Stjärnsund has nettles growing in typically abundant fashion; these work well in soups and stews and are packed with protein!
In fact, a very useful trait of all the edible plants mentioned here is that they grow copiously and, when cut, grow back within days. So why not fill your garden beds with one or two types, and you’ll never again need to buy a shrink-wrapped, watery, two-week-old supermarket lettuce that scores zero for both freshness and flavour!
Animal products do appear on the menu here :) Eliza and David fish from time to time – see Simon’s blog at http://simonduringer.com/on-my-travels/that-is-simply-fishy/ for the tale of one particular pike-fishing expedition! There’s also perch, or even trout to be snagged if nobody’s watching... Milk and beef are regularly purchased from a farm 20km away, in a further effort to keep things local. Eggs are laid daily at Stjärnsund by a brood of glorious, colourful chickens; some local breeds, others not. Any eggs that aren't used in one of Eliza's scrumptious dishes are sold to fellow villagers, and the proceeds are then spent on chicken food – so there’s no profit margin other than lovely fresh eggs :) Although once a chicken comes to the end of its laying life, it’ll probably be marked to go in the pot...
I'm afraid I'll go into the "blow-by-blow", so to speak... Eliza stroked each bird with genuine affection as she brought it out of the coop area, whispered their thanks, and then handed it to David who removed the head seconds later with a single blow of the axe. These chickens lived lives of companionship and variety, and were well-fed and well-treated every day before being slaughtered respectfully, humanely and with gratitude by their owners. Maximum affection, minimum stress.
The next stage was plucking them, literally five minutes after the last bird had been killed, and this part Simon and I helped with. I had never done it before, though he had. The smell as you remove the wet feathers is distinctive... like wet cat fur or dog fur. A few of the chickens were then put in the root cellar (fridge) for sale to a neighbour or to be eaten within a day or two, and the others were frozen.
I can see why David gets angry that we often seem to have no choice but to pay high prices for food that has been processed in ways we’d all be better off without. Products full of additives, chemicals, e-numbers, added sugar... fruit and salad that’s been flown in from thousands of miles away and is nowhere near fresh... meat and dairy that masks a tale of cruelty or animal suffering. To start with, we owe our bodies real food, decent fuel and nourishment, not chemicals we were never designed to eat.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to the animals whose products we harvest and whose flesh we feed on – they can’t choose how they’re treated before their short lives end. We, however, can choose not to support those sectors of industry that commit the worst crimes, by opting for locally-bred/grown produce, line-caught fish, and free-range meat and eggs. And yes, they’re more expensive than some shockingly cheap stuff at the supermarket... but I for one would happily not eat meat for five days a week if it meant that when I did eat some, it would score highly on the ethical scale and be supporting local producers who care about their animals, in which case I know I’d enjoy it more.
Just because you’re living an eco-friendly life, it doesn’t mean there’s no room for innovative fun stuff, too! David has come up with loads of ideas for things that can help nature help him to enjoy life more... He has converted several standard bicycles to electronic “e-bikes” to make them a more viable option for zipping around the site and village – and they definitely get used! In fact, one e-bike enables TWO people to get around in comfort-ish (below left)! The green plastic chair is acting as a sidecar (?!)... ok so it may not be something you'd travel miles and miles with, but still, what a fun way of nipping to the village and back!
He has also created a “super-raft” (there's Simon aboard, below centre), which is a bit of a floating palace with a solar-powered battery driving the outboard motor :) And how about this (below right) for a memorable business card – David popped away for five minutes one day, chose himself a scrap of wood and lasered on his own custom design in a fantastic burnt lettering effect! Superb :)
All in all, our time at Stjärnsund revealed to Simon and me dozens of alternative, eco-friendly ideas for doing things around the home (especially in the kitchen!), and we hope to put a good few of them into practice in our own day-to-day living. We were also inspired by the many decorative touches around the place – this kind of eco-living is certainly colourful enough and pretty enough to tempt me!
Next time I'll have moved onward to Helgoya, Norway, where, having seen this kind of "advanced" eco-effort in action in Sweden, I thought a lot about people at the very start of that journey, who may be wondering where on earth to begin making changes towards more eco-friendly living. There are lots of "first steps" I can recommend! More on that to come soon :)