Welcome to my blog about every day life, hope, dreams, struggles and food. Love was once spelled kjaerlighed in Danish and since my surname is Kjaer, it seemed the perfect name. I hope you enjoy your read.
I have been neglecting my blog lately. I admit it! Sorry….:(
Mainly because I was hoping by now to be sharing info about my new job and home with you, but it has proved harder than expected to land that job. And since I made the decision to let the job location guide me to where I would be moving next, there is no news on that front either.
In July I started a Summer job with Mols Smoke House. It was previously owned by the man who taught me how to smoke fish, and since his much to early death in April 2017, his two sons has run the place. RIP Orla Bork – a great teacher, mentor and person. I miss your friendship dearly.
The job grants me easy access to fish, so the last few weeks have been filled with fish dinners. I often make the easy choice – tapas with smoked prawns, Moules Frites, Fish & Chips or Blackened cod taco. It is so nice to get a lot of fish, but even before getting the job, I made a decision never to eat farmed fish again. After seeing a documentary clearly showing that farmed fish is the most polluted food you can eat, I will stick to wild fish from now on.
Hopefully Fall will bring more opportunities and a steady job, once I finish my Summer gig. I haven’t given up hope yet, and I know something good is waiting for me just around the corner.
The last few weeks has been spent indoors, because once I get off from work, I’m usually too tired to go anywhere. Instead I have been catching up on the new Game of Thrones season. Last year I read all six books, and I admit I’m hooked. So much so that I think it is starting to manifest into my life:
I have to admit I can be an impatient soul. Once I decide on something – a plan of action of some sorts, I want it put in motion right away. So my current situation of trying to find a job is tough. Putting my life into someone else’s hands and having to wait for their reaction to my application is difficult. Letting go of control can be very intimidating, stressful and it seems to affect me more than I feel comfortable with.
So I do what I always do when my stress level rises too high – I walk. Luckily for me, the closed nursing home where I currently live, is very close to some good hiking trails. Not well-marked trails (I got lost yesterday and ended up on an old trail that lead me back to my car luckily), but in the beautiful Danish country side filled with plenty to forage from:
As mentioned I have a temporary home at the moment. It is by choice so I can move close to where I find a job. I expected it to be a positive in the job hunt, but have been surprised to find it seems to work against me. I don’t know, if future employers don’t believe me, when I say I’m ready to move for a job, or if they just don’t think it is possible to be at that kind of stage of readiness, but I will not change my plan and limit my search to one area just yet.
With walks and breaks in the sun, I will keep my usual positive approach to life. I will keep believing that a new and exciting chapter of my life is just around the corner. But I will also embrace the days when my mood is low, because those days will make what comes so much sweeter, and really….it is a first-world problem. I got a roof over my head, food to eat and the best friends in the world. Life is good – 99% of the time.
The food I eat is still good, home cooked quality meals. Yes, I look forward to getting a permanent home where I can use all my kitchen stuff and appliances, but until that happens, I will make due with what I got here (and use my friend’s kitchens) and keep making delicious food.
Looking out on the summer rain, it sure does not help my negative mood (thinking about the laundry I put out to dry a few hours ago doesn’t help either).
Last night I watched a documentary about a group of guys doing a pilgrimage of the Camino Norte. It made me long for the Camino Frances and finishing my own way. They spoke of the comradery as being the best gift the pilgrimage had given them, and I couldn’t agree more. For me the Camino is not a religious pilgrimage, but a journey filled with life-long friendships that occur when your life is boiled down to just walking, eating and sleeping. When your life is all about the moment, stripped down to the essentials and the complexities of your everyday life fades into the background…that is when you meet people without your mask and armor, and you let yourself open up to experiences and new acquaintances. At least that is what it felt like to me and I miss it. I miss that raw life feeling and it has become my goal. Not just to return to the Camino Frances, but to gain a new life to provide the core, the calm, the base that I can begin to plan a return.
Well, I guess I want to take back control of my life, so I can start planning – and living.
It will be my summer plan…to find a way to regain control, to start to build the new life that will allow me to dream and plan to return to the Camino Frances to finish and maybe even start again on a new pilgrimage. The Camino has once again provided….my summer dream.
I guess last time you all heard from me was when I was on my way home from Canada, and though the blog have been quiet, I have been busy.
It was great coming home and seeing friends and family. Even though it was still cold here, spring was just around the corner, and I got to admit that Denmark is stunning in spring. Returning to the west coast of Jutland, I immediately went to the beach to find peace of mind as I always do there.
