BLACKBIRD AND GOOSE

by angeliska on November 29, 2014

Olivia Hansson is a very magical lady that I have yet to meet – though I have a strong sense that if we were on the same continent (she lives in Sweden), that we would no doubt enjoy having tea together, telling stories, and frolicking in the countryside. Oh, how I wish – one day! In the meantime, I get to delight vicariously in the photographs of her beautiful life that she shares on Instagram under the name blackbirdandgoose. I admire so much the way she chooses to live in such an intentional way, in deep conversation with the earth and her seasons. There’s something powerful about the clarity and simplicity inherent in being so connected to the land where you live. I love getting to partake secondhand in all the adventures Olivia goes on in the woodlands with her sweetheart Anton, and her dog Foxy. Her good spirit and sweet nature come across so clearly to me, despite the distance.
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There’s a fantastic juxtaposition in the depiction of traditions that are so ancient being shown with the wonder of internet-magic in 2014 – a sense of fairy-ring time travelling, perhaps. I think it’s such a gift we can experience a glimmer of what a person’s experience of life is with this strange miracle of technology. Looking at her lovely pictures, I was overcome with curiosity about the stories behind all these marvelous images, and I got inspired to ask if I could do a little interview with her here, and feature some of my favorites from her photo-feed. I often have an urge to write about all the special people that I’ve been so blessed to cross paths with in this life, and then I get overwhelmed with how many amazing folks I know, and don’t know where to begin and then end up just putting it off. I’m making an effort to leap into the present, and into action! I am so delighted that she agreed to let me share these wonders with you – and I hope that you will be similarly heartened by the charms of Olivia’s gorgeous garden and extraordinary existence.
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Will you tell us about some of your favorite things? I am so enchanted by your way of life, and curious about your various inspirations, traditions, background, dreams, wishes.
I love being outdoors and foraging for edible foods, and to forage for antique goodies is also a favorite pastime – especially textiles and cumbersome furniture, which we never have space enough to accumulate. Folk costumes and their intricate details is something I never tire of. A home is not complete without a bouquet of flowers or plants indoors. I like to dabble a bit with photography. I’m in love with Instagram – it’s such a positive medium and always gives a perfect dose of daily inspiration. My mother is from Slovakia and when I was a toddler, we even lived in Saudi Arabia for a year and later on in the U.A.E, so I guess my upbringing has had a mashup of different influences and from different cultures. I like my folktales the way my maternal grandmother read them to me, often bloody and with grim endings. I think that love has continued in my inkling towards Slovak artists, that to me always seem a little dark or at least always carry a dark humor. My dream table with my favorite food would be set with a Lebanese buffet! Give me hummus any day and I shall be happy. Anton wooed me by bringing me a jar of homemade hummus with a red ribbon, before we were a couple – he had my heart soon after that. Anton is wonderful. After nearly five years together I still feel blessed having met him and for having him in my life. He is a self-taught woodworker and can turn beautiful bowls. He can sew, cook, empty traps from dead and bloodied mice. He is the optimist when I’m being the pessimist and he always makes me laugh. What can I say? Anton is a keeper! I hope he will stick around forever.
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I am totally fascinated by your photos of the the medieval village place where you dress up and work? What is this magical place? What do you do there? It looks so amazing!
I’m terribly sorry to disappoint you but we don’t work in a medieval village, nor does it exist as one place. It only exists in our imagination – ha-ha! No, it is simply a hobby that we share with some friends that are all interested in historical reenactment of the 14th and 15th century. The pictures that you have seen on Instagram are all taken in Visby, a town on an island called Gotland in the baltic sea, where a ”medieval” festival (medieval in the loosest term, mostly a mash up of what popular culture sees as medieval) is held during a week in early August each year. It is a beautiful city with a city wall from the 13th century that still stands and its a lovely event to meet with old friends and strut about in hand-sewn garments. We share a passion for history, especially dress and domestic history and fate has had it that we have focused on the late 15th century in Northern Europe. We are such nerds and proud of it!
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Your harvest photos of gathered plenty have completely captivated me. They are so beautiful. I’d love to know more about your garden, and how you learned to cultivate its bounty.
When Anton and I were younger, our parents both had vegetable gardens – but with time they tired of the endless battle with weeds. It’s probably an urge that we have had in our backbones from early childhood memories. A carrot never tastes so good as when you’ve just pulled it up and wiped the earth off on the grass and eat it straight there and then. Nor a fresh pea straight from the pod! Its hard to describe without sounding too much of a cliche but just being out in the garden checking on everything on a daily basis just gives me such a sense of peace and a feeling of being rich on so many levels. Learning has been a trial and error experience and we are still quite new to running our own kitchen garden so everything that has come out right has really been cherished with glittering eyes and commemorated with plenty of pictures. We shall see if we handle ourselves with more cool indifference when we become veterans, but I don’t think the joy of gardening will ever cease. To cultivate the bounty my parents have been great inspirations. We have never bought jam, fruit cordial or apple sauce during my whole life, as we have always had trees and fruit bearing bushes in the garden. Watching my mum and dad preparing such things in the kitchen together has been both beautiful and inspiring. The beekeeping is something that has also been a tradition in the family for four generations – me and Anton being the fourth to take over. We still have much to learn but the harvest is something we have a good grasp on after two seasons of doing it. Everything we grow and everything that we give the bees is environmentally friendly – of course! We dream of including some chickens to the garden next year if we find some time this spring to build a coop.
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I love mushrooms, and am especially excited by your mushroom hunting expeditions! I know this is quite a cherished tradition in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Would you tell me about any traditions, lore, recipes, or thoughts you might have on mushroom gathering?
Swedes are proud to boast about their mushroom picking but we never ever share the places where we have been picking – that is a secret that we take to the grave, or a secret that is only passed onto immediate family. This year was amazingly bountiful! I don’t think I’ll see something like it in years to come! The whole family was gathered together over summer and almost every time one of us was out walking the dog he or she came home with a bucketful! Seeing this arrive time after time to the kitchen table one didn’t know whether to delight or despair. It is quite a task cleaning them, although a pleasant one. Chanterelles are a favorite – especially fresh, fried in butter with a pinch of salt and black pepper and then eaten on a slice of home baked bread. This year however, since we had so much to take from, I have tried pickling them for the first time using a Slovak recipe, the pickled jars have still to be tasted waiting in the larder until the bleak months when spring and fresh foods are a distant memory.
We dry the most part of them, this year we got over two kilos of dried mushrooms! That is a staggering amount compared to what we have picked other years, then you can only get a couple of small jars filled at the most! Now we don’t seem to have jars enough so some we have kept hanging in a loosely woven linen bag. They keep for a really long time and when you use them you just soak them for a couple of minutes in water and their ready to be fried or popped into a soup or pie!
I don’t think I know any lore surrounding mushrooms. I am personally a bit superstitious and don’t pick anything that grows in a circle be it mushrooms or flowers, it simply does not feel right…

