First veggie attempt

I’ve always had a hard time explaining what I actually do study. Especially for the older generation, such as my grandma. My attempts were utterly desperate to make it clear, to give farming advices when to sow carrots or when to prune the fruit trees are completely out of my profession.

But the time has come, and last weekend we established a vegetable garden together with some friends! We’ve had the idea in mind earlier already, the only problem was the lack of suitable place for growing anything. So when a friend of us gave an innocent hint that he had too much space in his garden, we immediately pounced on the offer.

We started right away on Saturday, and the first step was to try to find the best spot for the plot.

This is how it looked like when we decided on a spot next to the apple trees. After measuring and marking the plot, we could only dug it up with heavy heart removing the pretty bulbous spring groundcover. Then, the workflow continued with the heavy digging procedure which was followed by the harrowing of the 3 squares.

We are still ahead of the big adventure of growing the veggies but as you can see in the pictures, the preparations has started. And despite my few lines’ description, believe me, it was quite a demanding work with a guaranteed sore on the following days.

So even though it had more of an experimental reason to grow some crops, maybe soon I can serve my grandma with some useful “how to do” tips. But perhaps, it would be rather her, who has some comments on our unconventional way of gardening.

All about dynamics

New course and this time with plants in the foreground: Dynamic Vegetation Design. Sounds really catchy, doesn’t it? But initially, the meaning behind remained a bit mysterious.

So to introduce us to the topic, we started off the second day with a workshop about landscape prototypes through concept sketching. And what can be a better place for this, than the landscape lab in Alnarp itself? The experimental forest, the cradle of all dynamics.

Not just the course name, the workshop was also really fluent and energetic, yet very much enjoyable. First, we were divided into groups, each group with a different focus (glades, edges, clumps, semi-open, water, roads, and entrances). Our team was the glade-observer and we were given the task to seek for prototypes of openings through the method of concept sketching. Here, you shouldn’t imagine artsy-fartsy creations, but strictly measured site plans and sections of our chosen places with more or less precise distance numbers. During strolling around, we found so many glades, that we actually saw everything as a glade after a while. So we needed to define what makes it a clearing. Size, natural or formal appearance, regularly or freely shaped edges, open sky above or a place with a covered canopy above can also be described as a glade. It was such a warm and sunny day so it was just pleasure to be outside for hours.

When the sky turned cloudy – good timing – we sat down inside together to refine and put together the material from the morning so that we can show a clear and simplified image to the others of our findings. It’s truly not the easiest thing to produce several hand drawn posters in a short amount of time if you are five in the group. However, my feeling was that it was a good proportion of preciseness and easy-goingness among us so I think we nailed it with a pretty nice result.

What was quite new to me but wasn’t easy to acquire for many of us was the way of thinking when working with vegetation. To get rid of thinking about solitary or individual species. Here, it is more about masses, volumes and areas instead of individuals or solitary trees.

But this was only the beginning! In the recent two days we have been introduced to another experimental site, the Brunnshög in Lund. The gist is just yet to come!

Hills and heath

Sunday morning I really had bumble bees to go somewhere. So I just opened my Skåne hiking book and searched for a round trip suggestion. It didn’t take us 5 minutes to decide and we were on our way not long after it. Drakamöllan, here we come!

From my hiking guide in Swedish I can’t figure out that much information (yet!) besides studying the pictures. So only when we got there, could realize how incredible place we chose to visit.

The Drakamöllan nature reserve contains one of the most valuable and rarest habitat types of Sweden! It has a sandy-soil terrain which is a perfect place to thrive for grassy pastures interspersed with unique sand steppe habitat.

It is not overreaction to say, I am a big fan of this steppe landscape dominated by heath and juniper. But did you know that they need maintenance to look like that? These vegetation types are remains of a cultural landscape which could have developed with cultivation and grazing activities on land. So to prevent it from being overgrown by other species it needs regular caring. If you see sooty spots on the fields, there is nothing went wrong! Apart from using it as a pasture land, they even burn it (!) and also harrow and plough the sandy parts to preserve the area’s values.

It was such a not everyday experience to walk around in the hilly heath landscape, the sight of the Baltic sea in the background was just an additional spice. I bet it’s gorgeous in late summer when all the fields are covered in lilac by the blossoming heather.