So what has been keeping me so busy lately? As you may know, my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma last year and have been receiving chemo treatment. In the fall and early winter he was responding well to the treatment and went into remission. It was great to see life return to his eyes and energy to his body. Before I left for Canada, my sister and I, with help from the family, moved him into his new home on the beach. That was quite an undertaking, since he left behind a house he had lived in for more than 40 years…many of those with my mom in what was of course my childhood home.
It is difficult went the sun sets on a big chapter of your life, but luckily he was looking forward to an easier life in his new home. So I left feeling that he was well taken care of and in good hands.
But during my stay he fell ill again, and upon returning home it was evident that the cancer was back and new treatment was needed. So for the past few weeks my dad has been in the hospital in Esbjerg, preparing for a new round of chemo. He had lost a lot of weight and of course the severity of the situation is not lost on his or my mood.
Having lost my mom to cancer in 2009, I already know how brutal this disease can be. All the hospital visits, talks with doctors, research online and hard moments that become even harder to talk about, fill up all your time and thoughts. It drains your energy and creeps in everywhere no matter how positive you are as a person. And I try to keep positive.
Sometimes it is a struggle to keep smiling, but it is so very important not to give up or give in to those dark thoughts. A drink in the sun, having gotten my Summer clothes out of storage or deciding to get a new car to feel freedom and control is some times needed.
I keep hoping that this new round of chemo will work, and my dad will get to enjoy his new house and life for as long as possible. My sister and I will help and support him as best we can, and a big thanks the hospital staff in Esbjerg for their assistance, support and kindness.
I will not let the clouds take over, while I search for a new job and a new life somewhere in Denmark. The good thing about having put all my stuff in storage is that I can take a job anywhere, but I have to honest and say that I hope it happens soon, because I miss having a home with my lovely things around me. Until that happens I make my home where I can. Currently I am staying with friends in Vejers, and when that is no longer possible, Karl will take me to the new place, the next adventure and the next pot of amber.
I’m currently sitting in Vancouver Airport awaiting my flight back to Denmark. It has been a jam-packed 8 weeks here in Canada, allowing me to test some ideas and get some adventures along the way.
I set out to try my hand at organic, sustainable farming, and my three weeks at Blue Jay Lake Farm on Cortes Island provided me with insights, lessons and a new friend. Looking back I conclude that farming as a way of life will be to difficult and hard on my own, but I do look forward to one day living somewhere that will allow me to get a vegetable garden to grow my own produce. So my romantic idea of farming turned out to be just that – a romantic idea. I see this experience as a life lesson, so it was well worth the trip in my book. The amazing views, the great hikes and a new friend – Swedish Kristina have been bonuses I just didn’t expect, but dearly cherish.
After Cortes I returned to Victoria and my friends there. I know I have mentioned it earlier, but I can’t thank Gail and Stuart enough for welcoming me and for introducing me to their friends and family. I am very much a social creature and the times spent shooting the breeze with Kevin, Mike and Erin have been precious to me. The Canadian people are very open and welcoming, once you have the stamp of approval by referral from a friend.
I attempted to find another workaway (working for room & board) closer to Victoria, but my luck failed me miserably, and I met what I hope to be some of the most disorganised and messy people in BC. I say hope, because I sure don’t want to think this is the Canadian standard. Not being one to cry over spilled milk, I instead spent my time sampling my way through the gastronomic offer of Victoria. The city did not fail me!
Last night I treated Gail to dinner at Jones BB-Que on Cook St – just down the street from where she lives, but she had never been before. So it was about time!! I have actually just polished of a small portion of burnt ends I took with me for my trip. If you like BBQ and are in Victoria, this is the place to go.
Life on Cortes included a lot of walking. To get to wifi a minimum 12km hike was required. And let me add that Canada is not flat like Denmark!! The three weeks there whipped me into shaped, so back in Victoria I kept it up with several walks every week. I love walking! It clears the mind, brings you amazing sights and provides you with excellent exercise. I walked to Fisherman’s Wharf, along the David Foster Habour walkway, Beacon Hill Park, Thetis Lake Park, Clover Point Park and every where I went downtown. My new-bought boots have already proven themself.
The walks allowed me to see the city and to try to get to grips with what to do next. Having struck out with workaway and not being able to work for pay, my options in Canada were quickly declining.