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Do you have any tips for surviving cold weather and winter and staying cozy that you’d like to share?
We live in my grandparent’s house on the countryside in Bohuslän and it is heated solely with woodfire. So my tips to survive the cold is to simply to be industrious in spring by felling trees and to drying the wood out properly before use in coming winters. To survive the darkness of the Swedish winter months (we have only 7 hours of daylight and we will have even less in the coming months) we light lots of candles, spend lots of time in the kitchen preparing heartwarming food and pore over seed catalogues dreaming of spring and what to plant. Christmas is a given highlight in winter.
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Your sweet doggie looks so much like a fox! What kind of dog is she/he? What do they answer to?
Foxy! She’s a stray and a mixed breed that I found in the United Arab Emirates when I lived there with my family for 3 ½ years, we moved back home to Sweden in 2002. We lived there when I was in my early teens, instead of chasing after boys like my peers, I only had room in my heart for all the unwanted stray cats and dogs roaming the compound were we lived. She was one of many that I took in and sheltered, much to my parents chagrin. One German Shepherd Saluki mix gave us a surprise litter of ten pups one night. I think we had 14 cats at one time once. I even bought some sickly birds from a pet store, only because I felt sorry for them and the state of the cages they were kept in. We built an aviary, but the poor beasts were sick from the start and died soon after. The cats and dogs we re-homed, but our Fox had nestled her way into our hearts and had to be brought home with us. She’s a wise old lady of 14 years going on 15 soon. When I took her in she was a colt-like pup circa 1 year old. She cowered at the sight of boys and men with beards and was so subdued that she did not dare bark. So for years she only communicated her happiness through small howls and murmuring yowls. Nowadays she’s a confident one giving us demanding barks and enjoying being around boys and bearded men.
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Oh and – why the moniker Blackbird and Goose?
Blackbird and Goose is however quite easy, as blackbirds are my favourite birds and I’ve always called Anton my goose, ever since we first met – and when in doing so, he has always given me a goosely honk in return. How this silly endearment started in the first place, I have unfortunately forgotten. But the name represents us both as we share the Instagram account. It would also work quite well as a pub name in some obscure English country village….

One comment

Oh goodness, thank you for sharing! Stunning and inspiring.

by Lorra on December 1, 2014 at 10:45 pm. Reply #

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