While coming home, and staring out of the window, I realized how much I admire the West Scanian landscape around. Sometimes I complain about the surrounding flat terrain and wish it was that hilly as on the eastern side. But then I got it, how special it is to look around and watch the scenery in 360 degrees. See the towers of the cathedral in Lund, Turning torso, the Öresund bridge and Copenhagen at the same time. And the hilly counterpart is just within an hour’s reach, I can always jump there for a visit. And now I already have a fixed appointment, in late summer! 😉

photo by David Zimmerling

Rain beds in Munka Ljungby

Next stop: Munka Ljungby. The bus parked down at a regular family housing area. We set off for a small round tour with the leadership of two employees from Ängelholm municipality (Ängelholm, the city with the ice-cream factory, remember?) to check their proudly announced “babies”, the rain beds in Munka Ljungby.

There, they’ve just carried out a new way for the town to tackle the negative effects of climate change and manage their stormwater: capturing the runoff water by using vegetated islands on the street. Or let say basins instead: they work in a way that with the help of their “open curbs” and lowered level, they collect the rain water that flows on the road. Therefore, they reduce the volume of an enormous amount of downpour, which usually has to be handled by the conventional sewage system. The plants absorb the water and try to store or degrade pollutants that the runoff brings with itself.

It has a much more pleasing appearance than a curb-side concrete channel, doesn’t it?

The question arises, what happens to these poor islands when there is no extreme cloudburst?

We don’t need to worry about the plants in case of no heavy rainfall. Even though, they can handle extreme wet conditions, they are able to exist in extreme dry periods as well. Due to a good drainage the combination of Miscanthus, Cornus and Acer collect the rainwater, but also lead it away relatively quickly (when less precipitation- no water stays there at all). So the clue is that the plants has to be rather for dry habitats then for wet – even though they are in a rain bed.

On the top, the professional leaders added that it’s also beneficial investment because they function as a traffic control in the residential area. The green islands stand as an obstacle to slow down the vehicles in the neighborhood.

Despite of being a bit skeptical at the beginning, they convinced me quite well that this rain bed infrastructure can work there – at least theoretically, on that dry day… However, one thing was a bit unexpected for me. After showing us only one rain bed (but with a great pride), we abruptly headed back to the bus to rush to the next destination. But wait, I would have like to see at least one more rain bed for comparison! What if they just chose their prettiest example to boast with?! 😉 It remains a mystery…

Anyways, a great initiation to adapt to climate change. But the big trial is still waiting to come – I wonder if they fulfil their purposes at the first extreme cloudburst! Maybe I need to make an update after it happened… but now, quickly, back to the bus!

Erosion spotting

Now, I am almost at the end of my current course, Landscape in Transition which started in the middle of January. As getting to the finish soon, besides acknowledging the gist of climate change and working on our final task we have finally reached the big bang of the course: the long-awaited excursion!

After all the dry classroom sessions we went outside to observe and discuss impacts and adaptations to climate change in South Swedish coastal rural and urban areas. We visited places and municipalities, which faced the impacts of climate change. Most of them were cities at the coast, such as Höganäs, famous for its pottery with special icing and Ängelholm (it has an ice cream factory!) that are both about an hour drive from Alnarp.

In total we did the incredible number of 10 stops. That meant mainly getting off the bus – 5 min walk – back to the bus – drive – out of the bus – 5 min walk & talk – back on the bus. Even though it was exhausting I enjoyed it a lot to actually see those things we had been learning about in class.

Unfortunately I can’t give an explanation of all the places we took a halt at but I want to show you one example, which shocked me: the eroding coast in Jonstorp.

Here the sea annually eats up at about 1 meter of land. Can you imagine that? They have an extreme erosion due to the devastating and frequent storm surges that climate change causes. This wouldn’t be a huge matter in itself if there weren’t anyone living near the coast. But in fact, in Jonstorp the houses were built quite close to the water so that the owners can take pleasure in the view. Now, with the increasing number of extreme storms each year, the sea is taking the properties away from bite to bite. Another result of the coastal erosion is that at some places the famous walking route, Skåneleden is cut in its continuity due to the shrinking land, as you can see in this picture as well. It obviously creates a difficulty for hikers. Okay, even though the hiking path is not necessarily the biggest problem, it also shows that erosion isn’t picky at all and is only taking the soil away but also the things which are built on it are disappearing.

