Arriving on the farm in Norway was an abrupt change from a rather whimsical life of travel. When I arrived on Brekke Gard as the farm was named, I had been on the road almost seven months. While traveling I made plans as they came up. I would always buy a big paper map of the country and study it to see where I might go. My plans were often changed by a brief conversation. So settling down to work six days a week was a significant change. I felt a bit claustrophobic socially at first because the family wanted to include me in their plans all the time. I had been so free until this.
Anyway, my first morning on the farm I was seated at the breakfast table eating the typical breads, cheeses and spreads. They usually had the brown, hard, sweet goat’s cheese. Coffee always. The farmer was going to feed the pigs. Being the eager guy I was, I got up to help him. He wouldn’t allow it. In Norway, you needed to be registered in town officially so you could receive healthcare if something happened. For around seven dollars I was registered and I would be treated for anything and everything for free. Norway opened my eyes to so many things that made me realize that other countries do some things better than the USA.
It was early April and snow covered the rolling hills. The farm had a hill behind their house. The hill was then bisected by a rural road and the downhill side ran all the way down to the largest, longest river in Norway, the Glomma. The farm house was two floors, with the top portion for the pigs and the lower portion was for catching the excrement and debris from the pigs. I fell in that one day which is worth a story in itself. I and eventually Musa, my colleague from Gambia, lived in a house in the lower portion of the farm. We had a wood burning stove and a view out the window to a gorgeous, sizeable waterfall. It was heavenly. Each day we would trod up to the pigs in our rubber boots and overalls to feed the pigs.
The fields were sown with oats, barley and wheat, which had a Spring and Fall variety. I found the process fascinating and loved watching the fields develop with their natural colors, moving with the wind. The grain itself was beautiful as well. We did also grow a yellow flowering crop that produced oil but I am not certain of its name.
After the piglets were born, they nursed off the mother for a period then each litter was placed in a square shaped pen. Seems like the litters could be up to 10 or so. Each morning and afternoon we would clean their areas and lay down fresh bedding for them. We would also feed them. They grew rapidly and eventually would be taken to slaughter. That was something difficult for me to be part of.when cleaning the area, each pen had a hole in the floor that you pushed the urine, feces and wouldchips down. You had to lift a small hatch to do so.
One day a pig shot between my legs and plummeted through the hole to the floor below where I had never entered. I closed the hatch and ran out of the barn. I was sure I had killed the pig. When i looked in at the area below, there was a mountain of debris under each hole and fluid surrounding the whole area. The smell was pungent, with a powerful ammonia smell. I saw the pig on one of the mountains. I was relieved and anxious at the same time. I did not know how deep the liquid was. I went in to get the pig and it swam to another mountain to escape me. I followed and quickly discovered the fluid was deeper than my boots. They filled up quickly. I eventually corralled the pig but it was squirming in my arms. As I exited the barn with my boots full of urine, I slipped and fell violently on my face in the mud but held on to the piglet. Then, the pig wiggled free. After several more falls and attempts to grab the pig, I got it again and when I did I realized the farmer’s children were in hysterics watching all of this. I trudged up to the second floor with the piglet, covered head to toe in muck and boots full of pig urine. I had to shower immediately. More fun to follow.