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.)


Hoen farmThe next time Lisbeth Longfrock came to Hoel Farm, she did not come alone; and she came—to stay!

All that had happened between that first visit and her second coming had been far, far different from anything Lisbeth had ever imagined. It seemed as if there had been no time for her to think about the strange events while they were taking place. She did not realize what their result would be until after she had lived through them and gone out of the gate of Peerout Castle when everything was over. So much had been going on in those last sad, solemn days,—so much that was new to see and to hear,—that although she had felt a lump in her throat the whole time, she had not had a real cry until at the very end. But when she had passed through the gate that last day, and had stopped and looked back, the picture that she then saw had brought the whole clearly before her, with all its sorrow. Something was gone that would never come again. She would never again go to Peerout Castle except as a stranger. She had no home—no home anywhere. And at that she had begun to weep so bitterly that those who had been thinking how wisely and quietly she was taking her trouble could but stand and look at her in wonder.

The last two months of the winter had passed so quickly up at Peerout Castle that Lisbeth really could not tell what had become of them; and this was owing not a little to the fact that, besides all her other work, she had so much to do in the cow house.

Crookhorn had become, as it were, Lisbeth's cow, and consequently had to be taken care of by her. Bliros showed very plainly that she would not like at all to have Randi's attentions bestowed upon a rascally goat. That would make it seem as if the goat were fully as important a person in the cow house as Bliros herself; whereas the whole cow house, in reality, belonged to her, and that other creature was only allowed there as a favor.

So Lisbeth took care of Crookhorn exactly as she saw her mother take care of Bliros. In fact, before long she had more to do in the cow house than her mother had; for she soon learned to milk Crookhorn, while Bliros, her mother's cow, could not then be milked.

And Crookhorn gave so much milk! Three times a day Lisbeth had to milk her. There was no longer any scarcity of cream for coffee or milk for porridge. Indeed, there was even cream enough to make waffles with now and then.

Melting snowSpringtime came. It always came early up at Peerout Castle. The slopes of heather, directly facing the sun, were the first in the whole valley to peep up out of the snow. As soon as the heathery spots began to show themselves, Lisbeth was out on them, stepping here and there with a cautious foot. It seemed so wonderful to step on bare earth again instead of snow! Day by day she kept track of the different green patches, watching them grow larger and larger, and seeing how the snow glided slowly farther and farther downward,—exactly as her own frock did when she loosened the band and let it slip down and lie in a ring around her feet. When the snow had slipped as far down as the big stone where she and Jacob used to have their cow house (using pine cones for cows and sheep), the outermost buds on the trees would swell and be ready to burst,—she knew that from the year before; and when the buds had really opened (she kept close watch of them every day now), then, then would come the great day when Crookhorn could be let out. Lisbeth's mother had said so.

That great day was what she was waiting for, not only because it would be so pleasant for Crookhorn to be out, but because no food was equal to the first buds of spring for making goats yield rich milk.

Lisbeth's mother had been far from well ever since the day that Lisbeth went over to Hoel Farm for the first time. But Lisbeth thought that as soon as Crookhorn had fresh buds to eat and gave richer milk, her mother would of course get entirely well.

It is very possible that a little streak of snow was still lying by the upper side of the big stone (in spite of Lisbeth's having scattered sand there to make the snow melt faster) on the bright spring day when Lisbeth went into the cow house, unfastened Crookhorn, and led her out of the stall.

As for Crookhorn, she followed her little mistress very sedately until they reached the cow-house door. There she stopped short, looking around and blinking at the sun. Lisbeth pulled at the rope, trying to drag her over to the part of the ridge where the birch tree with the fullest leaf buds stood. But Crookhorn would not budge. She merely stood stock-still as if nothing were being done to her; for she was so strong that, however hard Lisbeth pulled, it did not even make her stretch her neck. Lisbeth then went nearer, thinking that she could pull better without such a length of rope between her and the goat; but at that, quick as a wink, Crookhorn lowered her head and butted Lisbeth, causing the little girl to fall back against the hillside with a whack. Upon which, Crookhorn stalked in an indifferent manner across the road.

Lisbeth picked herself up and started to go after her charge; but, if you please, as soon as she came near enough and tried to seize Crookhorn, away would that naughty goat dart, not galloping as a goat usually does, but trotting like a cow or an elk. She trotted by the house and turned off on the road leading to Svehaugen Farm. Lisbeth pursued swiftly; but, run as she might, she could not gain upon Crookhorn. At last, stumbling over a stone, the little girl fell at full length, having barely time, while falling, to look up and catch a glimpse of Crookhorn's back as the goat, trotting swiftly, disappeared over the brow of a hill.

Norwegian goatThere was no other way out of it,—Lisbeth would have to run home and get her mother to help her. This she did, and they both set out in full chase. It was a long run, for they did not overtake Crookhorn until they had reached the Svehaugen gate. There stood the goat gazing unconcernedly through the palings. She evidently felt herself superior to jumping over fences,—she who imagined herself to be a cow!

Randi had become much overheated from running, and at night, when she went to bed, she said she felt cold and shivery. That seemed very strange indeed to Lisbeth, for when she laid her face against her mother's neck, it was as hot as a burning coal.

In the morning Lisbeth's mother woke her and told her to get up and go over to Kari Svehaugen's and ask Kari to come to Peerout Castle. Randi felt so poorly that there was no use in her even trying to get up. She was not able.