Actually, it’s not surprising that many of the plots are for sale and the value of the apartments has immensely dropped. To me, a strange thing in the case is that the municipality does not take any responsibility for repairing or reinforcing the eroding coastline but the property owners are left alone to deal with it. However, usually this is not proved to be a right and correct solution… It’s hard to say what I would do if my home was threatened by such a situation and I need to be afraid when the next “attack” was coming to destroy my garden and my house… Frightening!

Luckily, after that five minutes we went back to the bus to check a positive example. In Munka Ljungby they made an attempt adapt to climate change by building rain beds. But that comes in the next blogpost…

By the way, do you know how close is the next coastline to you?

Fössta tossdan i mass

Pardon? Do you mean the first Thursday of March? Can I take the liberty to ask: are you accidentally from Småland?

It’s a returning statement but: Swedes are amazing. Especially their attitude to food and celebration. They have a feast to eat Cinnamon bun on the 4th of October as a greeting of the autumn. Obligatory “Semla” consumption on Shrove Tuesday before the fast begins. Or the Waffle day on the 25th of March, basically just because they like to eat it. These sounds a bit humorous for the first time, but are more or less understandable. Who wouldn’t like to have an official reason to eat a bit more pudding as usual?! But listen, I’ve just run across something crazy.

On the 2nd of March, at lunch break I saw a bunch of students gathering in a circle over a cake. I assumed obviously a birthday or something, nothing particular. But then a Swedish friend of mine pointed out, it’s far not a regular anniversary: people from the Swedish county, Småland celebrate the first Thursday of March by eating a marzipan cake.

You might ask yourself “why” and you don’t need to feel ashamed. I had exactly the same question. The answer could not be more obvious: the people from Småland miss saying the ”r” sound in their dialect which made the rest of Sweden pick on them. Instead of saying “första torsdagen i mars” these poor people perform a : ”fössta tossdan i mass” (too bad you can’ hear it right now).

This is actually funny but not worth a comment. But how they retorted is worth an applause: the folks of Småland didn’t let themselves be exposed to ridicule. Instead, they started eating marzipan cake on the first Thursday of March! How amazing is that?! Even in bakeries you can see colorful and rich-in-sugar-looking marzipan cakes, some even with a “fössta tossdan I mass” caption on it!

So, people. Stay to your fatherland and to your dialect and eat a cake!

Spring?

Are you finally around the corner? Pretty please, we need you!

The other day, I took my bike for a spin to sniff some fresh air. I more or less had a spot I wanted to reach but the snowy-icy road conditions gave me a challenge. So I set up a compromise to just go until I easily can do. But eventually, I made it, and got to Borgeby Slott.

As it was written on the board, the castle has a history leaning back to the 11th century. Thousand years! And the simple, but majestic architecture has been standing there since the 15-16 hundreds. It is possible to take a tour inside as well, but this time of the year, I only had the chance to look at it from the outside. So I decided to go for some careful loops in the fresh snow to discover.

But what actually impressed me the most was not what I found around the castle but when I moved a bit further. There was a river in the valley! An unexpectedly wide watercourse, half ice covered with ducks enjoying the stream and a new wooden pier leading aside. Quite cool construction. I needed to have a closer look. When I walked down the hill to reach the shore, I realized some even cooler stuff: a little cottage just at the water. It’s the base of a kayaking-canoeing club and renting station! Obviously, closed…

However, the situation is not hopeless: now, that the snow has melted, it’s visible – spring’s harbingers are definitely coming. The snowdrops are here and the winter aconites has started popping their yellow heads up. On the top, the first hellebores are going to bloom in a few days.

Spring is around the corner. But still a few more weeks just about dreaming of going with the canoe down the river. However, the day will come. Until that, I’ll just stay with my ordinary, well-functioning two-wheeler companion and go for some other rounds of discoveries.

Snogeholm throwback

Huh, it has been a heavy week! We had a lot to do for school. When I received photos from our Snogeholm adventure, it was a relaxing break to just look through them.

Some of them I like so much that I couldn’t resist sharing.

“During our visit, we were walking around among the stands following the green dot painted on tree trunks.”

“The green dot was undoubtedly necessary because there was a big difference from a hiking path in the woods: there was no pathway.”

“As I was walking around I realised how much I liked to be there in winter. To observe the open passages…”

“…the diverse or just monoculture forest edges making gradient or sharp borders without their green leafage.”

However, this is just a brief catch up with characteristic elements, amusing stand details, transitions, landscape types so that you can have a picture in mind. But doesn’t substitute any visits!