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but that just means you have to either adjust the plan or come up with a new plan. Staying positive in that process can be hard, but it really helps. I do not view my decision to return to Denmark as a failure, but as an opportunity to re-group, adjust the plan and try again.
What is important to me, is to keep being honest towards myself and my passion for life. My integrity towards how I conduct my life and the paths I choose, is just as important as the decisions themselves. I still refuse to get back on the hamster wheel, no matter how long it will take me to find my way. I will keep you posted along my way – not only when I succeed, but also when I stumble and get lost, for it is the way there and not the finish line that truly matters. Keep keeping it real, my friends!
So I left you all with plans of a few new jobs lined up in the areas surrounding Victoria. It did not turn out how I had hoped – unfortunately. Both places were unprepared for my arrival and very unorganised. It was not good experiences for me. Luckily I have Gail here in Victoria, who has gladly opened her arms and house for me, when these endeavours has not worked out. But it has been a slap in my face, that it seems I cannot get my footing here in Canada. Luckily Victoria offers some great views and hikes and I have been taking advantage of that lately.
I guess my struggles here is based on a few things: working for room and board is hard for me, since I have been working for cash for many years now. It does seem to affect my self-confidence to not have the freedom a money job provides you. Upon finding yourself laying down in a bed in a stranger’s house, because that is your pay, it makes me wonder – what the hell am I doing here?
Another thing that is proving harder than anticipated, is being here on my own. I have great friends here and have met fantastic people, but my journey here is mine alone, and it is hard. It is hard not having someone to share the experience with. Canada has so much to offer, but the thought of having to go it alone, is affecting my desire to explore.
And trust me I have been trying to explore as much as possible while being here in Victoria – food especially of course!
Poutine is Canadian dish from Quebec consisting of fries covered with cheese curds and gravy. It is comfort food at it’s best! This version also contained crispy bacon and green onions – delish!
Fan Tan Alley is one of the little alleyways connecting China Town filled with the most curious little shops. Very cosy, interesting and well worth a visit.
Yesterday was a day of complete indulgence with a visit to La Roux Pattiserie for a Paris Brest with hazelnut and cream filling, Cheap Tuesday visit to the movies for Beauty & The Beast, followed by a visit to Jones BBQ on Cook St.
I got the two meats platter – beef brisket and pork ribs served with two sides – I went for pit beans and slaw, pickles and a brioche bun. I had to have ice tea, which of course came in a Mason jar – it was perfect! This place must be on your to-try list if ever in Victoria. The meats were amazing! Tender, full of flavour and topped with their BBQ sauce I think I heard angles singing in the background 🙂 The pit beans with bits of meat in the sauce were a rich and powerful explosion of taste. Good thing I had to walk home, because I was stuffed after polishing this plate off – for only $21.95.
Eating my way through Victoria has been great, but what is my next plan? Well, I looking for a job in Europe. I hope to find a job in a place that has the same kind of passion for life and what they do as I do. I miss making good produce as I did at Tunoe Smokehouse, but I am very open to learn new skills, so if you know of a place that could use one like me, let me know! I hope my luck in regards to work soon will turn for the better and I can find a place to settle for a bit. I can’t keep hanging out at Gail’s house 😀
I returned to Victoria on Monday and I really enjoyed being back with friends, wifi and being able to connect again with friends all over the world. Again I can’t thank Gail and Stuart enough for their friendship. I couldn’t imagine being here without them.
This week I have been securing jobs for the coming weeks and visiting turist points around Victoria. Yesterday I walked to Fisherman’s Wharf to look at the seals (they figured out that if they perform, they get more fish) and enjoyed the sun and signs of spring all around.
I also happened by a fantastic shop called Frances Gray on Yates St. The shop’s window dressing caught my eye and I would have gladly bought almost everything in there. The clothes fit my style perfectly and most of it was organic, which is even better! The shop also carries the funniest caps, so I might return for one of those. I restrained my spending to just a cup, but what a cup! I love blue and this momento will hopefully stay with me a long time – locally made here in Victoria.
But all that time on my hands this week has also caused a rush of thoughts. I have been wondering if Canada is right for me, or if I should be somewhere else. Canada is treating me well, my friends here are the best and I get to see this beautiful country, so why am I not over the moon excited and happy all the time? Even before coming over here I was in this mellow state of acceptance. Those of you who know me personally, know that I live life to the fullest, so being in this mellow state is puzzling to say the least. Some of you may think that just coming over here, is living life to the fullest, but not in my book.