Not able to get up! That also seemed very strange to Lisbeth, for never before had she seen her mother with cheeks so red and eyes so shining. The child did not say anything, however, but got up, dressed herself quickly and quietly, and ran off to Svehaugen.

After that there came several wonderful days at Peerout Castle. When Lisbeth Longfrock thought about them afterward, they seemed like a single long day in which a great many things had happened that she could not separate from one another and set in order. In her remembrance it was as if shadows had glided to and fro in an ugly yellow light, while the sound of a heavy, painful breathing was constantly heard, penetrating all other sounds.

Norwegian farm buildingShe seemed dimly to see Kari Svehaugen gliding about and taking care of things in the home and out in the cow house. She herself had climbed a birch tree several times and picked leaf buds for the animals to eat. One day Lars Svehaugen had flitted along the road in front of the house, swiftly, as if he had not a moment to spare. Soon after this, some one dressed in furs and with big boots on came driving to the house, and all the neighbors flocked around him, listening to what he said. And he brought such a curious smell with him! It filled the whole house, so that, even after he had gone away, he seemed to be still there.

She thought, too, that once she had seen Kjersti Hoel sitting on a chair, taking many good things out of a big basket, and Jacob standing by Kjersti's side with a great slice of raisin cake in his hand. And Jacob had kept chewing and chewing on his raisin cake, as if it was hard work to get it down. What she remembered chiefly, though, was Jacob's eyes,—they looked so big and strange.

Then one morning she had awakened in a clear gray light, and from that time she remembered everything very distinctly. She was lying in the little trundle-bed that Jacob had slept in when he lived at home,—she must, of course, have slept in it all these nights,—and Kari Svehaugen was standing beside it, looking down upon her. The house was oh! so still,—she did not hear the heavy, painful breathing any longer. The only sound was a slight crackling in the fireplace, out of which a stream of warmth issued.

Kari said very quietly: "Your mother is comfortable and happy now, little Lisbeth; better off than she has ever been before. So you must not cry."

And Lisbeth did not cry. She merely got up and went about the house very, very quietly all that first day. Afterwards there were so many preparations being made for some solemn festival that she did not seem to get time to think about the great change that had taken place.

Lars Svehaugen came from the storekeeper's with ever so much fine white, shining cloth,—she had never seen the like. Then a woman came to help Kari cut out and sew, and they made pillows and a fine white garment that mother was to have on when she lay upon the pillows. And Lars Svehaugen began to make a new wooden bed for mother to lie in; and Bliros had her calf, and the calf was slaughtered; and Lars Svehaugen brought some small pine trees and nailed them at the gateposts and outside the house door, one at each side, and he strewed pine branches all the way from the door to the gate. And there came presents of food—oh! so many good things—from Kjersti Hoel and others. Lisbeth had never tasted such delicious food before.

Then came the day when mother was to be taken to the church and buried. Many people came to the house that day,—among them Jacob in a bright new suit of gray woolen homespun; and there was a feast for them all, and everything was very still and solemn. Even the schoolmaster came; and oh, how beautifully he sang when Lars Svehaugen and three other men carried mother out through the door and set her couch upon a sledge.

Norwegian horse and wagonThen they all went slowly away from the house, down the hill,—the sledge first and the people walking slowly behind. But down at the bottom of the hill, in the road, there stood two horses and wagons waiting; and, just think! Lisbeth and Jacob were invited to sit up in Kjersti Hoel's broad wagon and drive with her.

Then they came to the white church; and as they carried mother in through the big gateway the church bells up in the tower rang, oh, so beautifully!

After that Lisbeth did not see things quite so clearly, but they lowered mother down into the earth in the churchyard and strewed wreaths of green heather over her, and then the schoolmaster sang again, and all the men took off their hats and held them a long time before their faces.

After that the people went out of the churchyard, and Lisbeth and Jacob climbed into Kjersti Hoel's broad wagon again and drove away,—only this time they drove much faster. It looked as if the boards in the fences ran after each other in an opposite direction from the one in which she and Jacob were going. They both tried to count them, but could not.

Norwegian churchAll the people came back with them to Peerout Castle,—Kjersti Hoel, too. Kari Svehaugen, who had not gone to the church, had covered the table with a white tablecloth, and set it with plates and good things to eat. And all the people ate and talked,—but they did not talk very loudly.

When the meal was over, Lisbeth got Jacob to go out into the cow house to look at Crookhorn. Jacob conceded that the goat was an extremely fine animal, but she was a vixen, he was sure,—he could tell that by her eyelids.

Then they went over to the hill to look at the mill wheel that Jacob used to have there; but it had fallen into complete decay because he had been away from home so long. Such things need a boy's personal attention.

After that they were called into the house again and everybody drank coffee. When they had finished the coffee drinking, Kari began packing into baskets the food that was left; and when that was done, Kjersti Hoel said: "Well, now we have done everything that we can here. You may bring Crookhorn with you, Lisbeth, and come to live with me. That was the last thing I promised your mother."

Thus had it come about that Lisbeth Longfrock, holding Crookhorn by a rope, stood outside the gate at Peerout Castle with Kjersti Hoel and Bearhunter; and then it was that she looked behind her and began to cry.

On one road she saw Kari Svehaugen with a big basket on her arm and Bliros following her; and on the other she saw the back of Jacob, with whom she had just shaken hands, saying, "May you fare well." He looked singularly small and forlorn.

Last of all she saw Lars Svehaugen put a pine twig in the door latch as a sign that Peerout Castle was now closed, locked, and forsaken.

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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