly in the two little shawls, and, in a trice, there stood Lisbeth Longfrock looking exactly as she did when she had come to Hoel that morning.

Slowly and reluctantly Lisbeth went toward the door, where the pail still stood. How strange that Kjersti had not even yet said a single word about it! Lisbeth stood for a moment in doubt. After receiving so much, it would never do to remind Kjersti about the pail; but she would much rather have gone without the good things she herself had been treated to than to go home without any milk for her mother's coffee.

She took up the bundle, drew her face with its turned-up nose tip back into its little shawl as far as she could so that Kjersti should not see the tears in her eyes, and then bent down and lifted the pail.

White Norwegian goatAt that Kjersti said: "Oh, yes! the pail! I quite forgot it. Are you willing to exchange pails with me if I give you one that will never get empty?"

Lisbeth dropped her pail plump on the floor. She had seen and heard many curious things on this eventful day,—things she had never seen or thought of before; but that Kjersti, besides everything else, had a pail that would never get empty! She stood and stared, open-mouthed.

"Yes, you must come and see it," said Kjersti. "It stands just outside the door."

Lisbeth was not slow in making her way out. Kjersti followed her. There stood the servant maid, holding the big goat, Crookhorn, by a rope.

"The goat is used to being led," said Kjersti, "so you will have no trouble in taking it home. Give my greetings to your mother, and ask her if she is satisfied with the exchange of pails."

Kjersti was not a bit displeased because Lisbeth Longfrock forgot to express her thanks as she started off with Crookhorn. Bearhunter followed the little girl and the goat a long distance up the road. He did not understand matters at all!

Sod-roofed Norwegian farm buildingIt is not to be wondered at that Randi, too, was greatly surprised when she saw Crookhorn following after Lisbeth as the little girl approached the castle.

There was not time for Lisbeth to tell about everything at the very first, for her mother and she had to clear up the stall next to the one Bliros occupied, and put Crookhorn into it. When this was done they felt exactly as if they had two cows. The goat took her place in the stall with a self-important, superior air, quite as if she were a real cow and had never done anything else but stand in a cow stall. Bliros became offended at this remarkable newcomer, who was putting on such airs in the cow house that had always belonged to herself alone, and so she made a lunge with her head and tried to hook the goat with her horns; but Crookhorn merely turned her own horns against those of Bliros in the most indifferent manner, as if quite accustomed to being hooked by cows.

Bliros gazed at her in astonishment. Such a silly goat! She had never seen such a silly goat. And with that she turned her head to the wall again and did not give Crookhorn another look.

That evening Lisbeth Longfrock had so many things to tell her mother that she talked herself fast asleep! 

To be continued tomorrow....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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