Squeeze an apple and let the juice ferment slowly and you get cider. That’s pretty much how simple it is. Every year I press around 100 liters of apple juice and ferment it in oak casks. The cider matures over six months before I bottle it. We enjoy it cold on warm summer evenings, with the duck breast prosciutto I make from the animals on our farm. I take great delight in the whole process, from tending the apple trees to sipping the cider.
When I was a Sergeant in the Swedish Army (which hasn’t fought a war in nearly 200 years), I started playing a harmonica to stay awake on long nights. I played in a band at college, and there are few times when I’ve felt as connected to people as on stage. Today I sing in a local choir, take singing lessons and dream of starting a small local blue grass band.
My grandfather was a forrester, and I spent a lot of my childhood in the woods that were his life. Monocultures make me sad, though, and we have a lot here in Sweden too, endless plantations of spruce. At our farm, I’m creating something different. Or I’m relating to the environment in a different way, asking how I can best be of service to as many beings as possible. We’re reintroducing species that haven’t had a place here in centuries. And for the past five years I’ve planted and tended a forest rich in flowers, pollen, fruits and nuts. The life that’s returning is my reward.
We moved from our lives as journalists in Stockholm, my wife and I, across the country to a rural farm where we knew not a soul. Over the past decade and more, I have learned a lot about building community. I’ve failed more times than I care to know, and I’ve surrender more times than I wanted to. But today we’ve made a home for ourselves and our boys here. It has been a slow weaving, a deep listening, a practice of letting go again and again. Every month now we gather in the woods with the Night Owls, people who want to sleep outdoors. A few fathers have met with our sons once a month for a few years running to teach them what we know of nature and of togetherness. Every summer we host several dozens of friends and sometimes workshops at our farm. And I am on the board of our boys Steiner School (Waldorf), to do what I can in support of the parents there who run, teach, organize and create the environment where our children learn about the world.
There are a lot of people out there who don’t know how lucky they are that I didn’t become a neurologist. That was my aim as a young man, and my interest was in the gift of language. After a few years doing horrid experiments in dark laboratories, I turned to ecology and understanding the beauty of life as a whole, doing research in Panama with the Smithsonian Institute. But my life-long passion for language abides–for metaphors, eloquence, original meanings, and the power of speech. The words we choose have an impact and a consequence–life follows in the wake of our words.
I learned how to track animals by spending thousands and thousands of hours on my own in the woods. It’s what kept me relatively sane in times when it seemed nothing else would. Knowing the land, opening my heart beyond what ailed me to the blessings and mysteries of life, helped me remember how to be whole. Tracking animals is indistinguishable from tracking the self. I learned that from one of my mentors, Jon Young, who taught me one-on-one for several years. Today, after staying put for years, I know the great grandparents of the blackbird and fox here, I have seen trees be born and thicken into their early years. And the art of tracking informs much of the work I now do as a mentor or coach.