Credits for the nice shots to David Zimmerling

Queuing for microwave

12.10, Alnarpsgården, Pause Room: What do you have? Lasagna? It smells delish, maybe I will cook that tonight! Thanks for the hint.

In Alnarp, we have common pause or lunch rooms where you can sit, eat and heat up your food. Equipped with dozens of microwaves, a coffee and vending machine, fridge, sinks, kitchen counter – it’s not like a high school canteen. I would call it a lunch hub.

According to its name, the usual routine is that all students gather there at around 12 and it becomes far more crowded than any other lecture halls or classrooms. Everyone rushes to the fridge, takes out its plastic food box (which all carefully squeezed in there in the morning) and tries to catch a free microwave. The resourceful students never have to wait, but the majority of the people always end up in a long-long queue. In good weather you can combine eating with being outside in the courtyard and fetching vitamin D, in a cold grey day, you can just simply socialize with your classmates at the lunch tables.

Besides the always nice company and practical equipment I also prefer to eat there because of the room itself. I especially like how they preserved the character of the former barn in this premises of the main building (apart from the library, my ultimate fave). The old features like the high ceiling, the wooden beams and the fodder storing structure, and how they introduced the modern with the industrial style of the visible pipelines and the white paint.

There is only one drawback about the concept of the lunch hub which is the smell. The concentrated smell of all dishes heated up. So if someone brings something intense, the whole room has that special scent.

Anyways, I like it that can cook or prepare food in advance in order to consume it there or just take your leftovers from last dinner. It is a simple and cheap way to get warm food in your stomach. But if you don’t have the feeling for being a star chef when getting home after a strictly scheduled day, there is an option – the restaurant in the arboretum can save you from starvation or from being uncreative what to cook. By grabbing a sandwich or a menu what you can even take away… and eat in the common room!

Besides the rush between 12-13, there are some other functions of the room too. Most of the time the space and the microwaves stands empty and quite. So it becomes a suitable spot for a study circle, a group work or just a short contemplation on the couch (yes, couch). Once we even had a class randomly designated there.

So pack your lunch and queue in! 😉

Experimental hiking

Winter is not the prettiest season in South Sweden. Grey, foggy and moist are the best words to describe it. Therefore, there are no excuses for not going on a trip in drizzling rain or horizontal snowfall. However, you can really imagine yourself as being on an expedition while dressed up in 5-10 layers of clothes. With this spirit we started our journey to Snogeholm, another experimental forest after Alnarp.

While thumbing the ‘scape magazine, next to the report about the landscape lab in Alnarp, I bumped into a brief review about the Snogeholm landscape lab. It raised my attention due to the similar principle of our campus forest’s idea. However, this one also has connections to SLU, it is situated much farther in Scania, in the vicinity of Ystad, located on former crop fields of 30 hectares embraced with an extended woodland complex. The place was born with the contribution of a bunch of landscape architects and foresters who had the idea and began developing it in the early ’90-ies. They created a forest pattern composed of 67 mixtures of woody plants. Surprisingly, these 67 kinds of trees are representing almost all the tree species that can be found in Sweden. Apart from the main experimenting reasons, it functions as a recreational hub in the Scanian open landscape. A perfect den to hide from wind and exposure and to spend an easy day.

While studying the article the picture of the aerial photo really caught me with showing the surrealistic and picturesque tree stands flourishing in the shades of autumn colours. It caught me, but I didn’t have the patience to wait seasons to visit and admire the same appearance shown in the paper. However, it made me wonder: does it have something to show in winter as well?

During our visit, we were walking around among the stands following the green dot painted on tree trunks and letting ourselves be fascinated triggered by the environment. The green dot was undoubtedly necessary because there was a big difference from a hiking path in the woods: there was no pathway. No beaten track, just a few signs on the trees leaving you stroll a bit and letting you choose your own route and your own way to discover the place. As I was walking around I realised how much I liked to be there in winter. To observe the open passages, the changing groundcovers according to the tree species, both the dense and spacious stand interiors with bare boles, the diverse or just monoculture forest edges making gradient or sharp borders without their green leafage.

Yeah, it could be easy to spend a day there, but preferably without a heavy snowfall, which we actually had. Therefore, after a few hours of exploration the need was urgent to melt our frozen fingers and stiff toes. So we decided to treat ourselves with a cup of hot bryggkaffee in the lovely town of Ystad, where also the thrilling Swedish crime series, Wallander takes place.

Check it out! But just after the landscape lab!