I Think It’s Winter

The calendar says it is fall, but I think it is now officially winter. The mountains have had snow on the peaks for the past four days, and whatever melts in the day time seems to be replenished at night. Wool sweaters and long underwear are a very important part of my wardrobe now.

Saturday I took the bus to Tórshavn, and it was a beautiful ride, with snow on all of the peaks. Actually, there was a part of the ride that wasn’t so beautiful, because the bus broke down, and we sat by the side of the 2 lane road for about an hour, waiting for help. It was right in the middle of the Faroese Soccer (fútbol) championship game, and our driver had trouble finding anyone who was available to come help us.

I went to Tórshavn for a 50th birthday celebration for one of my relatives, a dinner and dance for 220 people that lasted until morning. The Faroese people really know how to throw a party. I spent the night with Ninna in Tórshavn, and then came back home on the bus on Sunday morning.

October Trivia

We have had nice weather for the past couple of weeks, which is probably why I haven’t updated my website. “Nice weather” means not much rain, temperature in the 50’s (Fahrenheit), and even some sun, on the rare occasion. Today, it has been raining again, but with hardly any wind.

I have been rehearsing every week with the Gøta/Leirvík Choir (two nearby towns), preparing music for a Christmas Concert. We will be singing with another choir, accompanied by an orchestra, with concerts in the church in Gøta and in Tórshavn (the capital). I may not have all of the details right, since the announcements are in Faroese, but the part about me rehearsing with the choir is correct. We are doing a variety of music – some Christmas carols and some other classical pieces, some in English and some in Faroese.

I have also been attending the church in Fuglafjørður every week. Communion was served last week, and I found it very moving to experience the familiar ritual, with the familiar scriptures that I could even mostly understand. The state church is Lutheran, and the priest is responsible for five different churches. When he is elsewhere, there are several lay readers who read the sermon.

I added a few more photos of the sheep butchering. Quite a few people in the town own sheep, and there is a lot of work for them at this time of year – butchering the lambs, making sausages, preparing the meat for drying or for freezing, preparing the skins for sale, and probably more things than I want to know about. This week they are preparing a year’s supply of lamb.

On Monday my car was finally repaired – well mostly repaired. It still needs a bit of fine tuning, but at least I can drive it. Yesterday I ordered snow tires for the winter. I have never had to drive in snow, so this will be another new experience for me. If the roads are too slippery, I may resort to walking, assuming it isn’t too slippery for that.

Fuglafjørður in October

This has been a very rainy fall for the Faroes. Even complete strangers have stopped me on the street to say that this has been an unusually rainy month. My car is still not fixed, so when it is pouring rain, I stay home. I need to buy some good rain gear, so I can get out in the rain, but without a car…, sort of a catch 22. I don’t usually take many photographs in the rain – it is hard on the camera and hard on me.

All of the rain from last week has made this week’s weather seem very wonderful. Today I walked around to the other side of the bay (and then back again). The weather was beautiful, and I was sorry I was wearing my coat. Here are some photos of the town and some views from the other side of the bay. I love the mountains that are up behind my house, but I can’t see them from here.

Sheep

Many of the people in Fuglafjørður own sheep that they raise for meat for their own families. During the summer the sheep graze in fields up in the hills and mountains. Every October the schools close for one week to bring the sheep down. All of the families who have sheep grazing in a particular section of the mountain work together to get the sheep and bring them down to a sheep fold in the mountain. There were about 250 sheep in this section, owned by 20 or 30 families.

Saturday morning was spent bringing the sheep down from the fields. I went up at about noon with my cousins who brought lunch for the crowd. In the afternoon, everyone found their own sheep, and they sorted them into different compartments. For example, all of the rams went into one compartment, all of the healthy ewes who were going back out into the fields were in another compartment, lambs that were to be brought down to the town to be slaughtered later were in a compartment, and I don’t know what categories were in the other compartments. The owners decided which of the rams were the healthiest and strongest, and these would go back out in the fields with the ewes. All of the sheep who were going back out in the fields were injected with medicine.

Then everyone took their sheep and lambs that were to be slaughtered, and loaded them into trailers, trucks, or pickups, and brought them down to sheds in the town, and later in the week they will be killed. In the morning when I walked to church, I could hear sheep bleating in some of the sheds that I passed. Many of the lambs will end up as skerpikjøt, a leg of lamb that has been hung up to dry for several months during the chilly winter in a drying shed, which is made of slats of wood that allows the wind to blow through. After about four months, the meat is ready to eat, and you cut thin slices from the leg, salt it, and eat it with bread. It is a Faroese favorite.

Monday I watched while my relatives slaughtered their sheep – ten of them. I am only including a few before and after pictures.

My Boat House

I have a fence around my back yard, and right in the middle of the yard is the boat house, with a boat stored in the lower level. The boat is still sea-worthy, though it hasn’t been used for quite a few years. It used to belong to my cousin Jacob, who died in 1983. The upper level of the boat house is used to store hay, and there are clothes lines where I hang my clothes to dry. In rainy weather it seems to take forever for clothes to dry, and I usually get impatient and bring them inside and lay the clothes around the furniture in the spare bedroom downstairs where they finish drying. The hay is used to feed sheep in the winter. In the summer the sheep graze up in the mountains, and in October they are brought down into fields near the town. By December or January, the grass is gone, and the hay from the barns is used to feed the sheep.

Buying Groceries

Buying groceries is one of the challenges of living in a country where I don’t speak the language. Not only that, but many items are not labeled in Faroese, but in Danish.

I like packages that you can see through – it was easy to buy rice (ris) and pasta (pasta). However the first package of rice that I bought took about an hour to cook, and I figured out that I needed to buy parboiled rice, which seems to cook fine in about 15 minutes.

It took me several trips to the store to buy spices. It helped to see whole cinnamon sticks labeled “kanel,” so I bought the ground kanel as well. The same was true for cloves (nellikor). I checked the dictionary to find out that ginger is “ingifer,” but the package I bought was labeled in Swedish and Danish with something similar. I also discovered that molasses is called “dark syrup.” Well, after all of these purchases, I made a very credible ginger/molasses cake and topped it with whipped cream mixed with mascarpone cheese. Served warm, it was delicious.

Another challenge is that the selection of items in the grocery stores is limited, and some things are quite expensive. I am used to going to Berkeley produce stores with limitless variety. Here, we can regularly buy apples, oranges, bananas, pears, and this summer we have had nectarines, plums, and kiwi. Fresh vegetables include carrots, potatoes, leeks, tomatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Last week I was delighted to buy fresh zucchini and a small pumpkin. I looked at the avocados, but they cost about $4 each – maybe someday I will buy one for a special treat.

When I buy meat, I can usually figure out what kind of animal it came from, but that doesn’t help me know how to cook it. I bought something with a picture of a cow on it, so it must be beef. I also buy frozen boneless chicken breasts, but I don’t have a freezer, so I can’t keep them long. Faroese people eat a lot of meat, and a simple family meal is often just meat and potatoes.

All of this talk of food is making me hungry, so I think it is time to cook dinner. Tonight it will be some version of chicken.

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