A former employer told me when I quit the job with her, that I was impatient. At the time I didn’t agree with her, but Heidi…maybe you are right! I feel like I am waiting for my life to take off in some way. Like it is just around the corner and I just need to locate the right corner. But the wait is really hard…specially being single and not having anyone to share it with.
So I reached out to some old friends and talked it over. See that is my process…I talk my issues over with friends. Walking around on my own does not help…it just makes me more frustrated, but a good discussion with my friends clears my mind and heart, and I have decided to give my Canadian adventure another chance. I’ve got some interesting jobs lined up for the coming weeks and you never know what it might lead to. And if I still feel the same frustration and mellowness, well, I guess I will change my plans and go somewhere else. I have to find that corner, no matter where it is.
I have decided to leave Blue Jay Lake Farm and Cortes Island. The farm and the experience has been great, but it is too remote for me right now. And I may be too comfortable for off-grid living to be honest. I like a flush toilet, electricity when I want it and wifi, so I can keep connected to my friends and family.
I spent my last weekend on the island exploring a bit. Fellow woofer Kristina and I went to Manson’s Landing to enjoy the cove in the sun. It must be amazing in summer.
I do not regret going to Blue Jay and Cortes. I have learnt so much during my three weeks there. Especially working with livestock has been interesting and giving. Milking is not really my thing, but I really enjoyed tending to the animals, so in future I would consider livestock for meat – but it would require a partner or good neighbor, because it is quite the responsibility every day. The goats had great fun the day Kristina and I cleaned up the yard – climbing all over to nibble on the cut-off branches. They sure must have steel stomachs.
Knowing that the food we ate at the farm was 95% home grown and produced, made such a difference. You have to respect all the work that has gone into making that happen. Though I was only there short term, I like that I helped prepare for this year’s production.
Maybe I will revert to Cortes Island in summer – as a visitor to enjoy these nice beaches and amazing hikes the island offers. It definitely was a nice start on my adventure over here.
So today I took two ferries. First from Cortes Island to Quadra Island. I had secured a ride across Quadra before boarding. Hitchhiking is very common on Cortes and I got a ride with the habour master – a lovely and kind lady. We loaded my big bag onboard her car and I went to the lounge to enjoy the view on the crossing.
Before getting to Quadra I found my ride, and she took me across Quadra and on to the next ferry to Campbell River. It is a generous “system” and I like that you only pay to get on the islands – not to return to Vancouver Island. The view of the second ferry again made me think of the Tunoe Ferry – and how many times I enjoyed the view onboard.
Currently I am at the Java Shack in Campbell River, where I await the arrival of my ride to Victoria. I can recommend Poparide. It is the Canadian version of GoMore and my ride promised to drive me all the way to Gail’s house. Much better than taking the bus! Waiting here is no problem – good food and wifi:
My plan is to enjoy a few days with Gail and then look for another woofing/workaway place closer to Victoria. I look forward to sharing the next adventure with you all!
Farm life has it’s chores – stacking wood for winter use, weeding, planting and covering strawberries with hay has been on the schedule this week. Now covering strawberries with hay sound pretty easy, but when you have to get the hay from a manger in a pen full of bull calves, it turns into quite a dare.
My new Swedish friend, wwoofer Kristina, did not feel like going into the pen, so the task went to me. Very intimidated I ventured in and desperately tried getting to the manger. Since cattle spend a lot of their time feeding, naturally the calves were hanging out in front of the manger. It turned out to be an exercise in assertiveness. Me using my deepest voice to shout “move move move” while trying to lean on them to make them understand.
I got in front of the manger, filled my arms with hay, and now had to get out behind the calves to pass the hay to Kristina. I was only scared half to death that one of the calves would kick me…so I nearly ran trying not to slip in cow dung.
Getting the hay took several visits to the pen and many trips to the manger and back behind the calves. Little by little my confidence grew and when one of the calves started nibbling at my pants, they all of a sudden seemed friendly enough. I like to believe I made some new friends that day…and Kristina told me I had done a great job collecting the hay in such conditions. I guess she was really happy, she didn’t have to go in there.
Almost as a celebration the hot tub was set up for last night. I took care of stoking the fire in the afternoon, and once night time and the dark had set in, we all changed into our swimming gear and jumped in. This was my first outdoor hut tube and what an experience! In the dark, with stars shinning up above, all we could hear was the frogs calling, while we soaked in the hot water and enjoyed the beautiful night sky view.
