• Sofias Country Gardens

A woodland path

Between Stensund and Humlegård there is a dense forrest. It is the kind of forrest where one expects goblins, gnomes and wolves to turn up behind each tree or rock. The road between the houses goes around the forrest in a U-shape, and consequently we tend to take a shortcut by walking straight through it. However, until a few years ago the path was tiny and filled with potholes and roots; hardly inviting for a walk in dusky evenings!

As the trees in this forrest are tall and evergreen, consisting mostly of spruce (Picea abeis) with a few spindly rowans interlaced (Sorbus), and the sun never quite lightens the mood. Regardless the brightness of the day shadows lurk and if one has any kind of imagination it is easy to feel slightly scared. If the path was bigger, I thought, it would be easier to move trough the forrest faster.

In the part of the forrest closest to Stensund making a proper path was quite easy. It was just a question of levelling out the moss and filling it up with wood-chippings. With some 30 hectares of wood there is always plenty of material lying around in heaps, drying up and ready to use! In the picture above is my youngest son helping out with the work by piling drying branches in a heap. This picture is already vintage, taken when we started the project some five years ago. (I love that in the country we are not so particular about what we wear; the jacket he is wearing is also vintage as it is actually my mothers ski-jacket from 1980!)

It is important that the branches are dry enough, because when branches are fresh they tend to clog the machinery of the wood-chipper. Spruce drys slower than deciduous trees, and as it has a lot of sticky sap when fresh I leave them in a heap for at least a year to dry. Once the branches are dry they are easily chopped up into wood chipping with our fantastic Avant tractor. (You can look it up at http://www.avanttecno.com ) I am always careful to wear protective gear while working in the forrest. The Avant has a very strong motor which sends the woodchopping flying all over the place, so the face-guard is a must. Also, the noise is enough to harm ones hearing so this is my fancy working uniform:

The first part of the path, closest to Stensund and two thirds of the whole project, was completed in one summer. I thought it both looked and smelled wonderful! The stretch between the houses is not that far, perhaps some 500 meters, but as there is so much to do on the farm during the summer there is never enough time to finish larger projects in one season. Therefore, the part closer to Humlegård was left for next year.

In the area close to Humlegård there was a stretch of about 150 meters through the swamp area that turned out to require a huge amount of work. When we excavated the frog pond we used the clay and soil to bridge this stretch, but it was moist and soggy soil and needed a layer of coarse gravel on top. In certain places where the ground tended to give way no matter how much gravel we put, we used an age old method of laying fir branches across the path and mix clay with gravel on top to give it stability.

Finally, it was compacted with a hand roller - which was truly hard work - as it was still too unstable to drive on with anything as heavy as a tractor. Then it was left to settle over the winter, as heavy frosts and snow made its impact and removed any air pockets or loose ground that had been left underneath, before we covered it too with wood-chipping. Quite a crazy project, I know! But now it finished, and looking as if it had always been there.

Last but not least, I planted oak saplings (that my kind neighbour Fredrik had given me) on each side of the path. To keep them safe, as we have so much deer that tend to eat anything that is left unprotected in our eco paradise, I put metal tree guards around them. As yet they are tiny, but hopefully the path will be lined with beautiful oaks by the time my future grandchildren are grown up. Talk about longterm planning!