Idea fetching excursion

Okay, at the moment I’m at the last phase of the final project of my course, Dynamic vegetation design. I will talk about the project itself later on but for now I would like to share some of my impressions of the excursion we did.

So here comes a short and expressive mood board consisting of photos of our two days class trip in South Sweden.

It was a roundtrip touching the cities of Helsingborg, Laholm and Vaxjö, checking out the birthplace of Carl von Linné, being amazed by how the paradise of bees looks like and how to preserve and manage old cultural landscapes. By visiting a couple of places the intention was that they could serve as inspirations for our final design project.

I personally can say, it influenced me a lot, and I am a big fan of traditionally managed orchard meadows from now on! I’ll definitely try to bring it back in my project work somehow! I’ll tell you later if it worked out…

But now let the pictures speak:

 

Woodland as a reference

I can’t complain that we are lacking fresh air recently. The DVD course (Dynamic Vegetation Design) has been working on it hard that we get our daily doze in multiple amount. A creative workshop week with staying outside in sunshine and pouring rain, several small field walks, a one day excursion, a two days trip and recently, a week’s exercise of woodland sketching. All of them were worth to experience, but this time, I am going to guide you around about the latter, how you doodle a piece of forest precisely.

What we had to do was to start a collection of reference landscapes that we probably can use it later on in our design project. It is basically a booklet of different landscapes observed more closely with the tool of drawing site plans (crown projections), sections (profile diagrams), perspective drawings or taking photos for instance. The main point was, as I said above that you can implement this landscape type that you examined in your project work.

What I did was something I was particularly curious about – how plants acts on slopes. The task didn’t tie us to stay at campus so I went home for a couple of days and did it in landscape which I have strong relations to, since my childhood: the woodland next to my parents’ place. I visited two spots on opposite sides of a hill – one a very steep slope facing South with open dolomite rocky grassland, and the other, a gentle slope facing North with a young shrubbery.

Despite the fact that during the fieldwork my dad and our dog were both eager to assist me, I had some complications in the meantime. One troublemaker for me was the task description itself. Since a couple of things were left to our interpretation, sometimes I had a hard time to proceed or to know what to do exactly.

And of course, I set another problem for myself with choosing slopes too… Climbing up and down on the steep side trying to measure the distances… Not well recommended I would say. But eventually, I made it with more or less precise measurements.

Back home after I put together the collected infos which seemed like an advanced jigsaw puzzling I tried to think about a schematic prototype which I can turn those landscapes into to use in other cases too. And also, how it could be possible to introduce and manage them.

All in all, it was a fun assignment to do, to be outside, to draw, be a bit artsy and to examine an area that I have always had a strong bonding to. It was also funny to see in how many different ways me and any of my course mates interpreted the task. After dealing with this topic for a whole week, I become more and more interested to think about vegetation and landscape not in as a static, sculptural thing, but something dynamic, something that changes all the time.

Skyline here and there

It’s just so amazing that a half an hour train ride takes you from Malmö to Denmark. And it’s not a regular kind of journey, but across the Öresund Bridge overarching the strait of the Baltic Sea. Worth an experience in itself!

When it’s a sunny day, you can see the outlines of the tall buildings in Copenhagen, drawing out a small, blurry skyline on the other side of the Öresund. We often try to determine which one is which but at the end, we never can be certain who was right with the identification. And then we got the idea: why not actually go there and make sure we guessed it well? For a while, we’ve been planning to go over for a day’s stroll anyway and the things to check out in Copenhagen just piled up on my list. So after all the common touristic attractions, this trip was decided to run under the headline – the famous Danish architecture.

After arriving to the capital we were immediately dragged to the water as a magnetic force. We walked along the canal trying to avoid the currents of tourists while started to work through our “to see” list. One of our first stops were the Danish Architectural Centre, suggested by a friend of mine to tag by. And that’s how we stumbled upon the main director of our latter trip- a book called the “Guide to new architecture in Copenhagen”. With this paper companion our architecture tour got a lot more content and meaning as we thought.

By opening the guide we got a bit carried a way and started spotting at more and more cool stuff we haven’t had on our list before. However, it took us for an inspiring ride in the city touching plenty of water elements such as piers, bridges, boardwalks. It made us even interested to vagabond to the power plants and factories what we see from the Swedish side day by day. Can you imagine that the new facility of the industry will have a ski slope in addition? We witnessed that realization is in progress and it’s indeed going to happen!

After a day checking the architecture in Copenhagen we took the train back. Tired but full of new experiences and information we stared at our well known skyline from the window: scanning the view from Malmö, along Lomma bay until the former nuclear power plant, Barsebäck.

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.