After work today I returned to Dean’s Bluff. I think I called it Gentleman’s Bluff earlier, but the correct name is Dean’s Bluff. The trail is pretty steep – 18% according to my iphone, but the view is definitely worth the hike. Not only a view of the farm and lake, but also of snow covered mountains and the sea. I will venture up there again as soon as we get a day of sun.
So I’m starting to get settled at the farm – learning more and more of the daily chores. This week I tried milking a cow for the first time. It is definitely a skill that takes time getting good at, but I didn’t get kicked or dropped the milk bottle. I was however competing with the newborn calf trying to get to the utter.
I also had my first dinner duty. The produce on the farm is top quality, but it is slightly different from what I normally cook with at home, so I decided to make falafel with pita bread and a cabbage chop salad. I think I have finally figured the wood stove out. I was very happy with the result and it seemed the other people on the farm agreed:
Of course one of my first projects has been to bake rye bread. I have already gone three weeks without, so I could wait no longer. I made a sour dough and got baking. They turned out great and newcomer to the farm, Swedish Kristina has approved, so I’m happy. I wonder if it is worth while trying to make liquorice?
I try to find time to do hikes, since the island is amazingly beautiful. Just look at that scene above…5 minutes from the farm. When it warms up a bit, there is a campsite right there and I can’t wait to sit around a fire and enjoy that view!
This week also provided a special dinning experience as one of the residents from Blue Jay did a French Fine Dinning event at her work place – the local CO-OP. It was Michelin worthy with the white table cloths and the food was really delicious. I already suggested that Carly should do a pop-up restaurant this summer.
It was a real treat and a fun experience to try. Of course our Blue Jay table made a bit of a scene when the napkin from the bread basket caught fire at the table, but we stopped the fire and pretended nothing happened 🙂 It is not all farm life out here.
This weekend I am in charge of feeding at the barn, so twice a day I climb to the hay loft and push hay through to the cows and goats. Who would have thought I would be doing that just half a year ago? It has shown me the level of commitment needed when dealing with livestock. I love the fresh dairy products, but it seems too big a commitment for one person, so I guess having livestock will have to go on the back burner as long as I’m single. I will just have to buy my dairy as most other people do.
I will end this blog with a picture of one of the farm dogs – Kassidy is 15 years old and deaf, but such a sweetheart. She guards the farm along with the other dog Sadie, who will always try to trick you into a game of Stick, even though she is not allowed to.
Tomorrow will finish off my first week on Cortes Island at Blue Jay Lake Farm and it has gotten me thinking. As mentioned the farm is off-grid, which means electricity is to be used sparringly, the toilet facilities are made up by a compost toilet for number twos and a transformed bidet for number ones and cell phone connection is non-existing. But big, amazing views are however to be found everywhere, like the pictures below. The mountains in the background is the mainland – Vancouver Island.
The sun was out, I found edible seaweed and I enjoyed a small break right there in the sun. It is all bout enjoying the easy pleasures in life – my new motto.
Like I really enjoy the high quality of food we get at the farm. Fresh cows milk, homemade butter and yougurt, fresh and canned vegetables from the garden and meat and eggs from the farm animals. It makes you think about the effort put into making that food available – the manhours and the planning it took.
It is my day off, so I have hiked to Squirrel Cove. I was told it was 12km, but according to my phone it is only half that. A nice little walk before enjoying a café latté and second breakfast.
So back to my thoughts…the hike facilitated that. Having grown up in a small country like Denmark, I have sometimes forgotten to appreciate the basics that are provided – probably through taxes, bills and other form of payments, but nevertheless much needed. A simple thing like electricity at our fingertips at a decent rate. We do not struggle with powerouts, because most of our cables are below ground. This also ensures us internet and the ability to connect at all times.
After just one week up here, I have made one big discovery about myself…how important is it for me to be able to communicate with my friends and family. Just being able to chat means the world to me. So with that in mind, I think I can safely say that I will not be looking to live off-grid permanently.
Yesterday the farm had a new calf. A sweet little thing we all rushed to meet. Tomorrow morning I will have my second barn duty and within too long, I will be expected to do the barn chores myself, which includes milking the cows and the goats. This is definitely a new world to me, but I hope the animals will trust me to do the job and stay calm while I learn. I seem to remember having heard that when milking, the farm girls often sang or hummed to keep the animals calm. Maybe I will try that trick and see if it works.
I have embarked on this adventure to learn. Not just skills and new trades, but also to learn about myself and what I want my future to look like. So far that is going according to my plan…I sure am getting my priorities straight.